Latest Developments, November 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Historic votes
In addition to news of Barack Obama’s re-election to a second term as US president, the Associated Press reports that Maine and Maryland voted in favour of allowing gay marriage, and Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana:

“The outcome in Maine and Maryland broke a 32-state streak, dating back to 1998, in which gay marriage had been rebuffed by every state that voted on it.

The marijuana measures in Colorado and Washington set up a showdown with the federal government, which outlaws the drug.

The Washington measure was notable for its sponsors and supporters, who ranged from public health experts and wealthy high-tech executives to two of the Justice Department’s top former officials in Seattle, U.S. Attorneys John McKay and Kate Pflaumer.”

Observers threatened
KPBS reports that international election observers were told by state government officials to “stay away from polling sites” in Texas and Arizona:

“Texas election officials are threatening the observers with arrest if they show up at the polls.
For the last decade the United Nations-affiliated Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has directly observed elections in the United States — but not this Election Day in Texas or Arizona.”

Beyond ECOWAS
Agence France-Presse reports that non-African troops may take part in attempts to recapture northern Mali from armed groups:

“ ‘If African heads of state agree, there will be non-African troops on the ground to help Mali win back its territory,’ an African official taking part in the meeting of international experts told AFP on the last day of the conference.

He said that the number of troops sent into Mali by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ‘could reach 4,000 instead of the planned 3,000’ and would be spread throughout the country.

The Bamako conference was attended by experts from ECOWAS, the European Union, African Union, United Nations and Algeria, who are helping Mali draw up a plan to be presented to the UN on November 26.
Another delegate told AFP that the UN is expected to finance the bulk of the military operation.”

Internationalized minds
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie makes the case for “global public spending” to replace the current model of international aid:

“As important as any inevitably fraught architectural decisions is the communications value of this concept – the general public in all countries, rich, middle-income and poor, should quickly grasp and appreciate the idea of global public spending reversing the antagonism to ‘aid’. National public spending is widely accepted – only the most die-hard anti-statists oppose social safety nets for the poorest people, investment in research for new technologies, conservation, policing and so on. In a globalising world, it is only logical that we take that theory one step further.
Just as individual contributions are the price of living in a civilised society, so national contributions to the global pot could be the price of living in a prosperous and sustainable world.
The very reason that this vision is hard to achieve is what makes it so progressive and exciting. This way of thinking will only work insofar as human beings are able to internationalise their minds and think on a truly global, horizontal level, the project of progressives for centuries. This is a truly radical perspective, implying a kind of internationalism that is still only developing.”

Protection racket
The Guardian’s Seumas Milne questions the sincerity of UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s professed support for Arab democracy, given his current “trip to sell weapons to Gulf dictators”:

“Cameron went to the Gulf as a salesman for BAE Systems – the private arms corporation that makes Typhoon jets – drumming up business from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman, as well as smoothing ruffled feathers over British and European parliamentary criticism of their human rights records on behalf of BP and other companies.

This is effectively a mafia-style protection racket, in which Gulf regimes use oil wealth their families have commandeered to buy equipment from western firms they will never use. The companies pay huge kickbacks to the relevant princelings, while a revolving door of political corruption provides lucrative employment for former defence ministers, officials and generals with the arms corporations they secured contracts for in office.”

Planeloads of cash
Reuters reports that Guinea’s government is accusing mining firm BSG Resources of “flying in cash” in order to gain access to a major iron ore deposit:

“Guinea’s government has asked BSG Resources and its partners to respond to the accusations in the report, put together by a government technical committee. If the responses are not satisfactory, it could put their permits at risk, a source at Guinea’s mines ministry said.

‘During the period of the military regime in Guinea from 2009 to 2010, BSGR was engaged in a strategy to improve its relations with decision-makers by making regular payments to high military figures,’ the report said.
‘These payments were often distributed in cash, carried into the country in BSGR’s private jet,’ it said.”

Environment Conflict Day
The UN marked its annual International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict:

“Though mankind has always counted its war casualties in terms of dead and wounded soldiers and civilians, destroyed cities and livelihoods, the environment has often remained the unpublicized victim of war. Water wells have been polluted, crops torched, forests cut down, soils poisoned, and animals killed to gain military advantage.”

Ultimate control
ECONorthwest’s Ann Hollingshead argues that the best way rich countries can help poor ones achieve the Millennium Development Goals in tough economic times is to promote “domestic resource mobilization” by cracking down on illicit financial flows:

“Most people would likely agree that the optimal, most sustainable way to lift developing countries out of poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals is to help them help themselves. When it comes to the transparency initiatives I outlined above, while they are the ones most hurt by harmful financial practices, it is not the developing countries that have the ultimate control over their implementation. Participation from developed countries will make or break the effort.”

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