Latest Developments, April 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Inner City Press’s Matthew Russell Lee writes that France has drafted “its own blank check” for the UN peacekeeping mission – to be called MINUSMA – it hopes to have on the ground in Mali by July 1:

“To some it seems strange that France would be the country to draft the Security Council’s resolution on Mali, and that its draft would have the Council ‘welcoming the action of the French forces.’
But the French draft, which Inner City Press has put online here, would also authorize French forces to use ‘all necessary means’ to intervene.

Having a [UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations] chief independent from France would be one way to counter-act the danger of letting France drafts its own mandate in Mali.” [Editor’s note: The last four heads of UN peacekeeping have all been French citizens.]

Hungry for dignity
Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a Guantanamo Bay detainee since 2002, discusses his participation in the widespread hunger strike underway the US military prison:

“One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.
I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.

When they come to force me into the chair [for forced feedings], if I refuse to be tied up, they call the [Extreme Reaction Force] team. So I have a choice. Either I can exercise my right to protest my detention, and be beaten up, or I can submit to painful force-feeding.
The only reason I am still here is that President Obama refuses to send any detainees back to Yemen. This makes no sense. I am a human being, not a passport, and I deserve to be treated like one.”

The truth about global poverty
Jason Hickel of the London School of Economics argues that discussions about aid draw attention away from the international economic policies that cost poor countries $500 billion a year:

“The point here is that corporate power regularly transcends national sovereignty. We have to face the fact that the democratic institutions we worked so hard to shore up during the 20th century are no longer sufficient to protect us in this brave new world.
We need to change the rules, and we need to do it quickly. Given that real power is now routinely wielded at the supra-national level, we need to start building global democratic capacity that can keep rampant greed and profiteering in check.
This might mean a global corporate minimum tax that will put an end to trade mispricing and tax havens. It might mean a global minimum wage that will put a floor on the ‘race to the bottom’ for labour. It will certainly mean wresting control of international trade laws from the hands of IMF bankers and WTO technocrats and placing it under new institutions that are transparent and democratic.
If we are going to have a global economy, we need to have global democratic oversight.”

Outsourcing pollution
The Guardian’s George Monbiot argues that the UK’s much touted reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is “an artefact of accountancy”:

“When nations negotiate global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, they are held responsible only for the gases produced within their own borders. Partly as a result of this convention, these tend to be the only ones that countries count. When these ‘territorial emissions’ fall, they congratulate themselves on reducing their carbon footprints. But as markets of all kinds have been globalised, and as manufacturing migrates from rich nations to poorer ones, territorial accounting bears ever less relationship to our real impacts.

When our ‘consumption emissions’, rather than territorial emissions, are taken into account, our proud record turns into a story of dismal failure.

By considering only our territorial emissions, we make the impacts of our escalating consumption disappear in a puff of black smoke: we have offshored the problem, and our perceptions of it.”

War machine
The Transnational Institute’s Frank Slijper argues that European countries are under pressure to maintain military spending that contributed substantially to the region’s debt crisis:

“While countries like Germany have insisted on the harshest cuts of social budgets by crisis countries to pay back debts, they have been much less supportive of cuts in military spending that would threaten arms sales. France and Germany have pressured the Greek government not to reduce defence spending. France is currently arranging a lease deal with Greece for two of Europe’s most expensive frigates; the surprising move is said to be largely ‘driven by political considerations, rather than an initiative of the armed forces’. In 2010 the Dutch government granted export licences worth €53 million to equip the Greek navy.
As an aide to former Greek prime minister Papandreou noted: ‘No one is saying “Buy our warships or we won’t bail you out.” But the clear implication is that they will be more supportive if we do’.”

Corporate personhood
Rutgers University’s James Livingston suggests that, since US corporations have been granted the right to free speech, they should also pay taxes like “natural persons”:

“The now-familiar objection to a tax increase on corporate profits is that it will discourage private investment and thus dampen job creation. The retort is just as obvious: since when have tax cuts on corporate profits led to increased investment, faster job creation and higher per capita consumption out of rising real wages? It didn’t happen after the Reagan Revolution, it didn’t happen during the Clinton boom of the 1990s, and it sure didn’t happen under George W. Bush.

The other well-worn objection to an increase of corporate income taxes is that it would encourage companies to invest and hire overseas, where tax rates are presumably lower. Here, too, the retort is obvious: the tax code already works exactly this way by postponing taxes until profits from investment overseas are repatriated. American companies routinely avoid taxation by moving their idle cash offshore.”

Selective images
Author Binyavanga Wainaina tells Al Jazeera that Western governments promote self-serving and ultimately damaging depictions of Africa and their involvement in the continent’s affairs:

“ ‘If you look at the website in Kenya of any western embassy, they talk about partnership for development and then you see a lot of school children suffering and then being helped by the ambassador. But they don’t list the companies that are operating here. So it is the question of: What is the full picture?’ Wainaina says.”

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