In the latest news and analysis…
Things left unsaid
Reuters reports on the commander of US Africa Command’s assessment of the current situation in Northern Mali and the role he sees for his country’s military within that context:
“[General Carter] Ham repeated U.S. offers to broadly assist regional efforts to try to resolve Mali’s crisis, which has displaced around 420,000 people, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
But he said putting U.S. troops on the ground could be counterproductive and refused to comment on the possibility of Washington using drones for air strikes similar to those carried out on militant targets in Yemen or Pakistan.”
Reuters also reports that a Mexican investigation into HSBC’s “lax controls against money laundering” has ended with a fine that amounted to 0.16 percent of the bank’s 2011 profits:
“Last week, a [US] Senate panel alleged that HSBC acted as a financier to clients routing funds from the world’s most dangerous places, including Mexico, Iran and Syria, doing regular business in areas tied to drug cartels, terrorist funding and tax cheats.
The Senate report slammed a ‘pervasively polluted’ culture at the bank and said between 2007 and 2008, HSBC’s Mexican operations moved $7 billion into the bank’s U.S. operations.”
Agence France-Presse reports that, after 15 months of negotiations, the EU and Mauritania have signed a new accord on access for European fishing boats to Mauritanian waters:
“The EU will contribute an annual 113 million euros ($138 million) in financing to Mauritania’s fishing industry, up from the 76.5 million it gave under the previous accord, [Mauritanian negotiator Cheikh Ould Baya] said.
That four-year protocol agreement on fishing will expire Tuesday.
According to official statistics, the fishing sector represents over 20 percent of budget revenue and employs more than 36,000 people in Mauritania.”
New York University’s Alex Evans explains what he meant when he tweeted earlier this week that Greenpeace was “part of the problem rather than part of the solution”:
“Land grabs aren’t just happening on the ground in poor countries around the world; they’re happening in the sky as well. Consider this: the global carbon market was in 2010 worth $142 billion. That’s $13 billion more than total global aid flows in the same year. A hugely valuable new asset class has been created – literally out of thin air. And low income countries haven’t been given any. Despite the fact that their per capita emissions are a tiny fraction of everyone else’s.
Meanwhile, as richer countries keep pumping out the emissions, the size of the carbon budget that we’ll have to share out once we do finally decide to talk about it, keeps getting a little smaller every day. And, breathtakingly, this approach is described by Greenpeace and others as fair.”
Dodging Robin Hood
Bloomberg reports on some of the ways investors are likely to try to avoid France’s new financial transaction tax, which is set to take effect next week and whose revenues will go towards AIDS research:
“To escape the tax, many institutional investors will turn to so-called contracts for difference, or CFDs, offered by prime brokers that let them bet on a stock’s gain or loss without owning the shares. Traders have used it successfully to skirt the U.K.’s stamp duty.
Those who want to stay invested in France will find a way to avoid paying the tax, said Sam Capital’s Dietmar Schmitt.
‘There will be enough options to avoid the stamp duty in France,’ he said. ‘There are many loopholes. The people who are making the laws don’t understand the business.’ ”
In the wake of the British government’s admission that Kenyan prisoners were tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion, independent journalist Emanuel Stoakes calls on Britain to acknowledge its “many imperial crimes” or stop pretending to care:
“But all that happened in the past, and Britain has progressively behaved in a more civilised manner, many would argue. This may be broadly true, despite the dirty tricks evinced in the 2009 cable. Nonetheless, in responding to the Mau Mau case the UK has an opportunity to demonstrate its growing commitment to human rights as a moral, not just a policy-based, obligation. By showing some rare magnanimity, to echo the sentiments of Bishop Tutu on the subject, the UK can somehow begin to apologise for its past. By contrast, to deploy legal technicalities or to claim that too much time has passed would be to yet again fall back on expedient cruelties to avoid doing what is right.
Yet that latter, ignoble choice appears to be the one that Britain has once again taken: representing the government, Barrister Guy Mansfield QC argued without irony that for the plaintiff’s case to proceed to trial would be ‘contrary to principle and the balance of fairness.’ Astonishing.”
Legal Times reports that US federal lawyers are contending with legal obstacles in attempting to revive the prosecution against former Blackwater employees they believe “wrongly killed” at least a dozen Iraqi civilians in 2007:
“A federal judge in December 2009 dismissed the government’s high-profile, controversial manslaughter case, saying that the prosecution was unlawfully built on protected statements that the guards made after the shooting. The prosecution, [trial judge Ricardo] Urbina concluded, was tainted with information that the prosecutors should never have used.
The big issue in the case remains this: keeping the prosecution team walled off from any protected, confidential information the Blackwater guards provided after the shooting.
An assistant U.S. attorney, John Crabb Jr., is on the so-called ‘filter team,’ reviewing evidence and witness statements before the trial prosecutors can review the material. Prosecutors and filter team lawyers and investigators recently returned from Iraq. There, prosecutors did not interview witnesses before filter team members spoke with them, Crabb said.”
European parliamentary advisor Benjamin Fox argues that British Prime Minister David Cameron is not following through on the commitments he made in last year’s Nigerian speech on greater extractive industry transparency:
“The perversity of the government’s position is that developing nations would need far less aid if they were allowed to get a decent chunk of revenue from exploiting their own resources. Today, even in a climate where there are no reporting requirements for extractive companies, Africa’s income from its resources is six times the amount it receives in aid.
On political, economic and moral grounds, the case for project-by-project reporting is unarguable. We should be able to see where extractive companies are operating, whether they are paying a fair price and whether governments are selling their people short by giving their country’s mineral wealth away too cheaply.”