Latest Developments, January 16

In the latest news and analysis…

“Neocolonialist” war
Le Monde reports that former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing has urged his country to stick to a supporting role for African troops in Mali’s conflict:

“I want to warn against allowing the French action in Mali to turn into a neocolonialist undertaking.

Air strikes in the country’s north and east would hit civilian populations and would replicate the pointless destruction of the war in Afghanistan. They would no doubt have the same political results.” [Translated from the French.]

Give peace a chance
Agence France-Presse reports that the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation has called for a ceasefire in Mali, which is one of the world body’s 57 member states:

“OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said the military offensive is ‘premature’ and called for ‘an immediate ceasefire in Mali and for all parties to go back to the negotiations which were led by Burkina Faso’ in December, in a statement.
Ihsanoglu, who ‘expressed his deep concern over the military escalation’ also called for ‘maximum self-restraint from all parties at this critical time in order to reach a peaceful solution to this conflict,’ the statement said.”

Arms fit for a king
Pro Publica reveals “the fullest picture yet” of US arms sales to the Kingdom of Bahrain during the Gulf state’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations:

“The list includes ammunition, combat vehicle parts, communications equipment, Blackhawk helicopters, and an unidentified missile system.

The U.S. has long sold weapons to Bahrain, totaling $1.4 billion since 2000, according to the State Department. The sales didn’t come under scrutiny until security forces killed at least 19 people in the early months of the crackdown in 2011. (Dozens have died since then.)
The administration put a hold on one proposed sale of Humvees and missiles in Fall 2011 following congressional criticism. But Foreign Policy reported that other unspecified equipment was still being sold without any public notification.”

Siemens suit
Reuters reports that a former Siemens employee is suing the German electronics giant, which he says fired him for trying to expose “a kickback scheme” on sales of medical equipment to hospitals in China:

“Siemens agreed to pay $1.6 billion in 2008 to resolve U.S. and German charges that it violated foreign anti-bribery laws through its business in countries that ranged from Argentina and Venezuela to Bangladesh.
As part of that settlement, the company also agreed to implement and maintain a robust program to comply with [the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] and retain an independent consultant to monitor that program and report on its development to the U.S. Justice Department.
Liu said the evidence he uncovered showed that the company intentionally evaded the due diligence policies put in place to comply with its 2008 plea agreement.”

Tax advice
A new report by the European Network on Debt and Development offers suggestions for ways the EU can take on the “acute challenge” of illicit financial flows from poor countries:

“A first step is to implement a robust interpretation of the Financial Action Task Force’s set of recommendations from February 2012. In Europe, the review of the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) in 2013 will be one of the biggest opportunities. The report recommends that this political opportunity is used to:
• Create publically available government registers of the real owners and controllers of companies, trusts and other such legal structures.
• Make all tax evasion a predicate offence of money laundering
• Improve compliance with and enforcement of anti-money laundering rules and introduce credible sanctions.”

Superfood concerns
The Guardian reports that the rapid growth in demand for quinoa on the international market is causing problems in the Andean communities that grow the plant:

“That global demand means less quinoa is being eaten in Bolivia and Peru, the countries of origin, as the price has tripled. There are concerns this could cause malnutrition as producers, who have long relied on the superfood to supplement their meagre diets, would rather sell their entire crop than eat it. The rocketing international price is also creating land disputes.

Bitter battles are being fought over prime quinoa-growing land. Last February dozens of people were hurt when farmers fought with slings and sticks of dynamite over what was once abandoned land.”

Knowable unknowns
OpenOil’s Johnny West asks how much of the abundant literature on Nigeria’s Niger Delta are based on “ground up, not top down” research:

“Forty years on, what we know about the peoples and societies of the Delta is scant at best. Just as Michael Herr said for American grunts Vietnam was not a country but a war, the Niger Delta is not a place and group of people but an issue – a multi-billion dollar headache or a contention in ongoing ideological debates, depending on where you stand.
Now [the Max Planck Institute’s Olumide Abimbola] is setting out to fill that gap by compiling a complete bibliography of ground level research, and then gearing up Nigeria’s social science faculties to start filling the void. But the fact we’ve got this far without this is mind-boggling and begs the question: what do we know about the people of southern Iraq, the Yusuni native Ecuadoreans, or the peoples of West Papua – apart from their relationship to the Black Stuff?”

Non-European thinking
Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi writes that the act of “thinking and acting in terms at once domestic to their immediate geography and yet global in its consequences” is increasingly not just a European prerogative:

“The question is rather the manner in which non-European thinking can reach self-consciousness and evident universality, not at the cost of whatever European philosophers may think of themselves for the world at large, but for the purpose of offering alternative (complementary or contradictory) visions of reality more rooted in the lived experiences of people in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America – counties and climes once under the spell of the thing that calls itself ‘the West’ but happily no more.

Reduced to its own fair share of the humanity at large, and like all other continents and climes, Europe has much to teach the world, but now on a far more leveled and democratic playing field, where its philosophy is European philosophy not ‘Philosophy’, its music European music not ‘Music’, and no infomercial would be necessary to sell its public intellectuals as ‘Public Intellectuals’.”

Advertisements

Latest Developments, October 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Legal precedent
The BBC reports that four Nigerian plaintiffs are taking oil giant Shell to court in the Netherlands over alleged pollution:

“It is the first time a Dutch multinational is being put on trial in a civil court at home in connection with damage caused abroad.

If the farmers’ case is successful it could set a legal precedent, paving the way for thousands of other compensation claims from those affected by oil spills, says the BBC’s Anna Holligan in The Hague.”

Accredited poachers
Reuters reports that “EU-approved vessels” account for the bulk of illegal fishing off Sierra Leone’s coast:

“The European Union has set up regulations to prevent vessels involved in so-called illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing from accessing European markets.
An 18-month investigation conducted by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), however, documented a long list of abuses including fishing inside exclusion zones, using banned equipment, and transhipping fish illegally at sea.
The majority of cases involved ships accredited to sell their seafood at EU ports.”

Fighting transparency
The Hill reports that US oil and business groups are suing to overturn new rules requiring the extractive industry to disclose payments made to foreign governments:

“The lawsuit, filed Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, escalates a battle between industry and human rights groups over controversial transparency rules required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

‘Secrecy around payments enables corrupt government officials and political elites to siphon off or misappropriate revenues for personal gain, rather than development. It has been said that ‘sunshine is the best disinfectant’ – this lawsuit begs the question, what are oil companies trying to hide?,’ said Jana Morgan, assistant policy adviser with Global Witness.”

Swiss arms
Swissinfo reports that Switzerland is adopting new rules aimed at preventing the re-export of “war material” to conflict zones after Swiss grenades sold to the United Arab Emirates were found in Syria:

“Buyers will have to declare that they will not export, sell, lend or donate the material, or pass it on in any other way to a third party abroad, without the agreement of the Swiss authorities.
Where there is seen to be a high risk of the material nevertheless being passed on to ‘undesirable’ end users, the relevant Swiss authorities can stipulate that they shall have the right to make ‘post shipment inspections’ on the spot.
Where large amounts of material is exported, the declaration is to take the form of a diplomatic note from the receiving country.”

Gloomy forecast
Maplecroft has released its Food Security Risk Index for 2013, according to which 75 percent of African countries are at high or extreme risk:

“ ‘Food price forecasts for 2013 provide a worrying picture,’ states Maplecroft’s Head of Maps and Indices Helen Hodge. ‘Although a food crisis has not emerged yet, there is potential for food related upheaval across the most vulnerable regions, including sub-Saharan Africa.’
A September report by Rabobank, a financial specialist in agro-commodities, estimates that prices of food staples could rise by as much as 15% by June 2013, resulting in record highs that will squeeze household incomes in many countries.”

Big loss
Bloomberg reports that the US Supreme Court has refused to intervene in a lawsuit that saw a judge in Ecuador impose a $19 billion fine on oil giant Chevron:

“Without commenting on the merits of the case, the U.S. Supreme Court today let stand a federal appeals court ruling that a New York trial judge exceeded his authority when he blocked a group of Ecuadorean farmers and Indians from seeking to collect the $19 billion award anywhere in the world.

The justices’ action, although it doesn’t address the substance of the case, effectively eliminates one avenue for Chevron to avoid liability. The company has refused to pay the judgment in Ecuador. Since Chevron does not have any bank accounts or other assets in Ecuador, the plaintiffs have now filed separate collection actions seeking liens against Chevron assets in Brazil and Canada.”

Mass firings
CNN reports that mining company Gold One has fired 1,400 striking workers at a South African mine:

“It’s the latest twist in a wave of sometimes-violent labor unrest that has wracked South Africa’s mining sector — the country’s biggest industry — for nearly two months. Another company, Anglo-American Platinum, fired about 12,000 striking workers who declined to attend disciplinary hearings last week after a three-week walkout.”

Scramble for Burma
Focus on the Global South argues that the impending boom in foreign direct investment poses a threat to farming communities in Burma/Myanmar:

“Land grabs are now set to accelerate due to new government laws that are specifically designed to encourage foreign investments in land. The two new land laws (the Farmlands Law and the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Law) establish a legal framework to reallocate so-called ‘wastelands’ to domestic and foreign private investors. Moreover, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Law and Foreign Investment Law that are being finalized, along with ASEAN-ADB regional infrastructure development plans, will provide new incentives and drivers for land grabbing and further compound the dispossession of local communities from their lands and resources. Land conflicts that are now emerging throughout the country will worsen as foreign companies, supported by foreign governments and International Financial Institutions (IFIs), rush in to profit from Burma/Myanmar’s political and economic transition period.”

Latest Developments, September 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Hippocratic development
Harvard University’s Dani Rodrik makes his case for a different approach to development after the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015:

“First, a new global compact should focus more directly on rich countries’ responsibilities. Second, it should emphasize policies beyond aid and trade that have an equal, if not greater, impact on poor countries’ development prospects.
A short list of such policies would include: carbon taxes and other measures to ameliorate climate change; more work visas to allow larger temporary migration flows from poor countries; strict controls on arms sales to developing nations; reduced support for repressive regimes; and improved sharing of financial information to reduce money laundering and tax avoidance.
Notice that most of these measures are actually aimed at reducing damage – for example, climate change, military conflict, and financial crime – that otherwise results from rich countries’ conduct. ‘Do no harm’ is as good a principle here as it is in medicine.”

New beginning
Reuters reports that Somalia’s lawmakers have chosen “political newcomer” Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the country’s new president:

“Somalia has lacked an effective central government since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.
The capital, however, which until last year witnessed street battles between al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants and African soldiers, is now a vibrant city where reconstructed houses are slowly replacing bullet-riddled structures.
Monday’s vote was seen as a culmination of a regionally brokered, U.N.-backed roadmap to end that conflict, during which tens of thousands of people were killed and many more fled.
Despite being on the back foot, the militants still control swathes of southern and central Somalia, while pirates, regional administrations and local militia group also vie for control of chunks of the mostly lawless Horn of Africa country.”

Questionable exports
Lisa Nandy, chair of the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group, explains why the body is looking into government financing of British exports

“Concerns have been raised by a number of academics and NGOs that, because cover is provided for projects that the private sector won’t fund, the majority of business on [UK Export Finance]’s books are in risky projects or places, overwhelmingly in the arms trade, oil and aerospace industries. Airbus, for example, received 89% of the [Export Credits Guarantee Department]’s support last year.
Campaigners have also claimed that the Department is under very little scrutiny – the majority of projects are not screened for human rights abuses, environmental impact or even child labour; there is no mechanism for complaints for the people who are affected by the projects it supports and there is no evaluation of the projects that the government invests in.”

Nature’s value
The Guardian reports that the International Union for Conservation of Nature has released a list of the world’s 100 most endangered species and suggested certain seemingly well-intentioned conservation tactics may actually be harmful:

“In order to justify spending money on conservation efforts, scientists have felt under increasing pressure to argue for the human benefits that would accrue – for instance, calling for forests to be preserved because they can prevent landslides and naturally purify water for human consumption rather than because forests should be maintained for their own sake.
In some cases, the potential for ‘useful’ purposes for some species is contributing to their destruction. The wild yam of South Africa is supposed to have cancer-alleviating properties, according to traditional medicine, but the resulting hunt for the plant is threatening its very existence.
In others, the commercialisation of nature is having a damaging effect – the Franklin’s bumble bee, found in California and Oregon, is under threat because of diseases spread by commercially bred bumblebees.”

Biofuel U-turn
Reuters reports the European Union plans to impose limits on the use of “crop-based biofuels” due to concerns they do little to reduce emissions while contributing to higher food prices:

“The draft rules, which will need the approval of EU governments and lawmakers, represent a major shift in Europe’s much-criticized biofuel policy and a tacit admission by policymakers that the EU’s 2020 biofuel target was flawed from the outset.
The plans also include a promise to end all public subsidies for crop-based biofuels after the current legislation expires in 2020, effectively ensuring the decline of a European sector now estimated to be worth 17 billion euros ($21.7 billion) a year.”

Carbon crash
The Guardian reports that the UN’s global carbon trading scheme has “essentially collapsed”:

“Billions of dollars have been raised in the past seven years through the United Nations’ system to set up greenhouse gas-cutting projects, such as windfarms and solar panels, in poor nations. But the failure of governments to provide firm guarantees to continue with the system beyond this year has raised serious concerns over whether it can survive.
A panel convened by the UN reported on Monday at a meeting in Bangkok that the system, known as the clean development mechanism (CDM), was in dire need of rescue. The panel warned that allowing the CDM to collapse would make it harder in future to raise finance to help developing countries cut carbon.”

Time to reassess
Tamtam Info reports that France’s state-owned nuclear group Areva has changed its plans for a new Nigerien uranium mining project since receiving the environmental green light:

“Given the real threat to both the environment and public health that Areva’s decision poses, the Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radioactivity (CRIIRAD) and the environmental NGO Aghir in Man has alerted the Nigerien government and demanded that Areva undergo another environment impact assessment for its uranium mining project at Imouraren and provide precise answers relating to the hydrological impact and storage of radioactive waste, as well as the means for compensating affected populations.” [Translated from the French.]

Green counterrevolution
The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology’s Vandana Shiva argues that industrial agriculture is the cause of hunger and malnutrition, rather than the cure:

“Industrial agriculture, sold as the Green Revolution and 2nd Green Revolution to Third World countries, is a chemical intensive, capital intensive, fossil fuel intensive system. It must, by its very structure, push farmers into debt, and indebted farmers everywhere are pushed off the land, as their farms are foreclosed and appropriated. In poor countries, farmers trapped in debt for purchasing costly chemicals and non-renewable seeds sell the food they grow to pay back debt. That is why hunger today is a rural phenomenon. The debt-creating negative economy of high cost industrial farming is a hunger producing system, not a hunger reduction system. Wherever chemicals and commercial seeds have spread, farmers are in debt, and lose entitlement to their own produce. They become trapped in poverty and hunger.”

Latest Developments, August 22

In the latest news and analysis…

Ecological overdraft
The Global Footprint Network has declared August 22 Earth Overshoot Day, “the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year”:

“We are now operating in overdraft. For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In 1992, Earth Overshoot Day—the approximate date our resource consumption for a given year exceeds the planet’s ability to replenish—fell on October 21. In 2002, Overshoot Day was on October 3.”

High-level apology
The Associated Press reports that South African Defense Minister Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula has apologized to striking Lonmin miners in the wake of last week’s police shootings that killed 34 of them, while the UK-based company has taken a harder line:

“When miners started shaking plastic bags of bullet casings at her, evidence of the many bullets that police fired in volleys last Thursday, she said: ‘I am begging, I beg and I apologize, may you find forgiveness in your hearts.’

The government did intervene in favor of the strikers, persuading mine managers that no striking miners should be fired in the week that South Africa officially mourns the killings, the presidency said Tuesday.
Managers of Lonmin PLC platinum mine had ordered strikers to report for duty by 7 a.m. Tuesday or get fired, even as some family members still were searching for missing loved ones, not knowing whether they were dead or alive among some 250 arrested protesters or in one of the hospitals”

Taking responsibility
The South African Press Association reports that the Bench Marks Foundation has said Lonmin “has to bear a heavy burden of responsibility” for the striking miners’ deaths:

“ ‘Lonmin must retract their insensitivity towards the grieving families and apologise for their lack of empathy and harsh response, especially by giving ultimatums to grieving workers to return to work immediately,’ the foundation said.
Lonmin and other platinum-producing companies in the area bore responsibility for the negative affects of mining on the lives of people in the Bojanala Platinum district municipality.
‘The Marikana tragedy cannot be understood without looking at the negative economic, social and environmental impacts of platinum mining for both workers and local communities in the area.’ ”

Bribery memo
The Age reports that a newly discovered document links the governor of Australia’s central bank and his former deputy to “one of the worst corporate corruption cover-ups” in the country’s history:

“The 2007 memo shows that almost two years before a bribery expose by The Age forced the [Reserve Bank of Australia] to call in police, [former deputy governor Ric] Battellino was given a detailed and explosive memo cataloguing bribery and corruption inside Note Printing Australia, a wholly owned and supervised subsidiary of the bank.
The memo, details of which have remained secret until now, was addressed to ‘Deputy Governor RBA’ and written by a senior executive of NPA, which along with sister firm Securency was charged last year by Australian Federal Police with bribing foreign officials via overseas agents in order to win contracts.”

Shell’s army
The Guardian reports that oil giant Shell is paying tens of millions to Nigeria’s security forces, as well as employing a private police force and “a network of plainclothes informants” to protect its Niger Delta assets:

“Activists expressed concern that the escalating cost of Shell’s security operation in the delta was further destabilising the oil rich region and helping to fuel rampant corruption and criminality. ‘The scale of Shell’s global security expenditure is colossal,’ said Ben Amunwa of London-based oil watchdog Platform. ‘It is staggering that Shell transferred $65m of company funds and resources into the hands of soldiers and police known for routine human rights abuses.’

‘This proves what we in the Niger delta have known for years – that the air force, the army, the police, they are paid for with Shell money and they are all at the disposal of the company for it to use it any how it likes,’ said Celestine Nkabari at the Niger delta campaign group Social Action.”

Oil transparency
Najwa al-Beshti, a former employee of the National Oil Corporation of Libya, calls on the US Securities and Exchange Commission and European regulators to bring in strong transparency requirements for extractive industry companies operating abroad:

“Oil industry lobbyists are using their influence in Washington and Brussels to try to undermine transparency measures that could help prevent future tyrants from emerging. That must not be allowed to happen.
When Colonel Qaddafi was in power, I worked for Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation, in a position that allowed me to observe corruption firsthand. I helped produce audits that detailed the mismanagement of millions of dollars of oil revenues, including the systematic underpricing of oil and the discounting of prices for select foreign companies.”

Ethanol rules
The Washington Post reports on a new study exploring the potential impact on global food prices of various possible adjustments to US policy regulating ethanol production:

“Under the fourth option there, the EPA allows a fairly big relaxation of the ethanol rule next year. (A waiver this year is unlikely.) Refiners are required to use 25 percent less ethanol. And ethanol producers can carry over their credits from previous years. In that case, corn prices could drop more than 20 percent, to $6.56 per bushel. That’s about where corn prices would have been if we only had a ‘weak drought’ this year. In other words, by relaxing the ethanol rule, the EPA could essentially turn a ‘strong drought’ into a ‘weak drought’ as far as prices are concerned.”

Ecuador bashing
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie argues that the British media’s treatment of Ecuador during the drama involving Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been characterized by “the dismissiveness that remains the hallmark of western foreign policy instincts”:

“In otherwise thoughtful comments criticising the Ecuadorian government on its press freedom record on Channel 4 News last week, David Aaronovitch, an influential British journalist said: “I’m not sure [the Ecuadorians] would understand what human rights were if they came and smacked them over the back of the head.”
Such language doubtless makes for good TV, but it’s both incredibly rude and not a little myopic: many people around the world would say the same of Britain – and with good cause, given the hardly glowing record of its government and companies.”

Latest Developments, August 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Hunger crimes
The Guardian’s George Monbiot criticizes British Prime Minister David Cameron for holding a summit on world hunger while promoting the use of biofuels, which Monbiot calls a “crime against humanity”:

“Preparing for the prime minister’s hunger summit on Sunday, the international development department argued that, with a rising population, ‘the food production system will need to be radically overhauled, not just to produce more food but to produce it sustainably and fairly to ensure that the poorest people have the access to food that they need’. But another government department – transport – boasts on its website that, thanks to its policies, drivers in this country have now used 4.4bn litres of biofuel.
Of this 30% was produced from recycled cooking oil. The rest consists of 3bn litres of refined energy snatched from the mouths of the people that Cameron claims to be helping.”

Cereal secrets
Oxfam’s Duncan Green draws attention to a new report on four of “the biggest and most influential firms you’ve never heard of,” grain traders whose combined sales topped $300 billion last year:

“[The ABCDs] are not alone, nor unchallenged, but they remain the overwhelmingly dominant traders of grain globally, and what they do is central to understanding international markets (and the domestic politics of food in many countries, too). Too often invisible in policy debates about farmers and consumers, these companies are careful about where and when they get involved in such debates, rarely seeking the limelight. They do not have brand names to protect in the way that a food processor such as Nestlé does. [Archer Daniels Midland] is publicly listed and Bunge is also a fully public company. [Louis] Dreyfus and Cargill remain essentially family-owned businesses. None of the companies is very forthcoming about its activities, and to track their activities requires patience and guesswork. However, despite the difficulties, it is important to understand their role and their interactions with other companies, national and global.”

Iceland’s success
Bloomberg reports that the International Monetary Fund has praised Iceland for its “decision to push losses on to bondholders instead of taxpayers and the safeguarding of a welfare system that shielded the unemployed from penury” following its economic crisis:

“Iceland refused to protect creditors in its banks, which failed in 2008 after their debts bloated to 10 times the size of the economy. The island’s subsequent decision to shield itself from a capital outflow by restricting currency movements allowed the government to ward off a speculative attack, cauterizing the economy’s hemorrhaging. That helped the authorities focus on supporting households and businesses.
‘The fact that Iceland managed to preserve the social welfare system in the face of a very sizeable fiscal consolidation is one of the major achievements under the program and of the Icelandic government,’ [the IMF’s Daria] Zakharova said.”

Hague threats
The Guardian reports that Rwandan opposition parties in exile are planning to ask the International Criminal Court to indict the country’s president, Paul Kagame, for war crimes for his alleged role in neighbouring DR Congo’s conflict:

“The demand to bring charges against Kagame has support among Congolese as well as opposition Rwandan politicians. ‘The politicians in Kinshasa are aware of these charges and they support them, although there have been no official statements as yet,’ said Nzangi Butondo, a Congolese MP representing Goma. ‘We think now is the right time to [go to The Hague]. It is certainly something to raise publicity, but there is also the hope that the ICC will, as a result, at least launch an investigation into this affair.’ ”

Tragedy double standard
The University of Notre Dame’s Naunihal Singh notes how much less attention American media and politicians paid to the recent mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin compared to the Dark Knight killings a couple of weeks earlier:

“The two incidents were obviously different in important ways: Holmes shot more people, did so at the opening of a blockbuster film, and was captured alive. There were also the Olympics. However, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Oak Creek would have similarly dominated the news cycle if the shooter had been Muslim and the victims had been white churchgoers. Both the quantity and content of the coverage has been clearly shaped by the identities of the shooter and his victims.”

Oceans Compact
Inter Press Service reports that the UN’s new “compact” for the protection of ocean resources has received lukewarm praise from some environmental activists:

“Asked for a response, Sebastian Losada, senior oceans policy analyst at Greenpeace International, told IPS that Greenpeace welcomes the announcement of the secretary-general, and added, ‘We don’t need more statements of concern nor more summaries of the problems we face.
‘What we do need is urgency in the negotiation rooms to move from words to action. Solutions to the oceans crisis exist and are well known, but they continue to be blocked by short-sighted national interests,’ Losada said.”

Adoption trends
James Bloodworth writes an Independent blog entry on the growing popularity in rich countries of adopting children from poor countries:

“Most of those looking to adopt abroad have, I imagine, the same motivation for doing so as those hoping to adopt domestically: a desire to give a child the best possible start in life. And yet the disparities in power and wealth (as with all disparities in power and wealth) inevitably set up a grossly unequal relationship between budding parents in the west and those who ‘produce’ the adoptees of the future in the developing world. Ethiopia accounted for nearly a quarter of all international adoptions to the US in 2010, second only to China. Adoption is fast becoming Ethiopia’s new export, perhaps soon to overtake coffee. Yet not everybody is happy with the way things are going. ‘We want people to invest in Ethiopia rather than take our children,’ Dr Bulti Gutema, head of the government’s adoption authority, has said. Media investigations have also found evidence to suggest that some adoption agencies have recruited children from intact families.”

Failed index
In a letter to Foreign Policy, the Royal African Society’s Richard Dowden expresses three “fundamental doubts” about the validity of the magazine’s Failed States Index:

“Third, the index misses one vital factor: chronic capital flight from poor countries — especially of the illicit variety — conducted largely by transnational companies avoiding taxes through commodity mispricing. Nearly a trillion dollars was looted from Africa through these methods between 1970 and 2008, according to the Washington-based think tank Global Financial Integrity, and that figure has since risen sharply. Poor countries in other parts of the world suffer from this same problem. Will the index assess the cost of these massive financial outflows on human well-being and governance? Now that would be interesting.”