Latest Developments, June 25

In the latest news and analysis…

Green light for blue helmets
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council has unanimously approved the start of peacekeeping operations in Mali on July 1:

“The 15-member Security Council unanimously approved in April a mandate for the 12,600-member force, to be known as MINUSMA, but its deployment had been subject to a council review on Tuesday of Mali’s security situation. French troops will support the peacekeepers if needed to combat Islamist extremist threats.

Once the U.N. peacekeeping force is deployed, France will continue to handle counterterrorism and peace enforcement operations as needed in Mali, while the U.N. blue helmets will handle traditional peacekeeping duties of policing and trying to ensure new violence does not erupt.”

History dismissed
The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson comments on US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s description of her colleagues’ “demolition” of the Voting Rights Act as “hubris”:

“Perhaps she’s right; but it could also be said that the majority ruling was built more on resentment of a particularly petulant kind: grudging about the need to remember an unpleasant past and to be mindful of the marginalized; offended by the idea that anyone would consider certain parts of the country more racist than others, or, really, that anyone is particularly racist at all these days.

‘As applied to Shelby County, the VRA’s preclearance requirement is hardly contestable,’ Ginsburg wrote, and the same could be said about Alabama as a whole. Ginsburg quoted an F.B.I. investigation of Alabama legislators who referred to black voters as ‘Aborigines’ and talked about how to keep them from the polls: ‘These conversations occurred not in the 1870’s, or even in the 1960’s, they took place in 2010.’”

Dangerous liaisons
In the wake of last week’s deadly attack on a UN compound in Mogadishu, Inner City Press reports on allegations that the actions of one UN agency operating in Somalia may be putting the organization’s personnel in danger:

“Now Inner City Press has exclusively been provided by whistleblowers with detailed complaints about the UN Mine Action Service’s David Bax, including that he shares both genetic information and physical evidence from bombings with American intelligence services, including through shadow private military contractor Bancroft Global Development.
According to the whistleblowers, this combined with Bax and ‘his’ Denel contractors traveling armed around Mogadishu leads to a perception that they and the UN have taken sides, and helps to make them a target.”

Militarized border
Agence France-Presse reports that US lawmakers are pushing for a military “surge” along the border with Mexico to prevent illegal immigration:

“Twenty thousand new border patrol agents, hundreds of miles of fencing, billions of dollars in drones, radar and sensors: US lawmakers are proposing a militaristic remedy to staunch illegal immigrant flow from Mexico.

In Washington, the ‘border surge’ proposal is already being compared with the ‘surge’ of US war troop reinforcements that president George W. Bush ordered to Iraq in 2007.
‘That military reference makes sense because it is going to militarize hundreds of American communities in the Southwest,’ said veteran Senate Democrat Patrick Leahy.
He sneered that the border security modification ‘reads like a Christmas wish list for Halliburton,’ one of the nation’s largest defense and energy contractors.”

Gulf Intervention
Radio France Internationale reports on the French military presence in the Gulf of Guinea, off Africa’s west coast:

“Since 1990, France has maintained a ship on a near permanent basis in the region as part of Operation Corymb. Currently, the frigate Touche-Tréville is patrolling the area. This ship intervened to assist the oil tanker MT Adour, attacked near the Togolese capital Lomé on the night of Wednesday June 19 to Thursday June 20. Its crew has since been freed. The Navy stresses, however, that ‘Operation Corymb’s mission is to protect French citizens and interests in the region. At this time, this boat is not dedicated to the fight against piracy.’ ”

African debt redux
Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Hamid Rashid ask if the new enthusiasm for sovereign-bond issues in Africa is paving the way for “the world’s next debt crisis“:

“Signs of default stress are already showing. In March 2009 – less than two years after the issue – Congolese bonds were trading for 20 cents on the dollar, pushing the yield to a record high. In January 2011, Côte d’Ivoire became the first country to default on its sovereign debt since Jamaica in January 2010.
In June 2012, Gabon delayed the coupon payment on its $1 billion bond, pending the outcome of a legal dispute, and was on the verge of a default. Should oil and copper prices collapse, Angola, Gabon, Congo, and Zambia may encounter difficulties in servicing their sovereign bonds.

Countries contemplating joining the bandwagon of sovereign-bond issuers would do well to learn the lessons of the all-too-frequent debt crises of the past three decades. Matters may become even worse in the future, because so-called ‘vulture’ funds have learned how to take full advantage of countries in distress. Recent court rulings in the United States have given the vultures the upper hand, and may make debt restructuring even more difficult, while enthusiasm for bailouts is clearly waning.”

GM dispute
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa’s Million Belay and the African Biodiversity Network’s Ruth Nyambura reject the UK environment minister’s claim that Africa needs genetically modified crops:

“It is a myth that the green revolution has helped poor farmers. By pushing just a few varieties of seed that need fertilisers and pesticides, agribusiness has eroded our indigenous crop diversity. It is not a solution to hunger and malnutrition, but a cause. If northern governments genuinely wish to help African agriculture, they should support the revival of seed-saving practices, to ensure that there is diversity in farmers’ hands.
But GM crops pose an even greater threat to Africa’s greatest wealth. GM companies make it illegal to save seed.”

Growth for some
King’s College London’s Andy Sumner looks into the “winners and losers” of global growth between 1990 and 2010:

“Third, one can say that 15% of global consumption growth from 1990 to 2010 went to the richest 1% of global population. At the other end of the distribution, the 53% under $2 in 1990 benefitted from less than an eighth of that global growth; and the 37% on less than $1.25 a day benefitted by little more than a twentieth of that growth.”

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