Latest Development, October 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Two raids
France 24 reports that US claims regarding the legality of the twin military operations in Libya and Somalia over the weekend have left some experts unpersuaded:

“But while the Libya operation may have been permitted under the US’s own statutes, this does not make it acceptable under international law, argues Marcelo Kohen, a professor of international law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
‘The US operation in Libya is a clear violation of the fundamental norms of international law, namely the respect of a country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,’ he told FRANCE 24.
‘A state cannot remove a foreign citizen, from inside a foreign territory, to be judged in its own country while disregarding international law,’ he said. ‘You need permission. There are existing legal structures among states to address this kind of situation.’
Nevertheless there is little risk of the US facing legal repercussions for the military operation in Libya, said Kohen.
‘No mechanism exists that would allow Libya to go beyond a simple protest, while knowing that this will have no effect.’ ”

Day of tears
Agence France-Presse reports that the deaths of “hundreds of Africans” in a ship that sank off the Italian coast is unlikely to lead to improvements in EU immigration policy:

“For years now, the EU’s executive, the European Commission, has struggled to rouse interest in a single approach to the divisive issue of migration, time after time coming up against a brick wall of national self interest.
‘We need a new policy at the European level,’ said Michele Cercone, spokesman for home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem.
‘Migration policies are fragmented, inward-looking, left in the hands of member states and subject to domestic political considerations,’ he added. ‘Immigration is viewed as a threat, a problem, never as a potential benefit.’
The Commission wants to open new avenues of legal migration while also sharing the burden among all 28 member states as the floods of impoverished refugees wash up on the shores of southern Europe — in Italy, Malta, Greece, Spain and Cyprus.”

Oversight gaps
The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights has released a report alleging that a Bangladeshi supplier for US retail clothing giants Gap and Old Navy is forcing workers to put in over 100 hours a week and “shortchanging” them by over $400,000 per year:

“The revelations come in the wake of a series of deadly factory fires and the Rana Plaza building collapse to which Gap has responded with promises to police its suppliers more conscientiously. ‘It is hard to believe that after decades of doing business in Bangladesh and claiming to monitor its suppliers closely, that Gap was unaware of its supplier’s practices and the horrifying conditions imposed upon the people sewing their clothing lines. The best one might say is that Gap is incompetent and failed to supervise its monitors adequately, but it is far more likely that Gap simply ignored and suppressed what its monitors reported. Either way, it calls into question the reliability of any of the company’s recent promises,’ said Charles Kernaghan, IGLHR’s director.”

Canadian spying
As a diplomatic row flares between Brazil and Canada, the Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian government’s habit of sharing intelligence with corporations “is not news”:

“In 2007, then-Natural Resources minister Gary Lunn told the International Pipeline Security Forum, an industry gathering, ‘We have sponsored over 200 industry representatives in obtaining Secret Level II security clearance. This enables us to share information with industry and their associations so that the appropriate security enhancement measures can be adopted.’
This initiative appears to have begun as a way to allow energy companies access to government intelligence on threats to infrastructure, but grew into a broader sharing of information on industry critics, according to Keith Stewart, the Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator for the environmental organization Greenpeace, who has studied the question of who is getting access to this intelligence.”

Enemy’s enemy
The Washington Post reports that the CIA is “ramping up” its efforts to train Syrian rebels it considers moderate:

“The CIA’s mission, officials said, has been defined by the White House’s desire to seek a political settlement, a scenario that relies on an eventual stalemate among the warring factions rather than a clear victor. As a result, officials said, limits on the agency’s authorities enable it to provide enough support to help ensure that politically moderate, U.S.-supported militias don’t lose but not enough for them to win.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the agency has sent additional paramilitary teams to secret bases in Jordan in recent weeks in a push to double the number of rebel fighters getting CIA instruction and weapons before being sent back to Syria.”

California driving
The Guardian reports that California has adopted new legislation allowing people who are in the US illegally to drive legally:

“ ‘This is only the first step. When a million people without their documents drive legally with respect to the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice,’ said [California Governor Jerry Brown], who officially signed the bill earlier Thursday. ‘No longer are undocumented people in the shadows, they are alive and well and respected in the state of California.’ ”

Free at last
The Associated Press reports that a Louisiana man, known as one third of the Angola Three, has died three days after being released from 41 years of solitary confinement:

“[George Kendall, one of Herman Wallace’s attorneys,] said his client has asked that, after his death, they continue to press the lawsuit challenging Wallace’s ‘unconstitutional confinement in solitary confinement for four decades’.
‘It is [Herman] Wallace’s hope that this litigation will help ensure that others, including his lifelong friend and fellow ‘Angola Three’ member, Albert Woodfox, do not continue to suffer such cruel and unusual confinement even after Mr Wallace is gone,” his legal team said in a written statement.”

Good intentions
Oxfam’s Ben Phillips argues that “posh white blokes”, even the well-intentioned ones, are “holding back the struggle for a fairer world”:

“The evidence is pretty damn conclusive. Posh white blokes aren’t just over-represented in the world of power and money – we’re over- represented in the leadership of the movements challenging that world.

Social movements exist to re-imagine the world and to challenge power relations, but their ability to do so outside is intimately connected with their ability to do so inside. Shifting power, so that decisions are increasingly shaped by people with lived experience of marginalisation, is no mere technical, instrumentalist fix. It goes to the roots of our purpose, it is central to the journey from ‘for’ to ‘with’ and ‘by’.”

Advertisements

Latest Developments, September 17

In the latest news and analysis…

Offense first
The Hill reports that the US, which was already sending weapons to Syria’s rebels, has now also cleared obstacles to sending them defensive equipment:

“The United States is prevented from shipping gas masks and other ‘non-lethal’ protective equipment related to chemical weapons use under mandates in the Arms Export Control Act.
Obama’s announcement effectively eliminates those rules for ‘international organizations… [and] select vetted members of the Syrian opposition, including the Supreme Military Council,’ [National Security Council Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden] said in a statement Monday.”

Global corporate accountability
Ecuador’s government has announced that nearly 100 countries supported its call for a “binding international instrument” concerning transnational companies and human rights:

“The Declaration led by Ecuador and adopted by the African Group, the Group of Arabic Countries, Pakistan, Kirgizstan, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Peru, gathers up the concerns of the countries from the South regarding the flagrant human rights violations caused by the operations of transnational corporations, that in many countries, they have left as large debts, large effects on local communities and populations, including many indigenous peoples.

This joint Declaration constitutes a milestone within the Human Rights Council of the UN, since for the moment; Ecuador has been the only country that has defended the idea of generating an international instrument about businesses and human rights. Nevertheless, after a hard work of lobbying carried out by the Ecuadorian delegation in Geneva, it has been possible to add support, especially of countries from the South which demand more equity and responsibility on behalf of the great transnational forces.”

ICC backlash
Reuters reports that the International Criminal Court could lose a big chunk of its membership due to its perceived lack of balance:

“Officials say suggestions are being made in the African Union for a pullout from the Hague court by the 34 African signatories to the Rome Statute that created it.
‘There is a proposal in the African Union, which will likely come in January, for all AU member countries to withdraw from the ICC because the court is seen to be targeting only African leaders,’ Tanzania’s government spokesman Assah Mwambene said.
The walk-out proposal could come even sooner, possibly at an extraordinary AU summit before the year end, following expected criticism of the ICC at the U.N. General Assembly this month.

All 18 cases so far before the ICC are against Africans, in eight countries. Most were either initiated or supported by the governments of those states.”

No number, no list
The Blog of Legal Times reports that the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the US government’s claim that divulging even the vaguest of information pertaining to drone strikes could threaten national security:

“[Justice Department lawyer Amy] Powell argued that the CIA’s ‘no number, no list’ response—where the government deems exempt from disclosure even the number of pages of any responsive document—is appropriate.
The ACLU lawyers said in their papers that the CIA failed to show why the government should be allowed not to describe the content of any single document.”

Crosses and veils
The Montreal Gazette reports the results of a public opinion poll on Quebec’s proposed “charter of values”, which suggest many of the Canadian province’s inhabitants share their government’s selective interpretation of secularism:

“Two proposals in the package do get large approval. Fifty-four per cent of Quebecers agree that the crucifix should remain over the speaker’s chair of the National Assembly. Thirty-eight per cent disagree.
And a big 90 per cent of Quebecers agree public servants giving services or Quebecers receiving services should do so with their faces uncovered.”

Oil displacement
The Monitor reports on the impacts of oil exploration on land tenure in Uganda:

“The discovery of oil and gas has also caused the appreciation of land value even in rural areas that are now getting transformed into urban centres. The resources have also attracted investors and speculators who are acquiring chunks of land to strategise how to profiteer from the nascent industry. The oil industry has also sparked off a scramble for land that at times has left some communities to be displaced by new landlords that are procuring pieces of land from individuals that were formerly owned communally.”

Miner threat
The Globe and Mail reports that a Canadian company is demanding Romania approve what would be Europe’s largest open-pit gold mine or face a massive lawsuit:

“ ‘If the lower house [of parliament] does reject the project, we will go ahead with formal notification to commence litigation for multiple breaches of international investment treaties for up to $4-billion,’ [Gabriel Resources CEO Jonathan] Henry said in a phone interview. ‘Our case is very strong and we will make it very public that Romania’s effort to attract foreign investment will suffer greatly.’

The Rosia Montana project has been held up by well-organized and well-funded protesters, ranging from local farmers who do not want their properties seized to make way for the enormous mine to billionaires such as George Soros and celebrities such as Vanessa Redgrave, for about 15 years.”

Expendable labour
The Guardian reports that a number of Western clothing brands are being accused of doing too little for the victims of Bangladesh’s deadliest industrial accident:

“The international union IndustriALL has called for brands to contribute $33.5m to those injured and the families of those who died in the accident with a further $41m to come from the Bangladeshi government and factory owners. While all the brands which met in Geneva said they were prepared to put up at least some cash, no agreement was reached on the structure or scale of compensation, partly because 20 brands which were invited did not attend including Walmart, Mango and the Zara owner, Inditex.
Samantha Maher of campaign group Labour Behind the Label, who attended the talks, said: ‘It is almost six months since Rana Plaza collapsed. After all the hand-wringing, workers are still facing a life of desperation when half of those brands whose products they were making have turned their back on them.’”

Latest Developments, July 24

In the latest news and analysis…

Supply chain ruling
Reuters reports that a US judge has upheld a rule requiring companies to disclose the use of “conflict minerals” from the Democratic Republic of Congo or surrounding countries:

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers had challenged the conflict minerals rule, saying it was too costly and violated companies’ First Amendment free speech rights.
But in his order issued late Tuesday afternoon, [Judge Robert Wilkins of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia] rejected both of those arguments.

The ruling by Wilkins in the [Securities and Exchange Commission’s] favor comes just a few weeks after the agency lost another legal battle over a companion humanitarian Dodd-Frank rule that the Chamber and others had also challenged.
In early July, a different federal district judge tossed out the SEC’s ‘extractive resources’ rule requiring oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.”

Press pardon
McClatchy reports that the White House is “concerned and disappointed” over the release from prison of a Yemeni journalist incarcerated after reporting on US drone strikes:

“As a condition of his release, [Abdulelah Haider] Shaye will be prohibited from leaving Sanaa for two years. Nevertheless, many Yemeni journalists and local press freedom organizations responded to the news with jubilance, hailing Hadi’s actions and celebrating Shaye’s freedom.
Shaye’s release ‘is a victory for common values of media freedom, justice and human rights,’ said a statement from the Freedom Foundation, a Sanaa-based press freedom organization headed by Yemeni journalist Khaled al Hammadi. ‘Especially since President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi ordered the release of Shaye despite all the American pressures on him to keep him in prison.’ ”

Historical responsibility
Amnesty International is calling an Indian court summons of US-based Dow Chemical “an important step” toward corporate accountability over the Bhopal disaster that killed an estimated 22,000 people three decades ago:

“The company has been ordered to explain why its wholly owned subsidiary, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), has repeatedly ignored court summons in the ongoing criminal case concerning the 1984 Bhopal disaster, where UCC is accused of ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’.

‘Dow’s attempt to distance itself from its wholly owned subsidiary UCC has always ignored the reality of the relationship between the two companies. Today’s court summons has confirmed that Dow itself must ensure that UCC faces up to its responsibilities,’ said [Amnesty International’s Audrey] Gaughran.”

Green light
The Washington Post reports that the CIA has received congressional approval to begin arming Syrian rebels despite “very strong concerns” about the plan:

“Both the House and Senate [intelligence committees] voted on the administration’s plan last week, officials said.
The agreement allows money already in the CIA’s budget to be reprogrammed for the Syria operation, a covert action that President Obama approved early last month. The infrastructure for the program, which also includes training, logistics and intelligence assistance — most of it based in Jordan — is already in place and the arms would begin to flow within the next several weeks.”

Compliance optional
The author of the Economist’s Democracy in America blog writes that the US government has rarely respected a decades-old prohibition on US aid to “coup regimes”:

“The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the act that initially rationalised foreign-aid policy under a single budget authority, provides that ‘none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to this Act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by a military coup or decree.’
So, how many times have elected heads of governments receiving American aid been overthrown in coups since 1961, and in how many cases did America cut off that aid? As far as I can tell, the answers are: lots, and once or twice.”

Food conquest
The Guardian reports on concerns that the US is trying to force genetically modified food on Africa without proper public consultation:

“Food Sovereignty Ghana and other domestic organisations accuse the US and other foreign donors of promoting GM foods to west African countries, and tying aid to implementation.
According to a leaked cable, the US government was heavily involved in drafting Ghana’s 2011 Biosafety Act, which provided a framework for the introduction of GM foods. The US aid department

[Food Sovereignty Ghana’s Duke] Tagoe said: ‘Farmers in Ghana have had their own way of keeping seeds year after year. If these policies are allowed to manifest, Ghanaian farmers will have to change money into foreign [currency] in order to purchase seeds from overseas firms. The economic impact on the lives of the farmers will be disastrous. The origin of food is seed. Whoever controls the seed controls the entire food chain. These seeds are not owned by any African entity, they are owned by American companies.’ ”

Congo forests
Global Witness takes issue with a new report that suggests “controlled timber management” has slowed deforestation rates in the Congo basin:

“There is little evidence to back up such claims, while the study ignores threats from the expansion of illegal logging operations, large-scale agricultural investments and palm oil plantations.
‘This is a shortsighted and misleading study. The world’s second largest rainforest is losing 2000 square km – an area 34 times the size of Manhattan – every year. This is totally unsustainable, and it’s set to get worse. When the Democratic Republic of Congo‘s freeze on new logging is lifted and the forest has been parcelled up for different commercial uses, we’ll see much more deforestation. The idea that things are moving in the right direction is ludicrous,’ said Alexandra Pardal of Global Witness.”

Mutual learning
TRANSCEND Peace University’s Johan Galtung lists his prescriptions for attaining “peace with our futures”:

“Fight inequality, boycott companies with CEOs making more than five to 10 times what the workers earn, switch to cooperatives, transfer accounts to savings banks, introduce a sales tax of five percent for financial transactions to finance a living wage and to put a brake on insane speculation, increase the quantity and quality of mediation and nonviolence all over, fight for democracy with transparency, dialogue, petitions, referenda, pick the best from worldviews, both-and, not either-or.
Islam offers togetherness and sharing needed in the West, the West offers diversity and freedom needed in Islam; go for mutual learning.”

Latest Developments, June 20

In the latest news and analysis…

Grand corruption
Le Monde reports on new allegations concerning millions of dollars said to have been funneled from former Libyan ruler Muammar Gadhafi to ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy:

“According to Mediapart, two of these offshore companies received, in 2007 and 2008, money from kickbacks on Libyan security contracts linked to the French company Amesys. In his email, Ismail also stresses that the ‘agreement’ to free the detained Bulgarian nurses in 2007 ‘involved Libya’s purchase of a nuclear reactor from [French state-owned] Areva and the supply of Milan missiles to the Libyan army.’ He also says that ‘one of Sarkozy’s primary concerns was to sell the Rafale fighter jet for more than 2 billion euros.’ ” [Translated from the French.]

No arms
Embassy magazine reports that a new poll shows that only a “small, small minority” of Canadians want their government to help arm Syrian rebels:

“Six in 10 adult Canadians, or 60 per cent, said they disagreed that Canada should supply Syrian rebels with military aid, according to a June 18 Forum Research Inc. poll whose results were offered to Embassy.
Roughly one fifth of respondents, or 18 per cent, said they agreed, while roughly one quarter, 22 per cent, said they did not have an opinion.”

Minor casualty
McClatchy reports on the alleged killing of a 10-year-old boy by a US drone, an incident that prompted one local sheikh to ask, “What did Abdulaziz do? Was this child a member of al Qaida?”:

“Some analysts argue that this and other strikes run counter to the administration’s claims of improved targeting. [The boy’s brother, Saleh Hassan Huraydan] might have been a local al Qaida leader, they say, but it’s unclear whether he constituted a ‘continuing and imminent threat to the American people,’ Obama’s definition of a legitimate target.
‘The number of U.S. drone strikes over the past two years suggests that the U.S. is going after many more targets than just the 10 to 15 individuals it says represent imminent threats to U.S. national security. It appears to be going after whomever it can hit whenever it can find them,’ said Gregory Johnsen, the author of ‘The Last Refuge,’ a recent book on al Qaida in Yemen.
‘The new rules that Obama alluded to in his speech last month either aren’t yet in effect in Yemen or are making no difference,’ he added.”

Nuclear pledge
The New York Times reports that American President Barack Obama’s promise this week to reduce his country’s nuclear arsenal and “seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond cold war nuclear postures” is running into skepticism in several camps:

“The proposal to limit American and Russian deployed strategic warheads to about 1,000 each would bring the two countries back to around the levels of 1954, experts said. The president also vowed to work with NATO to reduce the unrestricted smaller tactical nuclear weapons still in Europe and to push the Senate to finally ratify the 17-year-old Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Taken together, the moves revived the effort Mr. Obama began in Prague in 2009 to put the world on a path to eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, one of the most idealistic, if hotly disputed, aspirations of his first term.
Yet even as Republicans argued that he was going too far at the risk of national security, his moves represented a more modest step than many arms control advocates had sought.”

Mining aid
The Globe and Mail reports that the minister in charge of the Canadian International Development Agency told a meeting of Canada’s mining industry representatives that he is working to help them take advantage of the “huge opportunities” in poor countries:

“In his comments to the Mining Association of Canada, [Julian] Fantino dismissed criticism of the government’s strategy and praised the Canadian extractive industry’s work. ‘Your industry is a leader, internationally, and we want to help you succeed,’ he said.
Last fall, Canada established the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development, which is meant to help developing countries establish policies to better govern their mining sectors. The institute ‘will be your biggest and best ambassador,’ Mr. Fantino told mining representatives on Wednesday, adding that it would draw on Canadian success in the mining industry and share lessons from Canada with other countries.”

Dune mining
Radio France Internationale reports that Senegalese farmers see an Australian company’s plans to mine zircon as bad news:

“A vast mining program was launched three months ago along the Grande Côte. In Casamance, in the country’s south, Australian-based Carnegie Minerals obtained an exploration permit. The company hopes to mine close to 5 million tons of minerals. But it is running into local opposition.” [Translated from the French.]

Too big to exist
The Guardian’s Joris Luyendijk argues that his interviews with hundreds of people working in London’s financial sector have convinced him that the industry is not no much out of control as “beyond control”:

“Before studying bankers I spent many years researching Islam and Muslims. I set out with images in my mind of angry bearded men burning American flags, but as the years went by I became more and more optimistic: beyond the frightening rhetoric and sensationalist television footage, ordinary Muslim people go about their day like all other human beings. The problem of radical Islam is smaller and more containable than Islamophobes believe.
With bankers I have experienced an opposite trajectory. I started with the reassuring images in my mind of well-dressed bankers and their lobbyists; surely at some basic level these people knew what they were doing? But after two years I feel myself becoming deeply pessimistic and genuinely terrified. This system is highly dysfunctional, deeply entrenched, and enormously abusive, both to its own workers and the society it operates in. The problem really is exactly as bad as the ‘banker bashers’ believe.”

Carbon discredited
FERN and Friends of the Earth have released a new report that uses the example of the highly touted N’hambita carbon offset project in Mozambique to argue that the EU should not fund such schemes:

“Sylvain Angerand from Friends of the Earth France explains: ‘A fundamental problem, which this report highlights, is that emissions stay in the atmosphere longer than trees stay standing. This report shows that carbon offsetting has few climate benefits and is a dangerous distraction from the need to cut emissions and reduce consumption.’ ”

Latest Developments, June 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Dangerous business
The UN News Centre reports that World Health Organization head Margaret Chan has singled out “big business” as a top threat to the fight against non-communicable diseases:

“ ‘It is not just Big Tobacco anymore. Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Alcohol. All of these industries fear regulation, and protect themselves by using the same tactics.’
She said these tactics include front groups, lobbies, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, and industry-funded research that ‘confuses the evidence and keeps the public in doubt.’
They also include gifts, grants, and contributions to worthy causes that cast these industries as respectable corporate citizens in the eyes of politicians and the public, she added. They include arguments that place the responsibility for harm to health on individuals, and portray Government actions as interference in personal liberties and free choice.

‘Let me remind you. Not one single country has managed to turn around its obesity epidemic in all age groups. This is not a failure of individual will-power. This is a failure of political will to take on big business.’ ”

IP enforcement
The Guardian reports that a new draft agreement gives the world’s poorest countries an eight-year “grace period” instead of the exemption from international intellectual property laws that they had sought:

“ ‘They should have gotten more,’ says Sangeeta Shashikant, of the Third World Network, an NGO with offices in Geneva. ‘Eight years is nothing, really. The conditions in [least developed countries] aren’t really going to change in eight years.’
A handful of rich countries – led by the US and the EU – were reportedly adamant in their opposition to the LDCs’ proposal, which would have allowed the countries to maintain their exemption from the intellectual property rules for as long as they remained officially classified as LDCs.

If LDCs were to lose their exemption, any of the countries that failed to comply with the Trips agreement would be open to lawsuits under the WTO’s dispute settlement system. While it would be unlikely for a developed country to challenge an LDC in that forum, rich nations could use LDCs’ non-compliance to pressure them in other ways, such as by withholding aid money.”

Lethal aid
Reuters reports that the US could decide as early as this week to help arm Syria’s rebels:

“U.S. officials are adamant that Washington will not put ‘boots on the ground,’ which means deploying troops.
Fredrick Hof, a former senior U.S. official who worked on Syria policy, said the administration might decide to take charge of the distribution of weapons to the rebels, but not necessarily to provide U.S. arms.”

Boundless Informant
The Guardian reports that the National Security Agency’s newly revealed surveillance program extends well beyond monitoring communications within the US:

“A snapshot of the Boundless Informant data, contained in a top secret NSA ‘global heat map’ seen by the Guardian, shows that in March 2013 the agency collected 97bn pieces of intelligence from computer networks worldwide.
Iran was the country where the largest amount of intelligence was gathered, with more than 14bn reports in that period, followed by 13.5bn from Pakistan. Jordan, one of America’s closest Arab allies, came third with 12.7bn, Egypt fourth with 7.6bn and India fifth with 6.3bn.”

Thinking ahead
The Blue Planet Project’s Meera Karunananthan writes that events in El Salavador, where a ban on metal mining is being considered, show how difficult it can be for a “developing” country to protect its fresh water:

“Meanwhile, both [US-based] Commerce Group and [Canadian-based] Pacific Rim are using a World Bank trade tribunal to circumvent community consent and state regulation. They are suing the Salvadoran government for more than $400m through the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID), whose mandate is to protect investment rights.

As scientists and world leaders deliberate on how to fix the global water crisis, there should be greater international support for communities and countries attempting to forge new paths away from water-destructive economies. If El Salvador overcomes the odds and becomes the first country in the world to ban metal mining, it could serve as a model for a world grappling with the threat of an imminent water crisis.”

State secrets
CBS News reports on documents suggesting the US State Department covered up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its staff:

“In such cases, [Diplomatic Security Service] agents told the Inspector General’s investigators that senior State Department officials told them to back off, a charge that [former Inspector General investigator Aurelia] Fedenisn says is ‘very’ upsetting.
‘We were very upset. We expect to see influence, but the degree to which that influence existed and how high up it went, was very disturbing,’ she said.
In one specific and striking cover-up, State Department agents told the Inspector General they were told to stop investigating the case of a U.S. Ambassador who held a sensitive diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.”

BG Group v. Argentina
Bloomberg reports that the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which a British oil and gas company is trying to obtain a $185 million award from Argentina’s government for capping natural gas prices in 2002:

“BG says the price freeze caused the bankruptcy of Metrogas SA, an Argentine gas distributor it previously controlled. BG says that, had it filed suit, it would have been punished under Argentine law and excluded from negotiations designed to mitigate the effects of the price cap.
The Obama administration urged the high court to reject the BG appeal, saying the appeals court reached the right decision.”

Let them eat cake
Oxfam’s Mohga Kamal-Yanni writes that the IMF, which may soon agree to lend millions to Egypt, does not seem to share Egyptians’ primary concerns, which she lists as “bread, freedom, social justice”:

“Instead, [the IMF] narrowly focuses on three economic measures: removing fuel subsidies, increasing the General Sales Tax (GST), and floating the pound, despite the clear signs of unrest among ordinary Egyptians as they have already started to suffer the impact of the fuel crisis.

And other ways to improve the fiscal and economic situation are not being taken seriously by either the government or the IMF. Civil society and academics have proposed measures such as progressive taxation, taxing the stock exchange, or removing fuel subsidies for rich people and energy-intensive industry. The IMF’s typical answer is that these measures would take time and not raise sufficient revenue.”