Latest Developments, March 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone filibuster
The Washington Post reports that US Senator Rand Paul has ended a nearly 13-hour speech aimed at raising questions about American policy on extrajudicial killings:

“Paul said he was ‘alarmed’ by a lack of definition for who can be targeted by drone strikes. He suggested that many colleges in the 1960s were full of people who may have been considered enemies of the state.
‘Are you going to drop . . . a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?’ he asked at one point.
Repeatedly, Paul suggested that his cause was not partisan and not meant as a personal attack on the president — only on his drone policy.

‘I would be here if it were a Republican president doing this,’ Paul added. ‘Really, the great irony of this is that President Obama’s opinion on this is an extension of George Bush’s opinion.’ ”

New timetable
The BBC reports that France’s president, François Hollande, has said some of the 4,000 French troops currently in Mali will pull out next month:

“France had initially said that troop numbers would decrease from March if all went according to plan.
On Wednesday, Mr Hollande said that the ‘final phase’ of the French intervention ‘will last through March and from April there will be a decrease in the number of French soldiers in Mali as African forces will take over, supported by the Europeans’.”

See no evil
The Guardian reports on new evidence suggesting ex-CIA boss David Petraeus had extensive knowledge of torture being committed during his time as top commander in Iraq:

“[Special police commando] detention centres bought video cameras, funded by the US military, which they used to film detainees for the show [called ‘Terrorism In The Hands of Justice’]. When the show began to outrage the Iraqi public, [General Muntadher al-Samari] remembers being in the home of General Adnan Thabit – head of the special commandos – when a call came from Petraeus’s office demanding that they stop showing tortured men on TV.

Thabit is dismissive of the idea that the Americans he dealt with were unaware of what the commandos were doing. ‘Until I left, the Americans knew about everything I did; they knew what was going on in the interrogations and they knew the detainees. Even some of the intelligence about the detainees came to us from them – they are lying.’”

The grapes of graft
Reuters reports that an Italian vineyard may be key for an investigation into bribes allegedly paid by energy firm Eni to obtain oil and gas contracts in Algeria:

“[Farid Noureddine] Bedjaoui is suspected of channeling nearly 198 million euros in bribes to officials in Algeria via a company called Pearl Partners Limited for eight contracts totaling $11 billion awarded to [Eni subsidiary] Saipem, Europe’s biggest oil services company, between 2007-9, the warrant says.

The Feb 6 warrant alleges [Pietro Varone, former chief operating officer of Saipem’s engineering arm] recommended Pearl Partners to the Saipem board to advise on Saipem’s business activities in Algeria and the Middle East.
Varone was one of several senior managers at Saipem and Eni to resign in December as a result of the investigation. Eni and Saipem have denied wrongdoing.
Eni, Italy’s largest company in terms of market value, is the biggest foreign energy operator in Africa. It has operated in Algeria since 1981 and has extensive gas interests there.”

Fighting words
The Council of Canadians provides a transcript of comments made by a Greek mayor to the Canadian ambassador over a mining project planned by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold:

“ ‘We have studies that establish the utter devastation and we don’t want to discuss it any further. We are tired. What we want from you is to leave us alone so that we can develop here our agriculture, our stock farming, our fishery, our tourism, our forests, so that we can manage, through what we know, to keep the purity of our country, to advance,’ [said Alexandroupolis mayor Evangelos Labakis].

“You will get the gold, the 450 tons and we will keep the cyanide? Why should we do that when we have the opportunity to develop and we will do it?’ ”

Mining’s shadow
An Ottawa Citizen editorial calls on Ottawa to hold to account Canadian mining companies that behave badly abroad:

“Canada has many reasons to take a lead role in addressing unethical and illegal behaviour of mining companies around the world. A compelling one is that Canada is a major player on the world stage and companies that get into trouble are, therefore, frequently Canadian.
And, although the mining industry and the federal government have both been behind a major push to encourage corporate social responsibility, the federal government must do more, especially now that the giant mining industry is also at the centre of a shift in Canadian foreign aid toward more partnerships with private companies operating overseas.
With so much riding on our mining industry, Canada must move to remove the shadow that bad corporate citizens cast on it.”

Dirty City
TrustLaw reports that Transparency International’s new UK head has said London is “a clearing house for international corruption”:

“[TI-UK’s Robert] Barrington was one of a group of experts who drafted the official guidance to the UK Bribery Act, Britain’s strict new anti-bribery law. Since the Act came into force in July 2011, it has generated just two prosecutions, both for relatively minor bribery offences.

One reason for the small number of prosecutions under the Bribery Act is that Britain’s main anti-corruption prosecutor, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), has had its funding slashed in the last five years, Barrington said.”

Sharing benefits
Intellectual Property Watch reports that one expert has described the Nagoya Protocol, a proposed UN text on cultural diversity and traditional knowledge, as a “masterpiece of erratic treaty drafting”:

“In correspondence with Intellectual Property Watch, [the University of Sienna’s Riccardo] Pavoni said: ‘The Nagoya Protocol is absolutely neutral in relation to the issue of patentability of genetic material. The principle of sovereign rights over genetic resources may only allow states to ban the exploration and/or exportation of genetic resources found in their territories, but may not prevent a company from seeking patent protection in its home state or in other countries where such patents are granted.’
The core issue, he said, ‘is that of securing that genetic material has been accessed pursuant to the prior informed consent of the source country and that some form of benefit-sharing has been agreed upon with the same country.’ ”

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