Latest Developments, September 30

In the latest news and analysis…

Partial pullout
Agence France-Presse reports that the US is hoping to keep “around 10,000” troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014:

“But a new security agreement is needed to allow for the post-2014 presence, including provisions allowing the United States access to various bases.
‘We’re working with President Karzai and his government to get that bilateral security agreement completed and signed,’ [US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel] said.

But Karzai has insisted Afghanistan would not be rushed over the negotiations and has even hinted that an agreement might not be finalised before presidential elections in April next year.”

Historic call
The Associated Press calls last week’s telephone conversation between the US and Iranian presidents “one of the most hopeful steps toward reconciliation in decades”:

“[Iranian President Hassan Rouhani], at a news conference in New York, linked the U.S. and Iran as ‘great nations,’ a remarkable reversal from the anti-American rhetoric of his predecessors, and he expressed hope that at the very least the two governments could stop the escalation of tensions.
The new Iranian president has repeatedly stressed that he has ‘full authority’ in his outreach to the U.S., a reference to the apparent backing by Iran’s ultimate decision-maker, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Such support would give Rouhani a political mandate that could extend beyond the nuclear issue to possible broader efforts at ending the long estrangement between Tehran and Washington — and the West in general.”

Weather forecast
The Guardian reports that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is only slightly less grim than its 2007 predecessor:

“East Africa can expect to experience increased short rains, while west Africa should expect heavier monsoons. Burma, Bangladesh and India can expect stronger cyclones; elsewhere in southern Asia, heavier summer rains are anticipated. Indonesia may receive less rainfall between July and October, but the coastal regions around the south China Sea and Gulf of Thailand can expect increased rainfall extremes when cyclones hit land.

Life in many developing country cities could become practically unbearable, given that urban temperatures are already well above those in surrounding countryside. Much higher temperatures could reduce the length of the growing period in some parts of Africa by up to 20%, the report said.”

Not letting go
While calling for French troops to “restore security” in the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui, International Crisis Group’s Thierry Vircoulon concedes that France is not exactly a neutral broker in its former colony:

“France has had an almost continuous military presence in CAR since the country gained independence in 1960, and it deployed 400 soldiers at the start of the current crisis to secure the airport.

Paradoxically, France, while securing Bangui’s airport, is also hosting ousted president [François Bozizé], who declared from exile in Paris his wish to retake power by force with the ‘support’ of private actors.”

Exported problem
The Washington Post reports on a new study that suggests the expiration of America’s assault weapons ban has had a “striking” impact on Mexico’s violence levels:

“Overall, our preferred estimates indicate that the annual additional deaths due to [the expiration of the ban] represent around 21% of all homicides and 30% of all gun-related homicides in the post-intervention sample, which are sizable magnitudes. … For total homicides there is a clear, sharp rise between 2004 and 2005 and the effect mostly persists through 2006. The results for gun-related homicides is noisier, but the same pattern is reproduced here as well.”

Tax justice
During a speech delivered at Geneva’s Graduate Institute, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan called for a “credible and effective multilateral response” to tax avoidance:

“Ladies and Gentleman, we must recognise that instances of bad behaviour by government officials and businesses are made possible by our legal and normative frameworks. This is a key area where the international community can make a difference.
Let us be clear: Tax avoidance may be legal, yes, but its extremes have become immoral, unconscionable, and unacceptable. Tax avoidance may once have been seen as an acceptable and standard business practice. But it now costs Africa more than it receives in either international aid or direct foreign investment.

The UK and the European Union are re-examining legislation on money laundering and transparent company ownership. I sincerely hope that they will make company registration public, easily accessible and open to all, and that these registries will extend also to trusts. We must shut down loopholes wherever we can and wherever they are.
I also encourage the British government to maintain its pressure on its overseas territories and Crown dependencies. The US government may also wish to pressure the state of Delaware.”

UNsuable
NBC News asks why it is impossible to sue the United Nations, even when the organization triggers a deadly epidemic, as it appears to have done in Haiti:

“In 1946, the year of its first General Assembly, the U.N. granted itself legal immunity as one of its first official acts. Member states signed a ratifying treaty, and that immunity has been endorsed separately by laws passed in many member states.
‘You can’t sue the United Nations in a domestic court or any court because governments have signed the treaty and some countries like the U.S. have even put it in domestic legislation,’ explained Larry Johnson, a former U.N. official who teaches international law at Columbia Law School.”

Arrest threat
The Kenyan Post reports that the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor has no intention of granting special treatment to Kenya’s Deputy President Willaim Ruto:

In an application she made on Thursday to the Appeals Chamber, [ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda] asked the chamber to reject Ruto’s request that his trial continues in his absence.
She has also warned Mr Ruto of arrest if he fails to show up at The Hague as is required under the Rome Statute and affirmed by the Appeals Chamber.
‘The prosecution notes that Mr Ruto is not here voluntarily, but on compulsion of a summon and risks arrest if he defaults. He is an accused person before the court and, while presumed innocent, cannot expect that life will continue as normally,’ Bensouda said.”

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