Latest Developments, May 1

In the latest news and analysis…

US in Mali
The Washington Post reports that the US has sent “a small number” of troops to Mali despite earlier promises not to do so:

“About 10 U.S. military personnel are in Mali to provide ‘liaison support’ to French and African troops but are not engaged in combat operations, said Lt. Col. Robert Firman, a Pentagon spokesman. Twelve others are assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, the capital, he added.

Since the coup, there have been signs that some U.S. Special Operations forces have been deployed to Mali on undeclared missions. In April 2012, three U.S. soldiers were killed in a mysterious car crash in Bamako.
Last month, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) suggested that U.S. commandos were ‘taking action’ in Mali.”

Medical reinforcements
The BBC reports that the US has sent additional medical staff to its Guantanamo Bay prison to deal with a growing hunger strike among detainees:

“About 40 nurses and other specialists arrived at the weekend, camp spokesman Lt Col Samuel House said.
He said that 100 of 166 detainees were now on hunger strike, with 21 of them being force-fed through a tube.
The inmates are protesting against their indefinite detention. Most are being held without charge.”

As open as they want to be
Platts reports that Switzerland’s commodity traders are pushing the Swiss government to water proposed “transparency requirements” down to mere “voluntary principles”:

“The Swiss government has said it is at risk of reputational damage in the international community because of its role as a commodity trading hub, and in May last year set up an interdepartmental “platform” comprising the Swiss finance, foreign and economy departments to examine the role of commodity trading in the country.
Switzerland is home to the world’s biggest oil and other commodity trading houses, including oil traders Vitol, Glencore, Trafigura, Mercuria and Gunvor.”

Taking responsibility
Reuters reports that the UK’s Primark and Canada’s Loblaw have become the first two Western retailers to promise compensation for the families of victims of the collapsed garment factories that killed nearly 400 in Bangladesh last week:

“The collapsed complex housed a number of factories that made clothing for Western brands.

Loblaw has said it regularly conducts audits to ensure its garments are manufactured responsibly, but focuses on labor practices and not building construction.
Loblaw said it would issue updates as it developed details of its compensation plan.

Primark, owned by FTSE 100 company Associated British Foods , said on Monday that it was working with a local NGO to help victims of the disaster.
It pledged to provide long-term aid for children who lost parents, financial aid for the injured and payments to families of the victims.”

Swelling protests
The Globe and Mail reports that Canadian mining company Eldorado has triggered “something akin to civil war” in northern Greece:

“The first mobilizations against the expansion of the old mines in the Halkidiki peninsula, the birthplace of Aristotle in northeastern Greece, began in late 2011. That’s when Vancouver’s Eldorado Gold Corp. grabbed most of the local mining industry and unveiled plans for a €1-billion ($1.32-billion) development that would turn the recession-stricken region into a gold-producing powerhouse.
But development skeptics asked: At what cost to the environment, tourism and agriculture? They concluded that the massive project, smack in the middle of a part of Greece that could pass for Tuscany, would do more harm than good and took to the streets. ‘To live, you need, air, soil and water,’ explains Nina Karina, 50, an artist who opposes Eldorado. ‘This investment takes away all three from us.’ ”

NGO paradox
Plain Sense’s Fairouz El Tom argues that many of the world’s top 100 NGOs have a board make-up at odds with their stated mission:

“In different ways, the NGOs surveyed promote ideals of justice and social progress. Yet over half have board members who are affiliated with companies that invest in, or provide legal, marketing, or other services to the arms, tobacco and finance industries.”

Killing in the name
The New Yorker’s Steve Coll reviews two new books on ‘the return of Presidentially sanctioned assassinations’:

“But [Anwar] Awlaki’s case, troubling as it may be, raises a broader issue: the Administration’s refusal to disclose the criteria by which it condemns anyone, American or otherwise, to death. The information used in such cases is intelligence data rather than evidence; it is not subject to cross-examination or judicial review. Unanswered questions abound. Does the President require that intelligence used to convict a terror suspect in absentia be based on multiple sources, or is one sufficient? Must intercepts, photographs, or credible firsthand testimony be obtained, or can people be executed on the basis of hearsay from paid informants? How directly involved in violence must an individual be to receive a death sentence? At what point does a preacher’s hate speech warrant his being killed?”

Inflated claims
The Guardian reports on a new study that suggests aid figures reported by donor countries are “a very different thing” from the resources they actually transfer:

“Some donors, including Japan and Germany, receive hundreds of millions of dollars each year in interest repayments on the loans they give, said DI. In total, ‘if interest repayments are taken into account, the net resource flows associated with global [official development assistance] are approximately $5bn per annum lower than the reported total net ODA figure suggests,’ said a DI discussion paper this month.

Net ODA figures subtract repayments made by recipients, but, according to current OECD rules, only account for principal repayments. Instead, interest repayments are recorded only as a memo item in OECD statistics.”

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