Latest Developments, October 25

In the latest news and analysis…

On revolution
New Statesman guest-editor Russell Brand writes that “consciousness itself must change” if humans and the planet they inhabit are to survive:

“Capitalism is not real; it is an idea. America is not real; it is an idea that someone had ages ago. Britain, Christianity, Islam, karate, Wednesdays are all just ideas that we choose to believe in and very nice ideas they are, too, when they serve a purpose. These concepts, though, cannot be served to the detriment of actual reality.
The reality is we have a spherical ecosystem, suspended in, as far as we know, infinite space upon which there are billions of carbon-based life forms, of which we presume ourselves to be the most important, and a limited amount of resources.
The only systems we can afford to employ are those that rationally serve the planet first, then all humanity. Not out of some woolly, bullshit tree-hugging piffle but because we live on it, currently without alternatives.”

Operation Hydra
Al Jazeera reports that France has launched another “major” military operation in Northern Mali, this time with contributions from the host country and the UN:

“ ‘We have engaged, with the Malian army and (UN mission) MINUSMA, in a large-scale operation’ in the so-called Niger Loop, an area hugging a curve of the Niger River between Timbuktu and Gao, French general staff spokesman Colonel Gilles Jaron said.
‘It is the first time we have seen forces of significant size working together,’ Jaron said.
About 1,500 troops are involved, including some 600 French, 600 Malians and 300 UN soldiers. The goal of the mission — dubbed ‘Hydra’ — was ‘to put pressure on any terrorist movements to avoid their resurgence,’ he said.”

Accessory to international crime
Global Witness is calling on the UK government to require the country’s oil and mining companies to reveal who really owns them:

“The submission provides detail on alleged corporate malpractice involving UK-listed and UK-registered firms: the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation and Glencore; Royal Dutch Shell and the Italian oil company Eni.
All the cases “relied on secrecy over company ownership and lax regulation, in both the UK and in its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories,” Global Witness writes in its submission. ‘This has made the UK an accessory to international crime and has undermined the effectiveness of UK aid to resource-rich developing countries.’ ”

G20 gap
The World Economic Forum has released its 2013 Global Gender Gap report which concludes no G20 country ranks in the world’s top 10 for gender equality:

“Elsewhere, in 14th place Germany is the highest-placed individual G20 economy, although it falls one place from 2012. Next is South Africa (17th, down one), the United Kingdom (level on 18th) and Canada (up one to 20th). The United States comes 23rd, also down one place since 2012. After South Africa, the next highest BRICS nation is Russia (61st), followed by Brazil (62nd), China (69th) and India (101st).”

Dark corners
The New York Times editorial board calls for “greater transparency and accountability” from the US government regarding its use of armed drones:

“Both President George W. Bush and Mr. Obama have used the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the state of war that has existed since as cause to target terrorist suspects. But under international law, parties to armed conflict must minimize harm to civilians in a war zone and observe rules about what is or isn’t a lawful military target.
Hence Mr. Obama’s promised guidelines. But those guidelines have never been made public, so there is no way to judge whether or how well they are being carried out. Similarly, because the government won’t talk about the attacks, there is no way of judging whether the military is honoring Mr. Obama’s pledge that ‘there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured’ before authorizing a strike.”

Intellectual shift
The Guardian reports on a group of economics students at the University of Manchester who are “plotting a quiet revolution against orthodox free-market teaching”:

“A growing number of top economists, such as Ha-Joon Chang, who teaches economics at Cambridge University, are backing the students.
Next month the society plans to publish a manifesto proposing sweeping reforms to the University of Manchester’s curriculum, with the hope that other institutions will follow suit.

Some leading economists have criticised university economics teaching, among them Paul Krugman, a Nobel prize winner and professor at Princeton university who has attacked the complacency of economics education in the US.
In an article for the New York Times in 2009, Krugman wrote: ‘As I see it, the economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth.’ ”

Private surveillance industry
Rolling Stone’s John Knefel reports on the private companies that are helping governments and corporations “monitor dissent”:

“While the specifics of which police departments utilize what surveillance technologies is often unclear, there is evidence to suggest that use of mass surveillance against individuals not under direct investigation is common. ‘The default is mass surveillance, the same as NSA’s “collect it all” mindset,’ says [Privacy International’s Eric] King. ‘There’s not a single company that if you installed their product, [it] would comply with what anyone without a security clearance would think is appropriate, lawful use.’ ”

Marriage equality
The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan discusses a map of the US that has changed dramatically over the last decade:

“[Last week’s court ruling in New Jersey] means the number of states where gay marriage is legal now stands at 14 plus the District of Columbia.

About 10 years ago, the map would have looked very different. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage, in November 2003.”

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Latest Developments, September 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Glimmer of hope
The Washington Post reports on what it calls “the first indication that a diplomatic solution may be possible” over Syria’s chemical weapons:

“President Obama on Monday called a Russian proposal for Syria to turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors in order to avoid a military strike a ‘potentially positive development,’ that could represent a ‘significant breakthrough,’ but he said he remains skeptical the Syrian government would follow through on its obligations based on its recent track record.

On Monday, while meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] said his country would ask Syria to relinquish control of its chemical weapons to international monitors to prevent a U.S. strike. Lavrov also called on Syria to sign and ratify the Convention on Chemical Weapons, which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.

Moualem said Syria ‘welcomes the Russian initiative,’ but he did not say whether his country would agree to what Russia was asking. ‘We also welcome the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is trying to prevent American aggression against our people,’ Moulaem said.”

Re-homing
Reuters has published a five-part investigative series into “America’s underground market for adopted children”:

“No authority tracks what happens after a child is brought to America, so no one knows how often international adoptions fail. The U.S. government estimates that domestic adoptions fail at a rate ranging from ‘about 10 to 25 percent.’ If international adoptions fail with about the same frequency, then more than 24,000 foreign adoptees are no longer with the parents who brought them to the United States. Some experts say the percentage could be higher given the lack of support for those parents.

The story of the Easons and the girls and boys they have taken through re-homing illustrates the many ways in which the U.S. government fails to protect children of adoptions gone awry. It shows how virtually anyone determined to get a child can do so with ease, and how children brought to America can be abruptly discarded and recycled.”

Throwing bombs
The Globe and Mail reports that Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has spoken out against multiculturalism and in favour of her proposed “charter of values”:

“She told [Montreal’s Le Devoir] that her government is leaning towards the French model of secularism, blasting what she called the English model of multiculturalism.
‘In England, they get into fights and throw bombs at one another because of multiculturalism and people get lost in that type of a society,’ she said.

The Quebec government is planning to lay out a series of ‘orientations’ and ‘proposals’ for its Charter next week, while a full bill will be tabled only after a consultation period, likely later in the fall.”

Anti-graft suggestions
The Wall Street Journal reports that efforts to tackle corruption at last week’s G20 summit were largely of the non-legally binding variety:

“In a progress report, the [anti-graft] working group said it endorsed the non-binding ‘G20 Guiding Principles on Enforcement of the Foreign Bribery Offense’ and ‘Guiding Principles to Combat Solicitation,’ both of which it said identify measures that have been successful at enforcing anti-foreign bribery law.

In addition, a 27-page declaration issued by the G-20 said it established a network to ‘share information and cooperate’ to deny corrupt officials entry into a member country.”

Tracking inequality
Newcastle University’s Peter Edward and King’s College London’s Andy Sumner have written a paper looking at trends in global inequality, both between and within countries, since 1990:

“Not surprisingly, but little noted, is the ‘China effect’ or the role of China in determining
these trends. Indeed, the picture looks rather different when China is excluded: in the rest of the world outside China between-country inequality rose in the 1980s and 1990s but has then stayed relatively constant since 2000. Throughout this entire period within-country inequality has overall been remarkably constant – as some countries have become less equal, others have become more so. In short, in the last 20 to 30 years, falls in total global inequality, and in global between-country inequality, and rises in global within-country inequality are all predominantly attributable to rising prosperity in China.”

Pacific pivot
Ateneo De Manila University’s Richard Heydarian says that the US push for a greater military presence in the Philippines could be “a game-changer” in the South China Sea:

“The proposed agreement provides a framework for the semi-permanent ‘rotational’ stationing of American troops and military hardware in the Philippines and once implemented will provide new strategic ballast to the US’s efforts to counterbalance China’s influence in the region

The US has pushed for a 20-year rotational presence agreement, which would most likely raise some legal debates over its constitutionality.”

Cheaper AFRICOM
The US Government Accountability Office has released a report in which it suggests the Pentagon should consider sending more personnel from its Africa Command, currently based in Germany, to “forward locations”:

“In discussions with GAO, officials from the Central and Southern Commands stated that they had successfully overcome negative effects of having a headquarters in the United States by maintaining a forward presence in their theaters. In sum, neither the analysis nor the letter announcing the decision to retain AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart explains why these operational factors outweighed the cost savings and economic benefits associated with moving the headquarters to the United States. Until the costs and benefits of maintaining AFRICOM in Germany are specified and weighed against the costs and benefits of relocating the command, the department may be missing an opportunity to accomplish its missions successfully at a lower cost.”

P5 problems
Veteran journalist Ian Birrell hopes that the international diplomatic standoff over Syria will finally lead to “reforms that are so essential and universally acknowledged” at the UN Security Council:

“Should a corrupt oligarchy have carte blanche in perpetuity to determine the rules of international engagement? And indeed, [does the UK] deserve a permanent seat round the table as our power wanes and we demonstrate a new reluctance to engage in punishing those who break global rules on war? Especially when there is no such authority given to the world’s biggest democracy, India, or to a Muslim nation, or any of the 54 countries in Africa whose continent accounts for more than three-quarters of the council’s debates.

The most hopeful solution is to bring in a second tier of permanent members, then slowly strip away the right to veto of the fractious five through majority voting.”

Latest Developments, September 5

In the latest news and analysis…

G20 friction
As the G20 summit kicked off in Russia, Reuters reports that US President Barack Obama encountered “growing pressure” from world leaders not to attack Syria:

The first round at the summit went to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, as China, the European Union, the BRICS emerging economies and a letter from Pope Francis all warned of the dangers of military intervention in Syria without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

Putin was isolated on Syria at a Group of Eight meeting in June, the last big summit of world powers, but could now turn the tables on Obama, who recently likened him to a ‘bored kid in the back of the classroom’ who slouches at meetings.
Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, portrayed the ‘camp of supporters of a strike on Syria’ as divided, and said: ‘It is impossible to say that very many states support the idea of a military operation.’ ”

What’s missing
The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is talking for the first time about air strikes against Syria, while a range of alternative scenarios are being floated:

“The latest is from Senator Joe Manchin III, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia who proposes giving Mr. Assad 45 days to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention and begin securing and ridding the country of its weapons stockpiles. Only if Mr. Assad refuses would the president be authorized to take military action.
‘We need some options out there that does something about the chemical weapons,’ Mr. Manchin said. ‘That’s what’s missing right now.’
The concept is already being debated by some government officials and foreign diplomats, though the White House has not weighed in.”

Rome pullout
Al Jazeera reports that Kenya’s parliament has voted to sever “any links, cooperation and assistance” with the International Criminal Court, which is set to try the country’s new president and his deputy:

“Many Kenyan politicians have branded the ICC a ‘neo-colonialist’ institution that only targets Africans, prompting the debate on a possible departure from the Rome Statute of the ICC.

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Nairobi, said that Kenya had the support of African Union in this matter, and that other African countries could now follow suit.”

Open-pit protests
The Guardian reports on “the symbolic fight of our generation” against a Canadian-owned gold mining project in Romania that, if given the green light, would be Europe’s biggest:

“Thousands of citizens first took to the streets on Sunday, in cities across the country, spurred by the Romanian government’s recent draft bill to allow Canadian company, Gabriel Resources, to mine gold and silver at the Carpathian town, Rosia Montana.
Campaigners have criticised the “special national interest” status the bill would give the mine, which would allow the Romanian branch of Gabriel Resources, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, to move the few remaining landowners off the site through compulsory purchase orders.”

No teeth
Care International’s Gerry Boyle dismisses the UK government’s newly launched Action Plan on Business and Human Rights as relying almost entirely on “encouragement and exhortation”:

“As a society, we all bear responsibility for the actions of the businesses that build our wealth and deliver the products we consume, and so we have an obligation to ensure that companies operating in the UK uphold these basic standards.

So how can the guiding principles be enforced? The question of whether breaches should be a criminal offence is a complex one that requires more work, especially on how this would be enforced. It is however, a reasonable request that the Companies Act should give rise to a civil remedy that could be pursued by victims, shareholders, or indeed by the company’s own directors seeking to pursue redress where human rights abuses have occurred.”

Corporate shield
Harvard University’s John Ruggie calls on rich-country governments to do much more to ensure corporations do not violate people’s human rights with impunity:

“Exceptional legal measures may be needed where the human rights regime cannot possibly be expected to function as intended, as for example in conflict zones; and where it concerns business involvement in the worst human rights abuses. The international community no longer regards sovereignty as a legitimate shield behind which egregious human rights violations can take place with impunity; surely the same must be true of the corporate form. Greater clarity on this critical point would benefit all stakeholders.”

Two kinds of countries
In a Q&A with the Washington Post, author Teju Cole discusses his series of tongue-in-cheek tweets on whether the UK should be bombed for selling chemicals to Syria:

“It seems to me that, without quite thinking it through, we’ve divided the world into two: countries we can imagine bombing and countries we can’t imagine bombing. It’s a question of imagination. The idea that the US would launch missiles into London in 2013 is beyond absurd. But the tragedy is that it’s all too easy to imagine the U.S. launching missiles into other cities in other places in the world. I wanted to bridge that gap, in the little drive-by way of troublemaking that Twitter allows.

All that said, U.K.’s issuance of a license for the export of chemicals or holding arms trade fairs for whomever has the money does not not make Cameron a butcher like Assad. That’s one indelible truth. The fact that Cameron and Obama preside over needlessly vicious war machines is yet another. We can hold both thoughts in our heads at the same time.”

Unhealthy priorities
The Center for Global Development’s Amanda Glassman slams a recent US trade proposal concerning tobacco in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations:

“The proposal put forward by the US Trade Representative (USTR) last week in Brunei would reduce prices for US tobacco in low- and middle-income countries and make it more difficult for these countries to enforce anti-tobacco policies like package warnings and advertising and marketing restrictions.

A ‘carve-out’ for tobacco – where tobacco would simply be excluded from the terms of the TPP agreement – was proposed by Malaysia and makes sense. But the USTR worries that a carve-out would set a precedent that could be used to block a variety of other US exports on health grounds.”

Latest Developments, September 4

In the latest news and analysis…

Democratic pledge
Le Monde reports on French President François Hollande’s shift toward possibly allowing MPs to vote on military intervention in Syria:

“French socialists have forged a doctrine on sending armed troops abroad. In a 2000 report, François Lamy, a Socialist MP from Essone, pointed to the example of other major democracies to call for a change to the constitution. He proposed it stipulate that ‘the use of French forces outside national territory be subject to parliamentary consultation beforehand’.
The report was presented by the defense commission, one of whose members was François Hollande, the Socialist Party’s first secretary at the time. In keeping with his own and his party’s earlier position, François Hollande called for a parliamentary vote on February 26, 2003 over the possibility of a French intervention in Iraq. Ten years later, with circumstances as they are, it is incumbent upon him to show that the president of the Republic is keeping faith with the pledges of the former first secretary of the Socialist Party.” [Translated from the French.]

War of choice
The Washington Post reports on a new poll suggesting that Americans “widely oppose” missile strikes against Syria:

“Nearly six in 10 oppose missile strikes in light of the U.S. government’s determination that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people. Democrats and Republicans alike oppose strikes by double digit margins, and there is deep opposition among every political and demographic group in the survey. Political independents are among the most clearly opposed, with 66 percent saying they are against military action.

The public expresses even wider opposition to arming Syrian rebels, which President Obama authorized in June. Fully seven in 10 oppose arming rebels, including large majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.”

Turning off the taps
The Associated Press reports that US President Barack Obama’s “top national security aides” have advised him to cut off it massive military aid to Egypt following July’s coup:

“Such a step would be a dramatic shift for an administration that has declined to label Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s July 3 ouster a coup and has argued that it is in U.S. national security interests to keep the aid flowing. It would also likely have profound implications for decades of close U.S.-Egyptian ties that have served as a bulwark of security and stability in the Middle East.
The officials say the recommendation has been with Obama for at least a week but they don’t expect him to make a decision until after the full Congress votes on his request for authorization for military strikes on Syria, which is not expected before Monday.”

Swedish asylum
The Local reports that Sweden has decided to let all its Syrian refugees stay in the country permanently:

“Sweden is the first country in the EU to offer permanent residency to refugees from Syria, news agency TT reported.
The decision covers all asylum seekers from Syria who have been granted temporary residency in Sweden for humanitarian protection.

The decision means that the roughly 8,000 Syrians who have temporary residency in Sweden will now be able to stay in the country permanently.
They will also have the right to bring their families to Sweden.”

Dwindling stockpiles
The Cluster Munition Coalition reports on the past year’s “record-breaking progress” toward eradicating the weapon that was widely banned by a 2008 treaty:

“During 2012, the Netherlands finished the total destruction of its once-massive stockpile of cluster munitions and together with Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and others, destroyed a total of 173,973 cluster munitions and 27 million submunitions—the most in a year since the convention’s adoption and far exceeding 2011 totals, when states destroyed a total of 107,000 cluster munitions and 17.6 million submunitions.

Major stockpilers have indicated they will complete destruction years in advance of the deadline, including Denmark and the UK (by the end of 2013), Italy and Sweden (in 2014), and Germany and Japan (in 2015).”

Costly objection
iPolitics reports that a First Nation in Western Canada may have to compensate the federal government for challenging a proposed Canada-China investment treaty:

“With just under a month to decide whether or not they’ll appeal a federal court dismissal of their Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) duty-to-consult legal challenge, the Hupacasath First Nation find themselves having to consider the possibility of a hefty cost award.

A government spokesperson told iPolitics that they’ve yet to determine their legal costs, but the Hupacasath have come up with their own rough estimates for what the government has spent defending the challenge.
‘They had five lawyers in the courtroom, compared to our two,’ said Brenda Sayers, an elected Hupacasath councillor.
Add to that the expert witnesses the government flew in from around the world, she said, such as Christopher Thomas — a research fellow at the National University of Singapore — and it starts to add up quickly.”

Taxes for Africa
The Africa Progress Panel has called on G20 countries, where most multinational companies are based, to take responsibility for “tax avoidance and evasion”:

“In Africa, tax avoidance and evasion cost billions of dollars every year. One single technique – transfer mispricing – costs the continent more than it receives in either international aid or foreign direct investment. Transfer mispricing includes the undervaluing exports in order to understate tax liability. Africa loses precious opportunities to invest in health, education, energy, and infrastructure.”

Institutional racism
The UN News Centre reports that a group of UN experts has called on the US government to examine laws that “could have discriminatory impact on African Americans”

“ ‘States are required to take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists,’ said the Special Rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere.
According to the 2011 US Department of Justice Hate Crime Statistics, 71.9 per cent of the total number of victims of hate crimes reported to the nation’s law enforcement agencies were victims of an offender’s anti-black bias.”

Latest Developments, July 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Bin Laden findings
Al Jazeera has published the report of the Abbottabad Commission, which was set up following the US “hostile military mission” that killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan in 2011:

“[The Abbottabad Commission] was charged with establishing whether the failures of the Pakistani government and military were due to incompetence, or complicity. It was given overarching investigative powers, and, in the course of its inquiry, it interviewed more than 201 witnesses – including members of Bin Laden’s own family, the chief of Pakistan’s spy agency, and other senior provincial, federal and military officials.
The Commission’s 336-page report is scathing, holding both politicians and the military responsible for ‘gross incompetence’, leading to ‘collective failures’ that allowed Bin Laden to escape detection, and the United States to perpetrate ‘an act of war’.”

Corruption barometer
Results of a new Transparency International global survey on corruption suggest half the world thinks the problem is getting worse:

“ ‘Governments need to take this cry against corruption from their citizenry seriously and respond with concrete action to elevate transparency and accountability,’ [Transparency International’s Huguette] Labelle said. ‘Strong leadership is needed from the G20 governments in particular. In the 17 countries surveyed in the G20, 59 per cent of respondents said their government is not doing a good job at fighting corruption.’

Around the world, people’s appraisal of their leaders’ efforts to stop corruption is worse than before the financial crisis began in 2008, when 31 per cent said their government’s efforts to fight corruption were effective. This year it fell to 22 per cent.”

Belgian arms
The New York Times’s C.J. Chivers writes about a newly discovered 1970s diplomatic wire regarding the “enormous” scale of Belgium’s weapons sales to Libya:

“Belgium was doing more than shipping huge quantities of munitions to Libya. It was negotiating with Colonel Qaddafi’s government to build an arms manufacturing plant on Libyan soil. That plan failed. But in light of [Ambassador Charles] Loodts’s cable, the synchronized work of arms makers and diplomats emerges as a case of a European state trying to secure a cash flow for quantities of arms that its diplomats knew the recipient nation did not need.
Belgium would keep a hand in arms sales to Libya almost to its end, selling rifles, grenade launchers and ammunition to the colonel’s forces, officially for the defense of humanitarian aid convoys. These weapons would later be turned by Libya’s army and militia against Libyan citizens.”

Different era
Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, arguing that Obama’s America is less free than Nixon’s, defends NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s decision to flee the US rather than surrender to law enforcement as Ellsberg did in the 1970s:

“[Snowden] would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months [Wikileaks leaker Bradley] Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning’s conditions as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading.’ (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.)

But Snowden’s contribution to the noble cause of restoring the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution is in his documents. It depends in no way on his reputation or estimates of his character or motives — still less, on his presence in a courtroom arguing the current charges, or his living the rest of his life in prison. Nothing worthwhile would be served, in my opinion, by Snowden voluntarily surrendering to U.S. authorities given the current state of the law.”

Painful meal
The Guardian has published a video of rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) undergoing “standard operating procedure for force-feeding detainees at Guantanamo Bay”:

“I really didn’t know what to expect. And then the tube went in and the first part of it is not that bad, but then you get this burning. I got this burning and then it just starts to get like really unbearable. It feels like something was going into my brain and it started to reach the back of my throat and I just really couldn’t take it.”

Evening force-feeds
The Mail and Guardian reports that the US has agreed to force-feed Guantanamo Bay detainees only at night during Ramadan out of “respect” for the Muslim holy month:

“The ‘Medical Management Standard Operating Procedure’ document leaked from the detention camp defines a hunger striker as a detainee who has missed at least nine consecutive meals or whose weight has fallen to less than 85% of his ideal body weight.
If force feeding is deemed medically necessary, medical personnel shackle the detainee ‘and a mask is placed over the detainee’s mouth to prevent spitting and biting’.
A feeding tube is then passed through the detainee’s nostril into the stomach.
The process takes about 20 to 30 minutes but they can be required to stay in the restraint chair for up to two hours until a chest X-ray confirms the nutrient has reached their stomach.”

Conquering Africa
In a Q&A with Le Monde, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, a French senator and co-author of a new report on France’s interests in the Sahel, stresses the importance of military solutions in the region:

“We fear budget cuts. With the operation in Mali, pre-positioned forces were shown to be extremely important. The centre of gravity of our military involvement must move from East Africa (knowing that in the Middle East, the US takes the lead), toward the west and northwest of the continent. Operation Serval’s logistical problems have demonstrated that access to ports – Abidjan, Dakar – was essential. We must continue to rely on ‘lily pads’, with their smaller footprint, in the Sahel.” [Translated from the French]

Grey Lady racism
Syndicated columnist David Sirota takes issue with the “hardcore bigotry” of New York Times columnist David Brooks who recently wrote that Egypt “seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients” needed for establishing democracy:

“Yes, that’s right, according to Brooks, a country and culture of 82 million is having a difficult time transitioning to democracy not because it has been repressed for decades, and not because it has few well-established democratic institutions, but instead because the people inherently don’t possess the cognitive (‘mental’) capacity for self-governance.”