Latest Developments, March 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Arms stats
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has released new statistics indicating the international arms trade increased by 24 percent in 2007-2011 compared to previous five-year period, with the usual suspects still dominating the market.
“The five biggest suppliers of major conventional weapons in the period 2007– 11 were the United States, Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. The USA and Russia remained by far the largest exporters, accounting for 30 per cent and 24 per cent of all exports, respectively. The top 5 suppliers accounted for 75 per cent of exports of major conventional weapons in the period 2007–11, compared with 78 per cent for the same five suppliers in the period 2002–2006.”

Apple dividend
KPCC’s Mike DeBord suggests Apple’s decision to reduce its cash surplus by paying its shareholders a quarterly dividend is both morally and strategically questionable.
“So when you think about it, Apple’s cash hoard has really come from extracting profits from its Asian contract manufacturers, who support Apple’s 30-plus profit margins by slashing their own; and by extracting profits from the likes of Verizon and AT&T, who have to subsidize customer purchases of ex-pen-sive iPhones. For the moment, Foxconn and American’s biggest wireless providers are willing to accept a redistribution of wealth from their balance sheets to Apple’s. But you have to wonder how long that will last — especially if people like [ValueWalk’s Paul] Shea are right and the post-Jobs Apple shifts its focus from product innovation to the care and feeding of shareholders (more than 70 percent of who are big institutional investors and hedge funds).”

Grim forecast
In a blog post announcing the release of a new environmental outlook to 2050, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Patrick Love writes that “we’re all doomed.”
“The [greenhouse gas] mitigation actions pledged by countries in the 2010 Cancún Agreements at the UN Climate Change Conference will not be enough to prevent the global average temperature from exceeding the 2C threshold, unless very rapid and costly emission reductions are realised after 2020.
Projections like these are probably familiar to most people interested in environmental issues, but other figures in the book may prove more of a shock, notably concerning health. We may be damaging the environment, but it’s killing us. Today, unsafe water kills more people than all forms of violence, but air pollution is set to become the world’s top environmental cause of premature mortality, overtaking dirty water and lack of sanitation.”

Dam guidelines
The Guardian reports that new voluntary guidelines for assessing the impacts of large hydroelectric dams are gathering support from corporations, while critics cry “greenwash.”
“Zachary Hurwitz, policy programme coordinator at International Rivers, said the protocol could create opportunities for dam builders to make sustainability claims while potentially undermining legislative and civil society-led efforts to hold them accountable for the social and environmental impacts of their projects.
‘There are ways to better regulate dam building,’ he said. ‘It is by the legislative process, through harmonising-upwards country regulatory systems in order to truly come to a global binding standard, with the ability to penalise developers.’ ”

Trayvon Martin’s Michael Skolnik writes about last month’s fatal shooting of an African-American teenager in a Florida gated community, arguing that “the rights I take for granted [as a white American] are only valid if I fight to give those same rights to others.”
“I got a lot of emails about Trayvon.  I have read a lot of articles.  I have seen a lot of television segments.  The message is consistent.  Most of the commentators, writers, op-ed pages agree.  Something went wrong.  Trayvon was murdered.  Racially profiled. Race. America’s elephant that never seems to leave the room. But, the part that doesn’t sit well with me is that all of the messengers of this message are all black too.  I mean, it was only two weeks ago when almost every white person I knew was tweeting about stopping a brutal African warlord from killing more innocent children.  And they even took thirty minutes out of their busy schedules to watch a movie about dude.  They bought t-shirts.  Some bracelets. Even tweeted at Rihanna to take a stance.  But, a 17 year old American kid is followed and then ultimately killed by a neighborhood vigilante who happens to be carrying a semi-automatic weapon and my white friends are quiet.  Eerily quiet. Not even a trending topic for the young man.”

Abolishing tax havens
The UN Millennium Campaign’s Charles Abugre writes that corrupt government officials are not the main culprits behind illicit capital flight from Africa, an estimated 65-70 percent of which is attributable to “commercial activities, especially through trade mis-pricing of goods”.
“Africa is experiencing economic growth, and for the increasing wealth to be channelled to public services, development and the achievement of the millennium development goals by 2015, it is urgent the problem of tax havens as a conduit for illicit outflows is addressed. The high-level panel set up by the African Union, the African Development Bank and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and chaired by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, is a significant step forward – and testifies to the importance of this issue for Africa’s development. The ball is now in the court of the rich countries.”

A world bank
It is time for the US to give up its unwritten right to appoint World Bank presidents in favour of a more open, meritocratic process, according to François Bourguignon, Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz, all of whom held senior positions at the bank in the past.
“The developed countries have declared the importance of an ‘open, transparent and merit-based process’ many times. They have recognised the importance of trust, credibility and collaboration in overcoming global challenges, particularly that of poverty. Yet when the moment comes for decision, they cannot resist the temptation to perpetuate the monopoly. This is not only hypocritical, it also destroys the trust and spirit of collaboration needed to manage the profound problems facing the world.”

Lundins fight back
The Local reports the sons of Lundin Group founder Adolf Lundin have responded to allegations their company consists of “opportunistic, dictator-hugging businessmen” who show little regard for human rights in their search for natural resources.
“The allegations refer to alleged human rights abuses in connection with oil exploration in southern Sudan between 1997 and 2003.
Magnus Elving of the International Prosecution Chamber in Stockholm (Internationella åklagarkammaren i Stockholm) is investigating claims made in a report entitled “Unpaid Debt” framed by an umbrella group named the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS) and present in 2010.
The report alleges that Sudanese troops, in collaboration with militias, attacked and drove away the civilian population in areas where companies could drill for oil.”

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