Latest Developments, April 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Endless mission
Reuters reports that France’s foreign minister has expressed the desire to have a permanent French military presence in Mali:

“ ‘France has proposed, to the United Nations and to the Malian government, a French support force of 1,000 men which would be permanent, based in Mali, and equipped to fight terrorism,’ [French Foreign Minister Laurent] Fabius said before leaving Bamako after a one-day visit.
A diplomatic source in Paris said France hoped to have the [UN] peacekeeping force approved by the Security Council within three weeks, and to have it deployed by the end of June or early July in time for scheduled presidential elections.
A clause in the U.N. resolution will allow [UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon] to request the rapid intervention of France’s 1,000 troops, which would be deployed under a bilateral deal with Mali, the source said.”

Gitmo scolding
The UN News Centre reports that UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has said she is “deeply disappointed” by the failure of the US government to fulfill its promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay:

“ ‘Some of [the prisoners] have been festering in this detention centre for more than a decade,’ Ms. Pillay said. ‘This raises serious concerns under international law. It severely undermines the United States’ stance that it is an upholder of human rights, and weakens its position when addressing human rights violations elsewhere.’

‘We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold. When other countries breach these standards, the US – quite rightly – strongly criticizes them for it.’ ”

Uranium discontent
Agence France-Presse reports on a protest held by about 2,000 students against French nuclear giant Areva in Niger’s capital:

“Marchers held aloft placards saying ‘No to exploitation and neo-colonialism’ and ‘No to Areva’.
‘The partnership in the mining of uranium is very unbalanced to the detriment of our country,’ said Mahamadou Djibo Samaila, secretary general of the Union of Niamey University Students that organised the protest.

The government of Niger, one of Africa’s poorest countries, complained late last year that its four-decade-old deal with Areva to mine its vast uranium deposits was unfair and should be changed.”

Robot wars
The University of Sheffield’s Noel Sharkey explores the potential limitations and dangers of “fully autonomous robot weapons”:

“Is anyone thinking about how an adaptive enemy will exploit the weaknesses of robot weapons with spoofing, hacking or misdirection?
Is anyone considering how unknown computer programs will interact when swarms of robots meet? Is anyone considering how autonomous weapons could destabilize world security and trigger unintentional wars?
In April this year in London, a group of prominent NGOs will launch a large civil society campaign to ‘Stop Killer Robots.’ They are seeking a new legally binding preemptive international treaty to prohibit the development and deployment of fully autonomous robot weapons.”

Toothless treaty
Former Reuters columnist Bernd Debusmann writes that the recently approved UN arms trade treaty is not at all certain to succeed in “throttling the flow of arms to the world’s killing fields”:

“Russia and China, the world’s second- and fourth-largest arms exporters respectively, abstained. So did 22 other countries that have misgivings about the agreement. Iran, North Korea and Syria – all subject to arms embargoes – voted against.
So did, in a manner of speaking, a domestic American pressure group, the National Rifle Association, whose extraordinary influence on the U.S. Congress is almost certain to result in the senate blocking ratification of the treaty.

The United States is by far the world’s largest arms exporter and if it stayed on the sidelines, along with Russia and China, the Arms Trade Treaty would lack teeth.”

Segregated cities
The Guardian’s Gary Younge argues that the uneven and unfair distribution of wealth in US cities means “chaos will spread randomly and episodically”:

“The problem starts with poverty. Infant mortality rates for black families in Pittsburgh are worse than in Vietnam; male life expectancy in Washington, DC is lower than it is the Gaza Strip.
Poverty rates in some black and Latino neighbourhoods in almost every city are higher than 50%. In some, violence is rampant. By one estimate, between 20% and 30% Chicago school children have witnessed a shooting. The US now has more people in its penal system than the Soviet Union did at the height of the gulag system.”

Poverty makers
Alnoor Ladha and Martin Kirk of /The Rules and Joe Brewer of Cognitive Policy Works argue that global poverty is created by an “industry that includes private companies, think tanks, media outlets, government policies, and more”:

“This isn’t to suggest that there’s a dark, smoky room somewhere in which a small cabal plots to cause immeasurable misery just because they can. This isn’t a conspiracy theory. In truth, it happens in big boardrooms and political conferences, where people create rules and execute strategies to ‘maximise self-interest’ as economists say, by extracting wealth from others. This is largely driven by a maniacal focus on short-term profit or advantage while ignoring one of its primary effects – the impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people. Wilful ignorance, though, as any legal scholar will tell you, is no defence in law. It’s about time we applied the same standard to our economic rules and realities.”

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