Latest Developments, September 24

In the latest news and analysis…

Wage battle
Al Jazeera reports that protests continue in Bangladesh where garment workers are demanding an increase in the monthly minimum wage from $38 to $100:

“Western corporations that rely on Bangladeshi labor to make much of the clothing sold in their stores, including Wal-Mart, Gap and Macy’s, appeared reluctant to comment publicly on the protests — decisions that were criticized by labor-rights activists.
‘If the corporations were to send a clear message that they are willing to pay higher prices to manufacturers so they can pay higher wages to workers, that could have a real influence on negotiations,’ said Liana Foxvog, director of organizing at the International Labor Rights Forum, a U.S.-based group that advocates for workers in countries like Bangladesh.
But that’s unlikely to happen, Foxvog said.”

Serval omission
Le Mamouth blogger Jean-Marc Tanguy writes that the French military “surely forgot”, in its new detailed list of all the ammunition it has fired in Mali, to mention what actually got hit:

“…French soldiers fired 34,000 small-caliber rounds. 58 missiles were also launched, and Caesar howitzers contributed 753 shots. AMX-10RCR tanks chimed in with 80 shots and VBCI infantry fighting vehicles, nicknamed the ‘Saint Bernards of the desert’ spat out 1,250 25mm rounds.
Helicopters reportedly fired 3,500 shells and fighter jets dropped 250 bombs.” [Translated from the French.]

Laundered oil
Reuters reports that “much of the proceeds” from Nigeria’s stolen oil, estimated to cost the country $5 billion a year in lost revenue, are being laundered in the US and UK:

While oil majors like Royal Dutch Shell and Italy’s Eni are often the first to complain about theft, it is unclear how much they are losing from it. A measure of acceptable losses may be keeping them from taking determined preventive action, the [Chatham House] report said. Oil firms do not pay royalties on stolen oil.
‘Nigerian crude oil is being stolen on an industrial scale. Proceeds are laundered through world financial centres and used to buy assets in and outside Nigeria,’ said the 70-page report, entitled ‘Nigeria’s Criminal Crude’.

The report named the United States, Britain, Dubai, Indonesia, India, Singapore and Switzerland as likely money-laundering hotspots, and the United States, Brazil, China, Thailand, Indonesia and the Balkans as the most likely destination for stolen oil.

Looming coup
The New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch and UN Dispatch’s Mark Goldberg debate via Twitter the proper course of action should Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, pay a visit to UN headquarters in New York:

Goldberg: “Genocide is a uniquely horrid crime. Arresting Bashir if he comes to NYC should trump other diplomatic considerations ‪http://bit.ly/15953P9”
Gourevitch: “If US were to carry out Sudan coup d’état as you advocate, should the US then be held responsible for consequences in Sudan?”
Goldberg: “The USA would be executing the [UN Security Council’s] will when it referred the case to the ICC.”
Gourevitch: “That avoids my serious question. You call for decapitating regime – do you. Say what happens as result is irrelevant?”
Goldberg: “but yes, I do believe the int’l community bears some responsibility for helping w/ a smooth transition”
Gourevitch: “Right, it’s no simple legal/moral matter. It’s a colossal political act w/colossal political consequences & not so obvious.”

Dropping H-bombs
The Guardian reports on new evidence suggesting that US President John F. Kennedy came much closer to nuking America than any Soviet leader ever did:

“The bombs fell to earth after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air, and one of the devices behaved precisely as a nuclear weapon was designed to behave in warfare: its parachute opened, its trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage.
Each bomb carried a payload of 4 megatons – the equivalent of 4 million tons of TNT explosive. Had the device detonated, lethal fallout could have been deposited over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and as far north as New York city – putting millions of lives at risk.”

Cultural divide
Intellectual Property Watch reports on the resumption of UN debate over a possible international agreement on the relationship between intellectual property and “genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore”

“This has been a prickly issue, as a majority of developing countries would like to have a binding legal instrument and a number of developed countries have resisted the idea of a binding instrument.

The European Union said it recognises the importance of the work of the committee and ‘looks forward to establishing a work programme’ but with the understanding that any international instrument be non-binding, flexible and sufficiently clear. There is no agreement on the nature of the instrument, the delegate of Lithuania said on behalf of the group.”

Less is more
The Globe and Mail’s Geoffrey York asks if the absence of foreign aid has strengthened democracy in the breakaway republic of Somaliland:

“Somaliland’s government survives on taxation revenue, which, in turn, requires a degree of political accountability and transparency. In contrast, there are 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa where foreign aid is so massive that it equals more than half of government spending.
‘If these aid levels damage the quality of governance in recipient countries – as Somaliland’s experience suggests they may – then it might be the case that, in the long run, less money may actually do more good,’ [Stanford University’s Nicholas] Eubank wrote in a blog post.”

Resource curse
UN expert on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya argues that “economic development”, as conceived by most governments and corporations, leads all too often to the loss of self-determination and culture for those who live off the land:

“In the case of indigenous peoples, their connections to the land invariably have a longer history than the government deciding what to do with the land. According to the Rights and Resources Initiative, ownership of roughly one-half of the global south is contested, directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of over two billion people. This is no surprise, since over sixty percent of the developing world’s forests are administered by governments – who all too often give it away for pennies per hectare, for the sake of ‘quick-fix’ development.”

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