Latest Developments, September 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Glimmer of hope
The Washington Post reports on what it calls “the first indication that a diplomatic solution may be possible” over Syria’s chemical weapons:

“President Obama on Monday called a Russian proposal for Syria to turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors in order to avoid a military strike a ‘potentially positive development,’ that could represent a ‘significant breakthrough,’ but he said he remains skeptical the Syrian government would follow through on its obligations based on its recent track record.

On Monday, while meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] said his country would ask Syria to relinquish control of its chemical weapons to international monitors to prevent a U.S. strike. Lavrov also called on Syria to sign and ratify the Convention on Chemical Weapons, which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.

Moualem said Syria ‘welcomes the Russian initiative,’ but he did not say whether his country would agree to what Russia was asking. ‘We also welcome the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is trying to prevent American aggression against our people,’ Moulaem said.”

Re-homing
Reuters has published a five-part investigative series into “America’s underground market for adopted children”:

“No authority tracks what happens after a child is brought to America, so no one knows how often international adoptions fail. The U.S. government estimates that domestic adoptions fail at a rate ranging from ‘about 10 to 25 percent.’ If international adoptions fail with about the same frequency, then more than 24,000 foreign adoptees are no longer with the parents who brought them to the United States. Some experts say the percentage could be higher given the lack of support for those parents.

The story of the Easons and the girls and boys they have taken through re-homing illustrates the many ways in which the U.S. government fails to protect children of adoptions gone awry. It shows how virtually anyone determined to get a child can do so with ease, and how children brought to America can be abruptly discarded and recycled.”

Throwing bombs
The Globe and Mail reports that Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has spoken out against multiculturalism and in favour of her proposed “charter of values”:

“She told [Montreal’s Le Devoir] that her government is leaning towards the French model of secularism, blasting what she called the English model of multiculturalism.
‘In England, they get into fights and throw bombs at one another because of multiculturalism and people get lost in that type of a society,’ she said.

The Quebec government is planning to lay out a series of ‘orientations’ and ‘proposals’ for its Charter next week, while a full bill will be tabled only after a consultation period, likely later in the fall.”

Anti-graft suggestions
The Wall Street Journal reports that efforts to tackle corruption at last week’s G20 summit were largely of the non-legally binding variety:

“In a progress report, the [anti-graft] working group said it endorsed the non-binding ‘G20 Guiding Principles on Enforcement of the Foreign Bribery Offense’ and ‘Guiding Principles to Combat Solicitation,’ both of which it said identify measures that have been successful at enforcing anti-foreign bribery law.

In addition, a 27-page declaration issued by the G-20 said it established a network to ‘share information and cooperate’ to deny corrupt officials entry into a member country.”

Tracking inequality
Newcastle University’s Peter Edward and King’s College London’s Andy Sumner have written a paper looking at trends in global inequality, both between and within countries, since 1990:

“Not surprisingly, but little noted, is the ‘China effect’ or the role of China in determining
these trends. Indeed, the picture looks rather different when China is excluded: in the rest of the world outside China between-country inequality rose in the 1980s and 1990s but has then stayed relatively constant since 2000. Throughout this entire period within-country inequality has overall been remarkably constant – as some countries have become less equal, others have become more so. In short, in the last 20 to 30 years, falls in total global inequality, and in global between-country inequality, and rises in global within-country inequality are all predominantly attributable to rising prosperity in China.”

Pacific pivot
Ateneo De Manila University’s Richard Heydarian says that the US push for a greater military presence in the Philippines could be “a game-changer” in the South China Sea:

“The proposed agreement provides a framework for the semi-permanent ‘rotational’ stationing of American troops and military hardware in the Philippines and once implemented will provide new strategic ballast to the US’s efforts to counterbalance China’s influence in the region

The US has pushed for a 20-year rotational presence agreement, which would most likely raise some legal debates over its constitutionality.”

Cheaper AFRICOM
The US Government Accountability Office has released a report in which it suggests the Pentagon should consider sending more personnel from its Africa Command, currently based in Germany, to “forward locations”:

“In discussions with GAO, officials from the Central and Southern Commands stated that they had successfully overcome negative effects of having a headquarters in the United States by maintaining a forward presence in their theaters. In sum, neither the analysis nor the letter announcing the decision to retain AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart explains why these operational factors outweighed the cost savings and economic benefits associated with moving the headquarters to the United States. Until the costs and benefits of maintaining AFRICOM in Germany are specified and weighed against the costs and benefits of relocating the command, the department may be missing an opportunity to accomplish its missions successfully at a lower cost.”

P5 problems
Veteran journalist Ian Birrell hopes that the international diplomatic standoff over Syria will finally lead to “reforms that are so essential and universally acknowledged” at the UN Security Council:

“Should a corrupt oligarchy have carte blanche in perpetuity to determine the rules of international engagement? And indeed, [does the UK] deserve a permanent seat round the table as our power wanes and we demonstrate a new reluctance to engage in punishing those who break global rules on war? Especially when there is no such authority given to the world’s biggest democracy, India, or to a Muslim nation, or any of the 54 countries in Africa whose continent accounts for more than three-quarters of the council’s debates.

The most hopeful solution is to bring in a second tier of permanent members, then slowly strip away the right to veto of the fractious five through majority voting.”

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