Latest Developments, April 23

In the latest news and analysis…

Operation Serval extended
Radio France Internationale reports that French politicians have voted overwhelmingly in favour of extending the military intervention in Mali beyond the initial four-month timeframe:

“All the political parties agreed on the need to continue the French intervention in Mali: 342 votes for, 0 votes against. Later in the evening, senators confirmed this vote by 326 votes for and 0 votes against.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also made an important announcement: starting in July, the UN could contribute peacekeepers to join the French and African forces.” [Translated from the French.]

Apology questioned
The Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian government is under fire for failing to hand over documents to a commission investigating years of abuse of indigenous students at church-run residential schools:

“The Department of Aboriginal Affairs has given about a million records to the commission and has promised hundreds of thousands more. But 23 other departments have yet to follow suit.

‘We respect the fact that it’s really a huge task,’ said [Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair Justice Murray Sinclair].
‘But the reality is that we haven’t seen any additional documents,’ he said, ‘which really tells us that the government wasn’t ready, that it had done no preparation whatsoever.’

Alvin Fiddler, the deputy chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Northern Ontario, said Monday that failure to produce the records would cast doubt on the historic apology for the residential school system that Prime Minister Stephen Harper made in 2008 on behalf of Canadians. ‘It goes back to the question of how sincere was he and how sincere was the apology,’ Mr. Fiddler said.”

Patent loophole
Reuters reports that South Africa plans to rework its intellectual property laws in order to make cancer and HIV/AIDS medication more affordable:

“Central to the reforms is closing a loophole known as ‘ever-greening’, whereby drug companies slightly modify an existing drug whose patent is about to expire and then claim it is a new drug, thereby extending its patent protection and their profits.

As an example, [Julia Hill of Médecins Sans Frontières] said India had avoided patenting Novartis cancer medication imatinib, as opposed to South Africa, which granted an initial patent in 1993 that only expires this month.
In addition, Hill said South Africa had granted secondary patents on imatinib to extend Novartis’ monopoly until 2022, meaning it costs $34,000 a year to treat a patient – 259 times more than the cheapest Indian generic alternative”

Swing and a miss
The Associated Press reports that a US judge has blocked an attempt by the government to seize a “$38.5 million Gulfstream jet” from the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president:

“The Justice Department had alleged that Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue bought the jet with money derived from extortion, misappropriation, theft and embezzlement. But U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled Friday that the government did not link the jet to any specific illicit acts and dismissed the civil forfeiture complaint.”

The worst thing
The Royal African Society’s Richard Dowden argues it would be better for G8 countries to “stop doing bad things to poor countries” than to pledge more aid:

“The worst thing we – the British – do is to maintain the world’s most iniquitous secret tax havens.

On average, between 2002 and 2006 $857 billion flowed into developing countries each year. Of that $84bn was aid, $187bn was migrant remittances, $226bn foreign direct investment and $380bn was loans. Meanwhile, on average every year over the same period, $1205bn flowed out: $130bn profits for investors, $456bn in debt repayments and a whopping $619bn in ‘illicit flows’. Some of that is corruption money – about 3%. About 30% goes through criminal networks but some 60% of the ‘outflow’ is tax avoidance schemes. Unaccountable and un-transparent tax havens – many of them British – are where these schemes operate.”

Institutionalizing torture
Foreign Policy’s James Traub writes that a recent report on US torture after 9/11 shows how a democratic country can engage in “things that are repugnant to its principles”:

“Military dictators can simply order dissidents to be pushed out of planes into the sea or thrown into prison to rot; the political leaders of a democracy need the legitimacy of law to justify otherwise despicable acts, whether it’s Jim Crow legislation or the fraudulent treaties that drove Native Americans from their land.

Americans have an apparently ineradicable view of themselves as a force for good. Republicans shamelessly play to this angelic self-conception when they accuse Obama of not subscribing to the national credo of ‘American exceptionalism.’ But what dark deeds has that credo excused! To know for a certainty that your ends are noble is to excuse yourself in advance for whatever means you choose to fight your adversaries, who by definition must be evil.”

Casual racism
Anthropologist Sarah Kendzior describes as “irresponsible” the media’s emphasis on the Chechen ethnicity of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing:

“One hundred years ago, the violent act of one Polish-American [who assassinated US President William McKinley] caused a country to treat all Polish-Americans with suspicion. Now, the Poles have become ‘white’ – which is to say they are largely safe from the accusations of treason and murderous intent that ethnic groups deemed non-white routinely face. When a Polish-American commits a crime, his ethnicity does not go on trial with him.
But this change is not a triumph for America. It is a tragedy that it happened to Poles then, and a greater tragedy that we have not learned our lesson and it happens still – to Hispanics, to Arabs, to Chechens, to any immigrant who comes here seeking refuge and finds prejudice instead.”

Bean drain
The UN News Centre reports that two UN experts have said the World Bank-led privatization of Burundi’s coffee industry is hurting farmers:

“In 2007, the Burundian President declared that coffee was owned by the growers until it was exported, an arrangement that allowed them to manage the supply chain and entitled them to 72 per cent of revenues from coffee sales on international markets.
However, in 2008-2009 the Burundian Government moved towards full privatization of the industry under alleged pressure from the World Bank, whose support for public health programmes was reportedly tied to coffee sector reforms. Since then, less than 5 per cent of Burundian coffee was processed in the country, with the higher value-added operations taking place abroad.”

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Latest Developments, April 3

In today’s news and analysis…

Huge loophole
Agence France-Presse highlights some of the perceived shortcomings of the Arms Trade Treaty which has been approved by “an overwhelming 154-3 margin” in the UN General Assembly:

“The treaty has no automatic enforcement. However, it seeks to force the weapons industry within accepted boundaries.

However, the Conflict Awareness Project, a non-governmental research organisation, said the treaty left a huge loophole by not directly addressing the role of middlemen in arms dealing networks.
‘Since the broker is the central actor using the cover of legitimate business to divert weapons into the illicit trade, of all actors, this is the one requiring the strictest regulation,’ CAP’s executive director Kathi Lynn Austin said.”

Landmark ruling
The Guardian reports that India’s Supreme Court has ruled against Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis whose efforts to obtain a patent for a cancer drug were deemed to constitute an attempt at “evergreening”:

“At stake in the legal battle was not just the right of generic companies to make cheap drugs for India once original patents expire but also access to newer drugs for poorer countries in much of Africa and Asia. India has long been known as the pharmacy of the developing world.

In a statement, the Cancer Patients Aid Association in India (CPAA), which had opposed the patent application, said: ‘We are very happy that the court has recognised the right of patients to access affordable medicines over profits for big pharmaceutical companies through patents. Our access to affordable treatment will not be possible if the medicines are patented. It is a huge victory for human rights.’ ”

Bad image
The Antioquia School of Engineering’s Santiago Ortega Arango writes that Canadian mining companies have recently been the targets of popular protests in “at least 10 countries”:

“Canada is very well represented in global mining conflicts because, in large part, Canada is the home of most of the junior mining companies of the world,” says Ramsey Hart, the Canada program co-ordinator at Mining Watch, an Ottawa-based advocacy group.
The reason for this, he says, is that Canada has a favourable environment for high-risk, speculative investments, the kind that drives international mineral exploration.
Unlike the U.S. Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign citizens to bring American companies to U.S. courts for abuses committed in a foreign country, there are no mechanisms to hold Canadian companies overseas accountable for their social and environmental policies. ‘We’ve just completely dropped that ball,’ Ramsey says.

New relationship
The Canadian government is celebrating a new “competitive edge for Canadian exporters” as the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement goes into effect:

“In less than six years, the Harper government has concluded free trade agreements with nine countries: Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, Panama, Peru and the European Free Trade Association member states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. In addition, Canada is in ongoing trade negotiations with the European Union, India, Japan and the members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Upon implementation April 1, 2013, Panama will immediately eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of non-agricultural imports and 78 percent of agricultural imports from Canada…

Most of Panama’s remaining tariffs will be eliminated over a period of 5 to 15 years.”

Carbon colonialism
The Nigerian Current reports that the newly formed No REDD in Africa Network blames a UN emissions reduction scheme for “rampant land grabs and neocolonialism”:

“[Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest degradation] is a carbon offset mechanism whereby industrialized Northern countries use forests, agriculture, soils and even water as sponges for their pollution instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at source.
Nnimmo Bassey, Alternative Nobel Prize Laureate and former Executive Director of ERA/Friends of the Earth Nigeria said that ‘REDD is no longer just a false solution but a new form of colonialism…We launch the No REDD in Africa Network to defend the continent from carbon colonialism.’
In the UN-REDD Framework Document, the United Nations itself admits that REDD could result in the ‘lock-up of forests,’ ‘loss of land’ and ‘new risks for the poor.’ ”

Wrong approach
The University of Utrecht’s Annelies Zoomers and the Broker magazine’s Evert-jan Quak argue that current efforts to rein in land grabbing fail to get at the root of the problem:

“These problems are the result of the commoditisation of nature and neoliberal policies in general, rather than narrowing the causes of the land rush solely to the current food, climate and energy crisis. Land-titling programmes and codes of conducts are therefore a continuation of the same economic principles.
Furthermore, land governance and policies focussing on land grabbing narrow the scope of the problem and the solution to agriculture. However, urban expansion, infrastructure projects, mining, special economic zones, and tourism projects also spark the rush for land and speculative forces to purchase land in rural areas that affect rural communities. Finally, there is no coherence between policies on food security, climate change, biodiversity and poverty eradication. One problem can be solved (for example REDD and REDD+ to tackle carbon emissions by fast reforestation projects) but create others (small farmers losing their land). A much more interdisciplinary way of policy-making should therefore be enforced.”

Bank crimes
MIT’s Simon Johnson argues that when it comes to international money laundering, “complicit bankers have nothing to fear from the US justice system”:

“To be on the safe side, though, miscreants should be sure to use a really large global bank for all their money-laundering needs.
There may be fines, but the largest financial companies are unlikely to face criminal actions or meaningful sanctions. The Department of Justice has decided that these banks are too big to prosecute to the full extent of the law, though why this also gets employees and executives off the hook remains a mystery. And the Federal Reserve refuses to rescind bank licenses, undermining the credibility, legitimacy and stability of the financial system.”

Basic income
The Guardian’s Geoge Monbiot makes the case for everyone, whether rich or poor, to receive a “guaranteed sum” each week:

“A basic income removes the stigma of benefits while also breaking open what politicians call the welfare trap. Because taking work would not reduce your entitlement to social security, there would be no disincentive to find a job – all the money you earn is extra income. The poor are not forced by desperation into the arms of unscrupulous employers: people will work if conditions are good and pay fair, but will refuse to be treated like mules. It redresses the wild imbalance in bargaining power that the current system exacerbates.”

Latest Developments, October 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Bad timing
Oxford University’s David Priestland argues the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to the European Union at this point in time is “distinctly odd”:

“The introduction of the euro changed the EU from an institution that used economic integration to promote peace to one that is sacrificing peace on the altar of free-market economics. Brussels is being rewarded for its pacific past at the very moment it is provoking civil strife.

Nor did Europe’s eirenic outlook always extend beyond its borders. Individual countries have sometimes played a far from peaceful role in the world – especially the French and British meddling in their former empires. Europe’s protectionism has also damaged the interests of the developing world.”

Development by force
Human Rights Watch’s Jessica Evans criticizes the World Bank’s support for Ethiopia’s controversial “villagization” program:

“Once forcibly evicted and moved to the new villages, families are finding that the promised government services often do not exist, giving them less access to services than before the relocation. Dozens of farmers in Ethiopia’s Gambella region told us they are being moved from fertile areas where they survive on subsistence farming, to dry, arid areas. Ojod’s family farm was on the river, but as part of the villagization program, the government took his farm and forced his family to relocate to a dry area. There are reports that this fertile land is being leased to multinational companies for large-scale farms.
The villagization program is an Ethiopian government initiative, not one designed by the World Bank. But villagization appears to be the government’s way of implementing a certain World Bank project in five of Ethiopia’s eleven regions.”

Colonial legacy
Radio France Internationale reports that French President François Hollande has promised to hand over archives relating to a massacre of Senegalese troops fighting for France during World War II:

“ ‘The dark side of our history includes the bloody repression at the Thiaroye camp in 1944 which caused the death of 35 African soldiers who fought for France,’ Hollande told the Senegalese parliament.

In a speech where he also paid homage to the victims of the slave trade, Hollande declared that the Françafrique policy, often criticised as neo-colonialist, is over.
‘There is France and there is Africa,’ he declared, adding that he was not going to give the Senegalese moral lectures, in an indirect reference to his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial speech in Dakar five years ago.”

Poisonous siege
The Independent reports on a new study linking the siege of Fallujah by Western forces during the Iraq War to the city’s “staggering rise” in birth defects:

“The latest study found that in Fallujah, more than half of all babies surveyed were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010. Before the siege, this figure was more like one in 10. Prior to the turn of the millennium, fewer than 2 per cent of babies were born with a defect. More than 45 per cent of all pregnancies surveyed ended in miscarriage in the two years after 2004, up from only 10 per cent before the bombing. Between 2007 and 2010, one in six of all pregnancies ended in miscarriage.”

Patent override
The Guardian reports that the Indonesian government has taken steps to allow seven “important” but patented medicines to be manufactured cheaply and locally:

“The biggest fights now are in India, where Big Pharma is battling to preserve its patents, arguing that India’s thriving generic companies will sell not just to the poor but to the whole world.
But what has happened in Indonesia is remarkable for its scale. It appears that the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has decided to license the entire slate of medicines its population needs against HIV. It already had an order from 2007 for three older HIV drugs (efavirenz, lamivudine and nevirapine), but the new decree states specifically that this is ‘no longer sufficient’.
The drug patents belong to Merck, GSK, Bristol Myers Squibb, Abbott and Gilead.”

Tax hike
The New York Times reports that Mongolia is considering renegotiating the investment agreement it has with Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto regarding a $6 billion copper project:

“Last Monday, the caucus of Mongolia’s Democratic Party, which leads a coalition government in place since August, passed a budget proposal, which calls for a new sliding royalty on Oyu Tolgoi’s revenue that would rise to 20 percent depending on the copper price. The 2009 investment agreement set the royalty rate at 5 percent.
The new plan would also raise Oyu Tolgoi’s effective tax rate by eliminating income-tax allowances. The government would bring in 221.3 billion tugriks, or $160 million, from the royalty and 224.5 billion tugriks, or $163 million, from corporate income tax, according to estimates in the draft budget proposal.
This week, the plan is expected to reach Parliament, which will decide whether to adopt or modify the proposal.”

Paradigm shift
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a recent roundtable where one of the participants argued that global health justice will require “a body of hard and soft laws”:

“ ‘When I first entered global health, I thought global health was mostly about making rich countries devote resources to those who lack the capacity to do it,’ [Georgetown University’s Larry Gostin] said. This ‘is a northern view based upon guilt, but it is really the wrong view,’ he said.

There are still residual international responsibilities, but they are based on a flawed idea of international development assistance for health, which is ‘very much charitable-based, with a benefactor and a recipient.’ It is not justice-based, he said, and lacks a sense of shared responsibility, adding, ‘We need to change this paradigm.’ ”

Food futures
The Observer’s Heather Stewart decries the lack of action by rich-country governments to rein in the price of food, which she says depends more on “all-but-irrelevant events in Brussels or Berlin” than on supply and demand:

“Any tougher crackdown – forcing greater transparency about who is betting on what, with whom, for example – looks highly likely to be scuppered by the same kind of concerted lobbying that sank proposals for regulating other derivatives markets in the years before the crisis.
In the US, for example, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is facing a legal battle over its attempts to impose ‘position limits’, constraining the share of the market single investors can hold in a number of commodities, including corn and cocoa. The proposal was struck down by a court in Washington, in a case brought by several financial sector trade bodies – though the CFTC has not given up on introducing position limits in some form.”

Latest Developments, July 26

In the latest news and analysis…

ATT plea
Author and former child soldier Ishmael Beah makes the case for a strong Arms Trade Treaty – including controls on ammunition sales – as UN negotiations enter the final stretch:

“The treaty is not a panacea to end all violence, genocide and human rights abuses, but it is a colossal step in the right direction. It is also an important missing piece to end the rampant use of children in war and to significantly reduce violence and the number of lives lost in such conflicts. For the first time, it will set an international standard that governments and civil society can use to hold accountable those who sell weapons irresponsibly. It will also prevent the flow of weapons into lawless areas plagued by conflict by closing the many loopholes immoral businessmen now use to navigate with impunity.

As negotiators race this week to finish the text of the treaty, they must include measures to control the flow of ammunition. Weaponry is abundant in Libya, Mali and other conflict zones around the world, but oftentimes ammunition is in short supply.
Some of these weapons, such as AK-47s, are extremely durable. You can bury them, dig them up years later and start using them again. If we didn’t have access to ammunition during the war in Sierra Leone, the AK-47s would have been no more deadly than sticks, and we would have been unable to inflict tremendous violence simply by squeezing a trigger.”

War on drugs redux
The New York Times reports that the US is expanding its drug war into Africa, with “elite” counternarcotics training already underway in Ghana and the same planned for Nigeria and Kenya:

“ ‘We see Africa as the new frontier in terms of counterterrorism and counternarcotics issues,’ said Jeffrey P. Breeden, the chief of the D.E.A.’s Europe, Asia and Africa section. ‘It’s a place that we need to get ahead of — we’re already behind the curve in some ways, and we need to catch up.’

In May, William R. Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, a leading architect of the strategy now on display in Honduras, traveled to Ghana and Liberia to put the finishing touches on a West Africa Cooperative Security Initiative, which will try to replicate across 15 nations the steps taken in battling trafficking groups operating in Central America and Mexico.”

Jordan loan
Reuters reports the IMF has agreed to lend Jordan $2 billion, in part, to offset the costs of the Arab Spring:

“Meanwhile, tourism income and remittances from Jordanian workers abroad have been hit by the global economic slump and the unrest in the region. Government finances have been weakened by higher welfare spending to buy social peace during the Arab Spring, and by the cost of caring for refugees from Syria.
In an effort to cut its deficits, Jordan launched an austerity drive in May, raising fuel and electricity prices, imposing higher taxes on luxury goods and increasing corporate taxes on banks and mining companies.
But the government’s room for maneuver has been limited by the threat of unrest; Islamist and tribal opposition groups have held street protests against price rises, warning the authorities that austerity measures could trigger wider demonstrations and even civil disorder in impoverished areas.”

Bhopal Olympics
The Hindu reports that survivors of the Bhopal disaster are holding their own “Bhopal Special Olympics” in protest against Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the London Games, which kick off on Friday:

“The Bhopal Olympics, with the theme ‘From East India Company to the Dow Chemical Company’, will be held in a stadium right behind the abandoned Union Carbide factory that continues to leach carcinogenic chemicals in the local groundwater, causing birth defects in children even today.

The opening ceremony will draw attention to the many famines caused during the British rule in India, the mass hangings following the ‘first battle for Indian independence in 1857’, the massacre at Jalianwala Bagh in 1919 and last but not the least, to the support extended by the British Prime Minister to the Dow Chemical Company.”

Big bad pharma
The University of London’s Simon Reid-Henry and Deakin University’s Hans Lofgren condemn a “triple-pronged attack” from the West on India’s role as “global pharmacist”:

“It is not only the pharmaceutical industry that needs to be addressed but the continued and ruthless lobbying by western politicians to secure the profitability of their own industries.
We ought to be asking why governments in the rich world still seem happy to checkmate the lives of poor people to save their political skins. And why the pharmaceutical industry sees India as such a threat.”

Human rights rep
Xinhua reports that former Greek foreign minister Stavros Lambrinidis has become the EU’s first-ever special representative for human rights:

“Lambrinidis’ tasks will mainly focus on strengthening EU values in the bloc and around the world.
While some analysts question the tangible effectiveness of such a position, the appointment was welcomed by EU institutions.”

NGO transparency
The Irish Examiner reports that Ireland’s government is considering extending the scope of freedom of information laws to cover non-public bodies that receive state funding, “such as sporting groups and charities”:

“The [government] spokesman said no set criteria had been agreed upon as to which non-public bodies would fall under the extended reach of the FOI laws.
However, it could include the level of funding provided to a body, the percentage of that funding within the body’s overall budget, whether the grants are provided annually as opposed to once-off and the nature of the functions provided by the body and the extent to which it provides a service to the public.”

Constructive vandalism
Oxfam’s Kate Raworth makes the case for rewriting economics into something less focused on GDP growth and monetized resource flows:

“So here’s a guerrilla campaign to make it happen. Anyone can do it because all you need is a pencil. Here’s the plan (umm, I have to say at this point, this is not Oxfam Policy…). Sneak into the bookshops, the libraries and classrooms, and into the office of every economics professor you know. Get out the macroeconomic textbooks and find that diagram. Take your pencil. Now draw in the environment. Draw in the unpaid care economy. Draw in social inequality.
With these few strokes, we could stick a great big spanner in the wheel of mainstream economic thinking. We’d save the next generation of economics students from having the wrong model of the world stuck in the back of their heads. And that would help save us all from another era of economic policymakers who unknowingly have the wrong model of the economy shaping their decisions.”

Latest Developments, April 22

In the latest news and analysis…

French right
Agence France-Presse reports that the National Front’s Marine Le Pen finished third with nearly a fifth of all votes cast in the first round of France’s presidential election, the highest total for the  “anti-immigrant, anti-European, far-right party” in its 40-year history.
“Calling for ‘economic patriotism’ and vowing to leave the eurozone, she railed against globalisation and the ‘Islamisation’ of France, initially gaining some ground with attacks on the production of Islamic halal meat.
[French President Nicolas] Sarkozy sought to steal her thunder on two key issues for the far-right — immigration and security — with his calls for fewer immigrants and his handling of deadly attacks lat month by an Islamist extremist in Toulouse.

Analysts see [Marine Le Pen] as part of a new age of far-right leaders across Europe seeking to shake off the fascist stigma of their predecessors.

Like her father, Marine Le Pen has not avoided causing outrage with outspoken comments. Last year she compared Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques in France to the Nazi occupation.”

Turning IMF conditionality on its head
Reuters reports that the International Monetary Fund has secured nearly half a trillion dollars in new funding from G20 nations but in return, emerging economic powers are demanding more say in how the institution is run.
“The battle over the next round of voting reforms begins with the elaborate formula for setting the quotas that determine each nation’s voting share, how much it must contribute to the Fund and how much it can borrow. The formula takes into account the size of each economy, foreign-exchange reserves and trade.
The current formula fails to capture the massive changes that have taken place globally since the IMF was founded after World War Two, especially the rise of emerging economic powers. Now that emerging markets are being asked to bulk up the Fund’s coffers to battle a crisis centered in Europe, their leverage to push for more change has increased.
‘Our demands are mostly for reforms, and those reforms are always finding obstacles,’ said Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega. ‘It’s very easy for the Europeans to get the money and not do any reforms.’ ”

Generic ruling
Reuters also reports that a Kenyan court has ruled the country’s lawmakers must ensure efforts to crack down on counterfeit drugs do not impede access to generic drugs.
“Generic medicines constitute the lion’s share of medicines used in Kenya, and have enabled poor people in the developing country to get the necessary treatment for various ailments.
A previous court order issued before Friday’s ruling had blocked the act from coming into force, and Friday ruling means lawmakers will now have to amend the bill to clearly distinguish between generic and counterfeit drugs.”

Lobbying against transparency
ProPublica reports that media companies behind many of America’s top news organizations are fighting against greater transparency of US political funding.
“The corporate owners or sister companies of some of the biggest names in journalism — NBC News, ABC News, Fox News, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Politico, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and dozens of local TV news outlets — are lobbying against a Federal Communications Commission measure that would require broadcasters to post political ad data on the Internet.

In a speech this week at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski excoriated the broadcasters as working ‘against transparency and against journalism.’ ”

Improving mining contracts
The BBC cites Guinea as an example of the growing number of African countries that are renegotiating what they view as “abusive” mining contracts with foreign companies.
“The Guinean state will now receive a 15% free stake in all mining projects for the country’s flagship minerals – bauxite, iron, gold and diamonds.
The secretary general of Guinea’s mining ministry, Guillaume Curtis, says the new legislation was a response to ‘mining contracts with abusive clauses that made it impossible to increase the state’s revenue’.
Export taxes are now indexed on global metal prices and fiscal exemptions have been cut.
‘Yes, there are heavy investments, but the eight-to-12-year tax holidays given by our countries are exaggerated,’ Mr Curtis says.”

Reformophobia
The Guardian reports that the head of the UN Conference on Trade and Development – an organization it describes as “an intellectual counterweight to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank” – has criticized the international community’s apparent unwillingness to undertake fundamental global financial reforms.
“As for reforms, [UNCTAD secretary general Supachai Panitchpakdi] identified as key greater disclosure of information from the likes of hedge funds on the kinds of financial instruments they were trading.

At a time of austerity, Supachai said it was time to move beyond official development assistance from rich countries, which has declined for the first time in 15 years. He argued a financial transactions tax, or Tobin tax, would achieve a dual function, helping to curb the power of international finance while also providing funds for developing countries.
‘It would not be expensive for the financial services industry,’ he said. ‘That argument is an excuse for masters of the universe to remain masters of the universe.’ ”

Global law
Open Society’s James Goldston writes that despite the international community’s rhetorical enthusiasm for the “rule of law,” there remains much disagreement on the concept’s meaning and how it should be implemented.
“Many developing countries want more ‘international’ law to restrain the U.S. and other veto-wielding Permanent-5 powers on the UN Security Council, a body sorely in need of reform. By contrast, western donor governments are keen to focus on ‘national’ rule of law needs in conflict regions of Africa and the Middle East.”

Uncivilized Europeans
South African satirical newspaper Hayibo reports that Africans have been shocked by recent “uncivilized antics” by Europeans.
“Africans say they have little hope that Europe will ever become civilized, after a week in which Spain’s King Carlos went on an elephant-killing spree and the Swedish Culture Minister was entertained by a racially offensive cake.

‘I don’t want to sound racist, and some of my best friend are white, but let’s be honest: violence is hard-wired into their DNA,’ said [Libreville resident August] Mwanasa. ‘I mean, Europeans killed over 20 million other Europeans in the 1930s and 1940s. That’s barbarism on a scale unprecedented in history.’ ”