Latest Developments, August 15

In the latest news and analysis…

GMO fail
The Food & Environment Reporting Network’s Tom Laskawy writes that a supposedly worm-resistant seed developed by agri-business giant Monsanto is “basically backfiring” in the drought-hit American Midwest:

“Historically, farmers managed corn rootworms through traditional crop rotations. These rootworms eat corn exclusively, so by alternating a corn crop with soy or another alternative, farmers would deprive the insects of food and the rootworm larvae would die off. This, by the way, is an age-old technique (originally part of the Native American Three Sisters agricultural tradition) that generates profits only for the farmer — not for seed companies.
Indeed, this abandonment of crop rotation was the other ‘innovation’ of Monsanto’s Bt corn — aside from releasing its own pesticide, that is. Farmers could now grow corn season after season in the same field. At the time, it seemed like an amazing development to farmers across the country — and remains so to starry-eyed, tech-loving politicians and industry representatives.”

Reining in private security
Inter Press Service reports on the latest international attempts to make so-called private military security contractors accountable for their actions:

“The [UN] draft Convention on PMSCs identifies a set of inherent state functions, including detention, interrogation and intelligence that private companies could not perform.
The fact that major clients of PMSCs – most notably the U.S. and the U.K. – have employed contractors for a number of these functions poses questions about whether these states would back regulation that curtails their ability to outsource the use of force.
‘It’s a pie in the sky,’ according to [the trade association International Security Operations Association’s Doug] Brooks.
Instead, he is rallying his troops around the International Code of Conduct, which brings together stakeholders from industry, government and civil society in an effort to create a gold standard for industry providers who voluntarily commit themselves to abiding by the Code.”

Fracking omissions
Bloomberg investigates the effectiveness of a “voluntary website that oil and gas companies helped design amid calls for mandatory disclosure”:

“Energy companies failed to list more than two out of every five fracked wells in eight U.S. states from April 11, 2011, when FracFocus began operating, through the end of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gaps reveal shortcomings in the voluntary approach to transparency on the site, which has received funding from oil and gas trade groups and $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Suggested fine
Bloomberg also reports that a Nigerian government agency wants oil giant Chevron to pay $3 billion over a deadly explosion that caused a 46-day fire earlier this year, just as a new spill has been spotted near an offshore Exxon facility:

“ ‘Having looked at the relevant literature and what happens in other countries, we recommended a fine of $3 billion for Chevron,’ National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency’s Director-General Peter Idabor said in an interview in Abuja, the capital, yesterday. For now, the planned penalty is only a suggestion and ‘still not conclusive’ as it requires the approval of lawmakers and President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, he said.

NOSDRA is also investigating a seven-week gas leak that started on March 20 at the Obite field operated by Total SA (FP)’s Nigerian unit to determine appropriate penalty, Idabor said. The agency had suggested to the government in July that Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) pay a $5 billion fine for an oil leak in December from its offshore Bonga field that caused the country’s worst spill in more than a decade. Shell said less than 40,000 barrels leaked.”

Banks on a diet
The Financial Times reports the number of European banks that are “either discontinuing investment funds linked to food commodities or ceasing to issue new ones” now stands at five:

“Food campaigners welcomed the steps, but said that banks needed to do far more. ‘Great news – but they are still keeping their investment vehicles on oil,’ said Christine Haigh of the World Development Movement, one of the most vociferous critics of speculation in commodities.
However, bankers said that the move was not an admission that speculation drives food commodity prices up but an attempt to protect their reputation amid fierce criticism.”

Redefining blood diamonds
IDEX Online reports that the Kimberley Process is considering new definitions of “conflict” to serve as a guideline for regulating the international diamond trade:

“The FAQ goes on to clarify that ‘Such a definition would not apply to individual or isolated cases. Neither would this apply to violence that is unrelated to diamonds.’
This clarification is apparently in response to concerns by countries worried that internal issues may be used as an excuse to exclude them from KP on political grounds. Among them are most large diamond countries – Russia, China, Israel and most African countries – all mine, trade or manufacture rough or polished diamonds.”

African drone war
Wired reports that it is now possible to “begin to define — however vaguely — the scope and scale” of America’s use of drones in Somalia:

“It took a surprise — and ultimately doomed — invasion of Somalia by regional power Ethiopia to open the door for a stronger U.S. presence in East Africa. American commandos followed along behind the Ethiopian tank columns as side-firing AC-130 gunships provided lethal top cover.
Where once the small U.S. force in East Africa had relied mostly on a single large base in Djibouti, just north of Somalia, in the wake of the Ethiopian blitz American bases sprouted across the region. The CIA and American security contractors set up shop alongside a U.N.-backed peacekeeping force at the shell-crated international airport in Mogadishu. American contractors quietly carved a secret airstrip out of a forest in Arba Minch, Ethiopia. Under the guise of tracking Somali pirates, the Pentagon negotiated permission to base people and planes on the Indian Ocean island nation of the Seychelles.
Soon all these bases would support drone aircraft being churned out at an accelerating rate by the U.S. aerospace industry.”

Feminism as counterterrorism
New York University’s Vasuki Nesiah writes that “security feminism” has become an increasingly integral, and not altogether unproblematic, part of US foreign policy over the last decade:

“Bringing a feminist agenda to foreign policy has been a fraught initiative. Indeed, those strands of feminism that have invested in the ‘securitizing’ project have done more to condemn feminism than redeem foreign policy. Foreign policy has been inextricably tied to the politics of counterterrorism and empire, so it is not surprising that such efforts towards convergence have been deeply troubled. The task of the moment is not formulating a common ‘feminist’ agenda. Rather we need to analyze the stakes of the national security paradigm and highlight divergences within feminisms.”

Latest Developments, August 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Long-awaited cleanup
The New York Times reports that “after years of rebuffing” requests for assistance, the US has started cleaning up the toxic legacy of its war with Vietnam:

“Forty years after the United States stopped spraying herbicides in the jungles of Southeast Asia in the hopes of denying cover to Vietcong fighters and North Vietnamese troops, an air base here is one of about two dozen former American sites that remain polluted with an especially toxic strain of dioxin, the chemical contaminant in Agent Orange that has been linked to cancers, birth defects and other diseases.

The program, which is expected to cost $43 million and take four years, was officially welcomed with smiles and handshakes at the ceremony. But bitterness remains here. Agent Orange is mentioned often in the news media, and victims are commemorated annually on Aug. 10, the day in 1961 when American forces first tested spraying it in Vietnam. The government objected to Olympics sponsorship this year by Dow Chemical, a leading producer of Agent Orange during the war. Many here have not hesitated to call the American program too little — it addresses only the one site — and very late.”

Migrant roundups
Human Rights Watch takes Greece to task for “ongoing sweeps targeting suspected migrants based on little more than their physical appearance”:

“Since August 4, 2012, more than 6,000 foreigners presumed to be undocumented migrants have been taken into police stations for questioning, and more than 1,500 arrested for illegal entry and residence with a view to deportation to their countries of origin.

Greek police must have specific cause to stop and question people beyond the appearance of their national origin. Mass expulsions are strictly prohibited under international law. Greece is also legally bound not to return refugees to persecution or anyone to risk of torture.”

Ethical banking
Reuters reports that as global food prices surge, some German banks are restricting food-related investments:

“Germany’s second-largest bank declined to give details about the reason for its decision to remove agricultural commodities from an exchange-traded fund (ETF), but German lobby group Foodwatch said the decision was because of ethical concerns.
‘Commerzbank is reacting to the debate about a series of studies which show that investment in this type of commodity fund pushes food prices upwards and so contributes to the hunger crisis in many parts of the world,’ Foodwatch said.”

The price of interoperability
The New York Times reports that US efforts to establish a Persian Gulf missile defense system involve selling billions of dollars worth of weapons to the region’s regimes: 

“Three weeks ago the Pentagon announced the newest addition to Persian Gulf missile defense systems, informing Congress of a plan to sell Kuwait $4.2 billion in weaponry, including 60 Patriot Advanced Capability missiles, 20 launching platforms and 4 radars. This will be in addition to Kuwait’s arsenal of 350 Patriot missiles bought between 2007 and 2010.
The United Arab Emirates acquired more than $12 billion in missile defense systems in the past four years, documents show. In December, the Pentagon announced a contract to provide the Emirates with two advanced missile defense launchers for a system called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, valued at about $2 billion, including radars and command systems. An accompanying contract to supply an arsenal of interceptor missiles for the system was valued at another $2 billion, according to Pentagon documents.
Saudi Arabia also has bought a significant arsenal of Patriot systems, the latest being $1.7 billion in upgrades last year.”

Contentious lake
The Financial Times reports that oil and gas exploration by a British company has “reignited” a border dispute between Tanzania and Malawi:

“Malawi’s late president, Bingu wa Mutharika, awarded an exploration contract to UK company Surestream Petroleum during mounting tension over entitlement to the lake last October. Surestream was one of seven companies to bid for hydrocarbon exploration licenses in the Lake Malawi basin.

Tanzania intends to officially claim part ownership of the lake, demanding that Malawi cease all oil and gas exploration activity until the issue is resolved. Tanzanian officials say the clash between the two governments could escalate and jeopardise stable relations if the lake’s exploration produces significant oil and gas discoveries.
Samuel Sitta, East African cooperation minister and former acting prime minister for Tanzania, recently said Tanzania was ready to respond to military confrontation.”

London laundering
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports on a new Private Eye investigation that portrays Britain as “the centre of an embezzlement industry that steals billions from the world’s poor”:

“The regulation-free tax havens where stolen loot is stashed and the bankers who wash the money are still a long way from proper regulation.
Private Eye points out that Lord Green, a current trade minister and member of the Treasury team deciding how to reform Britain’s banks, was chief executive of HSBC during the years it was turning over hundreds of millions of pounds of dirty money.
When Private Eye asked one former policeman why the bankers aren’t getting arrested for money laundering, the answer was simple: ‘They are untouchable’.”

Corporate questions
Freelance writer Oliver Balch points out that, while there may be a business case for development, there may not be a development case for business:

“Moreover, the private sector’s solution to development evolves from capitalist orthodoxy. Developing countries, the argument runs, need more consumer-driven capitalism, not less. With the world’s natural resources depleting fast, a rethink here can justifiably be demanded. [Unilever CEO Paul] Polman talks of ‘decoupling’ economic growth from environmental impacts. It’s a nice idea, of course, but hugely difficult in practice. Only one fifth of Unilever’s energy is renewable, for example – and that’s from a market leader.”

Dodging responsibility
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth’s Nnimmo Bassey looks into the ability of foreign oil companies to avoid fines imposed on them by West African governments:

“Nations that depend on export of primary resources for revenue are essentially rent collectors as they often depend on external agencies or corporations to exploit resources found in their territories. As rent collectors they have limited control over what the actual operators do in the field as the operators actually present themselves (and are seen) as benefactors of the rentier states. And the states in turn are ready to pay scant attention to human and environmental rights abuses perpetuated by these operators. Examples abound in the case of Nigeria where human and environmental rights abuses have been documented continuously over the past decades. It is thus no news when these corporations ignore court orders or blatantly challenge government agencies that attempt to enforce any form of redress.
Companies will keep calling the bluff of Nigeria and other countries to which they pose as benefactors while in reality they are rapists. This will only stop with strengthening of citizens driven democracy, legislative activism and systemic change.”

Latest Developments, August 2

In the latest news and analysis…

USA for Africa
In a speech delivered in the Senegalese capital Dakar, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to portray her country as force for good in Africa, even if “in the past our policies did not always line up with our principles”:

“We’re also working with resource-rich nations to help make sure that their mineral and energy wealth actually improves the lives of their citizens. The days of having outsiders come and extract the wealth of Africa for themselves leaving nothing or very little behind should be over in the 21st century.

We want to advance your aspirations and our shared values. We want to help more people in more places live up to their own God-given potentials. We want this to be our mutual mission. That is the work we are called to do in the 21st century.”

Top-down agenda
The Guardian reports that not everyone is happy with the makeup of the UN panel tasked with preparing a “bold yet practical” global development agenda beyond 2015:

“John Hilary from War on Want, the anti-poverty group, criticised the panel for being unrepresentative. ‘Ban Ki-moon has put together a panel of career diplomats, business leaders, politicians and professors,’ said Hilary, who strongly criticized the appointment of Cameron as co-chair. ‘Why is there no one at all from social movements, trade unions or people who are actually engaged in the struggle against poverty? Was there genuinely no room for a single representative from civil society? This is like having a panel to take forward women’s empowerment composed entirely of men.’ ”

Oil shutdown
Al Jazeera reports that a Brazilian court has given oil giant Chevron and drilling company Transocean 30 days to suspend their operations in the country:

“The court said in a statement posted on Wednesday on its website that each company will be fined 500 million reals, or about $244m, for each day they fail to comply with the suspension.

‘Two environmental accidents in the space of just four months and the lack of equipment needed to identify the origin of the leaks and contain them, shows that the two companies do not have the conditions necessary to operate the wells in an environmentally safe manner,’ Judge Ricardo Perlingeiro said in his ruling.”

FTT baby steps
The Nicolas Hulot Foundation’s Nicolas Hulot and Oxfam’s Luc Lamprière call for the right kind of precedent to be set by France’s new financial transaction tax which, they say, offers a mere hint of what a “real tax on transactions” could look like:

“If an extreme weather event causes, on average, 23 deaths in a rich country, that number is 1,052 in less developed countries. Even in the face of nature’s fury, the injustice of poverty divides humanity.
If the goal of containing our deficits is laudable, necessary even, we must not create a choice between two debts: the one owed to financial players who are now betting on the euro’s failure, and the one we have been accumulating for centuries in the countries of the South by pillaging their resources, ignoring the pandemics they face and provoking climate change that hits the poorest hardest.” [Translated from the French.]

Crop Shock
The World Development Movement’s Amy Horton presents the latest surge in cereal prices as evidence that the global food system needs urgent reform to reduce the damage caused by biofuels and financial speculation:

“The researchers [at the New England Complex Systems Institute] point out that efforts to reform the markets have been too slow, with US regulators facing a legal challenge from Wall Street and European regulation also delayed. Consequently, measures that might have limited the effect of speculators have not yet been implemented.

But power to deliver many of the necessary reforms – not least reform of the global trade system – lies with developed nations. Without a radical change of approach to our food system, including regulation to prevent financial speculators gambling on food prices, the world’s poorest people will continue to pay the highest price.”

Reconstruction business
CNNMoney reports that bakery-café chain Cinnabon has become the first US franchise in Libya, as American business interests expand in the rebuilding country:

“American business interest in Libya is growing, said Chuck Dittrich, executive director of the U.S.-Libya Business Association, a trade group representing American companies that are interested in doing business in Libya.
In April, the trade group led a delegation of 20 American companies to Libya to discuss business opportunities.
Much of the interest is coming from the energy, infrastructure and health care industries, Dittrich said. But American franchises are also taking note of Libya.”

Blocking Braille
The Guardian reports that the US and EU are blocking a treaty that would give blind people access to more books translated into Braille:

“Europe and the US are home to some of the world’s biggest publishing companies, many of which don’t like the idea of an international treaty that would restrict their intellectual property rights. Observers speculate that the Obama administration may be loth to upset the publishing industry, a major campaign supporter, this late in an election year. ‘What we can see in the [negotiating] room is that primarily it’s the business interests that dominate,’ said [Electronic Information for Libraries’ Teresa] Hackett.
Activists are hoping for a legally binding treaty, but US and European delegates have been pushing for a softer ‘instrument’ that would offer only guidelines and recommendations.”

Water rights
Inter Press Service reports that two years on from the UN General Assembly’s recognition of the human right to water, a coalition of NGOs is saying much work remains to be done if the resolution is to become a reality:

“The resolution in the General Assembly proved politically divisive, with 122 countries voting for it and 41 abstaining, but with no negative votes.
The United States abstained and so did some of the European and industrialised countries, including Britain, Australia, Austria, Canada, Greece, Sweden, Japan, Israel, South Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Ireland.

In its letter, the NGO coalition said the recently concluded Rio+20 summit on sustainable development affirmed ‘full and unquestioned consensus among UN Member States regarding the human right to water and sanitation’.”

Latest Developments, May 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Symbolic shift
The New York Times reports that US President Barack Obama has said he thinks same-sex marriage should be legal.
“While Mr. Obama’s announcement was significant from a symbolic standpoint, more important as a practical matter were Mr. Obama’s decision not to enforce the marriage act and his successful push in 2010 to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law that prohibited openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military. For that reason, gay rights groups had been largely enthusiastic about his re-election campaign while being pragmatically resigned to his not publicly supporting same-sex marriage before the election.
Mr. Obama’s announcement has little substantive impact — as an aide said, ‘It’s not like we’re trying to pass legislation.’ ”

Development triumvirate
The Guardian reports that the UN has appointed British Prime Minister David Cameron, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to lead efforts on coming up with post-2015 successors to the Millennium Development Goals.
“The three leaders will represent the world’s rich, middle- and low-income countries.

The Overseas Development Institute’s Claire] Melamed said the panel can be expected to restate the existing agenda, considering the failure to reach many of the targets, and discuss growth and employment, areas on which it will be relatively easy to reach agreement.
‘It will be trickier on more social and political issues such as governance and accountability,” she said. “When you reach down into talking about the how rather than how much, I imagine that will be more difficult.’ ”

New bedfellows
The Financial Times reports on the apparent shift “from confrontation to collaboration” in the relationship between NGOs and big business.
“Ironically, the new-found harmony between NGOs and business reflects a less happy reality: that the scale of problems we face – such as food security, water preservation and child labour – are simply too large for any one group or international forum to tackle. ‘The global middle class will grow from 2bn to 5bn in 20 years and lead to huge change in agriculture,’ explains Andy Wales, senior vice-president, sustainable development at SABMiller. ‘There is no way any sector on its own can do that.’
However, Mr Wales and his peers are equally clear that resolving these problems is dictated by self-interest rather than pure altruism.

NGOs are useful bodies to have on board when it comes to a second catalyst: securing raw material supplies – as illustrated by the farmers working with NGOs and SABMiller.”

Illegal bill
Embassy Magazine reports that a UN official has said that certain aspects of the Canadian government’s proposed new refugee policy would be at odds with international law.
“Chief among the parts of the bill worrying to [UNHCR’s Furio] De Angelis was one that lets the government detain an asylum seeker from an ‘irregular arrival,’ such as the boatload of 492 Tamils that arrived on British Columbia’s shores two years ago, for up to a year without review.
That is ‘at variance,’ he said in an interview after his testimony, with part of the UN convention that states that countries, such as Canada, that play by its rules shouldn’t penalize refugees who might enter illegally or restrict their movements unless necessary.
‘UNHCR strongly recommends that the government refrain from introducing a mandatory detention regime for irregular arrivals in relation to refugees and asylum seekers, and that alternatives to detention be explored,” said Mr. De Angelis during his testimony.’ ”

Playing with food
The “casino” that is food speculation must be shut down, acording to Frederick Kaufman, a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine.
“Commodity markets stand at the base of the $600tn global derivatives business, a generally unregulated miasma of over-the-counter swaps, index fund madness, and Wall Street roulette that ignited the mortgage meltdown, toppled AIG and Lehman Brothers, spurred the global currency crisis, and produced the present sorry state of the global economy, whereby a few chosen hedge fund managers haul in billions of dollars while 1 billion human beings find themselves unable to scrape together enough to eat.

All of which leads to the inevitable conclusion that the only way to stop speculation in food commodities is neither high-level debate nor regulation – how quaint and New Dealish – but criminalisation. Indeed, US senator Maria Cantwell and US congressman Ed Markey are now crafting a bill to make gambling on the world’s food supply illegal.”

Inequality numbers
Oxfam’s Duncan Green reviews (and quotes at length) a paper on inequality by the University of Cambridge’s Gabriel Palma, which contains findings Green considers “extremely important.”
“What [the graph] shows is that the real driver of inequality variations within countries is the richest 10% (and probably only the richest fraction of them). Even the next richest 10% basically gets the same chunk of national income across all countries. Palma puts this down to ‘one of the key characteristics of neo-liberal economic reforms: its ‘winner-takes-all’ proclivity.’ ”

Banned ingredients
Simon Fraser University’s Paul Meyer argues for fundamental changes to the international negotiation process at the heart of nuclear disarmament efforts.
“Not since a couple of weeks in the summer of 1998 has the Conference on Disarmament been able to undertake official work on a fissile material ban. Fourteen years of idleness on this, as all the while certain states continue to add to their stockpiles of fissile material and the nuclear weapons fashioned from them.
It doesn’t take a deep student of diplomatic affairs to discern the link between the consensus-based conference’s inability to agree on a programme of work including a fissile material ban, and the fact that amongst its member states it counts those still actively producing this essential nuclear weapon material.
To be repeating this formula in the face of almost fifteen years of inaction would seem to represent the triumph of hope over experience—or to put it more bluntly, of convenience over commitment.”

Tax cuts
Harvard’s Steven Strauss looks into the “article of faith among conservatives” that lower taxes create wealth for everyone.
“Actually the post World War II American economy provides a nice empirical test of this hypothesis — the maximum marginal income tax rate gradually declined from about 90% to about 35%. Shouldn’t this decline have lead to an explosion of economic growth as our wealth creators were unleashed? Sorry, Sarah Palin… it didn’t.
During the ultra high tax 1950s (top marginal income tax rate of 90%), the United States had some of its best real economic growth (over 4%/year). And, for the decade where we had our lowest marginal income tax rates — we had our worst real economic growth (about 1.5%/year).”

Latest Developments, March 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Kony 2012 reaction
In response to the controversy over a viral video calling for action against Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, This is Africa’s Angelo Opi-aiya Izama argues the sins of which the film has been accused are all too common.
“Critics of Invisible Children are also likely to be critics of foreign aid and by extension the place of Western charities in the mis-education of western publics about the realities of Africa. The real danger of the game-show type ‘pornography of violence’ that Invisible Children has made so appealing also has a dangerous hold on policy types in Washington DC whose access to information and profiles of issues is as limited.
Recent examples of the impact of evangelizing NGO’s can be seen from the distortions of the Save Darfur Coalition to a recent mining ban in the DRC under the guise of saving hapless Africans. The simplicity of the “good versus evil”, where good is inevitably white/western and bad is black or African, is also reminiscent of some of the worst excesses of the colonial era interventions. These campaigns don’t just lack scholarship or nuance. They are not bothered to seek it.”

The business of nuclear weapons
Inter Press Service reports on a new study that shines light on the financial world’s links to nuclear arms and calls for a “global campaign for nuclear weapons divestment.”
“In a foreword to the report, Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu Writes, ‘No one should be profiting from this terrible industry of death, which threatens us all.’
The South African peace activist has urged financial institutions to do the right thing and assist, rather than impede, efforts to eliminate the threat of radioactive incineration, pointing out that divestment was a vital part of the successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa.
The same tactic can – and must – be employed to challenge man’s most evil creation: the nuclear bomb, he added.”

A different world
Intellectual Property Watch reports that a “collegium of scientists, philosophers and former heads of state” has issued an appeal for global governance.
“During a press conference, collegium representatives presenting the appeal described weakened international organisations unable to reach agreements or ‘imposing essential global regulations.’ They presented the concept of shared sovereignty, and called for redefined territorial jurisdictions to introduce a ‘justice system with global reach,’ and to strengthen the principle of international security, including ‘a duty toward future generations and the biosphere.’ ”

Playing with food
Wired Science reports on new evidence supporting claims that commodity speculation is driving up global food prices and increasing the risk of a dangerous bubble.
“In their ideal form, commodity markets should contain ‘70 percent commercial hedgers and 30 percent speculators. The speculators are there to provide liquidity. In the summer of 2008, it was discovered that it’s now 70 percent speculation and 30 percent commercial,’ said Michael Greenberger, former director of the [US Commodity Futures Trading Commission]’s Division of Trading and Markets. ‘Now reports are coming out that it’s 85 percent speculation and 15 percent commercial. You have markets dominated by people with no real interest in the economics of supply and demand, but who are taking advantage of bets authored by Wall Street that prices will go up.’ ”

Sarkozy’s right turn
The Guardian reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has declared there are “too many foreigners” in the country.
“The French president is already under attack by religious leaders and from within his own party for veering to the right and stoking anti-Muslim sentiment by forcing the marginal topic of halal meat into the centre of his campaign. He has now vowed to cut immigration by half and limit state benefits for legal migrants.
‘Our system of integration is working increasingly badly, because we have too many foreigners on our territory and we can no longer manage to find them accommodation, a job, a school,’ he said in a three-hour appearance on a TV politics debate show.”

Losing doctors
Time’s Matt McAllester writes that the funneling of doctors from poor countries to rich is not the only kind of  “brain drain” the former are facing.
“The medical brain drain from poor countries gets a fair amount of attention in international health circles, and initiatives both private and public are trying to resolve the shortage of doctors. The teaching hospital in Lusaka where Desai trained, for example, is one of 13 sub-Saharan medical schools receiving support from a United States-financed $130 million program to generate more and better graduates. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria provided money to Zambia’s ministry of health to recruit and retain doctors. Western aid agencies, many financed by donors like Bill and Melinda Gates, have also hired local doctors at higher salaries. But apparent solutions can create further problems; many of the doctors hired by aid agencies are doing research. They don’t see patients. Frustrated public health officials in Zambia and other developing countries call this the ‘internal brain drain.’ ”

Post-Cold War hubris
The seeds of “the social (and antisocial) grassroots demonstrations that are mushrooming in affluent Western societies” lay in the collapse of the USSR, according to Sergei Karaganov of Russia’s National Research University Higher School of Economics.
“First, social inequality has grown unabated in the West over the last quarter-century, owing in part to the disappearance of the Soviet Union and, with it, the threat of expansionist communism. The specter of revolution had forced Western elites to use the power of the state to redistribute wealth and nurture the growth of loyal middle classes. But, when communism collapsed in its Eurasian heartland, the West’s rich, believing that they had nothing more to fear, pressed to roll back the welfare state, causing inequality to rise rapidly. This was tolerable as long as the overall pie was expanding, but the global financial crisis in 2008 ended that.”

No going back
University of London PhD student Aaron Peters argues against a return to “statist capitalism” as a solution to the current economic crisis.
“[Andrew] Kliman’s concern is that the ‘left’ will over time adopt an underconsumptionist position. For those passionate about ecological sustainability and not simply reducing human beings to units capable of economic maximisation this is of grave concern.
Not only are high levels of growth an undesirable goal and an utterly insufficient rubric for assessing the ‘common wealth’, it is also simply not possible to return to the annualized GDP growth of the post-war ‘golden age’.”