Latest Developments, January 31

In the latest news and analysis…

Blue helmet talks
Reuters reports that, following the French military’s capture of northern Mali’s principal towns, the UN Security Council looks set to discuss the deployment of peacekeepers:

“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had resisted U.N. peacekeepers becoming embroiled in an offensive combat mission but the recapture of the main Malian towns has made a deployment less risky. The Security Council is due to discuss the possibility soon, U.N. diplomats said on Wednesday.
“This development is extremely positive and I want this initiative to be carried through,” [French Defence Minister] Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Inter radio.”

In its newly released World Report 2013, Human Rights Watch criticizes America’s enthusiasm for depriving individuals of their freedom:

“The US incarcerates more people than any other country. Practices contrary to human rights principles, such as the death penalty, juvenile life-without-parole sentences, and solitary confinement are common and often marked by racial disparities. Increasing numbers of non-citizens are held in immigration detention facilities although many are not dangerous or at risk of absconding. Federal prosecutions for illegal entry and reentry have escalated.

As of 2010, the US maintained the world’s largest incarcerated population, at 1.6 million, and the world’s highest per capita incarceration rate, at 500 inmates per 100,000 residents.”

Development fail
The Toronto Star reports that one Canadian NGO is having second thoughts about its participation in a federal government program that pairs up civil society organizations and mining companies for overseas development projects:

“ ‘Would we try it again? Probably not,’ Rosemary McCarney, [Plan Canada’s] president, said in an interview with the Toronto Star. ‘It’s upsetting to donors. People are mad. The reality is that working with any mining company is going to be a problem. There are going to be (employee) strikes and spills. Is it worth the headache? Probably not.’

[The Canadian International Development Agency] is giving Plan $5.6 million over five years to run an educational program in Burkina Faso. Iamgold, which operates a gold mine in the West African country, pledged another $1 million per year to the project. Plan has also committed $1 million. ”

Outsourcing radiation
Yale Environment 360 reports on concerns over Australian-based Lynas Corporation’s shipping of rare earths from Australia, where they are mined, to Malaysia for processing:

“The plant lies in an industrial zone atop reclaimed swampland, just 12 miles from Kuantan, a city of 600,000. The chief worry is that the rare earth elements are bound up in mineral deposits with the low-level radioactive element thorium, exposure to which has been linked to an increased risk of developing lung, pancreatic, and other cancers.

The [Institute for Applied Ecology] study faults a Lynas plan to dispose of wastewater through an open channel rather than a closed pipeline; a refusal by the company to disclose what the plant’s exact chemical byproducts will be; and a temporary waste storage facility that the institute predicts will cause radioactive leakage ‘even under normal operating conditions.’ ”

Treeckle down
The Guardian reports that the World Bank’s own evaluators say the billions it has invested in forestry over the last decade have helped commercial loggers more than poor people:

“The World Bank funded 345 major forestry projects in 75 countries in the decade to July 2011. The [Independent Evaluation Group] panel, which visited many of the projects and interviewed hundreds of people, criticised the bank strongly for:
• Continuing to support industrial logging.
• Not involving communities in decision-making.
• Assuming that benefits would accrue to the poor rather than the rich and powerful.
• Paying little attention to rural poverty.”

Good and bad murder
Foreign Policy’s Micah Zenko writes that the current US administration fiercely opposes extrajudicial killings, except for the kind that it carries out routinely in places like Pakistan and Yemen:

“The Obama administration deserves credit for strongly endorsing an extension of the mandate of the U.N. special rapporteur of extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, and for repeatedly fighting to include language in General Assembly resolutions that specifically condemn extrajudicial killings of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Obama administration officials have also been willing to discuss targeted killings with the special rapporteurs, albeit in general terms. However, as the current mandate-holder, Christopher Heyns, observed after a two-day ‘interactive dialogue’ with U.S. officials in June: ‘I don’t think we have the full answer to the legal framework, we certainly don’t have the answer to the accountability issues. My concern is that we are dealing here with a situation that creates precedents around the world.’ This is exactly what his predecessors observed and warned about over the past ten years.”

Defining sustainability
Inter Press Service reports on concerns over the lack of guidelines in the “sustainable investment sector”:

“One significant point of concern among some environmentalists, for instance, is that investment funds will look to strengthen their ‘green’ credentials by choosing to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels – the biofuel products that to a great degree are fuelling the purchases of massive swaths of arable land across parts of Africa by Western corporations.

‘Investment is necessary, but only if investment criteria are first vetted by local communities, to incorporate labour, environmental and social concerns. Given that no such standards exist, and given that corporate accountability remains a major difficulty, this is extremely problematic,’ [according to the Oakland Institute’s Anuradha Mittal].”

Social contract sans frontières
UK shadow secretary for international development Ivan Lewis MP claims to lay out an “ambitious vision for a progressive post-2015 development framework”:

“Ultimately, the new framework must be developed through an authentic and equal partnership. Gone are the days when G8 governments could impose their views on the rest of the world.

Trade, jobs, migration, the cost of living, the impact of climate change, our security are all profoundly affected by factors beyond our borders. One Nation: One World is our best and only route to fairness and prosperity in the future. But our values mean globalisation must work for the many not the few and we have a particular duty to reassure people that we understand the insecurity this rapid change is creating. In the 21st century to be a British patriot is to be an internationalist.”

Latest Developments, December 13

In the latest news and analysis…

New trade accord
The European Parliament has approved a free trade agreement with Colombia and Peru, which will involve “a further limitation of export and import tariffs” between the trading partners, according to Colombia Reports:

“Human and labor rights organizations had objected the bill, claiming Colombia was not in compliance with international labor and human rights norms. Opponents within the [European Parliament] had claimed that the pact would additionally increase the risk of illegal money flows between the world’s two largest producers of cocaine and the world’s second largest cocaine consumer market.”

Pacific militarization
Reuters reports that the US military looks set to increase its number of troops, ships and aircraft in the Philippines:

“ ‘What we are discussing right now is increasing the rotational presence of U.S. forces,’ Carlos Sorreta, the foreign ministry’s Assistant Secretary for American Affairs, told reporters. A five-year joint U.S.-Philippine military exercise plan would be approved this week, he added.
The size of the increase in the U.S. military assets in the Philippines, a former U.S. colony, was unclear.
But it comes as the Philippines, Australia and other parts of the region have seen a resurgence of U.S. warships, planes and personnel under Washington’s so-called ‘pivot’ in foreign, economic and security policy towards Asia announced last year.”

Resource war
Iraqi politicians are warning that US oil companies “could be responsible for causing a civil war” if they proceed with drilling in disputed areas, according to Iraq Oil Report:

“Both the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have deployed thousands of troops near the contested border between north and south, including land where the American companies ExxonMobil and Hunt Oil have agreed to drill for oil.
In some areas, the opposing forces are less than a mile apart, well within the range of each other’s weapons.
‘If Exxon starts drilling, they will find tanks around them,’ said Sami Alaskary, a member of Parliament and influential adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.”

Big deal
The Guardian’s John Vidal writes that the much-maligned UN climate talks that took place recently in Doha did produce “one landmark agreement ” that will change future negotiations:

“Countries agreed to the principle of ‘loss and damage’, to help victims of climate change. The door is now at least half open for countries to be recompensed for slow onset events such as rising sea levels, continual droughts and storms.
Opinions are divided over what could practically emerge. There will be further meetings and discussions in the coming months and an international mechanism is expected to be set up next year. Financial experts like PwC say it could be a massive climate-risk insurance facility. Developing countries hope it could be a new fund to specifically channel money to countries experiencing damage linked to climate change.”

Papua New Guinea guinea pigs
Reuters reports that a dispute between Papua New Guinea and a Canadian company is threatening a “groundbreaking” but controversial mining project that aims to extract gold from the ocean floor:

“The impoverished country has a long legacy of mining projects derailed by environmental disasters, landowner uprisings and corruption.
Mining from vessels is seen as a way of avoiding some of the landowner disputes that have plagued other projects. Still, the project has been criticised for failing to adequately assess environmental risks.
‘No one knows what the impacts of this form of mining will be,’ said Wences Magun, national co-ordinator for Mas Kagin Tapani, a Papua New Guinea environmental group.
‘Communities want to know what concrete steps the prime minister will now take to ensure we are not being used us as guinea pigs in a sea bed mining experiment.’ ”

Plane denial
Agence France-Presse reports that French state-owned nuclear giant Areva has denied giving millions as a controversial “bonus” to uranium-rich Niger for the purchase of a pair of jets:

“Areva gave Niger ‘no-strings, non-targeted budgetary assistance worth 17 billion CFA francs (about €26 million),’ Zakari Oumarou, parliamentary president of the ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNSD), told AFP.
‘The government of Niger then decided to allocate 10 billion CFA francs (€15 million) for the purchase of a presidential plane, for which the state had already set aside 4 billion CFA francs (€6 million) in the 2013 budget,” he said, emphasizing that the purchase was ‘a necessity’ given the ‘weight of years’ of the current aircraft.

But Areva denied having given any such budgetary assistance. ‘No payment was made by the company,’ insisted a spokesperson contacted by AFP in Paris.” [Translated from the French.]

Chixoy revisited
Jubilee Debt Campaign’s Nick Dearden suggests the World Bank has not learned the right lessons in the 30 years since it helped fund a Guatemalan hydroelectric project whose construction involved hundreds of murders:

“It is unlikely that Chixoy would have been able to go ahead without the backing of the banks, yet their internal reports made no mention of the massacres.
Today, as former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt is brought to trial in Guatemala on counts of genocide, the survivors of the Chixoy massacre have still not received reparations – despite an acceptance by the banks that they are owed something.

Although the massacre at Chixoy was certainly extreme, it is symptomatic of a problem that goes to the heart of the World Bank’s idea of what development is. The best role the World Bank can play is to make reparations for the damage it has done – and clear the way for people who believe development is about people’s rights rather than corporate profits.”

Martial comfort
My Own Private Guantanamo’s Matt Cornell discusses the imagery of contemporary American warfare:

“Drones aren’t very iconic in the Western imagination, perhaps because we don’t look at them. They ‘look’ at the enemy, extending our predatory gaze to the corners of the globe. Appropriately, the key image from ‘the greatest manhunt in history’ is not the rumored photo of bin Laden’s corpse, but a picture of the most powerful people in the world, huddled around a television, watching his killing unfold in real time, as if at a 24 viewing party.
Drones embody two things that have come to define the post-9/11 era: unlimited surveillance and a war without borders. When I saw the Camo Snuggie in a drugstore the other day, I took it as an accidental visual metaphor for modern warfare. Here is a white man, wearing the camouflage of a soldier but far from a battlefield, swaddled and safe from harm, pushing buttons on a remote control.”

Latest Developments, November 15

In the latest news and analysis…

War chest
The Wall Street Journal reports that the EU is contemplating “using its checkbook” instead of sending troops to help Mali recover its northern portion from armed groups:

“The EU, which has already pledged to support the proposed West African force with training, transport, and intelligence gathering, is now discussing spending tens of millions of euros to provide equipment and monthly allowances to the roughly 3,000 troops, [European diplomats and other people familiar with the matter] said.
However, the EU is moving cautiously with its proposal, two of these people said, because it wants any military intervention in the region to appear as an African initiative, not a European one.

If approved, EU funding would come from the European Commission’s African Peace Facility, the people familiar with the matter said.”

Bribe facilitation
The Vanguard reports it has obtained a list of specific banks used to wire “huge sums” to high-ranking Nigerians:

“According to sources, such principal suspects like a former military head of state (names withheld), used the American Express Bank Annex at the Towers World Financial Centre, New York, the Seaway National Bank, Chicago, and the Bank of New York to wire over $37.5 million of the bribe money.

Another principal suspect through who the British/Israeli lawyer, Jeffrey Tesler wired huge sums to prominent Nigerians is Air Vice Marshal Abdul Dominic Bello and the banks/ account numbers through which over $68 million were wired are Lloyds Bank of London, A/C No 736827, Tri-Star, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, London, Tri-Star, American Express Bank, A/C No 2101653,Tri-Star, HSBC, A/C No 31505024, and Lloyds Bank, A/C No 0737041, Tri-Star.”

Prix Pinocchio
Friends of the Earth France has named the winners of this year’s Pinocchio Sustainable Development Awards, which are “intended to illustrate and denounce the negative impacts of some French companies that behave in total contradiction with the concepts of sustainable development that they boast of extensively”:

“This year, more than 17,000 people voted online to choose the winners among the nominated companies. Lesieur, Bolera and Areva are the big winners in 2012.

The ever-increasing number of votes for the Pinocchio prizes proves there is growing support for the fight against the impunity that French multinational companies currently enjoy regarding the social and environmental impacts of their activities, a fight waged for years by Friends of the Earth, the Research and Information Centre for Development, and Peuples Solidaires.” [Translated from the French.]

Afghan fears
The Asia Foundation has released the results of a survey that suggests, among other things, that the people of Afghanistan are far more afraid of international soldiers than of Afghan ones:

“Only 20% of respondents say they would have no fear when encountering international forces, while more than three quarters (78%) say they would have some level of fear, including 35% who say they would have a lot of fear. A high level of fear when encountering international forces could be due to night raids as well as the international forces’ relatively large presence in military operations.”

Higher fences
Agence France-Presse reports on the recurring attempts by African migrants to enter Spain’s North African exclaves, which form “the only land frontier between Africa and Europe”:

“In August, after some 60 sub-Saharan migrants forced their way across the border, Spain boosted its security by raising the height of the fence and adding video cameras and more staff.
Since then, hundreds of migrants have tried to cross over into Melilla on several occasions.
Spanish officials said that attempts to reach Spanish soil by boat have also increased over the last few weeks, as migrants try to make the most of the last remaining days of warm weather.”

Responsible loans
Human Rights Watch calls on the World Bank to incorporate consideration of human rights into its lending practices:

“Historically, the World Bank Group has dismissed human rights as a ‘political’ issue and therefore outside of its mandate as a development bank. The same was true of corruption until a former Bank president, James Wolfensohn, took the seemingly risky step of raising ‘the c-word’ and began to address the issue within the bank and in its lending. President Jim Yong Kim has a similar opportunity to modernize the bank by taking on human rights, the groups said.
‘The World Bank Group is not above international law – the bank and its member states must abide by human rights standards in their development activities,’ said Kris Genovese, senior attorney at CIEL. ‘Now is the time for the bank to move into the 21st century and, if he’s willing to show leadership andsustained engagement with member countries, Kim can realize this signature achievement.’

Forcible profits
The Institute for Policy Studies is calling on Canada’s government to put a stop to a Canadian mining company’s “bullying” of El Salvador:

“Despite the prospect of major environmental damage, Pacific Rim says it has the ‘right,’ under the investor–state regime allowed by investment rules in free trade agreements, to reap the profits that would have been brought by gold mining. In pursuit of these so-called lost profits, Pacific Rim is demanding up to hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation at the International Centre for Settlement of International Disputes (ICSID), an unaccountable World Bank tribunal that operates behind closed doors.
The Sierra Club ‘opposes trade and investment agreements that allow foreign corporations to attack environmental and public health protections in secret trade tribunals,’ says Ilana Solomon, trade policy expert at the Sierra Club. ‘This lawsuit by Pacific Rim, which threatens the health and safety of communities in El Salvador, is a case in point for why we oppose these secret tribunals.’ ”

Islamophobia sells
Jeune Afrique questions the motives behind French magazines’ obsession with Islam and immigration:

“Issue 3202 of L’Express, on newsstands Nov. 14, presents an investigation into ‘the real costs of immigration,’ intended to challenge ‘preconceptions’ and publish ‘shocking statistics.’ On the cover: a woman, veiled head-to-toe, enters a family allowance office. Translation: immigrants, that is to say Muslims, depend on state benefits.
Why display this prejudice on the front cover, even if it is to dispute it inside the magazine? No doubt because the image will boost sales. According to a survey published in Le Figaro on Oct. 25, 60% of French people think Islam has ‘too much’ influence and visibility in their country. And 43% of them consider it a ‘menace’ to national identity. Fear sells…” [Translated from the French.]

Latest Developments, October 26

In the latest news and analysis…

War hub
The Washington post reports that Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti has become “the centerpiece of an expanding constellation of half a dozen U.S. drone and surveillance bases in Africa”:

“Lemonnier also has become a hub for conventional aircraft. In October 2011, the military boosted the airpower at the base by deploying a squadron of F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets, which can fly faster and carry more munitions than Predators.
In its written responses, Africa Command confirmed the warplanes’ presence but declined to answer questions about their mission. Two former U.S. defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the F-15s are flying combat sorties over Yemen, an undeclared development in the growing war against al-Qaeda forces there.
The drones and other military aircraft have crowded the skies over the Horn of Africa so much that the risk of an aviation disaster has soared.”

Damaging paradigm
The Guardian reports that the UN has announced plans to investigate the legality of US drone strikes that kill civilians:

“The investigation unit will also look at ‘other forms of targeted killing conducted in counter-terrorism operations, in which it is alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted’. [Ben Emmerson, a UN special rapporteur] maintained that the US stance that it can conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaida or other groups anywhere in the world because it is deemed to be an international conflict was indefensible.

‘The global war paradigm has done immense damage to a previously shared international consensus on the legal framework underlying both international human rights law and international humanitarian law,’ he said. ‘It has also given a spurious justification to a range of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations.
‘The [global] war paradigm was always based on the flimsiest of reasoning, and was not supported even by close allies of the US.’ ”

Monopoly miracle
GaveKal Dragonomics’ Anatole Kaletsky writes that a revolution in economic thinking may have begun:

“In a research paper that has gone viral among economists, Jaromir Benes and Michael Kumhof, two senior IMF staffers, describe a reform of monetary management that could potentially restore all the output lost in the Great Recession and simultaneously eliminate the government debt burdens of the United States, Britain and most European countries.
These miracles could be achieved without painful tax increases or spending cuts, by restoring to governments the exclusive right to create money they gradually lost to commercial banks. The monopoly right to create money generates a ‘seignorage tax,’ whose capital value is roughly 100 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, according to the IMF calculations. Transferring this enormous benefit from banks back to governments would allow most national debts to be paid off.”

Price fixing
Agence France-Presse reports that oil giants Chevron, Shell, Total & BP are being accused of “colluding to rig consumer prices since the 1980s” in South Africa:

“Following ‘wide-ranging investigations’ since 2009, the Competition Commission said it had uncovered ‘collusive conduct’ that stretched back decades, and had referred the case to the Competition Tribunal for judgement.
The commission recommended that each company be fined 10 percent of total turnover from their South African business for the last financial year.
‘The investigation revealed collusive conduct through extensive exchanges of commercially sensitive information by the respondent oil companies,’ it said.
The information was said to include detailed monthly sales figures and collusion to influence the regulatory environment.
The products included petrol, diesel, kerosene, heavy furnace oil, bitumen, liquid petroleum gas and lubricants, and specific grades within these categories.”

Controversial complex
Al Jazeera asks whether Haiti’s new $300 million, Clinton-endorsed Caracol industrial park will be a boon for the country’s economy or “a glorified sweatshop”:

“Already workers allege that foreign companies are not even paying the minimum wage of $5 a day.
Local farmers say they were also forced off their land to make way for the development.

‘The biggest question is that Caracol has kind of taken all the oxygen out of the room, it’s all that people talk about, and yet it’s going to create at the maximum over six years 65,000 jobs, which is really a drop in the bucket,’ according to Haiti working group chairman Robert Maguire.”

Setting the bar
Oxfam’s Hannah Stoddart takes issue with the World Bank’s claims that it is only involved in “a few cases” of potential land grabs:

“First, given the Bank’s mandate for poverty alleviation, even one land-grab case is a case too many.
Secondly, in reality we know that there are very likely more than a few controversial cases relating to land. 21 cases involving land disputes have been brought by communities since 2008 (Oxfam is involved as a complainant in a number of them). We also know that between 2000 – 2012, 56% of the complaints to the Compliance Adviser Ombudsman (CAO) have been in relation to land. The CAO also confirms that in the past 4 years there has been a growing number of complaints in relation to agri-business.
Lastly, while the World Bank may not the worst culprit when it comes to land-grabbing, it IS the only global bank with a mandate for poverty alleviation and it is a crucial institution for setting the bar high in this area. In other words, we believe that if Oxfam can’t convince the World Bank to raise its standards, we have no hope of getting other financing institutions to do so.”

Just say no
The Guardian reports that the British government is thus far refusing to allow its bases to be used for a build-up of US troops in the Gulf:

“[British ministers] have pointed US officials to legal advice drafted by the attorney general’s office which has been circulated to Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.
This makes clear that Iran, which has consistently denied it has plans to develop a nuclear weapon, does not currently represent ‘a clear and present threat’. Providing assistance to forces that could be involved in a pre-emptive strike would be a clear breach of international law, it states.”

Humanizing finance
The Financial Times reports that credit rating agencies from the US, China and Russia are claiming their new joint venture will change the way global financial risk is assessed:

“In a joint declaration, the three agencies described their mission in grand terms.
‘It is an historic imperative to establish a new type of international credit rating system which follows the inherent requirements of credit rating and which is aligned to the common interests of human society,’ they said.”

Latest Developments, October 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Bad timing
Oxford University’s David Priestland argues the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to the European Union at this point in time is “distinctly odd”:

“The introduction of the euro changed the EU from an institution that used economic integration to promote peace to one that is sacrificing peace on the altar of free-market economics. Brussels is being rewarded for its pacific past at the very moment it is provoking civil strife.

Nor did Europe’s eirenic outlook always extend beyond its borders. Individual countries have sometimes played a far from peaceful role in the world – especially the French and British meddling in their former empires. Europe’s protectionism has also damaged the interests of the developing world.”

Development by force
Human Rights Watch’s Jessica Evans criticizes the World Bank’s support for Ethiopia’s controversial “villagization” program:

“Once forcibly evicted and moved to the new villages, families are finding that the promised government services often do not exist, giving them less access to services than before the relocation. Dozens of farmers in Ethiopia’s Gambella region told us they are being moved from fertile areas where they survive on subsistence farming, to dry, arid areas. Ojod’s family farm was on the river, but as part of the villagization program, the government took his farm and forced his family to relocate to a dry area. There are reports that this fertile land is being leased to multinational companies for large-scale farms.
The villagization program is an Ethiopian government initiative, not one designed by the World Bank. But villagization appears to be the government’s way of implementing a certain World Bank project in five of Ethiopia’s eleven regions.”

Colonial legacy
Radio France Internationale reports that French President François Hollande has promised to hand over archives relating to a massacre of Senegalese troops fighting for France during World War II:

“ ‘The dark side of our history includes the bloody repression at the Thiaroye camp in 1944 which caused the death of 35 African soldiers who fought for France,’ Hollande told the Senegalese parliament.

In a speech where he also paid homage to the victims of the slave trade, Hollande declared that the Françafrique policy, often criticised as neo-colonialist, is over.
‘There is France and there is Africa,’ he declared, adding that he was not going to give the Senegalese moral lectures, in an indirect reference to his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial speech in Dakar five years ago.”

Poisonous siege
The Independent reports on a new study linking the siege of Fallujah by Western forces during the Iraq War to the city’s “staggering rise” in birth defects:

“The latest study found that in Fallujah, more than half of all babies surveyed were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010. Before the siege, this figure was more like one in 10. Prior to the turn of the millennium, fewer than 2 per cent of babies were born with a defect. More than 45 per cent of all pregnancies surveyed ended in miscarriage in the two years after 2004, up from only 10 per cent before the bombing. Between 2007 and 2010, one in six of all pregnancies ended in miscarriage.”

Patent override
The Guardian reports that the Indonesian government has taken steps to allow seven “important” but patented medicines to be manufactured cheaply and locally:

“The biggest fights now are in India, where Big Pharma is battling to preserve its patents, arguing that India’s thriving generic companies will sell not just to the poor but to the whole world.
But what has happened in Indonesia is remarkable for its scale. It appears that the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has decided to license the entire slate of medicines its population needs against HIV. It already had an order from 2007 for three older HIV drugs (efavirenz, lamivudine and nevirapine), but the new decree states specifically that this is ‘no longer sufficient’.
The drug patents belong to Merck, GSK, Bristol Myers Squibb, Abbott and Gilead.”

Tax hike
The New York Times reports that Mongolia is considering renegotiating the investment agreement it has with Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto regarding a $6 billion copper project:

“Last Monday, the caucus of Mongolia’s Democratic Party, which leads a coalition government in place since August, passed a budget proposal, which calls for a new sliding royalty on Oyu Tolgoi’s revenue that would rise to 20 percent depending on the copper price. The 2009 investment agreement set the royalty rate at 5 percent.
The new plan would also raise Oyu Tolgoi’s effective tax rate by eliminating income-tax allowances. The government would bring in 221.3 billion tugriks, or $160 million, from the royalty and 224.5 billion tugriks, or $163 million, from corporate income tax, according to estimates in the draft budget proposal.
This week, the plan is expected to reach Parliament, which will decide whether to adopt or modify the proposal.”

Paradigm shift
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a recent roundtable where one of the participants argued that global health justice will require “a body of hard and soft laws”:

“ ‘When I first entered global health, I thought global health was mostly about making rich countries devote resources to those who lack the capacity to do it,’ [Georgetown University’s Larry Gostin] said. This ‘is a northern view based upon guilt, but it is really the wrong view,’ he said.

There are still residual international responsibilities, but they are based on a flawed idea of international development assistance for health, which is ‘very much charitable-based, with a benefactor and a recipient.’ It is not justice-based, he said, and lacks a sense of shared responsibility, adding, ‘We need to change this paradigm.’ ”

Food futures
The Observer’s Heather Stewart decries the lack of action by rich-country governments to rein in the price of food, which she says depends more on “all-but-irrelevant events in Brussels or Berlin” than on supply and demand:

“Any tougher crackdown – forcing greater transparency about who is betting on what, with whom, for example – looks highly likely to be scuppered by the same kind of concerted lobbying that sank proposals for regulating other derivatives markets in the years before the crisis.
In the US, for example, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is facing a legal battle over its attempts to impose ‘position limits’, constraining the share of the market single investors can hold in a number of commodities, including corn and cocoa. The proposal was struck down by a court in Washington, in a case brought by several financial sector trade bodies – though the CFTC has not given up on introducing position limits in some form.”