Latest Developments, August 2

In the latest news and analysis…

Unlawful discrimination
The Independent reports that the UK Home Office is facing an investigation over “racist” spot checking for illegal immigrants:

“The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it was demanding an explanation for raids in the past week which led to the detention of dozens of suspected illegal immigrants. It said it intended to assess whether ‘unlawful discrimination took place’ with officials only stopping non-white people.
The EHRC is responsible for policing the Equalities Act to which all public bodies are bound. But as news of the checks emerged two women’s rights groups told The Independent they were aware of cases where women reporting domestic violence had been asked about their immigration status.”

Double-tap strikes
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that US drones appear to have restarted targeting rescuers at strike sites in 2012:

“[Mushtaq Yusufzai’s] findings indicate that five double-tap strikes did indeed take place again in mid-2012, one of which also struck a mosque. In total 53 people were killed in these attacks with 57 injured, the report suggests.
Yusufzai could find no evidence to support media claims that rescuers had been targeted on two further occasions.”

Mixed messages
Foreign policy reports on comments and actions that suggest there is little hope US Secretary of State John Kerry will get his stated wish for drone strikes in Pakistan to end “very, very soon”:

“Three hours after Kerry’s comments first broke, a spokesperson took them right back. ‘In no way would we ever deprive ourselves of a tool to fight a threat if it arises,’ a State Department spokesperson said.

When all the terrorists are dead, the United States will be happy to end its program of covert drone strikes in Pakistan. Until that day comes — and it will be ‘soon,’ according to Kerry — strikes are likely to continue. To underscore that reality, the United States carried out three drone strikes in Pakistan during the month of July. And in Yemen, the drone war made a roaring comeback this week with the United States carrying out three strikes in five days.”

Democratic coup
The Washington Post’s Max Fisher writes that coup-prone Pakistan was an odd place for US Secretary of State John Kerry to say that the Egyptian military, by overthrowing Egypt’s elected president, was “restoring democracy”:

“ ‘The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descent into chaos,’ Kerry said. That’s how many Egypt analysts see the events of early July, when millions of protesters clearly desired military intervention. But Kerry added, more controversially, ‘The military did not take over, to the best of our judgment … to run the country. There’s a civilian government.’ By all appearances, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, the defense minister who formally announced the military’s removal of Morsi, is the now country’s de facto head of state.

Legalizing it
The BBC reports that MPs in Uruguay have passed a bill that, pending senate approval, would make the country the world’s first to “regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana”:

“The state would assume ‘the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialisation and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products’.
Buyers would have to be registered on a database and be over the age of 18. They would be able to buy up to 40g (1.4oz) per month in specially licensed pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home.
Foreigners would be excluded from the measure.”

Extended ban
Agence France-Presse reports that French President François Hollande has announced an extension of the moratorium on Monsanto’s genetically modified MON810 corn the day after the ban was struck down for violating European law:

“ ‘Why have we banned genetically modified organisms? Not because we refuse progress, but in the name of progress. We cannot allow a product, a corn, to have negative impacts on other crops,’ said François Hollande, speaking from a farm in the Sarlat region.” [Translated from the French.]

Corporate veil
The Wall Street Journal reports that a group of US senators is trying “once again” to shed light on corporate ownership:

“The lawmakers are trying, for the fourth consecutive Congress, to get the bill passed. Under the latest iteration of the bill, states would be required to add a single additional question to their existing incorporation forms that would ask for the name of the person behind the corporation being formed. States wouldn’t have to verify it, but people submitting false information would be subject to penalties.

U.S. foreign policy also has been pressuring other countries to disclose the hidden owners of companies, to root out corruption, the lawmakers said.
‘The fact that we have corporate secrecy right here in our backyard contradicts U.S. efforts to end corporate secrecy offshore,’ said [Senator Carl] Levin.”

Nobody killed
The Telegraph reports on a potential boost to Wikileaker Bradley Manning’s chances of avoiding a maximum 136-year prison sentence:

“The sentencing hearing began with testimony from retired Brigadier General Robert Carr, who in 2010 led an emergency Pentagon review into the impact of leaked war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although the mass leak ‘hit us in the face’ the review did not find any evidence that civilians named in the secret files had then been targeted by militants, Gen Carr said.”

UN enforcement
The Associated Press reports that UN peacekeepers have begun setting up a zone in eastern DR Congo where only members of the country’s military can carry arms:

“Earlier this week, the U.N. peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO issued an ultimatum before beginning the disarming effort.

In New York, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the security zone ‘is not an offensive operation and is not targeted at any one armed group.’ He emphasized that the disarmament effort will protect civilians.”

Run-off required
Reuters reports that there will be a second round in Mali’s presidential election after frontrunner Ibrahim Boubacar Keita failed to get an outright majority from the record-turnout 51.5 percent of registered voters:

“Provisional results gave Keita 39 percent of votes cast in the July 28 poll, well ahead of [Soumaila] Cisse’s 19 percent. But the third and fourth placed candidates may now rally behind Cisse, with whom they have been in coalition.

Fears of a chaotic poll were not borne out and voting was largely orderly, though some voters struggled to find their names on voter lists and voting in refugee camps, embassies abroad and the northern region of Kidal was disrupted.”

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