Latest Developments, October 23

In the latest news and analysis…

Migrant rights
Human Rights Watch is calling on Europe to adopt a “rights-based approach” to migrants arriving by boat:

“Though framed in terms of saving lives, many of the proposed policy responses reflect the EU’s preoccupation with preventing departure and barring entry, Human Rights Watch said. These responses have brought to the fore longstanding disputes among Mediterranean EU member countries about responsibilities for rescue operations, for determining where those rescued may land, and for processing migrants and asylum seekers.
Enhanced efforts to save lives at sea need to go hand-in-hand with respect for other fundamental human rights, such as the right to seek asylum and protection against torture and ill-treatment, Human Rights Watch said.”

Dirty money
Global Financial Integrity welcomes two new pieces of legislation “aimed at stemming the flow of trillions of dollars in dirty money through the U.S. financial system”:

“Introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters, the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, the Holding Individuals Accountable and Deterring Money Laundering Act would hold top executives at U.S. financial institutions responsible for oversight of anti-money laundering compliance at their bank while increasing the penalties faced by bankers for violating AML laws—bringing them in line with the penalties faced by drug dealers on the streets.

The U.S. Department of Justice has warned that anonymous shell companies are the most widely used method for laundering criminal proceeds, and an anonymous shell company can currently be incorporated in nearly every U.S. state. The Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), proposes to fix this problem by requiring that firms incorporated in the U.S. disclose their true, human, ‘beneficial owners’ in a central registry that is accessible by law enforcement.”

Old habits
The Economist’s Schumpeter writes that despite outside pressure, Switzerland does not appear ready to do away with its famous banking secrecy just yet:

“The Swiss government recently announced its intention to sign the OECD convention on cross-border tax assistance, but this would have to be ratified by the parliament, which has shown itself to be less willing to make concessions. More importantly, the convention doesn’t require the automatic exchange of information, but rather exchange ‘on request’, which has proven ineffective (because, in a classic Catch-22 situation, the requesting country often needs much of the information it is seeking in order to put together a request that meets the requirements of the jurisdiction where the untaxed money is thought to be stashed). The Swiss are still opposed to automatic exchange.
Moreover, earlier this month the cabinet dropped plans to allow co-operation with other countries’ tax-assistance requests in cases where the data was stolen by whistle-blowers, after the proposal met with strong domestic political opposition. Weeks earlier, ministers had reiterated their view that Swiss criminal law should not be used to help foreign countries recover lost taxes or enforce any other economic laws.”

Racism for kids
Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that the UN is investigating whether the Dutch tradition of Zwarte Piet or “Black Pete” is racist:

“On Tuesday, the chair of the UN working group, Verene Shepherd spoke on her own behalf, saying that ‘the working group cannot understand why it is that people in the Netherlands cannot see that this is a throwback to slavery and that in the 21st century this practice should stop’.
Asked for his opinion on the debate last week, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated that the issue is not a matter for the government. He said that ‘Zwarte Piet just happens to be black and I can change nothing about that.’ ”

Presidential spying
The Associated Press reports that Mexico claims US President Barack Obama “gave his word” there would be an investigation into apparent spying on Mexican presidential emails:

“ ‘Mexico did not ask for an explanation. Mexico asked for an investigation,’ [Secretary of foreign affairs Jose Antonio Meade] said when asked whether the US had apologized or offered any explanation about the reported National Security Agency spying.

A report by the German news magazine Der Spiegel said documents from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden indicate the US gained access to former Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s email system when he was in office. Earlier, a document dated June 2012 indicated the NSA had read current Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto’s emails before he was elected.”

Tax-deductible fines
Forbes contributor Robert Wood writes about how major American companies who misbehave can get taxpayers to pay a big chunk of fines levied by the US government:

“[The U.S. Public Interest Research Group] claims that unless JPMorgan Chase is explicitly forbidden, it will write off the [$13 billion] settlement. That would make taxpayers bear 35% of the cost of the settlement.

The tax code prohibits deducting ‘any fine or similar penalty paid to a government for the violation of any law,’’ including criminal and civil penalties plus sums paid to settle potential liability for fines. In reality, many companies deduct settlements, even those that are quasi-fine-like in character. Exxon’s $1.1 billion Alaska oil spill settlement cost Exxon $524 million after tax. More recently, BP’s Gulf spill raised similar issues.”

Containing violence
The Institute for Economics and Peace’s Steve Killelea writes about the global costs, in dollar terms, of violence:

“According to the Global Peace Index, containing violence – including internal and external conflicts, as well as violent crimes and homicides – cost the world almost $9.5 trillion, or 11% of global GDP, last year. That is 75 times the volume of official overseas development assistance in 2012, which amounted to $125.6 billion, and nearly double the value of the world’s annual agricultural production. (For further perspective, the post-2008 global financial crisis caused global GDP to fall by 0.6%.)
This means that if the world were to reduce its violence-related expenditure by approximately 50%, it could repay the debt of the developing world ($4.1 trillion), provide enough money for the European Stability Mechanism ($900 billion), and fund the additional amount required to achieve the MDGs ($60 billion).”

Small is beautiful
The Gaia Foundation’s Teresa Anderson argues that “agriculture is increasingly becoming agribusiness”, with dire consequences for both people and the planet:

“It is important to note that the global industrial food system contributes an estimated 44-57% of global greenhouse gases to climate change. In contrast, the world’s small-scale farmers – the ones keeping agricultural diversity alive – provide 70% of all food eaten globally, using just 30% of the world’s agricultural land.”

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Latest Developments, September 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Buying time
The Associated Press reports that US President Barack Obama, in a nationally televised speech on Syria, said the military strikes he has been pushing for might not be necessary:

“Citing the new diplomatic efforts, Obama said in his speech Tuesday night that he had asked congressional leaders to postpone a vote on legislation he has been seeking to authorize the use of military force against Syria — a vote he was in danger of losing.
Obama’s move gives crucial time for negotiations on a Russian proposal for international inspectors to seize and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile as efforts to avert retaliatory U.S. missile strikes shift from Washington to the United Nations.

Obama said the Russian initiative ‘has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies.’
But the 16-minute speech generally made the case for military action.”

Less welcoming
Reuters reports that the “trickiest task” facing Norway’s newly elected Conservatives will be integrating an “anti-immigration, anti-tax” party into the new government:

“Although Progress has toned down its rhetoric, it is seen by some as too radical for government, and once had among its members Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in 2011 in a gun and bomb attack targeting Labour.

Bringing Progress into government could force [Conservative leader Erna] Solberg to make concessions on spending, taxes and perhaps even make a symbolic gesture on immigration. But any shift is likely to be mild, analysts said.
In immigration, Norway’s hands are tied by international treaties, which limit its room to maneuver. And the economy desperately needs new workers as unemployment is under 3 percent and a steady influx of workers keeps the labour market from overheating.”

Nothing to see here
The BBC reports on British Prime Minister David Cameron’s claim that no UK territory is a tax haven anymore, now that some of the world’s most notorious offshore financial centres, such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, have promised to become more transparent:

“In the House of Commons on Monday David Cameron said he no longer considered it ‘fair’ to use the label, after recent efforts to ensure transparency.

The three Crown dependencies [The Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey] all refer to themselves as International Finance Centres, which mean they are in the business of tax avoidance which is legal, as opposed to tax evasion, which is illegal.
‘It is very important that our focus should now shift to those territories and countries that really are tax havens,’ continued Mr Cameron.”

Contested values
The Globe and Mail reports that Canada’s federal government has suggested it will fight Quebec’s proposed “charter of values” if the province’s lawmakers vote to adopt it:

“ ‘We would challenge any law that we deem unconstitutional, that violates the fundamental constitutional guarantees to freedom of religion,’ Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney told reporters in Ottawa. ‘Freedom of religion is a fundamental, universal value inscribed in our own Constitution, and this government will defend it vigorously.’
Mr. Kenney said he is ‘very concerned about proposal that would discriminate unfairly against people based on their religion, based on their deepest convictions.’

Polls in Quebec suggest that a majority of the residents of that province support what the [Parti Québécois] is trying to do. ”

Dutch diversions
The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations has released a new report suggesting that the Netherlands is the “biggest tax sink” for companies from crisis/austerity-stricken Portugal:

“The large financial flows from Portugal to the Netherlands and back again, show that investments from and to Portugal are not real ‘investments’ but rather ‘round-trip’ investments, in which Dutch letterbox companies are used to avoid paying taxes in Portugal. In the SOMO report a case study is used to show how the Portuguese energy company EDP uses ‘The Dutch Connection’ to pay considerably less taxes in its home country.”

Euro coal
350.org’s Tim Ratcliffe and Bankwatch’s Fidanka McGrath urge the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to stop its “retrograde” financing of overseas coal plants:

“Between 2006 and 2011, while the current energy policy was in place, 48% of the EBRD’s $8.9bn (£5.6bn) energy portfolio went to fossil fuels. Support for coal actually increased in this period, from €60m (£50m) to €262m.

In July, the EBRD released a draft of its new energy sector strategy, a roadmap for the next five years for investment and policy initiatives. Although the strategy claims, ‘the bank will promote the transition to a low-carbon model throughout the energy sector’, the document would keep the bank on course with fossil fuel development, providing no significant restrictions on the development of oil, gas, or coal mining and far too few constraints on coal power plants. The policy would also open the door for other controversial, dirty energy sources such as shale gas.”

Unintended consequences
Bloomberg reports on the warnings of “the world’s largest political risk consultancy” regarding the International Criminal Court trials of Kenya’s top two politicians:

“ ‘The start of President [Uhuru] Kenyatta’s and Deputy President [William] Ruto’s trials could slow the legislative agenda, potentially pushing petroleum and mining code revisions into the first half of next year,’ Clare Allenson, an Africa associate with Eurasia Group, said in an e-mailed note on Sept. 5. Delays to policy making may be caused by ‘weeks long’ absences by the accused and while lawmakers who support the pair travel to the court to show their political loyalty, Allenson said.

‘Members of parliament risk raising local tensions over the allegations as the witness testimony on human rights violations comes to light,’ Allenson said. ‘Further politicization of the cases could cause low level unrest in areas most impacted by the violence, particularly the southern Rift Valley and the outskirts of Nairobi.’ ”

RWP revisited
Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans argues that the current Syria crisis has made the concept of “responsibility while protecting” more appealing than ever:

“The reality is that if an un-vetoed majority vote is ever going to be secured again for tough action in a hard mass atrocity case—even action falling considerably short of military action—then the issues at the heart of the backlash that has accompanied the implementation of the Libyan mandate, and the concerns of the BRICS states in particular, simply have to be taken seriously. Those issues and concerns reflect the views of a much wider swathe of the developing world.”

Latest Developments, June 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Making the rules
The Wall Street Journal reports on the unilateral actions that US officials believe their country can legally take in and around Syria:

“Proponents of the proposal say a no-fly zone could be imposed without a U.N. Security Council resolution, since the U.S. would not regularly enter Syrian airspace and wouldn’t hold Syrian territory.
U.S. planes have air-to-air missiles that could destroy Syrian planes from long ranges. But officials said that aircraft may be required to enter Syrian air space if threatened by advancing Syrian planes. Such an incursion by the U.S., if it were to happen, could be justified as self-defense, officials say.”

Continental boom
The Guardian reports on new UN population projections that suggest an equitable world will require a massively increased voice for Africa:

“The UN report World population prospects: the 2012 revision, published on Thursday, predicts the world’s population, now at 7.2 billion, will reach 8.1 billion in 2025. By mid-century, the world’s population is expected to top 9.5 billion, reaching nearly 11 billion by 2100.
More than half of the growth predicted between now and 2050 is expected in Africa, where the number of people is set to more than double, from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion. Africa’s population will continue to rise even if there is a future drop in the average number of children each woman has, says the report, which predicts the number of people living on the continent could reach 4.2 billion (or more than 35% of total global population) by 2100.”

Unanimous gene ruling
Inter Press Service reports that all nine members of the US Supreme Court have agreed that “naturally occurring DNA” cannot be patented:

“The decision overturns three decades of practise to the contrary by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Health and civil liberties groups are celebrating the unusual unanimous ruling, as are consumer protection advocates.
Although the case dealt specifically with questions regarding the ‘isolating’ of genes within the human genome, the judges did not limit their decision to human genetics, meaning the case will have an effect throughout the biotechnology industry.”

Fear of transparency
The Independent reports that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has asked his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, not to block an agreement aimed at cracking down on “secret companies used for money laundering, tax evasion and terrorist activity” at next week’s G8 summit:

“But after talks in Downing Street last night it was doubtful whether Canada would back Mr Cameron’s ‘full disclosure’ plan for the eight leading economies to create registers of who controls and owns every company based in their country.”

The US and Russia also have doubts about public registers. Mr Cameron may have to settle for a Plan B, under which the G8 nations would set up private registers that could be accessed only by tax and law enforcement authorities. It is not certain Canada would agree to that. Aid agencies say private registers would be second best because it would be harder for the world’s poorest countries to track individuals and businesses avoiding tax in their nations who hide behind anonymous ‘shell companies.’ ”

Tax hunger
Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, writes that “nothing is more crucial in financial or symbolic terms” in the fight against hunger than tax justice:

“It’s not just the usual suspect tax havens that are culpable. The whole world is a tax haven for companies able to navigate between its tax jurisdictions. The G8 cannot control tax policy in developing countries, but it can clamp down on the multinationals and individuals whose wealth is often earned in developing countries but domiciled and managed in London, New York and Paris, perversely causing more cash to flow from poor countries to rich countries than vice versa.”

Green fraud
The Oakland Institute’s Anuradha Mittal uses the example of a US-based company’s duplicitous attempts to establish a massive palm-oil plantation in Cameroon as a reminder that “Africa is open for business, not for theft”:

“Last year, after complaints about [Herakles Farms] to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) highlighted the company’s alleged environmental violations, [CEO Bruce] Wrobel made no attempts to set the record straight. Instead, Herakles resigned from the Roundtable before the claims were to be investigated, spuriously stating that they ‘remain committed’ to RSPO’s standards.

This is a sobering lesson for all parties involved – that the land rush by foreign investors into African nations is not philanthropically driven, despite claims to the contrary. Rather, companies such as Herakles Farms have exploited images of poverty and hunger, and couched their efforts in the language of sustainability, allowing them to handily reap profits from Africa’s resources while undermining national laws, local communities and the environment.”

ICC judged
The Institute for Security Studies’ Solomon Dersso argues that the International Criminal Court’s claims that it is immune to political influence are not entirely convincing:

“While legally speaking this position is largely true, the nature and structure of international politics is such that the application of international justice processes more often than not reflects the distribution of power within the international community. The ICC is not immune to this, and the way in which the ICC launched its case in Libya is a testimony. The speed with which and the way the ICC prosecutor launched this case also betrays the ICC’s acquiescence to its instrumentalisation by UN Security Council politics.

Some of the referrals, such as those in Uganda and Kenya, were inspired by domestic political calculations rather than the interest to serve justice. Indeed, in charging some people and not others in these cases, the ICC was in some ways playing local politics.”

Bad name
The Huffington Post reports that National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell is standing by a team name that a group of US Congress members recently called a “racial, derogatory slur”:

“ ‘The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context,’ Goodell wrote. ‘For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.’ ”

Latest Developments, May 28

In the latest news and analysis…

Wealth absorption
Inter Press Service looks into the role that governments and banks in rich countries have played in turning Africa into a “net creditor” to the rest of the world:

“ ‘While the onus for change is on both national and international players alike, the Western countries can control the international component of this dynamic – the international financial structure,’ [Global Financial Integrity’s Clark Gascoigne said].
The [African Development Bank] and GFI analysts are encouraging strengthened alignment of financial policies between African countries and those countries that are ‘absorbing’ these illicit flows. The United States, for instance, continues to be the largest incorporator of shell companies in the world, while Gascoigne says there is also far more that Washington and other Western capitals can do on swapping tax information and refusing to tolerate bank and tax haven secrecy.”

German guns
Deutsche Welle reports that German small arms exports hit an “all-time high” in 2012:

“The Süddeutsche [Zeitung] reported that approved exports from 2012 hit 76.15 million euros ($98.5 million) in 2012, compared to 37.9 million euros in 2011. The second-highest figure on record, with small arms only itemized in German government export reports since the late 1990s, was from 2009 – at 70.4 million euros.

German military exports by private companies must be approved by a special security council made up of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and most top government ministers, including the defense, foreign, finance and development ministers.”

Banana ethics
3 News reports that US agribusiness giant Dole is suspending its use of the Ethical Choice label following allegations of worker abuse at its plantations in the Philippines:

“Workers have allegedly been harassed for joining a union while others have been aerial sprayed with pesticide while still at work. Environmental degradation is also a significant problem, the report says.

‘It’s time for Dole to stop making unsupported claims that they are selling ethically produced bananas,’ [Oxfam’s Barry Coates said].
He called for the self-created Ethical Choice label, which the Commerce Commission last year warned may breach the Fair Trading Act, to be removed.”

Textile violence
Reuters reports that clashes with police have injured at least 23 workers at a Cambodian garment factory that supplies US sportswear giant Nike:

“Police with riot gear were deployed to move about 3,000 mostly female workers who had blocked a road outside their factory owned by Sabrina (Cambodia) Garment Manufacturing in Kampong Speu province, west of the capital, Phnom Penh.

[Free Trade Union president] Sun Vanny said the workers making the Nike clothing had been staging strikes and protests since May 21. They want the company, which employs more than 5,000 people at the plant, to give them $14 a month to help pay for transport, rent and healthcare costs on top of their $74 minimum wage.”

Lethal autonomy
Human Rights Watch urges all nations, and the US in particular, to endorse a UN call to say no to “fully autonomous robotic weapons”:

“For the first time, countries will debate the challenges posed by fully autonomous weapons, sometimes called ‘killer robots,’ at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on May 29, 2013.

Over the past decade, the expanded use of unmanned armed vehicles or drones has dramatically changed warfare, bringing new humanitarian and legal challenges, Human Rights Watch said. The UN report acknowledges that ‘robots with full lethal autonomy have not yet been deployed’ despite the lack of transparency on their research and development. The report lists several robotic systems with various degrees of autonomy and lethality that are in use by the US, Israel, South Korea, and the UK. Other nations with high-tech militaries, such as China, and Russia, are also believed to be moving toward systems that would give full combat autonomy to machines.”

Selling drones
NBC News reports on corporate excitement over the emerging market for armed drones:

[Denel Dynamics] aims to be among the first suppliers of armed drones to market, if tests of the armed versions of the Seeker 400 — expected to begin in ‘a month or two’ and last up to six months, according to [Denel’s Sello Ntsihlele] — are successful. South Africa would have to purchase the armed drones first before the company would begin marketing them elsewhere, but if that happens Denel sees opportunities for growth elsewhere, particularly in ‘Africa and the Middle East,’ he said.

There are no international restrictions on sales of armed drones. Beyond sanctions and embargoes governed by the Security Council, the United Nations does not regulate arms and arms-technology sales, although the Arms Trade Treaty approved in April by the General Assembly may change that if it is eventually ratified by enough nations.

Global tax deal
Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz argues that international corporate tax laws are “unmanageable, unfair, distortionary”:

“These international corporations are the big beneficiaries of globalisation – it is not, for instance, the average American worker and those in many other countries, who, partly under the pressure from globalisation, has seen his income fully adjusted for inflation, including the lowering of prices that globalisation has brought about, fall year after year, to the point where a fulltime male worker in the US has an income lower than four decades ago. Our multinationals have learned how to exploit globalisation in every sense of the term – including exploiting the tax loopholes that allow them to evade their global social responsibilities.

It would be good if there could be an international agreement on the taxation of corporate profits. In the absence of such an agreement, any country that threatened to impose fair corporate taxes would be punished – production (and jobs) would be taken elsewhere.”

Colonial compensation
Al Jazeera reports on the New Zealand government’s compensation package for historical injustices committed against the country’s indigenous population:

“ ‘It’s not a great deal, we were expecting much more. But considering all things, we’ve accepted it. I’ll put it that way,’ [Ngati Haua member Mokoro] Gillett said of the $13mn settlement.
[Minister for Treaty Negotiations Christopher Finlayson] acknowledges that the settlements are more symbolic than anything else.
‘The Treaty settlement process cannot, and does not attempt to, compensate claimants for the losses suffered as a result of Treaty breaches by the Crown,’ his spokesperson said. ‘Although it’s difficult to calculate, various estimates have put commercial redress at between one per cent and six per cent of what was lost.’ ”

Latest Developments, May 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Bleeding a continent
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan argues that stopping the “plunder” of Africa by foreign investors will require multilateral efforts:

“The scale of the losses sustained by Africa is not widely recognized. Transfer pricing — the practice of shifting profits to lower tax jurisdictions — costs the continent $34 billion annually — more than the region receives in bilateral aid. Put differently, you could double aid by cutting this version of tax evasion. The extensive use made by foreign investors of offshore-registered companies operating from jurisdictions with minimal reporting requirements actively facilitates tax evasion. It is all but impossible for Africa’s understaffed and poorly resourced revenue authorities to track real profits through the maze of shell companies, holding companies and offshore entities used by investors.

It is time to draw back the veil of secrecy behind which too many companies operate. Every tax jurisdiction should be required to publicly disclose the full beneficial ownership structure of registered companies. Switzerland, Britain and the United States — all major conduits for offshore finance — should signal intent to clamp down on illicit financial flows.”

Orders to kill
The Guatemala Times reports that the security chief of a mine owned by Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources has been caught on tape demanding that protesters be killed:

“The information reveals Rotondo making several statements: ‘God dam dogs, they do not understand that the mine generates jobs’. ‘We must eliminate these animal pieces of shit’. ‘We can not allow people to establish resistance, another Puya no’. ‘Kill those sons of bitches’.

Rotondo was apprehended at the airport La Aurora, when he trying to flee the country. Wire tapping of conversations between him and his son reveal that he planned to leave Guatemala for a while, because ‘I ordered to kill some of these sons of Bitches.’ ”

Bad suits
Bloomberg reports on the boom in investor-state arbitration which one critic likens to a “a quiet, slow-moving coup d’état”:

“Arbitration clauses were originally included in treaties to deal with the nationalization or a company’s assets. Now arbitrators hear claims for lost business or costs stemming from public-health laws and environmental regulation and financial policies, with billions of dollars at stake.
In some instances, investors are even demanding that national laws or court judgments be overturned.

A record 62 treaty-based arbitration cases were filed last year, bringing the total to 480 since 2000, according to the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development. Before then, there were fewer than three a year dating to 1987, when a Hong Kong company brought the first known case over Sri Lanka’s destruction of a shrimp farm in a military operation against Tamil separatists.”

Court politics
The BBC reports that Kenya has asked the International Criminal Court to halt the trials of newly elected president Uhuru Kenyatta and deputy president William Ruto:

“The letter, sent last week, says the prosecutions are ‘neither impartial nor independent’ and could destabilise Kenya.
The UN Security Council is able to defer ICC cases for up to 12 months.
The deferral can be renewed indefinitely, but the Security Council cannot order the court to drop a case.”

Imperial crimes
Author Pankaj Mishra discusses Britain’s apparent “collective need to forget crimes and disasters” that occurred in the time of Empire:

“Astonishingly, British imperialism, seen for decades by western scholars and anticolonial leaders alike as a racist, illegitimate and often predatory despotism, came to be repackaged in our own time as a benediction that, in [Niall] Ferguson’s words, ‘undeniably pioneered free trade, free capital movements and, with the abolition of slavery, free labour’. Andrew Roberts, a leading mid-Atlanticist, also made the British empire seem like an American neocon wet dream in its alleged boosting of ‘free trade, free mobility of capital … low domestic taxation and spending and ‘gentlemanly’ capitalism’.
Never mind that free trade, introduced to Asia through gunboats, destroyed nascent industry in conquered countries, that ‘free’ capital mostly went to the white settler states of Australia and Canada, that indentured rather than ‘free’ labour replaced slavery, and that laissez faire capitalism, which condemned millions to early death in famines, was anything but gentlemanly.”

Toxic environments
Inter Press Service reports on new evidence suggesting the health impacts of toxic waste in poor countries are “on par” with those of malaria:

“Toxic waste sites in 31 countries are damaging the brains of nearly 800,000 children and impairing the health of millions of people in the developing world, two new studies have found.

Toxic sites ‘fly under the radar’ in terms of public health awareness and action. Little research has been done on the health impacts of chemical pollutants in developing countries.”

Syrian agenda
The National reports a Syrian rebel commander’s account of US attempts late last year to pit Syria’s insurgents against one another:

“The Americans began discussing the possibility of drone strikes on [Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat] Al Nusra camps inside Syria and tried to enlist the rebels to fight their fellow insurgents.

‘I’m not going to lie to you. We’d prefer you fight Al Nusra now, and then fight Assad’s army. You should kill these Nusra people. We’ll do it if you don’t,’ the rebel leader quoted the officer as saying.

‘They [foreign governments] are not fighting for the same things as us,’ [the rebel leader] said. ‘Syrians are fighting for our freedom, while they just want us to bleed to death fighting each other.’ ”

Toothless watchdog
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting argues that many mainstream US media outlets are failing once again “to treat [weapons of mass destruction] claims with the skepticism they deserve”:

“Seeing public reticence for another war as a ‘problem’ provides a revealing glimpse into the mindset of so many pundits, who are once again rallying in support of U.S. military action based on sketchy reports about weapons of mass destruction.”