Latest Developments, November 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Shady clients
The Telegraph reports that UK tax officials have received evidence suggesting Britain’s biggest bank “opened offshore accounts in Jersey for serious criminals”:

“The Telegraph understands that among those identified on the list are Daniel Bayes, a drug dealer who is now in Venezuela; Michael Lee, who was convicted of possessing more than 300 weapons at his house in Devon; three bankers facing major fraud allegations and a man once dubbed London’s ‘number two computer crook’.

The leak of the Jersey data, which is understood not to have involved HMRC paying for the list, is expected to have global ramifications as more than 4,000 residents of other countries are identified, although British residents account for more than half of all the clients.”

Corporate aid
MiningWatch has slammed a Canadian parliamentary committee report it says endorses “a wholesale handover of [the Canadian International Development Agency] to the private sector”:

“ ‘This committee report doesn’t just tie Canadian aid to mining interests, it would actually restructure CIDA to better serve the interests of the corporate sector,’ says MiningWatch spokesperson Catherine Coumans.

‘Rather than directing resources and political pressure towards stripping down the legal framework in other countries, the Canadian government should oblige Canadian mining companies operating overseas to meet strong environmental and human rights standards, including respect for free prior and informed consent,’ says Coumans. ‘The government should also ensure that people who have been harmed through the activities of a Canadian company have access to justice in Canadian courts.’ ”

Thinking the unthinkable
Reuters reports that the “taboo subject” of a carbon tax is beginning to garner support in some surprising circles as a potential way to avoid America’s so-called fiscal cliff:

“Prospects for such a tax as a way to address pollution and climate are probably dim in a still deeply-divided Congress, but some analysts say the measure would be more attractive if positioned as a source of new revenue.
In fact, a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, suggesting a $20 per ton tax on carbon emissions could halve the U.S. budget deficit over time.”

Subsidized overfishing
Inter Press Service reports on the latest research linking the $27 billion in fishing subsidies paid out by rich-country governments each year and the progressive destruction of fish stocks in poor countries:

“Most go to building the ever-more-efficient ships that are required to catch ever-dwindling populations of fish around the world, with yet more subsidies going to offset their growing consumption of fuel as they venture ever farther and deeper to fill their holds.
The result, says Dr. Rashid Sumaila, lead author of the [University of British Columbia] study, is that taxpayers are funding the depletion of the world’s fish populations and the impoverishment of coastal communities abroad.”

Extrajudicial drones
Barbara Lochbihler, a member of the European Parliament, explores some of the ethical and legal questions raised by the use of drones in warfare:

“Outside the context of war, in turn, state killings are legal only if they prove absolutely necessary to save lives. They must be conducted either in self-defense after an attack, or in anticipatory self-defense against an immediate threat, when taking time to discuss non-lethal alternatives is not feasible.
More than a decade after September 11, America’s drone program does not fall into the first category of reactive self-defense. Likewise, there is no evidence that any presumed terrorist who was killed outside of official war zones in the last few years represented a threat so immediate to US citizens’ lives that preventive and premeditated killing was the only option. Unless US leaders prove otherwise in every case, American UAV attacks in countries like Pakistan or Yemen should be called what they are: extrajudicial killings.

The US drone program does not make the world a safer place; it creates an environment in which unlawful killings can happen virtually anywhere, at any time, violating the fundamental human right not to be arbitrarily deprived of one’s life.”

Mining renegotiation
Reuters reports the DR Congo is seeking to reassure investors regarding plans to “sharply raise the state stake” in the country’s mining projects, promising to consult beforehand with mining companies as well as the World Bank and IMF:

“A draft of the proposed changes in the mining law seen by Reuters shows Congo is seeking a 35 percent stake in projects that is ‘free of charges and … non-dilutable.’ It also includes a proposal to double royalties on some minerals and introduces a 50 percent levy on miners’ ‘super profits’.
The draft revision defines ‘super profits’ as made when a commodity’s price rises exceptionally over 25 percent compared with its level at the time of the project’s feasibility study.”

Capital endorsement
Human Rights Watch has expressed disappointment at California voters’ decision to stick with the death penalty, arguing continued support for the “barbaric” practice puts them out of step with national and global trends:

“Between 2007 and 2011, the US ranked behind only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq in number of death sentences handed down. There has been a heartening trend away from the death penalty in the last five years, however, Human Rights Watch said. Of the 17 states that have rejected the death penalty, 5 have done so since 2007 – New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Illinois, and Connecticut. Nationally, the number of executions has been declining since 2009.

Countries around the world have increasingly rejected the death penalty. Of the 193 United Nations member states, 94 have laws abolishing the sentence, while 137 are abolitionist in practice. According to the UN Secretary General, 175 countries were execution-free in 2011. Belarus is the only European country that still applies the death penalty.”

Hunger wages
The Daily Maverick reports that the “poverty, pitiful wages, appalling living conditions” behind South Africa’s global wine and fruit exports have led to violent protests and fears that more will follow:

“The labourers’ perspective is that the table grapes and citrus products that are farmed in the area are for the export market and that the farm owners are making more than enough money.

‘The wealth and well-being these workers produce shouldn’t be rooted in human misery,’ Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said when the report was released. ‘The government and the industries and farmers themselves, need to do a lot more to protect people who live and work on farms.’ ”

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