Latest Developments, April 23

In the latest news and analysis…

Big spill
Amnesty International says it has obtained evidence that a 2008 oil spill in Nigeria’s Niger Delta was “far worse” than originally reported by Shell.
“The previously unpublished assessment, carried out by US firm Accufacts Inc. found that between 1,440 and 4,320 barrels of oil were flooding the Bodo area each day following the leak. The Nigerian regulators have confirmed that the spill lasted for 72 days.
Shell’s official investigation report claims only 1,640 barrels of oil were spilt in total. But based on the independent assessment the total amount of oil spilt over the 72 day period is between 103,000 barrels and 311,000 barrels.”

Spying changes
The Washington Post reports on Pentagon plans to “ramp up its spying operations” beyond war zones with the creation of the Defense Clandestine Service.
“The plan, the [senior defense] official said, was developed in response to a classified study completed last year by the director of national intelligence that concluded that the military’s espionage efforts needed to be more focused on major targets beyond the tactical considerations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The new service will seek to ‘make sure officers are in the right locations to pursue those requirements,’ said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the ‘realignment’ of the military’s classified human espionage efforts.
The official declined to provide details on where such shifts might occur, but the nation’s most pressing intelligence priorities in recent years have included counter­terrorism, nonproliferation and ascendant powers such as China.”

Mexican migration
The Pew Hispanic Center reports that net migration from Mexico to the US has fallen to “zero,” while deportations are at an all-time high.
“The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and changing economic conditions in Mexico.

In the five-year period from 2005 to 2010, about 1.4 million Mexicans immigrated to the United States and about 1.4 million Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born children moved from the United States to Mexico.

As apprehensions at the border have declined, deportations of unauthorized Mexican immigrants—some of them picked up at work or after being arrested for other criminal violations—have risen to record levels. In 2010, nearly 400,000 unauthorized immigrants—73% of them Mexicans—were deported by U.S. authorities.”

Endangered people
The Observer reports that the “genocide” of Brazil’s Awá people has its origins in development assistance from Europe and the World Bank.
“Their troubles began in earnest in 1982 with the inauguration of a European Economic Community (EEC) and World Bank-funded programme to extract massive iron ore deposits found in the Carajás mountains. The EEC gave Brazil $600m to build a railway from the mines to the coast, on condition that Europe received a third of the output, a minimum of 13.6m tons a year for 15 years. The railway cut directly through the Awá’s land and with the railway came settlers. A road-building programme quickly followed, opening up the Awá’s jungle home to loggers, who moved in from the east.
It was, according to Survival’s research director, Fiona Watson, a recipe for disaster. A third of the rainforest in the Awá territory in Maranhão state in north-east Brazil has since been destroyed and outsiders have exposed the Awá to diseases against which they have no natural immunity.”

World Bank land grabs
Friends of the Earth has released a new report just ahead of a World Bank conference on land and poverty, in which the NGO documents a series of abuses it traces back to “a land grab initially funded” by the financial institution.
“The World Bank had historically provided millions of dollars in funding and technical support to palm oil expansion in forested islands off the coast of Lake Victoria in Kalangala, Uganda. Nearly 10,000 hectares have already been planted covering almost a quarter of the land area of the islands. While the Bank has since disassociated itself from the project, the land grabs continue.
Palm oil plantations have come at the expense of local food crops and rainforests. Local people have been prevented from accessing water sources and grazing land. Despite promises of employment, locals have lost their means of livelihood and are struggling to make ends meet.”

Red-pen wars
Trinity College’s Vijay Prashad writes about the battle between rich countries and G-77 nations over the text of a UN Conference on Trade and Development draft document.
“At UNCTAD, the JUSSCANNZ Group (abbreviated as JZ) is the most engaged grouping. Switzerland’s ambassador to the UNCTAD seems to have taken on the role of group leader.
The most common comment on the leaked text is the following phrase ‘JZ delete’. The red pen of the JZ delegation flashed across the ‘consensus’ document, mainly fighting back against the G-77’s attempt to bring matters of finance, commodity prices and hunger onto the agenda.
One of the special sentences deleted by the JZ group is this, ‘Securing access to food – one of the most basic human needs – is a priority (JZ delete).’ Another that the European Union deleted after the G-77 + China added it in was that people have the right to ‘medicine at affordable prices (G-77) {EU delete}’. ”

British empire crimes
The Guardian’s George Monbiot takes on Britain’s “national ability to airbrush and disregard” atrocities committed in its former colonies.
“The myths of empire are so well-established that we appear to blot out countervailing stories even as they are told. As evidence from the manufactured Indian famines of the 1870s and from the treatment of other colonies accumulates, British imperialism emerges as no better and in some cases even worse than the imperialism practised by other nations. Yet the myth of the civilising mission remains untroubled by the evidence.”

The American Lawyer’s Michael Goldhaber argues that a case currently before the US Supreme Court has the potential to do more damage to the cause of international human rights than simply establishing that the Alien Tort Statute does not apply to corporations.
“A broad ruling against extraterritoriality is more dangerous to human rights plaintiffs than a broad ruling against corporate liability for two reasons. It could bar alien tort suits against corporate officers and directors, and it could bar more traditional alien tort suits against individuals who commit torture or other war crimes.”

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