Latest Developments, June 24

In the latest news and analysis…

Rebel arms
Reuters reports that Western and Arab opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have decided to give “urgent military support” to rebels trying to overthrow him:

“The U.S. administration has responded by saying, for the first time, it would arm rebels, while Gulf sources say Saudi Arabia has accelerated the delivery of advanced weapons to the rebels over the last week.
Ministers from the 11 core members of the Friends of Syria group, agreed ‘to provide urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment to the opposition on the ground,’ according to a statement released at the end of their meeting in Qatar.

French military advisers are already training the rebels to use some of the new equipment in Turkey and Jordan, sources familiar with the training programs said. U.S. forces have been carrying out similar training, rebels say.”

UK spying
The Guardian reports that leaked documents reveal the British government “collects and stores vast quantities” of telephone and internet communications from around the world:

“The sheer scale of the agency’s ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate.

The Americans were given guidelines for its use, but were told in legal briefings by [UK Government Communications Headquarters] lawyers: ‘We have a light oversight regime compared with the US’.
When it came to judging the necessity and proportionality of what they were allowed to look for, would-be American users were told it was ‘your call’.”

Banking impasse
Reuters reports that EU finance ministers are struggling to resolve their differences over “who pays for failing banks”:

“The law on rescuing and closing banks in the EU is central to the 27-nation bloc’s banking union, which aims to prevent future financial crises and get the economy out of recession.
It is also a highly controversial element as it will dictate who decides what happens to a failing bank and who is to pay for it, bringing national sensitivities to the fore.

The broader the possibilities of imposing losses on a bank’s shareholders, creditors or even big depositors in the directive that will be discussed by EU finance ministers, the less money the resolution fund would have to contribute to close a bank.”

Global wealth trends
The Globe and Mail reports that a pair of new studies show that the world’s rich are getting richer while workers are left with a smaller piece of the pie:

“The [Global Wealth Report] found that the number of people in the world with more than $1-million to invest soared to a record of 12 million in 2012, a 9.2 per cent increase from 2011. The aggregate wealth of this group hit a new high, too – $46.2-trillion (U.S.) – a 10-per-cent increase from the previous year.
What is particularly striking is that even within this rich group, the very, very rich are doing best of all.

The 2012-13 Global Wage Report by the International Labour Organization, a UN agency, found a world trend of a decreasing workers’ share in the national income.”

Nuclear weakness
The New York Times editorial board argues that the nuclear disarmament proposal made by US President Barack Obama last week “falls short of what is needed in a post-cold-war world”:

“Mr. Obama said nothing about reducing the 11,000 total nuclear weapons that [the US and Russia] keep as backups. He missed an opportunity to remove quickly from ‘hair trigger’ alert at least some of the 1,000 weapons that are ready to fire at a moment’s notice. He reaffirmed support for Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the start of international negotiations on a treaty that would ban the production of fissile material that fuels warheads, but there is no indication either will happen soon, or ever.”

Shell explosion
The Independent Online reports that, although the investigation has yet to begin, Shell is using its standard explanation for an explosion that led the oil giant to shut a major Nigerian pipeline:

“Environmental campaigners and rights groups accuse Shell of using sabotage by oil thieves as an excuse for oil accidents.
‘Sabotage is a problem in Nigeria, but Shell exaggerates this issue to avoid criticism for its failure to prevent oil spills,’ Amnesty International’s Audrey Gaughran said in a statement on Wednesday.”

Growing force
Voice of America reports that US Africa Command head David Rodriguez wants the US to have a “small footprint” in Africa even as its military presence is being stepped up on the continent:

“The U.S. also has stepped up its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities, setting up unarmed drone bases in places like Niger.

‘The history of the African nations, the colonialism, all those things are what point to the reasons why we should not go in there in force and everything else, and just use a small footprint with creative and innovative solutions to get high payoff from a small number of people, as well as come in for short periods of time to do exercises, to do operations, to help build that capacity,’ said [U.S. Army General David Rodriguez].”

Corporate consciences
Deutsche Welle reports on concerns that some rules are more equal than others when it comes to regulating international trade:

“For example: the International Labor Organization (ILO), part of the United Nations, has been developing standards for the protection of workers since 1919. But to this day, they are not internationally binding, according to Jakob von Uexküll, founder of the World Future Council and the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the Alternative Nobel Prize.
‘If somebody tells you: “We are a socially responsible company,” then there is a very simple question: “Would you agree that the rules of the ILO get the same legal status as the rules of the World Trade Organization?”’ said von Uexküll. ‘The answer to that question will tell you everything you need to know about the social responsibility of the company.’ ”

Latest Developments, June 20

In the latest news and analysis…

Grand corruption
Le Monde reports on new allegations concerning millions of dollars said to have been funneled from former Libyan ruler Muammar Gadhafi to ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy:

“According to Mediapart, two of these offshore companies received, in 2007 and 2008, money from kickbacks on Libyan security contracts linked to the French company Amesys. In his email, Ismail also stresses that the ‘agreement’ to free the detained Bulgarian nurses in 2007 ‘involved Libya’s purchase of a nuclear reactor from [French state-owned] Areva and the supply of Milan missiles to the Libyan army.’ He also says that ‘one of Sarkozy’s primary concerns was to sell the Rafale fighter jet for more than 2 billion euros.’ ” [Translated from the French.]

No arms
Embassy magazine reports that a new poll shows that only a “small, small minority” of Canadians want their government to help arm Syrian rebels:

“Six in 10 adult Canadians, or 60 per cent, said they disagreed that Canada should supply Syrian rebels with military aid, according to a June 18 Forum Research Inc. poll whose results were offered to Embassy.
Roughly one fifth of respondents, or 18 per cent, said they agreed, while roughly one quarter, 22 per cent, said they did not have an opinion.”

Minor casualty
McClatchy reports on the alleged killing of a 10-year-old boy by a US drone, an incident that prompted one local sheikh to ask, “What did Abdulaziz do? Was this child a member of al Qaida?”:

“Some analysts argue that this and other strikes run counter to the administration’s claims of improved targeting. [The boy’s brother, Saleh Hassan Huraydan] might have been a local al Qaida leader, they say, but it’s unclear whether he constituted a ‘continuing and imminent threat to the American people,’ Obama’s definition of a legitimate target.
‘The number of U.S. drone strikes over the past two years suggests that the U.S. is going after many more targets than just the 10 to 15 individuals it says represent imminent threats to U.S. national security. It appears to be going after whomever it can hit whenever it can find them,’ said Gregory Johnsen, the author of ‘The Last Refuge,’ a recent book on al Qaida in Yemen.
‘The new rules that Obama alluded to in his speech last month either aren’t yet in effect in Yemen or are making no difference,’ he added.”

Nuclear pledge
The New York Times reports that American President Barack Obama’s promise this week to reduce his country’s nuclear arsenal and “seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond cold war nuclear postures” is running into skepticism in several camps:

“The proposal to limit American and Russian deployed strategic warheads to about 1,000 each would bring the two countries back to around the levels of 1954, experts said. The president also vowed to work with NATO to reduce the unrestricted smaller tactical nuclear weapons still in Europe and to push the Senate to finally ratify the 17-year-old Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Taken together, the moves revived the effort Mr. Obama began in Prague in 2009 to put the world on a path to eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, one of the most idealistic, if hotly disputed, aspirations of his first term.
Yet even as Republicans argued that he was going too far at the risk of national security, his moves represented a more modest step than many arms control advocates had sought.”

Mining aid
The Globe and Mail reports that the minister in charge of the Canadian International Development Agency told a meeting of Canada’s mining industry representatives that he is working to help them take advantage of the “huge opportunities” in poor countries:

“In his comments to the Mining Association of Canada, [Julian] Fantino dismissed criticism of the government’s strategy and praised the Canadian extractive industry’s work. ‘Your industry is a leader, internationally, and we want to help you succeed,’ he said.
Last fall, Canada established the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development, which is meant to help developing countries establish policies to better govern their mining sectors. The institute ‘will be your biggest and best ambassador,’ Mr. Fantino told mining representatives on Wednesday, adding that it would draw on Canadian success in the mining industry and share lessons from Canada with other countries.”

Dune mining
Radio France Internationale reports that Senegalese farmers see an Australian company’s plans to mine zircon as bad news:

“A vast mining program was launched three months ago along the Grande Côte. In Casamance, in the country’s south, Australian-based Carnegie Minerals obtained an exploration permit. The company hopes to mine close to 5 million tons of minerals. But it is running into local opposition.” [Translated from the French.]

Too big to exist
The Guardian’s Joris Luyendijk argues that his interviews with hundreds of people working in London’s financial sector have convinced him that the industry is not no much out of control as “beyond control”:

“Before studying bankers I spent many years researching Islam and Muslims. I set out with images in my mind of angry bearded men burning American flags, but as the years went by I became more and more optimistic: beyond the frightening rhetoric and sensationalist television footage, ordinary Muslim people go about their day like all other human beings. The problem of radical Islam is smaller and more containable than Islamophobes believe.
With bankers I have experienced an opposite trajectory. I started with the reassuring images in my mind of well-dressed bankers and their lobbyists; surely at some basic level these people knew what they were doing? But after two years I feel myself becoming deeply pessimistic and genuinely terrified. This system is highly dysfunctional, deeply entrenched, and enormously abusive, both to its own workers and the society it operates in. The problem really is exactly as bad as the ‘banker bashers’ believe.”

Carbon discredited
FERN and Friends of the Earth have released a new report that uses the example of the highly touted N’hambita carbon offset project in Mozambique to argue that the EU should not fund such schemes:

“Sylvain Angerand from Friends of the Earth France explains: ‘A fundamental problem, which this report highlights, is that emissions stay in the atmosphere longer than trees stay standing. This report shows that carbon offsetting has few climate benefits and is a dangerous distraction from the need to cut emissions and reduce consumption.’ ”

Latest Developments, December 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Creative corrupter
The New York Times has published an extensive report on retail giant Wal-Mart’s corrupting influence in Mexico, based on evidence from “tens of thousands of documents” and interviews with government officials and company employees:

“The Times’s examination reveals that Wal-Mart de Mexico was not the reluctant victim of a corrupt culture that insisted on bribes as the cost of doing business. Nor did it pay bribes merely to speed up routine approvals. Rather, Wal-Mart de Mexico was an aggressive and creative corrupter, offering large payoffs to get what the law otherwise prohibited. It used bribes to subvert democratic governance — public votes, open debates, transparent procedures. It used bribes to circumvent regulatory safeguards that protect Mexican citizens from unsafe construction. It used bribes to outflank rivals.

Over and over, for example, the dates of bribe payments coincided with dates when critical permits were issued. Again and again, the strictly forbidden became miraculously attainable.”

First acquittal
Reuters reports that the International Criminal Court has handed down its second-ever decision, acquitting Congolese militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui:

“The court’s first verdict found [Thomas] Lubanga guilty of recruiting child soldiers to another militia in the same conflict in Ituri. Some observers said the different outcomes of the trials for militia leaders from different tribes could cause new friction.
‘Lubanga was a Hema leader, and the acquittal of a Ngudjolo, a Lendu, just after the conviction of a Hema could exacerbate tension between the two ethnicities in Ituri,’ said Jennifer Easterday of the Open Society Justice Initiative.”

Calling it off
Association Sherpa has ended its partnership with French nuclear giant Areva, calling the company’s health measures in Niger and Gabon “public relations exercises”:

“The arrival of Luc Oursel at the head of Areva coincided with a change in the culture of the company in terms of sustainable development and as a result, led to a questioning of its capacity to respect the letter and spirit of the 2009 agreements:

  • While the 2009 accords led to the much-needed medical monitoring of over 700 African workers, it is incomprehensible and unacceptable that the compensation process, which benefited the families of two French expatriates (a patently insufficient number), offered nothing to any Nigerien or Gabonese workers even though the medical condition of more than 100 of them was examined;
  • The decontamination of [Gabon’s] Mounana site, where production stopped in 1999, promised by [former CEO] Anne Lauvergnon, has stalled. It was carried out only partially and unsatisfactorily, with the result that local populations are still exposed to radiation risks;” [Translated from the French]

Aid hypocrisy
The Guardian reports on the UK’s Department for International Development’s “breathtaking arrogance” for demanding transparency from recipient governments while refusing to make public a report on its own expenditures:

“The department said releasing the report could “undermine DfID’s commercial interests and lead to DfID incurring greater expense which would consequently undermine our ability to fulfil our role and to achieve value for money in the use of public funds”.
Disclosure could also reveal personal data about individuals, make other governments and international organisations less willing to share information with Britain, and ‘severely prejudice the policy development process’ within government by inhibiting open discussion, it said.”

Good intentions
The Financial Times reports that American legislation aimed at ending the role of minerals in fuelling DR Congo’s conflict is making matters worse so far:

“ ‘We’re getting the opposite of what they wanted. And we still have conflict,’ says Emmanuel Ndimubanzi, head of North Kivu provisional government’s mining division, who says tens of thousands of jobs across the sector have been lost. A proposal in the act to spend $25m to help out-of-work find jobs and fund mineral tracing schemes was dropped.

The landmark US [Dodd-Frank] act has created the first compulsory framework to disclose the provenance of potential conflict minerals across the industry. But beset by delays, loopholes and vague guidance, it has complicated and impeded initiatives by industry, regional governments and international donors, as well as the UN and OECD. These include tagging schemes, chains of documentation and a mineralogical ‘fingerprinting’ pilot scheme already under way.”

Nuclear stagnation
Inter Press Service reports that the Federation of American Scientists has warned that the US and Russia are reducing their nuclear arsenals at a slowing rate:

“ ‘Both the United States and Russia appear to be more cautious about reducing further, placing more emphasis on “hedging” and reconstitution of reduced nuclear forces, and both are investing enormous sums of money in modernising their nuclear forces over the next decade,’ [FAS Nuclear Information Project director Hans M. Kristensen said.]

Given the new data, the implication is that either a new set of arms-reduction treaties will need to be agreed in coming years, or each country will need to embark on new unilateral programmes of reduction. If neither of those takes place, ‘large nuclear forces could be retained far into the future.’ ”

Tarnished reputation
The Montreal Gazette reports on calls from both inside and outside Canada for Ottawa to hold the country’s mining companies to account for their behaviour abroad:

“But as mining investment has exploded over the last decade, so too have conflicts involving Canadian mines, from the Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic, where 25 people were injured in clashes with police in September, to the Pierina mine in Peru, where one person was killed that same month. (Both are mines owned by Barrick Gold, but protests are not restricted to Barrick mines.)
All the while the Canadian government’s role in defending, even promoting, mining companies’ interests has solidified.”

Global ambulance chasers
CorpWatch reports on a growing and lucrative branch of law that involves suing governments on behalf of corporations:

“Legal experts have denounced this trend. ‘Investment treaty arbitration … imposes exceptionally powerful legal and economic constraints on governments and, by extension, on democratic choice, in order to protect from regulation the assets of multinational firms,’ writes Professor Gus van Harten of the Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.

There are five major arbitration tribunals that take on these cases – the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington DC, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, the Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) in London, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris and the Chamber of Commerce in Stockholm (SCC).

The number of such lawsuits registered at the ICSID has skyrocketed. In 1996, just 38 cases were under arbitration but by 2011, this had risen almost 12 fold to 450.”

Latest Developments, November 29

In the latest news and analysis…

Generic shutdown
The Globe and Mail reports that Canada’s ruling Conservative Party has voted down a bill that would have allowed Canadian companies to make generic drugs for sale at discount prices in poor countries:

“It was an attempt to untie the knots in [Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime], which came into law in 2004 under a Liberal government. While the goal of the access-to-medicines regime has been widely lauded, it is fraught with red tape and, in eight years, has been used to send just two batches of one generic drug to one country.

But even Canada’s brand-name drug manufacturers said they were not opposed to seeing Bill C-398 progress through Parliament.”

No UN money
Reuters reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has endorsed an “offensive military operation” in northern Mali but stopped short of offering financial support for the intervention:

“One Security Council diplomat was furious at Ban’s recommendation against granting the [African Union] request for U.N. funding for the operation, which U.N. diplomats estimate will cost $300 million to $500 million.
Ban suggested that the funding for the initial military combat operations could be through ‘voluntary or bilateral contributions’ – which diplomats said meant European Union member states would be asked to cover costs.”

Fools rush in
In an interview with Libération during a diplomatic mission to Paris, the leader of the Tuareg separatist group Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), Bilal ag-Achérif, argued military intervention in Mali’s north would be ill-advised at this time:

“One cannot make a prescription without using a stethoscope on the patient, without consulting the people of Azawad. Such a military operation, with troops that know nothing of the terrain, would trigger disorder, spread the threat of terrorism throughout West Africa and increase drug trafficking. It could cause a lot of collateral damage. How to distinguish the terrorists from the others? They wear the same clothes.” [Translated from the French.]

Global theft
Global Witness calls for the investigation into nearly $1 billion embezzled from Kabul Bank to extend well beyond Afghanistan’s borders:

“ ‘Donors, auditors and the international banks involved in this scandal all have questions to answer,’ said [Global Witness’s Gavin] Hayman. ‘Which banks accepted corrupt money from Kabul Bank shareholders or politically exposed persons? What measures did they take to assure themselves that the funds were not the proceeds of corruption? The answers to these questions are necessary to understand why so much corrupt money was able to flood the international financial system, to facilitate the recovery of stolen assets, and to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.’
Global Witness added that countries with assets from Kabul Bank, including the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Switzerland must freeze and return the assets stashed in their private banks, and launch inquiries into how the money ended up within their borders.”

Lifting the corporate veil
Bloomberg reports that a hearing pitting Ecuadorean plaintiffs against oil giant Chevron in a Canadian court marks the first step in “a global collection effort that includes seizure attempts in Argentina and Brazil”:

“A group of 47 Ecuadoreans have asked Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice to seize Chevron assets in Canada, ranging from an oil sands project to offshore wells, to satisfy a [$19 billion] 2011 court ruling in the Latin American nation that ordered the company to pay for oil pollution dating to the 1960s.

The Ecuadorean plaintiffs, from the remote northern Amazon River basin, are seeking enforcement of the judgment outside their home country because Chevron has no refineries, oil wells, storage terminals or other properties in the nation.

The Ecuadoreans face an ‘uphill battle’ because they must convince the court that Chevron and its Canadian operations should be treated as one entity rather than separate companies, said Barry Leon, a partner and head of the international arbitration group at Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP in Ottawa.
‘The expression that gets used legally is “lifting the corporate veil” and disregarding the separate personalities,’ Leon said. ‘The courts generally, in Canada and elsewhere, have been reluctant to do that.’ ”

Nuke upgrade
Wired reports that the US, whose current president earlier in his term called for “a world without nuclear weapons,” has begun a $10 billion overhaul of its European nuclear arsenal:

“A 2008 Secretary of Defense task force against underestimating the ‘political value our friends and allies place on these weapons, the political costs of withdrawal, and the psychological impact of their visible presence.’ But the same report notes that U.S. European Command — the Pentagon’s top generals in the region – ‘believ[e] there is no military downside to the unilateral withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Europe.’ After all, America has thousands of additional warheads that could be delivered by intercontinental ballistic missiles, long-range bombers, and submarines.”

Cancellation fallout
Reuters reports that the US is taking heat for calling off talks on banning nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which had been scheduled for December:

“The postponement ‘will have a negative impact on regional security and the international system to prevent nuclear proliferation as a whole,’ Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said in a statement.
Iran, which is accused by the West of developing a nuclear weapons capability, said this month it would participate in the talks that had been due to take place in Helsinki, Finland.
Asked about the U.S. announcement, Iranian nuclear envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh told state broadcaster Press TV from Vienna:
‘It is a serious setback to the [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] and this is a clear sign that the U.S. is not committed to the obligation of a world free of nuclear weapons.’

The plan for a meeting to lay the groundwork for the possible creation of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction was agreed at a 2010 conference of 189 parties to the 1970 NPT, a treaty designed to prevent the spread of nuclear arms in the world.”

Chased away
A new Amnesty International report calls for an immediate end to forced evictions of thousands of Roma migrants living in France:

“ ‘France has failed to include international human rights standards against forced evictions in its domestic legal system. As a result, evictions of informal settlements where Roma live generally take place without adequate prior information, consultation or notice to residents,’ [according to Amnesty’s John Dalhuisen].
‘In most cases, alternative housing is not provided and entire families are left homeless. They have no choice but to re-establish their homes in another informal settlement elsewhere, and schooling and medical treatment are interrupted as a result.’ ”

Latest Developments, November 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Multinational taxes
Reuters reports that the British and German governments are pushing fellow G20 members to ensure multinational corporations pay their “fair share” of taxes:

“[British Finance Minister George Osborne and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble] said international tax standards have struggled to keep up with changes in global business practices and that some companies have been able to shift taxation of their profits away from where they are generated.

Opportunities abound for corporations to cut tax costs, usually in legal ways, through careful management of cross-border flows of goods, services and capital among subsidiaries in different countries. International standards urge multinationals to price such dealings at near market levels.
But by under-charging or over-charging one unit in a transaction with another unit, for instance, profits can be shifted from a high-tax jurisdiction to a low-tax one. This is especially true for companies with valuable intellectual capital that can easily be moved between jurisdictions.”

African unit
Defense News reports that a unit of the US Army, the first of its regionally aligned forces brigades, is scheduled to participate in 96 “activities” in 34 African countries over a six-month period next year:

“[Col. Kevin] Marcus said the program isn’t about how long a unit is in Africa, ‘it’s about the regularity of contact and then the ability to link events together over time, so that we’ve got that sustained engagement.’
He declined to go into specifics when asked about hot spots along the Mediterranean, the Sahel region, and places such as Mali.
‘It’s not about one country or region,’ Marcus said. ‘It’s about doing what we can do to protect U.S. interests in building the capacity for African militaries to protect their own interests, and in turn cooperate with ours. It’s not a function of geography, it’s a function of interests.’ ”

Business impacts
The UN News Centre reports that a body of experts has called on governments and corporations to do more to tackle the “adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activities”:

“The affected groups and communities referred to by the [UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises] include children, older persons, indigenous women and men, workers with precarious employment conditions, migrant workers, journalists, human rights defenders, community activists and leaders who protest against or raise allegations concerning the impact of business activities, and marginalized rural and urban communities, as well as minorities that are subject to discrimination and marginalization.”

Foxconn surge
Reuters reports that a controversial Apple supplier’s fortunes are looking up despite allegations of workers’ rights abuses:

“Shares of Foxconn International Holdings Ltd (FIH), the world’s biggest contract maker of cellphones, surged as much as 35 percent after Citigroup upgraded the stock to a ‘buy’ and said it expected the firm to start assembling iPhones this year.

‘Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Xiaomi, Baidu, Tencent are all trying to launch smartphones and none has in-house manufacturing,’ Citigroup said, raising its target price on FIH to HK$5.80 and its earnings estimate for 2013 by 134 percent.
Shares of FIH, which assembles handsets for the likes of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp, jumped as high as HK$3.69 in their biggest one-day gain ever.”

Imperial development
The University of London’s Simon Reid-Henry explores the “post-development thinking” of Colombian anthropologist Arturo Escobar:

“It was a critique of the whole rotten edifice of western ideas that supported development, which Escobar regarded as a contradiction in terms and a sham. For Escobar, development amounted to little more than the west’s convenient ‘discovery’ of poverty in the third world for the purposes of reasserting its moral and cultural superiority in supposedly post-colonial times.
Escobar felt development was, unavoidably, both an ideological export (something Walt Rostow would willingly have admitted) and a simultaneous act of cultural imperialism. With its highly technocratic language and forthright deployment of norms and value judgements, it was also a form of cultural imperialism that poor countries had little means of declining politely.

Through Foucault, Escobar came to the conclusion that development planning was not only a problem to the extent that it failed; it was a problem even when it succeeded, because it so strongly set the terms for how people in poor countries could live. Told how to behave, poor people were made subjects of development as much as they were subjects of their own government.”

British invasions
The Telegraph reports on a new book that claims Britain has, at one time or another, invaded all but 22 of the world’s countries:

“Only a comparatively small proportion of the total in [Stuart] Laycock’s list of invaded states actually formed an official part of the empire.
The remainder have been included because the British were found to have achieved some sort of military presence in the territory – however transitory – either through force, the threat of force, negotiation or payment.
Incursions by British pirates, privateers or armed explorers have also been included, provided they were operating with the approval of their government.”

Nuclear arms
The Toledo International Center for Peace’s Shlomo Ben-Ami argues that the precise number of nuclear weapons in the world is perhaps less significant than their distribution for global peace efforts:

“Although Russia and the US possess roughly 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, their nuclear capabilities are less of a threat than is the danger of proliferation. It is this fear of a fast-growing number of nuclear-armed states, not the fine balancing of the US and Russian nuclear arsenals, that the case for Global Zero must address. Indeed, addressing the underlying security concerns that fuel nuclear competition in regional trouble spots is more important to the credibility of Global Zero’s goal of “a world without nuclear weapons” than is encouraging exemplary behavior by the two major nuclear powers.
After all, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Israel might not be particularly impressed by a reduction in the US and Russian nuclear-weapons stockpiles from gross overkill to merely mild overkill.”

Blogging for change
Global Voices reports on a campaign by Mauritanian bloggers against foreign mining companies “accused of looting Mauritania’s mineral wealth”:

“The participating posts in the campaign focused on the detection of the foreign companies’ violations of environmental laws, and destruction of the surrounding areas.
Moreover, they unveiled the low percentage of profit given by these companies to Mauritania, that reach at the best 4 per cent of the price of mined gold and copper. They also highlighted the discrimination policies pursued by the foreign companies against their Mauritanian employees.”