Latest Developments, August 15

In the latest news and analysis…

Window dressing
The New York Times reports the US is cancelling war games but so far maintaining massive military aid to Egypt, as President Obama said the violent crackdown against protestors in Cairo means “traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual”:

“Mr. Obama’s announcement, though less sweeping than other potential steps like suspending $1.3 billion in American military aid to Egypt, is the first concrete American response to the violence, which American officials for weeks have urged the Egyptian authorities to avoid.
The joint military exercises, known as Bright Star, were scheduled to start next month.

The president said he had asked his national security staff to study whether further measures were warranted, given the widespread bloodshed in Cairo and other cities.”

Workers in diapers
ABC News reports on alleged “problems” at a Korean-owned factory in Honduras that makes parts for American cars:

“For starters, workers at this factory claim that the company has restricted bathroom time so severely that some female employees have actually chosen to wear diapers on the assembly line to avoid wetting themselves.
Workers also accuse the company of firing almost anyone who joins the factory’s union, especially those who take on leadership roles. Union leaders claim that Kyungshin-Lear forces pregnant women to stand up for hours as they assemble electrical wiring systems for U.S. cars, and say that the company has violated workers’ rights to privacy by placing video cameras in the factory’s bathrooms.”

Tax-haven aid
The Guardian reports that the “investment arm” of the UK government’s aid agency is routing much of its money through tax havens:

“A Guardian analysis of data released in response to a Freedom of Information request reveals how the CDC spent almost £180m of a total £375m of development money via Mauritius, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, Guernsey, Jersey and Vanuatu.

Wholly owned by [the Department for International Development], CDC is supposed to be a ‘pioneering investor’ in developing countries. Its net investments count as official aid, and towards meeting the UK commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income as aid. Coalition development secretaries have pushed for increased private sector investment as a core plank of British aid policy.

Development experts said the CDC’s use of tax havens undermined the UK’s efforts to help poor countries.”

Sweet deal
Reuters reports that Italian oil giant Eni has agreed to pay the Mozambican government a single-digit tax rate on the $4.2 billion sale of a gas field stake:

“Analysts had estimated that the oil and gas group’s tax bill on the deal could be as high as $1.35 billion if Mozambique imposed capital gains tax of 32 percent – a fixed rate its parliament tried to make law in December.
President Armando Guebuza has put the draft law on hold.
‘On the face of it, it seems to me a very good rate indeed,’ Mediobanca Securities oil analyst Andrea Scauri said.”

Trade over democracy
Trent University’s Paula Butler and York University graduate student Evans Rubara question the legality of the new Canada-Tanzania investment agreement if, as it seems, the negotiations were not “subject to a legitimate democratic process”:

“Given Canada’s stated commitment to supporting transparency in governance practices in countries of the Global South, did Canada take any steps to encourage or enable the Tanzanian government to popularize the content of the proposed investment agreement, educate the citizenry and provide forums for discussion and debate?
Notably, the official signed version of the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement between the United Republic of Tanzania and Canada is written only in Canada’s two official languages – English and French – and not in Kiswahili. Does a Kiswahili translation exist, and if so, has it been circulated to Tanzanian stakeholders such as parliamentarians, local governments and civil society organizations? It appears not.”

Rights of nature
Environment & Energy Publishing reports on an American environmentalist who is calling for “a paradigm shift in how laws — and, thus, the courts — view nature”:

“The nation’s most important environmental laws, [the Earth Law Center’s Linda Sheehan] argues, condone the degradation of natural resources and threats to public health by allowing polluters to continue discharging contaminants, albeit within permit limits. The laws view the environment as property, she contends, instead of taking a more holistic view. Nature, she argues, has inherent legal rights.
Welcome to the ‘rights of nature’ movement, which Sheehan compares to earlier crusades to secure full rights of citizenship for African-Americans and women. Both groups, she notes, were once considered property.”

Fear & loathing in Yemen
Reuters reports on the anger stoked among Yemenis by the recent spate of US drone strikes in their country:

“Drones have killed at least 37 people in just over two weeks amid extra security measures that have frayed Yemeni nerves.
In Sanaa, a U.S. reconnaissance plane buzzed overhead for hours each day and security checkpoints mushroomed across the capital during the normally joyous Muslim Eid al-Fitr feast.
‘[President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi] has done nothing for Yemen, except to let American planes kill people whose guilt is not known,’ complained Majida al-Maqtari, a Sanaa school teacher who said she had voted for Hadi in the last election but would back an opponent next time.”

Diminishing renewables
The Copenhagen Consensus Center’s Bjørn Lomborg scoffs at the notion that the world is relying more and more on renewable energy sources:

“The most renewables-intensive places in the world are also the poorest. Africa gets almost 50% of its energy from renewables, compared to just 8% for the [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development]. Even the European OECD countries, at 11.8%, are below the global average.
The reality is that humanity has spent recent centuries getting away from renewables. In 1800, the world obtained 94% of its energy from renewable sources. That figure has been declining ever since.”

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