Latest Developments, November 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Martial plan
Deutsche Welle reports that a new proposal for a military intervention in northern Mali could include troops from “two or three non-African nations”:

“West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS says it has agreed on a plan to recapture northern Mali using 3,300 troops. ECOWAS leaders meeting in Abuja said they still favor talks with Islamist insurgents holding the area.

Briefing reporters in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, [Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane] Ouattara, who is ECOWAS’s chairman, said the plan would be sent to the United Nations for approval by the end of November.

There is not total unanimity on how to end the conflict. Neighboring Algeria would prefer a negotiated solution to the conflict. France, Mali’s former colonial master, which has several citizens held hostage by al Qaeda-linked groups in the Sahara, supports a swift war scenario.”

Big deal
Press Trust of India reports that the Pentagon has said the sale of billions worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the US”:

“Saudi Arabia plans to buy 20 military transport planes and five refuelling aircraft along with related defence equipment, worth an estimated USD 6.7 billion, from the US, the Pentagon has said.

‘Saudi Arabia has requested a possible sale of 20 C-130J-30 Aircraft, 5 KC-130J Air Refuelling Aircraft, 120 Rolls Royce AE2100D3 Engines (100 installed and 20 spares), 25 Link-16 Multi-functional Information Distribution Systems, support equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, US Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related logistics support,’ [the Defense Security Cooperation Agency] said.”

Evergreening
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a new study that found tactics used by pharmaceutical companies could hold off generic competition, in some cases, by decades:

“The article looked at two key antiretroviral drugs to manage HIV, ritonavir (Norvir) and lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra), and identified 108 patents that could delay generics until 2028. That is 12 years after the expiration of the patents on drugs’ base compounds and 39 years after the first patents on ritonavir were filed.

The authors said some of the secondary patents were questionable, and called for stricter patentability standards, greater transparency, and more opportunities to challenge patents.”

Motion denied
The Hill reports that extractive industry groups have failed to persuade the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it should hold off on requiring oil and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments:

“The SEC rejected claims that initial compliance costs would be burdensome. Claims of competitive harm are too speculative to warrant a stay, the SEC said.
The order is the latest move in a long-running battle over rules required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

The industry favors disclosure carried out under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a voluntary, multilateral group that brings together energy-producing nations, companies and civil society organizations.”

Nigerian spill
The Guardian Nigeria reports that oil giant Mobil is trying to contain a new spill off the country’s coast:

“According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the spill from the Atlantic coastline in Ibeno, which started on Friday, has hit the shoreline.
Oily sediments have deposited on the shoreline in Ibeno, Esit Eket, Eastern Obollo and other settlements along the coast.
Heavy equipment, chemicals, hoses and oil spill containment equipment were being moved from the jetty to the fields.”

Cui bono
The New York Times reports on the broken promises and dashed hopes of Mozambique’s foreign investment-fuelled economic boom:

“The coal deposits in Moatize represent one of the biggest untapped reserves in the world, and the Brazilian mining company Vale has placed a big bet on it. But to get to the coal, hundreds of villagers living atop it had to be moved. The company held a series of meetings with community members and government officials, laying out its plans to build tidy new bungalows for each family and upgrade public services. As the prospect of huge new investments in their rural corner of the world beckoned, villagers anticipated a whole new life: jobs, houses, education, and even free food.
Things didn’t work out that way. The houses were poorly built and leaked when it rained. The promised water taps and electricity never arrived. Cateme is too far from the mine for anyone here to get a job there. The new fields are dusty and barren — coaxing anything from them is hard.”

Strategy adjustment
Veteran journalist Ian Birrell argues “the aid debate has been mugged by economic reality” and calls for new thinking in the fight against global injustice:

Inequality is moving up the political agenda across the world. In the west, there is justified concern over bonus-chasing bankers and plutocrats who plunder profits while cutting wages for workers. In the developing world, the issues are even more stark. But we need to recognise the pace of change on the planet. If we really want to help the world’s poor, we could liberalise immigration controls and tackle issues such as tax evasion and corruption with far tougher action against money-laundering and all those in our own countries who assist the corruption. We can do the most good by abandoning an antiquated way of talking about aid.

Robbing Africa
Journalist and filmmaker Anas Aremeyaw Anas asks why rich countries “frown publicly about corruption, yet turn a blind eye to its fruits”:

“We do not say that all of Africa’s woes are the fault of others outside the continent. Nor do we assume that criminality is the only reason why Africa, despite its many natural riches, has been kept in poverty.
But we did come away wondering why the outside world feeds Africa with one hand and takes from it with another. Why cannot the resources for aid be directed into fighting this obvious problem? Is it not about time that something was done to stop those stealing our wealth, and those helping them steal it, from evading responsibility prosecution for their crimes?”

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Latest Developments, October 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Legal precedent
The BBC reports that four Nigerian plaintiffs are taking oil giant Shell to court in the Netherlands over alleged pollution:

“It is the first time a Dutch multinational is being put on trial in a civil court at home in connection with damage caused abroad.

If the farmers’ case is successful it could set a legal precedent, paving the way for thousands of other compensation claims from those affected by oil spills, says the BBC’s Anna Holligan in The Hague.”

Accredited poachers
Reuters reports that “EU-approved vessels” account for the bulk of illegal fishing off Sierra Leone’s coast:

“The European Union has set up regulations to prevent vessels involved in so-called illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing from accessing European markets.
An 18-month investigation conducted by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), however, documented a long list of abuses including fishing inside exclusion zones, using banned equipment, and transhipping fish illegally at sea.
The majority of cases involved ships accredited to sell their seafood at EU ports.”

Fighting transparency
The Hill reports that US oil and business groups are suing to overturn new rules requiring the extractive industry to disclose payments made to foreign governments:

“The lawsuit, filed Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, escalates a battle between industry and human rights groups over controversial transparency rules required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

‘Secrecy around payments enables corrupt government officials and political elites to siphon off or misappropriate revenues for personal gain, rather than development. It has been said that ‘sunshine is the best disinfectant’ – this lawsuit begs the question, what are oil companies trying to hide?,’ said Jana Morgan, assistant policy adviser with Global Witness.”

Swiss arms
Swissinfo reports that Switzerland is adopting new rules aimed at preventing the re-export of “war material” to conflict zones after Swiss grenades sold to the United Arab Emirates were found in Syria:

“Buyers will have to declare that they will not export, sell, lend or donate the material, or pass it on in any other way to a third party abroad, without the agreement of the Swiss authorities.
Where there is seen to be a high risk of the material nevertheless being passed on to ‘undesirable’ end users, the relevant Swiss authorities can stipulate that they shall have the right to make ‘post shipment inspections’ on the spot.
Where large amounts of material is exported, the declaration is to take the form of a diplomatic note from the receiving country.”

Gloomy forecast
Maplecroft has released its Food Security Risk Index for 2013, according to which 75 percent of African countries are at high or extreme risk:

“ ‘Food price forecasts for 2013 provide a worrying picture,’ states Maplecroft’s Head of Maps and Indices Helen Hodge. ‘Although a food crisis has not emerged yet, there is potential for food related upheaval across the most vulnerable regions, including sub-Saharan Africa.’
A September report by Rabobank, a financial specialist in agro-commodities, estimates that prices of food staples could rise by as much as 15% by June 2013, resulting in record highs that will squeeze household incomes in many countries.”

Big loss
Bloomberg reports that the US Supreme Court has refused to intervene in a lawsuit that saw a judge in Ecuador impose a $19 billion fine on oil giant Chevron:

“Without commenting on the merits of the case, the U.S. Supreme Court today let stand a federal appeals court ruling that a New York trial judge exceeded his authority when he blocked a group of Ecuadorean farmers and Indians from seeking to collect the $19 billion award anywhere in the world.

The justices’ action, although it doesn’t address the substance of the case, effectively eliminates one avenue for Chevron to avoid liability. The company has refused to pay the judgment in Ecuador. Since Chevron does not have any bank accounts or other assets in Ecuador, the plaintiffs have now filed separate collection actions seeking liens against Chevron assets in Brazil and Canada.”

Mass firings
CNN reports that mining company Gold One has fired 1,400 striking workers at a South African mine:

“It’s the latest twist in a wave of sometimes-violent labor unrest that has wracked South Africa’s mining sector — the country’s biggest industry — for nearly two months. Another company, Anglo-American Platinum, fired about 12,000 striking workers who declined to attend disciplinary hearings last week after a three-week walkout.”

Scramble for Burma
Focus on the Global South argues that the impending boom in foreign direct investment poses a threat to farming communities in Burma/Myanmar:

“Land grabs are now set to accelerate due to new government laws that are specifically designed to encourage foreign investments in land. The two new land laws (the Farmlands Law and the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Law) establish a legal framework to reallocate so-called ‘wastelands’ to domestic and foreign private investors. Moreover, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Law and Foreign Investment Law that are being finalized, along with ASEAN-ADB regional infrastructure development plans, will provide new incentives and drivers for land grabbing and further compound the dispossession of local communities from their lands and resources. Land conflicts that are now emerging throughout the country will worsen as foreign companies, supported by foreign governments and International Financial Institutions (IFIs), rush in to profit from Burma/Myanmar’s political and economic transition period.”

Lastest Developments, August 23

In the latest news and analysis…

First impressions
The Wall Street Journal provides a sampling of initial responses to the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s adoption of long-delayed rules regarding conflict minerals and extractive industry transparency:

“The consensus seemed to be that the business community scored some victories on section 1502 [of the Dodd-Frank financial reform package], the so-called ‘conflict minerals provision,’ that requires companies to examine their supply chains to determine and disclose if their products contain minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo or surrounding countries.
Meanwhile, good governance groups seemed happy with the rules on section 1504,which requires companies to disclose to the SEC all payments made to either the U.S. or a foreign government for the extraction of oil and minerals.”

Presidential warning
Agence France-Presse reports that South African President Jacob Zuma has warned mining companies to treat their workers better, as tensions began to radiate beyond the Lonmin facility where 44 striking miners were killed last week:

“Pointing out that the mining industry has assets valued at $2.5 trillion excluding coal and uranium, Zuma said the sector should be able to pay its workers a better wage.
‘In fact it should not be such an industry that has the lowest paid worker, given the wealth they have,’ he said during a memorial lecture to honour a former leader of the ruling African National Congress. He also noted that the government issued a directive to improve housing conditions for mine workers two years ago, but an audit conducted at mines in the North West province’s Rusternburg platinum belt showed only half were in compliance with the mining charter.
In one case, a company is housing 166 workers in a hostel block with just four toilets and four showers to share between them, the president said. ‘Sanctions for non-compliance with the charter include the cancellation of mining rights or licences,’ Zuma said.”

Extraordinary court
Human Rights Watch is calling a new agreement between Senegal and the African Union “an important step in the long campaign” to bring former Chadian president Hissène Habré to trial:

“Negotiations in July between the African Union and Senegal resulted in a plan to try Habré before a special court in the Senegalese justice system with African judges appointed by the AU presiding over his trial and any appeal. The August 22 agreement commits the parties to the plan and to a timetable that would have the court operational by the end of the year.
The new agreement calls for ‘Extraordinary African Chambers’ to be created inside the existing Senegalese court structure in Dakar. The chambers will have sections to handle investigations, trials, and appeals. The trial court and the appeals court will each consist of two Senegalese judges and a president from another African country.”

Roma restrictions
Reuters reports that the French government plans to “expand the number of sectors” where Roma people living in France are allowed to look for jobs:

“A government-approved list of jobs that are considered open to Roma people, which now stands at 150 and includes trades such as roofers, will be extended, according to a statement by [Prime Minister Jean-Marc] Ayrault’s office.
Two weeks ago, police evicted around 300 people from illegal campsites near the cities of Lille and Lyon and sent 240 of them on a plane back to Romania. The swoops recalled a crackdown two years before for which Sarkozy drew international criticism.”

Conga opposition
The Associated Press reports that a new public opinion poll suggests there is little local support for a $5 billion gold-mining project in northern Peru, which has raised fears of contaminated water supplies:

“The Ipsos-Apoyo poll in Cajamarca province found just 15 percent approve of the Conga project, with 78 percent disapproving and 7 percent with no opinion. U.S.-based Newmont Mining Co. is the mine’s majority owner.

Hundreds of Conga opponents held a second day of peaceful protests in the region Wednesday against what would be Peru’s biggest mine. They defied a state of emergency suspending the right of assembly that was imposed in early July after five people died during violent protests.”

American food
Reuters reports on a new study which found that Americans “throw away nearly half their food,” thereby wasting about $165 billion annually:

“ ‘As a country, we’re essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path. That’s money and precious resources down the drain,’ said Dana Gunders, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s food and agriculture program.

Particularly worrisome, the organization said, was evidence that there has been a 50 percent jump in U.S. food waste since the 1970s.

‘No matter how sustainably our food is farmed, if it’s not being eaten, it is not a good use of resources,’ said Gunders.”

Glencore hearts droughts
The Guardian reports that the “food chief” at commodities-trading giant Glencore has said a crop-destroying drought in the US is good for business:

“Chris Mahoney, the trader’s director of agricultural products, who owns about £500m of Glencore shares, said the devastating US drought had created an opportunity for the company to make much more money.
‘In terms of the outlook for the balance of the year, the environment is a good one. High prices, lots of volatility, a lot of dislocation, tightness, a lot of arbitrage opportunities [the purchase and sale of an asset in order to profit from price differences in different markets],’ he said on a conference call .

‘They [Glencore] are millionaires making money from other people’s misery caused by the drought,’ [global food trade expert Raj Patel] said. ‘It’s the sad fact of how the international food system – that they pushed for and our governments gave to them – works.’ ”

NAM rising
As the Non-Aligned Movement prepares for next week’s Tehran summit, Trinity College’s Vijay Prashad suggests that the 120-nation group may be about to emerge from its decades in the wilderness:

“Until the last decade there have been few attempts to create an ideological and institutional alternative to neoliberalism or to unipolar imperialism.

With the arrival of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in the past few years, the mood has lifted. The much more assertive presence of the BRICS inside the NAM and in the United Nations has raised hopes that US and European intransigence will no longer determine the destiny of the world.”

Latest Developments, August 22

In the latest news and analysis…

Ecological overdraft
The Global Footprint Network has declared August 22 Earth Overshoot Day, “the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year”:

“We are now operating in overdraft. For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In 1992, Earth Overshoot Day—the approximate date our resource consumption for a given year exceeds the planet’s ability to replenish—fell on October 21. In 2002, Overshoot Day was on October 3.”

High-level apology
The Associated Press reports that South African Defense Minister Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula has apologized to striking Lonmin miners in the wake of last week’s police shootings that killed 34 of them, while the UK-based company has taken a harder line:

“When miners started shaking plastic bags of bullet casings at her, evidence of the many bullets that police fired in volleys last Thursday, she said: ‘I am begging, I beg and I apologize, may you find forgiveness in your hearts.’

The government did intervene in favor of the strikers, persuading mine managers that no striking miners should be fired in the week that South Africa officially mourns the killings, the presidency said Tuesday.
Managers of Lonmin PLC platinum mine had ordered strikers to report for duty by 7 a.m. Tuesday or get fired, even as some family members still were searching for missing loved ones, not knowing whether they were dead or alive among some 250 arrested protesters or in one of the hospitals”

Taking responsibility
The South African Press Association reports that the Bench Marks Foundation has said Lonmin “has to bear a heavy burden of responsibility” for the striking miners’ deaths:

“ ‘Lonmin must retract their insensitivity towards the grieving families and apologise for their lack of empathy and harsh response, especially by giving ultimatums to grieving workers to return to work immediately,’ the foundation said.
Lonmin and other platinum-producing companies in the area bore responsibility for the negative affects of mining on the lives of people in the Bojanala Platinum district municipality.
‘The Marikana tragedy cannot be understood without looking at the negative economic, social and environmental impacts of platinum mining for both workers and local communities in the area.’ ”

Bribery memo
The Age reports that a newly discovered document links the governor of Australia’s central bank and his former deputy to “one of the worst corporate corruption cover-ups” in the country’s history:

“The 2007 memo shows that almost two years before a bribery expose by The Age forced the [Reserve Bank of Australia] to call in police, [former deputy governor Ric] Battellino was given a detailed and explosive memo cataloguing bribery and corruption inside Note Printing Australia, a wholly owned and supervised subsidiary of the bank.
The memo, details of which have remained secret until now, was addressed to ‘Deputy Governor RBA’ and written by a senior executive of NPA, which along with sister firm Securency was charged last year by Australian Federal Police with bribing foreign officials via overseas agents in order to win contracts.”

Shell’s army
The Guardian reports that oil giant Shell is paying tens of millions to Nigeria’s security forces, as well as employing a private police force and “a network of plainclothes informants” to protect its Niger Delta assets:

“Activists expressed concern that the escalating cost of Shell’s security operation in the delta was further destabilising the oil rich region and helping to fuel rampant corruption and criminality. ‘The scale of Shell’s global security expenditure is colossal,’ said Ben Amunwa of London-based oil watchdog Platform. ‘It is staggering that Shell transferred $65m of company funds and resources into the hands of soldiers and police known for routine human rights abuses.’

‘This proves what we in the Niger delta have known for years – that the air force, the army, the police, they are paid for with Shell money and they are all at the disposal of the company for it to use it any how it likes,’ said Celestine Nkabari at the Niger delta campaign group Social Action.”

Oil transparency
Najwa al-Beshti, a former employee of the National Oil Corporation of Libya, calls on the US Securities and Exchange Commission and European regulators to bring in strong transparency requirements for extractive industry companies operating abroad:

“Oil industry lobbyists are using their influence in Washington and Brussels to try to undermine transparency measures that could help prevent future tyrants from emerging. That must not be allowed to happen.
When Colonel Qaddafi was in power, I worked for Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation, in a position that allowed me to observe corruption firsthand. I helped produce audits that detailed the mismanagement of millions of dollars of oil revenues, including the systematic underpricing of oil and the discounting of prices for select foreign companies.”

Ethanol rules
The Washington Post reports on a new study exploring the potential impact on global food prices of various possible adjustments to US policy regulating ethanol production:

“Under the fourth option there, the EPA allows a fairly big relaxation of the ethanol rule next year. (A waiver this year is unlikely.) Refiners are required to use 25 percent less ethanol. And ethanol producers can carry over their credits from previous years. In that case, corn prices could drop more than 20 percent, to $6.56 per bushel. That’s about where corn prices would have been if we only had a ‘weak drought’ this year. In other words, by relaxing the ethanol rule, the EPA could essentially turn a ‘strong drought’ into a ‘weak drought’ as far as prices are concerned.”

Ecuador bashing
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie argues that the British media’s treatment of Ecuador during the drama involving Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been characterized by “the dismissiveness that remains the hallmark of western foreign policy instincts”:

“In otherwise thoughtful comments criticising the Ecuadorian government on its press freedom record on Channel 4 News last week, David Aaronovitch, an influential British journalist said: “I’m not sure [the Ecuadorians] would understand what human rights were if they came and smacked them over the back of the head.”
Such language doubtless makes for good TV, but it’s both incredibly rude and not a little myopic: many people around the world would say the same of Britain – and with good cause, given the hardly glowing record of its government and companies.”

Latest Developments, August 3

In the latest news and analysis…

0.7% rethink
The European Centre for Development Policy Management’s Niels Keijzer questions the continued relevance of the decades-old (though largely unmet) commitment made by wealthy countries to devote 0.7 percent of their GDP to foreign aid:

“Measuring development efforts in a ‘post-0.7 world’ may therefore need a much stronger focus on actions in policy areas beyond aid; a reporting system would check how far donors promoted development other than by giving development assistance. This requires monitoring national policies and international policy positions on issues such as visa facilitation, banking secrecy, arms export, agricultural subsidies, fisheries and renewable energy.

The focus on ‘proving’ the effectiveness of ODA in splendid isolation – ie ‘value for money’ – continues. But is it now time to move away from it?”

Assault on Mother Earth
Nnimmo’s Reflections reports that a court in Ecuador has agreed to hear a suit against oil-giant BP on the grounds that the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill may have amounted to a violation of the rights of nature, as enshrined in the Ecuadorian constitution:

“In the suit the plaintiffs demand, among other things, actions on release of information, restoration, compensation and a guarantee of non-recurrence. With regard to compensation, the demands are that ‘British Petroleum be ordered to commit to leaving untapped an equivalent amount of oil to the oil spilled in the Gulf’. Secondly, that ‘British Petroleum be ordered to redirect investment earmarked for further exploration towards strategies aimed a leaving oil underground as a more effective mechanism for compensating nature for the current impact on its climate cycles due to oil production.’ ”

Delta fiasco
Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development have released a statement condemning the investigation process into oil spills in the Niger Delta:

“ ‘The investigation process into oil spills in the Niger Delta is a fiasco. There is more investment in public relations messaging than in facing up to the fact that much of the oil infrastructure is old, poorly maintained and prone to leaks – some of them devastating in terms of their human rights impact,’ said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.
‘No matter what evidence is presented to Shell about oil spills, they constantly hide behind the “sabotage” excuse and dodge their responsibility for massive pollution that is due to their failure to properly maintain their infrastructure and make it safe, and to properly clean up oil spills.’ ”

Drones and democracy
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that a top Pakistani diplomat believes US drone strikes are doing serious harm to his country:

“[High Commissioner to London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan] also claims that some factions of the US government still prefer to work with ‘just one man’ rather than a democratically-elected government, and accuses the US of ‘talking in miles’ when it comes to democracy but of ‘moving in inches.’

‘What has been the whole outcome of these drone attacks is, that you have rather directly or indirectly contributed to destabilizing or undermining the democratic government. Because people really make fun of the democratic government – when you pass a resolution against drone attacks in the parliament, and nothing happens. The Americans don’t listen to you, and they continue to violate your territory.’
The army too risks being seen as impotent, he warns the United States.”

Strong words
The Citizen reports that former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa has said EU Economic Partnership Agreements are “a poisoned chalice and must be rejected,” likening them to a second Scramble for Africa:

“He  said the country would lose more than $62.4 million a year from tariff elimination when the EPA is fully implemented. He said the zero rating of taxes on imports, as among the EPA conditions, would put the country’s future production at risk as it would allow more goods from the EU, thus killing local industries.

‘Unlike the Berlin Conference of 1884/85, which Balkanised Africa among 13 European powers as a guaranteed source of raw materials and market, the current contraption under EPA is the modern day equivalent of the Berlin Conference,’ said Mr Mkapa. ”

Saying no to REDD+
Inter Press Service reports that civil society groups in El Salvador are asking the World Bank to reject their government’s proposal to join an international anti-deforestation scheme they believe is bad for the environment:

“They argue that, beyond the praiseworthy aim of preserving forests in developing countries, the mechanism does nothing to enforce reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the industrialised countries that are the prime causes of the pollution.
‘This is perverse logic on the part of sectors emitting the most greenhouse gases, like industry, energy generation and transport, which produce 60 percent of all emissions and are seeking to avoid responsibility,’ said Ivette Aguilar, an expert on climate change.
‘Rich countries do not want to change their consumption patterns,’ she told IPS.”

SEC scolded
US Senators Dick Lugar and Benjamin Cardin say there is “no excuse” for the Securities and Exchange Commission’s delays in implementing legislation that would require US-listed extractive companies to disclose all payments made to foreign governments:

“Our offices consulted with the SEC before we drafted the legislation and — at the agency’s urging — we gave it leeway to write the specific reporting rules within the confines of the law after consulting with industry, investor groups, the public, and other interested parties. The April 2011, deadline has passed. We have called for an investigation into the SEC’s failure to follow the clear letter of the law.

With a Commission vote not scheduled until late August, the lengthy delay has raised fears that the SEC may dilute the regulation, either by granting a broad exemption to countries that don’t want the public to know the sums they receive, or by limiting the specifics of the payments disclosed. The law is clear on both points: no exemptions, and project by project reporting. We urge the commission: follow the law and issue the rule.”

Fallujah fallout
Al Jazeera asks if the US is coming clean about its use of unconventional weapons in Fallujah in 2004 and the “possible link” with the Iraqi city’s high number of birth defects:

“ ‘Some kind of dust or material, whether it’s uranium, whether it’s some chemical we don’t know, must’ve got into the air, must’ve got into people’s bodies and into their food and their water … there are traces, most of the material are inside the individual parents,’ [according to weapons researcher Dai Williams].”