Latest Developments, August 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Pro tips
New York University’s Sarah Knuckey has tweeted “four small suggestions” for improving media coverage of US drone strikes in Yemen:

“1/ When your only source for the number of ‘militants’ killed is ‘anonymous security official,’ highlight that fact & use ‘alleged militant’
2/ Follow it by noting the well-documented history of officials providing mistaken or false information about who was killed in a strike.
3/ Include a paragraph noting: many reports alleging civilian harm from past strikes; generalized civilian fear; strike legality debates.
4/ Ask a US official to go on record about the strike. Report their refusal to & link to Obama & Brennan’s many past transparency promises.”

Insult to injury
The Washington Post reports that a US company recently cleared of involvement in torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison wants former detainees to pay its legal expenses:

“The plaintiffs oppose the move, arguing that [CACI International] is out of time and that the request is unjust.
The plaintiffs ‘have very limited financial means, even by non-U.S. standards, and dramatically so when compared to the corporate defendants in this case,’ the filing said. ‘At the same time, plaintiffs’ serious claims of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and war crimes were dismissed on very close, difficult — and only recently arguable — grounds.’ ”

Soiled Gunners
Global Witness is calling on North London football giants Arsenal FC to cut ties with “a key Vietnamese academy partner company” accused of serious human rights abuses:

“Rubber giants Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) and Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) are accused of causing extensive social and environmental damage in and around their plantations in Cambodia and Laos, according to Global Witness’s May 2013 report and film, Rubber Barons.

Meanwhile, HAGL’s Chairman Duc has used the media to trade heavily on the company’s close relationship with Arsenal. Media reports state that HAGL is the club’s main distributor for merchandise in Vietnam, while the partnership also includes the HAGL – Arsenal JMG Academy, and saw the London club play a Vietnam XI on a recent trip sponsored by the company.”

Under wraps
McClatchy reports that US Congress actually has the ability to declassify certain documents without obtaining executive permission:

“The legislation that established the [Senate Intelligence Committee] called for it to ‘provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States.’
As a part of this oversight, Section 8 of the resolution lays out a process by which a member of the Intelligence Committee may seek the declassification of information that he or she thinks is of public interest, even if the executive branch labels the material top secret.

‘If the Intelligence Committee cannot release its most important oversight piece, that calls into question the existence of the committee. What is it for, if it cannot provide the public with its most important report?’ [Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy director Steven Aftergood] said.”

Avoiding transparency
A group of NGOs has sent a letter to US President Barack Obama expressing concern over “serious informational gaps” in American companies’ legally required reporting on their investments in Myanmar:

“Yet in three separate reports, two related investment funds, Capital Bank and Trust Company and Capital International Inc. (collectively, ‘Capital’) declined to report on their human rights, worker rights, anti-corruption, and environmental policies and procedures, arrangements with security service providers, property acquisition practices, payments to the Burmese government, or even the general nature of their investments in Burma. In fact, Capital provided no detail about the extent and nature of these investments, and justified its failure to report on the grounds that its investments in Yoma Strategic Holdings, Ltd. (‘Yoma’) are merely ‘passive.’
The fact that Capital believes it has no responsibility to manage the impacts of its investments is especially disturbing because Yoma has operations in plantation agriculture and real estate, sectors that are notorious for land confiscation, labor abuse, and environmental destruction.”

Ancestral domains
Bulatlat reports on the impacts of “development aggression” on the indigenous peoples of the Philippines:

“In 2012, of the approved mining permits of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), 60 percent of the more than a million hectares of land opened for mining are within the ancestral domains of indigenous communities. Concurrent with these mining operations are various ventures of agrofuel plantations that cover more than a million hectares in different parts of the country. Large dams, logging and new forms of land grabbing such as the use of priority and usufruct rights to privatize and commercialize indigenous lands, implementation of renewable energy projects, without genuine free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are evident in indigenous communities.”

Glomarizing drones
Wired reports that the US government is once again refusing to confirm or deny that it carries out targeted killings in order to avoid having to hand over any information regarding drone strikes:

“The [Freedom of Information Act] litigation dates to 2010, when the [American Civil Liberties Union] sued in federal court seeking records concerning the legal basis for carrying out targeted drone killings; any restrictions on those who may be targeted; any civilian casualties; any geographic limits on the program; the number of targeted killings that the agency has carried out; and the training, supervision, oversight, or discipline of drone operators.
But the Obama administration is now claiming that the government does not have to fork over any responsive documents in the ACLU’s lawsuit because, in the end, the CIA has never ‘officially’ said it has been involved, so the CIA can maintain its Glomar response.”

Total independence
The BBC reports that Zimbabwe’s newly re-elected President Robert Mugabe has said that the “indigenization” of his country’s economy represents the “final phase of the liberation struggle”:

“Foreign-owned companies are already supposed to ensure they are at least 51% locally owned – a policy which some analysts say has scared off potential investment from abroad.
Reuters news agency reports that the local operations of foreign-owned mining companies have already been targeted, while banks could be next.

His critics say much of the land seized from white farmers was either given to his cronies or to people who lacked the expertise or resources to use it productively.
He retorts that Western powers are sabotaging Zimbabwe’s economy because of his anti-colonial stance.”

Latest Developments, April 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Shell’s back
Agence France-Presse reports that oil giant Shell has returned to Nigeria’s “massively polluted” Ogoniland region 20 years after suspending its operations there due to unrest:

“The Anglo-Dutch oil major said the move was not part of an attempt to restart oil production in Ogoniland, describing it instead as a bid to comply with a 2011 UN report that called for one of the world’s biggest ever environmental clean-ups.

The report called for the oil industry and the Nigerian government to contribute $1 billion (762 million euros) to a clean-up fund for the region, adding that restoration could take up to 30 years.”

Fine rhetoric
Euractiv reports that the point person on the EU’s new transparency rules for global resource companies has accused the UK government of trying to water down the legislation during negotiations “despite the government’s public declarations that it supports more disclosure”:

“ ‘There is a general view really that they [Britain] were working very closely with Rio Tinto. Rio Tinto inspired a lot of their original proposal,’ [UK Labour MEP Arlene] McCarthy said of the British government’s negotiating position.
Britain hued closely during the talks on Tuesday to the industry position that companies should only disclose contracts at the government level, even though Prime Minister David Cameron had given a speech about a year ago saying that Britain was committed to the higher transparency standard of project-level reporting – a stance pressed by civil society, McCarthy said.

‘On the one hand, the rhetoric is fine, claiming that you are leading on the issues, but that certainly was not the case when it comes to practical negotiations or influencing other member countries to try and get a better deal. They did not push for anything like that at all,’ she said.”

Execution numbers
Amnesty International has released its annual report on executions and death sentences around the world:

“Only 21 of the world’s countries were recorded as having carried out executions in 2012 – the same number as in 2011, but down from 28 countries a decade earlier in 2003.

The top five executing countries in the world were once again China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and USA, with Yemen closely behind.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

Ag-gag bills
The New York Times reports that “a dozen or so state legislatures” have proposed or adopted laws that would make it illegal for animal rights activists to videotape instances of cruelty on farms:

“Critics call them ‘Ag-Gag’ bills.
Some of the legislation appears inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a business advocacy group with hundreds of state representatives from farm states as members. The group creates model bills, drafted by lobbyists and lawmakers, that in the past have included such things as ‘stand your ground’ gun laws and tighter voter identification rules.
One of the group’s model bills, ‘The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,’ prohibits filming or taking pictures on livestock farms to ‘defame the facility or its owner.’ Violators would be placed on a ‘terrorist registry.’ ”

Expanding war
The Wall Street Journal reports on America’s “escalating drug war across Africa”:

“Over the past two years, the U.S. government has spent about $100 million to expand its drug war into nearly every West African country, the State Department said. [Drug Enforcement Administration] officers are teaching police from Liberia and Cape Verde to board boats, and setting up drug squads in Nigeria and Ghana that would act on U.S. intelligence. The agency has five offices on the continent, with a sixth and seventh planned for Senegal and Morocco.”

Checkered past
The Associated Press reports that US private military contractor DynCorp, which was previously implicated in sex trafficking and extraordinary rendition, has won a new contract to support the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti:

“The Falls Church, Virginia-based DynCorp International received the contract from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. It will recruit and finance up to 100 officers to join the U.N.’s police unit affiliated with the mission, known as UN Pol, and 10 U.N. correction advisers.

The DynCorp task order has a one-year base period with three, one-year options that carries a total value of $48.6 million.”

Dam disappointment
The Asia Times reports that a World Bank-funded hydroelectric project in Laos may not be the “kinder, gentler” type of dam that was promised:

“After three years of commercial operations and a vigorous public relations campaign, the [Nam Theun 2] dam is now contributing to wider, more intractable problems. These include emerging evidence that resettled villagers have resorted to poaching and illegal logging to sustain their communities as well as reports from the European Union-sponsored Global Climate Change Alliance that Laos has recently become a net emitter of [greenhouse gases] after previously serving as a valuable global carbon sink.”

Carbon equality
Princeton University’s Peter Singer and Tsinghua University’s Teng Fei use the concept of a “carbon Gini coefficient” to assess the fairness of proposed approaches to tackling climate change:

“If it proves too difficult to reach agreement on a substantive equity principle, then an agreement that some carbon Gini coefficients are simply too extreme to be fair could form the basis of a minimum consensus. For example, we can compare the grandfathering principle’s carbon Gini coefficient of 0.7 with the Gini coefficient of the US, which most people regard as highly inegalitarian, and yet is much lower, at about 0.38.
On the other hand, equal per capita annual emissions is based on a principle that at least has a claim to be considered fair, and has a Gini coefficient of less than 0.4. We therefore propose that any fair solution should have a carbon Gini coefficient of 0.0-0.4. Although the choice of a precise number is somewhat arbitrary, this ‘fair range’ should establish the boundaries for those committed to an equitable solution to the problem of climate change.”

Latest Developments, July 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Secret War legacy
As Hillary Clinton becomes the first US secretary of state to visit Laos in over 50 years, Congressman Michael Honda calls on his government to do more to help clean up the unexploded ordinance remaining from 580,000 American bombing missions flown during the Secret War of 1964-73:

“The bombings dropped one ton of ordnance for every man, women, and child in Laos at the time, making it the most heavily bombed nation per capita in history. Up to a third of these bombs did not explode when they hit the ground and remain to this day literal time bombs, preventing much needed agriculture and infrastructure development and threatening the lives and livelihoods of villagers across Laos.

The U.S. began supporting clean-up of these bombs in 1997, and has since contributed a total of almost $47 million through the State Department. The U.S. is the largest contributor to this effort, but the funding since the war ended pales in comparison to the $17 million spent every day for nine years dropping these bombs. In fact, only about one percent of these bombs have been cleared thus far.”

Unintended consequences
Tehran-based political analyst Mohammad Ali Shabani argues Western sanctions imposed on Iran are punishing the country’s people more than its leaders:

“A Gallup poll carried out earlier this year showed almost half of Iranians didn’t have enough money to buy food their families needed at times during the past year. That proportion is triple the figure when the first UN sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme were adopted in 2006. The same survey stated that a mere eight per cent of Iranians approve of US leadership, warning that ‘Western leaders need to monitor the unintended effects sanctions may have on Iranians’ lives’.”

Corporate transparency
Transparency International has released a new report assessing the operational openness of the world’s 105 biggest companies:

“Transparency International calls on companies to fight corruption by disclosing more information about how they mitigate corruption and by making public how they are organised and how monies flow in the countries in which they operate. Only with this level of information can citizens the world over know how much money flows into public budgets, a key issue of accountability for governments everywhere.
Governments and regulators should make transparency obligatory for all companies seeking export subsidies or competing for public contracts. Investors should demand greater transparency in corporate reporting to ensure both ethical, sustainable business growth as well as sound risk management.”

The World Bank giveth…
Inter Press Service reports on the ongoing controversy over the World Bank’s decision to cancel a $1.2 billion loan to Bangladesh due to allegations of corruption involving the proposed Padma Bridge “mega-giant project”:

“The Bank suspended its loan for the massive project based on a referral to a case filed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) against the Canadian engineering firm SNC Lavalin, stating that the latter had bribed former communications minister Hossain in order to secure its bid to become the main consultant on the project.

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has termed the Bank’s decision ‘deeply regrettable’ and urged the global lending agency to review its decision.”

World without borders
Oxfam’s Duncan Green asks why migration does not figure more prominently on the “development agenda”:

“[The Center for Global Development’s Michael Clemens] reinterpreted the fall of apartheid as the abolition of borders between white South Africa and the Bantustans, and showed that everyone benefitted from this sudden upsurge in migration – the incomes of blacks and coloureds increased rapidly, and whites lost nothing. Effectively, he was making the economic case against borders of any kind.”

Nuclear denial
The Center for International Policy’s William Hartung argues the world’s nuclear problem goes well beyond Iran’s possible quest for the bomb:

“Although none of these scenarios, including a terrorist nuclear attack, may be as likely as nuclear alarmists sometimes suggest, as long as the world remains massively stocked with nuclear weapons, one of them – or some other scenario yet to be imagined – is always possible. The notion that Iran can’t be trusted with such a weapon obscures a larger point: given their power to destroy life on a monumental scale, no individual and no government can ultimately be trusted with the bomb.
The only way to be safe from nuclear weapons is to get rid of them – not just the Iranian one that doesn’t yet exist, but all of them. It’s a daunting task. It’s also a subject that’s out of the news and off anyone’s agenda at the moment, but if it is ever to be achieved, we at least need to start talking about it. Soon.”

Fear of a black planet
In a Q&A with Metro, former US Olympic sprinter Tommie Smith looks back on his famous salute at the 1968 games in Mexico City:

“I wasn’t going to stand there with my hand on my heart while they played my country’s national anthem and then go back to life as a second-class citizen. So myself and John [Carlos] raised our fists in a silent, non-violent protest. It wasn’t for Black Power, it was for human rights and I suffered greatly for that moment. I never raced again, I couldn’t find a job and I struggled to finish my degree.

Those who do anything except stand there and accept a medal will be looked upon as a radical. If an athlete decides to take that step, they have to accept the lifelong sacrifice. You can do it but you will pay for it. I still have never had an apology and I’m still not a member of the US Olympics Hall of Fame.”

Post mortem
The University of Ottawa’s Stephen Brown argues that Canada’s outgoing minister of international cooperation oversaw an “increasingly instrumentalized” Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), most notably in efforts to further Ottawa’s objectives in Afghanistan:

“In another instance where CIDA prioritized Canadian interests, the current list of countries of concentration and the latest budget cuts both reduce assistance to poor African countries, while shifting resources to middle-income countries in Latin America that are more important for Canadian trade. Oda also provided incentives for NGOs to work with Canadian mining companies, and even admitted that she made no distinction between Canada’s trade and foreign policy interests and actual development goals.”

Latest Developments, June 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Euro racism
The Guardian reports that “several hundred people” at Krakow’s Stadion Miejski subjected the Dutch national football team to monkey chants at an open practice on the eve of the Euro 2012 tournament:

“Uefa subsequently tried to deny that it was racially motivated, saying they had checked with the Dutch squad and had been told it was not thought to be of that nature. Instead, the official line is that a small part of the crowd was protesting about the fact that Krakow had not been made one of the host cities.”

True ownership
Global Witness reproduces an open letter from civil society groups calling on the EU to require companies to disclose “their ultimate, or beneficial, owner”:

“Civil society has seen repeatedly how obscure company ownership structures have facilitated corruption, money laundering, tax evasion, environmental damage, terrorism and other crimes.

Stronger measures to address money laundering would contribute significantly to the EU’s stated aim of policy coherence for development. In 2010 there was a US$58 billion shortfall in the funds needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Yet at the same time developing countries were estimated to have lost between US$775 billion and US$903 billion in 2009 to illicit financial flows; the opacity around the beneficial ownership of companies and other legal structures facilitates these flows on a vast scale.”

Drone legality
The Hill reports that the UN is considering looking into the legality of US drone policies:

“On Thursday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the investigations would focus on the rate of civilian casualties generated by the American drone campaign, and whether those casualties constituted human rights violations.

‘The principle of distinction and proportionality and ensuring accountability for any failure to comply with international law is also difficult when drone attacks are conducted outside the military chain of command and beyond effective and transparent mechanisms of civilian or military control,’ she said, according to local news reports.
When asked if American-led drone strikes in Pakistan can be considered a human rights violation, Pillay replied: ‘I see the indiscriminate killings and injuries of civilians in any circumstances as human rights violations.’ ”

Forcible returns
A new UN report calls on countries including the US, Canada and France to stop deportations to Haiti:

“Since the 12 January 2010 earthquake, several international bodies, including the Independent Expert, have urged UN member states to suspend forced returns to Haiti because of the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Despite the international community’s appeals, several UN member States have forcibly returned Haitian nationals to Haiti since the earthquake, placing these individuals in a vulnerable, life-threatening position and placing additional burden on Haiti. Due to the government’s instability, the shortage of resources in Haiti, the conditions under which forcibly-returned individuals are detained, and the severe humanitarian consequences – including separation of family members and exposure to deadly diseases – the Independent Expert is deeply concerned that the forced return of these individuals may constitute human rights violations.

Some States/territories that returned individuals to Haiti since 12 January 2010 had previously halted or decreased forced returns for humanitarian reasons, including the Bahamas, Canada, the Dominican Republic, France, Jamaica, Mexico, and the United States.”

Legal troubles
The Independent reports that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy whose immunity from prosecution is about to run out may soon be involved in “at least two legal cases” regarding allegations of illegal campaign funding:

“Just before this spring’s presidential election the left-leaning website Mediapart alleged that the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had ‘agreed in principle’ to pay €50m (£40m) to Mr Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign.
The website published a document in Arabic, signed by Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s former spy chief. The authenticity of the document is disputed. No official investigation is contemplated, but this may be the first of the ‘Sarkozy scandals’ to come to court.”

Western morality
Al-Akhbar’s Antoun Issa takes issue with the West’s indignation over the killings in Syria while it kills civilians elsewhere:

“Much of Western identity centers on a pillar of high civility, and by extension, high morality. It is a lingering legacy from colonialism where the West re-invokes its perception of the current world, where it is the civilized, and those beyond, hapless barbarians.

International relations does not base its machinations on slaughtered children, for if it did, there would be far fewer cases of massacres to report. Western nations expressing outrage over the Syrian massacre simply reeks of hypocrisy. The day preceding the Al-Kubeir massacre, a NATO airstrike in Logar Province, southeast of Kabul, killed 18 civilians.
On the morning of May 26, as the residents of Houla were coming to grips with the killings, another NATO airstrike blew up a family home in eastern Afghanistan, killing eight members of a single family, including six children.”

Evolving justice
Manuela Picq, most recently a visiting professor and research fellow at Amherst College, argues that it is precisely because “it is in the nature of power itself to resist and deny mechanisms of accountability” that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which has recently come under attack from a number of governments, is necessary:

“As the IACHR creatively interprets human rights norms, it expands the definition of rights, generates innovative, cutting-edge and progressive legislation. The IACHR’S pioneering role has inspired other human rights courts around the world, from Africa to Europe.
Tensions around collective rights to prior consultation like Belo Monte show the evolving face of human rights across the region. Cases brought to the Court against the depredations of mining companies reveal both the collective dimension of human rights and the intricate relationship between states, multinational corporations and indigenous peoples.”

Hierarchy of victimhood
In the wake of a fatal shooting at a downtown Toronto mall, York University’s Simon Black writes about the different facets of the city’s inequality of gun violence:

“Racism can be understood in part as the collective denial of the humanity of ‘the other.’ Unlike those deemed ‘innocent,’ poor, racialized young men impacted by youth violence are our ‘urban other.’ Victims and perpetrators alike are spoken of as ‘hoods,’ ‘gang-affiliated’ or ‘known to police,’ never as ‘citizens,’ full members of our community. They are criminalized in life and in death. This ‘othering’ is a form of violence in and of itself.
In our city it is the trauma and victimhood of those seldom exposed to gun violence that is prioritized. In response to last Saturday’s events, a headline on a Toronto Star column said, ‘It could have been any of us; it wounds all of us.’ Yet the reality remains that the primary victims of gun violence in our city are poor, racialized youth. And the primary sites of this violence are those neighbourhoods these youth call home.”

Latest Developments, February 12

In the latest news and analysis…

End of cheap drugs?
Unitaid’s Philippe Douste-Blazy and Denis Broun argue the free trade agreement currently being negotiated by India and the EU threatens to end access to cheap medicines for patients in poor countries.
“The medicines-related issues discussed in the FTA are not only a question of public health, but of ethics, justice and reason. The result will either be a win-win situation that will also benefit the poor or a lose-lose proposition that may kill the poor. It would be unthinkable that private interest pressure from European pharmaceutical companies to preserve an obsolete business model could prevail over common sense, common interest and the health of millions of people.”

Open letter to Tim Cook
China Labour Watch’s Li Qiang has written an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, in which he argues the reasons for the poor working conditions in its supplier factories are “deeply rooted in your company’s business model.”
“We believe the most basic cause of the problems at your supplier factories is the low price Apple insists on paying them, leaving next to no room for them to make a profit. The demand for astronomically high production rates at an extremely low price pushes factories to exploit workers, since it is the only way to meet Apple’s production requirements and make its factory owners a profit at the same time.

There is a simple solution for the problems we have observed in Apple’s supply chain, and it doesn’t even involve raising the prices for consumers. Apple needs simply to share a larger proportion of its sizeable profits with the supplier factories it contracts with and, by extension, the people who make its products.”

Anti-drug vaccines
Inter Press Service reports on experimental trials of drug addiction vaccinations going on in Mexico and the US, which although touted as an alternative to the war on drugs, have attracted little interest from pharmaceutical companies.
“After taking office in December 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderón deployed thousands of soldiers and police to fight drug trafficking in a repressive campaign that has left more than 47,000 dead, according to the latest government figures, although journalists put the death toll at over 50,000.
A preventive clinical approach is therefore an urgent priority, although vaccine development requires financial backing for production on an industrial scale.
‘It’s not a profitable product for the pharmaceutical industry, and the same is true for many other diseases. The state would have to subsidise it. We have already heard more than once that a vaccine is on the way, but then nothing happens,’ said [Dr. Rogelio] Rodríguez, who tried unsuccessfully to introduce his [cocaine and alcohol dependency] treatment in Mexico City prisons – ‘but there were too many conditions and requirements.’ ”

Beer suit
The Associated Press reports that an “American Indian tribe” is suing a handful of major beer makers for knowingly contributing to addiction on a reservation where alcohol is banned.
“The Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota said it is demanding $500 million in damages for the cost of health care, social services and child rehabilitation caused by chronic alcoholism on the reservation, which encompasses some of the nation’s most impoverished counties.

‘You cannot sell 4.9 million 12-ounce cans of beer and wash your hands like Pontius Pilate, and say we’ve got nothing to do with it being smuggled,’ said Tom White, the tribe’s Omaha-based attorney.”

Happy planet
Reuters reports on the results of a new global survey that suggests the world is happier than it was before the financial crisis hit, with people in Indonesia, Mexico and India being the happiest of all.
Perhaps proving that money can’t buy happiness, residents of some of the world biggest economic powers, including the United States, Canada and Britain, fell in the middle of the happiness scale.
‘There is a pattern that suggests that there are many other factors beyond the economy that make people happy, so it does provide one element but it is not the whole story,’ said [Ipsos Global’s John] Wright.

The University of Oxford’s William Davies argues that although the financial crisis was triggered in part by a system he describes as “a mineshaft crammed with canaries, scarcely any of whom had any inclination or ability to sing,” the resulting fallout has actually increased the power of economics in public life.
“It is time to acknowledge an uncomfortable truth about the public status of economics as an expert discipline: it has grown to be far more powerful as a tool of political rhetoric, blame avoidance and elite strategy than for the empirical representation of economic life. This is damaging to politics, for it enables value judgements and political agendas to be endlessly presented in ‘factual’ terms. But it is equally damaging to economics, which is losing the authority to describe reality in a credible, disinterested, Enlightenment fashion.”

Ecosystem services
The International Institute for Environment and Development’s Kate Munro highlights one of the potential downsides to “making carbon into a commodity.”
“It gives national governments title to the carbon sequestered in a country’s soils and forests for the purposes of trading on international carbon markets, which could pose an additional barrier to the efforts of individuals and poor rural communities to demarcate, and gain title to the land on which their livelihoods depend.”

Word and deed
Oxfam’s Ian Gary rails against the “yawning gap” between what oil companies say and do regarding corporate transparency.
“Many of the same companies praising transparency have been actively lobbying since the law passed to gut implementation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The hypocrisy is out there in the open if you know where to look. Senate lobbying disclosure forms show that Chevron, Exxon, Shell, Conoco Phillips, Marathon, Occidental, the American Petroleum Institute (API), and others have been very active in Washington on this provision, targeting not only the SEC, but the House of Representatives, Senate, Department of State, Department of the Intertior, and the National Security Council.
As I wrote last week, API (revenues of more than $198 million in 2009) has now threatened to sue the SEC unless the agency withdraws its proposed rule and starts from scratch to meet big oil’s secrecy wishes rather than the law and Congressional mandate.”