Latest Developments, August 10

In the latest news and analysis…

British Prime Minister David Cameron has attributed the UK’s rioting to “a lack of proper parenting,” but Reuters journalist Mohammed Abbas relates another side of the story: “They were not your typical hoodlums out there. There were working people, angry people. They’ve raised rates, cut child benefit. Everyone just used it as a chance to vent,” one man told him. A Futurismic map of London suggests a link between the locations of the violence and levels of deprivation. The map uses the British government’s latest English Indices of Deprivation, which provide an aggregate of seven variables: income deprivation, employment deprivation, health deprivation and disability, education skills and training deprivation, barriers to housing and services, living environment deprivation, and crime.

The UN says high food prices are making the Horn of Africa crisis worse, with grain and milk prices at record highs across the region. The US has given its support to a movement to impose international sanctions on Eritrea, which is also affected by East Africa’s severe drought, for allegedly attempting to destabilize its neighbours. US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice called the Ethiopian-led effort “timely” but added any sanctions “would not go in any way to harm the people of Eritrea, who are suffering enough as it is.”

The US has also imposed new sanctions on Syria, targeting its largest bank and biggest telecom company. Washington has little direct economic leverage because there are few American companies operating in Syria. It hopes, however, to influence European governments to take measures against the country’s oil and gas sector, a move that does not appear to be imminent. But a “group of social investment firms plans an e-mail campaign to urge 11 oil companies to either stop operations in Syria or communicate their condemnation of the violent crackdown on protesters to the government,” according to Pensions and Investments.

The World Bank has suspended lending to Cambodia over mass evictions of residents to make way for a luxury development on land around a lake in the capital Phnom Penh. “Until an agreement is reached with the residents of Boeung Kak Lake, we do not expect to provide any new lending to Cambodia,” the World Bank’s Annette Dixon said. Evictions have been the source of friction with foreign donors for some time but according to Reuters: “Land ownership is a complex subject in the impoverished Southeast Asian country, where legal documents were destroyed and state institutions collapsed under the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s and the civil war that followed.”

In the wake of Libyan accusations that a NATO air strike caused the “massacre” of 85 people earlier this week, Amnesty International is calling on the military alliance to investigate all alleged civilian killings: “NATO continues to stress its commitment to protect civilians,” the human rights group’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said in a statement. “To that effect, it should thoroughly investigate this and all other recent incidents in which civilians were reportedly killed in western Libya as a result of air strikes.”

Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney has struck back hard at Amnesty International for its criticism of his government’s plan to deport 30 men it alleges have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity. In addition to writing a scathing open letter of response, he told the Toronto Star the rights group is wrongly using “its voice and scarce resources to focus on criticizing what is probably the fairest immigration system in the world.” Last month, Amnesty had called on the Canadian government to try these individuals rather than deport them. But it was hardly alone in questioning an operation that involved publishing the pictures and names of the alleged criminals on a government website and led some experts to suggest the Canadian government was “conflating immigration and criminal law.” The Canadian Centre for International Justice’s Jayne Stoyles told Embassy Magazine: “The label of war criminals kind of implies that someone has been through a criminal process. But they haven’t. And they’re not even being investigated through a criminal process.”

Exxon Mobil is disputing a US Court of Appeals ruling that it can be held liable under the Alien Tort Statute for human rights abuses committed in Indonesia. In a petition for a rehearing, the company’s lawyers argue the decision’s “incorrect expansion of ATS liability threatens to unleash a flood of litigation in U.S. courts for actions lacking any salient connection to the United States” and called on the court to “reject the notion that the ATS can be used as a vehicle to bring suit in U.S. courts for alleged misconduct that occurred abroad.” And lawyers for alleged victims of human rights abuses surrounding a Guatemalan mine say Canada’s HudBay Minerals “cannot avoid liability for their past actions by selling the project.”

The Guardian’s John Vidal argues last week’s UN report on oil pollution in Nigeria’s Ogoniland region means “the conspiracy of silence between governments and oil companies has at last been broken.” While Kenya’s Business Daily carries the headline: “Multinationals, not corrupt politicians are the biggest source of dirty money flows.”

The University of the West of England, Bristol’s Diana Jeater reports on perceptions among Zimbabweans of international NGOs and aid agencies that “are mistrusted not least because they are perceived as part of the political strategies of donor governments.” She says there is also much “frustration at how the external agendas are introduced without proper research into local conditions and history” and a widespread “sense that the aid agencies are employers not helpers, who probably do more harm than good.” Jeater then concludes with a friend’s assessment of aid agencies operating in Zimbabwe: “They spend millions but they make no constructive difference. They just meet their funders’ benchmarks and get paid. They are parasites on the poor.”

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