Latest Developments, March 27

In the latest news and analysis…

Violent peace
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council is preparing a resolution authorizing a “search and destroy” brigade and surveillance drones to supplement the peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

“According to the draft, [UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO] would ‘carry out targeted offensive operations through the Intervention Brigade … either unilaterally or jointly with the (Congo army), in a robust highly mobile and versatile manner … to prevent expansion of all armed groups, neutralize these groups, and to disarm them.’

The draft Security Council resolution outlines MONUSCO’s role in monitoring a U.N. arms embargo on Congo that would now include using unmanned surveillance drones to ‘observe and report on flows of military personnel, arms, or related materiel across the eastern border of the DRC.’ It will be the first time the United Nations has used such equipment.”

Cradle of revolution
Al Jazeera reports that tens of thousands of activists have turned up in Tunis for the “counter-hegemonic meet” known as the World Social Forum:

“From Cairo to Dakar, from Wall Street to Nicosia, protesters can shake and occasionally even oust politicians, but contesting the global economic status quo is a far greater challenge.
The slogan of this year’s forum, which runs from March 26 to 30, in keeping with the spirit of Tunisia’s January 2011 uprising, is dignity.

‘We need to have economic reforms that work for the people, not for the global economy,’ Mabrouka Mbarek, a member of Tunisia’s constituent assembly, told Al Jazeera.”

UK in Mali
The BBC reports that British troops have begun arriving in Mali as part of an EU mission to train the West African country’s military for the fight against an insurgency which, according to the UK defense secretary, “poses a clear threat to our national interests”:

“The UK is also providing surveillance and logistical support to French troops who are helping the west African nation counter an Islamist insurgency.

The training will take place north-east of Mali’s capital Bamako, under the control of French Brigadier General François Lecointre and is expected to continue for around 15 months.
More than 200 instructors will be deployed in total, as well as mission support staff and force protection, making a total of around 500 staff from 22 EU Member States.”

Alone against the world
The Canadian Press reports Ottawa is pulling out of a UN desertification convention to which every other UN member is party:

“Canada signed the [UN Convention to Combat Desertification] in 1994 and ratified it in 1995. Every UN nation – 194 countries and the European Union – is currently a party to it.

A spokesman for International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino said in an e-mailed statement that ‘membership in this convention was costly for Canadians and showed few results, if any for the environment.’
Mr. Fantino’s office refused to answer follow-up questions, including how much money was being saved by the move, and when Canada planned to notify the UN of its decision.
Government documents show Canada provided a $283,000 grant to support the convention from 2010 to 2012.”

Almost there
Reuters reports that there is considerable optimism at UN headquarters that member countries will adopt the arms trade treaty whose final details are being hashed out:

“But [Amnesty International’s Brian Wood] made clear that there were problems with the text, including an overly narrow scope of types of arms covered. It covers tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers and small arms and light arms.
Predator drones and grenades are among the weapon categories that are not covered explicitly in the draft treaty.

Rights groups complained about one possible loophole in the current draft involving defense cooperation agreements. Several diplomats who also oppose this loophole said it could exempt certain weapons transfers from the treaty.”

Mining dispute
The Financial Times reports that a Canadian mining company is refusing to pay millions in fines levied by the government of Kyrgyzstan:

“The government, which holds 33 per cent of the equity, wants to renegotiate the agreement to run the mine signed with Canada-based Centerra in 2009 under what the government says was then a corrupt regime.
Alongside the moves towards renegotiation, two government agencies have hit Centerra with separate fines of $152m and $315m for alleged environmental damage.
The Kyrgyz parliament has also instructed the public prosecutor to investigate whether the company deliberately understated some reserves.”

Leaky economies
Quartz’s Naomi Rovnick highlights the role of tax havens – often European countries or their dependents – in siphoning money away from even the world’s rising economic powers:

“The clearest sign that BRICs are leaking tax revenues is that each country’s biggest source of outside investment is a tax haven. China counts the tiny Caribbean bolthole of the British Virgin Islands as its biggest source of foreign investment (not including the Chinese territory of Hong Kong). India has Mauritius, Russia has Cyprus, and Brazil has the Netherlands.

As this presentation from lawyers at international law firm Clifford Chance illustrates, setting up an intermediate Dutch company that appears to own a Brazilian business gives big tax advantages. For example, Dutch companies do not have to pay local taxes on dividends earned from a Brazilian investment.
This structure is known as the ‘Dutch sandwich’ in accounting circles. The name describes how a Netherlands company (think of it as a slice of Edam) is inserted between the real source of investment and the real investment destination (they are the bread).”

Jekyll & Hyde
The Guardian reports on calls for corporations to look beyond job creation when assessing the impacts they have on communities:

“The debate on jobs and taxes reflects the Jekyll and Hyde approach of the private sector. [UK International Development Secretary Justine] Greening neatly – if inadvertently – encapsulated this in her London speech, when she praised SAB Miller, the brewing giant, for working with 1,200 farmers in South Sudan to supply its brewery in the capital, Juba; according to ActionAid, governments in Africa may have lost as much as £20m through SAB Miller’s non-payment of tax.
‘You do see companies with a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) that do everything to avoid taxes,’ said one business representative who did not want to be named. ‘They will say it is within the law but, if they have aggressive tax avoidance, how does that sit with their CSR declaration?’ ”

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Latest Developments, March 26

In the latest news and analysis…

UN peacemaking
Reuters reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recommended a peacekeeping force for Mali as well as the creation of a parallel combat force:

“In a report to the 15-member Security Council, Ban recommended that the African force, known as AFISMA, become a U.N. peacekeeping force of some 11,200 troops and 1,440 police – once major combat ends.
To tackle Islamist extremists directly, Ban recommended that a so-called parallel force be created, which would work in close coordination with the U.N. mission.
Diplomats have said France is likely to provide troops for the smaller parallel force, which could be based in Mali or elsewhere in the West Africa region.
‘Given the anticipated level and nature of the residual threat, there would be a fundamental requirement for a parallel force to operate in Mali alongside the U.N. mission in order to conduct major combat and counter-terrorism operations,’ Ban wrote.
The parallel force would not have a formal U.N. mandate, though it would be operating with the informal blessing of the Security Council. The report did not specify a time limit for the mission.”

Cataract of weaponry
The New York Times reports that the CIA is helping arm Syria’s rebels:

“From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The scale of shipments was very large, according to officials familiar with the pipeline and to an arms-trafficking investigator who assembled data on the cargo planes involved.

These multiple logistics streams throughout the winter formed what one former American official who was briefed on the program called ‘a cataract of weaponry.’ ”

Old habits
Agence France-Presse reports that France sent an additional 300 troops “to ensure the protection of French and foreign citizens” in the Central African Republic as rebels toppled President François Bozizé over the weekend:

“A tactical command post has been set up in the capital Bangui.
There were already 250 French troops stationed in the Central African Republic.
France has a military base in Gabon, home to a reserve of prepositioned forces regularly deployed during regional crises. Reinforcements had already been sent to Bangui in December during the first rebel offensive.” [Translated from the French.]

Big mistake
Agence France-Presse also reports that France has offered “sincere condolences” after a fatal incident in the Central African Republic’s capital where French troops guarding the airport opened fire:

“Two Indian citizens were killed. The injured Indians and Chadians received immediate assistance from French troops who took them to a medical unit, a defense ministry statement said.
In all, five Indians and four Chadians were injured, according to military spokesman Thierry Burkhard. The Indians are civilians who were working for foreign companies in the Central African Republic and the Chadians are police officers, members of the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC), he said.” [Translated from the French.]

Investing in Africa
Reuters reports that new UN data reveals a surprising picture of foreign direct investment in Africa:

“Malaysia was the third biggest investor in Africa in 2011, the latest year for which data is available, behind France and the United States, pushing China and India into fourth and fifth positions.
France and the United States also have the largest historical stock of investments in Africa, with Britain in third place and Malaysia in fourth, followed by South Africa, China and India.”

Unintended consequences
The New York Times reports that back in 2011, the European Union “planted a time bomb” in Cyprus’s banking system that led to this week’s bailout/austerity agreement:

“[Former Cyprus finance minister Kikis Kazamias] was in Brussels as European leaders and the International Monetary Fund engineered a 50 percent write-down of Greek government bonds. This meant that anyone holding these bonds — notably the then-cash-rich banks of the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus — would lose at least half the money they thought they had. Eventual losses came close to 75 percent of the bonds’ face value.

‘We Europeans showed tonight that we reached the right conclusions,’ Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany announced at the time.
For Cypriot banks, particularly Laiki Bank, at the center of the current storm, however, these conclusions foretold a disaster: Altogether, they lost more than four billion euros, a huge amount in a country with a gross domestic product of just 18 billion euros. Laiki, also known as Cyprus Popular Bank, alone took a hit of 2.3 billion euros, according to its 2011 annual report.”

Sovereignty delayed
Jeune Afrique reports that France, which tested chemical weapons in the Algerian Sahara well into the 1970s, has signed a secret agreement to clean up the contaminated area:

“The existence of this facility for testing chemical and biological weapons was first revealed by the French press in October 1997. But, at the time, information highways were less efficient. The news had no effect on Algerian public opinion. In France, it led only to a superficial discussion on the use of chemical weapons. Fifteen years later, the return of B2-Namous in the news is having a far greater impact, stoking interest in an old state secret that neither Paris nor Algiers want to declassify. Algeria, whose ‘restored sovereignty’ long served to legitimize those in power, only recovered all of its territory 16 years after independence. Until 1978, about 6,000 sq km of its Saharan land, in the Beni Ounif region, on the border with Morocco, remained under French military control.”
[Translated from the French.]

Orphan MDG
The Guardian reports on new hope for the “global partnership” of the neglected eighth Millennium Development Goal:

“Devoid of clear targets, MDG8 talks in general terms about an open, rule-based trading and financial system, dealing with debt burdens, providing access to affordable essential medicines, and increasing access to new technologies. Goal eight also mentions fostering links between the public and private sector to drive better development.

Taxation has emerged as a key issue in terms of global partnerships as rich countries have failed to deliver on trade – the Doha trade round that was supposed to have benefited developing countries remains moribund – and development assistance is shrinking because of austerity in the west. The sums at stake are enormous.”

Latest Developments, January 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Cabinet pick
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent writes that US President Barack Obama’s nomination of drone czar John Brennan as the new head of the CIA presents an opportunity for the country (and the world) to move beyond “gray wars with gray rules”:

“What if Senators use his confirmation hearings to force a public debate about the legality and transparency of Obama’s drone strike program and the need for meaningful Congressional oversight of the program? The hearings could also initiate a conversation about the legacy of Bush era torture, other aspects of the Bush war on terror, and the areas of continuity between the two administrations on civil liberties issues.

‘We absolutely should have this debate,’ Steve Clemons, a foreign policy expert at the New America Foundation, tells me. ‘We still live with the legacy of the world that Dick Cheney and George Bush built — one that is not internationally sanctioned. One of the ways Obama and Brennan can restore America’s global leverage is to help lay out a blueprint for a new global social contract for a world with wars like those of today.’ ”

Development profiteering
The Guardian reports on calls for the World Bank, the British government and private investors to return “excessive” profits from a smelting project in Mozambique that uses 45% of the country’s electricity:

“The report calculates that foreign investors, governments and development banks have received an average of $320m (£199m) a year from the smelter, in contrast to the Mozambique government’s $15m. In other words, for every $1 paid to the Mozambique government, $21 has left the country in profit or interest to foreign governments and investors.

To attract foreign investors, the Mozambique government exempted Mozal from taxes on profit and VAT, levying only a 1% turnover tax, while allowing all profit from the smelter to be taken offshore. BHP Billiton, the mining group, owns 47% of Mozal, while Japan’s Mitsubishi owns 25%. The other two equity investors are the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (24%) and the government of Mozambique (4%).”

Strange catch
Agence France-Presse reports that fisherman have retrieved a crashed US drone in the waters off the central Philippines:

“In an interview with AFP last year, President Benigno Aquino confirmed that the Philippines has been allowing US drones to overfly its territory for reconnaissance flights, but were not allowed to make strikes.
About 600 US forces have been rotating in the southern Philippines since 2002 as part of the US government’s global war on terror.
However the drone was found in Masbate, many hundreds of kilometres from the Muslim insurgency-racked areas where no US troops are known to operate.
Masbate is one of the areas where communists waging a decades-long rebellion have long operated.”

Not this time?
Reuters reports that although the Central African Republic has experienced the “most frequent and blatant French military interference” in post-independence Africa, France insists it will not take sides in the country’s latest conflict:

“Despite appeals by [CAR President Francois] Bozize to ‘our cousins’ Paris and Washington for help, France said its several hundred troops in its landlocked former colony were there solely to protect French nationals and interests and not the local government.
‘This time the message was very clear, that “we are not here to save the regime”,’ said Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa project director for International Crisis Group.”

Opaque investments
Johns Hopkins University’s Deborah Brautigam argues America’s foreign direct investment in Africa must become more transparent:

“At least as posted on the website of the OECD’s statistics bureau, the US claimed that 2010 FDI data by US companies in twelve African countries (almost all resource-rich) was ‘confidential’. What’s more, in 2010 the second most popular destination for US FDI flows to Africa was … Mauritius (a tax haven) where US firms sent $1860 million.”

Breach of trust
George Washington University’s Lynn Goldman and Johns Hopkins University’s Michael Klag argue the US must take steps to atone for its role in precipitating the lethal violence that has been unleashed against polio vaccine providers in Pakistan:

“A massive vaccination effort like this one requires a bond of public trust, one that was broken by the CIA. The U.S. took the first step toward repairing the atmosphere of mistrust by admitting to the sham vaccination effort. Now, the president and Congress must take the next step by erecting a firewall between public health programs, like the global polio initiative, and espionage or other covert operations conducted by the CIA.
They should follow action taken by former Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver, who in 1961 won assurances from President John F. Kennedy that they would not infiltrate the ranks of the Corps. Shriver believed ties to the CIA could jeopardize the Peace Corps’ mission and put young volunteers at risk, especially in countries that were already suspicious of the program.”

Military throwback
The Sunday Times reports that a group of businessmen is assembling “Britain’s first private navy in almost two centuries” to take on piracy off Africa’s east coast:

“Its armed vessels – including a 10,000-ton mother ship and high-speed armoured patrol boats – will be led by a former Royal Navy commodore. He is recruiting 240 former marines and other sailors for the force.

The Britons intend to sail under a sovereign flag which will give them the legal right to carry their weaponry into harbour, rather than cache them on platforms in international waters.
[Simon] Murray is chairman of Glencore, one of the world’s largest commodities traders. He is backing the new force alongside other investors.”

Chain liability
Inter Press Service reports that Switzerland’s parliament is looking to tackle “wage dumping” by holding general contractors responsible for labour abuses committed by their subcontractors:

“The buck is passed around, and there are several victims: The workers don’t earn what they deserve, correctly employed labourers face pressure on their wages, and properly operating companies are confronted with unfair competition.

Swiss labour unions have demanded laws making general contractors legally accountable for misconduct by its subcontractors, so-called ‘chain liability’. General contractors are only freed from responsibility if they can show to have ensured that their subcontractors abide by the law.
The neo-liberal lobby along with the Swiss Employers’ Association has launched a much weaker counter-proposal. They want general contractors to be freed of any legal responsibility if their direct subcontractor simply signs a contract pledging to respect Swiss wage and labour conditions.”

Latest Developments, December 21

In the latest news and analysis…

Warpath
The Globe and Mail reports on concerns that foreign military intervention in Mali, which has just received unanimous backing from the UN Security Council, could have “unintended consequences”:

“The rebel takeover of the north has already forced nearly 500,000 people to flee their homes or become refugees in neighbouring countries, and a new confidential UN report has warned that another 400,000 people could be pushed out of their homes if there is military intervention in the north.
‘No clear plan exists to ensure that a military intervention would not exacerbate the already disastrous humanitarian situation,’ said Alexandra Gheciu, a University of Ottawa professor who specializes in international security.
Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, has warned that the military intervention would have a high humanitarian cost that has been largely ignored so far.”

No way back
Think Africa Press’s James Wan takes issue with a European court ruling that Chagos Islanders, who were evicted from their homeland by the British to make way for a military base, relinquished their right to return 30 years ago when a group of them accepted $6 million in compensation:

“Firstly, the argument does not hold for the several hundreds of islanders deported to the Seychelles rather than Mauritius where the compensation was paid. ‘We were completely excluded from compensation’, Bernadette Dugasse told Think Africa Press earlier this year. ‘Chagossians from Seychelles were not even given half a penny, not even a teaspoonful of land.’ The full ruling barely acknowledges this.
Secondly, the suggestion that the exiled Chagossians could have pursued the matter in the courts had they ‘preferred’ is dubious at best. According to Mark Lattimer, executive director of Minority Rights Group, ‘it is frankly ridiculous to expect that a people from the Indian Ocean, some of who were illiterate, and who have been thrown into abject poverty, to have the means and the wherewithal to pursue the British government in the English court’.
In fact, even the notion that Chagossians who did get compensation renounced their right to return rests on shaky ground. Putting aside the fact that the compensation was derisory, it is notable that the documents were in English, which most Chagossians did not speak, and that many were illiterate and had to sign with thumbprints. Although the UK government claims that lawyers were present to explain the documents, many islanders have long insisted they had no idea they were signing away their right to return, and that had they known they would never have accepted the compensation.”

First Nations rising
The Dominion’s Martin Lukacs writes that the Idle No More protests currently taking place in Canada have the potential to “reset aboriginal-state relations”:

“Billions have indeed been spent – not on fixing housing, building schools or ending the country’s two-tiered child aid services, but on a legal war against aboriginal communities. Every year, the government pours more than $100m into court battles to curtail aboriginal rights – and that figure alone went to defeating a single lawsuit launched by two Alberta First Nations trying to recover oil royalties essentially stolen by bureaucrats.

Parliament will soon debate a bill that would break up reserves – still, mostly, collectively held – into individual private property that can be purchased by non-native speculators. The undeclared agenda of government policy is the same as it was a century ago: a grab for resource-rich lands, and the assimilation of aboriginal nations.”

Death to capital punishment
Amnesty International reports on the latest UN General Assembly vote on the death penalty, in which 111 states voted for abolition:

“New votes in favour included Central African Republic, Chad, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Tunisia. As a further positive sign, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia moved from opposition to abstention. Regrettably, Bahrain, Dominica and Oman changed their abstention to a vote against the resolution, while Maldives, Namibia and Sri Lanka went from a vote in favour to an abstention.”

Investment dangers
Paint Our World’s Priya Virmani is not convinced that the arrival in India of global supermarket chains will help the country’s farmers:

“Yet if the intervention of big supermarket chains lifts farmers, why do American and European farmers need to be heavily subsidised? Predatory pricing – the precedent set by the biggest supermarkets – threatens smaller retailers as monopolistic practices take place.

More [foreign direct investment] brings with it the promise of improving India’s growth figures. But these indicate the overall temperature of an economy and not the temperature of its disparate parts. When the temperature of India’s bottom of the pyramid, at around 800 million people, is at an opposite end of the spectrum to that of the other much more opulent India then growth in itself cannot be considered an indication of the health of the majority.”

Lump of coal
The Guardian reports that protesters dumped coal outside the London offices of GCM Resources over its plans to develop a massive open-pit mine in Bangladesh:

“An official complaint to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has been made by the World Development Movement and the International Accountability Project, saying the company would forcibly evict up to 130,000 people if the project went ahead. The complaint mentions a UN report from earlier this year warning that ‘access to safe drinking water for some 220,000 people is at stake’.
The company claims the mine will displace 40,000 people but create 17,000 jobs.”

Miner changes
Bloomberg reports that South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has decided against nationalizing mines, but is considering a number of other ways to increase the country’s benefits from mining:

“The party is considering a ‘resource rent’ tax or higher royalties to extract more revenue from the industry, said Enoch Godongwana, head of the ANC’s economic transformation committee.

The ANC agreed today to classify certain minerals as strategic, which the government wants to manage through measures including targeted export controls in order to ensure security of supply, Godongwana said. Iron ore, coal, copper, copper, zinc and nickel are amongst minerals being considered for classification, according to the ANC’s document.”

Death traps
EarthPeople’s Anna Clark argues that the US has outsourced much of the injustice it has eliminated from its own economic system:

“Due to the relentless pursuit of low-cost labour and the lack of accountability inherent in a global supply chain, companies will have to learn to work with labour rights groups to mandate and track compliance.
Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, for example, agreed to work with watchdog groups to introduce new fire safety standards at their supplier factories. Gap Inc, which operates the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta brands, instead decided to go it alone with its own corporate-controlled programme.
With limited oversight by worker organisations and no transparency, such measures are not good enough to protect vulnerable workers.”

Latest Developments, July 20

In the latest news and analysis…

Carbon glut
Reuters reports that despite plummeting carbon prices, the UN still believes its carbon offset market will play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

“U.N-backed carbon credits, called certified emissions reductions (CERs), have plunged around 70 percent over the past 12 months as a massive supply of credits has built up because of a drop in demand due to a slowing economy. The benchmark CER contract hit record lows below 3 euros this week.
Low carbon prices have stalled new investment in low-carbon technology, raising doubt about whether there is any point to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and its market-based mechanisms, notably the [Clean Development Mechanism].”

Sustainable friendship
The New York Times reports that, at a meeting where China promised $20 billion in loans to Africa, South African President Jacob Zuma described his continent’s relationship with China as preferable to the one with Europe, but problematic nevertheless:

“ ‘Africa’s commitment to China’s development has been demonstrated by supply of raw materials, other products and technology transfer. This trade pattern is unsustainable in the long term. Africa’s past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other economies,’ [said Zuma].”

Reconstruction corruption
iWatch News reports that the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has issued his penultimate report in which he estimates $6 billion to $8 billion worth of US funds were lost:

“SIGIR’s investigation also uncovered instances of bid-rigging and bribe-taking by State and Pentagon officials.

Many of the challenges described in the Iraq report mirror those depicted in similar reports by its cousin, the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. In a May report to Congress, for example, that office concluded that ‘corruption remains a major threat to the reconstruction effort’ and said contractors were taking advantage of lax oversight in Afghanistan.”

Owning genes
Bloomberg reports that a US court is set to consider whether or not human genes can become the property of corporations:

“Madeleine Ball, a Harvard University geneticist, said entire regions of the human genome are at risk of becoming inaccessible to anyone who can’t afford to pay for patent licenses, stifling the information-sharing that’s vital to scientific progress. For personalized medicine companies like Optimal Medicine Ltd., the patents are about protecting billions of dollars invested in years of research.

Aspects of seven [Myriad Genetics Inc.] patents were being challenged by the American Society of Human Genetics, the American Medical Association and other scientific groups. They argue that isolated DNA is the same thing as what is in the human body. The Supreme Court in March said that patents cannot be obtained on things that prevent others from the use of a natural law.”

Food aid, cash cow
The Guardian reports on the “special interests” that are blocking reform of America’s overseas food assistance system:

“Under US law, the majority of American food aid must be shipped on US-flagged vessels, and the shipping industry is another aggressive defender of the system. A 2007 report by the US government accountability office (GAO) found that nearly two-thirds of the US food aid budget was spent on transportation and other non-food costs.

Together, agribusiness, shipping companies and NGOs form what some have called the ‘iron triangle’ of special interests, blocking reform of the controversial in-kind system.”

Cartel clients
The Daily Beast reports on HSBC’s “complicity” in laundering Mexican drug money and the obstacles to an international crackdown:

“The understated element of the war on organized crime in Mexico—and in fact, around the world—has been the fight against the money launderers: the companies and banks that allow drug cartels to flood their illicit cash back into the global economy.

HSBC executives admitted that a large portion of some $7 billion transferred by their Mexican subsidiaries into the bank’s U.S. operation likely belonged to drug cartels.”

Suicide drone
Gizmodo reports that the British military has become the first customer for the “suicidal bird of prey” known as the Fire Shadow:

“According to missile systems manufacturer MBDA, this bird of death is a high precision, low cost flying missile that can be launched by a soldier from the ground, just like any other small unmanned air vehicle. After the launch, the Fire Shadow can hover over a large area for up to six hours or 62 miles (100 kilometers). Once the operator points out a target, the Fire Shadow will fall on it destroying it on contact.”

Classified Gitmo
ProPublica reports that the US government is being challenged over its decision to automatically classify everything said by Guantanamo detainees accused of involvement in 9/11, even accounts of their own torture.

“The ‘presumptive classification’ order extends to both detainees’ testimony and their discussions with their lawyers. In other words, anything said by a detainee, whether in court or to their counsel, will first need censors’ stamp of approval before it can become public.”

Managing FDI
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie welcomes a new UN report that ranks countries according to the development impact of their foreign direct investment inflows:

“Along with this matrix – and possibly more significantly – Unctad is promoting a new investment policy framework for sustainable development (IPFSD) focused on balancing the rights of investors with the need for the state to take an active role to ensure investments benefit society. Suggested indicators for analysing the contribution made by particular investments include economic value added (such as capital formation and fiscal revenues), obviously, but also job creation and sustainable development (such as families lifted out of poverty, greenhouse gas emissions, technology dissemination).”

Bad society
Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, argues there are both moral and practical reasons to object to inequality at its current levels:

“There is a strange, though little-noticed, consequence of the failure to distinguish value from price: the only way offered to most people to boost their incomes is through economic growth. In poor countries, this is reasonable; there is not enough wealth to spread round. But, in developed countries, concentration on economic growth is an extraordinarily inefficient way to increase general prosperity, because it means that an economy must grow by, say, 3% to raise the earnings of the majority by, say, 1%.
Nor is it by any means certain that the human capital of the majority can be increased faster than that of the minority, who capture all of the educational advantages flowing from superior wealth, family conditions, and connections. Redistribution in these circumstances is a more secure way to achieve a broad base of consumption, which is itself a guarantee of economic stability.”