Latest Developments, October 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Reducing oversight
Stars and Stripes calls the Obama administration’s decision to loosen controls over military exports “a big win for the defense industry”:

“Come tomorrow, thousands of parts of military aircraft, such as propeller blades, brake pads and tires will be able to be sent to almost any country in the world, with minimal oversight – even to some countries subject to U.N. arms embargos. U.S. companies will also face fewer checks than in the past when selling some military aircraft to dozens of countries.

Under the new system, whole categories of equipment encompassing tens of thousands of items will move to the Commerce Department, where they will be under more ‘flexible’ controls. Final rules have been issued for six of 19 categories of equipment and more will roll out in the coming months. Some military equipment, such as fighter jets, drones, and other systems and parts, will stay under the State Department’s tighter oversight. Commerce will do interagency human rights reviews before allowing exports, but only as a matter of policy, whereas in the State Department it is required by law.”

Corporate accountability
Reuters reports that a majority of US Supreme Court judges seem to think an American court is not the proper venue for a lawsuit against German auto giant Daimler AG over alleged human rights violations in 1970s Argentina:

“The Daimler case is the second time in the last year that the court has considered how and under what circumstances multinational companies can be sued in U.S. courts for alleged human rights violations.

The legal question in the Daimler case is different from that in the [Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell] case, which focused on an obscure federal law called the Alien Tort Statute.
The Daimler case concerns whether a U.S. court has the authority to hear a case against a foreign corporation ‘solely on the fact that an indirect corporate subsidiary performs services on behalf of the defendant’ in the state where the lawsuit was filed, which in this instance was California.
A decision in the Daimler case is expected by the end of June.”

Non-classical intervention
Reuters also reports that France could triple the number of troops it has in the Central African Republic by the end of 2013:

[French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius] has announced a troop increase by year-end once the U.N. Security Council votes in December on a resolution to strengthen a U.N. mission. Sources said it could increase the total French force to between 700-1,200.
‘It wouldn’t be an intervention in the classical sense of the word,’ Fabius said. ‘We’re not going to send parachutists, but there needs to be a presence because the state has been completely unseated.’ ”

Colonial marketing
Inner City Press reports on the latest debates inside the UN’s decolonization committee:

“Friday afternoon in the Fourth Committee, after a week of speeches denouncing the UK for the Malvinas or Falkland Islands, UK Political Coordinator Michael Tatham spoke. He spoke of his country’s ‘modern relationship’ with its territories — if you want to stay, you can.
Moments later Bolivia’s Permanent Representative Sacha Llorenti said that the UK’s invocation of self-determination, for which generations fought, was now being used as ‘colonial marketing.’
Llorenti also took on the United States, calling Puerto Rico a colony and long-jailed Oscar Lopez Rivera a political prisoner.

Papua New Guinea chided France for not turning over education in New Caledonia.”

Rental racism
A BBC investigation of 10 “letting agents” in London suggests that would-be tenants face rampant racism despite equality legislation:

“All 10 were recorded on secret camera saying they would be prepared not to show the flat to African-Caribbean people – and many detailed how they had done it before.
The lettings manager at A to Z Property Services, in Dollis Hill, said: ‘We cannot be shown discriminating against a community. But obviously we’ve got our ways around that.
‘99% of my landlords don’t want Afro-Caribbeans or any troublesome people.’ ”

Moral economy
Spirited Social Change’s Christine Boyle and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Seth Klein argue it is “wrong to presume that a moral economy would necessarily be one with fewer decent jobs”:

“We offer this simple definition: A moral economy is one in which people do not feel they have to sacrifice their values, harm human dignity or compromise ecological health in order to achieve economic security.
This definition is as much a cultural shift as it is a policy one. It’s not about public vs. private, so much as reconsidering the balance, and bringing a new lens to the economic planning that both governments and businesses undertake.”

Sharing, not caring
Evgeny Morozov writes in the Financial Times that companies pushing the so-called sharing economy are not really looking to build an “economy that benefits everyone”:

“The power model behind the sharing economy is more Michel Foucault than Joseph Stalin: no one forces you to be part of it – but you may have little choice anyway.
A new UN, indeed: the erosion of full-time employment, the disappearance of healthcare and insurance benefits, the assault on unions and the transformation of workers into always-on self-employed entrepreneurs who must think like brands. The sharing economy amplifies the worst excesses of the dominant economic model: it is neoliberalism on steroids.”

Choosing inequality
Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz argues that inequality is a policy choice and that the trend of growing disparities in the West is “not universal, or inevitable”:

“In many countries, weak corporate governance and eroding social cohesion have led to increasing gaps between the pay of chief executives and that of ordinary workers — not yet approaching the 500-to-1 level for America’s biggest companies (as estimated by the International Labor Organization) but still greater than pre-recession levels. (Japan, which has curbed executive pay, is a notable exception.) American innovations in rent-seeking — enriching oneself not by making the size of the economic pie bigger but by manipulating the system to seize a larger slice — have gone global.
Asymmetric globalization has also exerted its toll around the globe. Mobile capital has demanded that workers make wage concessions and governments make tax concessions. The result is a race to the bottom. Wages and working conditions are being threatened. Pioneering firms like Apple, whose work relies on enormous advances in science and technology, many of them financed by government, have also shown great dexterity in avoiding taxes. They are willing to take, but not to give back.”

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