Latest Developments, January 3

In the latest news and analysis…

Condoning secrecy
Reuters reports that an American judge has ruled the US government does not have to justify its targeted killings:

“[U.S. District Judge Colleen] McMahon appeared reluctant to rule as she did, noting in her decision that disclosure could help the public understand the ‘vast and seemingly ever-growing exercise in which we have been engaged for well over a decade, at great cost in lives, treasure, and (at least in the minds of some) personal liberty.’
Nonetheless, she said the government was not obligated to turn over materials the Times had sought under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), even though it had such materials in its possession.
‘The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,’ McMahon said in her 68-page decision.”

Drone stats
The News reports that Pakistani government statistics indicate US drone strikes have killed four times more children than “high value CIA targets” since 2004:

“According to facts and figures compiled by the Ministry of Interior, of the 2,670 people killed by the US drones, 487 were innocent civilians including 171 children and 43 women. Of the remaining 2,183 people killed by the drones, hardly 42 were high value CIA targets while the rest of 2,141 people were believed to be low and mid-level al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked operatives.”

Five-star development
A Pro Publica investigation concludes that the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, ostensibly set up to help reduce global poverty through promotion of private investment in poor countries, “likes to work with huge corporations, funding projects these companies could finance themselves”:

“Today, the IFC’s booming list of business partners reads like a who’s who of giant multinational corporations: Dow Chemical, DuPont, Mitsubishi, Vodafone, and many more. It has funded fast-food chains like Domino’s Pizza in South Africa and Kentucky Fried Chicken in Jamaica. It invests in upscale shopping malls in Egypt, Ghana, the former Soviet republics, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. It backs candy-shop chains in Argentina and Bangladesh; breweries with global beer behemoths like SABMiller and with other breweries in the Czech Republic, Laos, Romania, Russia, and Tanzania; and soft-drink distribution for the likes of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and their competitors in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mali, Russia, South Sudan, Uzbekistan, and more.
The criticism of most such investments—from a broad array of academics and watchdog groups as well as local organizations in the poor countries themselves—is that they make little impact on poverty and could just as easily be undertaken without IFC subsidies. In some cases, critics contend, the projects hold back development and exacerbate poverty, not to mention subjecting affected countries to pollution and other ills.”

Bounty hunters
The BBC reports on the spam-like and mistake-prone methods of a private company hired by the British government to track down people thought to be in the UK illegally:

“Migrants are contacted by text message, telephone or email.
The standard text message reads: ‘Message from the UK Border Agency. You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have the right to remain.’ It then advises people to contact the agency.

Capita was hired to trace those in the pool and warn them that they are required to leave the country. The firm will be paid depending on how many actually go back to their home country.”

Let them eat cake
Bloomberg reports that “the richest people on the planet” became even wealthier in 2012:

“The aggregate net worth of the world’s top moguls stood at $1.9 trillion at the market close on Dec. 31, according to the index. Retail and telecommunications fortunes surged about 20 percent on average during the year. Of the 100 people who appeared on the final ranking of 2012, only 16 registered a net loss for the 12-month period.
‘Last year was a great one for the world’s billionaires,’ said John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of Red Apple Group Inc., in an e-mail written poolside on his BlackBerry in the Bahamas.”

Extermination risk
The Guardian reports that Peru’s “biggest indigenous federation” intends to look to the country’s courts to stop the expansion of natural gas extraction in a remote area of the Amazon by a consortium that includes US, Korean and Spanish companies:

“[The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (Aidesep)] said the plans by Peru’s energy and mines ministry to increase exploration and drilling in Block 88, the largest gasfield leased by the Camisea consortium, risk the existence of nomadic groups living in ‘voluntary isolation’ in the Nahua-Kupakagori indigenous reserve, 23% of which overlaps the gas block in the country’s south-eastern jungle.

The risks of ‘unwanted’ contact are well-documented. Around 60% of the isolated Nahua people died during a series of epidemics after their first contact with outsiders soon after oil company Shell discovered the gasfields in 1984.”

Banned exports
The Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian government has offered its arms merchants “new market opportunities” by allowing them to export to Colombia assault weapons banned in Canada:

“Now, Colombia has been added to a list that includes Canada’s 27 NATO allies – along with Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Botswana – where prohibited firearms manufactured in this country may be sold.
The government notice says the amendment is ‘consistent with the aim of the [Automatic Firearms Country Control List] to promote transparency in the export and transfer of prohibited firearms, prohibited weapons and prohibited devices by making public that Canada will now consider export permit applications for the export of those items to Colombia.’ ”

Humanitarian cover
Senegal/Mali-based journalist Peter Tinti writes that debates in Washington over the US approach to counterterrorism in Africa have more to do with “keeping policy frameworks apace with practice” than actually shaping that practice:

“Under the Obama administration, U.S. military operations in Africa have rapidly expanded in scope, depth and breadth, creating a skeletal infrastructure that enables a panoply of near-constant training exercises with partner governments — as well as clandestine activities.
Though Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti is technically the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa, in reality, there are hundreds of military outposts and locations dotting the continent, with several thousand uniformed U.S. military and civilian Department of Defense personnel, as well as an unknown number of defense contractors, working across the continent at any one time. U.S. special operations forces regularly work within civil-affairs and humanitarian assignments that provide cover for covert counterterrorism activities.”