Latest Developments, August 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Swiss segregation
The BBC reports that some Swiss towns are planning to ban asylum-seekers from “public places such as swimming pools, playing fields and libraries”:

“Asylum-seekers are to be housed in special centres, mainly former army barracks, and the first one has opened in the town of Bremgarten.

Roman Staub, mayor of the town of Menzingen, said asylum-seekers should be banned from ‘sensitive areas’ such as the vicinity of a school. ‘This is certainly a very difficult area, because here asylum-seekers could meet our schoolchildren – young girls or young boys,’ he said.
In Bremgarten, a church will also be off-limits to asylum-seekers.”

Plan of death
The Guardian reports on a consultation exercise intended as a “reality check” for the UN panel tasked with formulating the post-2015 successors to the Millennium Development Goals:

“Four groups were consulted, each comprising 10 to 14 people, including urban slum dwellers, people with disabilities, nomadic and indigenous people, and those from remote communities.

The most radical vision came from Brazil’s panel, which saw present patterns of development as tantamount to developing a ‘plan of death’ for the planet. The group proposed a so-called plan for global life emphasising the importance of dignity. ‘We understand dignity as the complete fulfilment of human rights and basic security in terms of housing, access to land, health, nourishment, education, transport and leisure,’ it said.”

Strike five
Reuters reports that the latest of a string of US drone strikes in Yemen, the fifth in less than two weeks, has killed “at least six” people:

“Witnesses and local officials in the province of Shabwa said the drone fired at least six missiles at two vehicles in a remote area some 70 km (50 miles) north of the provincial capital, Ataq. Both vehicles were destroyed.
Residents who rushed to the scene found only charred bodies, they said.”

More war
The Financial Times’ Geoff Dyer writes that US President Barrack Obama’s recent pledge to dial down his country’s so-called war on terror has been “largely shredded”:

“It is not clear that the terror threat, which appears to be focused on the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is a reason to double-down on the war on terror tactics.
Some observers believe the plot could be a sign of weakness of an al-Qaeda leadership that is desperate for a high-profile incident to boost its standing. Others suggest that the continued strength of AQAP is a form of blowback for the heavy US drone campaign in Yemen. While the targets of drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan have often been foreign fighters, in Yemen they have been aimed at locals with families and tribes.”

NGO sideshow
The School of Oriental and African Studies’ Michael Jennings argues that six-figure executive salaries are not the real problem with international charities:

“This latest furore is a distraction from what is a genuinely important point made in the Telegraph’s exposé: the need for transparency and openness in organisations that work in the development and humanitarian relief sector. Not just because they receive and spend hundreds of millions of pounds of public funds, but because their decisions affect the lives and prospects of some of the most marginalised people in the world.
There have been significant moves in recent years to make donors and recipient governments more transparent in their dealings. But given the amounts of money donors spend through NGOs, these organisations also need to be equally transparent: in terms of the money they receive, the evaluations of the projects and programmes they engage in, and their own dealings with governments, lobbyists, thinktanks and private sector companies. The best already do this. But transparency is too important to be left to best intentions.”

Bad business
Reuters reports that Guinea could invalidate an Israeli-owned company’s mining permits if its employees are found guilty of corruption:

“BSGR, the mining arm of Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s business empire, is battling Guinea over the right to mine one of the world’s largest untapped iron-ore deposits, known as Simandou.
The Guinean government alleges that BSGR bribed officials and Mamadie Toure, the wife of former President Lansana Conte, to win permits, or titles, to develop the northern half of the deposit, a charge the company has repeatedly rejected.

U.S. authorities in January began investigating potential illegal payments made to obtain mining concessions in Guinea and transfers of those payments into the United States.”

Depicting Africa
Wronging Rights’ Amanda Taub calls for a simple, Bechdel-style test to be applied to films and TV shows set in Africa:

“The Bechdel test is a feminist movie evaluation tool introduced by cartoonist Alison Bechdel. To pass the test, a movie must (1) have two or more female characters, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about a topic other than a man. If a movie doesn’t pass the test, that’s a sign that it’s lacking in female characters, and/or just using them as emotional MacGuffins for the males around them. (Many, many movies do not pass this test.)
I think it’s about time for us to introduce an equivalent test for African characters: if a movie or TV show is set in Africa, then it should (1) have at least two African characters, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about a topic other than poverty, disease, or violent conflict.”

Surveillance dissident
Princeton University’s Richard Falk objects on a number of levels to mainstream US media’s “pro-government bias” in the ongoing Edward Snowden controversy:

“[F]irstly, by consistently referring to Snowden by the demeaning designation of ‘leaker’ rather than as ‘whistleblower’ or ‘surveillance dissident,’ both more respectful and accurate.

Thirdly, the media’s refusal to point out that espionage, the main accusation against Snowden, is the quintessential ‘political offense’ in international law, and as such is routinely excluded from any list of extraditable offenses.

Of course, Putin’s new identity as ‘human rights defender’ lacks any principled credibility given his approach to political dissent in Russia, but that does not diminish the basic correctness of his response to Snowden. There is a certain obtuseness in the American diplomatic shrillness in this instance. Snowden’s acts of espionage are pure political offense.”

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