Latest Developments, May 29

In the latest news and analysis…

Off the radar
The BBC reports that the British military has been accused of “unlawful detention and internment” at a base in Afghanistan:

“UK lawyers acting for eight of the men said their clients had been held for up to 14 months without charge.

Phil Shiner, lawyer for eight of the men, said: ‘This is a secret facility that’s been used to unlawfully detain or intern up to 85 Afghans that they’ve kept secret, that Parliament doesn’t know about, that courts previously when they have interrogated issues like detention and internment in Afghanistan have never been told about – completely off the radar.’ ”

Total corruption
The Wall Street Journal reports that a French prosecutor has recommended that the CEO of oil giant Total and the company itself both stand trial on corruption charges:

“Under French law, magistrates can prosecute corporations, not just individuals.

In the mid-2000s, French prosecutors began looking into a series of possibly illegal payments Total made to Iranian officials allegedly to secure contracts. In 2007, a few months after he was appointed chief executive of Total, [CEO Christophe] de Margerie was questioned for 48 hours by French police investigating whether the company paid bribes to win contracts.”

Dear Dave
The Citizen reports that Tanzania’s shadow finance minister, Zitto Kabwe, has written a letter asking British Prime Minister David Cameron to do more to prevent the flow of wealth from poor countries to tax havens:

“ ‘I call on you to demonstrate your leadership at the (G8) Summit by putting in place aggressive sanctions against British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies which continue to provide cover for the siphoning of billions of dollars of our tax revenue,’ says Mr Kabwe in the letter he handed to the UK High Commissioner in Dar es Salaam on Monday.

He said aid by UK and other development partners is dwarfed when the amount that Tanzania loses every year to tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance is taken into account.
‘To a large extent, these tax evasions and avoidance are done by multinational corporations, most of them registered in the United Kingdom. This is a constant challenge for our country – a challenge that undermines the same foundations of accountability that we are striving to strengthen and uphold,’ he says.”

Bribery climbdown
The Financial Times reports that the UK is considering watering down its anti-bribery legislation, a move that would “undermine the government’s promises to clamp down on corruption”:

“The review will focus on so-called ‘facilitation payments’, according to a summary of a meeting held in March by the ‘Star Chamber’, a top-level group charged with cutting red tape across Whitehall.
Such payments involve officials being paid bribes to allow or speed up a service, such as a customs check or border crossing. They are illegal under the Bribery Act, and are the main difference between UK legislation and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

While the act gave the Serious Fraud Office sweeping powers to prosecute bribery anywhere in the world, as long as a company or its employees had a link to the UK, the only prosecutions so far have been of low-level civil servants.”

Involuntary migration
Columbia University’s Saskia Sassen argues that we should not call it migration when land grabs push people “off their land and into poverty”:

“When a foreign government acquires 2.8m hectares of land in Congo and another such tract in Zambia to grow palm for biofuels, it expels faunas and floras, and all other uses of that land. It creates a tabula rasa, where once there were smallholder economies generating livelihoods for local people. No matter how modest those livelihoods may have been, they made the local people productive and enabled them to govern their lives and lands.

In effect, expulsions are being rebranded as migrations, a phenomenon that will not cease anytime soon, given the ongoing search for land for crops, mining and water by governments and firms from a growing number of countries.
The generic term ‘migration’ tends to obscure the fact that our firms and government agencies, and those of our allies, may have contributed to expulsions.”

Financial secrets
Global Witness’s Gavin Hayman reminds readers that money laundering and financial secrecy are not strictly “offshore” activities:

“On the contrary, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other mainstream financial centers are at the heart of the action. Indeed, most of the shell companies implicated in the World Bank study were registered in the US. And British, American, and European banks are routinely reprimanded (but rarely prosecuted) for handling the proceeds of crime. Just last year, it was revealed that HSBC enabled Mexican drug cartels to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through the US financial system.

At this year’s meeting, G-8 leaders should develop an effective action plan that focuses on the causes, rather than the symptoms, of poverty, and that lays the groundwork for a system that protects citizens from the depredations of corruption and bad governance. A genuine commitment to increasing financial transparency would carry huge potential benefits for the world’s poorest people, while fostering more equitable economic growth worldwide.”

Sound and fury
The New York Times asks if the hour-long national security speech US President Barack Obama delivered last week will actually put an end to his administration’s human rights violations:

“For now, officials said, ‘signature strikes’ targeting groups of unidentified armed men presumed to be extremists will continue in the Pakistani tribal areas.
Even as he talked about transparency, he never uttered the word ‘C.I.A.’ or acknowledged he was redefining its role. He made no mention that a drone strike had killed an American teenager in error. While he pledged again to close the Guantánamo prison, he offered little reason to think he might be more successful this time.”

Elder’s warning
In an interview with Le Reporter, former Malian cabinet minister and author of Mali’s national anthem Seydou Badian Kouyaté warns against uncritically welcoming France’s military intervention against the West African country’s Islamist rebels:

“What’s behind all this? And we, naively, our usual trust caused us to raise the French flag in front of our houses, our shops and in the street. We sang the praises of [French President François] Holland. We named our babies the name Hollande, etc.

It’s about gold and oil and other things, with maybe a view to Algeria. That’s what the West wants.” [Translated from the French.]

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 17

Salesman

In the latest news and analysis…

Forever war
The New York Times reports on the current debate over the “authorization to use military force,” a 2001 statute that provides the legal basis for America’s so-called War on Terror:

“Human rights groups that want to see the 12-year-old military conflict wind down fear that a new authorization would create an open-ended ‘forever war.’
Some supporters of continuing the wartime approach to terrorism indefinitely fear that the war’s legal basis is eroding and needs to be bolstered, while others worry that a new statute might contain limits that would reduce the power that the Obama administration claims it already wields under the 2001 version.
And still others say that whatever the right policy may be, Congress should protect its constitutional role by explicitly authorizing the parameters of the war, rather than ceding that decision to the executive branch.”

Oil fraud
Sweetcrude reports that Shell has been accused of falsifying the results of an investigation into an oil spill in Nigeria’s Niger Delta:

“About 80 oil producing communities in Warri North and Warri South-West Local Government Areas of Delta State made the allegation, Wednesday, in Warri at a meeting with officials of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and the Nigerian Naval Service, NNS Delta.
The communities are alleging that SNEPCo fabricated the result of samples of oil, soil and surface water collected for test from a few communities impacted by the Bonga oil spill.”

Credits galore
European Voice reports that big polluters are profiting from the EU emissions trading scheme:

“According to the analysis, carried out by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the steel, cement, refining, lime, glass, ceramics and pulp sectors all generated a profit within the system by being over-allocated emission allowances in the scheme.

‘The ETS as a whole has been a financial support to the energy intensive industries…who usually complain that the ETS is killing them,’ asserted a [European Commission] official.”

No more tax avoidance
The Guardian reports that the CEO of UK banking giant Lloyds has promised to (more or less) stop using tax havens:

“Chief executive António Horta-Osório said the 39%-taxpayer owned bank had embarked on a systematic review of ‘so-called tax havens’ after a shareholder demanded to know why the bank was the seventh biggest user of such facilities.

‘In 2012 alone we have closed 60 of those companies and that is more than 20% of the total. We are going to close all of them unless there are strong business reasons for our customers to keep them there,’ he said at the meeting in Edinburgh. He later clarified that ‘business reasons’ did not mean ‘tax reasons’.”

Continued colonialism
Al Jazeera reports that a new study argues that living conditions for Canada’s aboriginal population provides “motives for an insurgency”:

“ ‘The Canadian right-wing establishment is seizing on this to justify its own agenda of stricter controls and the continued criminalisation of native people who defend their rights,’ Taiaiake Alfred, chair of the centre for indigenous governance at the University of Victoria, and one of Canada’s most influential aboriginal intellectuals, told Al Jazeera. ‘The positive elements of Canadian society – progressive values and social justice – are founded on the ongoing injustice of land theft and murder of indigenous people.’
In November, Paul Martin, Canada’s former prime minister and a business tycoon, echoed Alfred’s comments, albeit in a softer tone. ‘We have never admitted to ourselves that we were, and still are, a colonial power,’ he said.”

Shadowy corners
Oxfam’s Ben Phillips calls for a modern resurgence of the kind of “free-thinking insubordination” that helped bring about the renaissance and reformation:

“To exhalt the humble, we’re going to have to humble the exhalted.
That’s why charities are so focused on getting the G8 to deliver on transparency in land investments and in taxation – because knowledge is power, because stealing is harder in broad daylight. The G8 would, no doubt, prefer if we only asked them to beneficent. But we’re insisting, most of all, that they are transparent, and end their role in providing shadowy corners for shady characters to hide their dodgy deals.”

Bad food
Sylvia Szabo argues in Global Policy for a new understanding of food security:

“Even, if hunger was to be completely eradicated, it would not mean that the planet would become food secure. Already today, developing countries, including those in Africa, are experiencing an increased consumption of processed foods. Obesity and chronic diseases are gradually becoming a new challenge in African societies, although many do not yet realise the gravity of the problem.

The stigma of food insecurity seems to be focused only on the developing world, but it has become a global problem and should be conceptualised as such.”

Self-appointed helpers
Former development worker Nora Schenkel discusses her disillusionment at the gulf between the rhetoric and reality of aid work in Haiti:

“Most Haitians only ever meet Westerners in our capacity as self-appointed helpers. We are never just here because we want to be in Haiti; we claim we are here to better Haitians’ lives. But they have seen us come and go for decades, and they are poorer than ever before.
Meanwhile, they see us leaving the grocery store with bags of food that cost more than what they make in a month. They watch us get into large air-conditioned cars and drive by them, always by them. They see us going home to nice, big houses, shielded by high walls.”

Growing gap
Bloomberg reports that US manufacturing giant Caterpillar has become a “symbol of the growing divergence in corporate America between profits and wages”

“In January 2012, Caterpillar locked out union workers at a locomotive factory in Ontario after they rejected a pay cut of about 50 percent; the company shuttered the plant and moved production to Muncie, Ind., where workers accepted lower wages.

As Caterpillar squeezed hourly workers for concessions, [CEO Doug] Oberhelman’s own pay rose 60 percent in 2011, to more than $16 million. Although the company’s profits have declined in recent quarters (largely because of a decline in commodities prices, which has hurt all mining equipment makers), Caterpillar announced on April 22 that Oberhelman’s compensation had jumped again, to $22 million.

As a percentage of gross domestic product, corporate earnings recently hit their highest level in more than 60 years, and wages fell to new lows, according to Moody’s Analytics.”

Latest Developments, May 3

In the latest news and analysis…

Second thoughts
Reuters reports that the US is “rethinking” its opposition to arming rebel forces in Syria:

“Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel cautioned that giving weapons to the forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad was only one option being considered by the United States. It carries the risk of arms finding their way into the hands of anti-American extremists among the insurgents, such as the Nusra Front.
But it may be more palatable to many in the United States than direct U.S. military intervention in the conflict, such as carving out a no-fly zone or sending in troops to secure chemical weapons.”

Detainees vs drones
The Guardian reports that a former White House lawyer has said the Obama administration prefers extrajudicial killings to indefinite detention for dealing with suspected security threats:

“[Ex-White House lawyer John] Bellinger, who drafted the legal framework for targeted drone killings while working for George W Bush after 9/11, said he believed their use had increased since because Obama was unwilling to deal with the consequences of jailing suspected al-Qaida members. ‘This government has decided that instead of detaining members of al-Qaida [at Guantánamo], they are going to kill them,’ he told a conference at the Bipartisan Policy Centre.

Obama said of the camp this week: ‘It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens co-operation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.’ ”

Austerity kills
Reuters reports that a pair of academic researchers have written a new book detailing the “devastating effect” of austerity measures in the US and Europe:

“In Greece, moves like cutting HIV prevention budgets have coincided with rates of the AIDS-causing virus rising by more than 200 percent since 2011 – driven in part by increasing drug abuse in the context of a 50 percent youth unemployment rate.
Greece also experienced its first malaria outbreak in decades following budget cuts to mosquito-spraying programmes.
And more than five million Americans have lost access to healthcare during the latest recession, they argue, while in Britain, some 10,000 families have been pushed into homelessness by the government’s austerity budget.”

Baby steps
The UK has announced that its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, which comprise some of the world’s most notorious tax havens, have taken a “huge step forward” in the fight against tax evasion by agreeing to share banking information with a handful of European governments on a trial basis:

“Following the recent leadership shown by the Cayman Islands, the other Overseas Territories – Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands – have agreed to much greater levels of transparency of accounts held in those jurisdictions.

They have agreed to pilot the automatic exchange of information bilaterally with the UK and multilaterally with the G5 – the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Under this agreement much greater levels of information about bank accounts will be exchanged on a multilateral basis as part of a move to a new global standard.”

Capital crimes
Trinity College’s Vijay Prashad argues last month’s deadly garment factory collapse is a symptom of a problem that extends far beyond Bangladesh:

“These Bangladesh factories are a part of the landscape of globalization that is mimicked in the factories along the US-Mexico border, in Haiti, in Sri Lanka, and in other places that opened their doors to the garment industry’s savvy use of the new manufacturing and trade order of the 1990s. Subdued countries that had neither the patriotic will to fight for their citizens nor any concern for the long-term debilitation of their social order rushed to welcome garment production. The big garment producers no longer wanted to invest in factories – they turned to sub-contractors, offering them very narrow margins for profit and thereby forcing them to run their factories like prison-houses of labour. The sub-contracting regime allowed these firms to deny any culpability for what was done by the actual owners of these small factories, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of the cheap products without having their consciences stained with the sweat and blood of the workers.”

Big Green
No Logo author Naomi Klein argues “an important target is missing” from the growing movement to pressure cities and universities to divest from polluting industries, such as oil and coal:

“One would assume that green groups would want to make absolutely sure that the money they have raised in the name of saving the planet is not being invested in the companies whose business model requires cooking said planet, and which have been sabotaging all attempts at serious climate action for more than two decades. But in some cases at least, that was a false assumption.
Maybe that shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, since some of the most powerful and wealthiest environmental organisations have long behaved as if they had a stake in the oil and gas industry. They led the climate movement down various dead ends: carbon trading, carbon offsets, natural gas as a “bridge fuel” – what these policies all held in common is that they created the illusion of progress while allowing the fossil fuel companies to keep mining, drilling and fracking with abandon. We always knew that the groups pushing hardest for these false solutions took donations from, and formed corporate partnerships with, the big emitters. But this was explained away as an attempt at constructive engagement – using the power of the market to fix market failures.
Now it turns out that some of these groups are literally part-owners of the industry causing the crisis they are purportedly trying to solve.”

6 to 1
Chicago Reader’s Steve Bogira writes that US government policies have helped widen America’s “racial gap in wealth”:

“The average wealth of white families in 2010 ($632,000) was almost six times that of Hispanic families ($110,000) and more than six times that of black families ($98,000). The median wealth figures are similarly lopsided: $124,000 for white families, $16,000 for black families, $15,000 for Hispanic families.

The recession of 2007-2009 may be largely responsible: it cut the wealth of white families by 11 percent, but it reduced the wealth of black families by 31 percent and Hispanic families by 40 percent.”

Latest Developments, April 26

In the latest news and analysis…

Into Africa
Stars and Stripes reports that the US is sending 550 marines to Spain to serve as an Africa-focused “crisis reaction force”:

“[Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos] said the unit, which will serve the needs of U.S. Africa Command boss Gen. David Rodriguez, also could eventually be repositioned on the African continent if U.S. diplomatic officials make such an arrangement.
‘Right now, they’re temporarily going to Morón, Spain, as a placeholder,’ Amos said during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee. ‘I think they are going to move sometime. It wouldn’t surprise me to find them moving around the African continent.’ ”

Calling a spade a spade
The CBC reports that former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin has said that the country’s residential schools made “use of education for cultural genocide”:

“The residential school system existed from the 1870s until the 1990s and saw about 150,000 native youth taken from their families and sent to church-run schools under a deliberate policy of ‘civilizing’ First Nations.
Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide or died fleeing their schools. Mortality rates reached 50 per cent at some schools.”

Phantom companies
Global Financial Integrity’s Clark Gascoigne welcomes the German, French and UK governments’ calls for the disclosure of the “true owners of companies and trusts”:

“GFI studies estimate that anonymous shell companies and tax haven secrecy facilitate the illegal outflow of roughly $1 trillion from developing countries every year, exacerbating poverty and instability.

‘It’s fantastic to see the three largest economies in Europe endorse eliminating anonymous shell companies,’ [GFI Director Raymond] Baker remarked. ‘France, Germany, and the UK are demonstrating real leadership. The rest of Europe should join them to put an end to these terrible phantom firms.’ ”

New mission
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council has approved the establishment of a peacekeeping mission for Mali called MINUSMA, comprising a force of 12,600 with backup from the French military:

“French forces would be able to intervene to support MINUSMA when peacekeepers are ‘under imminent and serious threat and upon the request of the secretary-general,’ according to the resolution.
Russia said on Thursday it was alarmed that there was a growing shift towards a ‘force aspect’ within U.N. peacekeeping operations after the council last month created a special combat force within its peacekeeping mission in Congo to carry out ‘targeted offensive operations’ to neutralize armed groups.
‘There must be a clear division between peacekeeping and peace enforcement. This is why we believe that the mandate of MINUSMA does not provide for offensive operations,’ Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council after the vote.”

Old mission
The Associated Press reports that the UN security council voted to maintain MINURSO, the 22 year-old peacekeeping force in Western Sahara, after the US dropped its proposal that a new mandate include human rights monitoring:

“In a report to the Security Council last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for “independent, impartial, comprehensive and sustained monitoring of the human rights situations in both Western Sahara and the camps” for Saharan refugees because of continuing reports of rights violations.
The United States, following up on the report, proposed having the UN monitor human rights in the resolution it drafted to extend the mandate of UN peacekeepers.

Diplomats said that when the U.S. presented its draft resolution to the Friends of Western Sahara group, which includes Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Spain and Switzerland, there were strong objections from France so the U.S. dropped the human rights monitoring provision.”

American stain
A New York Times editorial calls Guantanamo Bay “essentially a political prison” that should never have been opened:

“It was nothing more than Mr. Bush’s attempt to evade accountability by placing prisoners in another country. The courts rejected that ploy, but Mr. Bush never bothered to fix the problem. Now, shockingly, the Pentagon is actually considering spending $200 million for improvements and expansions clearly aimed at a permanent operation.

Just as hunger strikes at the infamous Maze Prison in Northern Ireland indelibly stained Britain’s human rights record, so Guantánamo stains America’s.”

Plundering Africa
EurActiv reports on a new study revealing the complicity of European Banks and tax havens in the “plundering” of Angola in the 1990s:

“Millions of dollars were transferred through banks based in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Cyprus, the Netherlands, the British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man to the benefit of powerful Angolan and Russian figures, the report shows.

[Corruption Watch UK’s Andrew Feinstein] added that it was because of the facilitating role of banks, tax havens and the veil provided by front companies that national resources were stolen from the poorest citizens with impunity.
Feinstein’s report makes several recommendations to Angola, Switzerland, the EU and its member states, and the financial sector to initiate investigations and take legal measures to prevent wrongdoing. In particular, he recommends that the EU’s accounting directive, which will require reporting of payments to governments in the extractive and forestry sector, be extended to include the banking sector.”

Fair trade fashion
In the wake of the building collapse that killed hundreds of workers making clothes for Western brands in Bangladesh, the Guardian’s Susanna Rustin expresses frustration that “applying even the most modest ethical criteria is ridiculously hard” for consumers:

“The Rana Plaza collapse is all the more distressing because it seems to have been avoidable. Consumers can’t prevent such tragedies. Governments and NGOs must apply pressure, both to the retailers responsible for the people who make their clothes, and to those in charge of regulating them. But until we can be more confident that workers’ lives are not being endangered, we must start to be more curious about where our clothes come from. Some of us are wearing clothes sewn by those killed this week in Dhaka.”