Latest Developments, January 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Violent hemisphere
The Washington Post reports on a new study suggesting 45 of the world’s 50 most violent cities are located in the Western Hemisphere, many of them caught up in the tension between an insatiable American market and prohibition policies.
“[Honduras’s] San Pedro Sulla tallied 159 homicides per 100,000 residents last year, followed by [Mexico’s] Ciudad Juarez, with 148 killings per 100,000. Both cities are major operational and strategic distribution points along the billion-dollar drug pipeline that funnels narcotics to consumers in the United States.”

Apple opens up
Reuters reports Apple has made public its “closely guarded” list of global suppliers in the face of criticism over perceived indifference to worker abuses.
“The audit conducted by Apple of suppliers found a number of violations, among them breaches in pay, benefits and environmental practices in plants in China, which figured prominently throughout the 500-page report Apple issued.
Other violations unearthed included dumping wastewater onto a neighboring farm, using machines without safeguards, testing workers for pregnancy and falsifying pay records.”

German banks vs. financial transaction tax
Bloomberg reports that Germany’s banks have expressed their opposition to a tax on financial transactions in the euro zone.
“ ‘If a financial-transaction tax cannot be introduced internationally, you have to do without it,’ Hans Reckers, managing director of Germany’s VOeB association of public banks, said in an e-mailed statement today. ‘We firmly oppose the creation of tax haven in the EU.’

The European Commission in September suggested a tax of 0.1 percent on equity and bond transactions and 0.01 percent on derivatives, which it said could raise 55 billion euros ($70 billion) a year. European Union finance ministers are due to discuss the levy in March.”

Diminishing solidarity
Le Monde reports on the contentious debate over whether a financial transaction tax, if one is ever adopted, would have much in common with Robin Hood.
“The NGO Oxfam worries about the change in [French President] Nicolas Sarkozy’s position, noting that he had said at the G20 summit in early November ‘a significant portion, the majority or the totality of the revenue must go to development.’ But he has since changed his mind, according to Oxfam’s Luc Lamprière: ‘His reference to the European Commission directive is a bad sign since it calls for the tax to ‘progressively replace national contributions to the EU budget,’ leaving the idea of financing development and the fight against climate change as a mere footnote.’ ” (Translated from the French)

Rio+20 agenda
The International Institute for Environment and Development’s Emily Benson grades the just-released draft agenda for the Rio+20 summit, finding it stronger on sentiment than specifics.
“Mention is made to ‘innovative instruments of finance’ for building green economies and reference is made to public procurement, fiscal reform, the removal of subsidies that undermine sustainable development, all of which the [Green Economy] Coalition has been promoting. It calls for International Financial Institutions to ‘review their programmatic strategies to ensure the provision of better support to developing countries for the implementation of sustainable development’. This is all encouraging stuff. However, the text steps rather delicately around the question not only of how much the transition is going to cost, but how we are going to leverage additional funds. From our past experience of Rio 1992 we know that governments alone will not be able to pay for the transition so we need to think a lot more creatively about how to leverage additional finance. So, the question we would like to see tackled in the next draft is:  How are we going to kick-start the finance of a green and fair economy in order to create long-term investor confidence?”

Burma beware
The Institute of Development Studies’ Gabriele Köhler argues Myanmar must be wary, as it opens up to the world beyond Asia, of the West’s conquering friendship.
“We can hope that the west’s sudden enthusiasm stems from genuine support for peace and the rights of the population. But in reality, the change in stance probably has at least as much to do with pursuit of their own national interests. For several decades, US and European sanctions have kept western businesses out of Burma, while firms from Thailand, Singapore, India and especially China eagerly exploited the country’s natural gas, hydropower potential and gemstones.
History has shown time and again that popular movements for civil liberties, democracy and human rights are often hijacked by a drive to introduce neoliberal capitalism or prise open a country to foreign investors.”

Carbon fixation
The Land Institute’s Stan Cox argues that current schemes to reduce carbon emissions could actually make it harder for future generations to provide for themselves.
“To value everything in terms of carbon and treat the myriad benefits of ecologically sound agriculture as mere byproducts of climate protection is to invite all kinds of threats to soil and food. Perhaps the most menacing threats are those posed by connecting food and soil more tightly to global capital markets through carbon-trading schemes and tying them more closely to volatile energy markets by putting already fragile soils to work growing biofuels.

Occupying Occupy
Author and blogger Carne Ross warns that the appropriation of Occupy slogans, by mainstream politicians and crockery shops, has begun.
“As the ‘68-ers manifestly failed to do, Occupy must move from words to action, for relying on the platform of words will see the ground cut from under our feet. In contrast to the ease with which they can steal the words of Occupy, the [Newt] Gingrich’s of this world will not be able to appropriate actions consonant with the ideals of Occupy for this would be to enact Occupy’s sought revolution.  And that won’t happen in a century of Sundays.”

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