Latest Developments, June 5

In the latest news and analysis…

House cleaning
The Guardian reports that UK Prime Minister David Cameron is urging all of Britain’s oversees territories, including some of the world’s most notorious tax havens, to sign agreements on sharing tax information:

“Britain has made a clampdown on corporate and individual tax avoidance the central theme of its chairmanship of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland on 17 and 18 June, and Cameron has decided that he cannot be a credible chair of the summit if he is not seen to be trying to put Britain’s own house in order.

The precise constitutional relationship between the UK and the overseas territories is a matter of dispute, but some aid agencies claim the UK can in effect force the crown dependencies to close down the tax loopholes.”

War on drones
The Associated Press reports that new Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has pledged to end US drone strikes in his country:

“ ‘This daily routine of drone attacks, this chapter shall now be closed,’ Sharif said to widespread applause. ‘We do respect others’ sovereignty. It is mandatory on others that they respect our sovereignty.’
But he gave few details on how he might end the strikes. Many in Pakistan say the strikes kill large numbers of innocent civilians – something the U.S. denies – and end up breeding more extremism by those seeking retribution.”

Freeze ended
The Financial Times reports that Argentina’s top court has lifted a freeze on assets belonging to US oil giant Chevron, which stemmed from a $19 billion environmental damages ruling in Ecuador:

“The asset freeze had been ordered by Argentine judge Adrián Elcuj Miranda last year under a treaty to which Ecuador and Argentina are signatories.
However, legal action continues on having the Ecuador judgment legally validated by an Argentine court, according to Enrique Bruchou, an Argentine lawyer co-ordinating efforts to seek enforcement of the ruling outside Ecuador. The same judge is hearing that case.

Plaintiffs maintain that Chevron’s subsidiaries cannot be excluded from the environmental damages suit.”

The company you keep
The Guardian reports on the guest list for this year’s summit of the “secretive” Bilderberg group which brings together political and business leaders from Europe and North America for informal talks:

“A list of about 140 participants, made up almost overwhelmingly of white males but described as ‘a diverse group of political leaders and experts from industry’, was published on Monday by the organisation. It included only 14 women.

Attenders from financial backgrounds include Marcus Agius, the former chairman of Barclays who quit the post in the wake of the Libor interbank lending rate scandal, as well as Douglas J Flint, group chairman of HSBC Holdings plc, which was hit with a $1.9bn (£1.25bn) fine last December over allegations it had acted as banker for rogue states, terrorists and drug lords.
Peter Sutherland, the chairman of Goldman Sachs International, and Michael J Evans, vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs & Co, are the participants from the investment banking giant whose involvement in the sale of high-risk mortgage related investments has borne much of the blame for causing the 2008 global financial crisis.”

Big farming
The Thompson Reuters Foundation reports on calls for the UK to stop funding a G8 food scheme for Africa described by critics as representing “a new wave of colonialism”:

“More than 25 UK campaign groups are urging British Prime Minister David Cameron to withhold 395 million pounds pledged to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition over the next three years.

One major concern is a requirement that African nations change their seed laws, trade laws and land ownership at the expense of local farmers and local food needs.
Campaigners also fear it will allow big multinational seed, fertiliser and agrochemical companies such as Yara, Monsanto, Syngenta and Cargill to set the agenda.”

Sahel security
Voice of America reports on “stepped up” security at Western installations in the Sahel following attacks on foreign-owned gas and uranium facilities since France’s military intervention in Mali began earlier this year:

“ ‘It [France] gets not far short of 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power – that’s by far the highest proportion in the world. It uses around 12,500 tons of uranium per year. Not far short of a third of that comes from Niger already,’ said [Imperial College London’s Malcolm] Grimston.

‘[French state-owned nuclear giant] Areva has invested something like 1.5 billion euros [almost $2 billion] in the new [Imouraren] mine in Niger. That is a very key area, and I think France will be very keen to maintain its long-term interest and its long-term security in that area,’ he said.”

Oil City
Le Monde reports on the changes – so far, not for the better – in the Ghanaian city of Takoradi since the UK’s Tullow Oil began production at the offshore Jubilee oil field in 2010:

“Local radio journalist Ebenezer Afanyi Dadzie has seen the city change rapidly but without any real improvement in the daily lives of Ghanaians. ‘For the moment, there are additional problems for poor people.’
The arrival of expatriate workers led to an explosion of housing and land prices. ‘A room rented out at 40 cedis [US$20] now costs 80 or 100. Bit by bit, residents have had to leave for the suburbs,’ the journalist explained. A tour of the city centre, where huge hotel complexes have sprung up, demonstrates this real estate madness.

For now, oil production has created few jobs. The men working on the offshore rigs are expats.” [Translated from the French.]

State of siege
The Associated Press reports on “the fear that rules” the area surrounding a mining project in Guatemala owned by Canada’s Tahoe Resources:

“Protesters say the project, called El Escobal, will drain or pollute the local water supply, and hundreds of people have blocked roads and burned buildings to stop it from going forward. That’s tested President Otto Perez Molina, who sent in hundreds of troops and suspended the right to hold public gatherings in four townships near the mine in early May. It was the second time during his 16 months in office that he has declared a state of siege in response to protests against a foreign-run mining project.

[Oscar Morales, president of the Community Development Council] said eight community consultations of 4,222 adults found that nearly all of them opposed the mine. He said he wants to hold another legally binding community consultation about the mine, but municipal governments have refused.”

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