Latest Developments, January 23

In the latest news and analysis…

Spring cleaning
Human Rights Watch has released the latest edition of its “annual review of human rights practices around the globe” which this year has a special focus on the Arab Spring.
“The United States and some European allies could make an enormous contribution to ending torture in the Arab world by coming clean about their own records of complicity in torture as part of their fight against terrorism. Western governments should punish those responsible for ordering or facilitating torture and end the use of diplomatic assurances as a fig leaf to justify sending suspects to countries where they risk torture.”

Deadly mining protest
The Oaxaca Study Action Group reports that two people were shot, one of them fatally, in the course of a protest against a Canadian-owned mine in southern Mexico.
“San José del Progreso, located 50 km south of Oaxaca City, has been a flash point for violence since an alliance of local environmentalists and farmers occupied the gold and silver mine in early 2009. Despite widespread resistance and an ongoing conflict that already claimed the lives of two people in summer 2010, Fortuna Silver began commercial operation of the mine last September. As the installations are located in an arid valley, smooth operation is heavily dependent on water access to process the ore. The contamination of the scarce resource is among the main concerns of the mining opponents, many of whom grow vegetables for a living and rely on clean water for irrigation.”

Rubik on life support
The Tax Justice Network gleefully reports that Switzerland’s Rubik plan to preserve its famous banking secrecy is on the verge of collapsing as EU objections to Swiss tax deals with Britain and Germany intensify.
“TJN’s position is unambiguous: these deals are weak, immoral, and even silly – and they undermine international attempts to tackle tax evasion. Both Germany and Britain should swallow their pride, withdraw from the deals, and put their diplomatic effort into pushing through the EU’s enhanced Savings Tax Directive – suitably extended to Switzerland.”

Maximum wage
The Guardian’s George Monbiot calls for a nationwide UK maximum wage to rein in corporate executive pay, which he describes as “a form of institutionalised theft, arranged by a kleptocratic class for the benefit of its members.”
“I’m not talking about ratios or relative earnings. Various bodies have proposed that there should be a fixed ratio of the top earnings within a company to either the median or lowest salaries. But as a report on this issue by the New Economics Foundation shows, the first measurement quickly becomes complex and opaque, the second creates an incentive to contract out the lowest paid work. I’m talking about an absolute maximum, applied nationwide.”

Drones and America
The Brookings Institution’s Peter Singer looks at the impact that America’s increasing reliance on drone strikes is having on its own democracy, quite apart from any death and destruction caused in distant countries.
“We must now accept that technologies that remove humans from the battlefield, from unmanned systems like the Predator to cyberweapons like the Stuxnet computer worm, are becoming the new normal in war.
And like it or not, the new standard we’ve established for them is that presidents need to seek approval only for operations that send people into harm’s way — not for those that involve waging war by other means.
Without any actual political debate, we have set an enormous precedent, blurring the civilian and military roles in war and circumventing the Constitution’s mandate for authorizing it.”

Drones and Pakistan
News Pakistan reports on Pakistani cricketer turned politician Imran Khan’s take on the impact US drone strikes are having on the ground in his country.
“Imran Khan, the chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has urged the United States to stop drone strikes in Pakistan, claiming that they were killing many innocent people.
He observed that each bomb that killed terrorists also killed many people who might be related to the terrorists but were not involved in militancy.
In his view this collateral damage creates more Jihadis than it kills, he said this while interviewing with CNN.”

Proceed with caution
New York University’s Alex Evans and David Steven argue that despite growing enthusiasm for Sustainable Development Goals ahead of the Rio+20 summit, there is a lack of clarity regarding their contours and timeframe.
“The question of which countries would be covered by SDGs is a minefield. With any set of SDGs likely to be universal rather than applicable only to developing countries, major political challenges would arise. The MDGs demanded relatively little of OECD governments: all that was asked of them was aid, and relatively small amounts of it at that. A more comprehensive set of post-2015 Goals, on the other hand, would need to look ‘beyond aid’ – entailing changes to domestic policies in sensitive areas like migration, trade, intellectual property, or energy policy. The vexed issue of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ would certainly arise along the way – perhaps bedevilling post-2015 discussions as it already has the Doha round and the UNFCCC climate process (though an optimist might argue that a universal approach could help debate to move past the rigid and outdated typology of ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries).”

Migrant myths
The Observer’s Barbara Ellen writes that new statistics undermine traditional narratives about immigrants and “benefits tourism.”
“This could be a chance to start a new kind of immigration debate, one that doesn’t centre on: ‘What are they taking from us?’ Rather, it might ask: ‘What are they giving us?’ Even: ‘Do we expect too much, too soon, of migrants? Should we break the habit of a lifetime and get off their backs?’
For too long, there’s been a bizarre cultural climate of putting migrants under unfair pressure to perform instantly. It’s as if they’re expected to be supermen and women, breezily starting multinational companies the moment they arrive… in a foreign country, sometimes homeless, and with a new language to master.”

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