Latest Developments, March 29

In the latest news and analysis…

Migrant deaths
The Guardian reports that the lead investigator into the maritime deaths of dozens of African migrants has called Europe’s talk of human rights “meaningless.”
“Despite emergency calls being issued and the boat being located and identified by European coastguard officials, no rescue was ever attempted. All but nine of those on board died from thirst and starvation or in storms, including two babies.
The report’s author, Tineke Strik – echoing the words of Mevlüt Çavusoglu, president of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly at the time of the incident – described the tragedy as ‘a dark day for Europe’, and told the Guardian it exposed the continent’s double standards in valuing human life.

The incident has become well known due to the harrowing accounts of the survivors, but the report makes clear that many similar ‘silent tragedies’ have occurred in recent years. Last year a record number of migrant deaths were recorded in the Mediterranean. ‘When you think about the media attention focused on the [Costa] Concordia and then compare it to the more than 1,500 migrant lives lost in the Mediterranean in 2011, the difference is striking,’ Strik said.”

Yemen drones
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports there has been a sharp increase in “covert US strikes against alleged militants” in Yemen since the start of the Arab Spring.
“At least 26 US military and CIA strikes involving cruise missiles, aircraft, drones or naval bombardments have taken place in the volatile Gulf nation to date, killing hundreds of alleged militants linked to the regional al Qaeda franchise. But at least 54 civilians have died too, the study found.

At least five US attacks – some involving multiple targets – have so far taken place in Yemen this month alone, in support of a government offensive to drive militants from key locations. In comparison, Pakistan’s tribal areas, the epicentre of the CIA’s controversial drone war, have seen just three US drone strikes in March.”

Sweden’s Saudi scandal
Agence France-Presse reports Sweden’s defence minister has resigned in the midst of controversy over a secret arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
“Earlier this month public broadcaster Swedish Radio said the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) had secret plans since 2007 to help Saudi Arabia build a plant for the production of anti-tank weapons.
The radio said part of the so-called Project Simoom involved the creation of a shell company called SSTI to handle dealings with Saudi Arabia in order to avoid any direct links to FOI and the government.

Sweden has in the past sold weapons to Saudi Arabia, but classified government documents state that Project Simoom ‘pushes the boundaries of what is possible for a Swedish authority,’ the radio said when it broke the story on March 6.”

Apple/Foxconn promises
Reuters reports that Apple has promised to work with Foxconn to increase wages and improve working conditions in their Chinese factories.
“The moves came in response to one of the largest investigations ever conducted of a U.S. company’s operations abroad. Apple had agreed to the probe by the independent Fair Labour Association in response to a crescendo of criticism that its products were built on the backs of mistreated Chinese workers.

Apple, the world’s most valuable corporation, and Foxconn, China’s biggest private-sector employer and Apple’ main contract manufacturer, are so dominant in the global technology industry that their newly forged accord will likely have a substantial ripple effect across the sector.”

Patent objection
The Economic Times reports that the US has criticized India for greenlighting the manufacture of a generic version of a cancer drug for which Germany’s Bayer holds the patent.
“The compulsory licence would allow the company to make a generic, or copycat, version of the patented cancer drug bringing down prices by about 30 times. ‘[US Commerce Secretary John] Bryson said pharmaceuticals was a competitive area and heavy investments went into R&D every year. Any dilution of the international patent regime was a cause for deep concern for the US,’ the official said.
Defending the move, [Indian Commerce & Industry Minister Anand] Sharma said the compulsory licence strictly complied with the flexibility norms provided in the Trips (trade-related intellectual property rights) Agreement of the WTO since a large number of cancer patients died in the country every year as they could not afford treatment.”

Widening Kimberley
Reuters reports that the Kimberley Process is considering expanding the definition of “conflict” it uses in monitoring of the global diamond trade.
“ ‘What we would like to see is in essence that there be a clear agreed understanding amongst the membership that conflict is something more than only a rebel group seeking to overthrow a legitimate government,’ [Kimberley Process chairwoman Gillian Milovanovic] said.”

Madagascar anniversary
Le Monde marks the anniversary of “one of the most significant colonial massacres” which killed tens of thousands in Madagascar over the course of nearly two years.
“This Thursday, March 29, Malagasies commemorate the 65th anniversary of the start of the insurrection. Independent since June 26, 1960 – after 65 years of French colonization – the Red Island remembers a ‘pacification’ that consisted of torture, burned villages, summary executions and a French expeditionary force composed mainly of colonial troops. Some 18,000 soldiers landed in April 1947. Their numbers reached 30,000 in 1948. ” (Translated from the French.)

Extreme extractivism
Human rights lawyer Magdalena Gómez points to the recent deaths of anti-mining protesters as evidence of the excessive power transnational corporations have gained in Mexico.
“We have already heard the usual arguments that attribute the attacks to rifts in the community—and they do exist–but no one stops to analyze that these divisions are promoted by the alliances forged by the mining companies.
The truth is that, beyond the investigations required to arrest and prosecute the masterminds and perpetrators of these crimes, it’s urgent that we look into the devastating effects of the policy of granting mining concessions without regard to the territorial rights of the peoples.

Until the fallacy that transnational corporations are simply private actors is rejected and what has been called “the architecture of impunity” is deconstructed, peoples’ rights will be impossible to guarantee in the face of the reality of governments subjugated to transnational capital.” (Translated by the Center for International Policy’s Michael Kane)

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