Latest Developments, October 26

In the latest news and analysis…

War hub
The Washington post reports that Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti has become “the centerpiece of an expanding constellation of half a dozen U.S. drone and surveillance bases in Africa”:

“Lemonnier also has become a hub for conventional aircraft. In October 2011, the military boosted the airpower at the base by deploying a squadron of F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets, which can fly faster and carry more munitions than Predators.
In its written responses, Africa Command confirmed the warplanes’ presence but declined to answer questions about their mission. Two former U.S. defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the F-15s are flying combat sorties over Yemen, an undeclared development in the growing war against al-Qaeda forces there.
The drones and other military aircraft have crowded the skies over the Horn of Africa so much that the risk of an aviation disaster has soared.”

Damaging paradigm
The Guardian reports that the UN has announced plans to investigate the legality of US drone strikes that kill civilians:

“The investigation unit will also look at ‘other forms of targeted killing conducted in counter-terrorism operations, in which it is alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted’. [Ben Emmerson, a UN special rapporteur] maintained that the US stance that it can conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaida or other groups anywhere in the world because it is deemed to be an international conflict was indefensible.

‘The global war paradigm has done immense damage to a previously shared international consensus on the legal framework underlying both international human rights law and international humanitarian law,’ he said. ‘It has also given a spurious justification to a range of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations.
‘The [global] war paradigm was always based on the flimsiest of reasoning, and was not supported even by close allies of the US.’ ”

Monopoly miracle
GaveKal Dragonomics’ Anatole Kaletsky writes that a revolution in economic thinking may have begun:

“In a research paper that has gone viral among economists, Jaromir Benes and Michael Kumhof, two senior IMF staffers, describe a reform of monetary management that could potentially restore all the output lost in the Great Recession and simultaneously eliminate the government debt burdens of the United States, Britain and most European countries.
These miracles could be achieved without painful tax increases or spending cuts, by restoring to governments the exclusive right to create money they gradually lost to commercial banks. The monopoly right to create money generates a ‘seignorage tax,’ whose capital value is roughly 100 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, according to the IMF calculations. Transferring this enormous benefit from banks back to governments would allow most national debts to be paid off.”

Price fixing
Agence France-Presse reports that oil giants Chevron, Shell, Total & BP are being accused of “colluding to rig consumer prices since the 1980s” in South Africa:

“Following ‘wide-ranging investigations’ since 2009, the Competition Commission said it had uncovered ‘collusive conduct’ that stretched back decades, and had referred the case to the Competition Tribunal for judgement.
The commission recommended that each company be fined 10 percent of total turnover from their South African business for the last financial year.
‘The investigation revealed collusive conduct through extensive exchanges of commercially sensitive information by the respondent oil companies,’ it said.
The information was said to include detailed monthly sales figures and collusion to influence the regulatory environment.
The products included petrol, diesel, kerosene, heavy furnace oil, bitumen, liquid petroleum gas and lubricants, and specific grades within these categories.”

Controversial complex
Al Jazeera asks whether Haiti’s new $300 million, Clinton-endorsed Caracol industrial park will be a boon for the country’s economy or “a glorified sweatshop”:

“Already workers allege that foreign companies are not even paying the minimum wage of $5 a day.
Local farmers say they were also forced off their land to make way for the development.

‘The biggest question is that Caracol has kind of taken all the oxygen out of the room, it’s all that people talk about, and yet it’s going to create at the maximum over six years 65,000 jobs, which is really a drop in the bucket,’ according to Haiti working group chairman Robert Maguire.”

Setting the bar
Oxfam’s Hannah Stoddart takes issue with the World Bank’s claims that it is only involved in “a few cases” of potential land grabs:

“First, given the Bank’s mandate for poverty alleviation, even one land-grab case is a case too many.
Secondly, in reality we know that there are very likely more than a few controversial cases relating to land. 21 cases involving land disputes have been brought by communities since 2008 (Oxfam is involved as a complainant in a number of them). We also know that between 2000 – 2012, 56% of the complaints to the Compliance Adviser Ombudsman (CAO) have been in relation to land. The CAO also confirms that in the past 4 years there has been a growing number of complaints in relation to agri-business.
Lastly, while the World Bank may not the worst culprit when it comes to land-grabbing, it IS the only global bank with a mandate for poverty alleviation and it is a crucial institution for setting the bar high in this area. In other words, we believe that if Oxfam can’t convince the World Bank to raise its standards, we have no hope of getting other financing institutions to do so.”

Just say no
The Guardian reports that the British government is thus far refusing to allow its bases to be used for a build-up of US troops in the Gulf:

“[British ministers] have pointed US officials to legal advice drafted by the attorney general’s office which has been circulated to Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.
This makes clear that Iran, which has consistently denied it has plans to develop a nuclear weapon, does not currently represent ‘a clear and present threat’. Providing assistance to forces that could be involved in a pre-emptive strike would be a clear breach of international law, it states.”

Humanizing finance
The Financial Times reports that credit rating agencies from the US, China and Russia are claiming their new joint venture will change the way global financial risk is assessed:

“In a joint declaration, the three agencies described their mission in grand terms.
‘It is an historic imperative to establish a new type of international credit rating system which follows the inherent requirements of credit rating and which is aligned to the common interests of human society,’ they said.”

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