Latest Developments, November 22

In the latest news and analysis…

More is less
The Wall Street Journal reports that NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen believes the deployment of Patriot missiles to the Turkey-Syria border would “contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis”:

“Turkey has formally asked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to deploy Patriot missiles to protect its long border with Syria, the military alliance said on Wednesday, raising the prospect of a further militarization of the neighbors’ tense frontier amid heightened concerns the civil war is spilling onto Turkish territory.

Only the U.S., the Netherlands and Germany have the appropriate system available.”

By-product baggage
ABC Radio Australia reports on the controversy over what an Australian mining company plans to do with the radioactive waste it will generate at a rare earth refinery in Malaysia:

“Lynas chief executive Nick Curtis says the company made the application to [the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency] in the hope of shipping the by-product back and on-selling it to be recycled, but that is no longer the company’s plan.
‘We ceased looking for contracts in Australia because we think shipping to Thailand or Indonesia is cheaper.’
Mr Curtis says the company has permits to store the waste in Malaysia for the short and long term but are looking at opportunities to recycle the product in-country for industrial use.

Last week a Malaysian court dismissed an application to suspend the company’s temporary operating licences.
The protesters have lodged an appeal to the decision.”

Mining on trial
The Dominion reports on a group of Guatemalan plaintiffs preparing to go to Canada to testify against Hudbay Minerals, whom they accuse of “negligent management” leading to shootings that left one man dead and another paralyzed:

“Toronto’s Klippensteins, Barristers & Solicitors, is representing the plaintiffs, whose claims against the Guatemala operations of Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals are serious.
‘The evidence that both sides are collecting right now (including the November cross-examinations) will be used at a March hearing which will determine whether the lawsuit should be heard in Canada or in Guatemala,’ Cory Wanless, a lawyer at Klippensteins, told The Dominion via email from Toronto. ‘This is obviously a very important question with potentially very significant ramifications for the rest of the Canadian mining industry.’ ”

WHO denial
Intellectual Property Watch reports that the head of the World Health Organization has denied that contributions from “producers of junk food and soda” are influencing the UN agency’s fight against non-communicable diseases:

“However, [WHO Director General Margaret] Chan acknowledged that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has taken money from the food and beverage industries for its NCD work. PAHO ‘is unique among WHO’s Regional Offices because it contains two separate legal entities – the WHO Regional Office for the Americas (AMRO) and the health agency of the Organization of the American States,’ the statement said. ‘In some areas the two entities may have variations in policy. For example, as mentioned in the media reports, in its capacity as PAHO, food and beverage manufacturers have contributed financially as part of a multi-sector forum to address NCDs.’ ”

Less than peanuts
Radio France Internationale interviews Ali Idrissa, head of the Niger chapter of Publish What You Pay, about uranium mining and his country’s relationship with French nuclear giant Areva:

“Today, it’s a very unequal partnership that we, as civil society actors, have long denounced. What Areva pays to the state accounts for less than 5.8% of the national budget. Peanuts, livestock and other exported products exported by Niger generate more income for the country than uranium does.” [Translated from the French.]

Plantation tensions
Greenpeace calls for an end to the large-scale deforestation being carried out in southwestern Cameroon by a subsidiary of US-based Herakles Farms:

“The deforestation is taking place despite the fact SGSOC is operating via a 99-year land lease that has not yet been approved by Presidential Decree and is therefore questionable under Cameroonian Law.
If it is not stopped, the planned 730km2 concession will eventually be almost half the size of the greater Johannesburg metropolitan area, or 10 times the size of Manhattan. It would destroy a densely forested area in a biodiversity hotspot, resulting in severe consequences for the livelihoods of thousands of residents and for the global climate.”

Poor numbers
Simon Fraser University’s Morten Jerven criticizes the development industry’s obsession with “the measure of the production and consumption of goods and services”:

“For a number of years now I have been trying to answer the question: How good are these numbers? The short answer is that the numbers are poor. This is just not a matter of technical accuracy – the arbitrariness of the quantification process produces observations with very large errors and levels of uncertainty. This ‘numbers game’ has taken on a dangerously misleading air of accuracy, and the resulting figures are used to make critical decisions that allocate scarce resources. International development actors are making judgments based on erroneous statistics. Governments are not able to make informed decisions because existing data are too weak or the data they need do not exist.”

Lords on drones
TheyWorkForYou.com transcribes a series of questions asked in the UK House of Lords about the use of armed drones:

“I thank my noble friend for that reply. She will be aware that international human rights law permits the intentional use of lethal force only when necessary to protect against a threat to life and where there are no other means, such as capture, available. Targeted killings are not lawful as the action has to be strictly necessary and proportionate. Given that the use of armed drones engages four major UN conventions as well as Article 51 of the UN charter, will she tell the House what measures the UK is taking to abide by international law and to encourage allies, such as the United States, to do the same?” [Question asked by the Liberal Democrats’ Baroness Falkner of Margravine]

“My Lords, in the light of the unknown number of civilian casualties as a result of drone attacks in Pakistan, when no armed conflict has been declared and the United States is not at war, does [Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs] agree that such attacks are illegal under international humanitarian law and that there is now a need for an enhanced arms limitation treaty?”  [Question asked by the Bishop of Bath and Wells]

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