Latest Developments, May 17

Salesman

In the latest news and analysis…

Forever war
The New York Times reports on the current debate over the “authorization to use military force,” a 2001 statute that provides the legal basis for America’s so-called War on Terror:

“Human rights groups that want to see the 12-year-old military conflict wind down fear that a new authorization would create an open-ended ‘forever war.’
Some supporters of continuing the wartime approach to terrorism indefinitely fear that the war’s legal basis is eroding and needs to be bolstered, while others worry that a new statute might contain limits that would reduce the power that the Obama administration claims it already wields under the 2001 version.
And still others say that whatever the right policy may be, Congress should protect its constitutional role by explicitly authorizing the parameters of the war, rather than ceding that decision to the executive branch.”

Oil fraud
Sweetcrude reports that Shell has been accused of falsifying the results of an investigation into an oil spill in Nigeria’s Niger Delta:

“About 80 oil producing communities in Warri North and Warri South-West Local Government Areas of Delta State made the allegation, Wednesday, in Warri at a meeting with officials of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and the Nigerian Naval Service, NNS Delta.
The communities are alleging that SNEPCo fabricated the result of samples of oil, soil and surface water collected for test from a few communities impacted by the Bonga oil spill.”

Credits galore
European Voice reports that big polluters are profiting from the EU emissions trading scheme:

“According to the analysis, carried out by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the steel, cement, refining, lime, glass, ceramics and pulp sectors all generated a profit within the system by being over-allocated emission allowances in the scheme.

‘The ETS as a whole has been a financial support to the energy intensive industries…who usually complain that the ETS is killing them,’ asserted a [European Commission] official.”

No more tax avoidance
The Guardian reports that the CEO of UK banking giant Lloyds has promised to (more or less) stop using tax havens:

“Chief executive António Horta-Osório said the 39%-taxpayer owned bank had embarked on a systematic review of ‘so-called tax havens’ after a shareholder demanded to know why the bank was the seventh biggest user of such facilities.

‘In 2012 alone we have closed 60 of those companies and that is more than 20% of the total. We are going to close all of them unless there are strong business reasons for our customers to keep them there,’ he said at the meeting in Edinburgh. He later clarified that ‘business reasons’ did not mean ‘tax reasons’.”

Continued colonialism
Al Jazeera reports that a new study argues that living conditions for Canada’s aboriginal population provides “motives for an insurgency”:

“ ‘The Canadian right-wing establishment is seizing on this to justify its own agenda of stricter controls and the continued criminalisation of native people who defend their rights,’ Taiaiake Alfred, chair of the centre for indigenous governance at the University of Victoria, and one of Canada’s most influential aboriginal intellectuals, told Al Jazeera. ‘The positive elements of Canadian society – progressive values and social justice – are founded on the ongoing injustice of land theft and murder of indigenous people.’
In November, Paul Martin, Canada’s former prime minister and a business tycoon, echoed Alfred’s comments, albeit in a softer tone. ‘We have never admitted to ourselves that we were, and still are, a colonial power,’ he said.”

Shadowy corners
Oxfam’s Ben Phillips calls for a modern resurgence of the kind of “free-thinking insubordination” that helped bring about the renaissance and reformation:

“To exhalt the humble, we’re going to have to humble the exhalted.
That’s why charities are so focused on getting the G8 to deliver on transparency in land investments and in taxation – because knowledge is power, because stealing is harder in broad daylight. The G8 would, no doubt, prefer if we only asked them to beneficent. But we’re insisting, most of all, that they are transparent, and end their role in providing shadowy corners for shady characters to hide their dodgy deals.”

Bad food
Sylvia Szabo argues in Global Policy for a new understanding of food security:

“Even, if hunger was to be completely eradicated, it would not mean that the planet would become food secure. Already today, developing countries, including those in Africa, are experiencing an increased consumption of processed foods. Obesity and chronic diseases are gradually becoming a new challenge in African societies, although many do not yet realise the gravity of the problem.

The stigma of food insecurity seems to be focused only on the developing world, but it has become a global problem and should be conceptualised as such.”

Self-appointed helpers
Former development worker Nora Schenkel discusses her disillusionment at the gulf between the rhetoric and reality of aid work in Haiti:

“Most Haitians only ever meet Westerners in our capacity as self-appointed helpers. We are never just here because we want to be in Haiti; we claim we are here to better Haitians’ lives. But they have seen us come and go for decades, and they are poorer than ever before.
Meanwhile, they see us leaving the grocery store with bags of food that cost more than what they make in a month. They watch us get into large air-conditioned cars and drive by them, always by them. They see us going home to nice, big houses, shielded by high walls.”

Growing gap
Bloomberg reports that US manufacturing giant Caterpillar has become a “symbol of the growing divergence in corporate America between profits and wages”

“In January 2012, Caterpillar locked out union workers at a locomotive factory in Ontario after they rejected a pay cut of about 50 percent; the company shuttered the plant and moved production to Muncie, Ind., where workers accepted lower wages.

As Caterpillar squeezed hourly workers for concessions, [CEO Doug] Oberhelman’s own pay rose 60 percent in 2011, to more than $16 million. Although the company’s profits have declined in recent quarters (largely because of a decline in commodities prices, which has hurt all mining equipment makers), Caterpillar announced on April 22 that Oberhelman’s compensation had jumped again, to $22 million.

As a percentage of gross domestic product, corporate earnings recently hit their highest level in more than 60 years, and wages fell to new lows, according to Moody’s Analytics.”

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Latest Developments, March 20

In the latest news and analysis….

Expendable country
Reuters reports that the European Central Bank is prepared to let Cyprus “succumb to financial meltdown” but believes it can save the eurozone:

“Cyprus propelled the 17-nation bloc into uncharted waters on Tuesday by rejecting a proposed levy on bank deposits as a condition of a 10 billion euro ($12.9 billion) EU bailout.
Without the aid, much of it to recapitalize Cypriot banks, the ECB says they will be insolvent, and it requires banks to be solvent for them to receive central bank support.

By stressing that it stands ready to provide liquidity ‘within the existing rules’, the ECB is standing firm.
The central bank is not ready to bend for Cyprus.”

Food shortage
Oxfam has blamed the French military intervention in Mali for skyrocketing food prices and shortages that are fuelling a “serious food security crisis” in the country’s north:

“A separate market survey in the same area revealed that in January 2013 the price of basic foodstuffs went up by as much as 70 per cent as a result of the military operation. By February, these abnormally high prices, far greater than the five year average, had still not stabilised. Oxfam‘s survey found that cereals like sorghum, millet and corn are no longer available on the market. While the availability of certain cereals is now improving, the continued closure of the Algerian border is preventing access to other key products in the diet of northern Malians, such as pasta, oil, sugar and rice.
Fuel shortages and rising fuels prices and conflict-related damage have also affected the water and electricity supply in the town of Gao.”

Intervention debate
The Washington Post reports that top US military commanders cannot agree on whether or not foreign intervention in Syria is advisable:

At a separate hearing held by [Senator Carl] Levin’s [Senate Armed Services] committee Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked NATO’s military chief, Adm. James G. Stavridis, whether it is time for the United States to ‘help the Syrian opposition in ways that would break what is a prolonged civil war.’
‘My personal opinion,’ Stavridis said, ‘is that would be helpful in breaking the deadlock and bringing down the Assad regime.’
But there is no consensus. On Monday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dismissed the role of military action during a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. ‘I don’t see a military option that would create an understandable outcome, and until I do, my advice would be to proceed cautiously,’ he said.

Questionable past
Agence France-Presse reports that French police have raided the home of IMF head Christine Lagarde over events that took place during her time in ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s cabinet:

“The investigation concerns Lagarde’s 2007 decision to ask an arbitration panel to rule on a dispute between disgraced tycoon Bernard Tapie and the collapsed bank Credit Lyonnais.
The arbitration resulted in Tapie being awarded around 400 million euros ($499 million) – an outcome that triggered outrage among critics who insisted the state should never have taken the risk of being forced to pay money to Tapie, a convicted criminal.”

Fraying monopoly
Reuters reports that US President Barack Obama is looking to shape global guidelines on the use of drones as unmanned technology spreads to more and more countries:

“ ‘People say what’s going to happen when the Chinese and the Russians get this technology? The president is well aware of those concerns and wants to set the standard for the international community on these tools,’ said Tommy Vietor, until earlier this month a White House spokesman.

Obama’s new position is not without irony. The White House kept details of drone operations – which remain largely classified – out of public view for years when the U.S. monopoly was airtight.

Villagization inquiry needed
Human Rights Watch is calling on the World Bank to allow an investigation into its Ethiopia program, which is “shadowed by controversy” over reports of forced relocations:

“Despite the human rights risks that ‘villagization’ presents for the World Bank’s project, it has not applied its own safeguard policies. Its policy to protect indigenous people has not been applied in Ethiopia because the government does not agree that it should apply. Nor has the World Bank applied its policy on involuntary resettlement, which requires consultation and compensation when people are resettled.”

Viva Palma
The Center for Global Development’s Alex Cobham and King’s College London’s Andy Sumner make the case for the “Palma Ratio” as an alternative to the widely used Gini coefficient for measuring countries’ inequality levels:

“[Chilean economist Gabriel Palma] found that the ‘middle classes’ – more accurately the middle income groups between the ‘rich’ and the ‘poor’ (defined as the five ‘middle’ deciles, 5 to 9) – tend to capture around half of GNI – Gross National Income wherever you live and whenever you look. The other half of national income is shared between the richest 10% and the poorest 40% but the share of those two groups varies considerably across countries.
Palma suggested distributional politics is largely about the battle between the rich and poor for the other half of national income, and who the middle classes side with.
So, we’ve given this idea a name – ‘the Palma’ (brilliant eh?) or the Palma Ratio. It’s defined as the ratio of the richest 10% of the population’s share of gross national income (GNI), divided by the poorest 40% of the population’s share. We think this might be a more policy-relevant indicator than the Gini, especially when it comes to poverty reduction.

Defining aid
The Guardian reports that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has a very inclusive concept of overseas development assistance:

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s development assistance committee (OECD-DAC) defines what counts as ODA. Only spending with “the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries” is eligible. But the list of specific activities that can count as aid has grown to include administrative costs and spending on refugees in donor countries, estimated costs of students from developing countries, and programmes to raise the profile of development. Some argue this growing list has diluted the meaning of foreign aid and made it harder for the public to understand where their money is going. Both grants and loans (if they have a grant element of at least 25%) can count, and ODA can be given to developing countries or multilateral institutions such as the World Bank.

Latest Developments, December 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Rebel recognition
The New York Times reports that the US has announced it now considers an opposition coalition to be Syria’s “legitimate representative” even though it is unclear how much authority the group actually has over rebel fighters:

“Moreover, [the recognition] draws an even sharper line between those elements of the opposition that the United States champions and those it rejects. The Obama administration coupled its recognition with the designation hours earlier of a militant Syrian rebel group, the Nusra Front, as a foreign terrorist organization, affiliated with Al Qaeda.

But Mr. Obama’s move does not go so far as to confer on the opposition the legal authority of a state. It does not, for example, recognize the opposition’s right to have access to Syrian government funds, take over the Syrian Embassy in Washington or enter into binding diplomatic commitments.”

Too big to jail
Global Witness points out that 47,000 people died in Mexico’s drug war during the time that HSBC “failed to check whether the dollars it was shipping from Mexico to the US were drugs money,” an oversight for which Europe’s biggest bank has agreed to pay a $1.9 billion fine:

“ ‘Fines alone are not going to change banks’ behaviour: the chances of being caught are relatively small and the potential profits from accepting dodgy clients are too big.  Fines are seen as a cost of doing business,’ said Rosie Sharpe, campaigner at Global Witness.
‘Instead, regulators should hold senior bankers legally responsible for their banks’ money laundering performance.  At the very least, senior bankers should be prevented from working in the industry, akin to the way in which doctors can be struck off.  Bonuses should be clawed back, and, in the most serious cases, senior bankers should face jail,’ said Sharpe.”

Uranium politics
NGO l’Observatoire du nucléaire sees the hand of a French state-owned company in the sudden alteration of Niger’s 2013 budget:

“This change, probably illegal, consisted of adding to the national budget 17 billion CFA francs (about €26 million) ‘given’ to Niger by the French nuclear company Areva, of which 10 billion CFA francs (more than €15 million) are set to go directly to purchasing an airplane for Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou.
This is a clear act of corruption, in moral terms if not legal ones, by Areva which expects thereby to maintain its grip on Niger’s uranium, in order to supply French nuclear power plants.

It just so happens that Mr. Issoufou is a former director of a uranium mining company, Somaïr, which is an Areva subsidiary!” [Translated from the French.]

Patent trolls
Reuters reports that in the US, more patent lawsuits have been brought this year by “entities that don’t make anything than those that do”:

“This year, about 61 percent of all patent lawsuits filed through December 1 were brought by patent-assertion entities, or individuals and companies that work aggressively and opportunistically to assert patents as a business model rather than build their own technology, according to a paper by Colleen Chien, a law professor at Santa Clara University.
That compares with 45 percent in 2011 and 23 percent five years ago.”

Corruption’s infrastructure
The Center for Global Development’s William Savedoff suggests some measures rich countries can take to help stem illicit financial flows, which he calls “a problem for world governance”:

“There is only so much the developed world can do to promote better governance in developing countries; after all, developed countries don’t have such a great track record of addressing corruption at home – whether it comes to Super PACs in the US or Berlusconi’s comeback after conviction on tax fraud. But we can make a big difference if rich and powerful countries were to stop protecting and enforcing repayment of odious debt; hindering recovery of stolen assets; allowing multinationals to make facilitation payments; and hiding oil and mineral royalty payments from public view.”

Aid business
Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, raises concerns about the potential impacts on Africa’s food security of a new US-led initiative to increase private sector investment in the continent’s agriculture:

“One of the [New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition] projects will see agri-food giant Cargill, subsidised by G8 development funding, take some 40,000 hectares of farmland in Mozambique. This comes at a time when peasant movements and smallholders across the developing world are calling out for their access to land to be secured in the face of land grabs.

And aid must not result in a long-term dependency on expensive technologies that may eventually force the most marginal farmers, who have the greatest difficulties accessing credit, to leave the land.”

Pathological consumption
The Guardian’s George Monbiot argues that consumer culture is “screwing the planet” for the sake of acquiring largely useless items:

“People in eastern Congo are massacred to facilitate smartphone upgrades of ever diminishing marginal utility. Forests are felled to make ‘personalised heart-shaped wooden cheese board sets’. Rivers are poisoned to manufacture talking fish. This is pathological consumption: a world-consuming epidemic of collective madness, rendered so normal by advertising and by the media that we scarcely notice what has happened to us.

This boom has not happened by accident. Our lives have been corralled and shaped in order to encourage it. World trade rules force countries to participate in the festival of junk. Governments cut taxes, deregulate business, manipulate interest rates to stimulate spending. But seldom do the engineers of these policies stop and ask, ‘spending on what?’ When every conceivable want and need has been met (among those who have disposable money), growth depends on selling the utterly useless. The solemnity of the state, its might and majesty, are harnessed to the task of delivering Terry the Swearing Turtle to our doors.”

Moral legacy
Mother Jones’s Adam Serwer suggests the makers of Zero Dark Thirty, the new Hollywood movie about the American hunt for Osama bin Laden, are “rehabilitating torture”:

“The critical acclaim Zero Dark Thirty is already receiving suggests that it may do what Karl Rove could not have done with all the money in the world: embed in the popular imagination the efficacy, even the necessity, of torture, despite available evidence to the contrary. Whatever the artistic merits of the film, that will be its moral legacy.”

Latest Developments, November 2

In the latest news and analysis…

Development’s holy grail
The Guardian provides an explainer on the post-2015 development agenda, including a warning of the tension inherent in trying to establish Sustainable Development Goals:

“ ‘Getting rid of poverty is about making more stuff and giving it to more people,’ said Claire Melamed, head of growth and equity at the Overseas Development Institute thinktank. ‘It’s a popular thing to do, but climate change is about sharing out limited resources. Politically it’s of a totally different order of magnitude and so contentious.’ ”

Ultimate refusal
The Canadian Press reports that Canada’s highest court has refused to hear a lawsuit brought against a mining company over a massacre in DR Congo:

“[Human rights groups] allege that Anvil, which opened an office in Quebec in 2005, provided logistical support to the Congolese military as it crushed a rebel uprising in 2004, killing as many as 100 people in the port city of Kilwa.
Last January, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a lower court ruling in favour of the coalition, saying the complaint should be heard in Congo or Australia, where Anvil also operated.

‘It is unacceptable that in 2012, victims are still unable to hold Canadian companies accountable in Canadian courts, for their alleged involvement in serious human rights violations committed abroad,’ said Matt Eisenbrandt, a member of the board of directors of the group.”

Betting against forests
Global Witness has released a new report accusing banking giant HSBC of making $130 million from financing logging companies “causing widespread environmental destruction and human rights abuses” in the Malaysian state of Sarawak:

“Sarawak’s logging giants, all past or present HSBC clients, have since expanded their destructive model of business to every major tropical forested region in the world. These companies are currently logging or converting forests to plantations in 18 million hectares of concessions – an area three times the size of Norway.
‘HSBC has bankrolled some of the world’s worst logging companies and in some cases got them off the ground with their first commercial loans. The destruction they have caused simply couldn’t have happened without the services and kudos the bank provided,’ said Tom Picken, Global Witness Forest Campaign leader.”

Chocolate lawsuit
Reuters reports that an American pension fund is suing US chocolate giant Hershey to obtain records indicating whether “the candymaker knew its suppliers in Ghana and Ivory Coast used child labor”:

“A 2011 study by Tulane University found that 1.8 million children in the Ivory Coast and Ghana work in the cocoa industry and that the vast majority of them are unpaid. The study also found evidence of child-trafficking, forced labor and other violations of internationally accepted labor practices.
If the court forces Hershey to turn over the documents, the pension fund could look for evidence to bring a lawsuit against the company and its directors. With evidence, the fund said it could claim Hershey violated anti-trafficking laws and knowingly benefited from a supplier using child labor.”

Mali drones
Algeria’s Le Matin picks up on a report by French newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné that the US is considering sending armed drones into northern Mali: 

“The CIA urgently wants to acquire about 10 drones equipped with bombs, missiles and rockets, according to the satirical French paper that obtained the information from French intelligence sources. The US deems the 20 or so small surveillance planes currently stationed in Burkina Faso to be insufficient. They want lethal machines like the ones that operate in Pakistan and Yemen, in spite of the known consequences: from 2004 to 2012, these drones killed 3,325 people, including 176 children, according to a study conducted by two American universities.” [Translated from the French.]

Doing less
Bill Morton, an analyst who has worked for Oxfam and the North-South Institute, calls on Western-based NGOs to consider “adopting a ‘do nothing for now’ approach” to the debate over the successors to the Millennium Development Goals:

“The large majority of proposals on the next MDGs are put forward by people and institutions based in developed countries. So far, thinking and proposals that emanate from developing countries, and that reflect the interests and priorities of people in these countries, are getting relatively limited traction in policy debates and discussions.

That’s why now is the right time for practitioners and analysts in developed countries to take a step back, and to make room for people in developing countries to advance their own thinking on a post-2015 framework. That doesn’t mean the existing thinking isn’t worthwhile. It’s just that there is enough of it for now. It’s fair enough that we loosen our grip on the post-2015 agenda a little, and give those who it will affect most the opportunity to shape it more strongly.”

Two steps back
Inter Press Service reports on concerns that so-called agricultural development “will actually compromise the country’s food security” by pushing smallholder farmers off their land in favour of large-scale agribusiness:

“[Pretorious] Nkhata and the other farmers displaced from the 46,876 hectares of now commercial farmland told IPS that they had obtained their land from a traditional leader but did not get deeds of ownership from the government.
‘They said we were squatters, we were intruders on that land. I had 21 hectares … I lost it all…
‘They (the South African agribusiness) came with guns and threatened to shoot anyone who resisted moving out. They burnt all our household properties without any notice. We were almost 200 households. They burnt my food barns, clothes, blankets, bedding, television set – they even burnt my fields,’ he said.
The agribusiness has since sold the land and closed its operations in Zambia.”

Green costs
Reuters reports that Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal has opted to reduce its annual South African steel output by 1 million tons rather than greenify its furnaces:

“The steelmaker, Africa’s biggest, was given until October 16 to deal with emissions from the furnaces and decided it was cheaper to shut the units rather than complete a project on a dust-extraction system that would capture the emissions.”

Latest Developments, October 18

In the latest news and analysis…

Commitment to development
The Center for Global Development’s David Roodman and Julia Clark describe some of the changes to the latest edition of the Commitment to Development Index, which ranks rich countries “on how much their governments’ policies and actions support global prosperity”:

“Last year the troop surge in Afghanistan lifted the United States to first place on security. The CDI rewarded this military move because the U.N. Security Council continued to endorse the foreign intervention in Afghanistan. We decided in 2012 to impose an additional criterion for inclusion: an operation also needs to be reasonably describable as primarily intended to help the citizens of the country in question. The war in Afghanistan does not mean that test in our judgment. The 2011 intervention in Libya does.
The conception of ‘security’ has expanded beyond the use of force. Countries are now rewarded for participating in international security arrangements such as the International Criminal Court and Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel land mines.”

Setting priorities
Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, sketches out his vision of a “food security first” approach to biofuel development:

“The best practice cases of small-scale sustainable biofuel production may not be geared for exports. This is more than a coincidence: once the primary interest of agricultural systems becomes the cheap, bulk production of export commodities, the positive outcomes of smallholder engagement and intercropping of local staples are always likely to be lost.
The Institute for European Environmental Policy estimated that, to reach its initial 10% target for renewables in transport fuels, the EU would have had to import 41% of its biodiesel and 50% of its ethanol needs by 2020. So even with lower targets, dependence on imports – and therefore pressure on the structure of farming systems in the global south – are always the likely outcome of EU biofuel mandates.”

Drones over Yemen
Reuters reports that a US drone has killed nine suspected al Qaeda members in Yemen, based on eyewitness accounts of “six charred bodies and the scattered remains of three other people”:

“While Washington usually avoids comment on the strikes in Yemen, the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks U.S. operations, says as many as 56 civilians have been killed this year by drones.
Many Yemenis complain the U.S. focus on militants is a violation of sovereignty that is driving many towards al Qaeda and diverting attention from other pressing issues such as unemployment, corruption, water depletion and economic revival.”

Drone journalism
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan writes that her paper is not doing enough to inform readers about US drone policy:

“Since the article in May, its reporting has not aggressively challenged the administration’s description of those killed as ‘militants’ — itself an undefined term. And it has been criticized for giving administration officials the cover of anonymity when they suggest that critics of drones are terrorist sympathizers.
Americans, according to polls, have a positive view of drones, but critics say that’s because the news media have not informed them well. The use of drones is deepening the resentment of the United States in volatile parts of the world and potentially undermining fragile democracies, said Naureen Shah, who directs the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia University’s law school.
‘It’s portrayed as picking off the bad guys from a plane,’ she said. ‘But it’s actually surveilling entire communities, locating behavior that might be suspicious and striking groups of unknown individuals based on video data that may or may not be corroborated by eyeballing it on the ground.’ ”

Paris massacre
France 24 reports that French President François Hollande spoke of “bloody repression” as he marked the 51st anniversary of the killings of Algerian protesters by Paris police:

“On that fateful day, French police – under the leadership of Paris prefect Maurice Papon – brutally crushed peaceful demonstrations of Algerian anti-war protesters who had gathered in and around the French capital to protest against a French security crackdown in Algeria.

More than half-a-century later, the details surrounding the October 17 massacre – including the casualty figures – remain murky. A day after the demonstrations, the left-leaning French newspaper Libération reported the official toll as two dead, several wounded and 7,500 arrests. The death toll, however, was disputed by the [Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN)], which claimed that dozens were killed.  Many of the bodies were found floating in the River Seine.”

Bribe banking
The Sunday Times reports that British defence firm GPT used the UK’s biggest bank to funnel millions in alleged bribes to Saudi officials:

“HSBC accounts in London and New York were used to provide the alleged kickbacks as part of a money-laundering scheme. It was operated by the defence company to channel cash into private company accounts in the Cayman Islands.
It is claimed the payments form part of a total £72m in sweeteners paid by GPT Special Project Management to a Saudi prince who is a close relative of the ruler, King Abdullah.
The disclosure will raise fresh questions about HSBC, which was recently implicated by the US authorities in the laundering of billions of dollars for drugs barons and terrorists.”

Asset seizure
Reuters reports that Ecuadorean plaintiffs say a court has given them permission to seize $200 million of assets belonging to oil giant Chevron:

“The plaintiffs from villages in the oil-rich Amazon won an $18.2 billion case against the oil giant over claims that Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001, contaminated the area from 1964 to 1992. Damages were increased to $19 billion in July.
Among the assets ordered turned over are $96.3 million that Ecuador’s government owes Chevron, money held in Ecuadorean bank accounts by Chevron, and licensing fees generated by the use of the company’s trademarks in the country, the plaintiffs said.”

Beyond aid targets
The Guardian reports that France’s development minister says he plans to focus more on “policies with the potential to help or hurt poor countries” than on traditional aid:

“On agriculture, particularly the common agricultural policy (CAP), which has been criticised for damaging the interests of poor countries despite reforms that have curbed the worst excesses, Canfin said France – where farmers have resisted CAP changes – would push for a ‘greener, more sustainable’ EU policy. On trade, he said France was willing to delay a 2014 deadline for completing economic partnership agreements (EPAs). EPAs are disliked by poor countries for forcing them to open their markes to competition that they cannot withstand. Canfin said France was willing to change the deadline to 2016, to allow more time to take into account the reservations of developing countries.”