Latest Developments, August 22

In the latest news and analysis…

The unexpected appearance of a smiling, victory sign-flashing Saif al-Islam Gadhafi after he had supposedly been arrested by rebel forces suggests there may yet be a few twists in the Libyan conflict that has already lasted six months despite roughly 20,000 NATO aerial missions. Nevertheless, with the apparent crumbling of the Gadhafi regime over the last few days, all those nagging questions about Libya’s rebels and what they would do with power may be about to be answered. Beyond concerns about the ability of such disparate groups to work together without the focus provided by a common enemy, the New America Foundation’s Barak Barfi wonders if they have the competencies required for the work that lies ahead: “Short on skilled experts, a post-Qaddafi Libya risks becoming dependent on foreign assistance, much like the Palestinians, who live largely from international aid rather than from their own economic activity.” But as far as Europe is concerned, the business news coming out of Libya is good for now.

As for assessing the NATO mission, the Financial Times reports: “Few, if any, civilian casualties were incurred on the ground; no alliance aircraft or personnel were lost; and the mission saw no flagrant breaches of the remit it received from the UN, which defined the goal of the operation as the protection of civilians on the ground.” But media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has some questions (as does Amnesty International) about reports of civilian deaths, and US congressman Dennis Kucinich argues “the war against Libya has seen countless violations of United Nations security council resolutions (UNSCRs) by Nato and UN member states.”

The Wall Street Journal reports the US Justice Department is getting creative in trying to go after foreign officials who demand bribes, even though the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is intended for the pursuit of those involved in the supply side of corruption. But lawyers for the ex-governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and her daughter are challenging the money laundering charges against their clients: “No court has allowed the making of a payment that is an essential element of the predicate unlawful activity—such as a bribe in bribery case—constitute ‘promotion’ of that same activity.”

Ghana’s Adom News reports tension is growing between Canadian miner Xtra Gold and inhabitants of a community who say their drinking water has been polluted and their lands expropriated, and are threatening to “deal ruthlessly” with the company. Local MP Kwasi Amoako Atta said the company needed to learn how to conduct business in the area: “Even if you have the required documents to back your operations you need to seek clearance from the town leaders, the mere fact that you have the license does not give you the permission to jump into people’s land and start mining.”

The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Mark Weisbrot has a grim update on the state of reconstruction and resettlement in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince: “Nineteen months after the earthquake, almost 600,000 Haitian people are still living in camps, mostly under tents and tarps. Despite the billions of dollars of aid pledged by governments and donors since the earthquake, there are probably less than 50,000 that have been resettled. And for the 600,000 homeless, the strategy seems to be moving in the direction of evictions – without regard as to where they might end up.”

The Center for Global Development’s Michael Clemens presents an economic argument for opening the world’s borders to free movement of people. According to his calculations, taking such a step could increase global GDP by 20-60 percent or tens of trillions of dollars. University of Toronto political scientist Joseph Carens has long called for open borders but he does so on moral grounds: “Citizenship in Western liberal democracies is the modern equivalent of feudal privilege—an inherited status that greatly enhances one’s life chances. Like feudal birthright privileges, restrictive citizenship is hard to justify when one thinks about it closely.”

UN Under Secretary General Philippe Douste-Blazy argues revenues from the tax on financial transactions (re)proposed by the leaders of France and Germany last week should not just go to helping Europe’s struggling economies: “If the crisis is destroying jobs at home, it is destroying lives in the South.” He believes such a “micro-tax” could raise $100-$200 billion a year and would help “globalize solidarity.”

While the Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie notes the World Bank “has had a bad couple of decades,” he also believes the it remains important in its ability to raise the profile of certain issues and mobilize governments to take action. But he says it “needs to become a bank for the world, ditching its history of favouring the interests of a few powerful shareholders.” To illustrate his point he takes the example of the debt cancellation campaign which started in the 1980s but did not convince the bank to cancel debts until 2005, “and then only with neoliberal strings attached.” The decades of delay, according to Glennie, were “because the bank is set up to look after the interests of the creditor countries, rather than the debtors, however hard decent officials seek to change that.” Until that changes, he believes the World Bank will be unable “to fulfil its idealistic mandate.”

The Guardian’s George Monbiot writes on the delusions and ravages of perpetual growth: “To sustain the illusion, we have inflicted more damage since 1950 to the planet’s living systems than we achieved in the preceding 100,000 years. The damage will last for centuries; the benefits might not see out the year.” He points to Tim Jackson’s 2009 Prosperity Without Growth as “the beginning of a plan.”


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