Latest Developments, February 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Media silence
The Washington Post reports that it was one of a number of major news organizations that granted a request not to reveal the existence of a drone base in Saudi Arabia:

“The base was established two years ago to intensify the hunt against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the affiliate in Yemen is known. Brennan, who previously served as the CIA’s station chief in Saudi Arabia, played a key role in negotiations with Riyadh over locating an agency drone base inside the kingdom.
The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network’s most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.
The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year.”

Extraordinary practices
A new report released by the Open Society Foundations reveals the scope of international cooperation with the CIA’s rendition program, a program that was never shut down:

“At least 136 individuals were reportedly extraordinarily rendered or secretly detained by the CIA and at least 54 governments reportedly participated in the CIA’s secret detention and extraordinary rendition program; classified government documents may reveal many more.

President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order repudiating torture does not repudiate the CIA extraordinary rendition program. It was specifically crafted to preserve the CIA’s authority to detain terrorist suspects on a short-term, transitory basis prior to rendering them to another country for interrogation or trial.”

Targeting corruptors
The Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian government is introducing legislation to crack down on companies that pay bribes to foreign officials:

“In addition to allowing prosecutors here to go after Canadian companies for bribes they pay abroad, the new law will outlaw so-called ‘facilitation payments’ – the grease money paid to foreign officials even if it’s not directly linked to gaining a business deal or advantage. Those payments, technically different from a bribe, will not be immediately made illegal, but the government will outlaw them at a later date, presumably to give companies warning of the changing rules.

Although Canada signed an international convention on combating bribery in 1998, it has long been criticized for doing too little to enforce anti-bribery measures. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which reviews countries’ action to combat bribery, has repeatedly issued reports calling Canada’s enforcement weak, most recently in 2011.”

Counting the dead
Agence France-Presse reports that France has released its first official, if somewhat vague, death toll from its offensive in Mali, though there was no mention of civilian casualties:

“Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the 26-day military intervention has killed ‘several hundred’ Islamist militants as its air and ground forces chased them from their northern strongholds into remote mountainous terrain in the far northeast.

France’s sole fatality so far has been a helicopter pilot who was killed at the start of the military operation, while ‘two or three’ soldiers have suffered light injuries, Le Drian said.
Mali said 11 of its troops were killed and 60 wounded after the battle at Konna last month but it has not since released a new death toll.”

More guns
Reuters reports that the US is calling for a resumption of arms sales to Somalia where a UN embargo has been in place since 1992:

“Diplomats said Britain and France have been reluctant to support ending the arms embargo. The Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, which monitors compliance with the sanctions regime, has also opposed the idea of lifting it, U.N. envoys said.
Those who oppose getting rid of the arms embargo say Somalia’s security sector still includes elements close to warlords and militants, an allegation the Somali government rejects.”

Good times, bad times
Reuters also reports that Tanzania, Africa’s fourth-largest gold producer, has said it favours a flexible approach to taxing mining companies in order to compensate for fluctuating global prices:

“ ‘If [the mining companies] are making losses, will they keep quiet? When they are going to make huge losses they are going to approach the government,’ [minerals minister Sospeter] Muhongo told Reuters on the sidelines of an African mining conference in Cape Town.
‘If they are going to make huge profits, we will also approach them,’ he said.
Asked if this meant windfall taxes could be introduced, he replied ‘yes’.
Many African governments say they need to extract more revenue from their mining and oil industries to spread the benefits of resource wealth more widely.”

The world according to Fisk
The Tyee reports on a recent talk given by veteran journalist Robert Fisk, in which he expressed his views that so-called Arab Spring protesters sought dignity over democracy and that journalists must be “neutral and unbiased on the side of those who suffer”:

“And why not democracy? Because the western democracies are precisely the countries that have imposed their will, and installed dictators, in the Arab lands since the end of World War I. The West, he said, thinks it has a right and a duty to do so.
‘But these are not our people,’ Fisk said; they have a different history and culture from the West, and we have no business”

Fighting transparency
Global Witness’s Simon Taylor calls on aerospace/defense giant Boeing to stop opposing US legislation requiring companies to monitor their supply chain for conflict minerals from DR Congo:

“The Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable have filed a lawsuit against the SEC to overturn the conflict minerals rule.

Boeing, which has a seat on NAM’s board and whose representative is the executive committee chair of the Business Roundtable, appears to be at the forefront of the fight to overturn the rule.

In comments submitted to the SEC, Boeing indicated that the final rule on 1502 would be too costly and burdensome to comply with, given ‘the complexity of modern supply chains.’
As the world’s largest aerospace company, Boeing’s influence within the industry — let alone over its own supply chain — is considerable. Boeing’s attempt to kill Section 1502 through anonymous corporate lobby groups is misguided and irresponsible.”

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