Latest Developments, September 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Spreading strikes
The Guardian reports that South Africa’s mining industry is on the verge of paralysis as labour unrest spreads in the wake of last month’s massacre of striking workers at Lonmin’s Marikana mine:

“The flames have been fanned by Julius Malema, a former youth leader who was expelled from the governing African National Congress for ill discipline this year.

In an interview on South Africa’s Talk Radio 702 on Wednesday, Malema said: ‘We are calling for mine change in South Africa. We want the mines nationalised. We want the workers paid a living wage … and somebody has to listen.
‘Maybe this call has been ridiculed … by the authorities and mining bosses. Now we want to show them that we mean business. We are going to be engaging in very peaceful yet radical and militant action that will hit straight into the pockets of white monopoly capital.’ ”

Dying for PR
The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Patrick Bond argues that World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s recent visit to South Africa was an exercise in public relations concerning his institution’s past and present impacts on the country’s people:

“Bank-financed electricity mainly supplied South Africa’s mining houses and smelters, as is still the case (the main customer of the Medupi coal-fired power station currently being built will be BHP Billiton, which consumes more than 10% of the country’s power to smelt aluminium). Then and now, this facilitated South Africa’s notorious migrant labour system, with low pay to migrant workers who succumbed to TB in squalid, single-sex, 16-to-a-room hostels and shacks.
Kim failed to address these historic issues, which are mirrored in his institution’s current portfolio, especially the [International Finance Corporation’s] controversial commitment (approved by former president Paul Wolfowitz in 2007) of $150m in equity/credit lines to Lonmin at the Marikana mine, as well as the $3.75bn for the Medupi plant north of Pretoria, pushed through by his immediate predecessor, Robert Zoellick.
The 34 victims of the Marikana massacre were mainly migrants from Lesotho and the Eastern Cape. Their migrant labour status replicates apartheid, including health vulnerability in disease-ridden shack settlements.”

Boat tragedies
Human Rights Watch’s Judith Sunderland calls out European governments over their failure to prevent migrant deaths at sea, after an estimated 140 people died in the Mediterranean last week:

“The truth is that European Union governments on the Mediterranean rim and the EU as a whole have focused far more effort on border control, including in ways that violate rights, than on preventing deaths at sea.

The EU needs to live up to European values this time around and do its utmost to ensure that those fleeing Syria reach safety and a meaningful chance to apply for asylum. We cannot mourn only the deaths of asylum seekers, though. None of those who perished last week deserved to die, regardless of their nationality or reasons for trying to reach Europe.”

Exploration hiatus
Bloomberg reports that Tanzania’s opposition is calling for “a 10-year moratorium on licensing offshore oil and gas blocks” so that the country has time to implement laws that will ensure it benefits from the exploitation of its natural resources:

“Tanzania, the holder of East Africa’s second-biggest natural-gas resources, in June tripled its estimate of recoverable gas reserves to 28.7 trillion cubic feet. The government postponed its next deep offshore bidding round, originally scheduled to start tomorrow, pending the adoption of a natural gas policy by lawmakers. Parliament may approve the draft document as soon as October.
‘A moratorium will not only allow us to manage our new resources effectively, it will also ensure the welfare of future generations,’ [Shadow Finance Minister Zitto] Kabwe said in an e-mailed statement. It would give time to set up a sovereign development fund, train Tanzanians for jobs in the industry, and make sure oversight bodies are monitoring oil and gas revenues, Kabwe said.”

Trade secrecy
Inter Press service reports on the “unusually tight secrecy” at negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which are now in their 14th round:

“Thus, while inklings of the countries’ positions on the varying issues have come to light through brief public statements and leaked documents, the details of how the talks are progressing are known only to the negotiators and the corporations that have been given access to the draft documents.
According to activists, of the 600 advisors that the U.S. negotiators have used surrounding the talks, 84 percent have been corporate interests.
Indeed, not only has there been an ongoing lack of direct civil-society involvement in the TPP process, but progress in the negotiations has been kept secret from even the U.S. Congress. With the start of the 14th round of talks this weekend, a bipartisan letter was sent from Congress to Trade Representative Kirk, insisting “in the strongest terms possible” that Kirk’s office publicise details on what is being discussed, specifically with regards to intellectual property rights.”

Blasé about torture
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports on a UN expert’s comments that suggest there has been “a paradigm shift” in the way Western society views torture:

“Speaking at Chatham House on the record last night [Juan] Méndez, UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, bemoaned a change in attitude. ‘We have lost an important asset that we had in the fight against torture: the moral indignation,’ he told the audience. ‘In the last ten years the culture has generated a sense that perhaps torture is inevitable or even necessary.’

The Obama administration reinstated the Code on Military Justice. However, Méndez candidly explained that the decision not to address what happened around the Torture Memos reveals a refusal to accept the US’s obligations under international law.
‘It’s a very disappointing decision,’ he said, ‘you can imagine how frustrating it is for a special rapporteur to go around the world saying we have to investigate, prosecute and punish crimes of torture, when the US doesn’t.’ ”

Multilateral views
UN Dispatch’s Mark Goldberg reports on a recent public opinion study that suggests American attitudes are rather well-disposed toward international cooperation on a range of global issues:

“The survey shows that Americans prefer a cooperative approach to American foreign policy and believe the UN should be a platform for cooperation even when it means the USA must compromise a bit.

Another related part of the polling asks respondents attitudes toward various international treaties to which the USA has not acceded, including the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the International Criminal Court, and a post-Kyoto international climate change convention. Guess what? Americans are very supportive of the USA joining all three!”

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