Latest Developments, October 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Tit for tat
Al Jazeera reports that a militia claims to have “arrested” Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in response to the recent US military raid in Tripoli:

“A former Libyan rebel group said on Thursday it had seized Zeidan after the government allowed the United States to capture top al-Qaeda suspect Abu Anas al-Liby in Tripoli last weekend.
‘His arrest comes after the statement by John Kerry about the capture of Abu Anas al-Liby, after he said the Libyan government was aware of the operation,’ a spokesman for the group, known as the Libyan Revolutionary Operations Chamber, said refering to the US Secretary of State.”

Cholera lawsuit
CNN reports that a class action suit has been filed against the UN over its apparent triggering of a cholera epidemic in Haiti:

“ ‘The claims are that the U.N. engaged in reckless and gross negligence and misconduct bringing cholera to Haiti,’ said Ira Kurzban, a lawyer and board member with the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Development in Haiti. The group is demanding financial compensation for the 8,300 Haitians who died as a result of the cholera epidemic as well as some 650,000 more survivors of the illness.

In a briefing to journalists on Wednesday, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said as a result of the Haitian epidemic, the organization was in the process of adopting steps to prevent the further spread of the disease.
‘Part of our lessons learned from this has been to screen peacekeepers for cholera,’ Haq said.”

Calling the shots
Reuters reports that France continues to take the lead on shaping foreign interventions in its former African colonies:

“The [UN Security Council resolution] was drafted by France, [the Central African Republic’s] former colonial master. Security Council diplomats said they hoped for a vote on Thursday.
France, which intervened earlier this year to oust Islamist rebels from another of its former colonies, Mali, has been reluctant to get directly involved in the crisis. It has urged African nations and the African Union to do their utmost to resolve the crisis among themselves.

France has a small force in Bangui securing the airport and its local interests. French diplomatic sources have said Paris would be ready to provide logistical support and increase its troop numbers to between 700 and 750 if needed.”

Fate worse than debt
Reuters reports that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is saying the world must achieve “zero emissions from fossil-fuel sources” by mid-century:

“ ‘This is worse than a debt because there is no bailout and if you have two or three good budget years a debt can be reduced, but emissions hang around for 100 years,’ [OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria] said.
He said there needed to be a ‘big, fat price on carbon’ – either through carbon taxes or emissions-trading schemes which send out consistent and clear price signals.

In 2012, the world’s top 200 listed oil, gas and mining companies spent $674-billion on finding and developing new sources of oil and gas, the OECD said.
Achieving zero emissions from fossil-fuel sources is achievable but current policies need to be changed, Gurria said.”

Big changes afoot
Inter Press Service reports that World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is planning the development industry giant’s “first strategic overhaul in two decades”:

“ ‘We’ll be looking for what this reorganisation does to staffing and budgeting for social and environmental sustainability,’ Mark Rentschler, director of campaigns at the Bank Information Center (BIC), a watchdog group, told IPS.
‘There are conflicting signals in what you read in strategy. On the one hand, it says that [social and environmental] safeguards are valuable, including for clients, but at the same time it says the bank needs to get projects out more quickly and not be too bureaucratic.’
Those two aims don’t necessarily go together, Rentschler warns.”

Drones for migrants
Brussels-based journalist David Cronin rejects the EU’s promotion of its new border surveillance system, Eurosur, as the key to avoiding migrant deaths on the Mediterranean:

“Contrary to what [EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström] has indicated, Eurosur is not a humanitarian initiative. Rather, its primary focus is addressing what the European Commission calls ‘illegal immigration’ – a repulsive term as travelling from one country to another in search of a better life is not a crime.
Eurosur is partly the fruit of a €15 million scientific research project launched in 2010. Though mainly funded by the EU, the project had a heavy participation from top weapons-makers like Britain’s BAE, the Franco-German firm EADS and Spain’s Indra.
This is one of several EU-financed schemes relating to maritime surveillance. Another one, OPARUS, examined how drones can help to detect Africans or Asians trying to enter Europe. BAE, EADS and the French companies Thales and Dassault are all taking part in it.”

Racist vans
The BBC reports that the UK’s advertising watchdog has banned government ads “telling illegal immigrants to go home” for using misleading statistics, rather than for being offensive or irresponsible:

“[The Advertising Standards Authority] received 224 complaints about the vans from individuals, campaign groups, legal academics and the Labour peer Lord Lipsey. Some critics said the slogan was reminiscent of language used by the National Front in the 1970s.
During the campaign, the advertising vans drove around the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Hounslow, some of the most diverse areas of the capital where it is thought a lot of illegal immigrants live and work.
The poster displayed a picture of handcuffs and read: ‘In the UK illegally?… GO HOME OR FACE ARREST.’ ”

No tanks
The Los Angeles Times reports that the White House “appears to have settled on a middle ground” regarding its massive military aid to Egypt:

“Administration officials told reporters this week that they planned to withhold a substantial amount of U.S. military aid in response to the continuing violence in Egypt. News reports said that delivery of U.S. tanks, helicopters and fighter jets – part of $1.3 billion in annual military assistance – would be suspended but that funding for counter-terrorism and security operations in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip would not be affected.

Analysts said that if Obama announces a partial aid suspension, it will represent a slap on the wrist of the Egyptian military while allowing the administration to show that it disapproves of the moves the generals are making.”

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Latest Developments, August 30

In the latest news and analysis…

No to war
The New York Times reports that a parliamentary vote has prompted UK Prime Minister David Cameron to say Britain will not take part in any military strikes on Syria:

“It was a stunning defeat for a government that had seemed days away from joining the United States and France in a short, punitive cruise-missile attack on the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad for reportedly using chemical weapons against civilians.
Thursday evening’s vote was nonbinding, but in a short statement to Parliament afterward, Mr. Cameron said that he respected the will of Parliament and that it was clear to him that the British people did not want to see military action over Syria. ‘I get it,’ he said.
The government motion was defeated 285 to 272.”

Problems of conscience
Although the US and France are still keen to attack Syria, Slate’s Matthew Yglesias argues there are better ways for Americans to reduce suffering in the world:

“Historically, military intervention on the side of rebel groups has increased the pace of civilian deaths, not decreased it. More to the point, if you put arbitrary framing issues aside, the United States stands by and does nothing in the face of human tragedy all the time. Millions of desperate people in Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, and elsewhere would love to escape dire poverty by moving to the United States to work, and we don’t let them. Nobody in Washington is doing anything about the ongoing civil war in Congo.

Another way of looking at it—the bleeding-heart, correct way—is that Americans ought to care more about the lives of people outside our borders. That we ought to be more open to foreign immigration and foreign trade to help bolster foreign economies. That when the Office of Management and Budget does cost-benefit analysis for regulatory measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it ought to consider the impact on foreigners.”

Black budget
The Washington Post has published bits and pieces of the US National Intelligence Program’s secret $52.6 billion budget, revealing among other things that the Obama administration has embraced “offensive cyber operations”:

“The 178-page budget summary for the National Intelligence Program details the successes, failures and objectives of the 16 spy agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, which has 107,035 employees.

The Post is withholding some information after consultation with U.S. officials who expressed concerns about the risk to intelligence sources and methods. Sensitive details are so pervasive in the documents that The Post is publishing only summary tables and charts online.”

UN inaction
Amnesty International argues the UN “singularly failed” to investigate murders and abductions while it was in charge of Kosovo after NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign:

“ ‘[The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)]’s failure to investigate what constituted a widespread, as well as a systematic, attack on a civilian population and, potentially, crimes against humanity, has contributed to the climate of impunity prevailing in Kosovo,’ said Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s expert on Kosovo.
‘There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity. They must be investigated and the families of the abducted and murdered must receive redress. The UN should not be allowed to shirk its responsibility any longer.’ ”

Legal troubles
Buzzfeed reports that US financial giant JPMorgan Chase faces at least 43 “material” lawsuits:

“Of course, the so-called ‘London Whale’ case that resulted in $6 billion in losses for the bank is getting most of the attention, with news this week that the financial powerhouse may settle with U.S. and UK regulators for about $600 million. And there’s also last week’s headline grabbing story that there is an inquiry into potential bribery charges stemming from hiring practices in its Chinese offices.
But other allegations against the bank span from fraud to breaching both its contracts and its fiduciary duty, among many other charges. According to SEC documents, JPMorgan estimates its combined legal losses could be as much as $6.8 billion — possibly more if unforeseen damages are brought this year. What’s more, the firm’s annual legal costs over the last two years have been about $4.9 billion each year.”

Secular demands
The Globe and Mail reports on the controversy over Quebec’s yet-to-be-unveiled “charter of values”:

“The measures being considered reportedly include a prohition on state employees from wearing religious articles in schools, daycares, hospitals and other state workplaces.
On Wednesday, [Federal Liberal leader Justin] Trudeau paid tribute to Martin Luther King on the 50th anniversary of his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, saying that Dr. King ‘refused segregation … denied discrimination … refused to allow [people] to believe that they were second-class citizens.’
Continuing his speech before a crowd of about 1,500 supporters, Mr. Trudeau said, ‘We sadly see that even today, as we speak, for example of this idea of a Charter of Quebec Values, there are still those who believe that we have to choose between our religion and our Quebec identity, that there are people who are forced by the Quebec State to make irresponsible and inconceivable choices.’ ”

Cosmopolitan vision
Fifty years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream speech”, the Center for Global Development’s Owen Barder lays out his own global dream:

“I have a dream that we will one day take seriously the idea that we are all created equal, not just within countries but everywhere; and that we will recognize that it is as intolerable that a person’s future should be mainly determined by the place of his or her birth as it is intolerable that people’s future should be determined by the colour of his or her skin.”

CSR misunderstood
Mark Hodge of the Global Business Initiative for Human Rights warns against corporate social responsibility strategies that treat poor people “as recipients of charity and not as citizens with rights”:

“[India’s] Companies Bill also seems to convey the inexcusable message that companies can somehow offset negative impacts in one area of their work with corporate philanthropy in another. An example many in India point to is Vedanta’s ‘Creating Happiness’ campaign promoting the company’s philanthropic contributions, at the exact time it is embroiled in accusations of human rights and environmental abuses in India and internationally. The Indian ministry of environment withdrew permission for Vedanta to continue the project due to some of these concerns.”