Latest Developments, July 14

In today’s news and analysis…

South Sudan has become the UN’s 193rd member amid much hope and apprehension about its future prospects.

Canada is complicating preliminary negotiations for a multilateral treaty regulating the sale and transfer of conventional weapons by insisting on a number of exemptions. The Canadian delegation proposed the following addition to the draft accord: “Reaffirming that small arms have certain legitimate civilian uses, including sporting, hunting and collecting purposes.” To which Mexico reportedly replied that “victims don’t make that difference and neither should we.” Canada, whose Conservative government has scored considerable points with its base by promising to scrap the federal long-gun registry established by its Liberal predecessor, also proposed exemptions for ammunition and other “high volume items.”

Britain has suspended budgetary support to Malawi due to concerns over diminishing democracy and economic mismanagement. In making the announcement, the UK’s Department for International Development pointed to a number of indications of poor economic stewardship, including its assessment that “tobacco exports have deteriorated.” Given the fact that the UK trains and equips the counternarcotics police in Afghanistan, the British government apparently believes Malawian tobacco is good but Afghan poppies are bad.

Jayati Ghosh, warning of India’s “jobless growth” and increases in “fragile and unprotected” casual contracts, calls on the government to embrace employment creation for the young and educated in order to avoid “larger gaps between aspiration and reality in India’s labour markets.” To which, Bill Easterly tweets “Scary “jobless growth”! Wait, isn’t output growth > labor growth called “productivity growth” AKA “development”?”

The US is defending the CIA’s use of a fake vaccination campaign in Pakistan to obtain the DNA of some of Osama bin Laden’s relatives. “People need to put this into some perspective,” a U.S. official said. “The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world’s top terrorist, and nothing else.” Meanwhile, the CIA is allegedly using a secret prison and rendition to buttress its counterterrorism efforts in Somalia. And Yemeni journalist Khaled al-Hammadi has tweeted today’s CIA drone strike in the south of the country was a “clear message that #US administration is supporting #Saleh’s regime & his family against pro-democracy” forces.

A new poll suggests the US is losing Arab public opinion, as data from Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates give America a lower approval rating than it had in the last year of the Bush Administration. And President Obama scored worse than the leaders of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France and Iran. “We are talking about expectations raised and expectations dashed,” according to James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, which commissioned the poll.  “Obama didn’t create the problem [of anger at US policies]. He created the expectations that the problem will be solved.”

In a new report on tax havens, Richard Murphy argues “whilst eliminating tax haven abuse is the right thing to do, such a policy must take into consideration the local populations of those places that have been tax havens, many of whom have worked in the financial services sector as it has been the only source of employment available to them.” And so, Murphy proposes “those locations willing to reform their tax haven practices should be given support to protect jobs and livelihoods as they pass through a period of transition in their economies.

Rupert Murdoch may be behind lobbying efforts to weaken the US anti-bribery legislation under which some would now like to see him prosecuted, and a pair of American telecom companies have been accused of involvement in a Haitian bribery scheme.

Saleem Ali makes a mining-free argument for returning to the gold standard. In his view, gold could restore a measure of financial discipline to the global economic system without sacrificing ecological considerations if “a nation’s gold reserves could remain “stored” in their natural underground state, rather than being mined, purified, and deposited in a Fort Knox–like vault.”

A new documentary chronicling a UN resettlement program in Nairobi’s biggest slum illustrates the distance that can separate international development workers from those they propose to help. And Hand Relief International’s Dr. Alden Kurtz has a similar, if decidedly cheekier, message  as Engineers Without Borders: the development industry would benefit from admitting to its failures.

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