Latest Developments, November 1

In the latest news and analysis…

Rising toll
Reuters reports that the number of migrants found dead in the desert of northern Niger has climbed to 92, the majority of whom were children:

“The mayor of Arlit, Maouli Abdouramane, said 92 bodies had been recovered after days of searching – 52 children, 33 women and seven men.
‘The search is still going on,’ Abdouramane told Reuters by telephone. He said the victims were all from Niger but their final destination was unclear.

The bodies were strewn across the desert over a large distance, to within 20 km (12 miles) of the border with Algeria, a second military source said.”

True owners
Reuters also reports that the UK government has decided to make public a new database meant to reduce money laundering and tax evasion by “untangling deliberately opaque ownership structures” of corporations:

“ ‘This sets such an important global principle… You have to have someone who makes a stand on principle and then gets the world to follow. In this case it’s the UK,’ said Gavin Hayman of the anti-corruption group Global Witness.
Efforts to improve transparency in the European Union are currently being debated, and recent legislative proposals in the United States could tackle company ownership disclosure. Hayman said neither was expected to quickly follow Britain’s lead.
[UK Prime Minister David] Cameron’s efforts to clamp down on tax evasion have been complicated by the fact that Britain is seen as a market leader in providing access to offshore tax havens in former British colonies.
‘We’ve found the UK has been one of the pillars of financial secrecy in the past so this is quite a significant shift,’ Hayman said.”

The other 10%
The Tax Justice Network’s Richard Murphy, however, argues the UK’s newly promised public register of companies’ true owners will be “a damp squib of a reform”:

“Sure, 90% of companies will publish their beneficial owners – but they will be the ones where legal and beneficial ownership is the same. It is the other 10% who are the problem and many of those will actively seek loopholes in an arrangement if there is no way of proving if what they declare is right or wrong and the agency responsible for doing so is denied the resources it needs to enforce the law.”

On schedule
The BBC reports that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons believes Syria has destroyed its “declared equipment for producing, mixing and filling chemical weapons” within the prescribed timeframe:

“OPCW head of field operations Jerry Smith told the BBC that his team had ‘personally observed all the destruction activities’.
‘They are not now in a position to conduct any further production or mixing of chemical weapons,’ he said.

More than 1,000 tonnes of chemical precursors – the raw materials – remain to be removed and destroyed by the middle of next year, which our correspondent says will be a delicate and difficult process.”

Cholera update
Inter Press Service reports that there is “no end in sight” for Haiti’s deadly, UN-triggered cholera epidemic:

“In a single week between Oct. 19 and Oct. 26, the Pan-American Health Organisation reported 1,512 new cases and 31 deaths. New cases are reported in all 10 departments.

The spread of cholera in Haiti, which has killed more than 8,300 and infected over 680,000 people since October 2010, has been blamed on Nepali peacekeepers who are part of the 9,500‑strong U.N. Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
The United Nations has refused demands for compensation. Earlier this month, an advocacy group filed a lawsuit seeking reparations from the world body on behalf of the cholera victims.

‘I wish a creative solution could be found whereby the Haitian victims would get some modest amount of financial support on humanitarian grounds, without the U.N. having to give up its diplomatic immunity,’ [former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Kul Gautam] said.”

New internationalism
The Sheffield Institute for International Development’s Jean Grugel writes about the need to “reframe international development as global justice”:

“Human rights are a vital tool for reframing international development in ways that set out our collective responsibilities to find a just global settlement. But to have traction, rights have to be understood as more than the traditional package of liberal rights. Other sorts of rights – social, economic, gendered, cultural – are also critical.
Action is needed much earlier in the life cycle of global injustice. It is not enough to protest once abuses are happening. Global justice means, above all, making arguments for urgent structural transformation to the global political economy.”

Vulture’s charters
The World Development Movement’s Nick Dearden points to the Children’s Investment Fund as an example of a sweetly named UK organization that uses bilateral investment agreements to “run roughshod over the rights of ordinary people” in other countries:

“Whether India’s policy was right or wrong is beside the point. Rather we have to ask whether it is the right of a British hedge fund to dictate the energy policy of a state. This is by no means an isolated example. Globally there are 2,833 bilateral investment agreements, many offering companies access to ‘dispute mechanisms’ which allow them to by-pass national courts and uphold their so-called rights over and above the duty of governments to protect and represent their citizens.
Back home, the owner of TCI, Chris Hohn, is one of the biggest ‘philanthro-capitalists’ in the world, investing profits in a mega-charity the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. Even if multi-billionaire philanthropists could solve world poverty, they will certainly not do so when their profits are derived by undermining the sovereignty of countries to represent their own people.”

Science says revolt
The Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein argues that the results of scientific research suggest humans need to take a stand against the current political and economic orthodoxies:

“[University of California, San Diego’s Brad Werner] isn’t saying that his research drove him to take action to stop a particular policy; he is saying that his research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.

And for any closet revolutionary who has ever dreamed of overthrowing the present economic order in favour of one a little less likely to cause Italian pensioners to hang themselves in their homes, this work should be of particular interest. Because it makes the ditching of that cruel system in favour of something new (and perhaps, with lots of work, better) no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather one of species-wide existential necessity.”

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Latest Developments, October 25

In the latest news and analysis…

On revolution
New Statesman guest-editor Russell Brand writes that “consciousness itself must change” if humans and the planet they inhabit are to survive:

“Capitalism is not real; it is an idea. America is not real; it is an idea that someone had ages ago. Britain, Christianity, Islam, karate, Wednesdays are all just ideas that we choose to believe in and very nice ideas they are, too, when they serve a purpose. These concepts, though, cannot be served to the detriment of actual reality.
The reality is we have a spherical ecosystem, suspended in, as far as we know, infinite space upon which there are billions of carbon-based life forms, of which we presume ourselves to be the most important, and a limited amount of resources.
The only systems we can afford to employ are those that rationally serve the planet first, then all humanity. Not out of some woolly, bullshit tree-hugging piffle but because we live on it, currently without alternatives.”

Operation Hydra
Al Jazeera reports that France has launched another “major” military operation in Northern Mali, this time with contributions from the host country and the UN:

“ ‘We have engaged, with the Malian army and (UN mission) MINUSMA, in a large-scale operation’ in the so-called Niger Loop, an area hugging a curve of the Niger River between Timbuktu and Gao, French general staff spokesman Colonel Gilles Jaron said.
‘It is the first time we have seen forces of significant size working together,’ Jaron said.
About 1,500 troops are involved, including some 600 French, 600 Malians and 300 UN soldiers. The goal of the mission — dubbed ‘Hydra’ — was ‘to put pressure on any terrorist movements to avoid their resurgence,’ he said.”

Accessory to international crime
Global Witness is calling on the UK government to require the country’s oil and mining companies to reveal who really owns them:

“The submission provides detail on alleged corporate malpractice involving UK-listed and UK-registered firms: the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation and Glencore; Royal Dutch Shell and the Italian oil company Eni.
All the cases “relied on secrecy over company ownership and lax regulation, in both the UK and in its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories,” Global Witness writes in its submission. ‘This has made the UK an accessory to international crime and has undermined the effectiveness of UK aid to resource-rich developing countries.’ ”

G20 gap
The World Economic Forum has released its 2013 Global Gender Gap report which concludes no G20 country ranks in the world’s top 10 for gender equality:

“Elsewhere, in 14th place Germany is the highest-placed individual G20 economy, although it falls one place from 2012. Next is South Africa (17th, down one), the United Kingdom (level on 18th) and Canada (up one to 20th). The United States comes 23rd, also down one place since 2012. After South Africa, the next highest BRICS nation is Russia (61st), followed by Brazil (62nd), China (69th) and India (101st).”

Dark corners
The New York Times editorial board calls for “greater transparency and accountability” from the US government regarding its use of armed drones:

“Both President George W. Bush and Mr. Obama have used the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the state of war that has existed since as cause to target terrorist suspects. But under international law, parties to armed conflict must minimize harm to civilians in a war zone and observe rules about what is or isn’t a lawful military target.
Hence Mr. Obama’s promised guidelines. But those guidelines have never been made public, so there is no way to judge whether or how well they are being carried out. Similarly, because the government won’t talk about the attacks, there is no way of judging whether the military is honoring Mr. Obama’s pledge that ‘there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured’ before authorizing a strike.”

Intellectual shift
The Guardian reports on a group of economics students at the University of Manchester who are “plotting a quiet revolution against orthodox free-market teaching”:

“A growing number of top economists, such as Ha-Joon Chang, who teaches economics at Cambridge University, are backing the students.
Next month the society plans to publish a manifesto proposing sweeping reforms to the University of Manchester’s curriculum, with the hope that other institutions will follow suit.

Some leading economists have criticised university economics teaching, among them Paul Krugman, a Nobel prize winner and professor at Princeton university who has attacked the complacency of economics education in the US.
In an article for the New York Times in 2009, Krugman wrote: ‘As I see it, the economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth.’ ”

Private surveillance industry
Rolling Stone’s John Knefel reports on the private companies that are helping governments and corporations “monitor dissent”:

“While the specifics of which police departments utilize what surveillance technologies is often unclear, there is evidence to suggest that use of mass surveillance against individuals not under direct investigation is common. ‘The default is mass surveillance, the same as NSA’s “collect it all” mindset,’ says [Privacy International’s Eric] King. ‘There’s not a single company that if you installed their product, [it] would comply with what anyone without a security clearance would think is appropriate, lawful use.’ ”

Marriage equality
The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan discusses a map of the US that has changed dramatically over the last decade:

“[Last week’s court ruling in New Jersey] means the number of states where gay marriage is legal now stands at 14 plus the District of Columbia.

About 10 years ago, the map would have looked very different. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage, in November 2003.”

Latest Developments, August 2

In the latest news and analysis…

Unlawful discrimination
The Independent reports that the UK Home Office is facing an investigation over “racist” spot checking for illegal immigrants:

“The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it was demanding an explanation for raids in the past week which led to the detention of dozens of suspected illegal immigrants. It said it intended to assess whether ‘unlawful discrimination took place’ with officials only stopping non-white people.
The EHRC is responsible for policing the Equalities Act to which all public bodies are bound. But as news of the checks emerged two women’s rights groups told The Independent they were aware of cases where women reporting domestic violence had been asked about their immigration status.”

Double-tap strikes
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that US drones appear to have restarted targeting rescuers at strike sites in 2012:

“[Mushtaq Yusufzai’s] findings indicate that five double-tap strikes did indeed take place again in mid-2012, one of which also struck a mosque. In total 53 people were killed in these attacks with 57 injured, the report suggests.
Yusufzai could find no evidence to support media claims that rescuers had been targeted on two further occasions.”

Mixed messages
Foreign policy reports on comments and actions that suggest there is little hope US Secretary of State John Kerry will get his stated wish for drone strikes in Pakistan to end “very, very soon”:

“Three hours after Kerry’s comments first broke, a spokesperson took them right back. ‘In no way would we ever deprive ourselves of a tool to fight a threat if it arises,’ a State Department spokesperson said.

When all the terrorists are dead, the United States will be happy to end its program of covert drone strikes in Pakistan. Until that day comes — and it will be ‘soon,’ according to Kerry — strikes are likely to continue. To underscore that reality, the United States carried out three drone strikes in Pakistan during the month of July. And in Yemen, the drone war made a roaring comeback this week with the United States carrying out three strikes in five days.”

Democratic coup
The Washington Post’s Max Fisher writes that coup-prone Pakistan was an odd place for US Secretary of State John Kerry to say that the Egyptian military, by overthrowing Egypt’s elected president, was “restoring democracy”:

“ ‘The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descent into chaos,’ Kerry said. That’s how many Egypt analysts see the events of early July, when millions of protesters clearly desired military intervention. But Kerry added, more controversially, ‘The military did not take over, to the best of our judgment … to run the country. There’s a civilian government.’ By all appearances, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, the defense minister who formally announced the military’s removal of Morsi, is the now country’s de facto head of state.

Legalizing it
The BBC reports that MPs in Uruguay have passed a bill that, pending senate approval, would make the country the world’s first to “regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana”:

“The state would assume ‘the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialisation and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products’.
Buyers would have to be registered on a database and be over the age of 18. They would be able to buy up to 40g (1.4oz) per month in specially licensed pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home.
Foreigners would be excluded from the measure.”

Extended ban
Agence France-Presse reports that French President François Hollande has announced an extension of the moratorium on Monsanto’s genetically modified MON810 corn the day after the ban was struck down for violating European law:

“ ‘Why have we banned genetically modified organisms? Not because we refuse progress, but in the name of progress. We cannot allow a product, a corn, to have negative impacts on other crops,’ said François Hollande, speaking from a farm in the Sarlat region.” [Translated from the French.]

Corporate veil
The Wall Street Journal reports that a group of US senators is trying “once again” to shed light on corporate ownership:

“The lawmakers are trying, for the fourth consecutive Congress, to get the bill passed. Under the latest iteration of the bill, states would be required to add a single additional question to their existing incorporation forms that would ask for the name of the person behind the corporation being formed. States wouldn’t have to verify it, but people submitting false information would be subject to penalties.

U.S. foreign policy also has been pressuring other countries to disclose the hidden owners of companies, to root out corruption, the lawmakers said.
‘The fact that we have corporate secrecy right here in our backyard contradicts U.S. efforts to end corporate secrecy offshore,’ said [Senator Carl] Levin.”

Nobody killed
The Telegraph reports on a potential boost to Wikileaker Bradley Manning’s chances of avoiding a maximum 136-year prison sentence:

“The sentencing hearing began with testimony from retired Brigadier General Robert Carr, who in 2010 led an emergency Pentagon review into the impact of leaked war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although the mass leak ‘hit us in the face’ the review did not find any evidence that civilians named in the secret files had then been targeted by militants, Gen Carr said.”

UN enforcement
The Associated Press reports that UN peacekeepers have begun setting up a zone in eastern DR Congo where only members of the country’s military can carry arms:

“Earlier this week, the U.N. peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO issued an ultimatum before beginning the disarming effort.

In New York, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the security zone ‘is not an offensive operation and is not targeted at any one armed group.’ He emphasized that the disarmament effort will protect civilians.”

Run-off required
Reuters reports that there will be a second round in Mali’s presidential election after frontrunner Ibrahim Boubacar Keita failed to get an outright majority from the record-turnout 51.5 percent of registered voters:

“Provisional results gave Keita 39 percent of votes cast in the July 28 poll, well ahead of [Soumaila] Cisse’s 19 percent. But the third and fourth placed candidates may now rally behind Cisse, with whom they have been in coalition.

Fears of a chaotic poll were not borne out and voting was largely orderly, though some voters struggled to find their names on voter lists and voting in refugee camps, embassies abroad and the northern region of Kidal was disrupted.”

Latest Developments, June 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Bleak outlook
The World Bank has published a new climate change report exploring what “temperature increases will look like, degree-by-degree” for some of the world’s poorest people over the next century:

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, the researchers found food security will be the overarching challenge, with dangers from droughts, flooding, and shifts in rainfall.
Between 1.5°C-2°C warming, drought and aridity, will contribute to farmers losing 40-80 percent of cropland conducive to growing maize, millet, and sorghum by the 2030s-2040s, the researchers found.

Loss of snow melt from the Himalayas will reduce the flow of water into the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra basins. Together, they threaten to leave hundreds of millions of people without enough water, food, or access to reliable energy.”

US troops in Mali
Sahara Media reports that American soldiers have arrived at the Amchach military base near Tessalit in northern Mali:

“According to sources contacted by Sahara Media, the soldiers’ arrival at this strategic base, which took place over the past two days, has the support of the French military.
These same sources say the US troops will be deployed to various points in northern Mali by month’s end.
According to Sahel watchers, this base had been a point of contention between Paris and Washington, both of whom wanted to set up a military base, though Algeria and Libya objected to foreign troops being stationed near their borders.” [Translated from the French.]

Partial transparency
The Center for Global Development’s Alex Cobham and Owen Barder have mixed feelings about this week’s G8 statement on “tackling financial secrecy”:

“It is disappointing that the G-8 did not agree to compile registries of beneficial ownership of companies and trusts, let alone to make them public. If individuals can own companies anonymously, it is too easy for them to set up shell companies and shelter their income from tax within them. We are confident it will eventually dawn on everyone that the only workable solution is registries of beneficial ownership, and that there is no reason that these should not be public.”

Going beyond aid
The Canadian Council for International Co-operation’s Fraser Reilly-King argues that while “aid alone” will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals or their post-2015 successors, strategies based on leveraging private capital should be viewed with caution :

“With the obsession around growth and the private sector, has come a strong focus on creating an enabling environment for private sector development. The World Bank’s (much criticized) flagship Doing Business Report ranks countries according to the ease of doing business. In practice, while it may encourage countries to streamline heavy bureaucratic processes that choke innovation, this has also led to excessive deregulation, flexibilization of work forces, and attacks on labour rights. For me, it is not about creating an enabling environment to develop the private sector (and stimulate investment), but rather creating an environment that enables the private sector (and investment and civil society and citizens) to contribute to development and poverty eradication. It’s a subtle, but extremely important, difference.”

Truth to power
Humanosphere reports that former Costa Rican president and Nobel laureate Oscar Arias told a US audience “your government is the most dangerous government on Earth”:

“Arias — in town to do a commencement speech for [the University of Washington Bothell], among other speaking events — had plenty of praise for the United States, for the generous and enterprising spirit of Americans.
But he also couldn’t help noting our country’s history of ‘supporting military dictatorships,’ of only doing foreign aid when we can see how it helps us and, as the world’s leading arms dealer and military power, of exporting violence.”

Green façade
The Dominion raises questions about Canadian-based Goldcorp’s attempts to “re-brand” its San Martin mine, which ceased production in 2008, as a Honduran ecotourism site:

“But the reality on the ground is a long way from the stories told in company documents and press releases.
A visit to the site in early 2013 revealed no evidence of a thriving hotel or ecotourism project. Instead, tall fences with barbed wire surrounded a space of land on the hill down from the mine. It cost $20 to enter the area and there were security forces guarding the site.

Residents claim that Goldcorp’s San Martin Foundation should not fall under the definition of ecotourism. Members of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee fear that the site is acting as a placeholder for the mine to re-open in the future once new mining regulations come into place.

Health equality
Durham University’s Clare Bambra makes the case for taking on economic inequality as a way to improve public health:

“Ultimately, more equal societies have better health outcomes. While even the most egalitarian developed countries have health inequalities, all of their citizens are better off and live longer. The poorest and most vulnerable groups in social-democratic countries like Sweden and Norway are far healthier and live longer than their counterparts in neo-liberal countries such as the UK or the US.”

Dodgy accounting
Freedom from Want author Ian Smillie argues that current statistics on extreme poverty do not reflect improving global conditions since the 1980s so much as a big change in the World Bank’s math:

“The problem is that the figures used a decade or so afterwards for 1980, 1985 and 1990 are not the same figures the Bank was using at the time. In its 1980 World Development Report (WDR)—still available on line—the World Bank said that ‘The number of people living in absolute poverty in developing countries (excluding China and other centrally planned economies) is estimated at around 780 million.’ At the time, China had an estimated 360 million destitute people, so the global total was probably about 1.1 billion—the same as today.

Over the past decade, however, the Bank began to tinker with the 1980-1 base. For example, ‘The Bank’s annual statistical report, World Development Indicators 2004 (WDI)… shows a drop in the absolute number of people living on less than $1 a day in all developing countries from 1.5 billion in 1981, to 1.1 billion in 2001.’
Are you following the numbers? The 1981 base had increased to 1.5 billion. And it kept rising thereafter to its current level of 1.9 billion. What remains constant is the 1.1 or 1.2 billion people living in poverty ‘today’ (whether that ‘today’ is 2013, 2004, 2000, 1985 or 1980).”

Latest Developments, June 18

In the latest news and analysis…

G8 promises
The Associated Press reports on the somewhat vague declarations made at the conclusion of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland:

“G-8 leaders also published sweeping goals for tightening the tax rules on globe-trotting corporations that long have exploited loopholes to shift profits into foreign shelters that charge little tax or none. But that initiative, aimed at forcing the Googles and Apples of the world to pay higher taxes, contained only aspirations, no binding commitments.

And Britain itself stands accused of being one of the world’s main links in the tax-avoidance chain. Several of Britain’s own island territories — including Jersey, Guernsey and the British Virgin Islands — serve as shelters and funnel billions each week through the City of London.”

House cleaning
The Scotsman reports that skepticism remains after UK tax havens promised to “produce action plans” on increasing the transparency of corporations’ true owners:

“[British Prime Minister David] Cameron stepped back from making the new registry of company interests public, amid fears that if Britain acted alone, it would put UK companies at a massive disadvantage to foreign competitors.
Meanwhile, leading tax evasion campaigner Richard Murphy warned of the workload.
He said: ‘The UK’s law on companies filing information – with the register of Companies House and [Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs] – is simply not enforced now. So why on earth do we think this new law will be enforced unless the resources are put into ensuring that it is?’
There were also concerns that the deal with overseas territories would not cover ‘trusts’, which could still be used by firms to hide details.”

Tax-haven school
While the G8 was talking tough about offshore secrecy, the International Monetary Fund announced that it had opened its Africa Training Institute in a tax haven:

“ ‘Today, we are opening a new chapter in capacity-building in sub-Saharan Africa, thanks to the generous financial contribution and logistical support of the Mauritius government—the host country–as well as financial support pledges from the Australian Agency for International Development and the Chinese authorities,’ IMF representative Vitaliy Kramarenko said at the opening session. The Africa Training Institute’s key objective is to contribute to improved macroeconomic and financial policies through high-quality training, which would ultimately support sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Joint spying operations
The Washington Post reports that the UK government appears not to have been the only one involved in spying on G20 officials during 2009 meetings in London:

“At least some of the documents posted on the Guardian’s Web site contained the logos of the [National Security Agency] as well as Canada’s security agency, suggesting that a portion of the activities were part of joint or shared operations. The documents also indicated that the British were passed information from the NSA, which reportedly was conducting an eavesdropping operation on then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.”

Fleecing a continent
The Guardian reports that the African Development Bank’s president, Donald Kaberuka, has said his continent is “being ripped off big time”:

“Kaberuka was addressing the perennial question of foreign corporations extracting Africa’s mineral resources at huge profit for shareholders with scant reward for local populations.

Africa loses an estimated $62.2bn (£40bn) in illegal outflows and price manipulation every year, much of it exported by multinationals. The Africa Progress Panel under former UN secretary general Kofi Annan recently highlighted how the Democratic Republic of the Congo lost at least $1.36bn in potential revenues between 2010 and 2012 due to knock-down sales of mining assets to offshore companies.”

Justice delayed
The Age reports that Australian police made the “inexplicable” decision not to investigate allegations that Melbourne-based mining giant BHP Billiton had bribed officials in Cambodia, China and Australia:

“Confidential documents reveal how the [Australian Federal Police] and [the Australian Securities & Investments Commission], with the knowledge of federal officials, mishandled one of the nation’s highest-profile corporate graft cases after US officials referred it to their Australian counterparts in May 2010.
US anti-corruption investigators have been probing BHP Billiton since 2009 – an inquiry that is likely to result in the company receiving a massive fine. But they had told the federal police the bribery allegations were ‘’a matter for Australian authorities’.

It was only recently that a self-initiated internal review led the AFP to reopen the bribery file and initiate a formal investigation.”

Executive wrongdoing
The Standard reports that the vice president of Austria’s central bank has been charged with “overseas graft and money-laundering”:

“Wolfgang Duchatczek, as well as top officials from the Austrian Mint and the central bank’s money-printing subsidiary OeBS, were accused of paying bribes to Azerbaijani and Syrian officials bribes to secure contracts between 2005 and 2011. The bribes amounted to 14-20 percent of the value of the contracts. In total, some 14 million euros made their way to Baku and Damascus via offshore accounts, prosecutors said.”

Offshore database
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has announced the launch of a new searchable database containing information from “a cache of 2.5 million leaked offshore files”:

“ICIJ’s Offshore Leaks Database reveals the names behind more than 100,000 secret companies and trusts created by two offshore services firms: Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and BVI-based Commonwealth Trust Limited (CTL). TrustNet and CTL’s clients are spread over more than 170 countries and territories.
The Offshore Leaks web app allows readers to explore the relationships between clients, offshore entities and the lawyers, accountants, banks and other intermediaries who help keep these arrangements secret.”

Haiti’s gold
Oxfam’s Keith Slack argues that a looming mining rush could make Haiti’s already considerable problems “even worse”:

“As I’ve written previously, Haiti could take some steps now that could help it avoid some of the worst impacts of the ‘resource curse.’ It must be said, though, that past efforts to build government capacity at the same time a new extractive industry develops, as was the case in Chad, don’t inspire much confidence. If Haiti’s economic development is the primary goal here, and given the country’s multiple governance and environmental challenges (severe water contamination, deforestation, vulnerability to earthquakes and hurricanes among them), there’s a heretical notion to some that should seriously be considered.
Leaving the gold in the ground is an option.”