Latest Developments, March 1

In the latest news and analysis…

Pakistan misconceptions
The Telegraph’s Peter Osborne argues simultaneously that media reports exaggerate current levels of violence in Pakistan and that the West should acknowledge its own role in creating instability in Afghanistan’s neighbour.
“In recent years, the Nato occupation of Afghanistan has dragged Pakistan towards civil war. Consider this: suicide bombings were unknown in Pakistan before Osama bin Laden’s attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001. Immediately afterwards, President Bush rang President Musharraf and threatened to ‘bomb Pakistan into the stone age’ if Musharraf refused to co-operate in the so-called War on Terror.
The Pakistani leader complied, but at a terrible cost. Effectively the United States president was asking him to condemn his country to civil war by authorising attacks on Pashtun tribes who were sympathetic to the Afghan Taliban. The consequences did not take long, with the first suicide strike just six weeks later, on October 28.”

Dependency theory
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie and Nora Hassanaien make the case for the continued usefulness of the currently out-of-fashion dependency theory.
“It is critical that voters in the rich world learn that their wealth is related to a historic exploitation of other parts of the world, especially when they are eventually asked to readjust their living habits and conditions in order to better accommodate the just requirements of poorer countries.

‘Everyone is doing better,’ say the people who are doing better. But what about those who aren’t? Is their lack of progress the foundation on which the progress of others rests? To answer that question, and others, dependency theories may be needed now more than ever.”

Debt repudiation
James Boyce and Léonce Ndikumana, the authors of Africa’s Odious Debts: How Foreign Loans and Capital Flight Bled a Continent, suggest a number of ways to curb the “hemorrhage of Africa’s scarce resources” to other parts of the world.
“Last but not least, African countries can and should selectively repudiate odious debts incurred by past regimes where the borrowed funds were not used for the benefit of the public, and creditors knew or should have known this to be the case.
Bankers threaten that repudiation of such debts would bring new hardships as the debtor country is cut off from access to new borrowing. But with selective repudiation, legitimate creditors would have no reason to fear, as their debts would continue to be honored. Moreover, repudiation will benefit the many countries that currently pay more in debt service than they receive in new loans.
These steps would not only benefit the people of Africa today, but also strengthen future incentives for the exercise of due diligence by creditors and for responsible borrowing by governments. Banking on capital flight is a symptom of deeper defects in our international financial architecture. What’s needed, in Africa and abroad, are reforms tough enough to ensure that banks serve the people rather than fleecing them.”

GM & apartheid
The Mail & Guardian reports bankrupt auto giant General Motors has reached a settlement with South African plaintiffs over claims it supplied vehicle parts to apartheid-era police.
“There are still cases pending in the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in New York against Ford Motor Company, IBM, Daimler AG and Rheinmetall, [the plaintiffs’ lawyer Charles]Abrahams said.

The original damages suffered and claimed for were human rights violations including assassination and murder, indiscriminate shooting, prolonged detention without trial, torture and rape (in detention). An additional damage of ‘denationalisation’ (deprivation of citizenship) was later included.”

Escaping responsibility
Yale Law School’s Oona Hathaway explains why she believes the US Supreme Court should rule that corporations can be sued in the US for human rights abuses committed overseas.
“Absent liability under the [Alien Tort] statute, corporations would often escape responsibility, even though they have made additional profit as a result of terrible abuses they directly committed or aided and abetted. There is usually no recourse available in the country where the abuses took place, often because the government participated. And lawsuits against corporate agents are usually impossible (because the agents are not within the jurisdiction of the courts) or fruitless (because the agents could never pay a judgment against them). Concluding that corporations cannot be held liable under the statute would thus mean that the victims of a modern-day I.G. Farben, the company that produced the gas for the Nazi gas chambers, would have no effective legal recourse against it.”

Future of warfare
TomDispatch.com’s Tom Engelhardt writes that all signs point toward a future where America’s “citizen’s army” has been replaced by a robot military.
“In other words, we are moving towards an ever greater outsourcing of war to things that cannot protest, cannot vote with their feet (or wings), and for whom there is no ‘home front’ or even a home at all. In a sense, we are, as we have been since 1973, heading for a form of war without anyone, citizen or otherwise, in the picture – except those on the ground, enemy and civilian alike, who will die as usual.
Of course, it may never happen this way, in part because drones are anything but perfect or wonder weapons, and in part because corporate war fought by a thoroughly professional military turns out to be staggeringly expensive to the demobilised citizen, profligate in its waste, and – by the evidence of recent history – remarkably unsuccessful. It also couldn’t be more remote from the idea of a democracy or a republic.”

Benefit corporations
PBS NewsHour reports on new laws in seven US states that redefine the role and goal of corporations.
“ ‘Existing corporate law was built for maximization of shareholder value. And so the legal innovation here is that idea that the directors and the officers of the company are now protected to be able to consider a broader set of interests,’ [said B Lab’s Andrew Kassoy].
The law protects firms that file as benefit corporations from shareholder lawsuits that could otherwise charge they didn’t maximize profits.
B Corps are legally mandated to maximize social benefits as well.”

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