Latest Developments, December 18

In the latest news and analysis…

Asymmetric grief
The Guardian’s George Monbiot points out that drone war-waging American officials and the world’s media seem to consider the deaths of innocent children far less tragic in some contexts than in others:

“It must follow that what applies to the children murdered [in Newtown, Connecticut] by a deranged young man also applies to the children murdered in Pakistan by a sombre American president. These children are just as important, just as real, just as deserving of the world’s concern. Yet there are no presidential speeches or presidential tears for them, no pictures on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, no interviews with grieving relatives, no minute analysis of what happened and why.

‘Are we,’ Obama asked on Sunday, ‘prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?’ It’s a valid question. He should apply it to the violence he is visiting on the children of Pakistan.”

Plugging leaks
Global Financial Integrity has released its annual study on “the amount of money flowing out of developing economies via crime, corruption and tax evasion” and called for global action to limit this draining of resources:

“Policies advocated by GFI include:

  • Addressing the problems posed by anonymous shell companies, foundations, and trusts by requiring confirmation of beneficial ownership in all banking and securities accounts, and demanding that information on the true, human owner of all corporations, trusts, and foundations be disclosed upon formation and be available to law enforcement;
  • Reforming customs and trade protocols to detect and curtail trade mispricing;
  • Requiring the country-by-country of sales, profits and taxes paid by multinational corporations;
  • Requiring the automatic cross-border exchange of tax information on personal and business accounts;
  • Harmonizing predicate offenses under anti-money laundering laws across all Financial Action Task Force cooperating countries; and
  • Ensuring that the anti-money laundering regulations already on the books are strongly enforced.”

Behaving like adults
Foreign Policy reports that former senator Chuck Hagel, one of the frontrunners to become the next US secretary of defense, has a history of opposing sanctions and endorsing engagement in dealing with perceived threats to international stability:

“ ‘Engagement is not appeasement. Diplomacy is not appeasement. Great nations engage. Powerful nations must be the adults in world affairs. Anything less will result in disastrous, useless, preventable global conflict,’ Hagel said in a Brookings Institution speech in 2008.

On Syria, Hagel was a longtime supporter of engagement with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and his father before him, Hafez al-Assad. After meeting with Assad the elder in 1998, Hagel said, ‘Peace comes through dealing with people. Peace doesn’t come at the end of a bayonet or the end of a gun.’ ”

Vulture setback
The Guardian reports that an international tribunal has ordered Ghana to release an Argentine ship and crew detained due to aggressive collection tactics by an American “vulture fund“:

“The vessel arrived at Tema on 1 October, but was prevented from leaving three days later by a court order obtained by the investment vulture fund NML Capital, which is suing the Argentinian government for non-payment of a $1.6bn (£988m) debt.

Ahead of the tribunal’s decision, the UN independent expert on foreign debt and human rights, Cephas Lumina, said: ‘Vulture funds, such as NML Capital, should not be allowed to purchase debts of distressed companies or sovereign states on the secondary market, for a sum far less than the face value of the debt obligation, and then seek repayment of the nominal full face value of the debt together with interest, penalties and legal costs or impound assets of heavily indebted countries in an attempt to force repayment.’ ”

WTO contender
Reuters reports that a former Ghanaian trade minister, Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen, has become “the first official candidate” to succeed France’s Pascal Lamy as head of the World Trade Organization:

“Many trade diplomats think the job should go to an African, Latin American or Caribbean candidate, since all but one head of the 17-year-old WTO have been from developed countries. The exception was Thailand’s Supachai Panitchpakdi.
But Lamy has said there was no system of rotating the job between countries and regions and said his successor, chosen by consensus, should be picked on the basis of competence alone.”

Deep sea concerns
Inter Press Service reports on some of the worries being expressed over the prospect of deep sea mining in the territorial waters of a number of Pacific island states:

“The International Seabed Authority (ISA) and the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SOPAC) concluded last year, ‘The current level of knowledge and understanding of deep sea ecology does not make it possible to issue any conclusive risk assessment of the effects of large-scale commercial seabed mining.’
Furthermore, many Pacific Island states are yet to establish appropriate DSM legislation and regulatory bodies.
‘PNG does not yet have all of its maritime boundaries established,’ [the University of Papua New Guinea’s] Kaluwin said. ‘The government does not yet have appropriate off-shore or deep sea mining policies and legislation in place.  We also need to address the traditional rights of landowners and communities over the marine environment.’

Hannah Lily, legal advisor to the [EU’s Deep Sea Minerals Project], told IPS, ‘Appropriate regulatory mechanisms, which require of proposed DSM (projects) further in-depth scientific research and analysis, should be in place before any DSM mining project takes place.’ ”

Atmospheric governance
The Economist’s Free Exchange blog argues that, in a world where countries cannot seem to agree on collective emissions reductions, people should expect more and more “unilateral geoengineering gambits“:

“Large, northerly countries like Canada and Russia have an almost unchecked ability to adapt but smaller and more equatorial places will quickly run out of options. It is unrealistic to suppose that unilaterial geoengineering schemes won’t be an inevitable result.
Such schemes could pose huge risks. Successful, precisely deployed efforts might nonetheless have unpredictable and substantial side effects or unpleasant distributional costs. Without a forum to address such effects, geopolitical tensions could worsen in a hurry.

If the world can’t create a functional international forum for addressing atmospheric management—one with teeth—then the costs of global warming are going to be far higher than they ought to be, whatever the mix of policies used to attack it.”

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