June 25th, 2010 : News in Brief ? Watching

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- Multinationals welcome in Iraqi Kurdistan

- After drones, satellites to monitor EU borders

- ?1bn lobbying campaign to block 'traffic light' labelling scheme

- Bailouts are only for banks, not useful charities

- FPG awarded ethecon's Black Planet Award

- Tate BP sponsorship: 'Licence to Spill'

Multinationals welcome in Iraqi Kurdistan

A high-profile conference on trade and investment in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region was held at a five-star hotel in the City of London on 15-16 June 2010. Organised by Newsdesk Media Group, the conference provided an opportunity for delegates to "identify the best trade and investment opportunities in Kurdistan and how to access them," highlighting how this "stable and open region" is the "commercial gateway to Iraq."

In addition to senior Iraqi officials and ministers, the conference was attended by representatives of many big private-sector sharks, including HSBC, Credit Suisse, Forbes & Manhattan, Shell, Aegis, BAE Systems, Lufthansa, Caterpillar, PepsiCo and others.

In his speech, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government Barham Salih said, "We welcome you to come and do business in Kurdistan. Private sector investment has been helping the economy of the Kurdistan Region, making it a hub for economic and construction activity and a gateway to the rest of Iraq."

Link: www.kurdistanconference.com

After drones, satellites to monitor EU borders

The European Commission has started negotiations to sign research contracts worth 324 million Euros with 108 successful space and security research consortia, in efforts to increase reliance on new technology for "strong border protection... the fight against terrorism and climate change."

108 successful projects have been short-listed from amongst 732 proposals received in the third of six planned calls for proposals under the Space and Security themes of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7). They comprise 68 space and 40 security research projects. One of the space research projects under the FP7 is called the New European Watcher (NEWA). Drawing up a "sustainable road-map", the project outlines the use of radar satellites for European space-based Reconnaissance & Surveillance (R&S).

Link: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/716&format=HTML

?1bn lobbying campaign to block 'traffic light' labelling scheme

As MEPs prepared to vote on new food labelling legislation that would determine what nutritional information should be displayed on the packaging of items such as snacks and soft drinks, the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) spent ?1 billion on a major lobbying campaign opposing proposals for front-of-pack 'traffic light' labelling. CIAA favour a system based on Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs). Traffic-light labels show a green symbol for healthy options and a red symbol for sugary, fatty and salty foods. GDAs, on the other hand, only show how many calories a 'portion' contains as a percentage of an adult's daily needs.

Link: www.corporateeurope.org/lobbycracy/content/2010/06/red-light-consumer-information

Bailouts are only for banks, not useful charities

Mass campaigning to rescue a legal advice charity has failed to persuade the government to show some of the generosity enjoyed by crumbling banks during the financial crisis. Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ), which provided legal support to thousands of asylum seekers, had been forced into administration because of changes brought in by the previous government to the way that Legal Aid fees are paid. The new system only pays fees when cases are exhausted, meaning payments could take up to two years. As a result, RMJ had a £1.8 million backlog of unpaid fees, which eventually led to a cash crisis. The charity was, thus, not asking for new money but simply prompt payment of legal aid owed by the Legal Services Commission or, failing that, an interest-free loan from the government to cover the gap.

After launching an emergency appeal for funds, £76,525 was pledged by members of the public within 24 hours and a number of charitable trusts and organisations offered significant support. However, talks with the Legal Services Commission, RMJ's main funder, were unsuccessful and the organisation is now in the process of winding down. RMJ was one of few organisations to provide quality legal advice and representation to asylum seekers and immigrants across England and Wales. Over 10,000 clients, including 900 unaccompanied minors, have now been left in legal limbo.

Link: http://refugee-migrant-justice.org.uk

FPG awarded ethecon's Black Planet Award

Multinational chemical corporation Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) has been presented with the International Black Planet Award at its annual stockholders meeting, which took place in Taiwan on 25th June. Protesters were 'ejected' from the meeting by police and denied the opportunity to present the owner of the company with the award in person. The award, granted by the Ethics & Economics Foundation (ethecon), came amid protests that started at the beginning of June against FPG's "dramatic crimes against mankind and the environment."

Formosa Plastics Group is one of the world's largest producers of the infamous substance PVC, which is known to cause serious illnesses such as cancer, circulatory problems and birth defects. FPG is also infamous for its scandalous negligence in regard to environmental and health protection issues. For more information on FPG, see this dossier compiled by ethecon.

The Black Planet Award has previously been awarded to Monsanto (2006), Nestlé (2007) and Blackwater (2008).

Link: http://ethecon.org

Tate BP sponsorship: 'Licence to Spill'

As Tate Britain celebrates 20 years of BP sponsorship at an exclusive summer party on 28th June, Platform has launched a new publication, Licence to Spill, explaining why cultural sponsorship by oil companies like BP is unacceptable.

The publication can be found at