Latest Developments, September 18

In the latest news and analysis…

OWS birthday
The New York Times reports that the city’s police arrested over 150 people demonstrating to mark the first anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement:

“Demonstrators had planned to converge from several directions and form what was called the People’s Wall around the stock exchange to protest what they said was an unfair economic system that benefited the rich and corporations at the expense of ordinary citizens.

Several demonstrations took place outside financial institutions. Some people were arrested at a Bank of America branch opposite Zuccotti Park. Later the police arrested about a half-dozen people who sat down in front of Goldman Sachs headquarters on West Street while a crowd chanted ‘arrest the bankers.’ ”

Drone complicity
The Telegraph reports that Britain’s former chief prosecutor is calling on the UK government to address “pretty compelling” evidence it is providing intelligence support for US drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan:

“The Foreign Office is already facing legal action over the alleged involvement of UK intelligence agencies in helping identify drone targets.
Lawyers for a Pakistani student have brought legal proceedings against the Foreign Office after his father was killed in an attack by an unmanned CIA drone in Pakistan last year.
Noor Khan insists his father was innocent, and the judicial review application could lead to the Government having to reveal whether its intelligence officers provide the US with information to help target drones.”

Debt forgiveness
The Associated Press reports that Russian media are saying the country has written off most of North Korea’s debt:

“Interfax quoted deputy finance minister Sergei Storchak as saying that Russia has written off 90 percent of the Soviet-era debt.
Storchak told Interfax that the remaining $1 billion would be used as part of the ‘debt for aid’ program in implementing energy, health care and educational projects with Pyongyang.”

Shoddy contracts
Reuters reports that Tanzania’s energy minister has ordered a review of all the country’s oil and gas exploration contracts:

“Tanzanian newspapers quoted Energy and Minerals Minister Sospeter Muhongo saying that the incoming board of the TPDC had until the end of November to complete the review of contracts.
‘Some of the agreements are really shoddy and they need to be revoked,’ Muhongo was quoted saying in the privately-owned Guardian on Sunday newspaper.
‘I can’t tolerate agreements which are not in the country’s interest but they benefit a few individuals.’ ”

De-dollarizing Africa
The Financial Times reports that a growing number of African countries are introducing measures to discourage the use of US dollars for domestic transactions:

“A new ruling from Africa’s biggest copper producer has banned the use of foreign currency in domestic transactions, with the threat of ten year imprisonment.

‘In the past we saw a country like Zambia with copper prices at record highs and the country not really benefiting from that, because a lot of those monies were circumventing the country,’ explains Mike Keenan, sub-Saharan African currency strategist at Absa Capital.
‘In terms of the country’s best interests you need to have a scenario where ultimately the country as a whole is benefiting from whatever you are selling. But the minute people are transacting in a parallel market, it makes it very difficult to institute credible and consistent policy measures. It becomes a lot more manageable if everyone is working in local currency.’ ”

Extending democracy
Inter Press Service reports that Argentina’s congress is considering proposed new legislation that would lower the voting age from 18 to 16:

“The governing faction of the Justicialista (Peronist) Party, the centre-left Frente para la Victoria, which has an absolute majority in the legislature, introduced a bill to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote if they want to – voting is compulsory between the ages of 18 and 70 – and to make it possible for foreigners to vote if they have lived in the country as legal residents for at least two years.
The sponsors of the bill say the aim is to build a stronger sense of citizenship among young people and immigrants, by ‘deepening the process of political participation.’ They also say it responds ‘to a growing demand for participation’ among young people.”

Getting rich off poverty
In a Daily Mail piece, veteran journalist Ian Birrell takes on the development industry’s profligacy and the way “the huge aid monies swirling around” have co-opted those who should be holding it to account:

“Increasingly influential are the big accountancy firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG, given huge contracts to manage and sub-contract aid work to smaller organisations.
Incredibly, KPMG helped set up Britain’s official aid watchdog — the Independent Commission for Aid Impact — and receives a monthly management fee even while it runs lucrative aid projects for the Government.
A spokeswoman for the watchdog said they were careful to ensure there were ‘Chinese walls’ within KPMG. But it’s hard to think of another sector where a watchdog is effectively policing its own work.”

War of terror
Monash University’s Irfan Ahmad argues that the US-led War on Terror and its underlying nationalist ideology have established a “hierarchy of human lives”:

Clinging to ‘national interests’, terrorism experts suggest tightening ‘homeland security’ as an antidote to terrorism. This suggestion is less likely to succeed because that from which emanates terror can’t be its antidote. We need to shape a humane world that abolishes the dehumanising logic of ruthless pursuits of ‘national interests’.

After 9/11, Salman Rushdie issued a priestly call for the Reformation of Islam to counter terrorism. Perhaps it is time to also initiate a Reformation of the West, which, as Judith Butler correctly points out, splits humanity into ‘destructible’, ‘ungrievable’ lives on one hand and ‘preserving’, ‘grievable’ lives on the other and fashions symbolic terror of multiple kinds. 

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