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The Secret Corporate Takeover

The United States and the world are engaged in a great debate about new trade agreements. Such pacts used to be called “free-trade agreements”; in fact, they were managed trade agreements, tailored to corporate interests, largely in the US and the European Union. Today, such deals are more often referred to as “partnerships,”as in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But they are not partnerships of equals: the US effectively dictates the terms. Fortunately, America’s “partners” are becoming increasingly resistant.

It is not hard to see why. These agreements go well beyond trade, governing investment and intellectual property as well, imposing fundamental changes to countries’ legal, judicial, and regulatory frameworks, without input or accountability through democratic institutions.

Perhaps the most invidious – and most dishonest – part of such agreements concerns investor protection. Of course, investors have to be protected against the risk that rogue governments will seize their property. But that is not what these provisions are about. There have been very few expropriations in recent decades, and investors who want to protect themselves can buy insurance from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, a World Bank affiliate (the US and other governments provide similar insurance). Nonetheless, the US is demanding such provisions in the TPP, even though many of its “partners” have property protections and judicial systems that are as good as its own.

via The Secret Corporate Takeover by Joseph E. Stiglitz – Project Syndicate.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Economy

 

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ASEAN’s Inaction on Rohingya Refugees

This year, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations is expected to make the ASEAN Economic Community a reality. It is envisioned as a single common market and production base that leads to the freer flow of goods, services, investment capital and skilled labor in the region, tying the member countries into a closely shared destiny.

But what is going on in the Bay of Bengal right now makes that vision a mockery. Arguably the worst refugee crisis since the exodus of boat people from Vietnam in the 1970s is exploding on the shores of ASEAN members while they largely ignore it. The events have highlighted what has been described as “the alarmingly inept regional response to the longstanding refugee problem.” ASEAN still lacks a regional framework on refugees, and only two ASEAN member states have signed onto the UN Refugee Convention.

via ASEAN’s Inaction on Rohingya Refugees | Asia Sentinel.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Asia

 

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The last time they turned back the boats

Today in the Straits of Malacca, we’re seeing a grotesque re-enactment of one of the great moral failures of the twentieth century, as the nations of the region collaborate to produce a new ‘Voyage of the Damned’.Some 8000 Rohingya asylum seekers and Bangladeshi migrants are currently stranded, lacking food, water and sanitation – and the governments of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are pushing their boats back into the ocean, knowing they have nowhere to go.‘In the name of humanity,’ pleads the International Organisation for Migration,’ let these migrants land.’

via The last time they turned back the boats | Overland literary journal.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Asia, Oceania, Reportages

 

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Sémantique

Une énigme enveloppée de mystère, nimbée d’un brouillard sémantique, assaisonnée d’ambiguïté floue. Voilà la position exposée d’un ton coupant par le gouvernement français en matière d’accueil des réfugiés. Inflexible mais ouvert, accommodant mais intraitable, Manuel Valls a récusé l’idée de «quotas» avancée par Bruxelles, mais il a laissé son cabinet diffuser le vocable de «quote-part», ce qui, avouons-le, a le mérite d’éclairer d’un coup la question…

via Sémantique – Libération.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in European Union, Reportages

 

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Death sentence to Morsi will make everything worse

The death sentence given to Egypt’s toppled former president on May 16 is not only wrong, but also likely to make everything in the Middle East even worse.

Apart from the fact that the death sentence – which is irreversible regardless of mistakes – should have no place in modern legal systems, the sentence is wrong and likely to make everything worse for a few other reasons.

via Death sentence to Morsi will make everything worse – MURAT YETKİN.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Africa

 

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ISIS & the Shia Revival in Iraq by Nicolas Pelham

“We’re ridding the world of polytheism, and spreading monotheism across the planet,” an ISIS preacher recently said in a video recording. Behind him one could see the ISIS faithful using sledgehammers, bulldozers, and explosives to destroy the eighth-century-BC citadel of the Assyrian king Sargon II at Khorsabad, ten miles northwest of Mosul in northern Iraq, and the colossal statues of human-headed winged bulls that had guarded it. Amir al-Jumaili, an antiquities professor at Mosul University, has recorded the destruction of some 160 sites by ISIS since June 2014, when it conquered Iraq’s second city. He showed me some recent entries in his logbook:

5 March 2015—Nimrud destroyed; 6 March 2015, Hatra destroyed; 9 March 2015, Khorsabad destroyed [i.e., the fourth capital of the Assyrians].

The full extent of the damage to these enormous and remote sites remains unclear. But on March 18, 2015, Iraq’s distraught archaeologists and antiquities experts gathered for a government-sponsored conference in Baghdad. Iraq has 12,000 archaeological sites—too many to protect, I was told by Ahmed Kamel Mohammed, the director of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, the country’s greatest collection of antiquities, which had been looted when the Americans took Baghdad in 2003. Some of the experts proposed drafting a UN Security Council resolution to entrust the protection of the sites to the US-led coalition. Others advocated the creation of a national antiquities guard. Iraq’s national security adviser, Faleh Fayadh, promised to consider this and then nodded off during a presentation about the ancient temple to the sun god at Hatra, one of ISIS’s reported targets.

via ISIS & the Shia Revival in Iraq by Nicolas Pelham — www.nybooks.com.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Middle East

 

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ISIS in Palmyra

In their rampage across Syria and Iraq, the zealots of ISIS have wrecked and looted countless sites of archeological wonder: in the ancient Assyrian cities of Nimrud and Khorsabad, they’ve smashed temples and icons; in the Mosul Library, they’ve torched ancient manuscripts; at the Mosul Museum, they’ve turned deities and statues to rubble and dust. They even sacked Jonah’s tomb. Happy in their work, the ISIS wrecking teams have posted videos of their deeds. We can now only wonder if Palmyra, an ancient city in central Syria that fell to ISIS fighters this week, is next.

I visited Palmyra in the summer of 2003. It was a strange time to be in Syria. The Iraq War was only a few months old. The situation inside Iraq was deteriorating fast, but in Damascus, among the members of Bashar al-Assad’s government, there was still a pervasive fear that Syria would be the next American target. There was a wild rumor about government officials streaming to a certain palm reader in Aleppo, in order to have him divine whether and when the American invasion would come; even Assad himself, the rumor went, had paid the soothsayer a visit. I stayed in a Sheraton, then the nicest hotel in Damascus, and every night the senior officials of the Baath Party, some of them wearing pistols in their belts, would gather to drink and dance and carouse. When I asked one of those senior officials, Bouthaina Shaaban, whether the regime would ever loosen its grip, she told me, “We will always believe in the vanguard role of the Baath Party.” One day, I drove to the Iraqi border, where I found dozens of jihadis waiting to cross over to fight the United States; the Assad regime was only too happy to let them pass.

via ISIS in Palmyra — www.newyorker.com.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Middle East

 

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Bin Laden’s declassified documents reveal a family-oriented conspiracist

He was far from the only tetchy middle-aged senior executive in the world who missed his family, micromanaged, got cross with recalcitrant subordinates and liked books explaining the world with far-fetched conspiracy theories. But he was the only one with a $25m bounty on his head.

When they shot dead Osama bin Laden in the Pakistan compound where he had lived for about five years in May 2011, US special forces also scooped up a mass of documents, books, hard drives and disks. The haul was described by officials as the size of a small university library.

via Bin Laden’s declassified documents reveal a family-oriented conspiracist — www.theguardian.com.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Reportages

 

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If Palmyra is destroyed

The ISIL juggernaut, seemingly stalled after reverses in Kobane and Tikrit, is on the move. Palmyra followed Ramadi and is now under the black flag. It’s the first time that ISIL have taken control of a city directly from the Syrian military and its allies.

According to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, they now control half of the country and thousands of more civilians are fleeing alongside Bashar al-Assad’s retreating army.

Palmyra known as both the “bride” and the “pearl” of the desert is a remarkable 2,000-year-old historic oasis and UNESCO world heritage site. The Temple of Bel and its surrounding line of sun kissed columns and a hilltop castle were a tourist’s dream and far less busy than Jordan’s more famous Petra. It is a global icon that is now under the sovereignty of a group who are trying to bring about their own “Year Zero” to the region.

Destroying history is part of reimagining it under their own auspices and every site and monument that is destroyed or sold, is another victory.

via If Palmyra is destroyed — www.aljazeera.com.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Middle East

 

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Bashar al-Assad: The beginning of the end

It was fashionable during the early phase of the Syrian revolution to predict Bashar al-Assad’s demise. But when the Syrian president defied all expectations and hung on to power at all cost, including hundreds of thousands of casualties, his detractors stopped forecasting.

With some hesitation, I shall throw my hat in the ring and ask whether we’ve finally entered a new phase in Syria: is it truly the beginning of the end for Assad and his decades’ old regime?

And once again, perhaps the more important questions to ask and answer are what – not who – will replace Assad, and how – not if or when.

via Bashar al-Assad: The beginning of the end — www.aljazeera.com.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Middle East

 

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