Latest Developments, April 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Keeping secrets
The Independent reports that a US court has ruled American intelligence agencies need not inform the British parliament about possible UK involvement in “extraordinary rendition” of terrorism suspects.
“A judge in Washington DC granted permission for key US intelligence bodies, including the highly sensitive National Security Agency, to exploit a loophole in US freedom of information legislation which bars the release of documentation to any body representing a foreign government.

The Americans’ success in resisting the MPs’ inquiries will fuel the controversy over the cover-up of the role said to have been played by British intelligence operatives in spiriting away fugitives and suspects with ministerial approval to secret jails and authoritarian regimes, in particular to Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya.”

Debt forgiveness
Reuters reports that the Paris club of creditor nations has agreed to provide Guinea with $344 million in “debt relief,” though the $151 million in outright cancellation accounts for just one fifth of the debt owed by Guinea to Paris Club members.
“The Club said that Guinea’s government was convincingly implementing a reform programme, which could lead to final round of debt relief with its Paris Club creditors.
Guinea had more than $750 million in debt owed to Paris Club members at the start of the year in nominal terms.”

Foreclosure discrimination
Reuters reports that US financial giant Wells Fargo is being accused of not maintaining foreclosed homes in minority neighbourhoods, compared to predominantly white ones.
“The group used various statistics from its investigation to allege that properties in white communities were taken much better care of. For example, the group said that 56 percent of the foreclosed properties surveyed in the minority communities had substantial amounts of trash piling up, compared with 30 percent of Wells Fargo foreclosures in white neighborhoods that had the same problem.
‘I was just astonished by how poorly maintained so many of Wells Fargo properties were,’ said [the National Fair Housing Alliance’s Shanna] Smith. ‘When you drive through some of these neighborhoods of color, you would just be stunned by the overgrowth of weeds, often there’s no for-sale sign in front of the house, some look completely abandoned.’ ”

Nkrumah’s diary
GhanaWeb reports that a US court has ruled the 1960s diary of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, belongs to his native country, not the American businessman who had it in his possession.
“Possibly the most compelling entry in the diary (which is about the size of a small paperback and has a bookmark with the colours of Ghana’s flag stuffed in its pages), is one where Nkrumah, who had been Ghana’s head of state since independence from Britain in 1957, reflects on the abrupt end of his presidency. It makes clear that Nkrumah was worried about Ghana and Africa’s future. He wrote: ‘Things will not go well for Ghana’ and said his ‘vision’ for Ghana would now be ‘lost’.”

Corporate liability’s future
Lawfirm Foley Hoag’s Alexandra Meise Bay looks at the potential impact of a US Supreme Court case currently underway on corporate accountability for human rights abuses committed abroad.
“Given alternative court options emerging outside of the United States, even if the Supreme Court were to hold that the [Alien Tort Statute] no longer applies extraterritorially, corporations could still find themselves in lengthy litigations over alleged human rights abuses committed in third-countries. Ultimately, an end to the ATS is not necessarily an end to corporate liability.”

Capital floods
Boston University’s Kevin Gallagher argues the international community must take on “the ‘tsunami’ of speculative finance” that is harming poor countries.
“Some nations that probably should be deploying regulations on capital flows are not because such measures could be found to violate recent trade and investment treaties On the receiving end of all the capital flows are nations that may have signed on to the financial services commitments under the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) at the WTO that limits the ability of nations to regulate cross border trade in financial services.
And/or a nation may be party to a ‘free trade agreement’ or bilateral investment treaty with the United States that requires that nations allow the transfer of all forms of capital – including stocks, bonds and derivatives – into and out of  all parties to the agreement ‘freely and without delay’.”

Disarmament wars
The Nation Institute’s Jonathan Schell writes about the problems inherent in using “force as a tool of disarmament.”
“Although the invasion of Iraq was a debacle, the policy underlying it has survived. Curiously, that policy may have escaped discredit in part precisely because its target was a mirage. Is a military action a true test of a disarmament war’s efficacy if the arms in question are missing?”

Full-cost pricing
The Earth Policy Institute’s Lester Brown writes that the key to a sustainable global economy is “to get the market to tell the truth.”
“If the world is to move onto a sustainable path, we need economists who will calculate indirect costs and work with political leaders to incorporate them into market prices by restructuring taxes.
This will require help from other disciplines, including ecology, meteorology, agronomy, hydrology, and demography. Full-cost pricing that will create an honest market is essential to building an economy that can sustain civilisation and progress.”

Warlord fever
New York University’s Keith Stanski writes that Western enthusiasm for “manhunts” for so-called warlords has a history that long predates the Kony 2012 video.
“The era of large U.S.-led militarized humanitarian missions as seen in Somalia has passed, but the underlying political logic persists: U.S. military assistance to Uganda has grown in recent months, even as the Obama administration recently deployed 100 U.S. special operation forces to the region in October, a development for which Invisible Children claims some credit.

‘Nothing is more powerful,’ Invisible Children notes at the outset of their initial film, ‘than an idea whose time has come.’ Blaming complex problems on the individual responsibility of a single warlord has a record of leading to disaster. It starts with a missive, and then gets some press. Then come public pressure, debate, manhunt and often war. This familiar pattern, dating back to the 19th century, is creaking into gear once again. That’s the real lesson of ‘Kony 2012.’ ”

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