Latest Developments, November 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Fallout risk
Agence France-Presse reports that a top Mauritanian politician is warning that foreign military intervention in neighbouring Mali could have “devastating” consequences for the wider region:

” ‘This country which has for a long time been seen as a model of democracy is like a volcano about to erupt,’ national assembly president Messaoud Ould Boulkheir said a day after West African leaders gave the green light to sending 3,300 troops to northern Mali to wrest control from the Islamists.
‘If this volcano awakens, it will dump incandescent ashes over its neighbours,’ he told parliament.”

No air strikes
The Associated Press reports that France’s defense minister has said neither his country nor the EU would use military force to help reunite Mali:

“[Jean-Yves] Le Drian, speaking to reporters in Paris, reiterated France’s longstanding stance that it will not send ground forces in support of the planned international effort led by African troops in Mali. But this time, he sought to make clear that that would mean no French attacks from the air either.
‘As for air support, neither Europe nor France will intervene militarily,’ Le Drian told the European American Press Club. ‘When we say no troops on the ground, that means “troops in the air” too … But bringing in information, intelligence is another thing.’
Other officials have indicated that France could use drones to provide surveillance for ground forces from other countries that are deployed to Mali.”

Corruption pays
The Financial Times reports that European oil giants Shell and Eni have come under fire over a $1.1 billion payment they made last year for a deepwater oil concession off Nigeria’s coast:

“Global Witness says that if the multinationals knew the money would be paid to [Malabu Oil & Gas], the deal could test anti-corruption laws in the UK, US and Italy, ‘for the reason that a substantial monetary “reward” ended up being paid to a company controlled by an individual, who had arguably abused his public position to obtain OPL 245 in opaque circumstances during the Abacha dictatorship’.
The deal illustrates why proposed new EU transparency laws must require extractive industry companies to report payments to governments on a project-by-project basis, according to Simon Taylor, director of Global Witness. Details of the OPL 245 settlement would not have been made public were it not for the New York case.”

News wars
The Associated Press reports that the US military is bankrolling a pair of news websites as part of a “propaganda effort” in Somalia and North Africa:

“[sabahionline.com], which launched in February, is slowly attracting readers. The military said that Sabahi averages about 4,000 unique visitors and up to 10,000 articles read per day. The site clearly says under the ‘About’ section that it is run by the U.S. military, but many readers may not go to that link.

The military said there are nine writers who work for Sabahi from Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti and Somalia. The other site — magharebia.com — concentrates on Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania.
Africom says the websites are part of a larger project that costs $3 million to pay for reporting, editing, translating, publishing, IT costs and overhead. It believes the project is paying dividends.”

Man-made disaster
The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Mark Weisbrot calls on the UN to make amends for causing Haiti’s ongoing deadly cholera epidemic:

“There hadn’t been any cholera in Haiti for at least 100 years, if ever, until some UN troops from South Asia dumped human waste into a tributary of the country’s main water supply. Since then, more than 7,600 Haitians have died and over 600,000 have gotten sick.

After the earthquake, there was much talk about ‘building back better’ in Haiti, with disappointing results. The very least that the international community can do is to fix the damage that its members themselves have caused since the earthquake. That means starting right now, with the urgency that any other country would expect in matters of life and death.”

Ending prohibition
The Open Society Foundations’ Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch argues that last week’s votes in favour of legalizing marijuana by two US states “will drive drug-policy debates worldwide”:

“Given that the US is the biggest backer of the international ‘War on Drugs,’ Colorado and Washington voters’ decision is particularly bold. Regulating marijuana – and the initiatives that could soon follow – has the potential to reduce violence at home and abroad, spare young people from undeserved criminal records, and reduce stigma among vulnerable people.”

Eyeing resources
Inter Press Service reports on growing concerns over Canada’s changing relationship with Africa:

“As the Canadian trade minister and his delegation head to West Africa early next year to unearth opportunities in the extractive resource industry and infrastructure sector, the [Canadian Council for International Cooperation] is also continuing to seek the strengthening of Canadian companies’ corporate social responsibility policies, especially in relation to African mining activities.
“This has very rarely been beneficial for African countries,” [the CCIC’s Sylvie] Perras argued. “We say that it creates jobs, or it creates revenue, but when we look at it more closely, it’s not necessarily the case.”
Mineral-heavy countries have not spurred economic development for their local populations, according to a CCIC backgrounder, as high unemployment rates, debt and poverty are widespread in mining communities.”

Questionable priorities
Satirical newspaper The Onion draws on the salacious media treatment of former CIA head David Petraeus’s resignation to question the American public’s news priorities:

“As they scoured the Internet for more juicy details about former CIA director David Petraeus’ affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, Americans were reportedly horrified today upon learning that a protracted, bloody war involving U.S. forces is currently raging in the nation of Afghanistan.

Sources confirmed that after reading a few paragraphs about the brutal war, the nation quickly became distracted by a headline about Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash’s alleged sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy.”

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