Latest Developments, September 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Syrian hope
The New York Times editorial board welcomes the new agreement between the US and Russia over Syria’s chemical weapons, while questioning how realistic it is:

“Under the deal’s terms, Syria is required to provide a ‘comprehensive listing’ of its chemical arsenal within a week. That includes the types and quantities of poison gas, and storage, production and research sites. The agreement also requires ‘immediate and unfettered’ access to these sites by international inspectors, with the inspections to be completed by November. Also by November, equipment for mixing and filling munitions with chemical agents must be destroyed. All chemical weapons and related equipment are to be eliminated by the middle of 2014.
The deadlines are necessary to keep the pressure on, but meeting them will not be easy in the middle of a civil war, even if Mr. Assad cooperates. The United States and Russia have worked for 15 years to eliminate their own chemical arms stocks and still have years to go.”

Moving picture
IRIN reports that the International Organization for Migration’s newly released World Migration Report offers a “global snapshot of migrant well-being”:

“Overall, the study found that migrants who moved north gained the most, with North to North migrants faring the best, and South to North migrants also rating their lives as better than their counterparts back home. Migrants in the South fared similarly or worse than if they had not migrated, with long-time South to South migrants considering themselves worse off than both the native-born and their counterparts back home. More than a quarter of South to South migrants struggled to afford food and shelter, even after being in a host country for more than five years.”

French coup
Jeune Afrique reports that a former president of Madagascar has accused France of being behind the 2009 ouster of his successor:

“It is a revelation that, if true, is likely to embarrass Paris. In an interview on the private chanel TV Plus Madagascar, ex-Malagasy president Didier Ratsiraka, 76, said on Sept. 11 that ‘France asked me to help Andry Rajoelina remove Marc Ravalomanana,’ referring to events in early 2009 that led to the overthrow of the ex-Madagascar president.
‘I answered that I am not in favour of coups,’ he added before explaining that he finally accepted after it was explained to him that this was not a coup. ‘We agreed that Marc Ravalomanana would leave power without a blood bath. And after his overthrow, we should undertake an inclusive transition… Andry Rajoelina was on board,’ he said.” [Translated from the French.]

No money, no answers
The Center for Economic Policy Research transcribes an Al Jazeera reporter’s questions to a UN spokesman about the organization’s position on compensating victims of the UN-triggered cholera epidemic in Haiti that has so far killed 8,260 and made 675,000 ill:

“[Al Jazeera’s Sebastian] Walker: But why is the claim not receivable?
[Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary General Eduardo] Del Buey: Well, it’s not the United Nations practice to discuss in public the details of our responses to claims against the organization.
Walker: So you don’t have to explain yourselves?
Del Buey: No.
Walker: You are saying that not only do they not get compensation but you don’t even have to explain why?
Del Buey: Well, that’s exactly what I said, that’s the United Nations’ policy.”

No deal
Reuters reports that thousands of Nigerian plaintiffs have rejected a “totally derisory and insulting” compensation offer by oil giant Royal Dutch Shell over pollution caused by spills in the Niger Delta:

“Their lawyers said they will now go back to a British court to request a trial timetable.
The legal action is being closely watched by the oil industry and by environmentalists for precedents that could have an impact on other big pollution claims against majors.

A source close to Shell and another source involved in the negotiations told Reuters the company offered total compensation of 7.5 billion naira ($46.3 million).
Leigh Day, the British law firm representing the villagers, said the compensation offer amounted to approximately 1,100 pounds ($1,700) per individual impacted, without giving the number of people it says were affected.”

Outside assistance
The Australian reports that Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said the US was “very, very helpful” in the bloody final war against the Tamil Tigers:

“American satellite technology located the ships and enabled the Sri Lankans to hit them. Before that, the Americans had been somewhat ambivalent about the Sri Lankan struggle. They never remotely justified or approved of the Tigers, but nor would they supply weapons to the Sri Lankan forces. Yet throughout the conflict, Sri Lanka got most of its military hardware from Israel and Pakistan, two military allies of the US that would probably have been susceptible to American entreaties not to supply arms.”

GMO creep
The Guardian reports that agribusiness giant Monsanto is under investigation in the US over suspected crop contamination:

“The investigation was ordered after a farmer in Washington state reported that his alfalfa shipments had been rejected for export after testing positive for genetic modification. Results were expected as early as Friday.
If confirmed, it would be the second known case of GM contamination in a major American crop since May, when university scientists confirmed the presence of a banned GM wheat growing in a farmer’s field in Oregon.”

Above the law
Human Rights Watch argues that the World Bank “does not recognize its obligation to respect international human rights law”:

“The absence of a clear commitment not to support activities that will contribute to or exacerbate human rights violations leaves World Bank staff without guidance on how they should approach human rights concerns or what their responsibilities are.

 Introducing a human rights commitment would include carrying out systematic human rights due diligence for every program, first to identify how its lending or other support may contribute to human rights violations and then to figure out constructive ways to avoid or mitigate the human rights risks.”

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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.]