Latest Developments, November 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Climate fast
The BBC reports that the Philippines’ delegate to the UN’s COP 19 climate change summit in Warsaw has announced he is going on hunger strike until conference participants make “meaningful” progress:

“In an emotional speech, Yeb Sano linked the ‘staggering’ devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan to a changing climate.

‘In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate, this means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this Cop, until a meaningful outcome is in sight.’
‘What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness, the climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw,’ he said.”

Presumption of guilt
The Financial Times reports that UK Home Secretary Theresa May wants to strip terror suspects of their citizenship, thereby rendering unconvicted people “stateless”:

“The home secretary is already able to strip passports from those with dual nationality and has repeatedly said British citizenship is a ‘privilege, not a right’. Since coming to office, she has exercised this power on at least 16 individuals alleged to have links to terrorist groups.
But the Financial Times understands Ms May has asked officials to find a way of overturning international human rights conventions which prevent individuals with only one citizenship being made stateless.”

Deep-sea mining
Radio Australia reports that civil society groups in Papua New Guinea are taking the government to court over a Canadian company’s license to establish the world’s first seabed mine in PNG waters:

“The license was granted under the former [Michael] Somare government to the Canadian company Nautilus for its Solwara 1 mine.

[Stop Experimental Seabed Mining in the Pacific’s Wenceslas Magun] says the group’s advisors – which include scientists and lawyers – have ‘clearly indicated that there is going to be damage to the ecological system’.
‘Nobody knows what the impact of the damage is going to be to the marine ecosystem because no one has ever done seabed mining in the world,’ he said.”

Euphemism for war
Boston University’s Andrew Bacevich expresses concern of the apparent “militarization of U.S. policy in Africa”:

“For Army leaders, Africa spells opportunity, a chance to demonstrate continuing relevance at a time when the nation’s appetite for sending U.S. troops to invade and occupy countries has pretty much evaporated.
Thus, we have U.S. Army Africa, or USARAF, the latest in the Pentagon’s ever-growing roster of military headquarters. The mission of this command, which describes itself as ‘America’s premier Army team dedicated to positive change in Africa,’ manages to be at once reassuringly bland and ominously ambitious. On the one hand, USARAF ‘strengthens the land force capabilities of African states and regional organizations.’ On the other, it ‘conducts decisive action in order to establish a secure environment and protect the national security interests of the United States.’
One might hope that successfully accomplishing the first half of that mission — U.S. troops training and equipping African counterparts — will preclude the second. More likely, however, such efforts will pave the way for ‘decisive action,’ a euphemism for war.”

History of failure
The Center for Global Development’s Kimberly Ann Elliott writes that economic sanctions had a 1.5% success rate in the 20th Century and are even less likely to work in Iran:

“Across all 204 episodes and 170 case studies analyzed, there were only three cases deemed fully successful when the issues at stake involved core national interests on both sides. And in all three of those cases, the target of the sanctions was heavily dependent, both economically and for security guarantees, on the sanctioning country.

None of those cases bears any resemblance to the situation that the United States and its allies face with Iran today. As I explained in this Foreign Affairs essay last week, the economic sanctions against Iran are already imposing serious economic costs on the country and tightening sanctions further is likely to create more problems than it solves. Avoiding negotiations and waiting for sanctions to force Iran to raise a white flag would delay a resolution and increase the humanitarian impact on ordinary citizens in Iran.”

Black Bruins
The Huffington Post reports on the stir caused by a spoken-word video in which UCLA student Sy Stokes calls his university, which has more national athletics championships than black male freshmen, an “institutionalized racist corporation”:

“According to the school’s enrollment statistics, African-Americans make up 3.8 percent of the student population. In the video, Stokes points out that black males make up 3.3 percent of the male student population, and that 65 percent of those black males are undergraduate athletes. Of the incoming men in the freshmen class, only 1.9 percent of them were black.

‘We certainly recognize that the low numbers of African Americans and other underrepresented students on campus does lead to a sense of isolation and invisibility,’ [UCLA’s Janina Montero] said in her email statement. ‘It is difficult to eliminate this painful imbalance without considering race in the admissions process.’ ”

Poverty tourism
Business Day’s Sipho Hlongwane slams a faux shanty-town tourist resort in South Africa as an example of postmodern racism:

“And now you too can experience this, for R850 a night!
This, incidentally, is more than most South Africans living in informal settlements see in an entire month. According to the latest census data, only about 15% of black South Africans are considered middle and upper class. The large majority do not make more than R1,400 a month. A whopping 61% of black people live on less than R515 a month. About 87% of white South Africans are considered middle class or above. There is some improvement, but it is at snail’s pace — the reason why the problem is so entrenched is apartheid.
But instead of critical self-examination that might lead many people to accept their own complicity in the oppression of their fellow citizens, this is what we have. Reducing the pain of poverty to an experience, that you can dip in and out of for more money than those poor shack dwellers have in a month.”

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Latest Developments, May 1

In the latest news and analysis…

US in Mali
The Washington Post reports that the US has sent “a small number” of troops to Mali despite earlier promises not to do so:

“About 10 U.S. military personnel are in Mali to provide ‘liaison support’ to French and African troops but are not engaged in combat operations, said Lt. Col. Robert Firman, a Pentagon spokesman. Twelve others are assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, the capital, he added.

Since the coup, there have been signs that some U.S. Special Operations forces have been deployed to Mali on undeclared missions. In April 2012, three U.S. soldiers were killed in a mysterious car crash in Bamako.
Last month, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) suggested that U.S. commandos were ‘taking action’ in Mali.”

Medical reinforcements
The BBC reports that the US has sent additional medical staff to its Guantanamo Bay prison to deal with a growing hunger strike among detainees:

“About 40 nurses and other specialists arrived at the weekend, camp spokesman Lt Col Samuel House said.
He said that 100 of 166 detainees were now on hunger strike, with 21 of them being force-fed through a tube.
The inmates are protesting against their indefinite detention. Most are being held without charge.”

As open as they want to be
Platts reports that Switzerland’s commodity traders are pushing the Swiss government to water proposed “transparency requirements” down to mere “voluntary principles”:

“The Swiss government has said it is at risk of reputational damage in the international community because of its role as a commodity trading hub, and in May last year set up an interdepartmental “platform” comprising the Swiss finance, foreign and economy departments to examine the role of commodity trading in the country.
Switzerland is home to the world’s biggest oil and other commodity trading houses, including oil traders Vitol, Glencore, Trafigura, Mercuria and Gunvor.”

Taking responsibility
Reuters reports that the UK’s Primark and Canada’s Loblaw have become the first two Western retailers to promise compensation for the families of victims of the collapsed garment factories that killed nearly 400 in Bangladesh last week:

“The collapsed complex housed a number of factories that made clothing for Western brands.

Loblaw has said it regularly conducts audits to ensure its garments are manufactured responsibly, but focuses on labor practices and not building construction.
Loblaw said it would issue updates as it developed details of its compensation plan.

Primark, owned by FTSE 100 company Associated British Foods , said on Monday that it was working with a local NGO to help victims of the disaster.
It pledged to provide long-term aid for children who lost parents, financial aid for the injured and payments to families of the victims.”

Swelling protests
The Globe and Mail reports that Canadian mining company Eldorado has triggered “something akin to civil war” in northern Greece:

“The first mobilizations against the expansion of the old mines in the Halkidiki peninsula, the birthplace of Aristotle in northeastern Greece, began in late 2011. That’s when Vancouver’s Eldorado Gold Corp. grabbed most of the local mining industry and unveiled plans for a €1-billion ($1.32-billion) development that would turn the recession-stricken region into a gold-producing powerhouse.
But development skeptics asked: At what cost to the environment, tourism and agriculture? They concluded that the massive project, smack in the middle of a part of Greece that could pass for Tuscany, would do more harm than good and took to the streets. ‘To live, you need, air, soil and water,’ explains Nina Karina, 50, an artist who opposes Eldorado. ‘This investment takes away all three from us.’ ”

NGO paradox
Plain Sense’s Fairouz El Tom argues that many of the world’s top 100 NGOs have a board make-up at odds with their stated mission:

“In different ways, the NGOs surveyed promote ideals of justice and social progress. Yet over half have board members who are affiliated with companies that invest in, or provide legal, marketing, or other services to the arms, tobacco and finance industries.”

Killing in the name
The New Yorker’s Steve Coll reviews two new books on ‘the return of Presidentially sanctioned assassinations’:

“But [Anwar] Awlaki’s case, troubling as it may be, raises a broader issue: the Administration’s refusal to disclose the criteria by which it condemns anyone, American or otherwise, to death. The information used in such cases is intelligence data rather than evidence; it is not subject to cross-examination or judicial review. Unanswered questions abound. Does the President require that intelligence used to convict a terror suspect in absentia be based on multiple sources, or is one sufficient? Must intercepts, photographs, or credible firsthand testimony be obtained, or can people be executed on the basis of hearsay from paid informants? How directly involved in violence must an individual be to receive a death sentence? At what point does a preacher’s hate speech warrant his being killed?”

Inflated claims
The Guardian reports on a new study that suggests aid figures reported by donor countries are “a very different thing” from the resources they actually transfer:

“Some donors, including Japan and Germany, receive hundreds of millions of dollars each year in interest repayments on the loans they give, said DI. In total, ‘if interest repayments are taken into account, the net resource flows associated with global [official development assistance] are approximately $5bn per annum lower than the reported total net ODA figure suggests,’ said a DI discussion paper this month.

Net ODA figures subtract repayments made by recipients, but, according to current OECD rules, only account for principal repayments. Instead, interest repayments are recorded only as a memo item in OECD statistics.”