OTHER THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – MARCH 7

Panama Covid-19 update – TV news showed the packed Causeway and Cinta Costera – traditional Sunday day out places…so was glad to give them a miss (plan to visit the former tomorrow).

Meanwhile, numbers continue to (slowly) retreat – 357 new cases and 11 new fatalities; with 7,149 active cases – 118 remain in ICU and 682 in other wards.

7 March 2021

COLOMBIA PROPOSES CENTRALISING GOLD SALES TO FIGHT CRIME

On 6 March, OCCRP reported that Colombia is considering centralising the purchase of gold to combat illegal mining, violence, and environmental damage and prevent the mineral from entering the black market.

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/13995-colombia-proposes-centralizing-gold-sales-to-fight-crime

SWITZERLAND: COUNTERFEIT GOODS SEIZURES SKYROCKET IN PANDEMIC

On 4 March, Swissinfo reported that the Federal Customs Administration reported that it had confiscated about 50% more fake products in 2020 than in the previous year.  The most common counterfeit products were watches, jewellery, glasses, and handbags.

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/counterfeit-good-seizures-skyrocket-in-pandemic/46419902

THE CHANGING MILITARY DYNAMICS OF THE MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA (MENA) REGION

On 2 March, the Center for Strategic and International Studies published an updated version of a comprehensive survey of the changing military dynamics in the region.  It contrasts the relatively peaceful situation in 2011 with that of only 10 years later.  It says that regional rivalries, extremism, and the series of political uprisings and conflicts that were once called the “Arab Spring” have turned the MENA region into a fragmented mess. Non-state actors like the Hezbollah, Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and Houthis have become significant threats.  It points out that while many MENA countries still spend massive amounts of money on modernizing and expanding their military forces and their major weapons, they have greatly expanded their focus on counterextremism, counterterrorism, and internal security.  Many states have focused on acquiring advanced ballistic and cruise missiles, a wide range of precision-guided weapons, integrated mixes of land-based air and missile defences, and a wide range of other developments in military technology and tactics.  In addition, grey area operations and hybrid warfare have become added sources of change in the military character of the region, as has the support of rebel and other separatist factions in neighbouring states. 

https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/210302_Cordesman_Military_Dynamics.pdf?aFbaUdiB0knUgNbAmZ_SEJOABTSDemZ7

AUSTRIA HAS FAILED IN FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION, SAYS COUNCIL OF EUROPE 

On 2 March, Euronews reported that Austria has made “overall insufficient” progress in the fight against corruption, according to a new report by the GRECO arm of the Council of Europe.  It says Austria has failed to implement its recommendations to tackle judicial and political misconduct.

https://www.euronews.com/2021/03/01/austria-has-failed-in-fight-against-corruption-says-council-of-europe

SEEKING A RESPONSIBLE ARMS TRADE TO REDUCE HUMAN SUFFERING IN YEMEN

On 5 February, an article in the Italian Spectator, the Italian Journal of International Affairs, says that the war in Yemen has shown inconsistencies in EU Member States’ arms export control practices: specifically, how they have applied international humanitarian law standards in their arms transfer decisions towards members of the Saudi-led coalition involved in the conflict.  It notes that EU States have agreed to abide by a set of legally binding instruments established at the regional and international level, such as the 2008 EU Common Position on Arms Exports (EU Common Position) and the 2013 UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which aim to prevent the adverse impact that a poorly regulated arms trade has on conflict and development, regional security and stability and, not least, human suffering.  Those States that have decided to continue their arms transfers to Saudi Arabia and members of its coalition have been widely criticised by parliamentarians, representatives of NGO and civil society organisations precisely on the basis of their obligation under the EU Common Position and the ATT to embed IHL considerations into their arms transfer decisions. The article discusses how the war in Yemen has brought to the fore divergences in EU States’ arms transfers practices and by focusing particularly on their obligation to assess the risk of their weapons being used in IHL violations; and it argues that, even if these inconsistent practices could easily have been foreseen on the basis of previous analyses, the context in which they are now being observed has changed, not least in light of the opportunities that the entry into force of the ATT has created to fill the gap between rhetoric and compliance in the arms trade.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03932729.2021.1876862?scroll=top&needAccess=true

IRS INITIATES ‘OPERATION HIDDEN TREASURE’ TO ROOT OUT UNREPORTED CRYPTO INCOME

On 7 March, NASDAQ reported that the IRS appears to be stepping up its enforcement capabilities with a new programme dedicated to cryptocurrency tax compliance and will search for unreported crypto-related income.  The programme will train agents to look at blockchains to root out tax evasion among cryptocurrency users. It will exist as part of the office’s emerging threats mitigation team. 

https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/irs-initiates-operation-hidden-treasure-to-root-out-unreported-crypto-income-2021-03-07

I would be grateful for any modest contribution for my time and ongoing costs of computer, relocation, and (still ongoing) removal costs, I have a page, where contributions start as low as $3, at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y

GOVERNMENTS MUST BETTER UNDERSTAND THE NATIONAL-SECURITY RISKS FROM THIRD-PARTY LITIGATION FINANCE

On 7 March, an article in Defense One explains the potential threats from third-party litigation funding (TPLF), the funding of lawsuits by third parties with no direct connection to a dispute. In these suits, the often-substantial costs of litigation are borne not by the party that claims harm and files the suit but by someone else.  It argues that litigation can be used to delay policy or commercial processes, harass, embarrass, or to obtain confidential information. Expecting such abuses, most legal systems contain built-in safeguards against malicious or vexatious litigation.  However, these were never formulated to account for sophisticated campaigns emanating from abroad.  In the US, one study estimated a 414% rise in US litigation funding 2013-17.  The article suggest that funders could easily be foreign state actors or – more likely – state-controlled entities and private sector conduits and that, if a foreign state underwrites a lawsuit with no expectation of a return, transparency requirements would be unlikely to be triggered. 

https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2021/03/whos-funding-lawsuit-lawfare-implications/172489/

I would be grateful for any modest contribution for my time and ongoing costs of computer, relocation, and (still ongoing) removal costs, I have a page, where contributions start as low as $3, at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y