Latest Developments, October 17

In the latest news and analysis…

Supreme moment for Alien Tort
The Associated Press reports the US Supreme Court has agreed to use a suit brought by Nigerian plaintiffs against Royal Dutch Shell to decide if corporations can be held liable in the US for alleged human rights violations committed abroad.
“The justices said they will review a federal appeals court ruling in favor of Shell. The case centers on the 222-year-old Alien Tort Statute that has been increasingly used in recent years to sue corporations for alleged abuses abroad.
Other cases pending in U.S. courts seek to hold accountable Chiquita Brands International for its relationship with paramilitary groups in Colombia; Exxon and Chevron for abuses in Indonesia and Nigeria, respectively, and several companies for their role in apartheid in South Africa.”

Drone growth
TomDispatch’s Nick Turse refers to military documents, press reports and “other open source information” to estimate the US is currently using at least 60 bases around the world for its drone operations, but he anticipates that number will increase as America’s reliance on unmanned aircraft grows.
“Earlier this year, an analysis by TomDispatch determined that there are more than 1,000 U.S. military bases scattered across the globe — a shadowy base-world providing plenty of existing sites that can, and no doubt will, host drones.  But facilities selected for a pre-drone world may not always prove optimal locations for America’s current and future undeclared wars and assassination campaigns.  So further expansion in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia is a likelihood.”

LRA love
Premiere Networks talk show host Rush Limbaugh slammed US President Barack Obama’s decision to send American troops to Uganda to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army, accusing him of wanting to “to wipe out Christians in Sudan” until additional information gave him pause.
“Is that right? The Lord’s Resistance Army is being accused of really bad stuff? Child kidnapping, torture, murder, that kind of stuff? Well, we just found out about this today. We’re gonna do, of course, our due diligence research on it. But nevertheless we got a hundred troops being sent over there to fight these guys — and they claim to be Christians.”

Thinktank transparency
Guardian columnist George Monbiot argues that thinktanks “are the means by which corporations and the ultra-rich influence public life without having to reveal their hand” and calls on them to disclose their sources of funding.
“The public sector is now so transparent that we have a right to read the private emails of climate scientists working for a state-sponsored university. The private sector is so opaque that we have no idea on whose behalf the people who appear every day on the BBC, using arguments that look suspiciously like corporate propaganda, are speaking.”

G20 inaction
Responding to the communiqué released at the end of last week’s meeting of G20 finance ministers in Paris, Global Financial Integrity has expressed disappointment at the apparent absence of any comprehensive vision for increasing the transparency and accountability of the world’s financial system.
“The Finance Minister’s communiqué fails to mention country-by-country reporting, automatic exchange of tax information, disclosure of beneficial ownership, or strengthening anti-money-laundering laws,” according to GFI director Raymond Baker. “These measures are key to creating global economic development, and financial stability. What we have here are piecemeal fixes to a systemic problem.”

Money on the mind
Author Dan Hind argues that people need to understand fundamental concepts, such as what money is, in order to have the “reasonable conversation” the established order fears more than riots.
“The problems we face are complicated, it’s true, but they are not as complicated as some would like to make out. We will begin to see how to solve them when we have a clear understanding of the fundamentals of social organisation, including the origins and nature of money.
It is an understanding that those who are currently powerful would rather we didn’t have. After all, as another great American ironist, Walter Karp, put it, “usurped power is only secure as long as it remains unregarded”. For too long, the banks have shaped the laws of economic exchange in private. Even in the midst of a debt crisis their privilege has so far evaded our understanding. It is time that it became the object of our steady and patient attention.”

Locals vs multinationals
Al Jazeera is airing a film entitled How to Stop a Multinational which focuses on the efforts of three activists who have successfully taken on a Canadian mining company in the Argentinian Andes and are now turning their attention to a Chinese one.
“Historically, this region’s never had enough water, so when a mining company comes to use 1,000 litres of water per second, we risk becoming a ghost town, disappearing, because it doesn’t make sense to stay in a town without water, and I don’t want to leave,” according to activist Gabriela Romano.
“I was born here, I love this land, and I will defend it.”

Legalize or die
The Globe and Mail’s Neil Reynolds argues for the legalization of cannabis, opiates, cocaine and “most other drugs” in order to stem the illegal trade’s growing violence in the Americas (15,000 deaths last year in Mexico alone), though he concedes that no country can go it alone.
“Assuming some international consensus for repeal, though, Canada has a number of retail models to contemplate. Assuming a government monopoly, it could regulate the drug trade through government-owned outlets (“beer and liquor stores”). Assuming a regulated industry, it could exploit existing pharmaceutical emporiums (“drugstores”). Assuming a more free-market approach, it could use corner-store outlets (“smoke shops”). All these establishments sell lots of government-regulated drugs already – most of them, when you think about it, for medical purposes of one kind or another.”

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