Latest Developments, July 23

In the latest news and analysis…

Legal first
The Globe and Mail reports that a Canadian court has ruled that Canada’s HudBay Minerals can be sued in Canada over alleged human rights abuses in Guatemala:

“The decision opens the door to other cases in which companies could face liability on their home turf for incidents that happen overseas.

In the Guatemalan lawsuits, one case involved the alleged beating, machete hacking and killing of a local Mayan community leader who voiced opposition to the mine: Adolfo Ich Chaman. Another man was shot and now uses a wheelchair. There are also allegations that 11 women were gang-raped by men in mine security uniforms.”

Mortal sin
The New York Times reports that UK pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline’s ethical lapses in China may go well beyond recent bribery allegations:

“The [auditors’] report revealed that the drug’s project leader belatedly learned the results of three studies of ozanezumab in mice. During their investigation, auditors came across six studies whose results had not been reported, even though early trials in humans were already under way.

‘If that’s true, it’s a mortal sin in research requirements,’ said Arthur L. Caplan, the head of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. He served as the chairman of an advisory committee on bioethics at Glaxo from 2005 to 2008. ‘No one could approve human trials without having that information available, scientifically or ethically. That’s kind of a Rock-of-Gibraltar-sized ethics violation.’ ”

Bad treaties
Lee Sheppard writes in Forbes that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s new “action plan” on corporate tax avoidance, endorsed by the G20, is unlikely to help poor countries:

“Multinationals are doing business and extracting resources from poor countries without paying for the costs of their activities or otherwise contributing to the cost of government. Insufficient corporate tax payments are not the full extent of their depredations.
A couple decades ago, many developing countries signed OECD model treaties with developed countries that are home to multinationals. They didn’t realize the full ramifications of the concessions they were making. They were told that a tax treaty is good for inbound investment. The fact is that multinationals will do business in any country where there is money to be made, tax treaty or not. Ask Brazil, which has no tax treaty with the United States.
Developing countries should not sign OECD model tax treaties.”

Criminal words
The Independent reports that a French politician is under investigation for “apologising for crimes against humanity” after allegedly making anti-Roma comments:

“Gilles Bourdouleix, who is also the MP for Cholet, near Nantes, made the comment after 150 traveller caravans moved on to a municipally owned field near his town on Sunday.
The gypsies refused requests to move on and made Nazi salutes at the mayor, according to reports. A regional newspaper, the Courrier de L’Ouest, reported that Mr Bourdouleix then turned away and said: ‘Maybe Hitler didn’t kill enough of them.’ ”

Secret war
Foreign Policy reports on what appears to be an undeclared, escalating and illegal war waged by the US in Somalia:

“Last year, according to [the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea], the United States violated the international arms embargo on Somalia by dispatching American special operations forces in Russian M-17 helicopters to northern Somalia in support of operations by the intelligence service of Puntland, a breakaway Somali province.

Two U.S. air-charter companies linked to American intelligence activities in Somalia have increased the number of clandestine flights to Mogadishu and the breakaway province of Puntland by as much as 25 percent last year.

The flights — which have not been reported to the U.N. Security Council — suggest a further strengthening of American cooperation with Somalia’s National Intelligence Agency in Mogadishu and the Puntland Intelligence Service, which has been cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism operations for more than a decade.”

Corrupting perceptions
The Center for Global Development’s Alex Cobham argues that Transparency International’s oft-cited corruption ranking of countries provides “an unhelpfully distorted reflection of the truth”:

“[University of Minnesota law professor Stuart Vincent] Campbell writes that, in contrast to the [Corruption Perceptions Index] ranking which in 2010 put Brazil 69th, behind Italy and Rwanda, ‘The 2010 Global Corruption Barometer [based on a broader survey of Brazilian citizens] found that only 4 percent of Brazilians had paid a bribe, which is a lower percentage of bribe-givers than the survey found in the United States or any other country in Latin America.’

The CPI embeds a powerful and misleading elite bias in popular perceptions of corruption, potentially contributing to a vicious cycle and at the same time incentivizing inappropriate policy responses. The index corrupts perceptions to the extent that it’s hard to see a justification for its continuing publication. For the good of the organization, its important aims and the many people committed to its success, Transparency International should drop the Corruption Perceptions Index.”

Raw deal
Oxfam’s Jennifer Lentfer reproduces US Congressional testimony, including that of NFL star Anquan Boldin, on whether there is such a thing as an “African resource curse”:

“Meanwhile, the community that lost its land sees little benefit from the enormous mine in what was once their backyard. No percentage of the revenue from the mine, which is bigger than several football stadiums and brings in untold revenues, ever makes its way back to the community. The mining company did leave the community with one gift though. Because the mining company also took ownership of the community’s water source, they built a brand new well in the middle of the community. They now have access to water whenever the company decides to turn on the water (which is rare), and assuming they’ve paid their monthly bill to the mining company. This is the definition of a raw deal.”

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Latest Developments, July 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Lethal aid
Reuters reports that while Washington tries to decide whether or not the Egyptian military’s ouster of a democratically elected president constitutes a coup, the US will continue delivering “aid” to Egypt in the form of F-16 fighter jets:

“A U.S. decision to brand [President Mohamed Mursi’s] overthrow a coup would, by U.S. law, require Washington to halt aid to the Egyptian military, which receives the lion’s share of the $1.5 billion in annual U.S. assistance to that country.
The jets, which will likely be delivered in August and are built by Lockheed Martin Corp, are part of the annual aid package, a U.S. defense official said.

Asked about the F-16s, White House spokesman Jay Carney said: ‘It’s our view that we should not … hastily change our aid programs.’ ”

Deportations halted
Voice of America reports that a European court has blocked Malta’s plan to deport Somali migrants to Libya:

“Maltese authorities had intended to send two planes back to Libya carrying 45 Somali migrants who had arrived Tuesday. But the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling banning the repatriations.

Authorities say more than 400 migrants have arrived on the island in the past week, including babies, pregnant women and three men with gunshot wounds. Most are Eritrean or Somali.
The European Court of Human Rights declared illegal in 2009 the practice of so-called ‘push back’ – where migrants are forced to return where they came from.”

Low standards
The Guardian reports that members of a palm-oil industry sustainability initiative have been implicated in “Asia’s worst air pollution crisis in decades”:

“Greenpeace said its investigation pointed to a wider problem among the industry which is being ignored by the [Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil], which only investigated member companies who had been named in the media, not all member companies in the Sumatran region.
‘Rather than claiming the innocence of members who’ve been reported in the media, the RSPO needs to address the real problem – years of peatland drainage and destruction which is labelled “sustainable” under RSPO rules and has laid the foundation for these disastrous fires,’ said [Greenpeace’s Bustar] Maitar.”

Taking sides
The Azerbaijan Press Agency reports that the Azeri government is accusing France and Germany of violating an arms embargo by selling anti-tank missiles to Armenia:

“The embassies of the aforementioned countries in Azerbaijan were demanded to clarify how these countries that imposed an embargo on the sale of weapons to the conflicting parties could deliver these systems to Armenia.

France and Germany announce that in connection with the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, they are not selling weapons and military vehicles to Azerbaijan and Armenia and have imposed an embargo on this.”

Biofuels shift
Inter Press Service reports that changes to EU regulations on biofuels are eliciting mixed reviews from anti-poverty activists:

“ ‘From the point of view of the climate, this result is unexpectedly positive: from now on only truly sustainable biofuels will be subsidized,’ Marc-Olivier Herman, Oxfam International’s biofuel expert, told IPS.
‘But as far as food security is concerned, the result is outright negative. Last year the Commission proposed 5 percent to protect the existing industry while blocking its expansion. Everything higher than this percentage is unjustifiable. It signifies a subsidised growth of the sector, resulting in more speculation on land and food, causing more food insecurity and hunger.’ ”

Pharma bribes
The BBC reports that “senior executives” of the UK’s biggest pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, are under investigation in China over alleged corruption:

“They are being investigated for bribery and tax-related violations, said the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.
They are suspected of offering bribes to officials and doctors in an attempt to boost sales in the country.

‘The case involves many people, the duration of time is long, the amount of money involved is huge and the criminal activities are malicious,’ the ministry said.”

New wealth measure
The Alternative Development and Research Center’s Prahlad Shekhawat welcomes the UN Development Programme’s adoption of a “more inclusive” way of calculating wealth:

“[The Human Development Report 2013] includes both the amount of human well-being that countries generate as measured by the Human Development Index, as well as the level of resource demand and consumption as measured by the Ecological Footprint. It is a big step forward that a leading UN agency has now offered a strategy for alternative development. Earlier versions of the report only included Ecological Footprint outcomes in the background data.
The United Nations HDI is an indicator of human development that measures a country’s achievements in the areas of life expectancy, education, and income. The Ecological Footprint measures a people’s demand on nature and can be compared to available biocapacity. The HDI-Footprint, using simple indicators, prominently reveals how far removed the world is from achieving sustainable development.”

Ethical stain
The British Medical Association’s Eleanor Chrispin and Vivienne Nathanson write that doctors are “increasingly among those expressing concern” about the force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison:

“This year’s annual representative meeting of the BMA condemned the participation of doctors and nurses in force feeding, branding it a ‘stain on medical ethics.’ In doing so, the BMA added its voice to that of the American Medical Association, which denounced the practice in a letter to the secretary of defense of the United States, and in a BMJ editorial. Individual doctors on both sides of the Atlantic have publicly expressed their alarm. While the US authorities continue to pursue a medically supervised regime of force feeding, the more insistent the medical community’s protests will become.
The forced enteral feeding of competent adults, protesting at being held without charge, is a human rights issue. The use of doctors and nurses as instruments to violate detainees’ fundamental rights is an issue of both human rights and medical ethics.”

Drone questions
The BBC reports that British MPs will hold an “inquiry” into the country’s policy on armed drones:

“MPs will examine the UK’s deployment of armed drones and the legal

The Defence Committee will look at the lessons learned from operations in Afghanistan as well as the constraints on the use of drones in the UK and overseas.
MPs will also investigate the future potential for unmanned aerial vehicles, and what capabilities the UK will seek to develop between now and 2020.”

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.”

Latest Developments, May 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Fear of laws
Business Insider reports that US retailers Walmart and Gap are refusing to sign on to legally binding protections for Bangladesh’s garment workers:

“Gap has said it will sign the safety accord only if it’s amended to alleviate liability from the company. Wal-Mart introduced its own safety plan that mandates independent factory safety audits but isn’t legally binding.

But safety agreements that don’t carry any legal weight aren’t usually effective, said Bjorn Claeson, senior policy advisor for the International Labor Rights Forum.
‘What we need brands to do is be accountable for worker safety in Bangladesh,’ he told us in an interview last week. ‘The problem is that brands are not willing to make anything else but voluntary, non-binding commitments to worker rights and health and safety standards. … They are under no obligation to fix the problems, to make the factories safe or to tell workers the dangers they face.’ ”

A bribe by any other name
The CBC reports on Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin’s use of the term “project consultancy cost” to conceal the bribes it routinely paid around the world:

“The documents show that from 2008 until 2011, the company included these ‘consultancy costs’ in 13 projects.
The terms ‘PCC’ or ‘CC’ appear as line items on eight of the projects in Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda, Ghana, India and Kazakhstan.

According to various company emails, cheques and other accounting records, the money was routinely calculated as a percentage of the total value of contracts, typically around 10 per cent.”

Rubber barons
A new Global Witness report shows how the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and Germany’s Deutsche Bank are fuelling land grabs by rubber companies in Cambodia and Laos:

“Cambodia and Laos are undergoing a land grabbing crisis that has seen more than 3.7 million hectares of land handed over to companies since 2000, forty percent of which is for rubber plantations.

These investments [by IFC and Deutsche Bank] stand in stark contrast to both institutions’ public commitments on ethics and sustainability, as well as the World Bank’s core mandate to end global poverty”

Museum loot
The New York Times reports that Cambodia is asking US museums and collectors to return Khmer antiquities acquired during the country’s two decades of genocide and civil war in the late 20th Century:

“Hundreds of Cambodian antiquities are in American museums, as well as in the hands of foreign institutions and private collectors. Many were acquired after 1970 and lack paperwork showing how they left Cambodia.

Today, most museums have pledged not to collect items that lack a paper trail dating back to 1970, the year that a United Nations convention aimed at blocking illicit antiquities trafficking was adopted.”

Trade mission
The Canadian government has announced it is pushing for yet another “foreign investment promotion and protection agreement” with a poor country:

“ ‘Our government is committed to increasing trade and diversifying our engagement with fast-growth countries like Ghana,’ said [Canadian foreign minister John] Baird. ‘Ghana is very much a symbol of the new Africa—one in which aid recipients are becoming important trading partners, and political stability allows for economic dynamism.’
He added, ‘Such an agreement, once in effect, will help bolster investment confidence to make the most of the abundant opportunities that exist here, contributing to job creation and economic growth in both countries.’ ”

Policy damage
Michael Scaturro writes in the Atlantic about the “nasty downside” of economic austerity measures, such as healthcare spending cuts, in Greece:

“ ‘Greece is an example of perhaps the worst case of austerity leading to public health disasters,’ [Oxford University’s David] Stuckler explained in a telephone interview.
‘After mosquito spraying programs were cut, we’ve seen a return of malaria, which the country has kept under control for the past four decades. New HIV infections have jumped more than 200 percent,’ he noted.
Malaria returned because municipal governments lacked the funds to spray against mosquitoes. HIV spiked because government needle exchange programs ran out of clean syringes for heroin addicts. By Stuckler’s estimate, the average Greek junkie requires 200 clean needles in a given year.
‘But now they’re only getting three a year each,’ Stuckler said.”

Thoughtless harmonization
The Center of Concern’s Aldo Caliari argues that a review of the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings, which assess countries on the business friendliness of their policies, is “overdue”:

“The success of institutional reforms is strongly conditioned by the indigenous environment where they are implemented, an environment which varies country by country. So it is not thoughtless harmonization but attention to the particular requirements and nuances needed in each country and region which will make reform programs successful. The conceptual flaw Doing Business suffers from is the illusion that a universal numerical ranking can capture the evolution of variables whose significance for development (and even for businesses themselves) are bound to be quite different country to country. This is true whether we are talking about tax rates, licensing requirements, labor protection policies or access to credit.
It would not be so bad if, at least, the reductionist set of indicators Doing Business equates with a good investment climate were unequivocally positive, or neutral, for development and the well-being of the population.
But we cannot assume that.”

Locus of control
Former Norwegian foreign minister Erik Solheim calls for a “new model of partnership” in which conflict-affected and fragile states, rather than donors, determine their own priorities:

“The [New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States] recognizes what the history of peace-building teaches us: national leadership and ownership of agendas are key to achieving visible and sustainable results. As Kosti Manibe Ngai, South Sudan’s finance minister, has put it, ‘Nothing about us without us.’
In many conversations with South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, we have discussed setting out a short list of clear priorities for the new state. But such goals are meaningful only if a fragile state’s partners are ready to accept the lead from a capital like Juba rather than from their own headquarters.

As partners, we must accept this national leadership. After Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake in 2010, the country was dubbed ‘the republic of NGOs.’ Unable to create conditions in which Haitians themselves could take the lead in rebuilding their country, Haiti’s external partners undermined the establishment of a functioning internal governance system.”

Latest Developments, May 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Democratic castration
Cambridge University economist Ha-Joon Chang argues that the imposition of austerity has turned the present into “nothing less than crunch time for democracy” in Europe:

“In particularly difficult economic times, it was even argued, we need to insulate economic policies from politics altogether. Latin American military dictatorships were justified in such terms. The recent imposition of ‘technocratic’ governments, made up of economists and bankers who have not been ‘tainted’ by politics, on Greece and Italy comes from the same intellectual stable.
What free-market economists are not telling us is that the politics they want to get rid of are none other than those of democracy itself. When they say we need to insulate economic policies from politics, they are in effect advocating the castration of democracy.”

New boss
The Guardian reports that the World Trade Organization has chosen its next head, with the selection process mirroring the rich-poor divide that has left the Doha round of trade talks stalled for years:

“Ultimately, [Roberto] Azevêdo won the backing of a majority of the WTO’s 159 members, despite a lack of support from many rich countries.
‘Had [Herminio] Blanco won – with transatlantic support behind him, plus the support of Japan and Korea – it would have looked like another rich-country stitch-up of an international [organisation] job, and that would have been very unhelpful in terms of getting progress at the WTO,’ says [the University of St Gallen’s Simon] Evenett. ‘In that sense, the outcome that we have is good for the organisation.’

He added: ‘We all wish him well, but what can he do to change negotiating positions in national capitals? The answer is not much.’ ”

The Corruptors
Inter Press Service reports on some of the reactions to revelations of “bags of cash” being given by the CIA to Afghan President Hamid Karzai:

“While the United States preaches ‘good governance’ to developing countries at the United Nations, says one African diplomat, ‘it has been doing the reverse in its own political backyard’.
And good governance not only includes multi-party democracy, rule of law and a free press but also transparent and corruption-free regimes.
Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), told IPS, ‘If the U.S. ever stood for good government and democracy, it does not any longer.’ ”

Tainted profits
Norway has announced it has dropped an American and a Chinese tobacco producer from the government pension fund:

“The Ministry of Finance has decided to exclude Schweitzer-Mauduit International Inc. and Huabao International Holdings Limited based on the recommendation from the Council on Ethics. In accordance with the guidelines, the decision to exclude is made public once the shares are sold.”

More bodies
The BBC reports that the death toll at the collapsed Bangladeshi garment factories, which supplied a number of Western retailers, has now risen above 800:

“Authorities are continuing to search the rubble for more bodies two weeks after the Rana Plaza building collapsed on 24 April.

Officials say about 2,500 people were injured in the collapse and that 2,437 people have been rescued.

The EU has said it is considering ‘appropriate action’ to encourage an improvement in working conditions in Bangladesh factories.”

Outsourcing lethality
Foreign Policy’s Micah Zenko writes about a particular kind of extrajudicial killing that eliminates perceived enemies of the US but “more easily masks US involvement and culpability” compared to drone strikes:

“However, if you’re concerned by the Obama administration’s targeted killing policies, don’t overlook similar attacks conducted by allies and partners who receive U.S. money, weapons, or actionable intelligence. When the United States provides other states or non-state actors with the capabilities that enable lethal operations — without which they would not happen — it bears primary responsibility for the outcome. Whatever drone strike reforms the White House offers, or if additional congressional hearings are held, they must take into account America’s troubling role in client-state targeted killings.”

Gun crazy
ProPublica reports that the majority of US states are enacting legislation that renders federal gun controls irrelevant or illegal:

“Kansas’ ‘Second Amendment Protection Act’ backs up its states’ rights claims with a penalty aimed at federal agents: when dealing with ‘Made in Kansas’ guns, any attempt to enforce federal law is now a felony. Bills similar to Kansas’ law have been introduced in at least 37 other states. An even broader bill is on the desk of Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell. That bill would exempt any gun owned by an Alaskan from federal regulation. In Missouri, a bill declaring federal gun laws ‘null and void’ passed by an overwhelming majority in the state house, and is headed for debate in the senate.”

Petroleum myth
The Globe and Mail reports that former US vice-president Al Gore does not buy the argument that oil is more “ethical” if produced in democratic countries:

“ ‘There’s no such thing as ethical oil,’ he said. ‘There’s only dirty oil and dirtier oil.’ The remark triggered applause from a nearly full house at the Globe-sponsored event at a Ryerson University auditorium.

While noting that the U.S. needed to change to remove the demand for Canadian oil, Mr. Gore also said: ‘I had hoped that Canada would point the way toward a better path, but as yet it has not.’ ”