Latest Developments, May 3

In the latest news and analysis…

Second thoughts
Reuters reports that the US is “rethinking” its opposition to arming rebel forces in Syria:

“Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel cautioned that giving weapons to the forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad was only one option being considered by the United States. It carries the risk of arms finding their way into the hands of anti-American extremists among the insurgents, such as the Nusra Front.
But it may be more palatable to many in the United States than direct U.S. military intervention in the conflict, such as carving out a no-fly zone or sending in troops to secure chemical weapons.”

Detainees vs drones
The Guardian reports that a former White House lawyer has said the Obama administration prefers extrajudicial killings to indefinite detention for dealing with suspected security threats:

“[Ex-White House lawyer John] Bellinger, who drafted the legal framework for targeted drone killings while working for George W Bush after 9/11, said he believed their use had increased since because Obama was unwilling to deal with the consequences of jailing suspected al-Qaida members. ‘This government has decided that instead of detaining members of al-Qaida [at Guantánamo], they are going to kill them,’ he told a conference at the Bipartisan Policy Centre.

Obama said of the camp this week: ‘It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens co-operation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.’ ”

Austerity kills
Reuters reports that a pair of academic researchers have written a new book detailing the “devastating effect” of austerity measures in the US and Europe:

“In Greece, moves like cutting HIV prevention budgets have coincided with rates of the AIDS-causing virus rising by more than 200 percent since 2011 – driven in part by increasing drug abuse in the context of a 50 percent youth unemployment rate.
Greece also experienced its first malaria outbreak in decades following budget cuts to mosquito-spraying programmes.
And more than five million Americans have lost access to healthcare during the latest recession, they argue, while in Britain, some 10,000 families have been pushed into homelessness by the government’s austerity budget.”

Baby steps
The UK has announced that its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, which comprise some of the world’s most notorious tax havens, have taken a “huge step forward” in the fight against tax evasion by agreeing to share banking information with a handful of European governments on a trial basis:

“Following the recent leadership shown by the Cayman Islands, the other Overseas Territories – Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands – have agreed to much greater levels of transparency of accounts held in those jurisdictions.

They have agreed to pilot the automatic exchange of information bilaterally with the UK and multilaterally with the G5 – the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Under this agreement much greater levels of information about bank accounts will be exchanged on a multilateral basis as part of a move to a new global standard.”

Capital crimes
Trinity College’s Vijay Prashad argues last month’s deadly garment factory collapse is a symptom of a problem that extends far beyond Bangladesh:

“These Bangladesh factories are a part of the landscape of globalization that is mimicked in the factories along the US-Mexico border, in Haiti, in Sri Lanka, and in other places that opened their doors to the garment industry’s savvy use of the new manufacturing and trade order of the 1990s. Subdued countries that had neither the patriotic will to fight for their citizens nor any concern for the long-term debilitation of their social order rushed to welcome garment production. The big garment producers no longer wanted to invest in factories – they turned to sub-contractors, offering them very narrow margins for profit and thereby forcing them to run their factories like prison-houses of labour. The sub-contracting regime allowed these firms to deny any culpability for what was done by the actual owners of these small factories, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of the cheap products without having their consciences stained with the sweat and blood of the workers.”

Big Green
No Logo author Naomi Klein argues “an important target is missing” from the growing movement to pressure cities and universities to divest from polluting industries, such as oil and coal:

“One would assume that green groups would want to make absolutely sure that the money they have raised in the name of saving the planet is not being invested in the companies whose business model requires cooking said planet, and which have been sabotaging all attempts at serious climate action for more than two decades. But in some cases at least, that was a false assumption.
Maybe that shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, since some of the most powerful and wealthiest environmental organisations have long behaved as if they had a stake in the oil and gas industry. They led the climate movement down various dead ends: carbon trading, carbon offsets, natural gas as a “bridge fuel” – what these policies all held in common is that they created the illusion of progress while allowing the fossil fuel companies to keep mining, drilling and fracking with abandon. We always knew that the groups pushing hardest for these false solutions took donations from, and formed corporate partnerships with, the big emitters. But this was explained away as an attempt at constructive engagement – using the power of the market to fix market failures.
Now it turns out that some of these groups are literally part-owners of the industry causing the crisis they are purportedly trying to solve.”

6 to 1
Chicago Reader’s Steve Bogira writes that US government policies have helped widen America’s “racial gap in wealth”:

“The average wealth of white families in 2010 ($632,000) was almost six times that of Hispanic families ($110,000) and more than six times that of black families ($98,000). The median wealth figures are similarly lopsided: $124,000 for white families, $16,000 for black families, $15,000 for Hispanic families.

The recession of 2007-2009 may be largely responsible: it cut the wealth of white families by 11 percent, but it reduced the wealth of black families by 31 percent and Hispanic families by 40 percent.”

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