Latest Developments, June 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Making the rules
The Wall Street Journal reports on the unilateral actions that US officials believe their country can legally take in and around Syria:

“Proponents of the proposal say a no-fly zone could be imposed without a U.N. Security Council resolution, since the U.S. would not regularly enter Syrian airspace and wouldn’t hold Syrian territory.
U.S. planes have air-to-air missiles that could destroy Syrian planes from long ranges. But officials said that aircraft may be required to enter Syrian air space if threatened by advancing Syrian planes. Such an incursion by the U.S., if it were to happen, could be justified as self-defense, officials say.”

Continental boom
The Guardian reports on new UN population projections that suggest an equitable world will require a massively increased voice for Africa:

“The UN report World population prospects: the 2012 revision, published on Thursday, predicts the world’s population, now at 7.2 billion, will reach 8.1 billion in 2025. By mid-century, the world’s population is expected to top 9.5 billion, reaching nearly 11 billion by 2100.
More than half of the growth predicted between now and 2050 is expected in Africa, where the number of people is set to more than double, from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion. Africa’s population will continue to rise even if there is a future drop in the average number of children each woman has, says the report, which predicts the number of people living on the continent could reach 4.2 billion (or more than 35% of total global population) by 2100.”

Unanimous gene ruling
Inter Press Service reports that all nine members of the US Supreme Court have agreed that “naturally occurring DNA” cannot be patented:

“The decision overturns three decades of practise to the contrary by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Health and civil liberties groups are celebrating the unusual unanimous ruling, as are consumer protection advocates.
Although the case dealt specifically with questions regarding the ‘isolating’ of genes within the human genome, the judges did not limit their decision to human genetics, meaning the case will have an effect throughout the biotechnology industry.”

Fear of transparency
The Independent reports that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has asked his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, not to block an agreement aimed at cracking down on “secret companies used for money laundering, tax evasion and terrorist activity” at next week’s G8 summit:

“But after talks in Downing Street last night it was doubtful whether Canada would back Mr Cameron’s ‘full disclosure’ plan for the eight leading economies to create registers of who controls and owns every company based in their country.”

The US and Russia also have doubts about public registers. Mr Cameron may have to settle for a Plan B, under which the G8 nations would set up private registers that could be accessed only by tax and law enforcement authorities. It is not certain Canada would agree to that. Aid agencies say private registers would be second best because it would be harder for the world’s poorest countries to track individuals and businesses avoiding tax in their nations who hide behind anonymous ‘shell companies.’ ”

Tax hunger
Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, writes that “nothing is more crucial in financial or symbolic terms” in the fight against hunger than tax justice:

“It’s not just the usual suspect tax havens that are culpable. The whole world is a tax haven for companies able to navigate between its tax jurisdictions. The G8 cannot control tax policy in developing countries, but it can clamp down on the multinationals and individuals whose wealth is often earned in developing countries but domiciled and managed in London, New York and Paris, perversely causing more cash to flow from poor countries to rich countries than vice versa.”

Green fraud
The Oakland Institute’s Anuradha Mittal uses the example of a US-based company’s duplicitous attempts to establish a massive palm-oil plantation in Cameroon as a reminder that “Africa is open for business, not for theft”:

“Last year, after complaints about [Herakles Farms] to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) highlighted the company’s alleged environmental violations, [CEO Bruce] Wrobel made no attempts to set the record straight. Instead, Herakles resigned from the Roundtable before the claims were to be investigated, spuriously stating that they ‘remain committed’ to RSPO’s standards.

This is a sobering lesson for all parties involved – that the land rush by foreign investors into African nations is not philanthropically driven, despite claims to the contrary. Rather, companies such as Herakles Farms have exploited images of poverty and hunger, and couched their efforts in the language of sustainability, allowing them to handily reap profits from Africa’s resources while undermining national laws, local communities and the environment.”

ICC judged
The Institute for Security Studies’ Solomon Dersso argues that the International Criminal Court’s claims that it is immune to political influence are not entirely convincing:

“While legally speaking this position is largely true, the nature and structure of international politics is such that the application of international justice processes more often than not reflects the distribution of power within the international community. The ICC is not immune to this, and the way in which the ICC launched its case in Libya is a testimony. The speed with which and the way the ICC prosecutor launched this case also betrays the ICC’s acquiescence to its instrumentalisation by UN Security Council politics.

Some of the referrals, such as those in Uganda and Kenya, were inspired by domestic political calculations rather than the interest to serve justice. Indeed, in charging some people and not others in these cases, the ICC was in some ways playing local politics.”

Bad name
The Huffington Post reports that National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell is standing by a team name that a group of US Congress members recently called a “racial, derogatory slur”:

“ ‘The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context,’ Goodell wrote. ‘For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.’ ”

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