Latest Developments, August 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Three strikes
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports on three more US drone strikes in Yemen, bringing the total over the last 12 days to eight attacks:

“A Yemeni official told the Associated Press the bodies were seen lying charred alongside their vehicle. The anonymous source said five of the dead were Yemeni while the sixth was of another Arab nationality. However local security officials told CNN only four of the dead had links to [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] – two were civilians. This was the second time civilian casualties were reported in this series of [eight] strikes.

Unnamed US officials told NBC News drones launched this strike and the six before it in response to intercepted communications suggesting a terrorist attack was coming. The officials said ‘there is no evidence any of those killed could be considered among al Qaeda leadership.”

Tons of radioactivity
Reuters reports that Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant is leaking 300 tons of “highly radioactive water” daily into the Pacific Ocean:

“The revelation amounted to an acknowledgement that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) has yet to come to grips with the scale of the catastrophe, 2 1/2 years after the plant was hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami. Tepco only recently admitted water had leaked at all.

Local fishermen and independent researchers had already suspected a leak of radioactive water, but Tepco denied the claims.”

Still waiting
The BBC reports that the recent security scare said to be emanating from Yemen could impact the long awaited release of the many Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay:

“In another development, a Yemeni diplomatic source told BBC Arabic that the US had suspended arrangements to return about 100 Yemeni detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
However a White House official said there had been no policy change and that President Barack Obama’s May decision to lift a moratorium on transferring Guantanamo detainees to Yemen remained in effect.
‘He lifted the moratorium on transfers in favour of a case-by-case evaluation. That evaluation necessarily will take into account security conditions. The security situation is always taken into account,’ the official told the BBC.”

Soy victims
Time Magazine reports that one of US agribusiness giant Monsanto’s products may be poisoning people in Paraguay:

“Around 9,000 families a year in a nation of fewer than 7 million people migrate from the countryside to cities because of soy monoculture, according to BaseIS, an Asunción-based social research center. ‘Peasants are displaced because they are being poisoned,’ says Óscar Rivas, a former environment minister.
Dionisio Gómez moved to Asunción in 1998 because the water in Campo Agua’e, his village in the state of Canindeyú, was contaminated. ‘They would fumigate the soy and the chemicals infiltrated our land,’ says Gómez, who now lives in a slum. Two of Gómez’s children were stillborn with defects. Doctors never gave a cause, but academic studies — including a 2008 paper on Paraguay published by the American Academy of Pediatrics — say herbicides, specifically glyphosate, cause birth malformations.
Monsanto, the multinational that first brought glyphosate to market, says on its Paraguayan website that none of the studies are ‘serious.’ ”

Multinational corruption
The BBC reports that a South African corruption inquiry into a massive 1999 arms deal has finally begun:

“The huge deal – post-apartheid South Africa’s largest such transaction – was intended to modernise its national defences through the purchase of fighter jets, submarines, corvettes, helicopters and tanks.
It involved companies from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Britain, France and South Africa.
The initial cost was about $3bn (£2bn) but this has since ballooned to around $7bn.
Corruption allegations swirled around the deal from the start.”

Sweatshop locator
The New York Times reports on a Hong Kong-based company that is the top “matchmaker” between factories in poor countries and retailers in rich countries:

“But in pioneering and perfecting the global hunt for ways to produce clothing more quickly and cheaply, Li & Fung, which had $20 billion in revenue last year, has been described by critics as the garment industry’s ‘sweatshop locator.’
‘If globalization is a race to the bottom, where lowest wages win,’ said Cathy Feingold, director of international affairs for the A.F.L.-C.I.O., ‘Li & Fung is the sherpa showing companies the fastest route down that slope.’ ”

Staying put
Reuters reports that, “despite grumbles,” multinational oil companies do not appear to be leaving the Niger Delta anytime soon:

“ ‘Nigeria’s “difficult” operating environment, security concerns and the non-passage of the [Petroleum Industry Bill] all provide useful cover for what may essentially be a portfolio optimisation process,’ said Razia Khan, Head of Africa Research at Standard Chartered.

If anything, they will use their grievances as leverage in negotiations with government over licenses and taxes.”

Sacrosanct secrecy
Reuters also reports that a Swiss court has upheld the continued detention of a witness in a French tax evasion investigation for violating the country’s famous banking secrecy:

“Pierre Condamin-Gerbier, a former employee at Geneva-based private bank Reyl & Cie, has said he has a list of French politicians with undeclared funds in secret Swiss bank accounts and in July appeared before a French parliamentary commission investigating tax fraud.
He was arrested shortly after his return from France when an investigation was opened against him into allegations of dealing in commercial information.

Herve Falciani, a former employee of HSBC’s private banking unit in Switzerland who gave evidence at the same French parliamentary commission investigation is wanted in Switzerland on charges of stealing data on tens of thousands of bank accounts that a number of European countries have used to pursue suspected tax evaders.”

Inequality’s bright side
Oxfam’s Ben Phillips explains why, despite the fact that the world’s “300 richest people have the same wealth as the 3 billion poorest,” he is optimistic about global inequality:

“Because we are talking about it. Because people are saying it’s a problem. Because in a counterpoint to how the neoliberals of the 70s and 80s changed the conversation from community to individualism to break the post-war consensus that had limited inequality, so now the conversation is shifting back to community. People are challenging the idea that “economic shock treatment” cures when it literally kills. They are speaking out against the profit maximisation mantra that corporations should behave in ways which we would call psychopathic in normal human interaction.
When problems are invisibilised they cannot be fixed.”

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