Latest Developments, August 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Coup admission
The National Security Archive has published what it believes to be the CIA’s first formal acknowledgement that it helped plan and carry out the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected prime minister 60 years ago today:

“The document was first released in 1981, but with most of it excised, including all of Section III, entitled ‘Covert Action’ — the part that describes the coup itself. Most of that section remains under wraps, but this new version does formally make public, for the first time that we know of, the fact of the agency’s participation: ‘[T]he military coup that overthrew Mosadeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy,’ the history reads. The risk of leaving Iran ‘open to Soviet aggression,’ it adds, ‘compelled the United States … in planning and executing TPAJAX.’
TPAJAX was the CIA’s codename for the overthrow plot, which relied on local collaborators at every stage. It consisted of several steps: using propaganda to undermine [Mohammed] Mossadegh politically, inducing the Shah to cooperate, bribing members of parliament, organizing the security forces, and ginning up public demonstrations. The initial attempt actually failed, but after a mad scramble the coup forces pulled themselves together and came through on their second try, on August 19.”

Coup consequences
The New York Times reports that the US is “curtailing” financial, but not military, aid to Egypt following a security-forces crackdown that killed hundreds of protesters:

“Military aid to Egypt dwarfs civilian aid: of the $1.55 billion in total assistance the White House has requested for 2014, $1.3 billion is military and $250 million is economic. The civilian aid goes to such things as training programs and projects run by the United States Agency for International Development.

Among the programs affected, the official said, would be training programs in the United States for Egyptian government workers, teachers or hospital administrators. Depending on how events in Egypt unfold, and on how lawmakers react when they return from August recess, the economic aid could resume later, the official said.
There are fewer legal restrictions on the $585 million in military aid — the amount remaining from the original $1.3 billion appropriation.”

Marikana apology
The BBC reports that a UK-based mining company has said “sorry” on the first anniversary of South Africa’s deadliest police violence since the end of apartheid:

“The owner of the South African mine where 34 striking workers were shot dead by police a year ago has apologised to relatives.
‘We will never replace your loved ones and I say we are truly sorry for that,’ Lonmin boss Ben Magara said.
He was speaking to thousands of people gathered to mark the anniversary of the deaths at the Marikana platinum mine.”

FISA limits
The Washington Post reports that the secret US court tasked with oversight of the country’s surveillance programs “must trust the government to report when it improperly spies on Americans”

“The chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said the court lacks the tools to independently verify how often the government’s surveillance breaks the court’s rules that aim to protect Americans’ privacy. Without taking drastic steps, it also cannot check the veracity of the government’s assertions that the violations its staff members report are unintentional mistakes.

The court’s description of its practical limitations contrasts with repeated assurances from the Obama administration and intelligence agency leaders that the court provides central checks and balances on the government’s broad spying efforts.”

Negative mattering
AllAfrica reports on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Kingsley Moghalu’s assessment of Africa’s economic prospects:

“Acknowledging that Africa has several of the world’s fastest growing economies – often cited by Africa champions as a sign of ‘Africa rising’ – Moghalu argues that economic growth based on cyclical and unsustainable extractive industries and commodity sales conveys ‘a false sense of arrival’.
Pointing to a syndrome he called ‘negative mattering’, he said Africa matters to the world today primarily for the same reason it did during the slave trade and the colonial period: for what can be extracted and exported.

Africa as a ‘last frontier’ often means a continent ripe for profit-making through international trade and investment, Moghalu said.”

Miranda rights
The Guardian reports that the partner of the journalist at the centre of the Edward Snowden affair has been detained at Heathrow airport under UK anti-terror laws:

“The 28-year-old was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 – over 97% – last less than an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours.
[David] Miranda was released, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.

[Labour MP Tom Watson] said: ‘It’s almost impossible, even without full knowledge of the case, to conclude that Glenn Greenwald’s partner was a terrorist suspect.’ ”

Lived gender
The Guardian also reports that Germany is set to become the first European country to allow babies with ambiguous genitalia to be registered as “a third or ‘undetermined’ sex”:

“The change is being seen as the country’s first legal acknowledgment that it is possible for a human to be neither male nor female – which could have far-reaching consequences in many legal areas.

The German decision to recognise a third gender was based on a recommendation by the constitutional court, which sees legal recognition of a person’s experienced and ‘lived’ gender as a personal human right.”

Behind the scenes
Le Monde reports on an apparent quid pro quo between France and Mali’s Tuareg separatist rebels since the country’s 2012 coup:

“Hoping to shift Bamako’s position, northern Mali’s communities seem to expect much from France which, despite its denials, still secretly controls the agenda.

According to a member of the French intelligence community, the MNLA supplied GPS positions allowing French bombers to hit their targets, particularly in the towns controlled by Islamists: Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. It was, moreover, the MNLA that recently helped recover the body of French hostage Philippe Verdon.

According to our sources, France supplied a plane carrying 70,000 litres of fuel and airdropped weapons to support MNLA troops after their eviction by al Qaeda jihadists in the summer of 2012.” [Translated from the French.]

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Latest Developments, February 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Surprise endorsement
Wired reports that UN special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson, the man who recently launched an investigation into the use of armed drones, has given his “qualified backing” to John Brennan, the man who has been running the US drone program, for next head of the CIA:

“Emmerson, a British lawyer, has put the U.S. on notice that he won’t hesitate to investigate U.S. ‘war crimes’ if he uncovers evidence of them. While Emmerson’s inquiry won’t focus on individuals responsible for any uncovered abuses, Brennan, as a White House aide, presided over the bureaucratic process for ordering suspected terrorists killed. Yet at the White House, Emmerson says, Brennan ‘had the job of reining in the more extreme positions advanced by the CIA,’ which he thinks augurs well for Brennan’s CIA tenure.
‘By putting Brennan in direct control of the CIA’s policy [of targeted killings], the president has placed this mediating legal presence in direct control of the positions that the CIA will adopt and advance, so as to bring the CIA much more closely under direct presidential and democratic control,’ Emmerson says. ‘It’s right to view this as a recognition of the repository of trust that Obama places in Brennan to put him in control of the organization that poses the greatest threat to international legal consensus and recognition of the lawfulness of the drone program.’ ”

Due process
Georgetown University’s David Cole wonders if there are any “alternative checks within the executive branch” during US decision making on targeted killings:

“For example, is anyone assigned to make the case against the targeted killing—that is, to advocate on behalf of the person the administration is considering executing? The CIA uses ‘red teams’ to challenge and improve its analysis of potential operations; shouldn’t that be required before the executive kills a human being? Much information has been leaked about the process, but nothing has suggested that such a safeguard exists in the targeted killing program.”

Economic war
The Associated Press reports that Iran’s supreme leader has said that increasingly harsh economic sanctions make direct nuclear talks with the US impossible:

“ ‘You are holding a gun against Iran saying, “Talks or you’ll fire.” The Iranian nation will not be frightened by such threats,’ [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei added in a reference to U.S. sanctions over Iran’s nuclear efforts.
The U.S. this week further tightened sanctions, which have already slashed Iran’s oil revenue by 45 percent. The new measures seek to cut deeper into Iran’s ability to get oil revenue. It calls on countries that buy Iranian crude — mostly Asian nations including China and India — not to transfer money directly to Iran and instead place it in local accounts.”

No exceptions
Publish What You Pay is celebrating the Dutch government’s decision not to support “dangerous exclusions” in proposed new EU requirements for extractive industry transparency:

“The upcoming legislation which is being introduced through the European Accounting and Transparency Directives builds upon a landmark provision in US law – section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act passed in 2010 – which requires all oil, gas, and mining companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to publish their payments to all countries and for every project. The US rules implementing Dodd-Frank 1504 do not provide for any exemptions from reporting.
In deciding not to support exemptions, Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp said in a letter to the Dutch Parliament that exemptions were ‘not desirable’ since the Dutch government wished to create ‘a level playing field for international transparency requirements’.
Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell and other oil companies have been fighting these laws both in the United States and European Union.”

Global precedent
Reuters reports on the opening of a special court in Senegal that will be the first in the world to hold a “trial of an ex-head of state by another country for rights abuses”:

“Prosecutors will work at a sea-front court in the Senegalese capital Dakar, investigating the alleged killing and torture of 40,000 people during [former Chadian President Hissene] Habre’s 1982-1990 rule.

Africa has a human rights court which sits in Arusha, Tanzania, but its status has only been ratified by 26 countries.
Former African heads of state have stood trial before, but only in their own countries or before international tribunals, never in the court of another country.”

Mining murders
Morning Star reports that a Colombian court has ordered prosecutors to investigate the president of a US mining company over the 2001 deaths of two union leaders:

“The company denies hiring militias and is fighting a lawsuit filed by survivors of the murdered men in an Alabama federal court that claims [Drummond Company] aided and abetted war crimes, including extra-judicial killings.

Lawyer for the plaintiffs Terry Collingsworth applauded judge [William] Castelblanco’s order that prosecutors investigate Drummond’s president, Garry Drummond, as well as a former mine security chief and two Colombians to determine whether they shared responsibility for the killings.
But he also said he wasn’t hopeful that the order would lead to a Colombian criminal prosecution.”

Gene treaty
Intellectual Property Watch reports that UN delegates have produced a text that could lead to “an international instrument or instruments protecting genetic resources against misappropriation”:

“The text, bearing a large number of brackets, shows that divergences still need to be bridged. The [Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC)] meeting scheduled for July has three extra days planned for the end to discuss the three legs of the IGC: genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. But this genetic resources text is not expected to be reopened then.

Canada, Japan, Norway, South Korea and the United States, resubmitted their joint recommendation on genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, for a non-binding instrument without a disclosure requirement.”

Luxury ban
Voice of America reports that China has banned radio and TV ads for luxury goods on the grounds that they “publicized incorrect values and helped create a bad social ethos”:

“The move to ban certain ads comes as the lunar new year celebrations approach and is another in a line of efforts by Chinese authorities to root out corruption, something the Chinese Communist Party has publicly acknowledged as a life or death struggle.

In December, China forbade high-ranking Chinese military officials from attending banquets and other events where alcoholic beverages are served. They also set limitations on the use of welcome banners, red carpets, floral arrangements, live performances and souvenirs.”

Latest Developments, February 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Media silence
The Washington Post reports that it was one of a number of major news organizations that granted a request not to reveal the existence of a drone base in Saudi Arabia:

“The base was established two years ago to intensify the hunt against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the affiliate in Yemen is known. Brennan, who previously served as the CIA’s station chief in Saudi Arabia, played a key role in negotiations with Riyadh over locating an agency drone base inside the kingdom.
The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network’s most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.
The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year.”

Extraordinary practices
A new report released by the Open Society Foundations reveals the scope of international cooperation with the CIA’s rendition program, a program that was never shut down:

“At least 136 individuals were reportedly extraordinarily rendered or secretly detained by the CIA and at least 54 governments reportedly participated in the CIA’s secret detention and extraordinary rendition program; classified government documents may reveal many more.

President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order repudiating torture does not repudiate the CIA extraordinary rendition program. It was specifically crafted to preserve the CIA’s authority to detain terrorist suspects on a short-term, transitory basis prior to rendering them to another country for interrogation or trial.”

Targeting corruptors
The Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian government is introducing legislation to crack down on companies that pay bribes to foreign officials:

“In addition to allowing prosecutors here to go after Canadian companies for bribes they pay abroad, the new law will outlaw so-called ‘facilitation payments’ – the grease money paid to foreign officials even if it’s not directly linked to gaining a business deal or advantage. Those payments, technically different from a bribe, will not be immediately made illegal, but the government will outlaw them at a later date, presumably to give companies warning of the changing rules.

Although Canada signed an international convention on combating bribery in 1998, it has long been criticized for doing too little to enforce anti-bribery measures. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which reviews countries’ action to combat bribery, has repeatedly issued reports calling Canada’s enforcement weak, most recently in 2011.”

Counting the dead
Agence France-Presse reports that France has released its first official, if somewhat vague, death toll from its offensive in Mali, though there was no mention of civilian casualties:

“Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the 26-day military intervention has killed ‘several hundred’ Islamist militants as its air and ground forces chased them from their northern strongholds into remote mountainous terrain in the far northeast.

France’s sole fatality so far has been a helicopter pilot who was killed at the start of the military operation, while ‘two or three’ soldiers have suffered light injuries, Le Drian said.
Mali said 11 of its troops were killed and 60 wounded after the battle at Konna last month but it has not since released a new death toll.”

More guns
Reuters reports that the US is calling for a resumption of arms sales to Somalia where a UN embargo has been in place since 1992:

“Diplomats said Britain and France have been reluctant to support ending the arms embargo. The Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, which monitors compliance with the sanctions regime, has also opposed the idea of lifting it, U.N. envoys said.
Those who oppose getting rid of the arms embargo say Somalia’s security sector still includes elements close to warlords and militants, an allegation the Somali government rejects.”

Good times, bad times
Reuters also reports that Tanzania, Africa’s fourth-largest gold producer, has said it favours a flexible approach to taxing mining companies in order to compensate for fluctuating global prices:

“ ‘If [the mining companies] are making losses, will they keep quiet? When they are going to make huge losses they are going to approach the government,’ [minerals minister Sospeter] Muhongo told Reuters on the sidelines of an African mining conference in Cape Town.
‘If they are going to make huge profits, we will also approach them,’ he said.
Asked if this meant windfall taxes could be introduced, he replied ‘yes’.
Many African governments say they need to extract more revenue from their mining and oil industries to spread the benefits of resource wealth more widely.”

The world according to Fisk
The Tyee reports on a recent talk given by veteran journalist Robert Fisk, in which he expressed his views that so-called Arab Spring protesters sought dignity over democracy and that journalists must be “neutral and unbiased on the side of those who suffer”:

“And why not democracy? Because the western democracies are precisely the countries that have imposed their will, and installed dictators, in the Arab lands since the end of World War I. The West, he said, thinks it has a right and a duty to do so.
‘But these are not our people,’ Fisk said; they have a different history and culture from the West, and we have no business”

Fighting transparency
Global Witness’s Simon Taylor calls on aerospace/defense giant Boeing to stop opposing US legislation requiring companies to monitor their supply chain for conflict minerals from DR Congo:

“The Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable have filed a lawsuit against the SEC to overturn the conflict minerals rule.

Boeing, which has a seat on NAM’s board and whose representative is the executive committee chair of the Business Roundtable, appears to be at the forefront of the fight to overturn the rule.

In comments submitted to the SEC, Boeing indicated that the final rule on 1502 would be too costly and burdensome to comply with, given ‘the complexity of modern supply chains.’
As the world’s largest aerospace company, Boeing’s influence within the industry — let alone over its own supply chain — is considerable. Boeing’s attempt to kill Section 1502 through anonymous corporate lobby groups is misguided and irresponsible.”

Latest Developments, January 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Cabinet pick
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent writes that US President Barack Obama’s nomination of drone czar John Brennan as the new head of the CIA presents an opportunity for the country (and the world) to move beyond “gray wars with gray rules”:

“What if Senators use his confirmation hearings to force a public debate about the legality and transparency of Obama’s drone strike program and the need for meaningful Congressional oversight of the program? The hearings could also initiate a conversation about the legacy of Bush era torture, other aspects of the Bush war on terror, and the areas of continuity between the two administrations on civil liberties issues.

‘We absolutely should have this debate,’ Steve Clemons, a foreign policy expert at the New America Foundation, tells me. ‘We still live with the legacy of the world that Dick Cheney and George Bush built — one that is not internationally sanctioned. One of the ways Obama and Brennan can restore America’s global leverage is to help lay out a blueprint for a new global social contract for a world with wars like those of today.’ ”

Development profiteering
The Guardian reports on calls for the World Bank, the British government and private investors to return “excessive” profits from a smelting project in Mozambique that uses 45% of the country’s electricity:

“The report calculates that foreign investors, governments and development banks have received an average of $320m (£199m) a year from the smelter, in contrast to the Mozambique government’s $15m. In other words, for every $1 paid to the Mozambique government, $21 has left the country in profit or interest to foreign governments and investors.

To attract foreign investors, the Mozambique government exempted Mozal from taxes on profit and VAT, levying only a 1% turnover tax, while allowing all profit from the smelter to be taken offshore. BHP Billiton, the mining group, owns 47% of Mozal, while Japan’s Mitsubishi owns 25%. The other two equity investors are the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (24%) and the government of Mozambique (4%).”

Strange catch
Agence France-Presse reports that fisherman have retrieved a crashed US drone in the waters off the central Philippines:

“In an interview with AFP last year, President Benigno Aquino confirmed that the Philippines has been allowing US drones to overfly its territory for reconnaissance flights, but were not allowed to make strikes.
About 600 US forces have been rotating in the southern Philippines since 2002 as part of the US government’s global war on terror.
However the drone was found in Masbate, many hundreds of kilometres from the Muslim insurgency-racked areas where no US troops are known to operate.
Masbate is one of the areas where communists waging a decades-long rebellion have long operated.”

Not this time?
Reuters reports that although the Central African Republic has experienced the “most frequent and blatant French military interference” in post-independence Africa, France insists it will not take sides in the country’s latest conflict:

“Despite appeals by [CAR President Francois] Bozize to ‘our cousins’ Paris and Washington for help, France said its several hundred troops in its landlocked former colony were there solely to protect French nationals and interests and not the local government.
‘This time the message was very clear, that “we are not here to save the regime”,’ said Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa project director for International Crisis Group.”

Opaque investments
Johns Hopkins University’s Deborah Brautigam argues America’s foreign direct investment in Africa must become more transparent:

“At least as posted on the website of the OECD’s statistics bureau, the US claimed that 2010 FDI data by US companies in twelve African countries (almost all resource-rich) was ‘confidential’. What’s more, in 2010 the second most popular destination for US FDI flows to Africa was … Mauritius (a tax haven) where US firms sent $1860 million.”

Breach of trust
George Washington University’s Lynn Goldman and Johns Hopkins University’s Michael Klag argue the US must take steps to atone for its role in precipitating the lethal violence that has been unleashed against polio vaccine providers in Pakistan:

“A massive vaccination effort like this one requires a bond of public trust, one that was broken by the CIA. The U.S. took the first step toward repairing the atmosphere of mistrust by admitting to the sham vaccination effort. Now, the president and Congress must take the next step by erecting a firewall between public health programs, like the global polio initiative, and espionage or other covert operations conducted by the CIA.
They should follow action taken by former Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver, who in 1961 won assurances from President John F. Kennedy that they would not infiltrate the ranks of the Corps. Shriver believed ties to the CIA could jeopardize the Peace Corps’ mission and put young volunteers at risk, especially in countries that were already suspicious of the program.”

Military throwback
The Sunday Times reports that a group of businessmen is assembling “Britain’s first private navy in almost two centuries” to take on piracy off Africa’s east coast:

“Its armed vessels – including a 10,000-ton mother ship and high-speed armoured patrol boats – will be led by a former Royal Navy commodore. He is recruiting 240 former marines and other sailors for the force.

The Britons intend to sail under a sovereign flag which will give them the legal right to carry their weaponry into harbour, rather than cache them on platforms in international waters.
[Simon] Murray is chairman of Glencore, one of the world’s largest commodities traders. He is backing the new force alongside other investors.”

Chain liability
Inter Press Service reports that Switzerland’s parliament is looking to tackle “wage dumping” by holding general contractors responsible for labour abuses committed by their subcontractors:

“The buck is passed around, and there are several victims: The workers don’t earn what they deserve, correctly employed labourers face pressure on their wages, and properly operating companies are confronted with unfair competition.

Swiss labour unions have demanded laws making general contractors legally accountable for misconduct by its subcontractors, so-called ‘chain liability’. General contractors are only freed from responsibility if they can show to have ensured that their subcontractors abide by the law.
The neo-liberal lobby along with the Swiss Employers’ Association has launched a much weaker counter-proposal. They want general contractors to be freed of any legal responsibility if their direct subcontractor simply signs a contract pledging to respect Swiss wage and labour conditions.”

Latest Developments, November 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Fallout risk
Agence France-Presse reports that a top Mauritanian politician is warning that foreign military intervention in neighbouring Mali could have “devastating” consequences for the wider region:

” ‘This country which has for a long time been seen as a model of democracy is like a volcano about to erupt,’ national assembly president Messaoud Ould Boulkheir said a day after West African leaders gave the green light to sending 3,300 troops to northern Mali to wrest control from the Islamists.
‘If this volcano awakens, it will dump incandescent ashes over its neighbours,’ he told parliament.”

No air strikes
The Associated Press reports that France’s defense minister has said neither his country nor the EU would use military force to help reunite Mali:

“[Jean-Yves] Le Drian, speaking to reporters in Paris, reiterated France’s longstanding stance that it will not send ground forces in support of the planned international effort led by African troops in Mali. But this time, he sought to make clear that that would mean no French attacks from the air either.
‘As for air support, neither Europe nor France will intervene militarily,’ Le Drian told the European American Press Club. ‘When we say no troops on the ground, that means “troops in the air” too … But bringing in information, intelligence is another thing.’
Other officials have indicated that France could use drones to provide surveillance for ground forces from other countries that are deployed to Mali.”

Corruption pays
The Financial Times reports that European oil giants Shell and Eni have come under fire over a $1.1 billion payment they made last year for a deepwater oil concession off Nigeria’s coast:

“Global Witness says that if the multinationals knew the money would be paid to [Malabu Oil & Gas], the deal could test anti-corruption laws in the UK, US and Italy, ‘for the reason that a substantial monetary “reward” ended up being paid to a company controlled by an individual, who had arguably abused his public position to obtain OPL 245 in opaque circumstances during the Abacha dictatorship’.
The deal illustrates why proposed new EU transparency laws must require extractive industry companies to report payments to governments on a project-by-project basis, according to Simon Taylor, director of Global Witness. Details of the OPL 245 settlement would not have been made public were it not for the New York case.”

News wars
The Associated Press reports that the US military is bankrolling a pair of news websites as part of a “propaganda effort” in Somalia and North Africa:

“[sabahionline.com], which launched in February, is slowly attracting readers. The military said that Sabahi averages about 4,000 unique visitors and up to 10,000 articles read per day. The site clearly says under the ‘About’ section that it is run by the U.S. military, but many readers may not go to that link.

The military said there are nine writers who work for Sabahi from Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti and Somalia. The other site — magharebia.com — concentrates on Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania.
Africom says the websites are part of a larger project that costs $3 million to pay for reporting, editing, translating, publishing, IT costs and overhead. It believes the project is paying dividends.”

Man-made disaster
The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Mark Weisbrot calls on the UN to make amends for causing Haiti’s ongoing deadly cholera epidemic:

“There hadn’t been any cholera in Haiti for at least 100 years, if ever, until some UN troops from South Asia dumped human waste into a tributary of the country’s main water supply. Since then, more than 7,600 Haitians have died and over 600,000 have gotten sick.

After the earthquake, there was much talk about ‘building back better’ in Haiti, with disappointing results. The very least that the international community can do is to fix the damage that its members themselves have caused since the earthquake. That means starting right now, with the urgency that any other country would expect in matters of life and death.”

Ending prohibition
The Open Society Foundations’ Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch argues that last week’s votes in favour of legalizing marijuana by two US states “will drive drug-policy debates worldwide”:

“Given that the US is the biggest backer of the international ‘War on Drugs,’ Colorado and Washington voters’ decision is particularly bold. Regulating marijuana – and the initiatives that could soon follow – has the potential to reduce violence at home and abroad, spare young people from undeserved criminal records, and reduce stigma among vulnerable people.”

Eyeing resources
Inter Press Service reports on growing concerns over Canada’s changing relationship with Africa:

“As the Canadian trade minister and his delegation head to West Africa early next year to unearth opportunities in the extractive resource industry and infrastructure sector, the [Canadian Council for International Cooperation] is also continuing to seek the strengthening of Canadian companies’ corporate social responsibility policies, especially in relation to African mining activities.
“This has very rarely been beneficial for African countries,” [the CCIC’s Sylvie] Perras argued. “We say that it creates jobs, or it creates revenue, but when we look at it more closely, it’s not necessarily the case.”
Mineral-heavy countries have not spurred economic development for their local populations, according to a CCIC backgrounder, as high unemployment rates, debt and poverty are widespread in mining communities.”

Questionable priorities
Satirical newspaper The Onion draws on the salacious media treatment of former CIA head David Petraeus’s resignation to question the American public’s news priorities:

“As they scoured the Internet for more juicy details about former CIA director David Petraeus’ affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, Americans were reportedly horrified today upon learning that a protracted, bloody war involving U.S. forces is currently raging in the nation of Afghanistan.

Sources confirmed that after reading a few paragraphs about the brutal war, the nation quickly became distracted by a headline about Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash’s alleged sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy.”