Latest Developments, October 24

In the latest news and analysis…

Unspeakable issue
The New York Times reports that, for the first time since 1988, climate change did not come up during the US presidential debates:

“Throughout the campaign, the candidates have talked a great deal about energy, but it has essentially been a competition in who could heap the most praise on fossil fuels. They tended to avoid any explicit linkage between their energy proposals and climate risk.

‘No candidate has been able to portray climate change policy as a win-win,’ Eugene M. Trisko, a lawyer and consultant for the United Mine Workers of America, said on Tuesday. ‘That’s because they understand that the root of climate change mitigation strategy is higher energy costs. It’s an energy tax, and that’s something you don’t want to talk about in a debate.’ ”

Disposition matrix
The Washington Post reports on a new American database, the “disposition matrix,” suggesting the US government intends to continue carrying out targeted killings for years to come:

“The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.
Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.”

Phantom menace
Human Rights Watch’s Bill Frelick and Bangkok-based human rights lawyer Michael Timmins slam the apparent spread of Australia’s “punitive asylum policies” to neighbouring New Zealand:

“The bill provides for the near-automatic detention for six months and beyond of so-called ‘mass arrivals’ (11 people or more) by boat or other unscheduled craft who are ‘potentially illegal.’
What mass arrivals? Notwithstanding 18th and 19th century Europeans who might have met the bill’s ‘mass arrivals’ definition, no modern-era boatload of asylum seekers has ever reached New Zealand. Even if one were to arrive, this would in no way overload New Zealand’s existing asylum system. The hypothetical ‘risk’ does not justify the abdication of principle.”

Justice deferred
The Wall Street Journal reports that the UK looks set to adopt deferred-prosecution agreements, a tool much used by US prosecutors in the fight against corporate wrongdoing, such as the bribing of foreign officials:

“Under a deferred-prosecution agreement, criminal charges would be dropped after a period of time if an organization complies with the terms of a deal, which could include the imposition fines, disgorgement and orders to implement measures to prevent future wrongdoing.

The [US] agreements don’t require a judge’s involvement, and there’s no one to question the fairness of the agreement or to second-guess its terms, as Dealbook’s Peter Henning pointed out in September.
Under the U.K. proposal, however, a judge will have the power to block an agreement if they don’t agree that the settlement is appropriate, the consultation report said.”

Stolen oil
Reuters reports that a Nigerian politician has begun campaigning for a global solution to his country’s oil-theft problem, given that an estimated 90% of Nigeria’s pilfered crude ends up on world markets:

“Oil companies say so called ‘bunkering’ — tapping into oil pipelines to steal the crude — and other forms of oil theft are on the rise in Nigeria, despite an amnesty that was meant to end a conflict there in 2009 over the distribution of oil wealth.
Yet while local gangs hacking into pipelines to steal small quantities for local refining are the most visible sign, it is industrial scale oil theft involving collusion by politicians, the military, Western banks and global organised crime that is the real drain on Nigeria’s resources, [Niger Delta politician Dele Cole] said.
‘International theft is diverting huge quantities … and the sophistication of the exercise — from breaching the pipeline, to having barges, to knowing when ships are at the port, to being paid — is major,’ he said.”

Unwanted comeback
Reuters also reports that malaria “is being transmitted from person to person within Greek borders” for the first time since 1974:

“Species of the blood-sucking insects that can carry exotic-sounding tropical infections like malaria, West Nile Virus, chikungunya and dengue fever are enjoying the extra bit of warmth climate change is bringing to parts of southern Europe.
And with austerity budgets, a collapsing health system, political infighting and rising xenophobia all conspiring to allow pest and disease control measures here to slip through the net, the mosquitoes are biting back.”

Better than nothing
The BBC reports that 10 EU countries – including Germany, France, Italy and Spain – plan to forge ahead with a financial transaction tax despite failing to obtain the support of all 27 member countries:

“Governments across Europe have been implementing drastic austerity measures to cut debt levels, and taxing banks is seen by some as an important way to raise revenues, particularly while the economic recovery remains so fragile.
Opponents argue that unless it is adopted universally, the tax would drive business to financial centres that did not impose the tax.”

Stacked deck
The University of London’s Simon Reid-Henry argues that, while dependency theory has faced some valid criticism over the years, its focus on “the problems of uneven starting points and the structural unfairness of global capitalism” remains relevant today:

“And the underlying critique of western chauvinism (that western-style capitalist democracy is the best model for the rest) remains pertinent when people persist in talking of development ‘ladders’, for example. Perhaps more important, Frank’s belief that we too readily overlook the way that too many of the privileges of the rich nations are not only unearned but predicated upon the prior and active removal of that wealth from others is, if anything, making something of a comeback in these days of heightened discussion of inequality.”

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