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.”

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Latest Developments, May 27

In the latest news and analysis…

European arms
The Guardian reports that EU sanctions against Syria have “collapsed” due to disagreement over supplying arms to rebels:

“Michael Spindelegger, the Austrian vice-chancellor and foreign minister, voicing anger at the outcome, directly blamed the collapse on the UK, with the sanctions regime ending at midnight on Friday.

He added that France joined Britain in demanding a lifting of the arms embargo, in order to supply weapons to what they call the ‘moderate’ opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but that the other 25 member states were opposed”

Mali election
Agence France-Presse reports that Mali will hold the first round of presidential elections on July 28, keeping to a timetable insisted upon by France, whose troops have led the fight against Islamist rebels in its former colony:

“Acting president Dioncounda Traore has said that neither he nor his ministers will stand in the polls, which will go to a second round on August 11 if required.

Paris has said about 1,000 soldiers will remain in Mali beyond this year to back up a UN force of 12,600 peacekeepers that is to replace [the International Mission for Support to Mali] gradually from July and will be responsible for stabilising the north.

The international community hopes the July elections will produce an effective government but Mali’s national electoral commission has voiced concerns about the tight timeframe.”

French intervention
Reuters reports that French special forces helped kill suspects in the twin bombings of a Nigerien military camp and a French-owned uranium mine, meaning that French troops have now killed people in at least four African countries (after Mali, Somalia and the Central African Republic) so far this year:

“The coordinated dawn attacks killed 24 soldiers and one civilian and damaged machinery at Areva’s Somair mine in the remote town of Arlit, a key supplier of uranium to France’s nuclear power programme. The attacks raised fears that Mali’s conflict could spread to neighbouring West African states and brought an Islamist threat closer to France’s economic interests.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM television that special forces had intervened at the request of Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou. France stationed special forces in northern Niger to help protect its desert uranium mines, providing one-fifth of the fuel for France’s reactors.”

Pascua Lama on hold
The Associated Press reports that Chile has blocked a mining project owned by Canada’s Barrick Gold and imposed the maximum fine over “very serious” environmental violations:

“After a four-month investigation, the Environmental Superintendent said all other construction work on Pascua-Lama must stop until Barrick builds the systems it promised to put in place beforehand for containing contaminated water.

Chile’s regulator noted that while Barrick itself reported failures, a separate and intensive investigation already begun by the agency’s own inspectors found that the company wasn’t telling the full truth.
‘We found that the acts described weren’t correct, truthful or provable. And there were other failures of Pascua Lama’s environmental permit as well,’ said the superintendent, Juan Carlos Monckeberg.”

Racialized justice
Reuters reports that Ethiopian prime minister and current African Union chairman Hailemariam Desalegn has denounced the International Criminal Court for its seemingly exclusive focus on Africa:

“The Hague-based court was set up to bring the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice – a mission that Hailemariam said it has lost sight of.
‘The intention was to avoid any kind of impunity but now the process has degenerated into some kind of race-hunting,’ Hailemariam told reporters at the end of African Union summit in Addis Ababa. ‘So we object to that.’
During the summit, African leaders backed a Kenyan proposal for the tribunal to refer its cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy for alleged crimes against humanity back to Kenya.”

Food protests
The Associated Press reports that organizers said protests against US agribusiness giant Monsanto took place in more than 50 countries over the weekend:

“Organizers said ‘March Against Monsanto’ protests were held in 52 countries and 436 cities, including Los Angeles where demonstrators waved signs that read ‘Real Food 4 Real People’ and ‘Label GMOs, It’s Our Right to Know.’

Protesters in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina, where Monsanto’s genetically modified soy and grains now command nearly 100 percent of the market, and the company’s Roundup-Ready chemicals are sprayed throughout the year on fields where cows once grazed. They carried signs saying ‘Monsanto-Get out of Latin America’ ”

Hoarding secrets
Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia has said its response to a deadly “SARS-like virus” has been hampered by a Dutch lab’s patent rights:

“[Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Health Minister Ziad Memish] said [the coronavirus] was taken out of the country without permission and Saudi Arabia only learned of its discovery from ProMED, a U.S.-based internet-based reporting system.
The Rotterdam-based Erasmus lab then patented the process for synthesizing the virus, meaning that anyone else who wanted to use their method to study it would have to pay the lab.
The patenting had delayed the development of diagnostic kits and serologic tests for the disease, Memish said.”

Asylum denied
A new report by Amnesty International accuses governments around the world of enacting immigration policies that threaten the rights and even the lives of people fleeing conflict in their home countries:

“The European Union implements border control measures that put the lives of migrants and asylum-seekers at risk and fails to guarantee the safety of those fleeing conflict and persecution. Around the world, migrants and asylum-seekers are regularly locked up in detention centres and in worst case scenarios are held in metal crates or even shipping containers.
The rights of huge numbers of the world’s 214 million migrants were not protected by their home or their host state. Millions of migrants worked in conditions amounting to forced labour – or in some cases slavery-like conditions – because governments treated them like criminals and because corporations cared more about profits than workers’ rights. Undocumented migrants were particularly at risk of exploitation and human rights abuse.”

Latest Development, September 8

Latest Developments is undergoing a format change in order to free up time for original Beyond Aid reporting. All constructive feedback is welcome.

In the latest news and analysis…

Global governance

Former British foreign secretary David Miliband argues the “war on terror” has distracted world leaders from matters of more pressing existential import.
“If you think the blame game in Europe over Greece is bad, just wait for arguments about who is causing drought and food-price inflation. These are not just “environmental” questions. They are questions of justice and responsibility, and stronger regional and international institutions are needed to address them.”

Human rights

Al Jazeera reports that a UK inquiry into a 2003 detainee death found no evidence of systemic abuse but had harsh words for those involved in this particular incident.
“A three year-long investigation into the death of an Iraqi civilian in British army custody has concluded that Baha Mousa died after suffering an ‘appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence.’ Mousa died after being detained for two days by UK forces in Basra in 2003 after suffering 93 individual wounds to his body.”

UC-Santa Barbara sociologist Lisa Hajjar writes about the US-run Guantánamo detention facility which remains open despite of President Barack Obama’s pledge to shut it down.
“Only three Guantánamo prisoners were convicted in the military commissions over the course of the Bush administration, none for perpetrating the 9/11 attacks. Of the total population of 779 people ever confined at this facility, over 500 of these ostensibly “worst of the worst” men had been released or transferred by the time President Bush left office.”

Human Rights Watch says it has uncovered evidence of “high level of cooperation” among US, UK and Libyan intelligence services.
“The documents, discovered on September 3, 2011, describe US offers to transfer, or render, at least four detainees from US to Libyan custody, one with the active participation of the UK; US requests for detention and interrogation of other suspects; UK requests for information about terrorism suspects; and the sharing of information about Libyans living in the UK. This cooperation took place despite Libya’s extensive and widely known record of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees.”

Reuters reports that a pair of lawsuits alleging Cisco Systems facilitated human rights abuses in China could change how US technology companies do business abroad.
“Both cases could provide answers to an evolving legal question: Can U.S. companies be held liable if foreign governments use their products for repression?”

Taxes

A coalition of French NGOs is slamming recent deals signed by Switzerland with Germany and the UK that will provide the latter two countries with tax revenue from their nationals who store wealth in Swiss accounts but will not impact banking secrecy.
“These so-called Rubik accords, which still have to be ratified at the parliamentary level, call into question pledges made within the G20, OECD and EU to promote greater tax haven transparency.”

Tax-News.com reports France and Germany are making progress towards a common corporate tax rate.
“[French Finance Minister François] Baroin explained that plans for a complete project would be drawn up for 2012, with planned implementation in 2013.”

The Nation reports Nigeria has begun recovering the assets of former president Sani Abacha’s family from the Channel Island tax haven Jersey.
“The Federal Government has recovered £22.5m (about N6.18 billion) loot from the family of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha. There are plans to recover $400million more, it was learnt yesterday.”

Unsavoury friends

Former secretary general of the European Green Party, Arnold Cassola, writes that Libya’s deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi could not have remained in power for over four decades without some high-placed Western allies.
“The International Criminal Court in The Hague, one hopes, will one day bring Qaddafi, his family, and his minions to justice. But one should also hope that Libya’s new government will expose the links between Western politicians and the Qaddafi regime. At that point, the court of public opinion, at the very least, can render its judgement on their actions.”

Wired’s Danger Room reports one of the top general’s of Somalia’s US-backed government is widely known as “The Butcher.”
“If you thought it was bad that Washington is paying a shady French mercenary to do its dirty work in Somalia, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Just wait to you see our latest ally: an admirer of Osama bin Laden with a gory past.”

Immigration

The Canadian Press reports Canada’s government has set up a hotline for people to report those they suspect of citizenship fraud.
“Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is declaring that “Canadian citizenship is not for sale” and he’s encouraging people to use the tip line to report suspected cases of citizenship fraud.”

The Australian reports Australia’s government and opposition close to agreeing over controversial proposed immigration measures that would outsource the processing of refugee claims.
“A face-saving deal that includes Labor’s Malaysian refugee swap and offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island has emerged as the most likely solution to the nation’s border protection impasse.”

Thanks but no thanks

The Guardian reports on attempts to provide poor countries with low-tech, context-appropriate medical instruments such as a donkey ambulance.
“It is a familiar problem. A well-meaning donor gives a shiny new piece of equipment to a poor country only for it to gather dust. Parts that are expensive and difficult to replace, the need for a constant electricity supply, a lack of trained operators, unsuitability to rough terrain are all factors preventing the use of these devices in the developing world.”

Tax Justice Network reviews a new book on Africa’s “odious debts” that estimates capital flight from the continent at $700 billion over the last 40 years.
“More than half of the money borrowed by African governments in recent decades departed in the same year, with a significant portion of it winding up in private accounts at the very banks that provided the loans in the first place. Meanwhile, debt-service payments continue to drain scarce resources from Africa, cutting into funds available for public health and other needs.”

Latest Developments, August 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Australia’s so-called Malaysia Solution is on hold for now. The country’s high court has said the Australian government may not have the legal authority to carry out the terms of the deal, which would involve sending 800 boat people to Malaysia to have their refugee claims processed in exchange for 4,000 who have been approved for permanent resettlement. Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees.

UNESCO head Irina Bokova has condemned last month’s NATO attack on Libyan state television that left 3 dead and 21 injured. “Media outlets should not be targeted in military actions,” she said, pointing to a 2006 UN Security Council resolution on the safety of media workers in conflict zones. Following the bombing, NATO justified its choice of targets: “Striking specifically these critical satellite dishes will reduce the regime’s ability to oppress civilians while [preserving] television broadcast infrastructure that will be needed after the conflict.” But Bokova appeared to head off this argument by saying “the NATO strike is also contrary to the principles of the Geneva Conventions that establish the civilian status of journalists in times of war even when they engage in propaganda.”

The US is eager to get more involved in Mexico’s escalating drug war but faces laws forbidding foreign soldiers or police from operating on Mexican soil, according to the New York Times. The solution so far has been the deployment of CIA agents, with possible reinforcements to come from private security contractors. Meanwhile, there will soon be 5,500 private troops operating under State Department command in Iraq, but “no one outside State knows anything more, as the department has gone to war with its independent government watchdog to keep its plan a secret,” according to Wired’s Spencer Ackerman.

There is much uncertainty in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu after Islamist rebels withdrew from the city over the weekend, leaving observers to wonder whether the move represents a retreat or simply a shift to guerrilla tactics. There also appears to be lingering confusion among humanitarian organizations in Al Shabab-controlled areas over strict US rules that are ostensibly meant to ensure the rebels do not benefit from foreign assistance but are having a chilling effect on groups looking to provide emergency food aid. “USAID says they want to move, they do want to get us funding, and from their perspective it’s all sort of green light, ready to go,” an anonymous aid official told the Huffington Post. “Maybe they’re not really understanding that NGOs are quite nervous, especially the American ones — and the European ones are taking their cues from the Americans.” US aid to Somalia dropped from $230 million in 2008 to below $30 million last year. But the White House has just announced an additional $105 million in emergency aid for the Horn of Africa, bringing the total up to $565 million for the year so far.

South Africa’s maternal mortality rate has “more than quadrupled over the last decade,” according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. But in a piece on Africa’s high rates of economic growth, Witney Schneidman, president of Washington-based consulting firm Schneidman & Associates International says “Africa’s moment is at hand.”  He praises South Africa where “for the past 15 years, the government has pursued an economic policy that has brought greater financial discipline and macroeconomic stability.” Schneidman does, however, concede South Africa “has a first-world economy” but “faces developing-world challenges.”

The Guardian reports on the Nigerian fishing village of Goi destroyed by oil spills and one of its inhabitants suing Shell in The Hague for reparations. Another piece in the same paper suggests Gaza’s new, Spanish-run five-star hotel provides “hope” in a place “where there are no tourists and around 70% of the population lives below the poverty line.”

In the ongoing punditry frenzy over credit rating agency S&P’s decision to downgrade the US debt slightly, “chutzpah” and “overreach” are two frequently recurring terms. Paul Krugman, who wrote last year that such agencies “were a big part of that corruption” which triggered the financial crisis in the first place, now compares S&P to a “young man who kills his parents, then pleads for mercy because he’s an orphan.” The author of a post on the Economist’s Democracy in America blog does not necessarily disagree but also sees plenty of chutzpah in those now blasting S&P: “So yeah, S&P failed to accurately identify the junk that made up those troublesome mortgage securities. But I can hardly fault them for trying not to repeat the mistake when evaluating the make-up of America’s political system, which is ultimately responsible for paying the country’s bills.” And the Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie, sounding a little annoyed at the Americentrism of it all, asks via Twitter: “why has s&p overreached itself just because it has downgraded us bonds? Are its analyses of other countries less important!?”

Fraud lawyer Monty Raphael shows little enthusiasm for the UK’s new bribery act, arguing that without proper enforcement, “it will change little or nothing.” And while the act only deals with offences occurring since it came into force, he wants to see a mechanism to deal with “all the accumulated corruption committed before July 1 this year.” He calls for an integrated anti-corruption agency, along the lines of those currently operating in Hong Kong, Singapore and New South Wales. Recognizing that governments are not eager to take on new spending these days, he suggests: “Resources presently available can be channelled into a single investigation and prosecution agency with a wide remit, and with penal, civil and administrative powers. It should include within its remit Parliament, the legal system and all public and private sectors.”

Former World Bank economist Dennis Whittle praises his former employer for its attempts at “democratizing” development, by which he seems to mean the increased use of focus groups. “If the World Bank can make progress in this area,” he argues, “the payoff for the entire aid field could be large, both in terms of finding effective policies as well as catalyzing more openness and accountability.”

Latest Developments, August 2

In the latest news and analysis…

American senators Carl Levin and Chuck Grassley have brought forth legislation that aims to greatly reduce international financial secrecy and wrongdoing by requiring anyone setting up a company in the US to divulge the name of the beneficial owner. “Until this law is passed, foreign corrupt politicians, terrorists and drug traffickers can continue legally to hide their identities and their dubious assets behind the secrecy provided by American companies,” according to Global Witness’s Stefanie Ostfeld who hailed the bill’s introduction. As did Global Financial Integrity’s Heather Lowe who said, as things stand, it is “far too easy to gain access to financial services in the U.S. through anonymous U.S. corporations, while it is far too difficult for law enforcement groups to figure out who is really behind those corporations.

Plaintiffs in Papua New Guinea have obtained a temporary injunction “preventing a mine from dumping millions of tonnes of waste into the sea.” The news came less than a week after a national court judge had ruled the Chinese-Australian copper project’s proposed method of waste disposal “amounts to an abuse and depletion of Papua New Guinea’s natural resources and environment” but refused to impose a permanent ban. PNG’s Supreme Court will examine the case later this month.

A new Food and Agriculture Organization report suggests that, contrary to popular belief, growing demand for grain in China and India has little to do with increasing food prices.  In fact, the FAO says cereal imports to the two Asian giants actually declined between 2000 and 2007 and points to the rise of biofuels as the main driver of growth in demand. And a new report by the New Economics Foundation suggests EU fisherman have discarded more than 2 million tonnes of cod over the last half-century.

Somalia’s Islamist Al Shabab “has destroyed whatever legitimacy it had, by obstructing humanitarian organizations from entering the country to provide relief from the severe famine,” according to a Globe and Mail editorial. Meanwhile, the US has decided to ease up on some obstruction of its own by loosening restrictions on aid to Somalia that threatened to prosecute any organization deemed to have provided any financial or material support to Al Shabab. Food aid aside, the rebel group which controls much of Somalia, including the famine-stricken south, has reportedly gotten its hands on a large number of American-made weapons.

Arguing “we live in an era when political boundaries, not the lives of nomadic pastoralists, are sacrosanct,” Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs takes on the role of arbitrary colonial-era borders in the Horn of Africa’s food crisis. He points to the fact that many Somali people live in Kenya and Ethiopia as a prime reason for the ongoing instability of the border regions. Sachs also discusses “the overlap of dryland climates and conflict zones” and argues “the region urgently requires a development strategy, not a military approach.” Moreover, he says the “US and Europe are not only failing to respond to the African drought; they have probably contributed to it through their greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Former NATO secretary general Javier Solana and the University of the Basque Country’s Daniel Innerarity declare an end to foreign affairs, saying that globalized threats and opportunities give today’s world an “epidemic character” that renders national policies inadequate: “Truly effective global governance is the strategic horizon that humanity must pursue today with all its energy.” Failure, they claim will mean “the “end of history” – not as the placid apotheosis of liberal democracy’s global victory, but as the worst collective failure we can imagine.”

A Bloomberg editorial argues Brazil, India and South Africa “don’t seem to demonstrate the awareness that international leadership comes with responsibilities as well as privileges.” Exhibit A, according to the authors, is the three countries’ disappointing troop contribution to UN peacekeeping: only India is a “major contributor,” they say, and even it ranks behind its much smaller neighbours, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But according to June statistics on military and police contributions to UN peacekeeping, India  ranks third overall, behind only Pakistan and Bangladesh. Brazil and South Africa rank 13th and 14th, respectively. The UK is 46th and the US is 64th, with approximately a twentieth of Brazil’s or South Africa’s contributions. As for the editorialists’ notion that a greater contribution from India, Brazil and South Africa could “possibly free European troops for more difficult missions, such as Afghanistan,” there are currently only three European countries (Italy, France and Spain) ranked among the top 35 contributors with over 500 troops or police serving as blue helmets.

A Voice of America editorial celebrates the UN refugee convention’s 60th anniversary, saying the agreement remains essential today given the millions “who have been uprooted from their homes and forced to live in difficult and in many cases unacceptable conditions.” The US leads the way both in terms of permanently resettling refugees (71,400 in 2010) and creating them in the first place (4.7 million from Afghanistan and Iraq).

Reuters’s Rachelle Younglai and Ana da Costa point out the “overwhelming irony” that credit agencies, such as Standard & Poors and Moody’s, “are the same firms that many blame as prime instigators of the 2007-2008 credit crisis for freely giving out top ratings to ultimately worthless structured mortgage products” and yet, they now “sit in judgment of the countries that had to ruin their public balance sheets to prevent financial collapse by saving the banks shattered by those bad instruments once blessed by the agencies.”