Latest Developments, December 13

In the latest news and analysis…

New trade accord
The European Parliament has approved a free trade agreement with Colombia and Peru, which will involve “a further limitation of export and import tariffs” between the trading partners, according to Colombia Reports:

“Human and labor rights organizations had objected the bill, claiming Colombia was not in compliance with international labor and human rights norms. Opponents within the [European Parliament] had claimed that the pact would additionally increase the risk of illegal money flows between the world’s two largest producers of cocaine and the world’s second largest cocaine consumer market.”

Pacific militarization
Reuters reports that the US military looks set to increase its number of troops, ships and aircraft in the Philippines:

“ ‘What we are discussing right now is increasing the rotational presence of U.S. forces,’ Carlos Sorreta, the foreign ministry’s Assistant Secretary for American Affairs, told reporters. A five-year joint U.S.-Philippine military exercise plan would be approved this week, he added.
The size of the increase in the U.S. military assets in the Philippines, a former U.S. colony, was unclear.
But it comes as the Philippines, Australia and other parts of the region have seen a resurgence of U.S. warships, planes and personnel under Washington’s so-called ‘pivot’ in foreign, economic and security policy towards Asia announced last year.”

Resource war
Iraqi politicians are warning that US oil companies “could be responsible for causing a civil war” if they proceed with drilling in disputed areas, according to Iraq Oil Report:

“Both the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have deployed thousands of troops near the contested border between north and south, including land where the American companies ExxonMobil and Hunt Oil have agreed to drill for oil.
In some areas, the opposing forces are less than a mile apart, well within the range of each other’s weapons.
‘If Exxon starts drilling, they will find tanks around them,’ said Sami Alaskary, a member of Parliament and influential adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.”

Big deal
The Guardian’s John Vidal writes that the much-maligned UN climate talks that took place recently in Doha did produce “one landmark agreement ” that will change future negotiations:

“Countries agreed to the principle of ‘loss and damage’, to help victims of climate change. The door is now at least half open for countries to be recompensed for slow onset events such as rising sea levels, continual droughts and storms.
Opinions are divided over what could practically emerge. There will be further meetings and discussions in the coming months and an international mechanism is expected to be set up next year. Financial experts like PwC say it could be a massive climate-risk insurance facility. Developing countries hope it could be a new fund to specifically channel money to countries experiencing damage linked to climate change.”

Papua New Guinea guinea pigs
Reuters reports that a dispute between Papua New Guinea and a Canadian company is threatening a “groundbreaking” but controversial mining project that aims to extract gold from the ocean floor:

“The impoverished country has a long legacy of mining projects derailed by environmental disasters, landowner uprisings and corruption.
Mining from vessels is seen as a way of avoiding some of the landowner disputes that have plagued other projects. Still, the project has been criticised for failing to adequately assess environmental risks.
‘No one knows what the impacts of this form of mining will be,’ said Wences Magun, national co-ordinator for Mas Kagin Tapani, a Papua New Guinea environmental group.
‘Communities want to know what concrete steps the prime minister will now take to ensure we are not being used us as guinea pigs in a sea bed mining experiment.’ ”

Plane denial
Agence France-Presse reports that French state-owned nuclear giant Areva has denied giving millions as a controversial “bonus” to uranium-rich Niger for the purchase of a pair of jets:

“Areva gave Niger ‘no-strings, non-targeted budgetary assistance worth 17 billion CFA francs (about €26 million),’ Zakari Oumarou, parliamentary president of the ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNSD), told AFP.
‘The government of Niger then decided to allocate 10 billion CFA francs (€15 million) for the purchase of a presidential plane, for which the state had already set aside 4 billion CFA francs (€6 million) in the 2013 budget,” he said, emphasizing that the purchase was ‘a necessity’ given the ‘weight of years’ of the current aircraft.

But Areva denied having given any such budgetary assistance. ‘No payment was made by the company,’ insisted a spokesperson contacted by AFP in Paris.” [Translated from the French.]

Chixoy revisited
Jubilee Debt Campaign’s Nick Dearden suggests the World Bank has not learned the right lessons in the 30 years since it helped fund a Guatemalan hydroelectric project whose construction involved hundreds of murders:

“It is unlikely that Chixoy would have been able to go ahead without the backing of the banks, yet their internal reports made no mention of the massacres.
Today, as former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt is brought to trial in Guatemala on counts of genocide, the survivors of the Chixoy massacre have still not received reparations – despite an acceptance by the banks that they are owed something.

Although the massacre at Chixoy was certainly extreme, it is symptomatic of a problem that goes to the heart of the World Bank’s idea of what development is. The best role the World Bank can play is to make reparations for the damage it has done – and clear the way for people who believe development is about people’s rights rather than corporate profits.”

Martial comfort
My Own Private Guantanamo’s Matt Cornell discusses the imagery of contemporary American warfare:

“Drones aren’t very iconic in the Western imagination, perhaps because we don’t look at them. They ‘look’ at the enemy, extending our predatory gaze to the corners of the globe. Appropriately, the key image from ‘the greatest manhunt in history’ is not the rumored photo of bin Laden’s corpse, but a picture of the most powerful people in the world, huddled around a television, watching his killing unfold in real time, as if at a 24 viewing party.
Drones embody two things that have come to define the post-9/11 era: unlimited surveillance and a war without borders. When I saw the Camo Snuggie in a drugstore the other day, I took it as an accidental visual metaphor for modern warfare. Here is a white man, wearing the camouflage of a soldier but far from a battlefield, swaddled and safe from harm, pushing buttons on a remote control.”

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