Arms industry sees Ukraine conflict as an opportunity, not a crisis

Ukranian tanks - January 2022

Ukranian tanks – January 2022

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Arms industry sees Ukraine conflict as an opportunity, not a crisis

[The article below first appeared on the Truthout website on 2nd March 2022.]

Arms industry sees Ukraine conflict as an opportunity, not a crisis

by Jonathan Ng

In February, a photograph of Russian President Vladimir Putin sitting hunched over a 13-foot table with French President Emmanuel Macron circulated the globe. News about their sprawling table and sumptuous seven-course dinner was reminiscent of a Lewis Carroll story. But their meeting was deadly serious. Macron arrived to discuss the escalating crisis in Ukraine and threat of war. Ultimately, their talk foundered over expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), yielding little more than the bizarre photograph.

Yet the meeting was surreal for another reason. Over the past year, Macron, the leading European Union (EU) peace negotiator, has led an ambitious arms sales campaign, exploiting tensions to strengthen French commerce. The trade press even reported that he hoped to sell Rafale fighter jets to Ukraine, breaking into the “former bastion of Russian industry.”

Macron is not alone. NATO contractors openly embrace the crisis in Ukraine as sound business. In January, Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes cited “tensions in Europe” as an opportunity, saying, “I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit.” Likewise, CEO Jim Taiclet of Lockheed Martin highlighted the benefits of “great power competition” in Europe to shareholders.

On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, pounding cities with ordnance and dispatching troops across the border. The sonic boom of fighter jets filled the air, as civilians flooded the highways in Kyiv, attempting to flee the capital. And the stock value of arms makers soared.

The spiraling conflict over Ukraine dramatizes the power of militarism and the influence of defense contractors. A ruthless drive for markets — intertwined with imperialism — has propelled NATO expansion, while inflaming wars from Eastern Europe to Yemen.

Selling NATO

The current conflict with Russia began in the wake of the Cold War. Declining military spending throttled the arms industry in the United States and other NATO countries. In 1993, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Perry convened a solemn meeting with executives. Insiders called it the “Last Supper.” In an atmosphere heavy with misapprehension, Perry informed his guests that impending blows to the U.S. military budget called for industry consolidation. A frantic wave of mergers and takeovers followed, as Lockheed, Northrop, Boeing and Raytheon acquired new muscle and smaller firms expired amid postwar scarcity.

While domestic demand shrunk, defense contractors rushed to secure new foreign markets. In particular, they set their sights on the former Soviet bloc, regarding Eastern Europe as a new frontier for accumulation. “Lockheed began looking at Poland right after the wall came down,” veteran salesman Dick Pawlowski recalled. “There were contractors flooding through all those countries.” Arms makers became the most aggressive lobbyists for NATO expansion. The security umbrella was not simply a formidable alliance but also a tantalizing market.

However, lobbyists faced a major obstacle. In 1990, Secretary of State James Baker had promised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that if he allowed a reunited Germany to join NATO, the organization would move “not one inch eastward.” Yet lobbyists remained hopeful. The Soviet Union had since disintegrated, Cold War triumphalism prevailed, and vested interests now pushed for expansion. “Arms Makers See Bonanza In Selling NATO Expansion,” The New York Times reported in 1997. The newspaper later noted that, “Expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — first to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic and then possibly to more than a dozen other countries — would offer arms makers a new and hugely lucrative market.”

New alliance members meant new clients. And NATO would literally require them to buy Western military equipment.

Lobbyists poured into Washington, D.C. fêting legislators in royal style. Vice President Bruce Jackson of Lockheed became the president of the advocacy organization U.S. Committee to Expand NATO. Jackson recounted the extravagant meals that he hosted at the mansion of the Republican luminary Julie Finley, which boasted “an endless wine cellar.”

“Educating the Senate about NATO was our chief mission,” he informed journalist Andrew Cockburn. “We’d have four or five senators over every night, and we’d drink Julie’s wine.”

Lobby pressure was relentless. “The most interested corporations are the defense corporations, because they have a direct interest in the issue,” Romanian Ambassador Mircea Geoană observed. Bell Helicopter, Lockheed Martin, and other firms even funded Romania’s lobbying machine during its bid for NATO membership.

Ultimately, policy makers reneged on their promise to Gorbachev, admitting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO in 1999. During the ceremony, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — who directly cooperated with the Jackson campaign — welcomed them with a hearty “Hallelujah.” Ominously, the intellectual architect of the Cold War, George Kennan, predicted disaster. “Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion,” Kennan cautioned.

Few listened. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Chas Freeman described the mentality of policy makers: “The Russians are down, let’s give them another kick.” Relishing victory, Jackson was equally truculent: “‘Fuck Russia’ is a proud and long tradition in US foreign policy.” Later, he became chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which paved the way for the 2003 invasion, the biggest industry handout in recent history.

Within two decades, 14 Central and Eastern European countries joined NATO. The organization originally existed to contain the Soviet Union, and Russian officials monitored its advance with alarm. In retrospect, postwar expansion benefited arms makers both by increasing their market and stimulating conflict with Russia.

Targeting Ukraine

Tensions reached a new phase in 2014 when the United States backed the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine. Yanukovych had opposed NATO membership, and Russian officials feared his ouster would bring the country under its strategic umbrella. Rather than assuage their concerns, the Obama administration maneuvered to slip Ukraine into its sphere of influence. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland coordinated regime change with brash confidence. Nuland openly distributed cookies to protesters, and later, capped a diplomatic exchange with “fuck the EU.” At the height of the uprising, Sen. John McCain also joined demonstrators. Flanked by leaders of the fascist Svoboda Party, McCain advocated regime change, declaring that “America is with you.”

By then, newly minted NATO members had bought nearly $17 billion in American weapons. Military installations, including six NATO command posts, ballooned across Eastern Europe. Fearing further expansion, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and intervened in the Donbas region, fueling a ferocious and interminable war.

NATO spokespeople argued that the crisis justified expansion. In reality, NATO expansion was a key inciter of the crisis. And the conflagration was a gift to the arms industry. In five years, major weapons exports from the United States increased 23 percent, while French exports alone registered a 72-percent leap, reaching their highest levels since the Cold War. Meanwhile, European military spending hit record heights.

As tensions escalated, Supreme Commander Philip Breedlove of NATO wildly inflated threats, calling Russia “a long-term existential threat to the United States.” Breedlove even falsified information about Russian troop movements over the first two years of the conflict, while brainstorming tactics with colleagues to “leverage, cajole, convince or coerce the U.S. to react.” A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution concluded that he aimed to “goad Europeans into jacking up defense spending.”

And he succeeded. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute registered a significant leap in European military spending — even though Russian spending in 2016 equaled only one quarter of the European NATO budget. That year, Breedlove resigned from his post before joining the Center for a New American Security, a hawkish think tank awash in industry funds.

The arms race continues. After European negotiations gridlocked, Russia recognized two separatist republics in the Donbas region before invading Ukraine this February. Justifying the bloody operation, Putin wrongly accused Ukrainian authorities of genocide. Yet his focus was geopolitical. “It is a fact that over the past 30 years we have been patiently trying to come to an agreement with the leading NATO countries,” he said. “In response to our proposals, we invariably faced either cynical deception and lies or attempts at pressure and blackmail, while the North Atlantic alliance continued to expand despite our protests and concerns. Its military machine is moving and, as I said, is approaching our very border.”

In retrospect, three decades of industry lobbying has proved deadly effective. NATO engulfed most of Eastern Europe and provoked a war in Ukraine — yet another opportunity for accumulation. Alliance members have activated Article 4, mobilizing troops, contemplating retaliation and moving further toward the brink of Armageddon.

Yet even as military budgets rise, European arms makers — like their American counterparts — have required foreign markets to overcome fiscal restraints and production costs. They need clients to finance their own military buildup: foreign wars to fund domestic defense.

Yemen Burning

Arms makers found the perfect sales opportunity in Yemen. In 2011, a popular revolution toppled Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had monopolized power for two decades. His crony, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, became president the next year after easily winning the election: He was the only candidate. Thwarted by elite intrigue, another uprising ejected Mansour Hadi in 2015.

That year, Prince Salman became king of Saudi Arabia, but power concentrated into the hands of his son, Mohammed bin Salman, who feared that the uprising threatened to snatch Yemen from Saudi Arabia’s sphere of influence.

Months later, a Saudi-led coalition invaded, leaving a massive trail of carnage. “There was no plan,” a U.S. intelligence official emphasized. “They just bombed anything and everything that looked like it might be a target.”

The war immediately attracted NATO contractors, which backed the aggressors. They exploit the conflict to sustain industrial capacity, fund weapons development and achieve economies of scale. In essence, the Saudi-led coalition subsidizes the NATO military buildup, while the West inflames the war in Yemen.

Western statesmen pursue sales with perverse enthusiasm. In May 2017, Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia for his first trip abroad as president, in order to flesh out the details of a $110 billion arms bundle. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, arrived beforehand to discuss the package. When Saudi officials complained about the price of a radar system, Kushner immediately called the CEO of Lockheed Martin to ask for a discount. The following year, Mohammed bin Salman visited company headquarters during a whirlwind tour of the United States. Defense contractors, Hollywood moguls and even Oprah Winfrey welcomed the young prince.

Yet the Americans were not alone. The Saudi-led coalition is also the largest arms market for France and other NATO members. And as the French Ministry of the Armed Forces explains, exports are “necessary for the preservation and development of the French defense technological and industrial base.” In other words, NATO members such as France export war in order to retain their capacity to wage it.

President Macron denies that the coalition — an imposing alliance that includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Sudan and Senegal — uses French weapons. But the statistics are suggestive. Between 2015 and 2019, France awarded €14 billion in arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia and €20 billion in licenses to the United Arab Emirates. CEO Stéphane Mayer of Nexter Systems praised the performance of Leclerc tanks in Yemen, boasting that they “have highly impressed the military leaders of the region.” In short, while Macron denies that the coalition wields French hardware in Yemen, local industrialists cite their use as a selling point. Indeed, Amnesty International reports that his administration has systematically lied about its export policy. Privately, officials have compiled a “very precise list of French materiél deployed in the context of the conflict, including ammunition.”

Recently, Macron became one of the first heads of state to meet Mohammed bin Salman following the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Like Trump’s trip, Macron’s diplomatic junket was a sales mission. Eventually, Macron clinched a deal with the United Arab Emirates for 80 Rafale fighters. The CEO of Dassault Aviation called the contract “the most important ever obtained by French military aerospace,” guaranteeing six years of work for a pillar of its industrial base.

French policy is typical of NATO involvement in Yemen. While denouncing the war, every Western producer has outfitted those carrying it out. Spanish authorities massage official documents to conceal the export of lethal hardware. Great Britain has repeatedly violated its own arms embargo. And the United States has not respected export freezes with any consistency.

Even NATO countries in Eastern Europe exploit the war. While these alliance members absorb Western arms, they dump some of their old Soviet hardware into the Middle East. Between 2012 and July 2016 Eastern Europe awarded at least €1.2 billion in military equipment to the region.

Ironically, a leading Eastern European arms exporter is Ukraine. While the West rushes to arm Kyiv, its ruling class has sold weapons on the black market. A parliamentary inquiry concluded that between 1992 and 1998 alone, Ukraine lost a staggering $32 billion in military assets, as oligarchs pillaged their own army. Over the past three decades, they have outfitted Iraq, the Taliban and extremist groups across the Middle East. Even former President Leonid Kuchma, who has led peace talks in the Donbas region, illegally sold weapons while in office. More recently, French authorities investigated Dmytro Peregudov, the former director of the state defense conglomerate, for pocketing $24 million in sales commissions. Peregudov resided in a château with rolling wine fields, while managing the extensive properties that he acquired after his years in public service.

The Warlords

Kuchma and Peregudov are hardly exceptional. Corruption is endemic in an industry that relies on the proverbial revolving door. The revolving door is not simply a metaphor but an institution, converting private profit into public policy. Its perpetual motion signifies the social reproduction of an elite that resides at the commanding heights of a global military-industrial complex. Leading power brokers ranging from the Mitterrands and Chiracs in France, to the Thatchers and Blairs in Britain, and the Gonzálezes and Bourbons in Spain have personally profited from the arms trade.

In the United States, the industry employs around 700 lobbyists. Nearly three-fourths previously worked for the federal government — the highest percentage for any industry. The lobby spent $108 million in 2020 alone, and its ranks continue to swell. Over the past 30 years, about 530 congressional staffers on military-related committees left office for defense contractors. Industry veterans dominate the Biden administration, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin from Raytheon.

The revolving door reinforces the class composition of the state, while undermining its moral legitimacy. As an elite rotates office, members insulate policymaking from democratic input, taint the government with corruption and mistake corporate profit with national interest. By 2005, 80 percent of army generals with three stars or more retired to arms makers despite existing regulations. (The National Defense Authorization Act prohibits top officers from lobbying the government for two years after leaving office or leveraging personal contacts to secure contracts. But compliance is notoriously poor.) More recently, the U.S. Navy initiated investigations against dozens of officers for corrupt ties to the defense contractor Leonard Francis, who clinched contracts with massive bribes, lavish meals and sex parties.

Steeped in this corrosive culture, NATO intellectuals now openly talk about the prospect of “infinite war.” Gen. Mike Holmes insists that it is “not losing. It’s staying in the game and getting a new plan and keeping pursuing your objectives.” Yet those immersed in its brutal reality surely disagree. The United Nations reports that at least 14,000 people have died in the Russo-Ukrainian War since 2014, and over 377,000 have perished in Yemen.

In truth, the doctrine of infinite war is not so much a strategy as it is a confession — acknowledging the violent metabolism of a system that requires conflict. As a self-selecting elite propounds NATO expansion, military buildup and imperialism, we must embrace what the warlords most fear: the threat of peace.

View of the world

It’s not the virus that’s the problem – it’s the parasites who run society

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It’s not the virus that’s the problem – it’s the parasites who run society

The Government making decisions without telling anyone. Then changing their mind. Information and data being withheld when it comes to infections in schools or covid related deaths in hospital. Accusations being made about the vacillation in the adoption of the approach to deal with the pandemic as it was taking hold in February/March of last year. Continual revelations about the corruption and sleaze at the top of government – which gets mentioned and then, seemingly (and conveniently) forgotten. Billionaires – throughout the world – sprouting up like poison mushrooms and there seems to be no reaction from those who have nothing.

Food poverty; fuel poverty; water poverty; renters carrying the brunt of the problems in the housing sector; unequal opportunities at school; chaos in the higher education sector; fewer opportunities for young people – with or without qualifications; even greater expansion of the informal employment sector; the list goes on and on.

In Britain the only positive event in the whole of the last 15 months has been the success in the vaccination programme. However, this is just putting more and more billions of pounds into the pockets of the shareholders of the major pharmaceutical companies (AstraZeneca, which promised to keep prices at cost until he pandemic is over, being singled out as being the only vaccine which ‘might’ cause side effects – in numbers that are statistically impossible to measure – which means more for the companies charging the earth for vaccines whose research was funded by public money. Is it just a coincidence that the cheapest supplier is singled out?)

The parasitical Buffoon claims the credit for this programme which is only successful due to the fact that no one from his incompetent Government was involved in the practicalities of its implementation. And that one lie, that one purloining of the only success of the last 15 months, is enough to maintain his ‘popularity’.

From soon after the outbreak of covid-19 last year many have spoken about society not being the same as it was pre-2020. They are probably correct. The rich will be even richer; the poor will be even poorer; insecurity will go through the roof and quality of life will plummet for many.

And the next pandemic is just waiting around the corner to encounter the same lack of strategy and preparedness and we’ll have to go through the same cycle again.

Vaccination programme in Britain ….

UK still looking at covid booster shot options – even though it might be, again, the richer countries grabbing everything for themselves, and it has the added benefit of ‘playing to the gallery’ of the ignorant and selfish amongst the British population.

UK vaccine booster: what will be given and when.

. and in the rest of the world

Covid vaccines: why waiving patents won’t fix global shortage – but it’s not that simple and this article argues what other matters need to be put in place to assist in the greater distribution of the vaccine.

Considering that Pfizer ‘gave’ the vaccines to Israel with the pretence that it was an extensive trial it’s no surprise at these results – two Pfizer covid vaccine doses give over 95% protection, shows Israel study

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Picture of two pandemics: covid cases fall in rich west as poorer nations suffer. Does this come as a surprise? The poorest in society will always get the dirty end of the stick – whether in individual countries or the world.

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Acute health crises in India – how the country wasn’t ever going to be able to deal with a pandemic such as that of the covid-19.

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Still not learning the lessons

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No 10 (Downing Street) ‘tried to block’ data on spread of new covid variant in English schools.

‘Unnecessary secrecy’: 42 NHS trusts criticised over covid deaths data.

The Lion will lie down with the Lamb

From chemical and biological weapons establishment to saviour from the next pandemic. Vaccine testing at Porton Down to be expanded under plans to ‘future-proof’ UK against covid. The Government hopes £30 million investment will lead to jabs capable of neutralising new and emerging variants.

Herd Immunity?

Can the UK get there?

Dominic Cummings doubles down on claim government planned ‘herd immunity’ response to covid.

‘Collateral damage’

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UK government ‘failed to consider gender’ in its response to covid pandemic,

The National Health Service covid legacy – long waits and lives at risk.

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Nurse retention and long-run NHS workforce challenges.

How lock down has affected children’s speech – and what parents can do to help.

Covid-19: how rising inequalities unfolded and why we cannot afford to ignore it.

Top pupils rejected by universities in A-levels fiasco fallout.

Preparedness for any potential pandemic

Covid laid bare existing weaknesses in UK government.

Lessons, so far, from the pandemic

Covid during pregnancy poses a low risk to newborns.

Care homes

More care home residents died of covid in second wave than first in England and Wales.

Poverty in Britain

Renters are at increased risk of losing their homes as a result of covid-related rent arrears and debt, unless they are thrown a lifeline with further targeted support. A briefing, A just recovery for renters, produced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (based on recent YouGov polling from February 2021) shows renters facing lower incomes and struggling to keep afloat.

Dramatic rise in child poverty in North East England in the last five years shows the scale of the ‘levelling up’ challenge. This was before the pandemic and the last 15 or so months has only made the situation worse.

Millions cannot afford water bills.

Who’s making money out of the pandemic?

Pfizer forecasts $26 billion from annual sales of covid-19 vaccine.

Ministers urged to reveal details of £2 billion Covid deals with private health firms.

This is from the United States – however, there’s no reason to believe the situation isn’t very similar in the UK. How Corporations pumped up CEO pay while their low-wage workers suffered in the pandemic.

Perfectly reasonable for me to forward on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) offer – Hancock.

How Corporate Welfare props up the billionaire class.

‘Saying that central bank asset purchases have increased wealth inequality is another way of saying that the state has intervened directly in order to increase the wealth of those at the very top. In this context, the idea that billionaire wealth simply represents a reward for effort and innovation—the size of which is determined by ‘the market’—is clearly absurd. These billionaires didn’t earn the massive increases in their wealth seen over the last year – they were effectively handed this wealth by the state.’

And a much more United States centred approach to the same issue,

How America went from ‘mom-and-pop’ capitalism to techno-feudalism.

Vaccine ‘passports’

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NHS vaccine passports are here – but will they be used beyond international travel?

Like the poor, covid will always be with us

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After the pandemic

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How plant-based diets could help prevent the next covid-19.

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Does ‘too little, too late’ become ‘too much too soon’?

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Does ‘too little, too late’ become ‘too much too soon’?

Seemingly not, surprisingly not, astoundingly not! All initial indications from commentators and even the ‘experts’ is that the plan announced by the Buffoon on 22nd February might be the best way forward for the country. So it looks like he didn’t have any real say in the proposed timetable of raising of restrictions.

Whether the literal island of Britain can exist as a metaphorical island in the rest of the world – when the vast majority of the world’s 8 billion people are nowhere near having any protection against the virus is another matter.

If we maintain the parochial approach the vaccination programme in the UK also still seems to be going well. Figures are showing that around half a million people, more or less, are being vaccinated every day. The ‘promise’ that every adult – those over the age of 18 years – will be vaccinated by the end of July is just another bit of grandstanding and might catch the Buffoon out in the future – but all he is thinking about is short term popularity. Such a promise (bringing that target forward a month) serves no purpose other than being a form of political posturing.

Extending the vaccination programme to those younger than 18 probably won’t happen until much later in the year – not least as the present vaccines haven’t been authorised for children yet – although all the vaccines that are being put into peoples’ arms throughout the (‘developed’) world now were all rushed through the validation process. It looks like that gamble has paid off as there are no reports of serious side effcts, other than those normally associated with vaccines.

The Buffoon’s latest slogan has been ‘data not dates’. Always one for the short, snappy slogan. Although this is the first time he might have really been following the data.

However, one question to ask is; what data are they following. Yes, infections, hospitalisations and deaths are falling. But why? When you have two variables introduced at the same time (a lock down – if only partial – and the introduction of a mass vaccination programme both starting at the end of December and which have been running in tandem ever since) how can you say which one has had the desired effect?

Perhaps the answer to that will come out in the next few months.

Also (and this leaves a bad taste in the mouth) the Buffoon is starting to make reasonable comments about the introduction of a so called ‘immunity passport’ based upon a vaccination history. Yes, initially, it will be discriminatory, for a a number of reasons – mainly age but also there are other variables that might mean someone has not been vaccinated when given the chance.

The idea of carrying proof of who you are (which is what such a ‘passport’ would be) has always been fought in Britain – one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have an obligatory identity card system.

Most people in the country will accept anything – under the impression that it will be a temporary imposition – in order to return to some form of normality. However, as with the restrictions that were written into law with the Coronavirus Act of last spring once these sort of measures are enacted the State is very reluctant to rescind them – unless there is a lot of pressure for them to do so. A nation ‘tired’ of restrictions on its movement might not be the best ones to take on that fight.

And the words of the Buffoon can never be trusted.

The ‘roadmap’

Initial reactions to the Buffoon’s announcements of 22nd February. Is England’s Covid roadmap the right way out of lock down? The experts’ view

A year too late, the Buffoon produces a reasonable plan.

Is the UK’s exit plan the right one? Three experts give their view.

Although at the end of last week it was reported that Whitty was at odds with the Buffoon over ‘big bang’ reopening of schools in England.

Vaccination programme

The question of enforced vaccination – or at least pressure to get vaccinated. ‘No jab, no job’ policies may be legal for new staff.

When there’s a shortage there’s the potential for gangsters to fill the gap. Something about which all countries should be aware so what we can learn from the great polio vaccine heist of 1959?

Should politicians showcase their own vaccinations to convince the rest of us?

Vaccines on the world stage

UK should send vaccines to poorer nations now – head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

UK hits target for protecting most vulnerable but global roll out lags far behind.

Vaccine diplomacy – how some countries are using COVID to enhance their soft power. This article doesn’t specifically address the announcement by the Buffoon at the G7 meeting last week about the UK ‘donating’ excess vaccines to poorer countries – but all donations will come with their ‘conditions’.

Covid-19 variants

It seems that the Kent variant really is starting to take over the world. Is the Kent variant responsible for the rise in cases among young people in Israel and Italy?

The issue of masks keeps on developing

At first it was just any ‘face covering’ was adequate, now technology (and profit opportunities) are becoming more important. ‘Smart’ face masks promise high-tech protection – but who is going to pay for these, yet another divide due to class and poverty?

The National Health Service

Yet something else we’ve known for many years but to reiterate – management consultants in healthcare do more harm than good, but keep getting rehired.

Health workers appeal to Buffoon for better personal protection. So getting close to the second year and the issue of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) still remains an issue.

Front line National Health Service staff at risk from airborne coronavirus.

Poverty in Britain

England’s poorest areas hit by covid ‘perfect storm’.

One in six new universal credit claimants forced to skip meals.

Universal Credit worth less than in 2013, says Citizens Advice Scotland.

Again, not strictly covid related but a situation which will only get worse as a consequence of the pandemic. ‘Only junkies’– how stigma and discrimination link to rise in drug deaths among Scotland’s poor.

Prison cases ‘almost double’ in a week – in Scotland.

International preparedness for the pandemic

Italy ‘misled WHO on pandemic readiness’ weeks before Covid outbreak. That’s all well and good BUT … what was the situation in Britain at the beginning of 2020? From all that we experienced last year the situation in the UK wasn’t significantly better – nor in many other so called ‘developed countries’. Otherwise why have we seen 120,000 and 500,000 excess deaths in the UK and the USA respectively. What The Guardian should be investigating is not what happened in another European country but what was the situation here, in Britain.

How did the pandemic start?

I was the Australian doctor on the WHO’s covid-19 mission to China. Here’s what we found about the origins of the coronavirus.

The effects of covid – and how to deal with them

A distorted sense of smell is dangerous but treatable.

‘Collateral damage’

UK government blasted over delays to employment reforms.

The Resolution Foundation has produced another report looking at employment prospects for the post-covid future entitled Long Covid in the Labour Market. On the 18th February they also hosted a discussion on this issue and that is available to watch here.

Under-25s hit worst as unemployment rises again.

‘Immunity Passports’

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And people should be aware that although they want to get back to a ‘new’ normal as soon as possible the general application of such documentation could well be the slippery slope down the road of the need to carry an identity card. Easier to accept for people used to doing so in many countries – a little bit more difficult in the UK.

We have Cummins – the US has Cruz

Although not covid related exactly but just goes to show those who consider themselves entitled just carry on doing what they want – whatever the situation the majority of people have to endure. Texas Senator Ted Cruz flew to Mexico amid state energy crisis.

Help for home owners, yes, help for renters perhaps (or perhaps not)

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Calls for Spanish-style loan scheme to help UK households in arrears.

The ‘recovery’ from the pandemic?

We need a green recovery after covid-19, but banning wildlife trade could do more harm than good.

Corruption in ‘high places’

Matt Hancock acted unlawfully over pandemic contracts. So what’s going to be the consequence of this ruling?

Or this? Covid contract-winning firm owned by Hancock’s neighbour is investigated by health regulator.

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