Latest Developments, November 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Climate fast
The BBC reports that the Philippines’ delegate to the UN’s COP 19 climate change summit in Warsaw has announced he is going on hunger strike until conference participants make “meaningful” progress:

“In an emotional speech, Yeb Sano linked the ‘staggering’ devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan to a changing climate.

‘In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate, this means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this Cop, until a meaningful outcome is in sight.’
‘What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness, the climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw,’ he said.”

Presumption of guilt
The Financial Times reports that UK Home Secretary Theresa May wants to strip terror suspects of their citizenship, thereby rendering unconvicted people “stateless”:

“The home secretary is already able to strip passports from those with dual nationality and has repeatedly said British citizenship is a ‘privilege, not a right’. Since coming to office, she has exercised this power on at least 16 individuals alleged to have links to terrorist groups.
But the Financial Times understands Ms May has asked officials to find a way of overturning international human rights conventions which prevent individuals with only one citizenship being made stateless.”

Deep-sea mining
Radio Australia reports that civil society groups in Papua New Guinea are taking the government to court over a Canadian company’s license to establish the world’s first seabed mine in PNG waters:

“The license was granted under the former [Michael] Somare government to the Canadian company Nautilus for its Solwara 1 mine.

[Stop Experimental Seabed Mining in the Pacific’s Wenceslas Magun] says the group’s advisors – which include scientists and lawyers – have ‘clearly indicated that there is going to be damage to the ecological system’.
‘Nobody knows what the impact of the damage is going to be to the marine ecosystem because no one has ever done seabed mining in the world,’ he said.”

Euphemism for war
Boston University’s Andrew Bacevich expresses concern of the apparent “militarization of U.S. policy in Africa”:

“For Army leaders, Africa spells opportunity, a chance to demonstrate continuing relevance at a time when the nation’s appetite for sending U.S. troops to invade and occupy countries has pretty much evaporated.
Thus, we have U.S. Army Africa, or USARAF, the latest in the Pentagon’s ever-growing roster of military headquarters. The mission of this command, which describes itself as ‘America’s premier Army team dedicated to positive change in Africa,’ manages to be at once reassuringly bland and ominously ambitious. On the one hand, USARAF ‘strengthens the land force capabilities of African states and regional organizations.’ On the other, it ‘conducts decisive action in order to establish a secure environment and protect the national security interests of the United States.’
One might hope that successfully accomplishing the first half of that mission — U.S. troops training and equipping African counterparts — will preclude the second. More likely, however, such efforts will pave the way for ‘decisive action,’ a euphemism for war.”

History of failure
The Center for Global Development’s Kimberly Ann Elliott writes that economic sanctions had a 1.5% success rate in the 20th Century and are even less likely to work in Iran:

“Across all 204 episodes and 170 case studies analyzed, there were only three cases deemed fully successful when the issues at stake involved core national interests on both sides. And in all three of those cases, the target of the sanctions was heavily dependent, both economically and for security guarantees, on the sanctioning country.

None of those cases bears any resemblance to the situation that the United States and its allies face with Iran today. As I explained in this Foreign Affairs essay last week, the economic sanctions against Iran are already imposing serious economic costs on the country and tightening sanctions further is likely to create more problems than it solves. Avoiding negotiations and waiting for sanctions to force Iran to raise a white flag would delay a resolution and increase the humanitarian impact on ordinary citizens in Iran.”

Black Bruins
The Huffington Post reports on the stir caused by a spoken-word video in which UCLA student Sy Stokes calls his university, which has more national athletics championships than black male freshmen, an “institutionalized racist corporation”:

“According to the school’s enrollment statistics, African-Americans make up 3.8 percent of the student population. In the video, Stokes points out that black males make up 3.3 percent of the male student population, and that 65 percent of those black males are undergraduate athletes. Of the incoming men in the freshmen class, only 1.9 percent of them were black.

‘We certainly recognize that the low numbers of African Americans and other underrepresented students on campus does lead to a sense of isolation and invisibility,’ [UCLA’s Janina Montero] said in her email statement. ‘It is difficult to eliminate this painful imbalance without considering race in the admissions process.’ ”

Poverty tourism
Business Day’s Sipho Hlongwane slams a faux shanty-town tourist resort in South Africa as an example of postmodern racism:

“And now you too can experience this, for R850 a night!
This, incidentally, is more than most South Africans living in informal settlements see in an entire month. According to the latest census data, only about 15% of black South Africans are considered middle and upper class. The large majority do not make more than R1,400 a month. A whopping 61% of black people live on less than R515 a month. About 87% of white South Africans are considered middle class or above. There is some improvement, but it is at snail’s pace — the reason why the problem is so entrenched is apartheid.
But instead of critical self-examination that might lead many people to accept their own complicity in the oppression of their fellow citizens, this is what we have. Reducing the pain of poverty to an experience, that you can dip in and out of for more money than those poor shack dwellers have in a month.”

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Latest Developments, December 18

In the latest news and analysis…

Asymmetric grief
The Guardian’s George Monbiot points out that drone war-waging American officials and the world’s media seem to consider the deaths of innocent children far less tragic in some contexts than in others:

“It must follow that what applies to the children murdered [in Newtown, Connecticut] by a deranged young man also applies to the children murdered in Pakistan by a sombre American president. These children are just as important, just as real, just as deserving of the world’s concern. Yet there are no presidential speeches or presidential tears for them, no pictures on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, no interviews with grieving relatives, no minute analysis of what happened and why.

‘Are we,’ Obama asked on Sunday, ‘prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?’ It’s a valid question. He should apply it to the violence he is visiting on the children of Pakistan.”

Plugging leaks
Global Financial Integrity has released its annual study on “the amount of money flowing out of developing economies via crime, corruption and tax evasion” and called for global action to limit this draining of resources:

“Policies advocated by GFI include:

  • Addressing the problems posed by anonymous shell companies, foundations, and trusts by requiring confirmation of beneficial ownership in all banking and securities accounts, and demanding that information on the true, human owner of all corporations, trusts, and foundations be disclosed upon formation and be available to law enforcement;
  • Reforming customs and trade protocols to detect and curtail trade mispricing;
  • Requiring the country-by-country of sales, profits and taxes paid by multinational corporations;
  • Requiring the automatic cross-border exchange of tax information on personal and business accounts;
  • Harmonizing predicate offenses under anti-money laundering laws across all Financial Action Task Force cooperating countries; and
  • Ensuring that the anti-money laundering regulations already on the books are strongly enforced.”

Behaving like adults
Foreign Policy reports that former senator Chuck Hagel, one of the frontrunners to become the next US secretary of defense, has a history of opposing sanctions and endorsing engagement in dealing with perceived threats to international stability:

“ ‘Engagement is not appeasement. Diplomacy is not appeasement. Great nations engage. Powerful nations must be the adults in world affairs. Anything less will result in disastrous, useless, preventable global conflict,’ Hagel said in a Brookings Institution speech in 2008.

On Syria, Hagel was a longtime supporter of engagement with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and his father before him, Hafez al-Assad. After meeting with Assad the elder in 1998, Hagel said, ‘Peace comes through dealing with people. Peace doesn’t come at the end of a bayonet or the end of a gun.’ ”

Vulture setback
The Guardian reports that an international tribunal has ordered Ghana to release an Argentine ship and crew detained due to aggressive collection tactics by an American “vulture fund“:

“The vessel arrived at Tema on 1 October, but was prevented from leaving three days later by a court order obtained by the investment vulture fund NML Capital, which is suing the Argentinian government for non-payment of a $1.6bn (£988m) debt.

Ahead of the tribunal’s decision, the UN independent expert on foreign debt and human rights, Cephas Lumina, said: ‘Vulture funds, such as NML Capital, should not be allowed to purchase debts of distressed companies or sovereign states on the secondary market, for a sum far less than the face value of the debt obligation, and then seek repayment of the nominal full face value of the debt together with interest, penalties and legal costs or impound assets of heavily indebted countries in an attempt to force repayment.’ ”

WTO contender
Reuters reports that a former Ghanaian trade minister, Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen, has become “the first official candidate” to succeed France’s Pascal Lamy as head of the World Trade Organization:

“Many trade diplomats think the job should go to an African, Latin American or Caribbean candidate, since all but one head of the 17-year-old WTO have been from developed countries. The exception was Thailand’s Supachai Panitchpakdi.
But Lamy has said there was no system of rotating the job between countries and regions and said his successor, chosen by consensus, should be picked on the basis of competence alone.”

Deep sea concerns
Inter Press Service reports on some of the worries being expressed over the prospect of deep sea mining in the territorial waters of a number of Pacific island states:

“The International Seabed Authority (ISA) and the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SOPAC) concluded last year, ‘The current level of knowledge and understanding of deep sea ecology does not make it possible to issue any conclusive risk assessment of the effects of large-scale commercial seabed mining.’
Furthermore, many Pacific Island states are yet to establish appropriate DSM legislation and regulatory bodies.
‘PNG does not yet have all of its maritime boundaries established,’ [the University of Papua New Guinea’s] Kaluwin said. ‘The government does not yet have appropriate off-shore or deep sea mining policies and legislation in place.  We also need to address the traditional rights of landowners and communities over the marine environment.’

Hannah Lily, legal advisor to the [EU’s Deep Sea Minerals Project], told IPS, ‘Appropriate regulatory mechanisms, which require of proposed DSM (projects) further in-depth scientific research and analysis, should be in place before any DSM mining project takes place.’ ”

Atmospheric governance
The Economist’s Free Exchange blog argues that, in a world where countries cannot seem to agree on collective emissions reductions, people should expect more and more “unilateral geoengineering gambits“:

“Large, northerly countries like Canada and Russia have an almost unchecked ability to adapt but smaller and more equatorial places will quickly run out of options. It is unrealistic to suppose that unilaterial geoengineering schemes won’t be an inevitable result.
Such schemes could pose huge risks. Successful, precisely deployed efforts might nonetheless have unpredictable and substantial side effects or unpleasant distributional costs. Without a forum to address such effects, geopolitical tensions could worsen in a hurry.

If the world can’t create a functional international forum for addressing atmospheric management—one with teeth—then the costs of global warming are going to be far higher than they ought to be, whatever the mix of policies used to attack it.”