Latest Developments, February 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Fear of the police
A new report released by Human Rights Watch accuses Canadian police of negligent and “abusive” behaviour in an area of the country infamous for the murder and disappearance of First Nations women and girls:

“Indigenous women and girls told Human Rights Watch that the RCMP has failed to protect them. They also described instances of abusive policing, including excessive use of force against girls, strip searches of women by male officers, and physical and sexual abuse. One woman said that in July, four police officers took her to a remote location, raped her, and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

Human Rights Watch researchers were struck by the fear expressed by women they interviewed. The women’s reactions were comparable to those Human Rights Watch has found in post-conflict or post-transition countries, where security forces have played an integral role in government abuses and enforcement of authoritarian policies.”

Toxic Europe
The Guardian reports that the EU’s own lawyers believe European efforts to legalize the export of contaminated ships to poor countries may be illegal:

“Leaked European council legal opinion papers seen by the Guardian express grave concerns over the European commission’s attempts to exempt ships from the Basel convention, the global treaty that demands that rich countries dispose of their own asbestos and other hazardous waste materials, and do not add to pollution in poorer countries.

According to the World Bank, Bangladesh alone is expected to have 79,000 tonnes of asbestos and 240,000 tonnes of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) chemicals ‘dumped’ on it by rich country’s ships in the next 20 years.”

Disappeared prisoners
ProPublica reports that “at least twenty” people who were detained by the CIA in so-called black prisons are still missing:

“The Senate Intelligence Committee recently completed a 6,000-page report on the CIA’s detention program. At Brenan’s confirmation hearings, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), said the report shows the interrogation program was run by people ‘ignorant of the topic, executed by personnel without relevant experience, managed incompetently by senior officials who did not pay attention to detail, and corrupted by personnel with pecuniary conflicts of interest.’ Rockefeller is one of the few to have read the report, which remains classified.”

Sankara’s ghost
Radio France Internationale reports that a French parliamentarian is calling for an investigation into the role France played in the 1987 assassination of Burkina Faso president Thomas Sankara:

“Twelve Burkinabé MPs wrote to their French counterparts two years ago to demand a parliamentary inquiry into Sankara’s death.
[MP André] Chassaigne says it’s time for France to heed their call.
‘France, to an as-yet unknown extent, is responsible for this assassination,’ he said on Wednesday.”

Classified medal
The Associated Press reports that the US military has created a new medal for those who fight wars using “remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems”:

“The new blue, red and white-ribboned Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to individuals for ‘extraordinary achievement’ related to a military operation that occurred after Sept. 11, 2001. But unlike other combat medals, it does not require the recipient risk his or her life to get it.

The Pentagon does not publicly discuss its offensive cyber operations or acts of cyberwarfare. Considering that secrecy, it’s not clear how public such awards might be in the future.”

Organic country
The Guardian reports that Bhutan plans to ban all pesticides, herbicides and artifical fertilizers to become the first country with “completely organic” agriculture:

“In the west, organic food growing is widely thought to reduce the size of crops because they become more susceptible to pests. But this is being challenged in Bhutan and some regions of Asia, where smallholders are developing new techniques to grow more and are not losing soil quality.
Systems like ‘sustainable root intensification’ (SRI), which carefully regulate the amount of water that crops need and the age at which seedlings are planted out, have shown that organic crop yields can be doubled with no synthetic chemicals.

Good intentions
Africa on the Blog’s Ossob Mohamud writes about her own uncomfortable experiences with so-called voluntourism, which she says can all too easily treat poor countries like “a playground for the redemption of privileged souls looking to atone for global injustices”:

“Time and energy would be better spent building real solidarity between disparate societies based on mutual respect and understanding. Instead of focusing on surface symptoms of poverty, volunteers and the organizations that recruit them should focus on the causes that often stem from an unjust global economic order. Why not advocate and campaign for IMF and World Bank reforms? How about having volunteers advocate for their home country to change aggressive foreign and agricultural policies (such as subsidy programs)? This might seem unrealistic but the idea is to get volunteers to understand their own (direct or indirect) role in global poverty. The idea is to get volunteers truly invested in ending poverty, and not simply to feel better about themselves.”

Bad suit
The Daily Guide reports that the Africa Centre for Energy Policy is speaking out against efforts by industry lobby groups to get around new US transparency requirements for oil, gas and mining companies operating abroad:

In a press release issued recently in Accra and signed by Mohammed Amin Adam, its Executive Director, ACEP said the suit is a betrayal of the move for global transparency in the oil and gas industry by well meaning global citizens and governments.
‘We, in Africa, received the news of the issuance of regulations to back the implementation of the Dodd Frank Transparency reforms with great joy because we believe that it would expose corruption and mismanagement of natural resources on our continent.’

‘It is against this background that ACEP calls on Anadarko, Hess Corporation and Kosmos Energy, who are operating in Ghana, to dissociate themselves from the legal suit by the [American Petroleum Institute] and instead support efforts at enhancing transparency and accountability in the global oil and gas industry,’ it stated.”

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