Latest Developments, December 4

Traffic jam, Fraser Canyon, Canada

In the latest news and analysis…

The Guardian reports that the question of whether or not rich countries should compensate poor communities suffering from the effects of climate change has become “a major new issue” at the ongoing UN climate talks in Doha:

“The concept is new for both science and policy, say observers. In the past, the debate was about how poorer countries could adapt their economies to climate change and reduce, or mitigate, their emissions with assistance from rich countries.
But in a little-noticed paragraph in the agreement that came out of the Cancún, Mexico, talks in 2010, the need ‘to reduce loss and damage associated with climate change’ was recognised by all countries. In legal terms, that potentially opens the door to compensation – or, as the negotiators in Doha say, ‘rehabilitation’.”

Red line
The Washington Post reports that US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have again warned Syria’s government against deploying or using chemical weapons, without making it clear what they might do about it:

“The administration has never publicly spelled out how it would respond, but one option is an airstrike to destroy supplies before they can be weaponized. Once the chemicals were ready for deployment, however, airstrikes would no longer be viable as they could release deadly agents.

Syria is suspected to possess the world’s third-largest stockpile of chemical weapons after the United States and Russia.”

Euro drone
Wired reports that a number of European governments are hoping the inaugural test flight of the nEUROn is the first step towards the continent’s “future of flying killer robots”:

“In fact, the nEURON won’t actually join any European air forces. Much like the U.S. Navy’s stealthy X-47B — which, as David Cenciotti of The Aviationist  notes, the drone kinda resembles — it’s just a demonstrator aircraft, meant to show that European companies can successfully develop an attack-sized, stealthy unmanned plane. Concept proven, the follow-on aircraft will both evade radar and release air-to-ground missiles, the Euros hope, thereby putting them at the front of the pack in emerging drone technology.”

Selling children
Reuters reports that a trial has begun in Paris for employees of French NGO Zoe’s Ark that was accused of kidnapping children from Chad for adoption in France:

“They face up to 10 years in prison and 750,000 euros ($975,400) each in fines for fraud, for being an illegal intermediary in an adoption and for aiding foreign minors to stay illegally in France.
The trial, which is expected to last until mid-December, relates to the charity’s activities in France before its workers left for Chad. Over 350 French families were promised a child from Sudan’s conflict-ridden Darfur region and paid up to several thousand euros each in the expectation of adopting.”

Weapons footprint
The Global Post reports on the international impacts of the enthusiasm that America, as the world’s biggest importer and exporter of firearms, has for guns:

“The [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] says US companies increased production by 2 million between 2006 and 2010, bringing the total to nearly 5.5 million.
Three manufacturers produce about a quarter of that total. The top maker of pistols and rifles, Sturm, Ruger & Company, has facilities in Arizona and New Hampshire. Other major players include Smith & Wesson in Massachusetts, which produces the most revolvers, and Maverick Arms in Texas, the leading shotgun manufacturer.
Those companies also top the list of American firearms exporters, shipping about 110,000 guns, or 45 percent of total exports, in 2010.”

New politics
The Guardian’s George Monbiot argues that the future welfare of the planet and its inhabitants depends on changing the prevailing distribution of political power:

“In other words, the struggle against climate change – and all the crises that now beset both human beings and the natural world – cannot be won without a wider political fight: a democratic mobilisation against plutocracy. This should start with an effort to reform campaign finance – the means by which corporations and the very rich buy policies and politicians.

But this is scarcely a beginning. We must start to articulate a new politics, one that sees intervention as legitimate, that contains a higher purpose than corporate emancipation disguised as market freedom, that puts the survival of people and the living world above the survival of a few favoured industries. In other words, a politics that belongs to us, not just the super-rich.”

Words of caution
The Associated Press reports that the head of US Africa Command has warned against a hasty military intervention in northern Mali, arguing “negotiation is the best way”:

“Army Gen. Carter Ham said that any military intervention done now would likely fail and would set the precarious situation there back ‘even farther than they are today.’

The African Union has been pressing the U.N. to take immediate military action to regain northern Mali, and Ham said that military intervention may well be necessary. But he said the African-led collaborative effort that has worked in Somalia may be the right model to use in Mali. That effort generally involves intelligence and logistical support from the United States, as well as funding and training, but the fighting is led by African nations and does not include U.S. combat troops on the ground.”

Defending squatting
The Open University’s Steven Rose puts a positive spin on squatters, who currently face hostile laws and public opinion in Europe but make up over 10 percent of the world’s population:

“These squat neighbourhoods are often referred to as slums, shanty towns, favelas or bidonvilles. They are often characterised as grim places, with poor sanitation, high crime rates, drug gangs, and other problems. But it’s often a misconception, says Robert Neuwirth, author of Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters. He spent two years living in slums in four of the world’s largest cities: Mumbai, Nairobi, Istanbul and Rio de Janeiro. ‘They’re not criminal enterprises. They’re not mafias,’ he says. ‘These are people, law-abiding citizens, workers. People who wait on the tables and clean the rooms in the tourist hotels. People help each other and take care of each other. These were wonderful places to live, once you step beyond the fact that they don’t have a sewer system.’

What the squatting dispute boils down to is a split between those who consider private property to be sacred, and those who would prioritise the right to shelter. Few people would happily forfeit a second home to squatters, but nor does it feel morally justifiable for a nation to have an estimated 930,000 empty homes while people sleep on the streets.”

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