Latest Developments, November 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Border missiles
The New York Times reports that Turkey may be looking to install Patriot missiles along its border with Syria, giving rise to speculation that the US and its allies are working on “a more robust plan” to deal with the Syrian conflict:

“The development, coming only hours after President Obama had won re-election, raised speculation that the United States and its allies were working on a more robust plan to deal with the 20-month-old conflict in Syria during the second Obama administration term. Further reinforcing that speculation, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said he was prepared to open direct lines of communication with Syrian rebel commanders.

The lack of a cohesive Syrian opposition has been partly blamed for preventing a more robust international effort on Syria. Efforts to create a more unified coalition of anti-Assad groups sputtered along this week in Doha, Qatar, where a meeting was scheduled for Thursday to try to implement an American-backed plan to broaden the opposition to include more factions, including more representatives of the military units doing the fighting.”

Libyan commandos
Reuters reports that the US is seeking recruits among Libya’s militias for “a commando force which they plan to train to fight militants”:

“A team of about 10 Americans from the embassy in Tripoli visited a paramilitary base in the eastern city of Benghazi 10 days ago to interview and get to know potential recruits, according to militia commander Fathi al-Obeidi.

Obeidi said the interviewers also took note of the types of uniforms the men were wearing and asked about their opinion on security in Libya.
He said that the team of American officials included the U.S. charge d’affaires Laurence Pope and the future head trainer of the Libyan special forces team.
‘I’ve been asked to help pick about 400 of these young men between the ages of 19 and 25 to train for this force,’ he said. ‘They could be trained either in Libya or abroad.’ ”

Growing smaller
Inter Press Service reports on efforts to devise a plan for reducing the “human footprint on Earth’s systems”:

“ ‘By not proactively pursuing a path of degrowth, then we accept that instead of degrowth we’ll have an uncontrolled global contraction that will lead to much more discomfort and human suffering than degrowth ever would,’ [according to Erik Assadourian, a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute].”

Sustainable growth?
Journalist and academic Desné Masie raises some concerns about Africa’s much-vaunted recent economic growth:

“The BIG question is whether the second scramble for Africa can contain capital flight and see corporate social responsibility distribute profits back to the communities in which companies operate.
The mining and resources scramble currently taking place also won’t have the best outcome for the environment, people and long-term sustainability. These industries are the heaviest polluters and exploiters of human capital. Green and fairtrade economies would be preferable alternatives for Africans. Excessive financial sector development should also be approached with caution.”

Four more drones
Wired’s Spencer Ackerman writes that Barack Obama’s second term as US president is likely to see increased military action in Africa, primarily in the form of “robot attacks”:

“The [drone] strikes have spread from Pakistan to Yemen to Somalia. And now that Obama’s been reelected, expect them to spread to Mali, another country most Americans neither know nor understand. The northern part of the North African country has fallen into militant hands. U.S.-aligned forces are currently plotting to take it back. The coming arrival of Army Gen. David Rodriguez, the former day-to-day commander of the Afghanistan war, as leader of U.S. forces in Africa is a signal that Obama wants someone experienced at managing protracted wars on a continent where large troop footprints aren’t available.”

Double non-taxation
The Tax Justice Network takes issue with “the world’s dominant system for taxing multinational corporations” and the way discussions on international corporate taxation tend to get framed:

“[The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] seems paranoid about the possibility of double taxation, but seems rather unconcerned about what is sometimes called ‘double non-taxation’ – that is, where the income is taxed nowhere. But whose interests are more important here? Those of the multinationals? Or those of the wider societies upon which they depend, which provide these multinationals with so many benefits that many seem unwilling to pay taxes to support?
On the subject of double taxation, TJN would also add that one might consider it an issue that is being framed in the wrong way. It is complex, but typically a company subject to ‘double taxation’ might suffer it only to a certain degree, so it may suffers an effective tax rate of, say, 25 percent instead of 22 percent if it weren’t suffering ‘double taxation’. If one talks about ‘double taxation’ then accounting firms and multinationals will complain bitterly – but if you talk instead about a somewhat higher effective tax rate, then you have the basis for a far more reasonable discussion.”

Arms treaty optimism
Reuters reports that the US has joined 156 other countries in voting for resuming efforts to hash out a UN agreement that would regulate “the $70 billion global conventional arms trade”:

“U.S. officials have acknowledged privately that the treaty under discussion would have no effect on domestic gun sales and ownership because it would apply only to exports.
The main reason the arms trade talks are taking place at all is that the United States – the world’s biggest arms trader accounting for more than 40 percent of global conventional arms transfers – reversed U.S. policy on the issue after Obama was first elected and decided in 2009 to support a treaty.”

Cruel and unusual treatment
Human Rights Watch’s Ian Kysel argues for an end to solitary confinement of children in US prisons, which he calls “a gross violation of human rights and constitutional law”:

“We don’t let teens under 18 vote. We don’t let them buy cigarettes or beer. Yet we have no problem treating them like adults when they are sent to jail or prison for serious crimes.

Solitary confinement is a common practice in U.S. jails and prisons, and one that has been the subject of increasing scrutiny in recent years due to its cruelty. An estimated 95,000 people under 18 were held in adult jails and prisons in the United States last year. Many are held in isolation for 22 to 24 hours a day, in some cases for weeks or months at a time. While there, they are often denied exercise, counseling, education and family visits.”

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