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.”

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Latest Developments, August 2

In the latest news and analysis…

Unlawful discrimination
The Independent reports that the UK Home Office is facing an investigation over “racist” spot checking for illegal immigrants:

“The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it was demanding an explanation for raids in the past week which led to the detention of dozens of suspected illegal immigrants. It said it intended to assess whether ‘unlawful discrimination took place’ with officials only stopping non-white people.
The EHRC is responsible for policing the Equalities Act to which all public bodies are bound. But as news of the checks emerged two women’s rights groups told The Independent they were aware of cases where women reporting domestic violence had been asked about their immigration status.”

Double-tap strikes
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that US drones appear to have restarted targeting rescuers at strike sites in 2012:

“[Mushtaq Yusufzai’s] findings indicate that five double-tap strikes did indeed take place again in mid-2012, one of which also struck a mosque. In total 53 people were killed in these attacks with 57 injured, the report suggests.
Yusufzai could find no evidence to support media claims that rescuers had been targeted on two further occasions.”

Mixed messages
Foreign policy reports on comments and actions that suggest there is little hope US Secretary of State John Kerry will get his stated wish for drone strikes in Pakistan to end “very, very soon”:

“Three hours after Kerry’s comments first broke, a spokesperson took them right back. ‘In no way would we ever deprive ourselves of a tool to fight a threat if it arises,’ a State Department spokesperson said.

When all the terrorists are dead, the United States will be happy to end its program of covert drone strikes in Pakistan. Until that day comes — and it will be ‘soon,’ according to Kerry — strikes are likely to continue. To underscore that reality, the United States carried out three drone strikes in Pakistan during the month of July. And in Yemen, the drone war made a roaring comeback this week with the United States carrying out three strikes in five days.”

Democratic coup
The Washington Post’s Max Fisher writes that coup-prone Pakistan was an odd place for US Secretary of State John Kerry to say that the Egyptian military, by overthrowing Egypt’s elected president, was “restoring democracy”:

“ ‘The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descent into chaos,’ Kerry said. That’s how many Egypt analysts see the events of early July, when millions of protesters clearly desired military intervention. But Kerry added, more controversially, ‘The military did not take over, to the best of our judgment … to run the country. There’s a civilian government.’ By all appearances, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, the defense minister who formally announced the military’s removal of Morsi, is the now country’s de facto head of state.

Legalizing it
The BBC reports that MPs in Uruguay have passed a bill that, pending senate approval, would make the country the world’s first to “regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana”:

“The state would assume ‘the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialisation and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products’.
Buyers would have to be registered on a database and be over the age of 18. They would be able to buy up to 40g (1.4oz) per month in specially licensed pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home.
Foreigners would be excluded from the measure.”

Extended ban
Agence France-Presse reports that French President François Hollande has announced an extension of the moratorium on Monsanto’s genetically modified MON810 corn the day after the ban was struck down for violating European law:

“ ‘Why have we banned genetically modified organisms? Not because we refuse progress, but in the name of progress. We cannot allow a product, a corn, to have negative impacts on other crops,’ said François Hollande, speaking from a farm in the Sarlat region.” [Translated from the French.]

Corporate veil
The Wall Street Journal reports that a group of US senators is trying “once again” to shed light on corporate ownership:

“The lawmakers are trying, for the fourth consecutive Congress, to get the bill passed. Under the latest iteration of the bill, states would be required to add a single additional question to their existing incorporation forms that would ask for the name of the person behind the corporation being formed. States wouldn’t have to verify it, but people submitting false information would be subject to penalties.

U.S. foreign policy also has been pressuring other countries to disclose the hidden owners of companies, to root out corruption, the lawmakers said.
‘The fact that we have corporate secrecy right here in our backyard contradicts U.S. efforts to end corporate secrecy offshore,’ said [Senator Carl] Levin.”

Nobody killed
The Telegraph reports on a potential boost to Wikileaker Bradley Manning’s chances of avoiding a maximum 136-year prison sentence:

“The sentencing hearing began with testimony from retired Brigadier General Robert Carr, who in 2010 led an emergency Pentagon review into the impact of leaked war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although the mass leak ‘hit us in the face’ the review did not find any evidence that civilians named in the secret files had then been targeted by militants, Gen Carr said.”

UN enforcement
The Associated Press reports that UN peacekeepers have begun setting up a zone in eastern DR Congo where only members of the country’s military can carry arms:

“Earlier this week, the U.N. peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO issued an ultimatum before beginning the disarming effort.

In New York, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the security zone ‘is not an offensive operation and is not targeted at any one armed group.’ He emphasized that the disarmament effort will protect civilians.”

Run-off required
Reuters reports that there will be a second round in Mali’s presidential election after frontrunner Ibrahim Boubacar Keita failed to get an outright majority from the record-turnout 51.5 percent of registered voters:

“Provisional results gave Keita 39 percent of votes cast in the July 28 poll, well ahead of [Soumaila] Cisse’s 19 percent. But the third and fourth placed candidates may now rally behind Cisse, with whom they have been in coalition.

Fears of a chaotic poll were not borne out and voting was largely orderly, though some voters struggled to find their names on voter lists and voting in refugee camps, embassies abroad and the northern region of Kidal was disrupted.”

Latest Developments, August 1

In the latest news and analysis…

Classified massacre
ProPublica reports that the US government will not be releasing the findings of its inquiry into the killing of “perhaps thousands of Taliban prisoners of war” in Afghanistan:

“The investigation found that no U.S. personnel were involved, said White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. Other than that, she said, there is ‘no plan to release anything.’
The silence leaves many unanswered questions about what may have been one of the worst war crimes since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, including why previous American investigations were shut down, and how evidence was destroyed in the case.”

Racial profiling
The Kilburn Times reports that multiple witnesses at a London Tube station say they saw “aggressive, intimidating” UK immigration officers “specifically targeting non-white individuals” in an apparent search for illegal immigrants:

“Kensal Rise resident Phil O’Shea told the Times he was threatened with arrest when he asked what was going on.
He said: ‘I thought the behaviour of the immigration officers was heavy-handed and frightening. They appeared to be stopping and questioning every non-white person, many of whom were clearly ordinary Kensal Green residents going to work.’

Last week, the Home Office rolled out a controversial campaign where billboards warning illegal immigrants to ‘go home or face arrest’ would be driven around Brent and five other boroughs in London.”

The 82%
The US Public Interest Research Group has published a new study finding that 82 of the top 100 publicly-traded US corporations have subsidiaries in offshore tax havens:

“All told, these 82 companies maintain 2,686 tax haven subsidiaries. The 15 companies with the most money held offshore collectively operate 1,897 tax haven subsidiaries.

Bank of America: The bank reports having 316 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens – more than any other company. The bank, which was kept afloat by taxpayers during the 2008 financial meltdown, now keeps $17.2 billion offshore, on which it would otherwise owe $4.5 billion in U.S. taxes.”

Historical ties
Jeune Afrique reports that France plans a “recentering” of its aid to focus on 16 African countries, 13 of which are former colonies:

“The focus countries are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Comoros, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, RD Congo, Chad, Togo and Senegal.

The government also wants to prioritize ‘transparency’ and ‘aid effectiveness.’ For assistance to Mali, therefore, a website will be launched in the coming weeks to give precise information on the projects funded.” [Translated from the French.]

Corporate responsibility
York University’s Shin Imai argues the global mining industry’s current “standards of conduct” are inadequate for regulating the overseas activities of Canadian companies:

“While these corporate social responsibility codes could be useful if well implemented, they are all voluntary, and do not have any enforcement mechanisms for addressing breaches of the code. Resource extraction is a highly intrusive, highly dangerous activity. Regulating this activity through voluntary codes is like repealing the Highway Traffic Act and leaving the regulation of Highway 401 to a voluntary code – drafted by truckers.
HudBay Minerals, for example, reports annually on its corporate social responsibility activities in a glossy fifty page report. The 2012 edition says that ‘strong community relationships are the foundation of our work.’ It is odd, then, that HudBay would assure investors of its interest in the welfare of the community, proceed to make profits out of the mine and then wash its hands of any abuses committed to produce those profits.

However, in the words of former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ian Binnie, commenting on the idea that courts should start to hear cases of corporate abuse abroad, ‘there are acts that are so repugnant that they should force us to rethink our law.’ ”

Selling the coup
Ken Silverstein argues in Harper’s Magazine that the ambivalent US reaction to the recent coup in Egypt is just the latest example of America’s selective enthusiasm for democracy:

“You cannot preach about democracy then accept the outcome only if your side triumphs. In 2006, Hamas won a devastating victory in legislative elections in the Palestinian Authority. The following year, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas dissolved a Hamas-led unity government and swore in an emergency cabinet, leading the Obama Administration to reinstate aid that had been suspended under Hamas’ rule. This type of hypocrisy heightens anti-Americanism, sends the message that elections are meaningless, and encourages terrorism.
On Sunday, I came across this line from Voltaire in the documentary The Act of Killing: ‘It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.’ Though the film is about events in Indonesia in 1965, it brought to mind the intellectual contortions of Egyptian-coup supporters who have justified the mass killings of Islamists in the name of democracy. Back in 1965 it was Islamic militias killing Communists in the name of democracy. The common denominator is that the killers were seen as pro-Western — and so, the trumpets are sounding once again in America.”

Nuclear dumping
The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dave Sweeney calls on Australia to abandon the “secrecy, exclusion and contest” underlying plans for radioactive waste disposal on Aboriginal land:

“The Muckaty plan lacks consent at home and credibility abroad. It is flawed and failing and it is time for a new approach – one that reflects and is informed by best practise, sound science and respect.

Australia has never had an independent assessment of what is the best (or least worst) way to manage our radioactive waste. Decades ago unelected bureaucrats decided a centralised remote dump was the best model and ever since a chain reaction of politicians have tried – and failed – to find a compliant postcode.”

Ironic request
Mondoweiss transcribes recent comments by Noam Chomsky who scoffs at American demands that NSA leaker Edward Snowden be returned to face punishment in the US, a country Chomsky says is “one of the leaders in refusing extradition”:

“For years Bolivia has been trying to extradite from the United States the former president who’s already indicted in Bolivia for all sorts of crimes. The US refuses to extradite him.

In fact one of the most striking cases is Latin America, again, not just Bolivia. One of the world’s leading terrorists is Luis Posada, who was involved in blowing up a Cubana airliner which killed 73 people and lots of other terrorist acts. He’s sitting happily in… Miami, and his colleague Rolando Bosch also a major terrorist… is happily there… Cuba and Venezuela are trying to extradite them. But you know. Fat chance.”

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.”

Latest Developments, March 27

In the latest news and analysis…

Red Cross hotel
The Center for Economic and Policy Research questions Red Cross priorities as the humanitarian organization considers building a luxury hotel and conference center on Port-au-Prince land it bought with Haiti earthquake relief funds.
“Considering the hundreds of people who have recently been forcibly evicted – with some recently having been burned out of their camps in suspicious arsons – couldn’t this be space that the Red Cross could offer them, rather than using it for a commercial venture that might not even be viable?
The Red Cross’ post-quake spending and use of funds, as the largest NGO operating in Haiti, has been controversial almost since the beginning. News that some ‘funds donated by national Red Cross agencies for quake recovery’ – much of which almost certainly came from individuals who believed their money would be used for emergency relief – might instead be used for a risky commercial venture (and one that caters to NGO’s and tourists) could provoke more controversy.”

Mosque outreach
The American Civil Liberties Union reports it has obtained documents indicating the FBI used a “mosque outreach” program to gather intelligence on American Muslim groups and their members “without any suspicion of wrongdoing.”
“The documents also show that the FBI categorized information about American Muslims’ First Amendment-protected and other entirely innocuous activities, as well as mosque locations, as ‘positive intelligence’ and disseminated it to agencies outside the FBI. As a result, the agency wrongly and unfairly cast a cloud of suspicion over innocent groups and individuals based on their religious beliefs and associations, and placed them at risk of greater law enforcement scrutiny as potential national security threats. None of the documents indicate that the FBI told individuals interviewed that their information and views were being collected as intelligence and would be recorded and disseminated.”

Suspicious skin
The Global Post reports a German court has ruled that certain police can use the colour of a person’s skin as justification for demanding to see identification.
“However, judges ruled that skin color was reasonable grounds on which to carry out ID checks, since the train route in question is often used by illegal immigrants to enter Germany. Since police cannot check every passenger’s papers, they must select which people to ID based on their ‘border policing experience,’ the judgment said.
The officers are therefore allowed to make their choice ‘according to external appearance’ and without concrete grounds for suspicion, Agence France Presse reported.”

Drug talk
Former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castañeda writes that the “failed war on drugs” will loom large in discussions at next month’s Summit of the Americas in Colombia.
“Recently inaugurated Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina, together with [Colombian President Juan Manuel] Santos and other heads of state, question today’s punitive, prohibitionist approach, owing to its enormous costs and meager results, and propose a different strategy: legalization.
Obama sent Vice President Joe Biden to Mexico and Central America a few weeks ago to forestall this trend, and he may have partly succeeded. Nevertheless, whereas only a smattering of political leaders and intellectuals advocated legalization in the past, nowadays officials are coming ‘out of the closet’ on drugs in droves. Those who used to say that they favored a debate on the issue now support legalization; those who opposed it now accept the need for debate; and those who continue to oppose legalization do so on moral, rather than rational, grounds.”

Crying foul
UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, argues the international community must look at the big picture and get serious about accountability if sustainable development is to become a reality.
“What are framed as development policies often end up doing very little to help the most marginalised communities, and sometimes end up harming them. Meanwhile, the effects of genuine development policies can easily be overridden by industrial and infrastructural projects, trade agreements, and other external factors that tip the balance against small-scale farmers and fishers. It is therefore essential to be able to cry foul when missing policies, misguided policies, or the sum total of policies, work against sustainable development.”

Talk is cheap
Inter Press Service reports on a group of legal experts who are looking to hold world leaders to the promises they make at June’s Rio+20 sustainable development summit.
“ ‘We are really tired of declarations,’ Antonio Herman Benjamin, judge of the Supreme Court of Brazil, told an international gathering of legal experts here Monday. Despite some progress made since the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, most governments have failed to fulfil their obligations.
As a result, the court has launched a new initiative to promote role of law in advancing sustainable development. It is known as the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Stability.
The Congress’s scores of members from around the world include senior judges, prosecutors, legal scholars, auditors and development experts. They plan to focus on the problems and obstacles that hinder the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.”

Immigration detention
Author Edwige Danticat writes in the New York Times that new US immigration guidelines recommend the bare minimum of human rights for detainees, more than 110 of whom have died in custody since 2003.
“The new [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] guidelines are not perfect. They do not offer, for example, alternatives to jail-like detention, even for unaccompanied minors, the elderly, the disabled or pregnant women. But they are a step forward. In addition to medical care, safe water and limited recreation, they also require that staff members not perform strip searches on detainees of the opposite sex and that detainees not be used for medical experiments or for clinical trials without informed consent. They will crack down on sexual assault by staff members, contract personnel or other detainees and suggest that victims of sexual abuse be given access to emergency medical treatment.”

Good intentions
Northeastern University’s Aziza Ahmed argues we must “interrogate the consequences of advocacy efforts,” however noble the cause may appear.
“First, anti-sex trafficking activism has an extremely negative impact on HIV programs. Sex workers are highly vulnerable to contracting HIV. A key victory for anti-sex trafficking organizations was the insertion of the anti-prostitution loyalty oath (APLO) into the US Leadership Act for HIV/Aids, TB, and malaria. This provision requires that organizations agree to oppose prostitution and sex trafficking. The APLO has the effect of disempowering sex worker organizations who refuse to sign on, shutting health services for sex workers, and alienating sex workers from public health programs.”