Latest Developments, August 17

In the latest news and analysis…

Miners shot
Bloomberg reports “the worst death toll in police action since the end of apartheid” after South African police opened fire on striking workers from a platinum mine owned by UK-registered Lonmin, killing 35:

“Violence erupted yesterday after police used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse thousands of workers gathered on a hilltop near the mine. Clashes between rival labor unions at the mine led to a six-day standoff with police in which 10 people had already died, including two officers. Police say they acted in self-defense yesterday after coming under attack from the workers armed with spears, machetes and pistols.”

Setting a precedent
The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Mark Weisbrot argues Ecuador’s decision to grant asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has “considerable historic significance”:

“Why is this case so significant? It is probably the first time that a citizen fleeing political persecution by the US has been granted political asylum by a democratic government seeking to uphold international human rights conventions. This is a pretty big deal, because for more than 60 years the US has portrayed itself as a proponent of human rights internationally – especially during the cold war. And many people have sought and received asylum in the US.

Assange’s successful pursuit of asylum from the US is another blow to Washington’s international reputation. At the same time, it shows how important it is to have democratic governments that are independent of the US and – unlike Sweden and the UK – will not collaborate in the persecution of a journalist for the sake of expediency. Hopefully other governments will let the UK know that threats to invade another country’s embassy put them outside the bounds of law-abiding nations.”

DNA ruling
The American Civil Liberties Union has expressed disappointment at a US federal appeals court’s ruling that companies can obtain patents on human genes:

“ ‘This ruling prevents doctors and scientists from exchanging their ideas and research freely. Human DNA is a natural entity like air or water. It does not belong to any one company,’ [according to the ACLU’s Chris Hansen]

Myriad’s monopoly on the BRCA genes allows it to set the terms and cost of testing and makes it impossible for women to access alternate tests or get a comprehensive second opinion about their results. It also allows Myriad to prevent researchers from even looking at the genes without first getting permission.”

Deadly crossing
Human Rights Watch has released a new briefing calling on European governments to do more to prevent fatalities, of which there have been “as many as 13,500” since 1998, among migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa:

“The European Union is developing a new European External Border Surveillance System, EUROSUR. It includes rescue at sea as a main objective, but does not include specific guidelines or procedures to ensure this objective is reached.
Preventing deaths at sea needs to be at the heart of a coordinated European-wide approach to boat migration, Human Rights Watch said. During the Arab Spring, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that all overcrowded migrant boats in the Mediterranean should be presumed to be in need of rescue. This idea should inform the approach of the European Union toward the rescue of boat migrants.”

Pivot to Africa
Georgetown University’s Rosa Brooks writes that the US Department of Defense has come to dominate America’s relatively new and growing strategic interest in Africa:

“Whether Africom represents a viable new model for the future of the U.S. military naturally depends on your point of view. To some, the Africom approach is downright dangerous. Military traditionalists are apt to view it with suspicion — as a dangerous slide away from the military’s core competencies and the very apotheosis of ‘mission creep.’ Many civilian observers are equally skeptical, viewing Africom as further evidence of the militarization of U.S. foreign policy — and of the devaluing and evisceration of civilian capacity.”

Non-aligned summit
Inter Press Service reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is under pressure not to attend this month’s Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran where the host nation will take over as chair of the 120-country body:

“Chakravarthi Raghavan, a veteran journalist who has covered the United Nations both in New York and Geneva for decades, told IPS whether one likes it or not, NAM is a political gathering, and represents the largest group of nations, and members of the U.N.
‘Whatever the views and policies of the host, it would be a folly for the head of the U.N. Secretariat not to go there to present a U.N. view – and not act as a partisan of U.S.-Israeli interests or Israeli lobbying groups in the U.S.,’ said Raghavan, who has covered NAM summits from the very inception.”

Redefining development
Former South African cabinet minister Jay Naidoo argues the global development industry has sucked the passion out of the “fight for freedom and human dignity”:

“A whole development industry has spawned a class of poverty consultants. Global development assistance has been packaged into projects.

The rush to seek single-issue solutions to complex problems fails to recognize or respond to the overarching structural social and political factors that connect them. Typically, the search is for a new technology or a market-based device that could change lives dramatically.”

Bankers’ bluff
German MP Frank Schäffler and the Friedrich A. von Hayek Society’s Norbert Tofall want to see indebted banks lose their ability to “blackmail their rescuers” into granting them effective exemption from liability:

“Above all, the G-20’s decision to prop up systemically relevant banks must be revisited. And governments must respond to the banks’ threats by declaring their willingness to let insolvent banks be judged accordingly.

Zombie assets would be destroyed. A large part of the money and credit that was created out of nothing from former interbank transactions, now excluded from official guarantees, would return to nothing. Afterwards, the liquidated, formerly over-indebted banks could be sold.

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