Latest Developments, August 29

In the latest news and analysis…

Syria divisions
The Wall Street Journal reports that the US/UK push for military intervention in Syria seems to have encountered “resistance and possible delays”:

“[President Obama’s comments] also appeared to moderate U.S. officials’ earlier signals that an attack could be mounted ‘in coming days’ in response to what they call clear-cut indications that Syria used chemical weapons in attacks around Damascus early on Aug. 21. Activists and residents say more than 1,000 people died in the attacks.

A senior administration official said that while the U.S. and U.K. are coordinating closely, domestic British considerations won’t necessarily slow the U.S. decision on military action. ‘We’re making our own decisions in our own timeline,’ the official said.
In the U.S., House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) sent a letter to President Obama demanding a clear explanation of any military action against Syria before it starts, and criticizing the president’s level of consultation with lawmakers. Separately, 116 House lawmakers—98 Republicans and 18 Democrats—signed a letter to Mr. Obama, demanding he seek congressional authorization for a military strike.”

War’s alternatives
The Guardian’s Seumas Milne argues that foreign military intervention will do more harm than good to Syrians:

“More effective would be an extension of the [UN] weapons inspectors’ mandate to secure chemical dumps, backed by a united security council, rather than moral grandstanding by governments that have dumped depleted uranium, white phosphorus and Agent Orange around the region and beyond.
In any case, chemical weapons are far from being the greatest threat to Syria’s people. That is the war itself and the death and destruction that has engulfed the country. If the US, British and French governments were genuinely interested in bringing it to an end – instead of exploiting it to weaken Iran – they would be using their leverage with the rebels and their sponsors to achieve a ceasefire and a negotiated political settlement.
Instead, they seem intent on escalating the war to save Obama’s face and tighten their regional grip.”

Bad company
Les Echos reports that France has added three UK dependencies to its tax haven blacklist:

“The list of territories considered uncooperative on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes now has 10 members.
Three territories have been added to the blacklist: Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and Jersey. Seven other territories continue to be considered opaque and uncooperative: Botswana, Brunei, Guatemala, the Marshall Islands, Montserrat, Nauru and Niue.” [Translated from the French.]

Mining hostage
The CBC reports that a Colombian rebel group has released a Canadian mining company executive abducted seven months ago:

“The National Liberation Army, known by its Spanish initials ELN, had demanded [Gernot] Wober’s employer halt exploration at the Snow Mine property in Sur de Bolivar state, claiming the land was stolen from local communities. Last month, Toronto-based Braeval Mining Corp. said it was pulling out of Colombia.

The ELN’s commander, Nicolas Rodriguez, said in a statement posted on the group’s website that Wober’s release was ‘a humanitarian act.’ ”

Unmanned proliferation
Deutsche Welle reports that the US is offering to sell drones to Germany:

“The US government could deliver to Germany four unarmed MQ-9A Predator B drones, including ground control stations, the Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported in their Wednesday edition, citing a defense ministry answer to a request from the Left party’s parliamentary faction.
The US ‘Letter of Offer and Acceptance’ was submitted June 13, the newspaper reported. It could be possible to convert the four drones into their combat-ready version, called the Reaper, according to the SZ. However, should Germany want combat drones, a new request would have to be made to the US government.”

MLK + 50
The Boston Globe reports on events in Washington marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech:

“But as Obama and a parade of speakers before him made clear, King’s dream remains a work in progress, with voting rights issues again at the forefront and with black Americans facing the same kind of high unemployment rate and other problems that helped spark the march a half a century ago.

‘[Barack Obama]’s good and will only get better,’ [Rev. Jesse] Jackson said. ‘But we need a response to our pain from him. [There are] 2.5 million Americans in prison, half of them African-Americans. Respond to that. These urban ghettos, foreclosed homes, closed schools, closed libraries, closed medical units — we need a response.’

‘The gap in wealth between races hasn’t lessened, it’s grown,’ [Obama said].”

White lives
Amnesty International’s Ann Burroughs calls on US President Barack Obama to stop trying to wage a “global war” that places more value on the lives of some than others:

“Though not rife with the blatant racism that underlay apartheid, these abusive practices persist because the rights and dignity of non-Americans are treated as expendable. Imagine for a moment the U.S. government killing, without explanation, 17 white, Christian Americans in Utah, whom the media termed right-wing ‘suspected militants’ though the government provided no evidence to prove it. Or imagine American prisons holding 89 white Christian American ‘extremists’ without charge or trial, including 56 who a government task force had cleared to leave.
President Obama has sought to distance himself from the abusive post-9/11 policies of torture and rendition, and his Administration has repudiated some of the most Islamophobic rhetoric dominating debates about national security. Yet the message that Guantanamo and secret drone strikes send to the world is that white American lives are worth more than brown or black lives.”

Not on the guest list
Ben Rawlence writes in the New Yorker about an NGO-organized film festival, held at the world’s largest refugee camp, to which Dadaab’s residents were largely not invited:

“Alas, the refugees did not watch ‘Sentinelle di Bronzo,’ nor did they watch most of the other films in the festival, which, it turns out, is not for the refugees at all but, rather, for the aid workers in their fortified compound…The sum total of the festival in the refugee camp itself was a morning of short documentaries made by refugees and shown on large TVs in tents guarded by armed police. The audience was entirely made up of children who sat quietly on mats for a short while but who showed far more excitement at the traditional dances that followed.”

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