Latest Developments, July 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Migrant deaths
Reuters reports that 54 people have died of thirst while trying to cross illegally from Libya to Italy by boat, leaving only one survivor:

“The incident is the latest in a long series of disasters which have killed thousands of migrants attempting to reach southern Europe from North Africa in small, unstable and frequently overcrowded boats.
According to the UNHCR, around 170 people have died this year trying to reach Europe from Libya. Around 1,300 have reached Italy by sea since the beginning of 2012 and another 1,000 people have reached Malta.”

Account closures
The CBC reports that TD Bank has decided to close the accounts of a number of Iranian-Canadians, citing the need to comply with sanctions against Iran:

“ ‘It’s…given no explanation as to why this has happened and made some cryptic reference to the sanctions. But anytime they’ve sought some further explanation, they’ve been stonewalled and treated very, very badly,’ [according to the Iranian Canadian Congress’s Kaveh Shahrooz.]
He couldn’t say exactly how many people have been affected. He said at this time it appears TD is the only bank sending out these letters.”

Democratic deficit
The US is “not seen as promoting democracy in the Middle East,” according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Pakistan:

“The U.S. receives mixed reviews in Tunisia. Overall, 45% have a favorable and 45% an unfavorable view of the U.S. However, President Barack Obama gets mostly poor marks – 57% say they have little or no confidence that Obama will do the right thing in world affairs. And there is no consensus among Tunisians about how the U.S. has handled the political changes taking place in their country – 31% believe the American response has had a positive effect, 27% say it has been negative, and 25% volunteer that the U.S. has had no impact.”

Criminalizing bank fraud
Michel Barnier, the EU commissioner in charge of financial reform, plans to table new rules that would make it a criminal offense to manipulate benchmarks such as Libor:

“ ‘We need to draw lessons from the Libor case,’ a spokesman for Barnier said. ‘We intend to close the regulatory gap in our proposed market-abuse legislation by including the direct manipulation of market indexes such as Libor.’
As it stands, the market-abuse proposal, which is now being negotiated with the European Parliament and EU member governments, defines insider dealing and market manipulation as criminal offences and lays down minimum penalties.”

No to EO 79
ABS-CBN News reports that environmental groups in the Philippines have three major objections to the country’s new mining rules:

“First, they say it promotes the unconstitutional overriding of local environmental codes that prohibit destructive mining operations in their area.
Second, it allegedly disenfranchises legitimate small-scale miners in favor of multinational companies, validating some 1.1 million hectares of existing mining applications and operations.
Third, it contents itself with a so-called piecemeal increase in mining administrative fees instead of collecting a “rightful” share from taxes and revenues.”

Subsitence threatened
Sherpa reports that it and four other NGOs have lodged a complaint with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development over the activities of tire giant Michelin in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu:

“The development of this land, from a rural to an industrial zone, caused, in total, the destruction of 450 hectares of communal forest that surrounded the village and supported agricultural and pastoral activities, thereby depriving the people of their primary means of subsistence. Moreover, the land leased to Michelin is located in a watershed that feeds three natural lakes that irrigate Thervoy village and are the principal source of water for agriculture in the area.
And yet, since the start of the project, local residents have been mobilized, have demonstrated peacefully and have taken the state of Tamil Nadu to court on several occasions. Indeed, this project is violating the rights of 1,500 families living in Thervoy and threatens their subsistence. 18 other villages are also impacted directly by the construction of infrastructure necessary for the site.”
[Translated from the French.]

Private prisons
Bloomberg reports that the Canadian government is considering using the services of private companies to run certain aspects of the country’s prisons, prompting an opposition politician to accuse the ruling Conservatives of “opening the door to privatization”:

“If Canada turned to the private sector, it would follow countries such as the U.S., U.K. and Australia that have relatively larger prison populations.
There are 209 prison facilities managed by private companies worldwide, with 181 in the U.S., according to data from the Association of Private Correctional and Treatment Organizations. There were 44 privately-run facilities in the U.S. in the late 1980s, according to research by Management and Training Corporation, a closely held company that manages prisons.”

EU-Africa trade
Ten year-old trade negotiations between Africa and the EU are unlikely to bear fruit unless they are guided by a fundamental shift in thinking, according to the European Centre for Development Policy Management’s Sanoussi Bilal:

“Africa does not need a trade deal with Europe to grow, though it might help. What Europe and Africa both need, however, are stronger relations based on a more equal footing, where legitimate economic and political interests are openly acknowledged, not couched in benevolent, somewhat paternalistic, rhetoric on ‘development’.”

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