Latest Developments, July 24

In the latest news and analysis…

Supply chain ruling
Reuters reports that a US judge has upheld a rule requiring companies to disclose the use of “conflict minerals” from the Democratic Republic of Congo or surrounding countries:

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers had challenged the conflict minerals rule, saying it was too costly and violated companies’ First Amendment free speech rights.
But in his order issued late Tuesday afternoon, [Judge Robert Wilkins of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia] rejected both of those arguments.

The ruling by Wilkins in the [Securities and Exchange Commission’s] favor comes just a few weeks after the agency lost another legal battle over a companion humanitarian Dodd-Frank rule that the Chamber and others had also challenged.
In early July, a different federal district judge tossed out the SEC’s ‘extractive resources’ rule requiring oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.”

Press pardon
McClatchy reports that the White House is “concerned and disappointed” over the release from prison of a Yemeni journalist incarcerated after reporting on US drone strikes:

“As a condition of his release, [Abdulelah Haider] Shaye will be prohibited from leaving Sanaa for two years. Nevertheless, many Yemeni journalists and local press freedom organizations responded to the news with jubilance, hailing Hadi’s actions and celebrating Shaye’s freedom.
Shaye’s release ‘is a victory for common values of media freedom, justice and human rights,’ said a statement from the Freedom Foundation, a Sanaa-based press freedom organization headed by Yemeni journalist Khaled al Hammadi. ‘Especially since President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi ordered the release of Shaye despite all the American pressures on him to keep him in prison.’ ”

Historical responsibility
Amnesty International is calling an Indian court summons of US-based Dow Chemical “an important step” toward corporate accountability over the Bhopal disaster that killed an estimated 22,000 people three decades ago:

“The company has been ordered to explain why its wholly owned subsidiary, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), has repeatedly ignored court summons in the ongoing criminal case concerning the 1984 Bhopal disaster, where UCC is accused of ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’.

‘Dow’s attempt to distance itself from its wholly owned subsidiary UCC has always ignored the reality of the relationship between the two companies. Today’s court summons has confirmed that Dow itself must ensure that UCC faces up to its responsibilities,’ said [Amnesty International’s Audrey] Gaughran.”

Green light
The Washington Post reports that the CIA has received congressional approval to begin arming Syrian rebels despite “very strong concerns” about the plan:

“Both the House and Senate [intelligence committees] voted on the administration’s plan last week, officials said.
The agreement allows money already in the CIA’s budget to be reprogrammed for the Syria operation, a covert action that President Obama approved early last month. The infrastructure for the program, which also includes training, logistics and intelligence assistance — most of it based in Jordan — is already in place and the arms would begin to flow within the next several weeks.”

Compliance optional
The author of the Economist’s Democracy in America blog writes that the US government has rarely respected a decades-old prohibition on US aid to “coup regimes”:

“The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the act that initially rationalised foreign-aid policy under a single budget authority, provides that ‘none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to this Act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by a military coup or decree.’
So, how many times have elected heads of governments receiving American aid been overthrown in coups since 1961, and in how many cases did America cut off that aid? As far as I can tell, the answers are: lots, and once or twice.”

Food conquest
The Guardian reports on concerns that the US is trying to force genetically modified food on Africa without proper public consultation:

“Food Sovereignty Ghana and other domestic organisations accuse the US and other foreign donors of promoting GM foods to west African countries, and tying aid to implementation.
According to a leaked cable, the US government was heavily involved in drafting Ghana’s 2011 Biosafety Act, which provided a framework for the introduction of GM foods. The US aid department

[Food Sovereignty Ghana’s Duke] Tagoe said: ‘Farmers in Ghana have had their own way of keeping seeds year after year. If these policies are allowed to manifest, Ghanaian farmers will have to change money into foreign [currency] in order to purchase seeds from overseas firms. The economic impact on the lives of the farmers will be disastrous. The origin of food is seed. Whoever controls the seed controls the entire food chain. These seeds are not owned by any African entity, they are owned by American companies.’ ”

Congo forests
Global Witness takes issue with a new report that suggests “controlled timber management” has slowed deforestation rates in the Congo basin:

“There is little evidence to back up such claims, while the study ignores threats from the expansion of illegal logging operations, large-scale agricultural investments and palm oil plantations.
‘This is a shortsighted and misleading study. The world’s second largest rainforest is losing 2000 square km – an area 34 times the size of Manhattan – every year. This is totally unsustainable, and it’s set to get worse. When the Democratic Republic of Congo‘s freeze on new logging is lifted and the forest has been parcelled up for different commercial uses, we’ll see much more deforestation. The idea that things are moving in the right direction is ludicrous,’ said Alexandra Pardal of Global Witness.”

Mutual learning
TRANSCEND Peace University’s Johan Galtung lists his prescriptions for attaining “peace with our futures”:

“Fight inequality, boycott companies with CEOs making more than five to 10 times what the workers earn, switch to cooperatives, transfer accounts to savings banks, introduce a sales tax of five percent for financial transactions to finance a living wage and to put a brake on insane speculation, increase the quantity and quality of mediation and nonviolence all over, fight for democracy with transparency, dialogue, petitions, referenda, pick the best from worldviews, both-and, not either-or.
Islam offers togetherness and sharing needed in the West, the West offers diversity and freedom needed in Islam; go for mutual learning.”

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Latest Developments, November 30

In the latest news and analysis…

Status upgrade
Reuters reports that the UN General Assembly has voted 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, in favour of recognizing Palestine as a non-member state rather than an “entity”:

“Granting Palestinians the title of ‘non-member observer state’ falls short of full U.N. membership – something the Palestinians failed to achieve last year. But it would allow them access to the [International Criminal Court] and other international bodies, should they choose to join them.

At least 17 European nations voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution, including Austria, France, Italy, Norway and Spain. Abbas had focused his lobbying efforts on Europe, which supplies much of the aid the Palestinian Authority relies on. Britain, Germany and others chose to abstain.
The Czech Republic was unique in Europe, joining the United States, Israel, Canada, Panama and tiny Pacific Island states likes Nauru, Palau and Micronesia in voting against the move.”

Frozen assets
Bloomberg reports that oil giant Chevron is asking Argentine courts to lift an embargo imposed on its assets in the country because of a massive outstanding fine handed down by a judge in Ecuador:

“Judge Adrian Elcuj Miranda ordered 40 percent of Chevron’s Argentine bank accounts to be held in escrow, Enrique Bruchou, an Argentine attorney representing Ecuadorean plaintiffs, said on Nov. 7.
The plaintiffs are seeking to enforce a $19 billion award against Chevron, which they say is responsible for destroying the environment in the Lago Agrio region, damaging living conditions of 30,000 inhabitants.”

Problematic portfolio
OnEarth reports that Susan Rice, the presumptive frontrunner to become the next US secretary of state, is heavily invested in Canadian companies that stand to profit from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which she would have the power to approve:

“The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Rice owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the company seeking a federal permit to transport tar sands crude 1,700 miles to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, crossing fragile Midwest ecosystems and the largest freshwater aquifer in North America.
Beyond that, according to financial disclosure reports, about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel — including companies with poor environmental and safety records on both U.S. and Canadian soil. Rice and her husband own at least $1.25 million worth of stock in four of Canada’s eight leading oil producers, as ranked by Forbes magazine.”

Mind the Gap
Paloma Muñoz Quick of the Danish Institute for Human Rights argues that the ongoing international negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty focus so much on states, that the “monumental” role of the private sector is largely overlooked:

“Companies in North America and Western Europe dominate the global arms industry. Likewise, shipping companies dominate international transport in weapons, including shipments to actors involved in conflict and illicit deliveries of small arms and light weapons to non-state actors in Colombia. Private security companies (PSCs) also fuel and directly rely on the arms trade for their operations.

A joint effort therefore is necessary to address the private sector’s role in the arms trade. Accordingly, UN Member States should seek to reference the [UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights] in the ATT’s preamble, which will provide a common reference point for States to address the private sector’s central role in the arms trade, and help ensure that companies in their jurisdiction do not contribute to human rights abuses undermining development”

Image issues
Concerned about the potential for reputational damage, Barclays has said it may get out of the agricultural commodities trading business:

“Several German banks, including Commerzbank, have this year restricted their investments in agricultural products, but banks elsewhere have been slower to curb activity despite heavy lobbying by groups such as World Development Movement (WDM), which has been critical of Barclays.

Barclays, Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan have all built up strongly in commodities in the past decade to challenge established veterans Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Those five banks control about 70 percent of the commodities trading pot.”

Circular economy
Science writer Gaia Vince sees signs that the tide may be turning against a consumer culture marked by planned obsolescence or worse, “replacing functioning phones simply for reasons of fashion or for technological additions that many of us rarely use”:

“And other companies are joining the move towards a circular economy, in which economic growth is uncoupled from finite-resource-use. Instead of the linear manufacturing route: mining materials, fabricating, selling, throwing them away; a circular economy is based around making products that are more easily disassembled, so that the resources can be recovered and used to make new products, keeping them in circulation. British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur is a strong advocate of the concept and commissioned a report into the idea, which found that the benefits to Europe’s economy alone could be $630 billion, based on cycling just 15% of materials in 48% of manufacturing and just being recycled once.”

Market colonization
Inter Press Service reports on opposition in Africa to genetically modified crops, which are often touted as a solution to food shortages on the continent:

“[Friends of the Earth International’s Nnimmo] Bassey said that GM crops are neither more nutritious nor better yielding nor use fewer pesticides and herbicides. And he said they are unsafe for humans and for the environment.
‘It is all about market colonisation,’ Bassey told IPS. ‘GM crops would neither produce food security nor meet nutrition deficits. The way forward is food sovereignty – Africans must determine what crops are suitable culturally and environmentally. Up to 80 percent of our food needs are met by smallholder farmers. These people need support and inputs for integrated agro-ecological crop management. Africa should ideally be a GMO-free continent.’ ”

Changing the rules
Purpose’s Alnoor Ladha, Pambazuka founder Firoze Manji and Yale University’s Thomas Pogge argue the world’s current level of poverty and inequality is not inevitable:

“It is the outcome of active choices by people who make and enforce the rules we all live by: rules about global trade, banking, loans, investment, taxes, working conditions, land, food, health and education. These rules are made by people and people can change them.
Frederick Douglass, a leader of the 19th century abolitionist movement which brought an end to slavery, once said, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand’. If we want to change rules that have been written by the few and for the few, we must look outside existing power structures to the power of the many.”

Latest Developments, September 20

In the latest news and analysis…

GM food alert
The Telegraph reports on a new study suggesting the NK603 type of genetically modified corn sold by agribusiness giant Monsanto may be toxic:

“Although previous safety trials have established that the corn had no adverse effects on animals after 90 days, the trial is thought to be the first to examine its health impact over a longer scale.

After two years, a normal lifespan for rats, between 50 and 80 per cent of all the female rats fed the corn or weedkiller developed at least one large tumour, compared with 30 per cent from a small control group.
Male rats in the treated groups were more likely to develop serious kidney and liver damage.
Dr Michael Antoniou, of King’s College London, who contributed to the project, said: ‘This is the most thorough research ever published into the health effects of GM food crops and the herbicide Roundup on rats. It shows an extraordinary number of tumours developing earlier and more aggressively – particularly in female animals.’ ”

Rendition verdict
The BBC reports that an Italian appeals court has upheld guilty verdicts against 23 Americans accused of kidnapping a terror suspect who was “allegedly flown to Egypt and tortured”:

“The Americans were tried in absentia, in the first trial involving extraordinary rendition, the CIA’s practice of transferring suspects to countries where torture is permitted.
The practice has been condemned by human rights groups as a violation of international agreements.
The group of Americans – 22 of whom were CIA agents and one an Air Force pilot – are believed to be living in the US and are unlikely to serve their sentences.”

Shadow wars
Wired’s Spencer Ackerman writes about the new face of American war, currently on display in Yemen and East Africa:

“Not only are they undeclared wars, they depend on concealing the U.S. role in them. One method of concealment is to use stealthy forces like elite commandos or tools that require a small logistical footprint, like drones. Another method is to use proxy forces to wage them. In Yemen, for instance, the U.S. is training the local forces to fight al-Qaida in its stead, and they come bearing cash and weapons.

With the American public sick of war, those proxies are increasingly crucial.
And it’s not even just counterterrorism. So-called ‘Security Force Assistance’ is a major preoccupation for the U.S. Army in general as its involvement in Afghanistan winds down. When Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked in 2011 what the future of the Army was, he said it involved mentoring foreign partner militaries so the U.S. doesn’t have to intervene during crises, bolstering weak armies. Dempsey, of course, is now America’s top military officer.”

A more insidious kind of corruption
The New Economics Foundation’s James Meadway argues that excessive executive pay – FTSE 100 company heads now make 120 times more than their average employees – has “bled into the public and voluntary spheres”:

“Corruption in the developing countries is well known and well reported. It distorts aid and ruins lives. But there is a more insidious kind of corruption, widespread in the developed world, in which those at the top of society claim greater and greater rewards, justifying it by reference to the demands of the market.”

Western havens
Global Witness’s Stefanie Ostfeld argues that Western countries are doing too little to ensure their banks do not store riches siphoned illegally from poor nations:

“In the United States, it is perfectly legal to incorporate a company without disclosing who actually owns and controls it. More information is needed to obtain a driver’s license than to open an anonymous shell company in most states. This allows corrupt foreign officials, weapons smugglers, tax evaders, and drug traffickers to disguise their identities when accessing a bank. In fact, a study of 150 cases of large-scale corruption showed that American shell companies were used more often than those registered in any other country.”

Human rights double standard
Human Rights Watch accuses British politicians and media of thinking their country is above needing the sorts of human rights mechanisms they prescribe to other nations:

“The critics appear to suggest that the UK’s protection of basic liberties is already sufficient through domestic laws and institutions and that it is somehow inappropriate or insulting to use a similar framework – that of human rights – to consider the treatment of people by the state in the UK, as we might for those living under dictatorships. They also argue that measures to promote human rights, notably the Human Rights Act, benefit the undeserving at the expense of society as a whole, including criminals seeking to evade punishment or foreign terrorists wishing to avoid deportation.”

Corruption double standard
Southern Illinois University’s Mike Koehler thinks it strange that the US is cracking down on foreign bribery cases when it “has legitimized corporate influence” over its own government:

“Yet the U.S. political expenditures discussed above are perfectly legal.  In Citizens United, the Supreme Court stated that such expenditures ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’
Yet payments made in the foreign context, even payments that pale in magnitude and degree, would be clear crimes under U.S. law because they indeed ‘give rise to corruption and the appearance of corruption.’

Do we reflexively label a ‘foreign official’ who receives ‘things of value’ directly or indirectly from private business interests as corrupt, yet when a U.S. official similarly receives ‘things of value’ directly or indirectly from private business interests we merely say ‘well, no one said our system is perfect’?”

Growth industry
A South African Civil Society Information Service piece by “multidisciplinarian” Glenn Ashton highlights concerns over the lack of controls on the pesticide industry in South Africa, where sales have increased fivefold since 1994:

“The only oversight of the pesticide industry is self-oversight. The industry body AVCASA (the Association of Veterinary and Crop Associations of South Africa) attempts to portray itself as a responsible industry body. However this is fundamentally contradictory as its central aim is to increase sales, which it has excelled at.
AVCASA appears equally frustrated with the states failure to update legislation. Even so AVCASA has not, for instance, enforced any compulsory deposit system on pesticide containers. This remains a major problem as they remain used by the poor for food and water containers.
While the industry maintains some statistics there are huge gaps in the record. There is no record of pesticide sales from 2000 – 2006. Statistical details remain proprietary.”

Latest Developments, July 17

In the latest news and analysis…

Mau Mau trial
The Standard’s Kenfrey Kiberenge writes that a lawsuit brought by elderly Kenyans against the British government highlights “the West’s double standards” in matters of human rights:

“Britain is a strong backer of an ICC case in which four Kenyans face charges of crimes against humanity related to the 2008 poll violence which left more than 1,000 people dead. Questions to any British official about these cases attract a uniform answer: let justice run its course.
Why then is the same administration seeking to have the Mau Mau case struck out on a technicality?”

Bad advice
The World Food Programme is predicting that 1.6 million Malawians will need food assistance over the next few months, in part because of the currency devaluation demanded by the IMF:

“The recent devaluation of the national currency by 49 percent, coupled with soaring inflation at 17.3 percent, has produced sharp increases in the prices of basic goods and services, pushing the cost of living to unsustainable levels for many Malawians. Food prices have been particularly affected by high transport costs due to increases in the price of fuel. Retail maize prices have already increased by 50 percent compared to the same time last year, and are expected to increase in the lean season.”

AU first
The Mail & Guardian reports that South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has become the first female head of the African Union Commission:

“At a news conference earlier in the day before the vote, Dlamini-Zuma sought to dispel fears that South Africa might seek to use the AU post to try to dominate the continent.
Some smaller countries had argued that her candidacy broke an unwritten rule that Africa’s dominant states should not contest the AU leadership.
‘South Africa is not going to come to Addis Ababa to run the AU. It is Dlamini-Zuma who is going to come to make a contribution,’ she told reporters.”

Classified euphemism
The Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko quotes Newsweek’s Daniel Klaidman to illustrate the extent of the Obama administration’s drone-policy opacity, particularly when it comes to the CIA’s practice of killing “individuals who are deemed guilty not based on evidence, but rather on their demography”:

“Signature strike has gotten to be sort of a pejorative term. They sometimes call it crowd killing. And it makes a lot of people uncomfortable. If you don’t have positive ID on the people you’re targeting with these drone strikes. So the CIA actually changed the name of signature strikes to something called TADS. I had the acronym but I didn’t know what it stood for. I had a couple of words. I kind of figured it out. Terrorist, T for terrorist, S for strike and I was trying to find out what does the A-D stand for. Eventually I figured it out. It was Terrorist attack disruption strike. And I was going to put it in Newsweek. And actually it was the excerpt from my book. And various agencies from the government were very unhappy about that. I sort of could not understand why. They said, well, it’s a classified term. And I said, well, why would it be classified? It doesn’t make any sense. It’s just a term to describe a particular kind of activity that we know takes place. They asked me not to print it. You know, I printed it anyway.”

Top of the charts
The Financial Times reports on a new survey that found the UK oil and gas sector has faced more bribery prosecutions than any other industry in the last four years:

“The study by Ernst & Young found that of 26 completed cases since 2008, oil and gas made up nearly one-fifth of prosecutions. The industry saw five completed cases, compared to three each in the medical goods, insurance, and engineering and construction sectors.
Most of them involved payments made abroad, or kickbacks to foreign government officials.”

Controversial philanthropy
The Independent suggests that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s decision to devote millions to the development of genetically modified crops “could be the most significant PR endorsement for the controversial technology”:

“The Microsoft founder and his wife have established themselves as major players in global health and development over the past 16 years, having donated £26bn. Only last week Melinda Gates was in London to pledge $560m (£360m) to improve family-planning services across the developing world. But the Foundation’s support for GM crops has attracted criticism, as has its investment in Monsanto – one the world’s largest GM seed producers.”

Bank Recidivism
Reuters reports that HSBC’s claims to have left its money-laundering days behind may be premature:

“Former employees in [HSBC’s New Castle, Delaware, anti-money laundering office] describe a febrile boiler-room environment overseen by managers uninterested in investigating transactions with possible links to drug trafficking, terrorist financing, Iran and other countries under U.S. sanctions, and other illegal activities. Instead, they say, the single-minded focus was on clearing out the paperwork as fast as possible. ”

Too much help
Inter Press Service reports that not everyone thinks the billions in aid pledged to Afghanistan last month will be entirely helpful::

“The plan ‘Toward Self-Reliance’ promoted by the international community and endorsed by the Afghan government is grounded in a similar oxymoron: the call for the Afghan state to get back its sovereignty and ownership is made by those who are preventing it from happening.
The presence of foreign armies and of the international community ‘is one of the major elements that prevents the State, the political system, the ruling elite, from gaining full legitimacy,’ [the London School of Economics’] Antonio Giustozzi tells IPS. ‘Not necessarily because the foreigners pre-empt that, but because any government that relies on external support to stay in power does not have legitimacy.’ ”

Latest Developments, February 28

In the latest news and analysis…

Corporate immunity
The Huffington Post reports that the US Supreme Court looks set to decide that corporations should not be held liable for human rights violations committed overseas. “The Court was hearing oral argument in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, which was brought under a founding-era law, commonly called the Alien Tort Statute, that allows foreign nationals to bring civil lawsuits in U.S. federal courts ‘for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.’ The 12 Nigerian plaintiffs contend that Shell Oil’s parent company aided and abetted the Nigerian government in its torture and extrajudicial killing of environmental and human rights protesters resisting Shell’s operations in Nigeria in the 1990s.
The Alien Tort Statute says nothing about what types of defendants — corporate, individual, state — may be sued. In the past year, the four appeals courts to take on the issue of corporate liability have divided 3-to-1 in favor of those bringing the lawsuits. But Tuesday’s oral argument reinforced the relevancy of another aspect of all these decisions: their partisan nature. Save one defection from each side, every Democrat-appointed judge held for corporate liability, and every Republican appointee found for corporate immunity.”

Nuclear dysfunction
Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans argues the international community has lost its momentum on nuclear disarmament and calls for the G20 to take up the file.
“With its foreign ministers meeting in Mexico this month to discuss broader global governance issues, the G-20 is beginning to move beyond a narrow economic focus. That is to be welcomed. Economic destruction causes immense and intolerable human misery. But there are only two global threats that, if mishandled, can destroy life on this planet as we know it. And nuclear weapons can kill us a lot faster than CO2 can.”

Latin American legalization
Ralph Espach of the Center for Naval Analyses writes that Mexican, Colombian and Guatemalan leaders are discussing, over US objections, the possibility of legalizing the drug trade within their region.
“It is easy to see why. The drug war has been a disaster for the Latin American countries fighting it, especially Mexico, and Central Americans’ suspicion that legalization could be less painful and costly is reasonable. Whether or not legalization would in fact be a good thing for Central America, the situation is desperate enough that they must at least consider their options.”

Reverse colonization
Africa is a Country’s Buefixe takes exception to the tone of recent media reports on the changing relationship between debt-ridden Portugal and its booming former colony Angola.
“Then there is the quote from the foreign investment lawyer, Tiago Caidado Guerreiro, who says that ‘we’re being colonized after 500 years by them,’ referring to investments by Angolans in the Portuguese economy. True, wealthy, politically powerful Angolans have been buying up parcels of Portuguese companies, but that does not equal colonization, not by a long shot. Angolans are not, for example, creating settler colonies in Portugal, or changing the nature and character of local institutions of education, government and culture.”

Olympic sweatshops
just-style reports on new measures announced by organizers of the London Olympics following the discovery of labour abuses at factories making Olympic products.
“[London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games] will publish the names and locations of factories in China and the UK covering over 70% of the licensed products produced for London 2012, with a focus on licensees that still have production remaining.
It will make information about employment rights, based on national laws and LOCOG’s ethical code, available in Chinese and English, and establish a Chinese language hotline so that workers who feel they are being treated unfairly can either call or text to complain about their treatment.
It will also provide training for some of the workers in the various Olympic supply chains to make them more aware of their rights.”

Patent bullying
Bloomberg reports a US judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of American organic farmers against agribusiness giant Monsanto regarding patents for genetically modified seeds.
“ ‘[U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald’s] decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world’s foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing,’ Daniel Ravicher, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an e-mail. ‘Her belief that farmers are acting unreasonable when they stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should their crops become contaminated maligns the intelligence and integrity of those farmers.’ ”

General Electric’s tax bill
Citizens for Tax Justice alleges that General Electric paid “at most 2.3 percent” in US federal income taxes on $81.2 billion in profits over the last decade.
“[Citizens for Tax Justice’s Bob] McIntyre noted that GE has yet to pay even that paltry 2.3 percent. In fact, at the end of 2011, GE reports that it has claimed $3.9 billion in cumulative income tax reductions on its tax returns over the years that it has not reported in its shareholder reports — because it expects the IRS will not approve these ‘uncertain’ tax breaks, and GE will have to give the money back.
GE is one of 280 profitable Fortune 500 companies profiled in ‘Corporate Taxpayers and Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010.’ The report shows GE is one of 30 major U.S. corporations that paid zero – or less – in federal income taxes in the last three years.”

Post-aid landscape
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie makes the case for a diminished role for the OECD’s development assistance committee (DAC) that would better reflect the world’s shifting power relations.
“Rather than seeking to be a global broker of development co-operation, which was never going to work in a newly balanced world, the OECD should just be a club of particularly rich countries, and should meet with clubs comprising other countries to bash out agreements. Such debtors’ or recipients’ clubs have long been needed to balance the power of the DAC or the Paris Club (which manages sovereign debts), and may now emerge.”