Latest Developments, November 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone child
New York University’s Sarah Knuckey discusses the “remarkable government admission” that a CIA drone killed a child between the age of 6 and 13 in Yemen in June:

“[The admission] adds to concerns about the reliability of much initial mainstream news reporting. Despite [Yemen-based journalists Iona Craig and Adam Baron’s] tweets the day of the strike, (the few) major news outlets covering the strike at the time failed to mention the child’s death. The admission in the LA Times adds weight to the warnings of many that initial mainstream news reports describing strikes – especially those relying solely on anonymous Pakistani or Yemeni officials for information on who was killed – should be treated with caution.

The admission notes that the CIA provided a classified briefing to Congress about this unintended death. For those of us concerned about the extent to which the CIA investigates and keeps track of unintended and civilian deaths, and the extent to which Congress is kept informed, this aspect of the admission is a positive. The next important step is for the government to provide such information to the American public, redacted as necessary.”

Leading from behind
The Canadian Press reports that Canada’s self-proclaimed “leadership role in international climate change efforts” remains near the very bottom of this year’s Climate Change Performance Index:

“A European report released to coincide with the United Nations conference ranks Canada 55th of 58 countries in terms of tackling greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of only Iran, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

‘As in the previous year, Canada still shows no intention of moving forward with climate policy and therefore remains the worst performer of all industrialized countries,’ states the report, released Monday in Warsaw.”

Françafrique support
International Crisis Group has called on the UN Security Council to “encourage” and “mandate” a French intervention in the Central African Republic:

“Now, however, the [UN Security Council] must act faster, initially to help those on the ground restore law and order and then to reverse the country’s chronic fragility. Under a Chapter VII mandate, it could greatly contribute through the following steps:
To stabilise the situation on the ground

2. Mandate French forces to contribute to the restoration of law and order.
3. Encourage French forces and other countries to provide much-needed intelligence support to [an African Union-led international support mission for the CAR (MISCA)].”

Punishing pillage
The University of British Columbia’s James Stewart questions an international justice regime in which only individuals, never corporations, are charged with war crimes:

“Trying perpetrators of rape, torture, murder and other crimes against humanity is essential. But we also must confront the war crimes committed by corporations that provide the means and motivations for mass violence.
In 2003, a United Nations panel on the plundering of Congo’s gems and minerals named approximately 125 companies and individuals that had contributed, directly or indirectly, to the conflict there. Soon after, the Security Council called on states to ‘conduct their own investigations’ through ‘judicial means’ — a call, in effect, for prosecutions. But no country responded directly to this call. Political impediments certainly contributed to the inaction, but so did legal uncertainty about how to go about these prosecutions. Many nations shrugged and asked, ‘Prosecute them with what?’

Other nations can, and should, follow the Swiss example. In the United States, for example, the War Crimes Act of 1996 declared pillage a federal crime. Federal prosecutors should examine ways to use this potentially powerful tool.”

Kalihari fracking
The Guardian reports on concerns that Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve is being secretively carved up for fracking by international energy companies:

“The Bushmen said they had no idea their areas had been earmarked for drilling until they were shown a map during the making of a new documentary film, The High Cost Of Cheap Gas, revealing that half the game reserve has been allocated to multinationals. Seranne Junner, a lawyer who successfully defended the Bushmen’s right to occupy their traditional lands within the CKGR, expressed surprise at the extent of land concessions.

She warned: ‘These licences may have been granted without anybody realising the long-term consequences … Water is not a resource that is overly abundant in Botswana as a whole, more especially within an area such as the CKGR. I would say it’s going to be extremely far-reaching for a sector of our population, if not the whole country.’ ”

Letter from Gitmo
Shaker Aamer, “the last remaining UK resident imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay”, argues that Americans’ security concerns do not justify “atrocities” against non-Americans:

“Elected American officials labeled me and the other prisoners here as ‘the worst of the worst’. They called us ‘terrorists’. Yet, despite these claims, I have not been charged with a single crime nor has any evidence been presented to support my imprisonment these long years. In fact, I have been cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Of course, Guantanamo does not define me. I arrived here bound at the hands and feet, blacked-out goggles covering my eyes, and expecting death. But up until that point, I had been an English teacher, a translator, a volunteer with a humanitarian group, a resident of Great Britain, a husband, and a father of four.

I pray that Americans do not continue to allow fellow human beings to suffer such atrocities in the name of their security. I dream that they will find the strength to peacefully challenge those in power. And I hope that their actions are shown more humanity than ours have seen.”

Global decision making
The Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations’ Pascal Lamy and Ian Goldin call for “a comprehensive review and renewal of international institutions”, while stopping short of any mention of democracy:

“International affairs and international organizations largely operate under mid-twentieth-century arrangements, which has two serious shortcomings. First, countries with a diminishing stake retain disproportionate power. Second, global decision-making now involves four times as many countries as it did in the immediate post-war era, not to mention a plethora of non-governmental organizations and civil-society groups, making for a messy – and often unproductive – process.
With the world’s problems becoming increasingly complex and interconnected, global decision-making processes must be as streamlined and efficient as possible. When numerous committees meet in parallel, the countries with the largest teams of experts dominate proceedings, effectively locking most countries out of key decisions and impeding meaningful dialogue.”

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Latest Developments, October 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Military solutions
The BBC reports that the European Commission is calling for migrant-intercepting sea patrols “covering the whole Mediterranean, from Cyprus to Spain”:

“The move by Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem was prompted by the deaths of at least 274 migrants whose boat sank off Italy’s Lampedusa island.

[The EU’s Frontex border agency] is currently helping Italy to intercept migrant boats, but the two EU operations in the southern Mediterranean have limited resources – a total of four ships, two helicopters and two planes.
The search and rescue patrols would ‘help better tracking, identification and rescue of boats, especially migrants’ boats’, the commissioner’s spokesman Michele Cercone said.”

Watery graveyard
The Danish Institute for International Studies’ Hans Lucht argues that European policies on migration and refugees have led to “a massacre by negligence”:

“Countries like Italy routinely send rescue boats into the Mediterranean to pick up migrants stranded off the coast, but this is only a belated Band-Aid. Europe’s professed commitment to human rights, including, in principle, a duty to give refuge to those escaping persecution and misery, has not been matched by meaningful policies.

For all of Europe’s economic woes, it is well within the capacity of the European Union to resettle these migrants. The real barrier is the devaluation of African lives. For this there is no quick fix. A unified, humane policy on refugees and asylum seekers is needed. So is a long-term commitment to social and economic transformation in sub-Saharan Africa, to which Europeans owe a moral debt.

There is a growing acceptance that a watery graveyard is a necessary evil for the maintenance of a free and prosperous Europe. This is a disgrace: the suffering in the chilly waters off Sicily calls into question the moral integrity of the entire border system (to the extent it can be called one).”

Cholera compensation
The Associated Press reports that the UN’s top human rights official has called for the “right” to compensation for victims of the cholera epidemic triggered by UN peacekeepers in Haiti:

“ ‘I have used my voice both inside the United Nations and outside to call for the right — for an investigation by the United Nations, by the country concerned, and I still stand by the call that victims of — of those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation,’ [U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay] said at an awards ceremony for human rights activists in Geneva.
The U.N. maintains it has legal immunity from such compensation claims.”

Immediate surrender
Agence France-Presse reports that Libya’s parliament has officially demanded that the US return a Libyan citizen “snatched” by American forces in Tripoli over the weekend:

“A [General National Congress] statement read out by spokesman Omar Hmidan stressed ‘the need for the immediate surrender’ of Abu Anas al-Libi and described the US operation as a ‘flagrant violation of (Libya’s) national sovereignty.’
The text, which was passed by the GNC, also calls for the ‘need to allow the Libyan authorities and their families to get in touch with him (Libi) and guarantee them access to a lawyer.’

[Libi] is reportedly being held aboard a US naval ship in the Mediterranean.”

Interrogations at sea
NPR explains why the US appears to be holding alleged terrorist Abu Anas al-Libi on a ship in the Mediterranean:

“The U.S. could send al-Libi to the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, where he could be questioned and held indefinitely while awaiting a military trial.
But President Obama wants to close the Guantanamo prison and therefore is unlikely to add to its population. The president has also barred the use of ‘extraordinary rendition,’ or sending suspects to secret prisons in third countries.

Human rights groups say the shipboard detention is just another version of Guantanamo and the secret prisons that delay or prevent fair trials from taking place. But the intelligence agencies argue that they need to question suspects to break up terror networks and guard against future attacks.
There’s no time limit for how long the U.S. could hold al-Libi on a ship outside the U.S.”

Deadly blaze
Reuters reports on another fatal fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh:

“Gazipur’s firefighting chief, Abu Zafar Ahmed, said nine employees including three company managers had died in the blaze that originated in the knitting section of Aswad Composite Mills factory, a sister concern of Paul Mall Group.

The recent string of accidents has put the government, industrialists and the global brands that use the factories under pressure to reform an industry that employs four million and generates 80 percent of Bangladesh’s export earnings.”

Unequal partnership
iPolitics reports that Canada’s top First Nations leader has described the federal government’s approach to his people as “paternalistic at best and assimilationist at worst”:

“[Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo] outlined what he’d like to see in the throne speech, set for Oct. 16. The AFN, he said, wants four things: predictable and sustainable funding based on First Nations control; First Nations authority over education; a commitment to a full national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women; and reform of the comprehensive claims policy, which he says is ‘deeply flawed.’ ”

Boys club
Inter Press Service reports on calls to remedy the absence of women in top UN positions:

“Despite adopting scores of pious resolutions on gender empowerment over the last 67 years, the 193-member General Assembly has failed to practice in its own backyard what it has vigourously preached to the outside world.
So far, the U.N’s highest policy making body has elected only three women as its president since 1946: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India (1953), Angie Brooks of Liberia (1969) and Sheikha Haya Rasheed al-Khalifa of Bahrain (2006).
In a letter addressed to over 160 world leaders, who were at the United Nations last week, the New York-based Impact Leadership 21 has called for meaningful steps in establishing ‘the rights of women and the equality of their participation at all decision-making levels’.
More specifically, the letter makes a strong case for a woman as the next U.N. secretary-general (UNSG) when Ban Ki-moon finishes his current term at the end of 2016.”

Latest Developments, August 29

In the latest news and analysis…

Syria divisions
The Wall Street Journal reports that the US/UK push for military intervention in Syria seems to have encountered “resistance and possible delays”:

“[President Obama’s comments] also appeared to moderate U.S. officials’ earlier signals that an attack could be mounted ‘in coming days’ in response to what they call clear-cut indications that Syria used chemical weapons in attacks around Damascus early on Aug. 21. Activists and residents say more than 1,000 people died in the attacks.

A senior administration official said that while the U.S. and U.K. are coordinating closely, domestic British considerations won’t necessarily slow the U.S. decision on military action. ‘We’re making our own decisions in our own timeline,’ the official said.
In the U.S., House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) sent a letter to President Obama demanding a clear explanation of any military action against Syria before it starts, and criticizing the president’s level of consultation with lawmakers. Separately, 116 House lawmakers—98 Republicans and 18 Democrats—signed a letter to Mr. Obama, demanding he seek congressional authorization for a military strike.”

War’s alternatives
The Guardian’s Seumas Milne argues that foreign military intervention will do more harm than good to Syrians:

“More effective would be an extension of the [UN] weapons inspectors’ mandate to secure chemical dumps, backed by a united security council, rather than moral grandstanding by governments that have dumped depleted uranium, white phosphorus and Agent Orange around the region and beyond.
In any case, chemical weapons are far from being the greatest threat to Syria’s people. That is the war itself and the death and destruction that has engulfed the country. If the US, British and French governments were genuinely interested in bringing it to an end – instead of exploiting it to weaken Iran – they would be using their leverage with the rebels and their sponsors to achieve a ceasefire and a negotiated political settlement.
Instead, they seem intent on escalating the war to save Obama’s face and tighten their regional grip.”

Bad company
Les Echos reports that France has added three UK dependencies to its tax haven blacklist:

“The list of territories considered uncooperative on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes now has 10 members.
Three territories have been added to the blacklist: Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and Jersey. Seven other territories continue to be considered opaque and uncooperative: Botswana, Brunei, Guatemala, the Marshall Islands, Montserrat, Nauru and Niue.” [Translated from the French.]

Mining hostage
The CBC reports that a Colombian rebel group has released a Canadian mining company executive abducted seven months ago:

“The National Liberation Army, known by its Spanish initials ELN, had demanded [Gernot] Wober’s employer halt exploration at the Snow Mine property in Sur de Bolivar state, claiming the land was stolen from local communities. Last month, Toronto-based Braeval Mining Corp. said it was pulling out of Colombia.

The ELN’s commander, Nicolas Rodriguez, said in a statement posted on the group’s website that Wober’s release was ‘a humanitarian act.’ ”

Unmanned proliferation
Deutsche Welle reports that the US is offering to sell drones to Germany:

“The US government could deliver to Germany four unarmed MQ-9A Predator B drones, including ground control stations, the Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported in their Wednesday edition, citing a defense ministry answer to a request from the Left party’s parliamentary faction.
The US ‘Letter of Offer and Acceptance’ was submitted June 13, the newspaper reported. It could be possible to convert the four drones into their combat-ready version, called the Reaper, according to the SZ. However, should Germany want combat drones, a new request would have to be made to the US government.”

MLK + 50
The Boston Globe reports on events in Washington marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech:

“But as Obama and a parade of speakers before him made clear, King’s dream remains a work in progress, with voting rights issues again at the forefront and with black Americans facing the same kind of high unemployment rate and other problems that helped spark the march a half a century ago.

‘[Barack Obama]’s good and will only get better,’ [Rev. Jesse] Jackson said. ‘But we need a response to our pain from him. [There are] 2.5 million Americans in prison, half of them African-Americans. Respond to that. These urban ghettos, foreclosed homes, closed schools, closed libraries, closed medical units — we need a response.’

‘The gap in wealth between races hasn’t lessened, it’s grown,’ [Obama said].”

White lives
Amnesty International’s Ann Burroughs calls on US President Barack Obama to stop trying to wage a “global war” that places more value on the lives of some than others:

“Though not rife with the blatant racism that underlay apartheid, these abusive practices persist because the rights and dignity of non-Americans are treated as expendable. Imagine for a moment the U.S. government killing, without explanation, 17 white, Christian Americans in Utah, whom the media termed right-wing ‘suspected militants’ though the government provided no evidence to prove it. Or imagine American prisons holding 89 white Christian American ‘extremists’ without charge or trial, including 56 who a government task force had cleared to leave.
President Obama has sought to distance himself from the abusive post-9/11 policies of torture and rendition, and his Administration has repudiated some of the most Islamophobic rhetoric dominating debates about national security. Yet the message that Guantanamo and secret drone strikes send to the world is that white American lives are worth more than brown or black lives.”

Not on the guest list
Ben Rawlence writes in the New Yorker about an NGO-organized film festival, held at the world’s largest refugee camp, to which Dadaab’s residents were largely not invited:

“Alas, the refugees did not watch ‘Sentinelle di Bronzo,’ nor did they watch most of the other films in the festival, which, it turns out, is not for the refugees at all but, rather, for the aid workers in their fortified compound…The sum total of the festival in the refugee camp itself was a morning of short documentaries made by refugees and shown on large TVs in tents guarded by armed police. The audience was entirely made up of children who sat quietly on mats for a short while but who showed far more excitement at the traditional dances that followed.”

Latest Developments, August 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Warehouses for forgetting
The Washington Post reports that US Attorney General Eric Holder has announced plans to dial down America’s war on drugs by doing away with charges requiring mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offences:

“He also introduced a policy to reduce sentences for elderly, nonviolent inmates and find alternatives to prison for nonviolent criminals.

‘We must face the reality that, as it stands, our system is, in too many ways, broken,’ Holder said. ‘And with an outsized, unnecessarily large prison population, we need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, to deter and to rehabilitate — not merely to warehouse and to forget.’
‘A vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities,’ Holder said Monday. He added that ‘many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate these problems rather than alleviate them.’ ”

Stopping stop-and-frisk
Reuters reports that a US Judge has ruled the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics unconstitutional, describing them as “indirect racial profiling”:

“[U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin], who presided over the 9-week trial without a jury, ruled the effectiveness of ‘stop and frisk’ was irrelevant.
‘Many police practices may be useful for fighting crime – preventive detention or coerced confessions, for example – but because they are unconstitutional, they cannot be used, no matter how effective,’ the ruling said.”

Dash for oil
The Financial Times reports on concerns over the “unusual” oil exploration deal signed between Somalia and ex-UK Conservative leader Michael Howard’s month-old company:

“The deal has unsettled some industry observers who had expected a public licensing round for all the oil blocks. Other more experienced companies had also been queueing up for contracts to undertake surveys. They say it is unusual for Soma, once it has gathered the data, to be able to cherry-pick the best dozen blocks.

‘The UK is promoting transparent and accountable government [but it] hosted a conference and invited all of us,’ said a diplomat who follows Somalia closely. ‘Then that momentum was used to promote British business interests: that could maybe have been more transparent.’ ”

Not-so-imminent threats
The New York Times quotes a “senior” American official as saying the US has “expanded the scope of people we could go after” with drones in Yemen:

“ ‘Before, we couldn’t necessarily go after a driver for the organization; it’d have to be an operations director,’ said the official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss delicate intelligence issues. ‘Now that driver becomes fair game because he’s providing direct support to the plot.’

Senior American intelligence officials said last week that none of the about three dozen militants killed so far in the drone strikes were ‘household names,’ meaning top-tier leaders of the affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But the American official said the strikes had targeted ‘rising stars’ in the Yemen network, people who were more likely to be moving around and vulnerable to attack. ‘They may not be big names now,’ the official said, ‘but these were the guys that would have been future leaders.’ ”

Erasing colonialism
The Guardian reports that by renaming the Caprivi Stip the Zambezi Region, Namibia has “wiped off the map” some of its colonial history:

In 2004 Germany apologised for the colonial-era genocide that killed 65,000 Herero people through starvation and slave labour in concentration camps. The Nama, a smaller ethnic group, lost half their population during what a recent book referred to in its title as The Kaiser’s Holocaust.

Today there is still anger among indigenous communities who live in poverty and demand reparations from Germany, their shanty town homes contrasting with vast German-owned farms. [What Dawid Knew author Patricia Glyn] added: ‘The Nama people I researched are still living in a ghetto. They put up a magnificent challenge to the Germans but they are landless. Changing a couple of names doesn’t really crack it. It’s very little and very late.’ ”

Toxic dumping
Euractiv reports that African countries have called for a crackdown on e-waste imports from Europe where it is cheaper to export than to dispose of old electronics:

“Nations that are parties to the Bamako Convention on the export of hazardous waste to Africa met in the Malian capital in June for the first time since the international agreement was agreed in 1991.
In its final declarations, released on Tuesday (6 August), the African representatives called for enforcement of the convention and for tougher national laws.
The Bamako meeting marked “the first time that African parties have by themselves called for rigorous action to prevent e-waste dumping,” said a statement from the Basel Action Network, an environmental group that campaigns against the trade in toxic waste.”

The hardest word
Author John Grisham argues that the US should atone for war on terror “mistakes” such as the incarceration of Nabil Hadjarab, a 34-year-old Algerian who grew up in France before spending the past 11 years at the Guantanamo Bay prison:

“Hundreds of other Arabs have been sent to Gitmo, chewed up by the system there, never charged and eventually transferred back to their home countries. (These transfers are carried out as secretly and as quietly as possible.) There have been no apologies, no official statements of regret, no compensation, nothing of the sort. The United States was dead wrong, but no one can admit it.

First, admit the mistake and make the apology. Second, provide compensation. United States taxpayers have spent $2 million a year for 11 years to keep Nabil at Gitmo; give the guy a few thousand bucks to get on his feet. Third, pressure the French to allow his re-entry.
This sounds simple, but it will never happen.”

Genocidal team name
Satirical newspaper the Onion “reports” on a new study showing that the Washington Redskins‘ name is “only offensive if you take any amount of time whatsoever to think about its actual meaning”:

“ ‘It has the potential to come across as a degrading relic of an ethnocentric mentality responsible for the destruction of an entire people and their culture, but that’s only if you take a couple seconds to recognize it as something beyond a string of letters,’ [said lead researcher Lawrence Wagner]. Wagner recommended that the NFL franchise should change their name to something more appropriate and historically accurate, such as the Washington Racist Fucks.”

Latest Developments, August 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Three strikes
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports on three more US drone strikes in Yemen, bringing the total over the last 12 days to eight attacks:

“A Yemeni official told the Associated Press the bodies were seen lying charred alongside their vehicle. The anonymous source said five of the dead were Yemeni while the sixth was of another Arab nationality. However local security officials told CNN only four of the dead had links to [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] – two were civilians. This was the second time civilian casualties were reported in this series of [eight] strikes.

Unnamed US officials told NBC News drones launched this strike and the six before it in response to intercepted communications suggesting a terrorist attack was coming. The officials said ‘there is no evidence any of those killed could be considered among al Qaeda leadership.”

Tons of radioactivity
Reuters reports that Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant is leaking 300 tons of “highly radioactive water” daily into the Pacific Ocean:

“The revelation amounted to an acknowledgement that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) has yet to come to grips with the scale of the catastrophe, 2 1/2 years after the plant was hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami. Tepco only recently admitted water had leaked at all.

Local fishermen and independent researchers had already suspected a leak of radioactive water, but Tepco denied the claims.”

Still waiting
The BBC reports that the recent security scare said to be emanating from Yemen could impact the long awaited release of the many Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay:

“In another development, a Yemeni diplomatic source told BBC Arabic that the US had suspended arrangements to return about 100 Yemeni detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
However a White House official said there had been no policy change and that President Barack Obama’s May decision to lift a moratorium on transferring Guantanamo detainees to Yemen remained in effect.
‘He lifted the moratorium on transfers in favour of a case-by-case evaluation. That evaluation necessarily will take into account security conditions. The security situation is always taken into account,’ the official told the BBC.”

Soy victims
Time Magazine reports that one of US agribusiness giant Monsanto’s products may be poisoning people in Paraguay:

“Around 9,000 families a year in a nation of fewer than 7 million people migrate from the countryside to cities because of soy monoculture, according to BaseIS, an Asunción-based social research center. ‘Peasants are displaced because they are being poisoned,’ says Óscar Rivas, a former environment minister.
Dionisio Gómez moved to Asunción in 1998 because the water in Campo Agua’e, his village in the state of Canindeyú, was contaminated. ‘They would fumigate the soy and the chemicals infiltrated our land,’ says Gómez, who now lives in a slum. Two of Gómez’s children were stillborn with defects. Doctors never gave a cause, but academic studies — including a 2008 paper on Paraguay published by the American Academy of Pediatrics — say herbicides, specifically glyphosate, cause birth malformations.
Monsanto, the multinational that first brought glyphosate to market, says on its Paraguayan website that none of the studies are ‘serious.’ ”

Multinational corruption
The BBC reports that a South African corruption inquiry into a massive 1999 arms deal has finally begun:

“The huge deal – post-apartheid South Africa’s largest such transaction – was intended to modernise its national defences through the purchase of fighter jets, submarines, corvettes, helicopters and tanks.
It involved companies from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Britain, France and South Africa.
The initial cost was about $3bn (£2bn) but this has since ballooned to around $7bn.
Corruption allegations swirled around the deal from the start.”

Sweatshop locator
The New York Times reports on a Hong Kong-based company that is the top “matchmaker” between factories in poor countries and retailers in rich countries:

“But in pioneering and perfecting the global hunt for ways to produce clothing more quickly and cheaply, Li & Fung, which had $20 billion in revenue last year, has been described by critics as the garment industry’s ‘sweatshop locator.’
‘If globalization is a race to the bottom, where lowest wages win,’ said Cathy Feingold, director of international affairs for the A.F.L.-C.I.O., ‘Li & Fung is the sherpa showing companies the fastest route down that slope.’ ”

Staying put
Reuters reports that, “despite grumbles,” multinational oil companies do not appear to be leaving the Niger Delta anytime soon:

“ ‘Nigeria’s “difficult” operating environment, security concerns and the non-passage of the [Petroleum Industry Bill] all provide useful cover for what may essentially be a portfolio optimisation process,’ said Razia Khan, Head of Africa Research at Standard Chartered.

If anything, they will use their grievances as leverage in negotiations with government over licenses and taxes.”

Sacrosanct secrecy
Reuters also reports that a Swiss court has upheld the continued detention of a witness in a French tax evasion investigation for violating the country’s famous banking secrecy:

“Pierre Condamin-Gerbier, a former employee at Geneva-based private bank Reyl & Cie, has said he has a list of French politicians with undeclared funds in secret Swiss bank accounts and in July appeared before a French parliamentary commission investigating tax fraud.
He was arrested shortly after his return from France when an investigation was opened against him into allegations of dealing in commercial information.

Herve Falciani, a former employee of HSBC’s private banking unit in Switzerland who gave evidence at the same French parliamentary commission investigation is wanted in Switzerland on charges of stealing data on tens of thousands of bank accounts that a number of European countries have used to pursue suspected tax evaders.”

Inequality’s bright side
Oxfam’s Ben Phillips explains why, despite the fact that the world’s “300 richest people have the same wealth as the 3 billion poorest,” he is optimistic about global inequality:

“Because we are talking about it. Because people are saying it’s a problem. Because in a counterpoint to how the neoliberals of the 70s and 80s changed the conversation from community to individualism to break the post-war consensus that had limited inequality, so now the conversation is shifting back to community. People are challenging the idea that “economic shock treatment” cures when it literally kills. They are speaking out against the profit maximisation mantra that corporations should behave in ways which we would call psychopathic in normal human interaction.
When problems are invisibilised they cannot be fixed.”