Latest Developments, November 15

In the latest news and analysis…

War chest
The Wall Street Journal reports that the EU is contemplating “using its checkbook” instead of sending troops to help Mali recover its northern portion from armed groups:

“The EU, which has already pledged to support the proposed West African force with training, transport, and intelligence gathering, is now discussing spending tens of millions of euros to provide equipment and monthly allowances to the roughly 3,000 troops, [European diplomats and other people familiar with the matter] said.
However, the EU is moving cautiously with its proposal, two of these people said, because it wants any military intervention in the region to appear as an African initiative, not a European one.

If approved, EU funding would come from the European Commission’s African Peace Facility, the people familiar with the matter said.”

Bribe facilitation
The Vanguard reports it has obtained a list of specific banks used to wire “huge sums” to high-ranking Nigerians:

“According to sources, such principal suspects like a former military head of state (names withheld), used the American Express Bank Annex at the Towers World Financial Centre, New York, the Seaway National Bank, Chicago, and the Bank of New York to wire over $37.5 million of the bribe money.

Another principal suspect through who the British/Israeli lawyer, Jeffrey Tesler wired huge sums to prominent Nigerians is Air Vice Marshal Abdul Dominic Bello and the banks/ account numbers through which over $68 million were wired are Lloyds Bank of London, A/C No 736827, Tri-Star, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, London, Tri-Star, American Express Bank, A/C No 2101653,Tri-Star, HSBC, A/C No 31505024, and Lloyds Bank, A/C No 0737041, Tri-Star.”

Prix Pinocchio
Friends of the Earth France has named the winners of this year’s Pinocchio Sustainable Development Awards, which are “intended to illustrate and denounce the negative impacts of some French companies that behave in total contradiction with the concepts of sustainable development that they boast of extensively”:

“This year, more than 17,000 people voted online to choose the winners among the nominated companies. Lesieur, Bolera and Areva are the big winners in 2012.

The ever-increasing number of votes for the Pinocchio prizes proves there is growing support for the fight against the impunity that French multinational companies currently enjoy regarding the social and environmental impacts of their activities, a fight waged for years by Friends of the Earth, the Research and Information Centre for Development, and Peuples Solidaires.” [Translated from the French.]

Afghan fears
The Asia Foundation has released the results of a survey that suggests, among other things, that the people of Afghanistan are far more afraid of international soldiers than of Afghan ones:

“Only 20% of respondents say they would have no fear when encountering international forces, while more than three quarters (78%) say they would have some level of fear, including 35% who say they would have a lot of fear. A high level of fear when encountering international forces could be due to night raids as well as the international forces’ relatively large presence in military operations.”

Higher fences
Agence France-Presse reports on the recurring attempts by African migrants to enter Spain’s North African exclaves, which form “the only land frontier between Africa and Europe”:

“In August, after some 60 sub-Saharan migrants forced their way across the border, Spain boosted its security by raising the height of the fence and adding video cameras and more staff.
Since then, hundreds of migrants have tried to cross over into Melilla on several occasions.
Spanish officials said that attempts to reach Spanish soil by boat have also increased over the last few weeks, as migrants try to make the most of the last remaining days of warm weather.”

Responsible loans
Human Rights Watch calls on the World Bank to incorporate consideration of human rights into its lending practices:

“Historically, the World Bank Group has dismissed human rights as a ‘political’ issue and therefore outside of its mandate as a development bank. The same was true of corruption until a former Bank president, James Wolfensohn, took the seemingly risky step of raising ‘the c-word’ and began to address the issue within the bank and in its lending. President Jim Yong Kim has a similar opportunity to modernize the bank by taking on human rights, the groups said.
‘The World Bank Group is not above international law – the bank and its member states must abide by human rights standards in their development activities,’ said Kris Genovese, senior attorney at CIEL. ‘Now is the time for the bank to move into the 21st century and, if he’s willing to show leadership andsustained engagement with member countries, Kim can realize this signature achievement.’

Forcible profits
The Institute for Policy Studies is calling on Canada’s government to put a stop to a Canadian mining company’s “bullying” of El Salvador:

“Despite the prospect of major environmental damage, Pacific Rim says it has the ‘right,’ under the investor–state regime allowed by investment rules in free trade agreements, to reap the profits that would have been brought by gold mining. In pursuit of these so-called lost profits, Pacific Rim is demanding up to hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation at the International Centre for Settlement of International Disputes (ICSID), an unaccountable World Bank tribunal that operates behind closed doors.
The Sierra Club ‘opposes trade and investment agreements that allow foreign corporations to attack environmental and public health protections in secret trade tribunals,’ says Ilana Solomon, trade policy expert at the Sierra Club. ‘This lawsuit by Pacific Rim, which threatens the health and safety of communities in El Salvador, is a case in point for why we oppose these secret tribunals.’ ”

Islamophobia sells
Jeune Afrique questions the motives behind French magazines’ obsession with Islam and immigration:

“Issue 3202 of L’Express, on newsstands Nov. 14, presents an investigation into ‘the real costs of immigration,’ intended to challenge ‘preconceptions’ and publish ‘shocking statistics.’ On the cover: a woman, veiled head-to-toe, enters a family allowance office. Translation: immigrants, that is to say Muslims, depend on state benefits.
Why display this prejudice on the front cover, even if it is to dispute it inside the magazine? No doubt because the image will boost sales. According to a survey published in Le Figaro on Oct. 25, 60% of French people think Islam has ‘too much’ influence and visibility in their country. And 43% of them consider it a ‘menace’ to national identity. Fear sells…” [Translated from the French.]