Latest Developments, April 26

In the latest news and analysis…

Into Africa
Stars and Stripes reports that the US is sending 550 marines to Spain to serve as an Africa-focused “crisis reaction force”:

“[Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos] said the unit, which will serve the needs of U.S. Africa Command boss Gen. David Rodriguez, also could eventually be repositioned on the African continent if U.S. diplomatic officials make such an arrangement.
‘Right now, they’re temporarily going to Morón, Spain, as a placeholder,’ Amos said during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee. ‘I think they are going to move sometime. It wouldn’t surprise me to find them moving around the African continent.’ ”

Calling a spade a spade
The CBC reports that former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin has said that the country’s residential schools made “use of education for cultural genocide”:

“The residential school system existed from the 1870s until the 1990s and saw about 150,000 native youth taken from their families and sent to church-run schools under a deliberate policy of ‘civilizing’ First Nations.
Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide or died fleeing their schools. Mortality rates reached 50 per cent at some schools.”

Phantom companies
Global Financial Integrity’s Clark Gascoigne welcomes the German, French and UK governments’ calls for the disclosure of the “true owners of companies and trusts”:

“GFI studies estimate that anonymous shell companies and tax haven secrecy facilitate the illegal outflow of roughly $1 trillion from developing countries every year, exacerbating poverty and instability.

‘It’s fantastic to see the three largest economies in Europe endorse eliminating anonymous shell companies,’ [GFI Director Raymond] Baker remarked. ‘France, Germany, and the UK are demonstrating real leadership. The rest of Europe should join them to put an end to these terrible phantom firms.’ ”

New mission
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council has approved the establishment of a peacekeeping mission for Mali called MINUSMA, comprising a force of 12,600 with backup from the French military:

“French forces would be able to intervene to support MINUSMA when peacekeepers are ‘under imminent and serious threat and upon the request of the secretary-general,’ according to the resolution.
Russia said on Thursday it was alarmed that there was a growing shift towards a ‘force aspect’ within U.N. peacekeeping operations after the council last month created a special combat force within its peacekeeping mission in Congo to carry out ‘targeted offensive operations’ to neutralize armed groups.
‘There must be a clear division between peacekeeping and peace enforcement. This is why we believe that the mandate of MINUSMA does not provide for offensive operations,’ Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council after the vote.”

Old mission
The Associated Press reports that the UN security council voted to maintain MINURSO, the 22 year-old peacekeeping force in Western Sahara, after the US dropped its proposal that a new mandate include human rights monitoring:

“In a report to the Security Council last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for “independent, impartial, comprehensive and sustained monitoring of the human rights situations in both Western Sahara and the camps” for Saharan refugees because of continuing reports of rights violations.
The United States, following up on the report, proposed having the UN monitor human rights in the resolution it drafted to extend the mandate of UN peacekeepers.

Diplomats said that when the U.S. presented its draft resolution to the Friends of Western Sahara group, which includes Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Spain and Switzerland, there were strong objections from France so the U.S. dropped the human rights monitoring provision.”

American stain
A New York Times editorial calls Guantanamo Bay “essentially a political prison” that should never have been opened:

“It was nothing more than Mr. Bush’s attempt to evade accountability by placing prisoners in another country. The courts rejected that ploy, but Mr. Bush never bothered to fix the problem. Now, shockingly, the Pentagon is actually considering spending $200 million for improvements and expansions clearly aimed at a permanent operation.

Just as hunger strikes at the infamous Maze Prison in Northern Ireland indelibly stained Britain’s human rights record, so Guantánamo stains America’s.”

Plundering Africa
EurActiv reports on a new study revealing the complicity of European Banks and tax havens in the “plundering” of Angola in the 1990s:

“Millions of dollars were transferred through banks based in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Cyprus, the Netherlands, the British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man to the benefit of powerful Angolan and Russian figures, the report shows.

[Corruption Watch UK’s Andrew Feinstein] added that it was because of the facilitating role of banks, tax havens and the veil provided by front companies that national resources were stolen from the poorest citizens with impunity.
Feinstein’s report makes several recommendations to Angola, Switzerland, the EU and its member states, and the financial sector to initiate investigations and take legal measures to prevent wrongdoing. In particular, he recommends that the EU’s accounting directive, which will require reporting of payments to governments in the extractive and forestry sector, be extended to include the banking sector.”

Fair trade fashion
In the wake of the building collapse that killed hundreds of workers making clothes for Western brands in Bangladesh, the Guardian’s Susanna Rustin expresses frustration that “applying even the most modest ethical criteria is ridiculously hard” for consumers:

“The Rana Plaza collapse is all the more distressing because it seems to have been avoidable. Consumers can’t prevent such tragedies. Governments and NGOs must apply pressure, both to the retailers responsible for the people who make their clothes, and to those in charge of regulating them. But until we can be more confident that workers’ lives are not being endangered, we must start to be more curious about where our clothes come from. Some of us are wearing clothes sewn by those killed this week in Dhaka.”

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Latest Developments, March 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Saying no
Reuters reports that the Cypriot parliament has totally rejected the terms of a proposed international bailout, with not a single MP voting in favour:

“EU countries said before the vote that they would withhold 10 billion euros ($12.89 billion) in bailout loans unless depositors in Cyprus shared the cost of the rescue, and the European Central Bank has threatened to end emergency lending assistance for teetering Cypriot banks.
But jubilant crowds outside parliament broke into applause, chanting: ‘Cyprus belongs to its people.’

Europe’s demand at the weekend that Cyprus break with previous EU practice and impose a levy on bank accounts sparked outrage among Cypriots and unsettled financial markets.”

Empty chambers
The Peace Research Institute Oslo has released a new paper arguing for the inclusion of ammunition, without which warfare cannot be sustained, in a proposed binding international arms trade treaty as final negotiations get underway at the UN:

“In 2011 the total value of identified international transfers of ammunition was USD 5.6 billion. Just fifteen states accounted for 90 per cent of all these exports. The governments of this handful of states already control almost all the global trade in ammunition through existing laws and regulations concerning export, import and transit. These 15 states are (in alphabetical order): Brazil, China, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. Embrace of an Arms Trade Treaty by just this small number of states would encompass the vast majority of the current trade in ammunition.”

Land racket
Global Witness has released a film in which an undercover investigator poses as a foreign investor to expose the process by which indigenous land is getting bought up by commercial interests in Malaysia’s largest state:

“ ‘The Taib family and their friends have treated Sarawak’s natural resources like a personal piggy bank for decades,’ said [Global Witness’s Tom] Picken. ‘This investigation shows how they are willing to stash this dirty cash in jurisdictions like Singapore, which one lawyer in the film describes as “the new Switzerland”. Until Singapore and other financial service centres stop allowing corrupt politicians and criminals to shield themselves and their loot from justice back home, the likes of [Sarawak’s Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud] will continue to get away with stealing from their own people.’ ”

Illicit association
The Wall Street Journal reports that Argentina’s government has filed charges against a subsidiary of UK banking giant HSBC for facilitating money laundering and tax evasion:

“Ricardo Echegaray, director of federal tax agency Afip, said a six-month investigation uncovered evidence that several companies evaded taxes of 224 million pesos and laundered 392 million pesos through phantom bank accounts at HSBC Bank Argentina SA.
Mr. Echegaray said at a news conference that ‘there was decisive participation’ of HSBC executives in hiding financial information from the authorities.

Executives at the companies targeted in the probe, including HSBC, have been charged with ‘illicit association,’ [an anonymous government source] said.”

Opposing protest
The CBC reports that HudBay Minerals has filed a lawsuit against a First Nation over protests outside a gold, zinc and copper mining project:

“[Mathias Colomb Cree Nation Chief Arlen] Dumas said HudBay and the Manitoba government should have obtained consent from area aboriginals before going ahead with development. The band never surrendered its rights to the land and resources, he said.
Work is well underway on development of the 916-hectare property.
A court hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Wednesday. Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting also wants an injuction against any further protests.”

Not budging
The Lowy Institute for International Policy’s Mike Callaghan argues that the US is harming future prospects of international cooperation by block reforms that would make the International Monetary Fund a bit less Eurocentric:

“It is worrying that one of the arguments against the reforms presented by the US Congressional Research Service is that emerging markets may not be ‘responsible stakeholders’, and increasing their voice ‘could result in the support of economic policies that are less aligned with the preferred policies of advanced economies.’ This is a ‘red rag to a bull’ to the emerging markets.
Commentators may worry about the impact on future US economic leadership, but the rest of the world should be concerned that the US is failing to exercise leadership now in not ratifying the governance reforms. This is undermining the IMF, the G20 and efforts to enhance better international economic cooperation.”

Unfettered industry
Mining Technology reports on the efforts of Canadian civil society groups to change the status quo in which Canada’s overseas mining industry is “not legally regulated or monitored by its own government in any way”:

“According to NGOs, the mining industry has also done some aggressive lobbying against regulation over the years, possibly because of fears it will limit companies’ ability to work in developing countries and contracts will be lost to competitors from countries such as China. However, [Human Rights Watch’s Chris]Albin-Lackey and [MiningWatch Canada’s Jamie] Kneen believe they underestimate the need for the expertise Canadian mining companies offer.
‘The argument…is really quite overblown,’ says Albin-Lackey. ‘To some degree this kind slippery slope argument is genuinely heartfelt from some people in the industry who are sort of suspicious of how far NGO advocates and other advocates actually want to take things, but in reality…there is nothing that we, or anyone else, are calling on the Canadian Government to keep an eye on that Canadian companies don’t already quite vigorously deny being involved with in the first place.’

UNaccountable
A New York Times editorial slams the UN for its lack of accountability over the cholera epidemic it caused in Haiti:

“The U.N. said last month that it would not pay financial compensation for the epidemic’s victims, claiming immunity. This is despite overwhelming evidence that the U.N. introduced the disease, which was unknown in Haiti until it suddenly appeared near a base where U.N. peacekeepers had let sewage spill into a river.
Though the U.N. has done much good in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, its handling of cholera is looking like a fiasco. While it insists that it has no legal liability for cholera victims, it must not duck its moral obligations. That means mobilizing doctors and money to save lives now, and making sure the eradication plan gets all the money and support it needs.”

Latest Developments, November 29

In the latest news and analysis…

Generic shutdown
The Globe and Mail reports that Canada’s ruling Conservative Party has voted down a bill that would have allowed Canadian companies to make generic drugs for sale at discount prices in poor countries:

“It was an attempt to untie the knots in [Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime], which came into law in 2004 under a Liberal government. While the goal of the access-to-medicines regime has been widely lauded, it is fraught with red tape and, in eight years, has been used to send just two batches of one generic drug to one country.

But even Canada’s brand-name drug manufacturers said they were not opposed to seeing Bill C-398 progress through Parliament.”

No UN money
Reuters reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has endorsed an “offensive military operation” in northern Mali but stopped short of offering financial support for the intervention:

“One Security Council diplomat was furious at Ban’s recommendation against granting the [African Union] request for U.N. funding for the operation, which U.N. diplomats estimate will cost $300 million to $500 million.
.…
Ban suggested that the funding for the initial military combat operations could be through ‘voluntary or bilateral contributions’ – which diplomats said meant European Union member states would be asked to cover costs.”

Fools rush in
In an interview with Libération during a diplomatic mission to Paris, the leader of the Tuareg separatist group Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), Bilal ag-Achérif, argued military intervention in Mali’s north would be ill-advised at this time:

“One cannot make a prescription without using a stethoscope on the patient, without consulting the people of Azawad. Such a military operation, with troops that know nothing of the terrain, would trigger disorder, spread the threat of terrorism throughout West Africa and increase drug trafficking. It could cause a lot of collateral damage. How to distinguish the terrorists from the others? They wear the same clothes.” [Translated from the French.]

Global theft
Global Witness calls for the investigation into nearly $1 billion embezzled from Kabul Bank to extend well beyond Afghanistan’s borders:

“ ‘Donors, auditors and the international banks involved in this scandal all have questions to answer,’ said [Global Witness’s Gavin] Hayman. ‘Which banks accepted corrupt money from Kabul Bank shareholders or politically exposed persons? What measures did they take to assure themselves that the funds were not the proceeds of corruption? The answers to these questions are necessary to understand why so much corrupt money was able to flood the international financial system, to facilitate the recovery of stolen assets, and to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.’
Global Witness added that countries with assets from Kabul Bank, including the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Switzerland must freeze and return the assets stashed in their private banks, and launch inquiries into how the money ended up within their borders.”

Lifting the corporate veil
Bloomberg reports that a hearing pitting Ecuadorean plaintiffs against oil giant Chevron in a Canadian court marks the first step in “a global collection effort that includes seizure attempts in Argentina and Brazil”:

“A group of 47 Ecuadoreans have asked Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice to seize Chevron assets in Canada, ranging from an oil sands project to offshore wells, to satisfy a [$19 billion] 2011 court ruling in the Latin American nation that ordered the company to pay for oil pollution dating to the 1960s.

The Ecuadorean plaintiffs, from the remote northern Amazon River basin, are seeking enforcement of the judgment outside their home country because Chevron has no refineries, oil wells, storage terminals or other properties in the nation.

The Ecuadoreans face an ‘uphill battle’ because they must convince the court that Chevron and its Canadian operations should be treated as one entity rather than separate companies, said Barry Leon, a partner and head of the international arbitration group at Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP in Ottawa.
‘The expression that gets used legally is “lifting the corporate veil” and disregarding the separate personalities,’ Leon said. ‘The courts generally, in Canada and elsewhere, have been reluctant to do that.’ ”

Nuke upgrade
Wired reports that the US, whose current president earlier in his term called for “a world without nuclear weapons,” has begun a $10 billion overhaul of its European nuclear arsenal:

“A 2008 Secretary of Defense task force against underestimating the ‘political value our friends and allies place on these weapons, the political costs of withdrawal, and the psychological impact of their visible presence.’ But the same report notes that U.S. European Command — the Pentagon’s top generals in the region – ‘believ[e] there is no military downside to the unilateral withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Europe.’ After all, America has thousands of additional warheads that could be delivered by intercontinental ballistic missiles, long-range bombers, and submarines.”

Cancellation fallout
Reuters reports that the US is taking heat for calling off talks on banning nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which had been scheduled for December:

“The postponement ‘will have a negative impact on regional security and the international system to prevent nuclear proliferation as a whole,’ Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said in a statement.
Iran, which is accused by the West of developing a nuclear weapons capability, said this month it would participate in the talks that had been due to take place in Helsinki, Finland.
Asked about the U.S. announcement, Iranian nuclear envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh told state broadcaster Press TV from Vienna:
‘It is a serious setback to the [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] and this is a clear sign that the U.S. is not committed to the obligation of a world free of nuclear weapons.’

The plan for a meeting to lay the groundwork for the possible creation of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction was agreed at a 2010 conference of 189 parties to the 1970 NPT, a treaty designed to prevent the spread of nuclear arms in the world.”

Chased away
A new Amnesty International report calls for an immediate end to forced evictions of thousands of Roma migrants living in France:

“ ‘France has failed to include international human rights standards against forced evictions in its domestic legal system. As a result, evictions of informal settlements where Roma live generally take place without adequate prior information, consultation or notice to residents,’ [according to Amnesty’s John Dalhuisen].
‘In most cases, alternative housing is not provided and entire families are left homeless. They have no choice but to re-establish their homes in another informal settlement elsewhere, and schooling and medical treatment are interrupted as a result.’ ”

Latest Developments, September 20

In the latest news and analysis…

GM food alert
The Telegraph reports on a new study suggesting the NK603 type of genetically modified corn sold by agribusiness giant Monsanto may be toxic:

“Although previous safety trials have established that the corn had no adverse effects on animals after 90 days, the trial is thought to be the first to examine its health impact over a longer scale.

After two years, a normal lifespan for rats, between 50 and 80 per cent of all the female rats fed the corn or weedkiller developed at least one large tumour, compared with 30 per cent from a small control group.
Male rats in the treated groups were more likely to develop serious kidney and liver damage.
Dr Michael Antoniou, of King’s College London, who contributed to the project, said: ‘This is the most thorough research ever published into the health effects of GM food crops and the herbicide Roundup on rats. It shows an extraordinary number of tumours developing earlier and more aggressively – particularly in female animals.’ ”

Rendition verdict
The BBC reports that an Italian appeals court has upheld guilty verdicts against 23 Americans accused of kidnapping a terror suspect who was “allegedly flown to Egypt and tortured”:

“The Americans were tried in absentia, in the first trial involving extraordinary rendition, the CIA’s practice of transferring suspects to countries where torture is permitted.
The practice has been condemned by human rights groups as a violation of international agreements.
The group of Americans – 22 of whom were CIA agents and one an Air Force pilot – are believed to be living in the US and are unlikely to serve their sentences.”

Shadow wars
Wired’s Spencer Ackerman writes about the new face of American war, currently on display in Yemen and East Africa:

“Not only are they undeclared wars, they depend on concealing the U.S. role in them. One method of concealment is to use stealthy forces like elite commandos or tools that require a small logistical footprint, like drones. Another method is to use proxy forces to wage them. In Yemen, for instance, the U.S. is training the local forces to fight al-Qaida in its stead, and they come bearing cash and weapons.

With the American public sick of war, those proxies are increasingly crucial.
And it’s not even just counterterrorism. So-called ‘Security Force Assistance’ is a major preoccupation for the U.S. Army in general as its involvement in Afghanistan winds down. When Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked in 2011 what the future of the Army was, he said it involved mentoring foreign partner militaries so the U.S. doesn’t have to intervene during crises, bolstering weak armies. Dempsey, of course, is now America’s top military officer.”

A more insidious kind of corruption
The New Economics Foundation’s James Meadway argues that excessive executive pay – FTSE 100 company heads now make 120 times more than their average employees – has “bled into the public and voluntary spheres”:

“Corruption in the developing countries is well known and well reported. It distorts aid and ruins lives. But there is a more insidious kind of corruption, widespread in the developed world, in which those at the top of society claim greater and greater rewards, justifying it by reference to the demands of the market.”

Western havens
Global Witness’s Stefanie Ostfeld argues that Western countries are doing too little to ensure their banks do not store riches siphoned illegally from poor nations:

“In the United States, it is perfectly legal to incorporate a company without disclosing who actually owns and controls it. More information is needed to obtain a driver’s license than to open an anonymous shell company in most states. This allows corrupt foreign officials, weapons smugglers, tax evaders, and drug traffickers to disguise their identities when accessing a bank. In fact, a study of 150 cases of large-scale corruption showed that American shell companies were used more often than those registered in any other country.”

Human rights double standard
Human Rights Watch accuses British politicians and media of thinking their country is above needing the sorts of human rights mechanisms they prescribe to other nations:

“The critics appear to suggest that the UK’s protection of basic liberties is already sufficient through domestic laws and institutions and that it is somehow inappropriate or insulting to use a similar framework – that of human rights – to consider the treatment of people by the state in the UK, as we might for those living under dictatorships. They also argue that measures to promote human rights, notably the Human Rights Act, benefit the undeserving at the expense of society as a whole, including criminals seeking to evade punishment or foreign terrorists wishing to avoid deportation.”

Corruption double standard
Southern Illinois University’s Mike Koehler thinks it strange that the US is cracking down on foreign bribery cases when it “has legitimized corporate influence” over its own government:

“Yet the U.S. political expenditures discussed above are perfectly legal.  In Citizens United, the Supreme Court stated that such expenditures ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’
Yet payments made in the foreign context, even payments that pale in magnitude and degree, would be clear crimes under U.S. law because they indeed ‘give rise to corruption and the appearance of corruption.’

Do we reflexively label a ‘foreign official’ who receives ‘things of value’ directly or indirectly from private business interests as corrupt, yet when a U.S. official similarly receives ‘things of value’ directly or indirectly from private business interests we merely say ‘well, no one said our system is perfect’?”

Growth industry
A South African Civil Society Information Service piece by “multidisciplinarian” Glenn Ashton highlights concerns over the lack of controls on the pesticide industry in South Africa, where sales have increased fivefold since 1994:

“The only oversight of the pesticide industry is self-oversight. The industry body AVCASA (the Association of Veterinary and Crop Associations of South Africa) attempts to portray itself as a responsible industry body. However this is fundamentally contradictory as its central aim is to increase sales, which it has excelled at.
AVCASA appears equally frustrated with the states failure to update legislation. Even so AVCASA has not, for instance, enforced any compulsory deposit system on pesticide containers. This remains a major problem as they remain used by the poor for food and water containers.
While the industry maintains some statistics there are huge gaps in the record. There is no record of pesticide sales from 2000 – 2006. Statistical details remain proprietary.”

Latest Developments, April 17

In the latest news and analysis…

Shocking cake
The Local reports Swedish culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth has become embroiled in controversy after her participation in a “racist spectacle” at a Stockholm art museum.
“As part of the installation, which was reportedly meant to highlight the issue of female circumcision, the culture minister began cutting a large cake shaped like a black woman, symbolically starting at the clitoris.

But images of the event, which show a smiling and laughing Adelsohn Liljeroth slicing up the cake, have caused the National Afro-Swedish Association and its members to see red and issue calls for her resignation.
‘According to the Moderna Museet, the “cake party” was meant to problematize female circumcision but how that is accomplished through a cake representing a racist caricature of a black woman complete with “black face” is unclear,’ [the National Afro-Swedish Association’s Kitimbwa] Sabuni said in a statement.”

Excluding biofuels
EurActiv reports that EU “energy aid” to poor countries will not include funding for biofuels, coal or nuclear projects, though gas remains an option.
“Gas is currently a hot-button topic as the UK, France, Poland and the Czech Republic reportedly mount a behind-the-scenes push for the EU’s future climate milestones to be sculpted around ‘low-carbon’ targets – including gas and nuclear – rather than renewable energy.

The EU is the world’s leading donor of energy development aid, providing €278.5 million in 2010, and around €1 billion in the last five years, mostly, the EU says, as seed money to leverage private-sector funds at a ratio of 20:1.”

Laundering banks
Global Witness has called for a “thorough investigation” into UK and US banks alleged to have helped former Nigerian politician James Ibori launder millions in stolen public funds.
“According to the prosecutor, Sasha Wass QC, Ibori and his associates used multiple accounts at Barclays, HSBC, Citibank and Abbey National to launder funds. Millions of pounds passed through these accounts in total, some of which were used to purchase expensive London property.

Banks and lawyers have a legal obligation to identify their customers and carry out ongoing checks to identify any suspicious transactions which they have to report to the authorities. In particular, they are supposed to identify customers who are senior politicians or their family members and close associates, who could potentially represent a corruption risk, and do extra checks on their funds.

The case also shows how money launderers such as Ibori are able to use shell companies spread across different countries to move and conceal their assets. At present it can be incredibly difficult for law enforcement and others to identify the actual person who controls and benefits from a company. Global Witness is calling for all countries to use their company registers to publish details on the real, ‘beneficial’ owner of all companies.”

Glencore abuses
The BBC says it has uncovered evidence of Swiss-based commodity giant Glencore’s involvement in serious human rights abuses in Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Undercover filming showed children as young as ten working in the Glencore-owned Tilwezembe mining concession.
And sales documents show a Glencore subsidiary made payments to the suspected associates of paramilitaries in Colombia.”

Controversial court reforms
Human Rights Watch is calling for proposed reforms to the European Court of Human Rights to be rejected by member countries.
“The draft proposals put forward by the UK contain many positive proposals, including a range of measures aimed at improving implementation of judgments by national authorities, Human Rights Watch said. But two proposals – one to limit the court’s ability to hear cases involving serious human rights abuse and other emphasizing principles that serve the interests of governments over those of the potential victims of human rights violations – are deeply problematic, and risk undermining the court. The UK currently chairs the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, the organization’s highest decision-making body.”

Legalizing drugs
The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Nigel Inkster, who was once the assistant chief of Britain’s MI6 secret service, argues the time has come to end the War on Drugs and legalize them.
“Our investigation has shown that the so-called ‘war on drugs’ undermines international security.
Consumer countries of the developed world have seen whole communities devastated by epidemics of drugs misuse and crime. Addicts of drugs such as heroin have been marginalised and stigmatised and many otherwise law-abiding citizens criminalised for their consumption choices.
But the vulnerable producer and transit countries of the developing world have paid a far higher price.”

US corporate tax dodging
The Institute for Policy Studies’ Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger highlight six ways in which US corporate giants avoid paying taxes.
“AT&T, Boeing, Citigroup, Duke Energy and Ford collectively reported more than $20 billion of US pre-tax income last year, yet none of them paid a dime in federal income taxes. Instead, they claimed refunds of more than $1.3 billion from the IRS.
These corporations are not alone in turning tax dodging into a competitive sport. Last year, US corporations paid an effective tax rate of just 12.1 percent, the lowest level in the last forty years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Sixty years ago, when Republican President Dwight Eisenhower lived in the White House, corporations paid 32 percent of federal government’s tax receipts; last year they paid 9 percent.”

Back to basics
In a piece addressed to his newborn daughter, Guardian columnist George Monbiot issues a plea for people to embrace a philosophy and collective course of action based on the recognition that she, “like all of us, arose from and belong to the natural world.”
“This is a positive environmentalism, which envisages the rewilding – the ecological restoration – of large tracts of unproductive land and over-exploited sea. It recognises nature’s remarkable capacity to recover, to re-establish the complex web of ecological relationships through which, so far, we have crudely blundered. Rather than fighting only to arrest destruction, it proposes a better, richer world, a place in which, I hope, you would delight to live.”