It seems naïve to approve of the shortage of US administrators (Mark Engler, ‘In praise of White House dysfunction’, NI 513). As Naomi Klein pointed out in No is Not Enough, the present US administration is a direct extension of the corporate sector. No need for a fully staffed administration when the ‘vile and dangerous’ [crew] at the top can simply pass responsibilities on to cash-from-chaos capitalists. It’s not so different from the ‘outsourcing’ disasters in the UK, where whole areas of public administration have been handed over to corporate greed.
The big leap
The excellent article on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, NI 513) correctly identifies this investment being the major leap forward for the 68 countries concerned. However, it overstates the financing coming from Chinese sources. In fact over 90 per cent will be coming from a consortium of non-Chinese Banks led by Citibank. A public meeting at Columbia University NYC last December on the BRI convened jointly by Citibank and the Chinese Government confirmed this. The audience pressed the two organizers to ensure that the money raised should be by Green Bonds; the organizers did not agree. Your article confirms this in its emphasis on the funding of fossil fuel power.
Phil Miller’s Agenda article on Sri Lanka (NI 513) mentions the involvement of the Scottish Police in training the Sri Lankan Special Task Force in the context of ongoing concerns about human rights violations. The Guardian recently reported that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) organized a meeting between British officials and a Sri Lankan military adviser only a month after the brutal end of the civil war in 2009. In response to a ‘Freedom Of Information’ request by Rights Watch UK, the police claimed incredibly that there were no minutes taken of the meeting.
The Guardian also reported that Britain’s Foreign Office destroyed nearly 200 files on Sri Lanka dating from the start of the Tamil rebel uprising during which it has emerged that MI5 and the SAS secretly advised the country’s security forces. The loss of the files means that there is now almost no record of the British government’s collusion with the Sri Lankan authorities at the start of the civil war. Six years ago, an official review found that the department had destroyed thousands of documents about British counter-insurgency operations in Kenya. The public needs to know the truth about Britain’s support to the Sri Lankan government (from security co-operation to arms sales) during past years of brutal violence and human rights abuses against the Tamil community.
What is important
I am a mother and also a grandmother. To me the most important thing is that a child should be loved and wanted. If a child is not wanted by his or her parents, it will have a very unhappy childhood and, possibly, life. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to become pregnant and to be forced to go through having a baby one does not want, but it must be terrible. That is the reason that I support the right to abortion.
Which is it?
In Nick Dowson’s excellent exposé on the relative merits of public versus private provision of services to citizens (NI 512) he states: ‘When Paris remunicipalized its water supply in 2010 it was able to make $2.5 million of annual savings through improved co-ordination.’ However, in ‘The People Strike Back’ we are informed, ‘In Paris effective co-ordination has led to savings of $36 million per year ever since the take-back [of water provision] in 2010.’
This is a very significant discrepancy and clarification would be in order.
The article by Youssef El-Gingihy on the NHS (NI 512) repeats the mistake made by many English writers and journalists who refer to ‘the NHS’ when they are actually writing about NHS England, and not about NHS Wales, NHS Scotland and HSC Northern Ireland. Health Services are the responsibilities of the devolved governments, which have their own policies, structures and budgets, though those budgets are allocated from within the block grant set by the UK Government and therefore constrained by the latter’s austerity policy.
NHS Wales, under a Welsh Labour Government, has not been privatized in the way that NHS England has. For example there are no Clinical Commissioning Groups.
Hope and concern
Thank you for your fantastic feature on the struggle between the island of Bougainville and the multinational mining company Rio Tinto (NI 512). It inspired me to create a presentation on the relationship between resource extraction and conflict, considering the influence of colonialism and extractionism. This edition, while it gave me some hope for collective action in taking back control of natural resources, also made me deeply worried about the conflicts that will inevitably come from their depletion. It’s so very important to look back at historical struggles such as the 40-year civil war on the island of Bougainville, and identify the causes of the violence: namely, colonial greed and expansionism.
While not arguing with the possible pitfalls mentioned, it is worth emphasizing the potentially life-saving advantages drones can bring to humanitarian medical aid. When delivering to remote communities in an emergency, time is a major factor. Delays due to roads that are poor or impassable can cost lives. Items such as vaccines or blood for transfusions need to be kept cool until used, and in hot countries a time delay can quickly render them useless.
In 2014 Médecins Sans Frontières carried out a promising trial in Papua New Guinea, which has a high incidence of tuberculosis, transporting patients’ diagnostic samples by drone to an MSF laboratory for analysis. MSF also see the advantage of using drones in poorly mapped areas to quickly create informative maps which can show where communities are situated and to allow staff to understand the scope of an emergency situation.
These areas still require drone technology to develop further to be fully effective, but let us hope enough effort will be put in to bring about this positive side of drone use as quickly as possible.