Latest Developments, June 24

In the latest news and analysis…

Rebel arms
Reuters reports that Western and Arab opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have decided to give “urgent military support” to rebels trying to overthrow him:

“The U.S. administration has responded by saying, for the first time, it would arm rebels, while Gulf sources say Saudi Arabia has accelerated the delivery of advanced weapons to the rebels over the last week.
Ministers from the 11 core members of the Friends of Syria group, agreed ‘to provide urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment to the opposition on the ground,’ according to a statement released at the end of their meeting in Qatar.

French military advisers are already training the rebels to use some of the new equipment in Turkey and Jordan, sources familiar with the training programs said. U.S. forces have been carrying out similar training, rebels say.”

UK spying
The Guardian reports that leaked documents reveal the British government “collects and stores vast quantities” of telephone and internet communications from around the world:

“The sheer scale of the agency’s ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate.

The Americans were given guidelines for its use, but were told in legal briefings by [UK Government Communications Headquarters] lawyers: ‘We have a light oversight regime compared with the US’.
When it came to judging the necessity and proportionality of what they were allowed to look for, would-be American users were told it was ‘your call’.”

Banking impasse
Reuters reports that EU finance ministers are struggling to resolve their differences over “who pays for failing banks”:

“The law on rescuing and closing banks in the EU is central to the 27-nation bloc’s banking union, which aims to prevent future financial crises and get the economy out of recession.
It is also a highly controversial element as it will dictate who decides what happens to a failing bank and who is to pay for it, bringing national sensitivities to the fore.

The broader the possibilities of imposing losses on a bank’s shareholders, creditors or even big depositors in the directive that will be discussed by EU finance ministers, the less money the resolution fund would have to contribute to close a bank.”

Global wealth trends
The Globe and Mail reports that a pair of new studies show that the world’s rich are getting richer while workers are left with a smaller piece of the pie:

“The [Global Wealth Report] found that the number of people in the world with more than $1-million to invest soared to a record of 12 million in 2012, a 9.2 per cent increase from 2011. The aggregate wealth of this group hit a new high, too – $46.2-trillion (U.S.) – a 10-per-cent increase from the previous year.
What is particularly striking is that even within this rich group, the very, very rich are doing best of all.

The 2012-13 Global Wage Report by the International Labour Organization, a UN agency, found a world trend of a decreasing workers’ share in the national income.”

Nuclear weakness
The New York Times editorial board argues that the nuclear disarmament proposal made by US President Barack Obama last week “falls short of what is needed in a post-cold-war world”:

“Mr. Obama said nothing about reducing the 11,000 total nuclear weapons that [the US and Russia] keep as backups. He missed an opportunity to remove quickly from ‘hair trigger’ alert at least some of the 1,000 weapons that are ready to fire at a moment’s notice. He reaffirmed support for Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the start of international negotiations on a treaty that would ban the production of fissile material that fuels warheads, but there is no indication either will happen soon, or ever.”

Shell explosion
The Independent Online reports that, although the investigation has yet to begin, Shell is using its standard explanation for an explosion that led the oil giant to shut a major Nigerian pipeline:

“Environmental campaigners and rights groups accuse Shell of using sabotage by oil thieves as an excuse for oil accidents.
‘Sabotage is a problem in Nigeria, but Shell exaggerates this issue to avoid criticism for its failure to prevent oil spills,’ Amnesty International’s Audrey Gaughran said in a statement on Wednesday.”

Growing force
Voice of America reports that US Africa Command head David Rodriguez wants the US to have a “small footprint” in Africa even as its military presence is being stepped up on the continent:

“The U.S. also has stepped up its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities, setting up unarmed drone bases in places like Niger.

‘The history of the African nations, the colonialism, all those things are what point to the reasons why we should not go in there in force and everything else, and just use a small footprint with creative and innovative solutions to get high payoff from a small number of people, as well as come in for short periods of time to do exercises, to do operations, to help build that capacity,’ said [U.S. Army General David Rodriguez].”

Corporate consciences
Deutsche Welle reports on concerns that some rules are more equal than others when it comes to regulating international trade:

“For example: the International Labor Organization (ILO), part of the United Nations, has been developing standards for the protection of workers since 1919. But to this day, they are not internationally binding, according to Jakob von Uexküll, founder of the World Future Council and the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the Alternative Nobel Prize.
‘If somebody tells you: “We are a socially responsible company,” then there is a very simple question: “Would you agree that the rules of the ILO get the same legal status as the rules of the World Trade Organization?”’ said von Uexküll. ‘The answer to that question will tell you everything you need to know about the social responsibility of the company.’ ”

Latest Developments, June 20

In the latest news and analysis…

Grand corruption
Le Monde reports on new allegations concerning millions of dollars said to have been funneled from former Libyan ruler Muammar Gadhafi to ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy:

“According to Mediapart, two of these offshore companies received, in 2007 and 2008, money from kickbacks on Libyan security contracts linked to the French company Amesys. In his email, Ismail also stresses that the ‘agreement’ to free the detained Bulgarian nurses in 2007 ‘involved Libya’s purchase of a nuclear reactor from [French state-owned] Areva and the supply of Milan missiles to the Libyan army.’ He also says that ‘one of Sarkozy’s primary concerns was to sell the Rafale fighter jet for more than 2 billion euros.’ ” [Translated from the French.]

No arms
Embassy magazine reports that a new poll shows that only a “small, small minority” of Canadians want their government to help arm Syrian rebels:

“Six in 10 adult Canadians, or 60 per cent, said they disagreed that Canada should supply Syrian rebels with military aid, according to a June 18 Forum Research Inc. poll whose results were offered to Embassy.
Roughly one fifth of respondents, or 18 per cent, said they agreed, while roughly one quarter, 22 per cent, said they did not have an opinion.”

Minor casualty
McClatchy reports on the alleged killing of a 10-year-old boy by a US drone, an incident that prompted one local sheikh to ask, “What did Abdulaziz do? Was this child a member of al Qaida?”:

“Some analysts argue that this and other strikes run counter to the administration’s claims of improved targeting. [The boy’s brother, Saleh Hassan Huraydan] might have been a local al Qaida leader, they say, but it’s unclear whether he constituted a ‘continuing and imminent threat to the American people,’ Obama’s definition of a legitimate target.
‘The number of U.S. drone strikes over the past two years suggests that the U.S. is going after many more targets than just the 10 to 15 individuals it says represent imminent threats to U.S. national security. It appears to be going after whomever it can hit whenever it can find them,’ said Gregory Johnsen, the author of ‘The Last Refuge,’ a recent book on al Qaida in Yemen.
‘The new rules that Obama alluded to in his speech last month either aren’t yet in effect in Yemen or are making no difference,’ he added.”

Nuclear pledge
The New York Times reports that American President Barack Obama’s promise this week to reduce his country’s nuclear arsenal and “seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond cold war nuclear postures” is running into skepticism in several camps:

“The proposal to limit American and Russian deployed strategic warheads to about 1,000 each would bring the two countries back to around the levels of 1954, experts said. The president also vowed to work with NATO to reduce the unrestricted smaller tactical nuclear weapons still in Europe and to push the Senate to finally ratify the 17-year-old Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Taken together, the moves revived the effort Mr. Obama began in Prague in 2009 to put the world on a path to eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, one of the most idealistic, if hotly disputed, aspirations of his first term.
Yet even as Republicans argued that he was going too far at the risk of national security, his moves represented a more modest step than many arms control advocates had sought.”

Mining aid
The Globe and Mail reports that the minister in charge of the Canadian International Development Agency told a meeting of Canada’s mining industry representatives that he is working to help them take advantage of the “huge opportunities” in poor countries:

“In his comments to the Mining Association of Canada, [Julian] Fantino dismissed criticism of the government’s strategy and praised the Canadian extractive industry’s work. ‘Your industry is a leader, internationally, and we want to help you succeed,’ he said.
Last fall, Canada established the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development, which is meant to help developing countries establish policies to better govern their mining sectors. The institute ‘will be your biggest and best ambassador,’ Mr. Fantino told mining representatives on Wednesday, adding that it would draw on Canadian success in the mining industry and share lessons from Canada with other countries.”

Dune mining
Radio France Internationale reports that Senegalese farmers see an Australian company’s plans to mine zircon as bad news:

“A vast mining program was launched three months ago along the Grande Côte. In Casamance, in the country’s south, Australian-based Carnegie Minerals obtained an exploration permit. The company hopes to mine close to 5 million tons of minerals. But it is running into local opposition.” [Translated from the French.]

Too big to exist
The Guardian’s Joris Luyendijk argues that his interviews with hundreds of people working in London’s financial sector have convinced him that the industry is not no much out of control as “beyond control”:

“Before studying bankers I spent many years researching Islam and Muslims. I set out with images in my mind of angry bearded men burning American flags, but as the years went by I became more and more optimistic: beyond the frightening rhetoric and sensationalist television footage, ordinary Muslim people go about their day like all other human beings. The problem of radical Islam is smaller and more containable than Islamophobes believe.
With bankers I have experienced an opposite trajectory. I started with the reassuring images in my mind of well-dressed bankers and their lobbyists; surely at some basic level these people knew what they were doing? But after two years I feel myself becoming deeply pessimistic and genuinely terrified. This system is highly dysfunctional, deeply entrenched, and enormously abusive, both to its own workers and the society it operates in. The problem really is exactly as bad as the ‘banker bashers’ believe.”

Carbon discredited
FERN and Friends of the Earth have released a new report that uses the example of the highly touted N’hambita carbon offset project in Mozambique to argue that the EU should not fund such schemes:

“Sylvain Angerand from Friends of the Earth France explains: ‘A fundamental problem, which this report highlights, is that emissions stay in the atmosphere longer than trees stay standing. This report shows that carbon offsetting has few climate benefits and is a dangerous distraction from the need to cut emissions and reduce consumption.’ ”