Latest Developments, January 16

In the latest news and analysis…

“Neocolonialist” war
Le Monde reports that former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing has urged his country to stick to a supporting role for African troops in Mali’s conflict:

“I want to warn against allowing the French action in Mali to turn into a neocolonialist undertaking.

Air strikes in the country’s north and east would hit civilian populations and would replicate the pointless destruction of the war in Afghanistan. They would no doubt have the same political results.” [Translated from the French.]

Give peace a chance
Agence France-Presse reports that the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation has called for a ceasefire in Mali, which is one of the world body’s 57 member states:

“OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said the military offensive is ‘premature’ and called for ‘an immediate ceasefire in Mali and for all parties to go back to the negotiations which were led by Burkina Faso’ in December, in a statement.
Ihsanoglu, who ‘expressed his deep concern over the military escalation’ also called for ‘maximum self-restraint from all parties at this critical time in order to reach a peaceful solution to this conflict,’ the statement said.”

Arms fit for a king
Pro Publica reveals “the fullest picture yet” of US arms sales to the Kingdom of Bahrain during the Gulf state’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations:

“The list includes ammunition, combat vehicle parts, communications equipment, Blackhawk helicopters, and an unidentified missile system.

The U.S. has long sold weapons to Bahrain, totaling $1.4 billion since 2000, according to the State Department. The sales didn’t come under scrutiny until security forces killed at least 19 people in the early months of the crackdown in 2011. (Dozens have died since then.)
The administration put a hold on one proposed sale of Humvees and missiles in Fall 2011 following congressional criticism. But Foreign Policy reported that other unspecified equipment was still being sold without any public notification.”

Siemens suit
Reuters reports that a former Siemens employee is suing the German electronics giant, which he says fired him for trying to expose “a kickback scheme” on sales of medical equipment to hospitals in China:

“Siemens agreed to pay $1.6 billion in 2008 to resolve U.S. and German charges that it violated foreign anti-bribery laws through its business in countries that ranged from Argentina and Venezuela to Bangladesh.
As part of that settlement, the company also agreed to implement and maintain a robust program to comply with [the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] and retain an independent consultant to monitor that program and report on its development to the U.S. Justice Department.
Liu said the evidence he uncovered showed that the company intentionally evaded the due diligence policies put in place to comply with its 2008 plea agreement.”

Tax advice
A new report by the European Network on Debt and Development offers suggestions for ways the EU can take on the “acute challenge” of illicit financial flows from poor countries:

“A first step is to implement a robust interpretation of the Financial Action Task Force’s set of recommendations from February 2012. In Europe, the review of the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) in 2013 will be one of the biggest opportunities. The report recommends that this political opportunity is used to:
• Create publically available government registers of the real owners and controllers of companies, trusts and other such legal structures.
• Make all tax evasion a predicate offence of money laundering
• Improve compliance with and enforcement of anti-money laundering rules and introduce credible sanctions.”

Superfood concerns
The Guardian reports that the rapid growth in demand for quinoa on the international market is causing problems in the Andean communities that grow the plant:

“That global demand means less quinoa is being eaten in Bolivia and Peru, the countries of origin, as the price has tripled. There are concerns this could cause malnutrition as producers, who have long relied on the superfood to supplement their meagre diets, would rather sell their entire crop than eat it. The rocketing international price is also creating land disputes.

Bitter battles are being fought over prime quinoa-growing land. Last February dozens of people were hurt when farmers fought with slings and sticks of dynamite over what was once abandoned land.”

Knowable unknowns
OpenOil’s Johnny West asks how much of the abundant literature on Nigeria’s Niger Delta are based on “ground up, not top down” research:

“Forty years on, what we know about the peoples and societies of the Delta is scant at best. Just as Michael Herr said for American grunts Vietnam was not a country but a war, the Niger Delta is not a place and group of people but an issue – a multi-billion dollar headache or a contention in ongoing ideological debates, depending on where you stand.
Now [the Max Planck Institute’s Olumide Abimbola] is setting out to fill that gap by compiling a complete bibliography of ground level research, and then gearing up Nigeria’s social science faculties to start filling the void. But the fact we’ve got this far without this is mind-boggling and begs the question: what do we know about the people of southern Iraq, the Yusuni native Ecuadoreans, or the peoples of West Papua – apart from their relationship to the Black Stuff?”

Non-European thinking
Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi writes that the act of “thinking and acting in terms at once domestic to their immediate geography and yet global in its consequences” is increasingly not just a European prerogative:

“The question is rather the manner in which non-European thinking can reach self-consciousness and evident universality, not at the cost of whatever European philosophers may think of themselves for the world at large, but for the purpose of offering alternative (complementary or contradictory) visions of reality more rooted in the lived experiences of people in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America – counties and climes once under the spell of the thing that calls itself ‘the West’ but happily no more.

Reduced to its own fair share of the humanity at large, and like all other continents and climes, Europe has much to teach the world, but now on a far more leveled and democratic playing field, where its philosophy is European philosophy not ‘Philosophy’, its music European music not ‘Music’, and no infomercial would be necessary to sell its public intellectuals as ‘Public Intellectuals’.”

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