30 December 2017



Cites the abolishment of Turks & Caicos Islands Constitution and institution of direct rule in 2009 as precedent


Thomas Penny

Vince Cable Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The U.K. should take direct rule over crown dependencies that encourage aggressive tax avoidance and fail to introduce transparent tax reporting, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said on Wednesday.

Responding to the leak of documents revealing the offshore investment and tax affairs of some of the richest people in the world, Cable said the so-called Paradise Papers reveal the need for Britain to extract a price for the protection it provides to the crown dependencies.

He accused Prime Minister Theresa May’s government of failing to force dependent territories to introduce open registers of beneficial ownership and said they should be given timetables to phase out “unacceptable practices” and become more transparent.

“What I would recommend and advocate is that the territories that depend on British protection should be required to observe basic standards,” Cable said in a speech in central London. “If they don’t comply then sanctions should kick in. We do have a fairly straightforward sanction, which is the institution of direct rule.”

Direct rule was imposed on The Turks and Caicos Islands in 2009 to tackle corruption, Cable said, and a similar model could be followed.

22 December 2017



Independence movement prepares for referendum

By Nic Maclellan

 Remembrance Day, November 11. French soldiers, sailors and police stand in ranks near Noumea’s war memorial at Bir Hakiem, to remember the fallen.
Across town, at Ko We Kara, members of the Union Calédonienne Party recall those who have fallen in the struggle for independence, as they gather at the 48th UC congress. Founded in 1953, the oldest political party in New Caledonia took up the call for independence in 1977.
These competing ceremonies open a crucial year for New Caledonia, just one year away from a referendum on self-determination.
Under the Noumea Accord, New Caledonia must hold the referendum before the end of 2018, with the vote likely next November. With newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron scheduled to make his first visit to the French Pacific dependency next May, the coming year will see increased political mobilisation and debate.
But more than 19 years after the Noumea Accord was signed, the French State has failed to resolve disputes over who is eligible to vote in this crucial decision on the country’s political status.
In early November, political leaders travelled to Paris, to try to forge a compromise on this longstanding dispute. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe hosted the Committee of Signatories, an annual meeting of the original signatories to the 1998 Noumea Accord, together with New Caledonia’s elected representatives to the French parliament and leaders of the major political parties represented in New Caledonia’s Congress.
The Paris meeting made crucial decisions about the electoral roll for the referendum, but there’s still a long way to go. With Prime Minister Philippe due to visit Noumea in early December for further discussions, the independence movement is starting to mobilise its forces.
Last month, the four political parties that make up the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) each held their own congresses. Leaders reported back on the outcomes of the Committee of Signatories, and began to mobilise their members for the year ahead.
The Party of Kanak Liberation (Palika), led by Paul Neaoutyine, gathered at Arama in the north of the main island, while Victor Tutugoro’s  Union Progressiste Mélanesienne (UPM) met on Ouvea in the outlying Loyalty Islands. The Rassemblement Démocratique Océanienne (RDO) – which links Wallisian and Tahitian supporters of independence – gathered in Dumbea. The largest congress was for Union Calédonienne (UC), the “older brother” of the independence movement, which met on the outskirts of Noumea from 11-13 November.
Despite improved inter-community relations under the Noumea Accord, the FLNKS still draws most of its support from the indigenous Kanak community. The independence movement has not made a strategic breakthrough to rally mass support from the European community or the large Wallisian and Tahitian population in Noumea and surrounding towns.
Relations between different pro-independence parties have been stretched in recent years, as they debate the best pathway to independence and the type of economy and society to be forged in a sovereign nation. As well as the four-member FLNKS, the smaller Rassemblement des indépendantistes et nationalistes (RIN) includes more radical parties such as Dynamique Unitaire Sud (DUS) and the union-backed Parti Travailliste (PT).
Within the FLNKS, long-standing debates between UC and Palika have led to sharp contests during electoral campaigns and differing tactics within government. In New Caledonia’s national Congress, pro-independence representatives sit in two separate parliamentary groups. The “Union Nationale pour l’Independance” (UNI) links Palika, UPM and RDO, while the “UC FLNKS and Nationalists” group incorporates elected members from UC, PT, and DUS.
Despite these differences, the looming referendum on self-determination is driving these groups together. In a symbol of unity that has not been seen for some time, the closing session of the UC Congress was attended by delegations from all these political parties, as well as representatives from the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), the USTKE trade union confederation and the Eglise Protestante de Kanaky-Nouvelle-Caledonie (EPKNC), the largest Protestant church in the country.
Re-elected as president of Union Calédonienne, Daniel Goa welcomed the diverse leaders from “the independence family” to the UC congress. Speaking to Islands Business, Goa said: “All the parties represented at the congress are on the same path. The timeline is very short and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Committee of Signatories

The Committee of Signatories was another welcome sign of convergence. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe won praise from most participants for his steady handling and attempts to find compromises between competing interests.
A central political agreement was to register thousands of people on New Caledonia’s general electoral roll – a legal prerequisite to participation in the 2018 referendum on self-determination. FLNKS activists have long complained that up to 25,000 Kanaks are not registered on the general roll, seen as a failure of the French State, given the responsibility of the administering power to ensure that the colonised people should vote in a decolonisation referendum.
In an interview, French High Commissioner to New Caledonia Thierry Lataste acknowledged: “We’ve been talking about the electoral roll for thirty years, but differences and disputes have continued to the present day. For two years, it’s been clear that there are many people – both Kanak and also other people with common civil status – that are not registered to vote on the general electoral roll, and therefore on the list for the consultation in 2018.
“The challenge has been to find these people, identify them, find their address and write to encourage them to register. The High Commission, which is neutral in this matter, must write to say you should register.”
Last year, the French High Commission wrote to nearly 9,000 people encouraging them to register, with a 25 per cent success rate in response. However members of RIN have argued that Kanaks of voting age should be registered automatically, without preconditions, as the “concerned population” under international principles of decolonisation.
The Committee of Signatories agreed on a process to register at least 7,000 Kanaks holding customary civil status under French law, together with another 3,900 people with common civil status (these are people with “material and moral interests” in the country who can also prove three years of residence based on evidence from the CAFAT social security fund). This latter group could include both Kanaks and non-indigenous voters, but French laws on privacy and data collection mean the French State has refused to reveal who is on this list.
Sylvain Pabouty of the DUS party said: “Every time the French State addresses this issue, they find more Kanaks who are not properly registered. The Committee of Signatories agreed that there are another 7,000. But there are 19,646 people with customary civil status in New Caledonia, so what about the other 12,000? It’s important to note that the figure of 7,000 Kanaks is just provisional, and needs further investigation – yet all registration must be completed by the end of the year.”
This call for automatic registration of all Kanaks of voting age has been opposed by anti-independence leaders, who question the numbers on unregistered voters and argue that non-indigenous New Caledonians should also be given automatic registration.
High Commissioner Lataste notes: “People in the non-independence camp argue that it’s not fair that for some this process is automatic, while for others it involves compiling a dossier of documents, searching for information from their parents etc.”
Lataste told Islands Business that despite agreement at the Committee of Signatories, the registration process needs further work. The political compromise must be legalised by changes to the 1999 French legislation that codified the Noumea Accord into law.
“Union Calédonienne believes this can all be resolved without modifying the organic law – the text which frames the elections,” Lataste said. “In contrast, the view of the French government and the other political parties is that we can’t introduce a change which is unknown in France without modifying the organic law.”
Beyond the issue of the electoral roll, the Committee of Signatories debated a number of outstanding issues, still unresolved in the final year of the 20-year transition established by the Noumea Accord in 1998. There will be further discussions in the New Year on the transfer of the remaining “Article 27” powers from Paris to Noumea (granting authority over higher education, TV and radio, and local municipal councils). Leaders also established a working group for the final transfer of ADRAF, the organisation responsible for land reform.

Mobilising voters

Once people are registered, political parties face the challenge of mobilising their supporters. The Kanak population is a minority in its own country, and current polling suggests a majority of registered electors will not vote for independence in November 2018.  
Beyond this, voting is not compulsory in New Caledonia for elections or the looming referendum. The country has a high abstention rate, and across the political spectrum, there are many who express a general disinterest in politics. For the FLNKS, a key challenge would be to mobilise support amongst younger voters who were not born during the troubled decade in the 1980s, and were not part of the renaissance of Kanak nationalism and widespread political and cultural mobilisation.
Over the last five months, an FLNKS team has been touring the country to present a draft framework for “a sovereign Kanaky-New Caledonia.” More than twenty community consultations have been held to outline proposed changes of government, society and economy after the 2018 referendum.
At some community meetings, there have been sharp questions about the lack of detail in the draft, which will be finalised this month. Some people fear the loss of French subsidies for pensions, health or welfare benefits. In response, FLNKS members have started to put out details of the economic options to replace French funding, but there’s a lot of work needed to mobilise wavering independence supporters in the Kanak community.
UC’s Daniel Goa noted: “Currently, about 40 per cent of Kanaks – or at least 30 per cent – don’t vote. So we must work at the level of the family, to provide information so these people can be found. We will find a way to reach out to each tribe, to each extended family, to contact people who are not registered to vote or who abstain. Our objective for 2018 is to mobilise the majority of electors who might participate.”  

Finding a way forward

Members of the UC-FLNKS and Nationalists group in the Congress are calling for full and sovereign independence.  The re-election of Daniel Goa as president of the largest independence party has re-affirmed the path that saw a UC boycott of the French legislative elections last June.
Palika spokesperson Charles Washetine also reaffirmed that “the Noumea Accord is a decolonisation process which must lead to the emergence of a new country called Kanaky-Nouvelle-Calédonie.”
However, Palika has called for dialogue in coming months over the concept of “pleine souveraineté avec partenariat” (full sovereignty in partnership with France). This would see Kanaky-New Caledonia as a member of the United Nations, with its own passport and sovereign status, but with ongoing relations with France. Palika leaders present this concept as a bridge between the independence movement and those settlers fearful of the model of “free association” promoted by the French State in the 1980s.
The Committee of Signatories established a working group to finalise the wording of the referendum question. Daniel Goa stressed that UC supports the three core elements outlined in the Noumea Accord: transfer to New Caledonia of the remaining sovereign powers (such as defence, foreign affairs, currency and justice), achieving a status of full international responsibility and the transition from citizenship to nationality.
“We’re satisfied with the question set out in the Noumea Accord,” said Goa. “We won’t budge from that. Every time we’ve revisited deals that have been struck, every time we’ve had to make concessions.”

Disunity on the Right

Even as the FLNKS works to unify its forces, there is chaos in the other camp. Anti-independence parties maintain a dominant position in New Caledonia’s political institutions, but are deeply divided as the country moves towards the decision on its political status.
Four anti-independence parties make up the so-called “Platform of Loyalists”: Calédonie Ensemble (CE), Rassemblement Les Républicains (LR), Mouvement pour la Calédonie (MPC) and Tous calédoniens (TC). But unity with other anti-independence forces is broken. A new extreme-right grouping, Les Républicains calédoniens (LRC), brings together leaders such as Sonia Backes, Philippe Blaise and Isabelle Lafleur.
The LRC leaders are angry at the CE and LR, which have tried to promote dialogue with the independence movement. They’re even angrier over the result of the bitter battle for New Caledonia’s seats in the French parliament, which saw CE’s Philippe Gomes and Philippe Dunoyer win both seats in the National Assembly last June and LR’s Pierre Frogier returned to the Senate in October.  
LRC leader Sonia Backes says: “We want to renew the political class, in contrast to the Platform, which today reunites all the old guard. We certainly have support from some veterans like Simon Loueckhote, Harold Martin or Didier Leroux, but they all want to push forward a new generation and won’t be standing for seats in the future.”
This rift amongst anti-independence politicians has – once again – paralysed the Government of New Caledonia. Dunoyer’s victory in the June National Assembly elections forced a spill of all government positions, and 11 new members were chosen by Congress on 31 August. But the members of the government have again been unable to choose a President from their ranks, even though anti-independence forces have a 6/5 majority in the government. The sole representative of the LRC in the government has refused to join the five members of the Platform of Loyalists to re-elect President Philippe Germain. With independence members abstaining, Germain cannot gain an absolute majority.
Germain has continued as caretaker President, attending the Forum leaders meeting in Apia and the Committee of Signatories in Paris, but without the authority to sign new commitments. With the government in caretaker mode, the 2018 national budget is yet to pass through Congress, stalling crucial initiatives in a politically sensitive period.  
High Commissioner Lataste has tried three times to break the deadlock, but as IB goes to press, LRC is holding firm. The five pro-independence members have said that it’s up to the parties of the Right to decide on their own candidate, leaving the Vice Presidency to the independence forces. Daniel Goa notes wryly: “Every time it’s the same – they fall out, then they want us to sort out their foolishness.”

 International monitoring

A delegation from the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) secretariat travelled to Noumea last month to meet with FLNKS leaders and discuss the path towards the referendum. MSG’s Ilan Kiloe told the UC Congress: “Our presence here today demonstrates our commitment to assist you, the Union Calédonienne party as well as the FLNKS, as a member of the MSG.”
Daniel Goa noted that the FLNKS is still looking for international support.
“The work that we’ve begun to clarify the voting list is not yet finished,” he said. “So between now and the end of 2018, we’ll be asking international institutions to call on the French State to meet its commitments. We’re looking internationally for this support, to the United Nations, to the Melanesian Spearhead Group and to the countries of the Pacific region.”
High Commissioner Lataste confirmed that France was open to international scrutiny of the self-determination vote in 2018.
“The French State is open to international monitoring of the process, to describe, to monitor, to freely give their opinion on the manner which the referendum will be organised,” he said. “On the part of the State, it’s not complicated. This is not necessarily the case for the local political parties, especially on the Right, who have long resisted international overview and for whom the words ‘United Nations’ raise a certain fear. However the Committee of Signatories agreed that a UN mission would continue to monitor the electoral registration process next year, as they have done in 2016 and 2017.”
The UN Special Committee on Decolonisation has asked to send a mission to New Caledonia. In Paris last month, political leaders agreed a UN mission could visit in early 2018. All political leaders also agreed there could also be UN observers for the vote itself.   
High Commissioner Lataste was less certain about the involvement of the Pacific Islands Forum, which didn’t mention the looming referendum in its 2017 communique: “Curiously, I though the issue would be raised by the Forum in September when they met in Apia, but Philippe Germain told me that this wasn’t raised at all at the highest political level in the leaders retreat. The only person raising Forum involvement is the Secretary General Meg Taylor, but does she have the authority herself to involve the Forum without the agreement of the heads of state and governments themselves? This poses a question.”.

21 December 2017

Corsica calls for greater autonomy from France after election

the guardian

President Macron under pressure to negotiate after nationalists demand talks in wake of Sunday’s regional election triumph

Corsican nationalists have demanded talks with the French government over more autonomy after a convincing win in Sunday’s regional elections.

President Emmanuel Macron now faces the dilemma of whether to loosen France’s grip on the Mediterranean island or to maintain centralised control.

Like Catalonia, whose bid for independence from Spain has sparked a crisis with Madrid and in the European Union, Corsica has long harboured separatist ambitions. Sunday’s second-round vote, in which a coalition of nationalist candidates won a 56.5% share, strengthens the hand of those seeking greater control.

Unlike Catalonia, which is wealthy and self-sufficient, Corsica depends heavily on funding from Paris, prompting the Pè a Corsica (For Corsica) movement to insist it is seeking autonomy not independence.

It has issued three core demands: equal recognition for the Corsican language, an amnesty for those in jail considered to be political prisoners, and recognition of a special residency status for Corsica to stop foreigners buying holiday homes on the island, the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Pè a Corsica finished well ahead of Macron’s La République en Marche, which polled third with only 12.7% of votes. More than 47% of Corsicans did not vote.

It added: “Only a constructive dialogue will mobilise the means of economic, environmental and social emancipation necessary for Corsica and its inhabitants.”

The nationalists’ victory was the result of an agreement reached two years ago between autonomists – led by Gilles Simeoni, the chairman of the Corsica executive council – and those seeking full independence – led by Jean-Guy Talamoni, the Corsica assembly speaker.

“Today, Paris has to come to terms with what is happening in Corsica,” Simeoni said after the results were announced on Sunday evening. 

Talamoni took an even tougher line, telling the French government it must “open negotiations very rapidly” or it could expect protests on the island.

For many decades, the fight for greater autonomy from Paris resulted in bombings and killings on Corsica and mainland France. This reached a peak in 1998, when the French prefect of the island, Claude Erignac, was shot dead in Ajaccio while on his way to a concert with his wife. 

The Corsican National Liberation Front (FLNC) had announced the end of a seven-month truce less than two weeks before Erignac was killed. An anonymous group claimed responsibility, saying Erignac represented “the colonial state deaf to nationalist claims”.

20 December 2017

Post-Nuclear Nightmares Still Linger Over Pacific Islands


By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 7 2017 (IPS) - The Pacific islands have long remained victims of nuclear crimes – but the perpetrators, three of the world’s major powers with permanent seats in the UN Security Council, never paid for their deadly sins.

The testing grounds in the Pacific, included the Marshall Islands (Bikini and Enewetak), and also Johnston Atoll and Christmas Islands in Kiribati.

The so-called “Pacific Proving Grounds”, which included the Marshall Islands and a few others on the Pacific Ocean, was the site of US nuclear testing between 1946 and 1962.

France tested its weapons on Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in French Polynesia, with French naval vessels clashing with Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigners.

The United Kingdom, along with the US, conducted several nuclear tests in and around Kiribati in the late 1950s. But the islanders were not evacuated exposing them to radiation from the blasts.

All of these tests, which left behind environmental hazards and radioactive waste, came to an inglorious end – or so it seems. But the nuclear nightmares over the Pacific continue to linger on.

According to the London Guardian, the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal awarded more than $2.0 billion in personal injury and land damage claims arising from the nuclear tests, but stopped paying after a compensation fund was exhausted.

After 67 tests, US nuclear experiments in the Marshall Islands ended in 1958. But in a 2012 report, UN Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu, said “near-irreversible environmental contamination” had led to the loss of livelihoods and many people continued to experience “indefinite displacement”.

And a projected sea-level rise, triggered by climate change, is threatening to unearth the radioactive waste and spill it into the high seas.

According to two researchers, Barbara Rose Johnston and Brooke Takala Abraham, U.S. medical scientists traveled to the Marshall Islands, for nearly four decades, in order to document degenerating health and conduct related experiments, “all without informed consent.”

All told, 1,156 men, women, and children were enrolled in studies exploring the acute and late effects of radiation.

Among the findings of this research: radiation exposure generated changes in red blood cell production and subsequent anemia; metabolic and related disorders; musculoskeletal degeneration; cataracts; cancers and leukemia; and significant impact on fertility as evidenced by miscarriages, congenital defects, and infertility.

“Their experiences also demonstrate how chronic and acute radiogenic exposure compromises immunity, creating population-wide vulnerability to infectious and non-communicable disease”, Johnston and Abraham wrote.

Bob Rigg, a former senior editor with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and ex-chair of the New Zealand National Consultative Committee on Disarmament, told IPS: “It is impossible to make sweeping generalisations about the entire Pacific region, which is both vast and diverse”.

But US attention, he pointed out, was focused in particular on Micronesia, which includes most of the islands bitterly fought over in the latter years of World War II.

“The US wields disproportionate influence over this sub-region, where most of its 1,054 nuclear tests were conducted,” he added.

The US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said Rigg, can be defined as the first example of US nuclear testing, given that a principal motive for both attacks was to facilitate large-scale research into the effects of nuclear weapons on living human beings, a subject which was a closed book even to the world’s leading nuclear scientists at the time.

As soon as the war ended, he said, “the US hastened to establish political control over a number of strategically important islands forming an “island chain” in the Pacific – a chain of US military and political influence cementing US control of major trade routes, while also enables it to contain the growing power and influence of Communist China.”

Ironically enough, the US island chain has something in common with China’s South China Sea outposts which today draw the ire of the US, he added.

Robert Alvarez, an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. and an Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced Strategic International Studies, told IPS that three major international conferences—in Oslo, Mexico City, and Vienna— focused on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons, and on establishing a new international legal instrument that would outlaw nuclear weapons.

The humanitarian initiative and the Marshall Islands lawsuits—including one in US federal courts and the other with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague — received a chilly, some might say hostile reception from the nuclear weapons states, for an understandable reason, he pointed out.

The nuclear weapons countries are engaged in costly modernization efforts that all but guarantee the continued existence of nuclear weapons for decades, and perhaps beyond. The Marshalls lawsuits and the humanitarian initiative both seek to make the nuclear states seriously negotiate toward nuclear disarmament, he noted.

In an article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists back in May 2015, Alvarez said the damage did not end with nuclear testing.

In the 1960s, islands of the Enewetak Atoll were stripped of topsoil and used for explosive crater experiments, to see how US missile silos would hold up to enemy missiles.

And in October 1968, the US Navy conducted a biological warfare experiment in which Staphylococcal enterotoxin B, a virulent bacterium, was released over the Enewetak Atoll from fighter aircraft.

“The pathogen proved to be harmful to experimental animals over a 1,500 square mile area. Since the late 1950s, the Kwajalein Atoll and lagoon have served as an anti-ballistic missile launch site for testing against possible missile attacks,” he noted.

Nearly every US intercontinental ballistic missile was test fired at Kwajalein. Now home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, the $4 billion US Air Force complex on Kwajalein is considered a key strategic asset for anti-ballistic missile testing, military space projects, and intelligence gathering, wrote Alvarez, who was also a Senior Professional Staff member for the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, where he conducted an investigation into the conduct of the U.S. nuclear weapons program in the Marshall Islands.

Rigg told IPS Truman had no qualms about bombing Japan and seizing control of several Micronesian Islands where America’s many subsequent nuclear tests could be conducted. Indigenous populations were frequently marginalised, displaced, and impoverished.

Traditional ways of living, cultivating food and eating were frequently replaced within one generation with a barbarised version of US consumer culture. The key operational assumption was that Pacific Islanders represented an inferior culture which, in the patronising words of one US scientist, at least had more in common with civilised westerners than laboratory mice, he said.

“Like the Japanese, Pacific Islanders were viewed through the prism of mainstream US racism. The example of Rongelap Island, which was seriously affected by fallout from the huge Castle Bravo test, is perhaps most instructive.”

When the islanders repeatedly lobbied for permission to return to their home, said Rigg, the US Atomic Energy Commission declared it safe for re-habitation, with US scientists privately noting that “the habitation of these people on the island will afford most valuable ecological radiation data on human beings.”

As a major environmental polluter, he argued, the US contributes to global warming which disproportionately affects many small Pacific Island states whose highest point is in some cases just a couple of metres above sea level.

“Such islands are also acutely vulnerable to the climate change-induced violent storms which increasingly inflict massive destruction on both vegetation and homes. As many of these islands are desperately poor there is all too often no money to rebuild infrastructure and homes, with more than 95% of damaged buildings being uninsured.”

Trump’s America First policy has already produced a 30% cut in State Department funding which will dramatically curtail expenditure on Pacific islands which are not part of the militarised US island chain. Australia abjectly proclaims that it is “joined at the hip” with the US, slavishly following in the wake of Uncle Sam in all things, Rigg said.

“Fortunately, there is one small ray of hope: New Zealand has just elected a new Labour Government which is signalling its willingness to adopt innovative approaches to political problem-solving, including in the region.”

The new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, he pointed out, has already signalled her government’s willingness to view Pacific Islanders fleeing their submerged islands as refugees. At present Australia’s immigration policies exclude such “environmental refugees.”

This New Zealand initiative could eventually necessitate the re-negotiation of the UN Convention on Refugees, to accommodate a new category of environmental refugees, he added.

In the words of a recent report to a congressional committee, even before the election of Trump, the US had pursued a “policy of benign neglect towards the South Pacific nations.

“Too often have we relied on Australia and New Zealand to determine what US policy should be in the region.” If this was true before Trump, it will be doubly true now.”

Possibly with at least some support from New Zealand, Pacific Island states will have to continue to seek political support from outside their region, as recently, when Fiji and Germany jointly hosted the November meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) in Bonn.

The elevation of Fiji to this prominent role reveals that, in the complete absence of support from both Trump’s US and Malcolm Turnbull’s Australia, there is a heartening emerging international awareness of the extent to which the very existence of some Pacific Island states is already under threat from climate change, he noted.

“But words must be backed up by large quantities of hard cash, without which some small Pacific Island states will undoubtedly go under.”

This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world are currently meeting in Suva, Fiji, through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

19 December 2017


"In light of recent Supreme Court jurisprudence and Congress’s adoption of PROMESA there would seem to be good reason for the UN Decolonization Committee to conclude that the island is no longer a self-governing territory."

Excerpts from 

Statement on Visit to the USA, by Professor Philip Alston
 United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights

December 15, 2017

"I have spent the past two weeks visiting the United States, at the invitation of the federal government, to look at whether the persistence of extreme poverty in America undermines the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens. In my travels through California, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and Washington DC I have spoken with dozens of experts and civil society groups, met with senior state and federal government officials and talked with many people who are homeless or living in deep poverty. I am grateful to the Trump Administration for facilitating my visit and for its continuing cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council’s accountability mechanisms that apply to all states.

2. My visit coincides with a dramatic change of direction in US policies relating to inequality and extreme poverty. The proposed tax reform package stakes out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world, and will greatly increase the already high levels of wealth and income inequality between the richest 1% and the poorest 50% of Americans. The dramatic cuts in welfare, foreshadowed by the President and Speaker Ryan, and already beginning to be implemented by the administration, will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes. It is against this background that my report is presented.

3. The United States is one of the world’s richest, most powerful and technologically innovative countries; but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty.

4. I have seen and heard a lot over the past two weeks. I met with many people barely surviving on Skid Row in Los Angeles, I witnessed a San Francisco police officer telling a group of homeless people to move on but having no answer when asked where they could move to, I heard how thousands of poor people get minor infraction notices which seem to be intentionally designed to quickly explode into unpayable debt, incarceration, and the replenishment of municipal coffers, I saw sewage filled yards in states where governments don’t consider sanitation facilities to be their responsibility, I saw people who had lost all of their teeth because adult dental care is not covered by the vast majority of programs available to the very poor, I heard about soaring death rates and family and community destruction wrought by prescription and other drug addiction, and I met with people in the South of Puerto Rico living next to a mountain of completely unprotected coal ash which rains down upon them bringing illness, disability and death.


Puerto Rico

68. I spent two days of the nine days I traveled outside of Washington, DC, in Puerto Rico. I witnessed the devastation of hurricane Irma and Maria in Salinas and Guayama in the south of the island, as well as in the poor Caño Martin Peña neighborhood in San Juan. Both in the south and in San Juan I listened to individuals in poverty and civil society organizations on how these natural disasters are just the latest in a series of bad news for Puerto Ricans, which include an economic crisis, a debt crisis, an austerity crisis and, arguably, a structural political crisis.

69. Political rights and poverty are inextricably linked in Puerto Rico. If it were a state, Puerto Rico would be the poorest state in the Union. But Puerto Rico is not a state, it is a mere ‘territory.’ Puerto Ricans have no representative with full voting rights in Congress and, unless living stateside, cannot vote for the President of the United States. In a country that likes to see itself as the oldest democracy in the world and a staunch defender of political rights on the international stage, more than 3 million people who live on the island have no power in their own capital.

70. Puerto Rico not only has a fiscal deficit, it also has a political rights deficit, and the two are not easily disentangled. I met with the Executive Director of the Financial Oversight and Management Board that was imposed by Congress on Puerto Rico as part of PROMESA. This statement is not the place to challenge the economics of the Board’s proposed polices, but there is little indication that social protection concerns feature in any significant way in the Board’s analyses. At a time when even the IMF is insisting that social protection should be explicitly factored into prescriptions for adjustment (i.e. austerity) it would seem essential that the Board take account of human rights and social protection concerns as it contemplates far-reaching decision on welfare reform, minimum wage and labor market regulation.

71. It is not for me to suggest any resolution to the hotly contested issue of Puerto Rico’s constitutional status. But what is clear is that many, probably most, Puerto Ricans believe deeply that they are presently colonized and that the US Congress is happy to leave them in the no-man’s land of no meaningful Congressional representation and no ability to really move to govern themselves.

In light of recent Supreme Court jurisprudence and Congress’s adoption of PROMESA there would seem to be good reason for the UN Decolonization Committee to conclude that the island is no longer a self-governing territory.

18 December 2017

Guam, American Samoa, Palau, Marshalls - EU blacklisted tax havens

Marianas Variety

Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGÅTÑA (Pacific Island Times) — Guam, American Samoa, Palau and the Marshall Islands are among the 17 tax havens blacklisted by the European Union for failure to match up to international standards for tax transparency, fair taxation and mechanisms against base erosion and profit sharing, allowing the world’s wealthiest people to conceal their assets and evade tax payments.

Despite earlier commitment to meet global criteria, the EU said, the “non-cooperative” jurisdictions “have taken no meaningful action to effectively address the deficiencies and do not engage in a meaningful dialogue on the basis of the criteria that could lead to such commitments.”

During a meeting on Dec. 5, the EU Council adopted the list in a bid to curb the estimated $677 billion in losses that resulted from the erosion of member states’ tax bases through tax fraud, evasion and avoidance.

“Guam does not apply any automatic exchange of financial information, has not signed and ratified, including through the jurisdiction they are dependent on, the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance as amended, does not apply the BEPS minimum standards and did not commit to addressing these issues by 31 December 2018,” reads the Outcome of Proceedings.

BEPS is “base erosion and profit shifting” which refers to tax avoidance strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations.

In the case of Palau and the Marshall Islands, the EU noted that the two Pacific nations facilitate “offshore structures and arrangements aimed at attracting profits without real economic substance and refuse to engage in a meaningful dialogue to ascertain its compliance of with criterion.”

The list also includes South Korea, Mongolia, Namibia, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Barbados, Grenada, Macau, St. Lucia, Samoa and Tunisia.

The EU said “the tax legislation, policies and administrative practices of these jurisdictions result or may result in a loss of tax revenues for member states and that such jurisdictions should therefore be strongly encouraged to make the changes needed to remedy this situation.”

Without an effective mechanism against BEPS, multinational companies exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations where there is little or no economic activity.

Due to the globalization of business operations, an increasing number of multinational corporations are stashing cash in offshore tax havens to minimize corporate taxes.

In a statement, the UK Treasury said: “Today’s publication marks an important step in our ongoing efforts to tackle tax avoidance and evasion internationally. This is clearly working, as over 40 jurisdictions have made significant commitments to reform as part of this process. For those that are on today’s list, we hope that this increased scrutiny and the potential for counter-measures will lead them to reconsider their approach.”

 "1. American Samoa does not apply any automatic exchange of financial information, has not signed and ratified, including through the jurisdiction they are dependent on, the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance as amended, does not apply the BEPS minimum standards and did not commit to addressing these issues by 31 December 2018.

"5. Guam does not apply any automatic exchange of financial information, has not signed and ratified, including through the jurisdiction they are dependent on, the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance as amended, does not apply the BEPS minimum standards and did not commit to addressing these issues by 31 December 2018." 

15 December 2017

Catastrophe and Colonialism: How Hurricane Maria Exposed the Crisis of Puerto Rico's Colonial Status

reader supported news 

By Pedro Caban - Jacobin 

"...Puerto Rico does not figure as prominently in US national security as it did before the collapse of the Soviet Union and demise of Cuba as a regional threat."

n the last ninety years, three catastrophic hurricanes have struck Puerto Rico. San Felipe II in 1928 and San Ciprían in 1932 triggered political and economic changes in America’s largest colony that endured for generations. However, Puerto Rico remains an unincorporated territorial possession of the United States, subject to the plenary powers of Congress. The Puerto Rican government exercises only those powers that the Congress allows. In other words, it is still a colony.

As a political economist who has studied Puerto Rican political and economic change, I believe Hurricane Maria could be another watershed moment that redefines United States treatment of Puerto Rico.

The Neglected Island

In 1928, things were not well in Puerto Rico.

Three decades of US colonial rule had transformed Puerto Rico into a vast sugar plantation controlled by absentee corporations and a prized military base for protecting the Panama Canal. A classic study of Puerto Rico noted that “thousands are undernourished, or actually starving, while the products of the island bring more than $100 million a year. Disease is present everywhere.”

Luis Muñoz Marín, arguably one of Puerto Rico’s most famous political figures, wrote that Puerto Rico had been converted into a “land of beggars and millionaires . . . It is Uncle Sam’s second largest sweatshop.”

Puerto Ricans wanted to reform the colonial system that was responsible for these woes. In April 1928, Félix Córdoba Dávila, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Washington at the time, complained that Puerto Ricans “are not asking for charity, but for rights.”

Then came Hurricane San Felipe II, a Category 5 hurricane.

The War Department reported that on Sept. 13, 1928, Puerto Rico “was struck by the most devastating hurricane in its history, and the results of years of private and public enterprise were obliterated in a few hours.”

San Felipe II killed 312 people. It left a half a million Puerto Ricans homeless and destitute, almost one-third of the island’s population. Property damage, estimated at $85 million — about $1.57 billion in 2017 dollars — was unprecedented. According to the Red Cross, no sector of the economy was “left in a worse plight” than the coffee farms. Plantations lost almost their entire crop, and Puerto Rico never regained its prominence as a coffee exporter.

President Calvin Coolidge’s call for Americans to contribute to the American Red Cross generated $3.1 million in donations. The War Department dispersed more than $500,000 worth of supplies and reassigned Army officers, including medical staff, to Puerto Rico. Congress established the Puerto Rican Hurricane Relief Commission in 1928 with $8,150,000 to provide loans for rehabilitating coffee plantations, reconstruction and jobs. US authorities reported that Puerto Ricans were “undismayed and undiscouraged,” and as “bending every effort to create from the ruins a greater Puerto Rico.”

At the same time, San Felipe II led to increased opposition to US colonial rule. The Nationalists and the Union Party emerged as vocal critics of US colonial policy. Many Puerto Ricans portrayed the federal government’s response to San Felipe II as charity that failed to alter the regime of colonial rule and absentee capital — the root of Puerto Rico’s misery.

Four years later, in September 1932, San Ciprían, a Category 4 hurricane, struck Puerto Rico.

It left 225 dead and caused $35 million damage (about $644 million in 2017). The Red Cross director reported: “The acute and intense hurricane surpasses anything he has seen in his career.” San Ciprían intensified the misery that afflicted Puerto Rico. The majority of Puerto Ricans lived a precarious existence. They lacked reserves to survive the ravages of any hurricane for long.

The Army, private relief organizations, Red Cross, colonial administration and federal government took action to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. In August 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Puerto Rican Emergency Relief Administration and charged it with providing “relief for the destitute unemployed of the island.” The agency’s director acknowledged the desperate need for aid, but noted that it should be temporary. Puerto Ricans, he wrote, “were an industrious people with a real desire to work and distinct aversion to charity and relief.”

The creation of the Puerto Rican Emergency Relief Administration was an important change in US colonial policy. The scale and severity of Puerto Rico’s humanitarian crisis was beyond the capacity of the charity-focused, volunteer approach of the Red Cross and other organizations. A federal agency had stepped in.

Although the agency saved lives, it was not well-funded. Governor of Puerto Rico Blanton Winship complained in 1935 that “Puerto Rico continues to receive only a small portion of the funds to which the island is rightfully entitled.” These relief efforts did little to mitigate political discontent.

Calls for independence escalated. Puerto Ricans denounced the corrupt colonial administration that opposed the federal agency, blocked land reform, and was solidly in the pocket of the absentee corporations. Labor strikes broke out throughout the island, and often turned violent. The colony was on the verge of collapse.

The two hurricanes were a wake-up call for federal authorities to the failures of colonialism. San Felipe II and San Ciprían set in motion a process of reform that culminated in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1952. The government of Puerto Rico was unofficially given autonomy to manage domestic affairs, including the economy.

Maria and the Future of Puerto Rico
The magnitude of human loss that Hurricane Maria has inflicted is still unknown. As of this writing, the official number of Puerto Ricans killed by Maria stands at sixty-four, but the New York Times released a report this week putting the number closer to 1,052. Moody’s Analytics estimated property damage at $55 billion, and projected a $40 billion loss in economic output.

But the physical devastation, upheaval, and trauma inflicted on daily life in Puerto Rico add up to much more. San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz went so far as to say that if not resolved, the situation could lead to “something close to a genocide.”

The Donald Trump administration’s response to the crisis reveals that Puerto Ricans are racialized as subordinate, despite their US citizenship. Trump’s racially charged statements resurrected long dormant, degrading characterizations of Puerto Ricans as lacking the capacity and will to fend for themselves.

Maria has also exposed the crisis within Puerto Rico’s divided politics. The Statehood and Commonwealth parties have campaigned for decades on resolving Puerto Rico’s political status. Yet both parties share responsibility for the island’s escalating debt, and neither has been able to stop Puerto Rico’s economic decline. The entrenched poverty, crisis in political leadership, and the federal government’s continued treatment of Puerto Rico as “foreign to the United States in a domestic sense” have an uncanny resemblance to the situation in 1932.

A major difference between now and than is that Puerto Rico is inconsequential for the preservation of US hegemony in the Southern hemisphere. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and demise of Cuban influence, the US has no geopolitical rival in the Americas and Puerto Rico’s military value has disappeared.

Moreover, decades ago Puerto Rico lost its privileged position as an internationally profitable offshore site for US manufacturing firms. By the mid-1970s labor intensive manufacturing had been displaced by capital intensive firms, including pharmaceuticals which eventually dominated the economy. These firms made a large percentage of their global profits in Puerto Rico through transfer pricing techniques, rather than through the actual value created by labor. In effect, Puerto Rican labor was a marginal and potentially expendable (labor was subject to displacement by robotics) component for wealth creation.

Consequently, the historically unprecedented depopulation that started after the depression of 2006 and has accelerated since Hurricane Maria, should have little impact on economic growth. Unemployment remains at historically high levels despite the migration of close to half a million Puerto Ricans. Puerto Rico’s diminished role in the American empire explains Trump’s untroubled response to the economic and humanitarian crises that are consuming Puerto Rico. The irony, and the seeming mystery of the colonial economy, is that Puerto Rico is the United States’ fifth largest export market.

A major difference, however, is that Puerto Rico does not figure as prominently in US national security as it did before the collapse of the Soviet Union and demise of Cuba as a regional threat. This partially explains the federal government’s seemingly untroubled response to the unfolding crisis in Puerto Rico.

Another critical difference is that the Puerto Rican diaspora has emerged as a powerful, if unexpected, economic and political force. They have come to the aid of their island, and are actively lobbying against some of the most restrictive colonial policies — the Jones Act, PROMESA board, and inequity in federal programs.

Puerto Ricans living across the United States are putting pressure on their local officials and the federal government for more assistance, and have organized a nationwide campaign to raise funding and collect donations for Puerto Rico. As a recent editorial in Puerto Rico’s leading newspaper put it, “the diaspora is key to the reconstruction of the country.” It may also be key in moving the federal government to finally resolve Puerto Rico’s political status.

14 December 2017




General Assembly Adopts 38 Resolutions, 


2 Decisions from Fourth Committee, Including Texts on Decolonization, Israeli‑Palestinian Issues

Among the 22 decolonization texts before the Assembly was a draft resolution on the question of Guam, which it adopted by a recorded vote of 93 in favour to 8 against (France, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Morocco, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States), with 65 abstentions.  By its terms, the General Assembly called once again upon the administering Power to take into consideration the expressed will of Guam’s Chamorro people, as supported by Guam voters in the referendum of 1987, and as subsequently provided for in Guam law regarding Chamorro self‑determination efforts.

By other terms, the Assembly encouraged the administering Power and the territorial government to enter negotiations on that matter, and stressed the need for continued close monitoring of the overall situation in the Territory.  By further terms, it called upon the administering Power to participate in and cooperate fully with the Special Committee on Decolonization in efforts to promote self‑government in Guam, encouraging it to facilitate visits and special missions to the Territory.  The Assembly also requested that the Territory and the administering Power protect and conserve the environment against degradation and the impact of militarization.
Also requiring a recorded vote was a draft resolution titled “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations”.  The Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 128 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Israel, Morocco, United Kingdom, United States), with 40 abstentions.  By that text, the General Assembly recommended that all States intensify their efforts to ensure full and effective implementation of the decolonization Declaration — contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) — and other relevant resolutions.  It also urged specialized agencies and organizations that had not yet provided assistance to Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to do so as soon as possible.
Closely following the Fourth Committee’s recommendations, the Assembly adopted — without a vote — a series of annual texts on the right of the following Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to self‑determination: Western Sahara, American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, French Polynesia, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.
Acting again without a vote, the Assembly adopted draft resolutions relating to assistance in mine action; atomic radiation; the peaceful uses of outer space affairs; special political missions; questions relating to information; and offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories. 
The General Assembly also adopted, without a vote, two draft decisions, one on the question of Gibraltar and the other relating to revitalization of its own work.
Turning to several drafts on decolonization, the General Assembly first adopted the draft “Information from Non‑Self‑Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations” (document A/72/452) by a recorded vote of 173 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom).
By that text, the General Assembly requested that the administering Powers concerned, in accordance with their Charter obligations, transmit or continue to transmit regularly to the Secretary‑General statistical and other technical information relating to the economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories under their respective responsibility.
The Assembly also adopted the draft Economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories” (document A/72/453/L.14) by a recorded vote of 173 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom).  By that text, the General Assembly expressed deep concern at the number and scale of natural disasters and their devastating impact on Non‑Self‑Governing Territories in the Caribbean in 2017, particularly Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Further by that text, the Assembly called upon the administering Powers to ensure that the exploitation of marine and other natural resources of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories did not violate relevant United Nations resolutions, nor adversely affect the interests of their peoples.  It called upon administering Powers to provide all necessary assistance to the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories affected by recent hurricanes in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering, support recovery and rebuilding efforts, and enhance emergency-preparedness and risk‑reduction capabilities.
Also requiring a recorded vote was the draft resolution Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations” (document A/72/454), which the Assembly adopted by a recorded 118 votes in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 54 abstentions.
Also by that text, the General Assembly recommended that all States intensify their efforts, through United Nations specialized agencies and other entities, to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration, contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), and other relevant resolutions.  It also urged specialized agencies and organizations that had not yet provided assistance to Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to do so as soon as possible.
Acting without a vote, the Assembly then adopted the text “Offers of study and training for inhabitants of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories” (document A/72/455/L.6), by which it urged administering Powers to ensure the widespread and continuous dissemination of information relating to offers of study and training facilities, and to provide all facilities needed to enable students to avail themselves of such offers.
The Assembly also adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution on Western Sahara (document A/72/456/L.5), by which it called upon parties and States of the region to cooperate with the efforts of the Secretary‑General and his Personal Envoy to resolve the dispute over that Territory.  It welcomed the parties’ commitment to working in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue, in order to enter into a more intensive phase of negotiations.
Acting again without a vote, the Assembly adopted a series of draft resolutions on the following individual Non‑Self‑Governing Territories: American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, French Polynesia, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands (document A/72/456).
The General Assembly also took up a draft resolution on the question of Guam (document A/72/456/L.16), adopting it by a recorded vote of 93 in favour to 8 against (France, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Morocco, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States), with 65 abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly stressed that the decolonization process in Guam should be compatible with the United Nations Charter, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It called once again upon the administering Power to take into consideration the expressed will of Guam’s Chamorro people, as supported by Guam voters in the referendum of 1987, and as subsequently provided for in Guam law regarding Chamorro self‑determination efforts.
Further by that text, the Assembly encouraged the administering Power and the territorial government to begin negotiations on that matter, stressing the importance of apprising the Special Committee on Decolonization of the Guam people’s views and wishes, and of enhancing their understanding of their condition, including the nature and scope of existing political and constitutional arrangements between the Territory and the administering Power.  Also by the text, the Assembly requested that the administering Power, in cooperation with the territorial government, continue to transfer land to the Territory’s original landowners, and continue to recognize and respect the political rights as well as the cultural and ethnic identity of Guam’s Chamorro people, and continue to take all measures necessary to address the territorial government’s concerns about the immigration question.  The Assembly requested that the Territory and the administering Power protect and conserve the environment against degradation and the impact of militarization.
The General Assembly went on to adopt — by a recorded vote of 172 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, Togo) — the resolution “Dissemination of information on decolonization” (document A/72/456).  By that text, the Assembly requested that the Department of Public Information continue its efforts to update Web‑based information on assistance programmes available to Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.  It also requested that the Department, alongside the Department of Political Affairs, implement the recommendations of the Special Committee on Decolonization and continue their efforts through all available media.
Taking up the report titled “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” (document A/72/456), the Assembly adopted the draft resolution contained therein by a recorded vote of 128 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Israel, Morocco, United Kingdom, United States), with 40 abstentions.  By its terms, the General Assembly urged administering Powers to effectively safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of the peoples of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to their natural resources, and to establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources.  It called upon the administering Powers concerned to terminate military activities and eliminate military bases in the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories under their administration, in compliance with the relevant resolutions.
Acting without a vote, the General Assembly then adopted two draft decisions, the first being the “Question of Gibraltar” (document A/72/456/L.7),