Latest Developments, May 23

In the latest news and analysis…

Perpetual war
The Washington Post provides a transcript of US President Barack Obama’s speech (complete with interruptions) laying out his vision of national security, including the use of drone strikes and the Guantanamo Bay prison:

“To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance, for the same progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power, or risk abusing it.

Now, this last point is critical because much of the criticism about drone strikes, both here at home and abroad, understandably centers on reports of civilian casualties. There’s a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties and nongovernmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in every war.
And for the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss.

We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root. And in the absence of a strategy that reduces the wellspring of extremism, a perpetual war through drones or special forces or troop deployments will prove self-defeating and alter our country in troubling ways.

The original premise for opening Gitmo, that detainees would not be able to challenge their detention, was found unconstitutional five years ago. In the meantime, Gitmo has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.

Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike. I’m willing to cut [Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin] who interrupted me some slack because it’s worth being passionate about. Is this who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave our children?”

Gitmo upgrades
USA Today reports that despite President Obama’s apparent enthusiasm for shutting down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon is seeking nearly half a billion dollars for “maintaining and upgrading” the controversial facility:

“The budget request for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 calls for $79 million for detention operations, the same as the current year, and $20.5 million for the office of military commissions, an increase over the current amount of $12.6 million. The request also includes $40 million for a fiber optic cable and $99 million for operation and maintenance.
The Pentagon also wants $200 million for military construction to upgrade temporary facilities. That work could take eight to 10 years as the military has to transport workers to the island, rely on limited housing and fly in building material.”

Mine attack
The Guardian reports that a uranium mine run by French state-owned nuclear giant Areva has been hit by one of a pair of simultaneous suicide bombings in Niger:

“Areva, the world’s second largest uranium producer, said that its mine was ‘badly damaged’ forcing it to stop production.
Although Areva has been attacked by [al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb] in the past – with five French workers taken hostage at the site in 2010 – the latest attacks are the first of their kind in Niger. Niger has been singled out as a target for its role in the military intervention in Mali, for its relationship with France – which obtains 20% of its uranium from Niger – and with the US, which signed an agreement this year to establish a new military base in the country.”

Lagarde in court
Agence France-Presse reports that the stakes are “huge” for the International Monetary Fund as its chief appears for questioning in a French court over her role in a corruption case:

“Criminal charges against [Christine] Lagarde, 57, would mark the second scandal in a row for an IMF chief, after her predecessor Dominique Strauss-Kahn, also from France, resigned in disgrace over an alleged assault on a New York hotel maid.

[Prosecutors] have suggested Lagarde, who at the time was finance minister, was partly responsible for “numerous anomalies and irregularities” which could lead to charges for complicity in fraud and misappropriation of public funds.”

Moving down
Human Rights Watch has released a new report in which it alleges that many of the families who were relocated to make way for foreign-owned coal projects in Mozambique now lack reliable access to food, water and employment:

“The 122-page report, ‘What is a House without Food?’ Mozambique’s Coal Mining Boom and Resettlements,’ examines how serious shortcomings in government policy and mining companies’ implementation uprooted largely self-sufficient farming communities and resettled them to arid land far from rivers and markets. These communities have experienced periods of food insecurity or, when available, dependence on short-term food assistance financed by Vale and Rio Tinto.

According to 2012 government data, approved mining concessions and exploration licenses cover approximately 3.4 million hectares, or 34 percent of Tete province’s area. Coal mining accounts for roughly one-third of these.
This figure jumps to roughly six million hectares, or approximately 60 percent of Tete province’s area, when licenses pending approval are included. Not all exploration activity leads to mining projects, but the high concentration of land designated for mining licenses contributes to conflicts over land use.”

Stockholm riots
The BBC reports that the fourth night of rioting in Sweden’s capital saw the violence spread beyond Husby, a “deprived, largely immigrant suburb”:

“Stockholm police spokesman Kjell Lindgren said the rioters were a ‘mixture of every kind of people’.
Activists in the Husby area have accused police of racist behaviour – an accusation greeted with scepticism by the police themselves.

The Stockholm police spokesman said rioting had occurred in both deprived parts of the city and parts that would be considered ‘normal’.”

G8 roadmap
Oxfam’s Ben Phillips lays out what he believes the G8 must do to start tackling international tax dodging and land grabbing:

“On land, success at the G8 would include a land transparency initiative, and regulatory guidance to G8 companies and investors, so that the G8 is not complicit in land grabbing. As French Development Minister Pascal Canfin said this week, ‘Without transparency and without protections, land investment can end up as looting. Where the Voluntary Guidelines are not being followed, land investment shouldn’t follow.’
On tax, success at the G8 would include a public registry of the ultimate owners of offshore assets, a deal on sharing of tax information not only between rich countries but with the poorest countries too, and – as they hold one third of the offshore wealth – these agreements must include, in full, all the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.”

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