Latest Developments, July 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Secret War legacy
As Hillary Clinton becomes the first US secretary of state to visit Laos in over 50 years, Congressman Michael Honda calls on his government to do more to help clean up the unexploded ordinance remaining from 580,000 American bombing missions flown during the Secret War of 1964-73:

“The bombings dropped one ton of ordnance for every man, women, and child in Laos at the time, making it the most heavily bombed nation per capita in history. Up to a third of these bombs did not explode when they hit the ground and remain to this day literal time bombs, preventing much needed agriculture and infrastructure development and threatening the lives and livelihoods of villagers across Laos.

The U.S. began supporting clean-up of these bombs in 1997, and has since contributed a total of almost $47 million through the State Department. The U.S. is the largest contributor to this effort, but the funding since the war ended pales in comparison to the $17 million spent every day for nine years dropping these bombs. In fact, only about one percent of these bombs have been cleared thus far.”

Unintended consequences
Tehran-based political analyst Mohammad Ali Shabani argues Western sanctions imposed on Iran are punishing the country’s people more than its leaders:

“A Gallup poll carried out earlier this year showed almost half of Iranians didn’t have enough money to buy food their families needed at times during the past year. That proportion is triple the figure when the first UN sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme were adopted in 2006. The same survey stated that a mere eight per cent of Iranians approve of US leadership, warning that ‘Western leaders need to monitor the unintended effects sanctions may have on Iranians’ lives’.”

Corporate transparency
Transparency International has released a new report assessing the operational openness of the world’s 105 biggest companies:

“Transparency International calls on companies to fight corruption by disclosing more information about how they mitigate corruption and by making public how they are organised and how monies flow in the countries in which they operate. Only with this level of information can citizens the world over know how much money flows into public budgets, a key issue of accountability for governments everywhere.
Governments and regulators should make transparency obligatory for all companies seeking export subsidies or competing for public contracts. Investors should demand greater transparency in corporate reporting to ensure both ethical, sustainable business growth as well as sound risk management.”

The World Bank giveth…
Inter Press Service reports on the ongoing controversy over the World Bank’s decision to cancel a $1.2 billion loan to Bangladesh due to allegations of corruption involving the proposed Padma Bridge “mega-giant project”:

“The Bank suspended its loan for the massive project based on a referral to a case filed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) against the Canadian engineering firm SNC Lavalin, stating that the latter had bribed former communications minister Hossain in order to secure its bid to become the main consultant on the project.

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has termed the Bank’s decision ‘deeply regrettable’ and urged the global lending agency to review its decision.”

World without borders
Oxfam’s Duncan Green asks why migration does not figure more prominently on the “development agenda”:

“[The Center for Global Development’s Michael Clemens] reinterpreted the fall of apartheid as the abolition of borders between white South Africa and the Bantustans, and showed that everyone benefitted from this sudden upsurge in migration – the incomes of blacks and coloureds increased rapidly, and whites lost nothing. Effectively, he was making the economic case against borders of any kind.”

Nuclear denial
The Center for International Policy’s William Hartung argues the world’s nuclear problem goes well beyond Iran’s possible quest for the bomb:

“Although none of these scenarios, including a terrorist nuclear attack, may be as likely as nuclear alarmists sometimes suggest, as long as the world remains massively stocked with nuclear weapons, one of them – or some other scenario yet to be imagined – is always possible. The notion that Iran can’t be trusted with such a weapon obscures a larger point: given their power to destroy life on a monumental scale, no individual and no government can ultimately be trusted with the bomb.
The only way to be safe from nuclear weapons is to get rid of them – not just the Iranian one that doesn’t yet exist, but all of them. It’s a daunting task. It’s also a subject that’s out of the news and off anyone’s agenda at the moment, but if it is ever to be achieved, we at least need to start talking about it. Soon.”

Fear of a black planet
In a Q&A with Metro, former US Olympic sprinter Tommie Smith looks back on his famous salute at the 1968 games in Mexico City:

“I wasn’t going to stand there with my hand on my heart while they played my country’s national anthem and then go back to life as a second-class citizen. So myself and John [Carlos] raised our fists in a silent, non-violent protest. It wasn’t for Black Power, it was for human rights and I suffered greatly for that moment. I never raced again, I couldn’t find a job and I struggled to finish my degree.

Those who do anything except stand there and accept a medal will be looked upon as a radical. If an athlete decides to take that step, they have to accept the lifelong sacrifice. You can do it but you will pay for it. I still have never had an apology and I’m still not a member of the US Olympics Hall of Fame.”

Post mortem
The University of Ottawa’s Stephen Brown argues that Canada’s outgoing minister of international cooperation oversaw an “increasingly instrumentalized” Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), most notably in efforts to further Ottawa’s objectives in Afghanistan:

“In another instance where CIDA prioritized Canadian interests, the current list of countries of concentration and the latest budget cuts both reduce assistance to poor African countries, while shifting resources to middle-income countries in Latin America that are more important for Canadian trade. Oda also provided incentives for NGOs to work with Canadian mining companies, and even admitted that she made no distinction between Canada’s trade and foreign policy interests and actual development goals.”

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