In the latest news and analysis…
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.”
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’.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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].”
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.’ ”