Latest Developments, September 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Strike over
Reuters reports that workers at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in South Africa have accepted a 22-percent pay increase to end six weeks of deadly labour unrest:

“The Marikana police shootings were the deadliest security incident since the end of white minority rule in 1994 and, for many South Africans, painfully recalled security force massacres of black demonstrators under apartheid.
In all, 45 people died in the Marikana unrest, which spread beyond Lonmin to other platinum firms around Rustenburg and some gold mines.”

Towards transparency
The Wall Street Journal reports that a “key panel of the European parliament” has voted in favour of proposed rules that would require oil, gas and mining companies to declare what they pay to foreign governments:

“Under the proposal approved Tuesday, companies would have to disclose all payments of more than 80,000 euros ($105,000) on a country-by-country basis, and would have to specify how much money was allocated to each project.

The rules approved by the committee would delete a provision in the European Commission legislation that exempted companies from making disclosures barred by the host country.”

Asbestos rebirth
The Montreal Gazette reports that a Canadian asbestos mine is expected to reopen despite the federal government’s decision to stop opposing the controversial mineral’s inclusion on a UN list of hazardous substances:

“Adding asbestos to the hazardous-substances list under the United Nations Rotterdam Convention would require exporting countries to inform importing countries about the hazards of using it, and to include safe-handling and proper precautionary measures.

Although other countries could try to block the addition of asbestos, it is Canada that has worked hardest to prevent that from happening, said Kathleen Ruff, a human-rights adviser to the Rideau Institute.”

Restricting restrictions
IRIN reports on a new study that calls on the World Trade Organization to ensure that poor countries are exempted from the food export restrictions of other nations:

“The WTO allows countries to impose export restrictions and bans as a temporary measure to address critical food shortages. But these restrictions affect poor countries, which buy most of their food supply, in two ways: They push food prices up globally, making it more expensive for poor countries to buy food, and they force food-importing countries to shop for deals long distances away.

In April 2011, the net food-importing developing countries (NFIDCs) submitted an informal proposal at the WTO for a new paragraph to be included in the draft Doha Accord exempting them and the [Least Developed Countries] from export restriction put in place by other countries. UN agencies and most food experts agree that export restrictions influence sharp spikes in prices, helping to drive food prices up during 2007/2008 crisis. At least 23 countries had either banned or imposed restrictions on the export of cereals then, according to the [International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development] study.
The proposed exemption was not adopted by the WTO.”

Big fish
Agence France-Presse reports that the former head of French oil giant Elf has been extradited to Togo to face a charge of “accessory to fraud”:

“The former Elf CEO was questioned by a Togolese judge for about three hours Monday, following his lightning-fast extradition from Ivory Coast over the weekend.
His legal team had condemned the international transfer, which came the day after his arrest in Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan on Friday as he tried to board an Air France flight to Paris.

[Loik] Le Floch-Prigent, currently an oil industry consultant, has already served jail terms in France for corruption which dated from his time as head of Elf from 1989 to 1993.”

High-frequency trading
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that the UK is “trying to water down” efforts by European politicians to rein in a form of trading widely blamed for increasing volatility:

“Several influential MEPs are determined to clamp down on the use of sophisticated computer algorithms and fast connections to generate profits through huge numbers of high-speed trades, after seeing its role in the notorious 2010 US Flash Crash and the collapse of Knight Capital last month.

Fuelled by fears over potential market shocks and unease that markets appear dominated by speculators, the European parliament is cracking down on the industry through the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (Mifid), which shapes financial markets across the European Union.”

Cookie-cutter justice
Wayne State University’s Peter Henning asks whether deferred and nonprosecution agreements make sense as “the new standard for how the [US] Justice Department deals with criminal conduct by corporations”:

“It seems as if we are coming perilously close to cookie-cutter justice in corporate criminal investigations. Everyone by now knows the drill: turn over the results of an internal investigation, highlight how damaging a conviction would be and then offer to pay the fine and put in place an enhanced compliance program. The press release almost writes itself, but it is the rare case in which senior management pays any price.
Deferred and nonprosecution agreements are here to stay because they give the Justice Department a means to police corporations while mitigating the full impact of the criminal law. They occupy a middle ground between the sledgehammer of criminal charges and giving a company a free pass.”

Asymmetrical delusions
Warwick University’s Robert Skidelsky argues that “current counter-insurgency orthodoxy” has not incorporated the lessons of Algeria and Vietnam:

“Even putting aside moral and legal questions – which one should never do – it is doubtful whether the strategy of torture and assassination can achieve its pacifying purpose. It repeats the mistake made in 1957 by [French General Jacques] Massu, who assumed that he faced a cohesive organization with a single command structure. Relative calm was restored to Algiers for a couple of years after his arrival, but then the insurgency broke out again with redoubled strength, and the French had to leave the country in 1962.
Today, the international community similarly misconceives the nature of the ‘war’ that it is fighting. There is no single worldwide terrorist organization with a single head. Insofar as Al Qaeda still exists at all, it is a Hydra that sprouts new heads as fast as the old ones are cut off. Trying to win ‘hearts and minds’ with Western goods simply corrupts, and thus discredits, the governments established by those intervening. It happened in Vietnam, and it is happening now in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

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