Latest Developments, October 2

In the latest news and analysis…

Lived poverty
Results from Afrobarometer’s poll of over 50,000 people in Africa suggest the continent’s rapid economic growth is doing little to reduce poverty:

“This data, based on the views and experience of ordinary citizens, counters projections of declining poverty rates that have been derived from official GDP growth rates. For the 16 countries where these questions have been asked over the past decade, we find little evidence for systematic reduction of lived poverty despite average GDP growth rates of 4.8% per year over the same period. While we do see reductions in five countries (Cape Verde, Ghana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe), we also find increases in lived poverty in five others (Botswana, Mali, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania). Overall, then, despite high reported growth rates, lived poverty at the grassroots remains little changed. This suggests either that growth is occurring, but that its effects are not trickling down to the poorest citizens (in fact, income inequality may be worsening), or alternatively, that actual growth rates may not match up to those being reported.”

Out of the club
Reuters reports that Gambia is quitting the Commonwealth, a group of 54 mostly ex-British colonies, calling it a “neo-colonial institution“:

“ ‘The government has withdrawn its membership of the British Commonwealth and decided that the Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism,’ read a statement broadcast on state television.”

Sugar rush
Oxfam has released a new report alleging the sugar needs of big Western food and beverage companies are fuelling land grabs around the world:

“This includes a fishing community in Pernambuco State, Brazil fighting for access to their land and fishing grounds, after having been violently evicted in 1998 by a sugar mill, which provides sugar to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. In Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil indigenous communities are fighting the occupation of their land by sugar plantations supplying a mill owned by Bunge. Coca-Cola buys sugar from Bunge in Brazil but says it does not buy from this particular mill. In Sre Ambel District in Cambodia, 200 families are fighting for land from which they were evicted in 2006 to make way for a sugar plantation. The plantation has supplied Tate & Lyle Sugars, which sells sugar to franchises that manufacture and bottle products for Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Associated British Foods, through their ownership of Illovo, Africa’s biggest producer of sugar cane, has also been linked in media reports to land conflicts in Mali, Zambia and Malawi.”

Asia pivot
Al Jazeera reports on a new military agreement between the US and South Korea for “tailored deterrence” against North Korea:

“South Korean defence ministers agreed on Wednesday to review the timing and transfer of wartime command control of their combined forces on the Korean peninsula from US military to South Korea, a joint statement said.
While South Korea is scheduled to take over wartime operational command in 2015, there have been calls in the government for it to be postponed while North Korea continues to push ahead with its nuclear weapons and long-range missile programmes.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel listened ‘very seriously’ to their apprehensions.”

Counterproductive closures
Al Jazeera reports that plans by UK banking giant Barclays to shut down remittance sending to Somalia over terrorism fears could backfire in a number of ways:

“ ‘No one is going to let their loved ones starve to death. Money will be sent no matter what,’ said Mohamed Ibrahim, chairman of the London Somali Youth Forum.
‘The money will be sent through underground channels, which are hard to monitor, and only result in criminalising the hardworking members of the community.’
Another worry for community leaders is the account closures could be used by al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab as a recruitment opportunity.
‘If you cut off people’s only income, they will find other ways of making a living and al-Shabab will surely take advantage and offer an alternative source of income,’ Ibrahim said.
In the UK, the remittance industry is also one of the biggest employers in the Somali community, providing jobs directly to hundreds of people. Barclays’ move will instantly render them unemployed.”

Fossil fuel binge
The World Development Movement’s Alex Scrivener uses Borneo to illustrate the harmful effects of British institutional investments on communities half a world away:

“Throughout East Kalimantan, there are many communities like Segading that have been devastated by coal mining.
The shocking truth is that 83 per cent of the coal production of East Kalimantan is extracted by companies with a link to Britain’s financial sector. For example, Bumi plc, which owns big stakes in both Bumi Resources and Berau Coal, raised £707 million on the London Stock Exchange when it floated in 2010. Much of this money will have come from big institutional investors such as pension funds, which supposedly invest on behalf of ordinary pension scheme holders across Britain.
It’s time to call time on the British banks’ fossil fuel binge. We need urgent regulation to control the flow of money to fossil fuel companies so that banks and pension funds are held to account for the impact of their investments.”

High price
Agence France-Presse reports on the ongoing protests in Romania over a Canadian-owned project that promises to become Europe’s largest open-pit gold mine:

“Gabriel Resources hopes to extract 300 tonnes of gold with mining techniques requiring the use of thousands of tonnes of cyanide.
It promises 900 jobs during the 16-year extraction period, as well as economic benefits.
But academics and environmentalists say the [Rosia Montana] mine is an ecological time bomb and threatens the area’s Roman mining galleries.”

Law avoidance
Global Witness refutes arguments opposing legally binding rules for companies regarding the trade in conflict minerals:

“Instead of legislation, [Forbes’s Tim Worstall] advocates a voluntary, industry-led scheme which focuses on ‘fingerprinting’ minerals at processing plants to combat the conflict minerals trade. Any argument for voluntary measures to address the problem is seriously flawed. A decade and a half of UN and NGO reports exposing the links between conflict and minerals in eastern DRC failed to compel companies to look more closely at their supply chains. It is only since the US introduced legislation that companies have significantly changed their behaviour.”

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Latest Developments, August 1

In the latest news and analysis…

Classified massacre
ProPublica reports that the US government will not be releasing the findings of its inquiry into the killing of “perhaps thousands of Taliban prisoners of war” in Afghanistan:

“The investigation found that no U.S. personnel were involved, said White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. Other than that, she said, there is ‘no plan to release anything.’
The silence leaves many unanswered questions about what may have been one of the worst war crimes since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, including why previous American investigations were shut down, and how evidence was destroyed in the case.”

Racial profiling
The Kilburn Times reports that multiple witnesses at a London Tube station say they saw “aggressive, intimidating” UK immigration officers “specifically targeting non-white individuals” in an apparent search for illegal immigrants:

“Kensal Rise resident Phil O’Shea told the Times he was threatened with arrest when he asked what was going on.
He said: ‘I thought the behaviour of the immigration officers was heavy-handed and frightening. They appeared to be stopping and questioning every non-white person, many of whom were clearly ordinary Kensal Green residents going to work.’

Last week, the Home Office rolled out a controversial campaign where billboards warning illegal immigrants to ‘go home or face arrest’ would be driven around Brent and five other boroughs in London.”

The 82%
The US Public Interest Research Group has published a new study finding that 82 of the top 100 publicly-traded US corporations have subsidiaries in offshore tax havens:

“All told, these 82 companies maintain 2,686 tax haven subsidiaries. The 15 companies with the most money held offshore collectively operate 1,897 tax haven subsidiaries.

Bank of America: The bank reports having 316 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens – more than any other company. The bank, which was kept afloat by taxpayers during the 2008 financial meltdown, now keeps $17.2 billion offshore, on which it would otherwise owe $4.5 billion in U.S. taxes.”

Historical ties
Jeune Afrique reports that France plans a “recentering” of its aid to focus on 16 African countries, 13 of which are former colonies:

“The focus countries are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Comoros, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, RD Congo, Chad, Togo and Senegal.

The government also wants to prioritize ‘transparency’ and ‘aid effectiveness.’ For assistance to Mali, therefore, a website will be launched in the coming weeks to give precise information on the projects funded.” [Translated from the French.]

Corporate responsibility
York University’s Shin Imai argues the global mining industry’s current “standards of conduct” are inadequate for regulating the overseas activities of Canadian companies:

“While these corporate social responsibility codes could be useful if well implemented, they are all voluntary, and do not have any enforcement mechanisms for addressing breaches of the code. Resource extraction is a highly intrusive, highly dangerous activity. Regulating this activity through voluntary codes is like repealing the Highway Traffic Act and leaving the regulation of Highway 401 to a voluntary code – drafted by truckers.
HudBay Minerals, for example, reports annually on its corporate social responsibility activities in a glossy fifty page report. The 2012 edition says that ‘strong community relationships are the foundation of our work.’ It is odd, then, that HudBay would assure investors of its interest in the welfare of the community, proceed to make profits out of the mine and then wash its hands of any abuses committed to produce those profits.

However, in the words of former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ian Binnie, commenting on the idea that courts should start to hear cases of corporate abuse abroad, ‘there are acts that are so repugnant that they should force us to rethink our law.’ ”

Selling the coup
Ken Silverstein argues in Harper’s Magazine that the ambivalent US reaction to the recent coup in Egypt is just the latest example of America’s selective enthusiasm for democracy:

“You cannot preach about democracy then accept the outcome only if your side triumphs. In 2006, Hamas won a devastating victory in legislative elections in the Palestinian Authority. The following year, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas dissolved a Hamas-led unity government and swore in an emergency cabinet, leading the Obama Administration to reinstate aid that had been suspended under Hamas’ rule. This type of hypocrisy heightens anti-Americanism, sends the message that elections are meaningless, and encourages terrorism.
On Sunday, I came across this line from Voltaire in the documentary The Act of Killing: ‘It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.’ Though the film is about events in Indonesia in 1965, it brought to mind the intellectual contortions of Egyptian-coup supporters who have justified the mass killings of Islamists in the name of democracy. Back in 1965 it was Islamic militias killing Communists in the name of democracy. The common denominator is that the killers were seen as pro-Western — and so, the trumpets are sounding once again in America.”

Nuclear dumping
The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dave Sweeney calls on Australia to abandon the “secrecy, exclusion and contest” underlying plans for radioactive waste disposal on Aboriginal land:

“The Muckaty plan lacks consent at home and credibility abroad. It is flawed and failing and it is time for a new approach – one that reflects and is informed by best practise, sound science and respect.

Australia has never had an independent assessment of what is the best (or least worst) way to manage our radioactive waste. Decades ago unelected bureaucrats decided a centralised remote dump was the best model and ever since a chain reaction of politicians have tried – and failed – to find a compliant postcode.”

Ironic request
Mondoweiss transcribes recent comments by Noam Chomsky who scoffs at American demands that NSA leaker Edward Snowden be returned to face punishment in the US, a country Chomsky says is “one of the leaders in refusing extradition”:

“For years Bolivia has been trying to extradite from the United States the former president who’s already indicted in Bolivia for all sorts of crimes. The US refuses to extradite him.

In fact one of the most striking cases is Latin America, again, not just Bolivia. One of the world’s leading terrorists is Luis Posada, who was involved in blowing up a Cubana airliner which killed 73 people and lots of other terrorist acts. He’s sitting happily in… Miami, and his colleague Rolando Bosch also a major terrorist… is happily there… Cuba and Venezuela are trying to extradite them. But you know. Fat chance.”

Latest Developments, May 1

In the latest news and analysis…

US in Mali
The Washington Post reports that the US has sent “a small number” of troops to Mali despite earlier promises not to do so:

“About 10 U.S. military personnel are in Mali to provide ‘liaison support’ to French and African troops but are not engaged in combat operations, said Lt. Col. Robert Firman, a Pentagon spokesman. Twelve others are assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, the capital, he added.

Since the coup, there have been signs that some U.S. Special Operations forces have been deployed to Mali on undeclared missions. In April 2012, three U.S. soldiers were killed in a mysterious car crash in Bamako.
Last month, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) suggested that U.S. commandos were ‘taking action’ in Mali.”

Medical reinforcements
The BBC reports that the US has sent additional medical staff to its Guantanamo Bay prison to deal with a growing hunger strike among detainees:

“About 40 nurses and other specialists arrived at the weekend, camp spokesman Lt Col Samuel House said.
He said that 100 of 166 detainees were now on hunger strike, with 21 of them being force-fed through a tube.
The inmates are protesting against their indefinite detention. Most are being held without charge.”

As open as they want to be
Platts reports that Switzerland’s commodity traders are pushing the Swiss government to water proposed “transparency requirements” down to mere “voluntary principles”:

“The Swiss government has said it is at risk of reputational damage in the international community because of its role as a commodity trading hub, and in May last year set up an interdepartmental “platform” comprising the Swiss finance, foreign and economy departments to examine the role of commodity trading in the country.
Switzerland is home to the world’s biggest oil and other commodity trading houses, including oil traders Vitol, Glencore, Trafigura, Mercuria and Gunvor.”

Taking responsibility
Reuters reports that the UK’s Primark and Canada’s Loblaw have become the first two Western retailers to promise compensation for the families of victims of the collapsed garment factories that killed nearly 400 in Bangladesh last week:

“The collapsed complex housed a number of factories that made clothing for Western brands.

Loblaw has said it regularly conducts audits to ensure its garments are manufactured responsibly, but focuses on labor practices and not building construction.
Loblaw said it would issue updates as it developed details of its compensation plan.

Primark, owned by FTSE 100 company Associated British Foods , said on Monday that it was working with a local NGO to help victims of the disaster.
It pledged to provide long-term aid for children who lost parents, financial aid for the injured and payments to families of the victims.”

Swelling protests
The Globe and Mail reports that Canadian mining company Eldorado has triggered “something akin to civil war” in northern Greece:

“The first mobilizations against the expansion of the old mines in the Halkidiki peninsula, the birthplace of Aristotle in northeastern Greece, began in late 2011. That’s when Vancouver’s Eldorado Gold Corp. grabbed most of the local mining industry and unveiled plans for a €1-billion ($1.32-billion) development that would turn the recession-stricken region into a gold-producing powerhouse.
But development skeptics asked: At what cost to the environment, tourism and agriculture? They concluded that the massive project, smack in the middle of a part of Greece that could pass for Tuscany, would do more harm than good and took to the streets. ‘To live, you need, air, soil and water,’ explains Nina Karina, 50, an artist who opposes Eldorado. ‘This investment takes away all three from us.’ ”

NGO paradox
Plain Sense’s Fairouz El Tom argues that many of the world’s top 100 NGOs have a board make-up at odds with their stated mission:

“In different ways, the NGOs surveyed promote ideals of justice and social progress. Yet over half have board members who are affiliated with companies that invest in, or provide legal, marketing, or other services to the arms, tobacco and finance industries.”

Killing in the name
The New Yorker’s Steve Coll reviews two new books on ‘the return of Presidentially sanctioned assassinations’:

“But [Anwar] Awlaki’s case, troubling as it may be, raises a broader issue: the Administration’s refusal to disclose the criteria by which it condemns anyone, American or otherwise, to death. The information used in such cases is intelligence data rather than evidence; it is not subject to cross-examination or judicial review. Unanswered questions abound. Does the President require that intelligence used to convict a terror suspect in absentia be based on multiple sources, or is one sufficient? Must intercepts, photographs, or credible firsthand testimony be obtained, or can people be executed on the basis of hearsay from paid informants? How directly involved in violence must an individual be to receive a death sentence? At what point does a preacher’s hate speech warrant his being killed?”

Inflated claims
The Guardian reports on a new study that suggests aid figures reported by donor countries are “a very different thing” from the resources they actually transfer:

“Some donors, including Japan and Germany, receive hundreds of millions of dollars each year in interest repayments on the loans they give, said DI. In total, ‘if interest repayments are taken into account, the net resource flows associated with global [official development assistance] are approximately $5bn per annum lower than the reported total net ODA figure suggests,’ said a DI discussion paper this month.

Net ODA figures subtract repayments made by recipients, but, according to current OECD rules, only account for principal repayments. Instead, interest repayments are recorded only as a memo item in OECD statistics.”

Latest Developments, October 30

In the latest news and analysis…

Financial dependency
Business Day reports that new African Union head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is unhappy with the extent to which her organization depends on funding from outside the continent:

“ ‘No liberated mind can think their development agenda can be funded by donors,’ Ms Dlamini-Zuma told a Business Unity South Africa banquet in her honour at the weekend in Johannesburg.
‘Over 97% of programmes in the AU are funded by donors.

She said donors were even footing the bill for African institutions to develop the continent’s strategic agenda, a fundamental task in what has been dubbed the African century.”

Conditional rights
The Guardian reports that a pair of high-profile UN figures are calling for a crackdown on out-of-control land grabbing in Africa:

“Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, acknowledges the importance of the [committee on world food security] voluntary guidelines, but points out the lack of an effective enforcement mechanism. He argues that governments in sub-Saharan Africa or south-east Asia with poor governance, or tainted by corruption, will continue to seek to attract investors at all costs.
‘The international community should accept it has a role in monitoring whether the rights of land users, as stipulated in the guidelines, are effectively respected,’ De Schutter told the Guardian. ‘Since there is no “sheriff” at global level to achieve this, at the very least, the home states of investors should exercise due diligence in ensuring that private investors over which they can exercise control fully respect the rights of land users. Export credit agencies, for example, should make their support conditional upon full compliance with the guidelines, and in the future, the rights of investors under investment treaties should be made conditional upon the investors acting in accordance with the guidelines.’ ”

Big changes
Reuters reports that the Kenyan government plans to show some flexibility in implementing its new mining law:

“ ‘For those who have been licensed, we have asked them to provide clear proposals on how they want to implement this, taking into consideration commitments they have and we will consider that,’ Mohammed said in a interview.
‘But for those who have not been licensed, it will be immediate. We will not be issuing any new mining licences without the ownership of 35 percent by local citizens.’

The new requirement of 35 percent local equity follows a new tax of 10-20 percent targeting sales of property or shares in oil, mining and mineral prospecting firms, introduced recently to help plug a growing funding gap.”

GM crops on trial
The Times of India reports that the country’s highest court will not consider a proposed 10-year ban on field trials of genetically modified crops before hearing from stakeholders, such as a group of biotech companies whose members include agribusiness giant Monsanto:

“The five-member [court-constituted Technical Expert Committee] was unanimous in recommending suspension of field trials for 10 years, a period which it said should be used to put in place additional safeguards. It recommended identification of specific sites for field trials, setting up of an independent scientific panel to evaluate bio-safety data, recognition of conflict of interest in regulatory body and requirement of preliminary bio-safety tests prior to such trials.”

Blind sanctions
The University of Southern California’s Muhammad Sahimi and
 Al-Monitor’s Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi argue that the economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the West are not “smart” and “targeted” as initially promised:

“The world was promised that the sanctions will not hurt millions of ordinary Iranians who go about their daily lives and, in fact, oppose many of their government’s policies.
But, the sanctions are now in full force, and are hurting the same people who we were told were not meant to be their target, in what is yet another case of ‘collateral damage’ inflicted by Western policy towards Iran, and its disenfranchised people who have lost control over their destiny at both home and abroad. In fact, there are very strong indications that a human catastrophe could emerge whose scale poses as much a threat as an outright military attack.”

Not lovin’ it
Yale University graduate student Justin Scott takes issue with Black365, a new McDonald’s website aimed at African-Americans, in which the fast-food giant compares itself to the iconic baobab tree:

“Aside from issues of health, hegemony, and markets, what we have here is McDonald’s, a Western behemoth pushing a product that could not be even remotely considered African, using an African symbol to appeal to a population of African origin, in order to make itself look like something it isn’t. And it’s a shame that this tactic hasn’t been attacked more widely.”

Opposing views
Reuters reports that the Tanzanian government and foreign mining companies have very different ideas on how the country can enjoy more benefits from its mineral wealth:

“East Africa’s second biggest economy argues it is not seeing the fruits of soaring commodity prices, in particular gold. It plans to increase the mining sector’s contribution to the economy to 10 percent of GDP by 2025 from 3.3 percent last year.
But the miners say hiking taxes and increasing royalties is the wrong approach. They say Tanzania should focus on attracting more investors and issuing additional mining licenses.”

Ruinous rankings
The Guardian reports that the World Bank’s latest Ease of Doing Business Index is once again coming under fire for promoting “a neo-liberal agenda of privatisations, welfare cuts, limited employment rights and low wages to please and entice foreign multinationals”:

“Bin Han, one of China’s senior representatives at the World Bank, says the rankings are fundamentally flawed.
‘The Chinese conclusion is straightforward: the report has used a wrong methodology, failed to reflect facts in individual countries, and misled readers. The questionable quality of the report has ruined the Bank’s reputation,’ he said at the debate.
The new boss at the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, has pledged to review the rankings.”

Latest Developments, August 15

In the latest news and analysis…

GMO fail
The Food & Environment Reporting Network’s Tom Laskawy writes that a supposedly worm-resistant seed developed by agri-business giant Monsanto is “basically backfiring” in the drought-hit American Midwest:

“Historically, farmers managed corn rootworms through traditional crop rotations. These rootworms eat corn exclusively, so by alternating a corn crop with soy or another alternative, farmers would deprive the insects of food and the rootworm larvae would die off. This, by the way, is an age-old technique (originally part of the Native American Three Sisters agricultural tradition) that generates profits only for the farmer — not for seed companies.
Indeed, this abandonment of crop rotation was the other ‘innovation’ of Monsanto’s Bt corn — aside from releasing its own pesticide, that is. Farmers could now grow corn season after season in the same field. At the time, it seemed like an amazing development to farmers across the country — and remains so to starry-eyed, tech-loving politicians and industry representatives.”

Reining in private security
Inter Press Service reports on the latest international attempts to make so-called private military security contractors accountable for their actions:

“The [UN] draft Convention on PMSCs identifies a set of inherent state functions, including detention, interrogation and intelligence that private companies could not perform.
The fact that major clients of PMSCs – most notably the U.S. and the U.K. – have employed contractors for a number of these functions poses questions about whether these states would back regulation that curtails their ability to outsource the use of force.
‘It’s a pie in the sky,’ according to [the trade association International Security Operations Association’s Doug] Brooks.
Instead, he is rallying his troops around the International Code of Conduct, which brings together stakeholders from industry, government and civil society in an effort to create a gold standard for industry providers who voluntarily commit themselves to abiding by the Code.”

Fracking omissions
Bloomberg investigates the effectiveness of a “voluntary website that oil and gas companies helped design amid calls for mandatory disclosure”:

“Energy companies failed to list more than two out of every five fracked wells in eight U.S. states from April 11, 2011, when FracFocus began operating, through the end of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gaps reveal shortcomings in the voluntary approach to transparency on the site, which has received funding from oil and gas trade groups and $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Suggested fine
Bloomberg also reports that a Nigerian government agency wants oil giant Chevron to pay $3 billion over a deadly explosion that caused a 46-day fire earlier this year, just as a new spill has been spotted near an offshore Exxon facility:

“ ‘Having looked at the relevant literature and what happens in other countries, we recommended a fine of $3 billion for Chevron,’ National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency’s Director-General Peter Idabor said in an interview in Abuja, the capital, yesterday. For now, the planned penalty is only a suggestion and ‘still not conclusive’ as it requires the approval of lawmakers and President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, he said.

NOSDRA is also investigating a seven-week gas leak that started on March 20 at the Obite field operated by Total SA (FP)’s Nigerian unit to determine appropriate penalty, Idabor said. The agency had suggested to the government in July that Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) pay a $5 billion fine for an oil leak in December from its offshore Bonga field that caused the country’s worst spill in more than a decade. Shell said less than 40,000 barrels leaked.”

Banks on a diet
The Financial Times reports the number of European banks that are “either discontinuing investment funds linked to food commodities or ceasing to issue new ones” now stands at five:

“Food campaigners welcomed the steps, but said that banks needed to do far more. ‘Great news – but they are still keeping their investment vehicles on oil,’ said Christine Haigh of the World Development Movement, one of the most vociferous critics of speculation in commodities.
However, bankers said that the move was not an admission that speculation drives food commodity prices up but an attempt to protect their reputation amid fierce criticism.”

Redefining blood diamonds
IDEX Online reports that the Kimberley Process is considering new definitions of “conflict” to serve as a guideline for regulating the international diamond trade:

“The FAQ goes on to clarify that ‘Such a definition would not apply to individual or isolated cases. Neither would this apply to violence that is unrelated to diamonds.’
This clarification is apparently in response to concerns by countries worried that internal issues may be used as an excuse to exclude them from KP on political grounds. Among them are most large diamond countries – Russia, China, Israel and most African countries – all mine, trade or manufacture rough or polished diamonds.”

African drone war
Wired reports that it is now possible to “begin to define — however vaguely — the scope and scale” of America’s use of drones in Somalia:

“It took a surprise — and ultimately doomed — invasion of Somalia by regional power Ethiopia to open the door for a stronger U.S. presence in East Africa. American commandos followed along behind the Ethiopian tank columns as side-firing AC-130 gunships provided lethal top cover.
Where once the small U.S. force in East Africa had relied mostly on a single large base in Djibouti, just north of Somalia, in the wake of the Ethiopian blitz American bases sprouted across the region. The CIA and American security contractors set up shop alongside a U.N.-backed peacekeeping force at the shell-crated international airport in Mogadishu. American contractors quietly carved a secret airstrip out of a forest in Arba Minch, Ethiopia. Under the guise of tracking Somali pirates, the Pentagon negotiated permission to base people and planes on the Indian Ocean island nation of the Seychelles.
Soon all these bases would support drone aircraft being churned out at an accelerating rate by the U.S. aerospace industry.”

Feminism as counterterrorism
New York University’s Vasuki Nesiah writes that “security feminism” has become an increasingly integral, and not altogether unproblematic, part of US foreign policy over the last decade:

“Bringing a feminist agenda to foreign policy has been a fraught initiative. Indeed, those strands of feminism that have invested in the ‘securitizing’ project have done more to condemn feminism than redeem foreign policy. Foreign policy has been inextricably tied to the politics of counterterrorism and empire, so it is not surprising that such efforts towards convergence have been deeply troubled. The task of the moment is not formulating a common ‘feminist’ agenda. Rather we need to analyze the stakes of the national security paradigm and highlight divergences within feminisms.”