Latest Developments, September 26

In the latest news and analysis…

Alternatives to development
Inter Press Service reports on last week’s third international degrowth conference in Venice:

“Renouncing economic growth in the North, say the proponents, would not only allow humanity to stay within the ecological limits of the planet but also contribute to restoring global social justice.

‘But what degrowth proponents (who reject economic growth) must be aware of,’ [Colombian anthropologist Arturo] Escobar told IPS, ‘is that development is much more than growth. So it might be that the global South needs some growth, in areas such as health, education, employment, decent standards of living, if this is subordinated to the principle of buen vivir and not under the currently predominant vision of development.
‘At the same time, the growth vision cannot be rejected for the North and considered acceptable for the South; the South does not need development, it does not even need sustainable development, it needs alternatives to development.’ ”

Double-tap strikes
The Independent reports on new research that suggests CIA drone tactics in Pakistan are relying increasingly on repeated, staggered attacks that are “killing an even greater number of civilians”:

“As the drone circled it let off the first of its Hellfire missiles, slamming into a small house and reducing it to rubble. When residents rushed to the scene of the attack to see if they could help they were struck again.
According to reports at the time, three local rescuers were killed by a second missile whilst a further strike killed another three people five minutes later. In all, somewhere between 17 and 24 people are thought to have been killed in the attack.”

Production chain problems
Reuters reports that controversial Apple supplier Foxconn had to close one of its Chinese plants for 24 hours following an outbreak of violence that highlighted “regimented dormitory life and thuggish security as major sources of labour tension”:

“[The violence] marked a blow to Apple’s top supplier as it ramps up production to meet orders for the iPhone 5 and seeks to rehabilitate its image after a labour audit this year found flaws.

Some labour groups say ultimate responsibility for strains rests with Apple, which they say puts profit above workers’ welfare despite pledges to cut overtime hours and improve workers’ livelihoods.
‘The whole Apple production chain has problems,’ said Li Qiang, with the New York-based China Labor Watch, that has scrutinized Apple and Foxconn for years.
‘Its sales and marketing strategy involves launching a product suddenly, without maintaining much inventory … so the subsequent product shortages help build demand, but also place extreme pressures on workers.’ ”

Global warming case
The Connecticut Law Tribune reports that a US court has ruled against residents of an Alaskan village seeking damages from major oil companies for allegedly changing the environment through pollution:

“The village, with a population of 400, is composed of 97 percent Inupiat Native Alaskans. The plaintiffs alleged that greenhouse gas emissions caused by the companies’ products had eroded sea ice that hugs the village’s coastline and protects it from powerful winter storms. The plaintiffs claimed that the entire village needed to move, at a cost of up to $400 million, to survive.

Other defendants in the case [besides ExxonMobil, BP America and Chevron] included ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, the AES Corp., Duke Energy Corp., and Edison International”

Wayne State University’s Peter Henning writes that in the US, “much of the effort to police corporate misconduct seems to have been shifted to lawyers retained by the companies under investigation”:

“Companies would prefer not to conduct an investigation at all. But having a law firm they hired overseeing the inquiry means they can maintain control over information, and minimize any surprises.

When lawyers report their conclusions, are they free from bias about the company that is also paying their bills?”

Gorillas over profits
Reuters reports that the UK government has expressed its opposition to a British company exploring for oil in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park:

“ ‘We have informed Soco and urge the government of DR Congo to fully respect the international conventions to which it is signatory,’ a foreign office spokesperson said in a statement seen by Reuters.
‘Foreign investments in sectors such as hydrocarbons … can play a vital role in boosting development of the DRC … Such investment needs to be done responsibly and sustainably, in compliance with local law and conforming to international standards,’ the statement said.”

Disarmament disarmed
Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans describes the latest news regarding the global nuclear disarmament process as “bleak”:

“There are those who will say that it is naïve to want a world free of nuclear weapons, much less to think that it can be achieved. But it is not naïve to be concerned about the most indiscriminately inhumane weapons of destruction ever invented – 23,000 of which still exist – with a combined destructive capability of 150,000 Hiroshima bombs. And it is not naïve to believe that non-proliferation and disarmament are inextricably connected: that so long as any state retains nuclear weapons, others will want them.
The genuinely naïve – or ignorant – position is to believe that statesmanship and foolproof controls, rather than sheer dumb luck, have enabled the world to go almost seven decades without a nuclear-weapons catastrophe. It is not naïve to believe that nuclear deterrence is both fragile operationally, and of thoroughly dubious utility in sustaining the peace. Nor is it naïve to believe that even if nuclear weapons cannot be un-invented, they can ultimately be outlawed.”

Measuring poverty
The UN News Centre reports that the President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina Sanchez, has criticized the continued use of  “ ‘one-dimensional measurements’ centred on monetary income” for assessing a country’s development:

“He noted that the ‘optimism’ of international poverty measures does not seem to agree with the perception of many people around the world, who feel that the growth in gross domestic product has done nothing to lessen their sense of despair, nor, in particular, discontent among youth, who are not finding decent jobs.”