Latest Developments, April 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Inequality warning
The BBC reports that the Asia Development Bank is warning that growing inequality – particularly in China, India and Indonesia – could threaten the continent’s stability.
“During the 1960s and 1970s, Asia was better at ensuring that growth did not marginalise large chunks of the region’s population and was actually reducing the gap between the rich and the poor.
However, over the past decade the sudden explosion of growth and rapid enrichment of many people has seen the rich-poor divide grow. The ADB estimates that currently in most Asian countries the wealthiest 5% of the population now account for 20% of total expenditure.
At the same time, for hundreds of millions of people access to education, healthcare and housing has become more difficult and expensive.”

Hijacking democracy
The Independent reports that two of Britain’s top lobbying firms are offering to help corporate clients benefit from the European Citizens’ Initiative, which is intended to increase public input into EU lawmaking.
“A leaked memo shows that Bell Pottinger, the subject of an undercover investigation published in this newspaper in December last year, has offered to help potential clients set up petitions demanding changes to EU law under the new programme, whose rules specifically bar organisations from doing so.
And information posted on the website of its fellow lobbyist Fleishman-Hillard shows it too is offering to help businesses hijack the initiative, which came into force on 1 April.”

Inivisible Children leaks
RT reports that diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks suggest “collaboration” between the group behind the Kony 2012 video and Uganda’s intelligence services.
“A memo written by a public affairs officer at the US embassy in Uganda documents Invisible Children’s collaboration with Ugandan intelligence services. It notes that the US-based NGO tipped the Ugandan government on the whereabouts of Patrick Komakech, a former child soldier for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who was wanted by security officials for extorting money from the government officials, NGO’s and local tribal leaders. Ugandan security organizations jumped the tip and immediately arrested Komakech.

Invisible Children also actively supported Operation Lightning Thunder (OLT), a joint attack by Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the then-autonomous South Sudan against the LRA. The operation, which was also received US intelligence and logistical backing, killed more civilians than LRA militants.”

Sacred hills
The Guardian reports that the Dongria Kondh people’s “Avatar-like battle” against a UK-based mining company has reached India’s Supreme Court.
“Lingaraj Azad, a leader of the Save Niyamgiri Committee, said the Dongria Kondh’s campaign was ‘not just that of an isolated tribe for its customary rights over its traditional lands and habitats, but that of the entire world over protecting our natural heritage’.

A government report accused the firm of violations of forest conservation, tribal rights and environmental protection laws in Orissa, a charge subsequently repeated by a panel of forestry experts.”

Illegal lumber
Inter Press Service reports on a new investigation that found more than 20 US companies had imported illegal timber from Peru’s Amazon region in recent years.
“ ‘Exporters in Peru and importers in the United States and around the world are currently integral parts of a systematic flow of illegal timber from the Peruvian Amazon. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes through sheer negligence, each of the actors and agencies involved in this system are working as gears in a well-oiled machine that is ransacking Peru’s forests and undermining the livelihoods and rights of the people that depend on them,’ the [Environmental Investigation Agency] report stated.
The investigation discovered at least 112 shipments of protected cedar and mahogany were illegally laundered with fabricated papers and imported by U.S. companies between 2008 and 2010.”

Complicity in genocide
Groupe Rwanda argues in Billets d’Afrique that the French government was complicit in the Rwandan genocide that started 18 Aprils ago.
“In fact, according to the jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR): ‘…an accused is liable for complicity in genocide if he knowingly and voluntarily aided or abetted or instigated a person or persons to commit genocide, while knowing that such person or persons were committing genocide, even though the accused himself did not have the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, specifically targeted as such.’ In the name of geopolitical considerations dictated by a minority above all accountability due to the so-called ‘reserved domain’ of the head of state, French decision makers consented without qualms to the preparation and subsequent carrying out of the massacre of nearly a million human beings. Once the crime was completed, they did not break their alliance with the killers. François Mitterrand even said to his inner circle in the summer of 1994: ‘You know, in such countries, genocide is not too important.’ ” (Translated from the French.)

Judicial racism
The Guardian’s Gary Younge argues that incidents of judicial racism in the US and UK are not the result of “people simply going rogue.”
“All these perpetrators were reported to the authorities and – in the absence of massive public pressure and media exposure – all were cleared. Both systemic and systematic, the racism these incidents and statistics reveal is embedded within the judicial system itself, rendering it part of the problem rather than the solution. This goes beyond the parental to the political. For it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the state, as currently imagined and experienced, is simply not set up with the purpose of protecting the rights of black people – indeed quite the opposite. It seems to function with the specific intent of violating their rights.”

Skin whitening
India Real Time’s Rupa Subramanya looks into India’s $400 million market for skin-whitening products, including one whose ad promises to “make a woman’s vagina fairer.”
“But before this gets branded a uniquely Indian phenomenon, consider that ever since the craze for the Brazilian wax, skin whitening for your private parts has been a thriving industry in the U.S. and elsewhere for some time. There are skin whitening products for just about every orifice. These were invented and marketed in the West long before they came to India. Like Coca-Cola and many other consumer goods, they’ve arrived here a little later.
The premium on fair skin isn’t unique to India and the developing world.”

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