Latest Developments, October 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Tit for tat
Al Jazeera reports that a militia claims to have “arrested” Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in response to the recent US military raid in Tripoli:

“A former Libyan rebel group said on Thursday it had seized Zeidan after the government allowed the United States to capture top al-Qaeda suspect Abu Anas al-Liby in Tripoli last weekend.
‘His arrest comes after the statement by John Kerry about the capture of Abu Anas al-Liby, after he said the Libyan government was aware of the operation,’ a spokesman for the group, known as the Libyan Revolutionary Operations Chamber, said refering to the US Secretary of State.”

Cholera lawsuit
CNN reports that a class action suit has been filed against the UN over its apparent triggering of a cholera epidemic in Haiti:

“ ‘The claims are that the U.N. engaged in reckless and gross negligence and misconduct bringing cholera to Haiti,’ said Ira Kurzban, a lawyer and board member with the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Development in Haiti. The group is demanding financial compensation for the 8,300 Haitians who died as a result of the cholera epidemic as well as some 650,000 more survivors of the illness.

In a briefing to journalists on Wednesday, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said as a result of the Haitian epidemic, the organization was in the process of adopting steps to prevent the further spread of the disease.
‘Part of our lessons learned from this has been to screen peacekeepers for cholera,’ Haq said.”

Calling the shots
Reuters reports that France continues to take the lead on shaping foreign interventions in its former African colonies:

“The [UN Security Council resolution] was drafted by France, [the Central African Republic’s] former colonial master. Security Council diplomats said they hoped for a vote on Thursday.
France, which intervened earlier this year to oust Islamist rebels from another of its former colonies, Mali, has been reluctant to get directly involved in the crisis. It has urged African nations and the African Union to do their utmost to resolve the crisis among themselves.

France has a small force in Bangui securing the airport and its local interests. French diplomatic sources have said Paris would be ready to provide logistical support and increase its troop numbers to between 700 and 750 if needed.”

Fate worse than debt
Reuters reports that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is saying the world must achieve “zero emissions from fossil-fuel sources” by mid-century:

“ ‘This is worse than a debt because there is no bailout and if you have two or three good budget years a debt can be reduced, but emissions hang around for 100 years,’ [OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria] said.
He said there needed to be a ‘big, fat price on carbon’ – either through carbon taxes or emissions-trading schemes which send out consistent and clear price signals.

In 2012, the world’s top 200 listed oil, gas and mining companies spent $674-billion on finding and developing new sources of oil and gas, the OECD said.
Achieving zero emissions from fossil-fuel sources is achievable but current policies need to be changed, Gurria said.”

Big changes afoot
Inter Press Service reports that World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is planning the development industry giant’s “first strategic overhaul in two decades”:

“ ‘We’ll be looking for what this reorganisation does to staffing and budgeting for social and environmental sustainability,’ Mark Rentschler, director of campaigns at the Bank Information Center (BIC), a watchdog group, told IPS.
‘There are conflicting signals in what you read in strategy. On the one hand, it says that [social and environmental] safeguards are valuable, including for clients, but at the same time it says the bank needs to get projects out more quickly and not be too bureaucratic.’
Those two aims don’t necessarily go together, Rentschler warns.”

Drones for migrants
Brussels-based journalist David Cronin rejects the EU’s promotion of its new border surveillance system, Eurosur, as the key to avoiding migrant deaths on the Mediterranean:

“Contrary to what [EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström] has indicated, Eurosur is not a humanitarian initiative. Rather, its primary focus is addressing what the European Commission calls ‘illegal immigration’ – a repulsive term as travelling from one country to another in search of a better life is not a crime.
Eurosur is partly the fruit of a €15 million scientific research project launched in 2010. Though mainly funded by the EU, the project had a heavy participation from top weapons-makers like Britain’s BAE, the Franco-German firm EADS and Spain’s Indra.
This is one of several EU-financed schemes relating to maritime surveillance. Another one, OPARUS, examined how drones can help to detect Africans or Asians trying to enter Europe. BAE, EADS and the French companies Thales and Dassault are all taking part in it.”

Racist vans
The BBC reports that the UK’s advertising watchdog has banned government ads “telling illegal immigrants to go home” for using misleading statistics, rather than for being offensive or irresponsible:

“[The Advertising Standards Authority] received 224 complaints about the vans from individuals, campaign groups, legal academics and the Labour peer Lord Lipsey. Some critics said the slogan was reminiscent of language used by the National Front in the 1970s.
During the campaign, the advertising vans drove around the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Hounslow, some of the most diverse areas of the capital where it is thought a lot of illegal immigrants live and work.
The poster displayed a picture of handcuffs and read: ‘In the UK illegally?… GO HOME OR FACE ARREST.’ ”

No tanks
The Los Angeles Times reports that the White House “appears to have settled on a middle ground” regarding its massive military aid to Egypt:

“Administration officials told reporters this week that they planned to withhold a substantial amount of U.S. military aid in response to the continuing violence in Egypt. News reports said that delivery of U.S. tanks, helicopters and fighter jets – part of $1.3 billion in annual military assistance – would be suspended but that funding for counter-terrorism and security operations in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip would not be affected.

Analysts said that if Obama announces a partial aid suspension, it will represent a slap on the wrist of the Egyptian military while allowing the administration to show that it disapproves of the moves the generals are making.”

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Latest Developments, August 17

In the latest news and analysis…

Miners shot
Bloomberg reports “the worst death toll in police action since the end of apartheid” after South African police opened fire on striking workers from a platinum mine owned by UK-registered Lonmin, killing 35:

“Violence erupted yesterday after police used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse thousands of workers gathered on a hilltop near the mine. Clashes between rival labor unions at the mine led to a six-day standoff with police in which 10 people had already died, including two officers. Police say they acted in self-defense yesterday after coming under attack from the workers armed with spears, machetes and pistols.”

Setting a precedent
The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Mark Weisbrot argues Ecuador’s decision to grant asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has “considerable historic significance”:

“Why is this case so significant? It is probably the first time that a citizen fleeing political persecution by the US has been granted political asylum by a democratic government seeking to uphold international human rights conventions. This is a pretty big deal, because for more than 60 years the US has portrayed itself as a proponent of human rights internationally – especially during the cold war. And many people have sought and received asylum in the US.

Assange’s successful pursuit of asylum from the US is another blow to Washington’s international reputation. At the same time, it shows how important it is to have democratic governments that are independent of the US and – unlike Sweden and the UK – will not collaborate in the persecution of a journalist for the sake of expediency. Hopefully other governments will let the UK know that threats to invade another country’s embassy put them outside the bounds of law-abiding nations.”

DNA ruling
The American Civil Liberties Union has expressed disappointment at a US federal appeals court’s ruling that companies can obtain patents on human genes:

“ ‘This ruling prevents doctors and scientists from exchanging their ideas and research freely. Human DNA is a natural entity like air or water. It does not belong to any one company,’ [according to the ACLU’s Chris Hansen]

Myriad’s monopoly on the BRCA genes allows it to set the terms and cost of testing and makes it impossible for women to access alternate tests or get a comprehensive second opinion about their results. It also allows Myriad to prevent researchers from even looking at the genes without first getting permission.”

Deadly crossing
Human Rights Watch has released a new briefing calling on European governments to do more to prevent fatalities, of which there have been “as many as 13,500” since 1998, among migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa:

“The European Union is developing a new European External Border Surveillance System, EUROSUR. It includes rescue at sea as a main objective, but does not include specific guidelines or procedures to ensure this objective is reached.
Preventing deaths at sea needs to be at the heart of a coordinated European-wide approach to boat migration, Human Rights Watch said. During the Arab Spring, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that all overcrowded migrant boats in the Mediterranean should be presumed to be in need of rescue. This idea should inform the approach of the European Union toward the rescue of boat migrants.”

Pivot to Africa
Georgetown University’s Rosa Brooks writes that the US Department of Defense has come to dominate America’s relatively new and growing strategic interest in Africa:

“Whether Africom represents a viable new model for the future of the U.S. military naturally depends on your point of view. To some, the Africom approach is downright dangerous. Military traditionalists are apt to view it with suspicion — as a dangerous slide away from the military’s core competencies and the very apotheosis of ‘mission creep.’ Many civilian observers are equally skeptical, viewing Africom as further evidence of the militarization of U.S. foreign policy — and of the devaluing and evisceration of civilian capacity.”

Non-aligned summit
Inter Press Service reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is under pressure not to attend this month’s Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran where the host nation will take over as chair of the 120-country body:

“Chakravarthi Raghavan, a veteran journalist who has covered the United Nations both in New York and Geneva for decades, told IPS whether one likes it or not, NAM is a political gathering, and represents the largest group of nations, and members of the U.N.
‘Whatever the views and policies of the host, it would be a folly for the head of the U.N. Secretariat not to go there to present a U.N. view – and not act as a partisan of U.S.-Israeli interests or Israeli lobbying groups in the U.S.,’ said Raghavan, who has covered NAM summits from the very inception.”

Redefining development
Former South African cabinet minister Jay Naidoo argues the global development industry has sucked the passion out of the “fight for freedom and human dignity”:

“A whole development industry has spawned a class of poverty consultants. Global development assistance has been packaged into projects.

The rush to seek single-issue solutions to complex problems fails to recognize or respond to the overarching structural social and political factors that connect them. Typically, the search is for a new technology or a market-based device that could change lives dramatically.”

Bankers’ bluff
German MP Frank Schäffler and the Friedrich A. von Hayek Society’s Norbert Tofall want to see indebted banks lose their ability to “blackmail their rescuers” into granting them effective exemption from liability:

“Above all, the G-20’s decision to prop up systemically relevant banks must be revisited. And governments must respond to the banks’ threats by declaring their willingness to let insolvent banks be judged accordingly.

Zombie assets would be destroyed. A large part of the money and credit that was created out of nothing from former interbank transactions, now excluded from official guarantees, would return to nothing. Afterwards, the liquidated, formerly over-indebted banks could be sold.