Thursday 27 April 2023

Refugees, Rwanda and Malaria

I have some practical experience of trying not to get malaria and supervising rules to help prevent others catching it. Malaria is endemic in the coastal (ie hot) areas of Papua New Guinea so when I went to teach in Port Moresby in the early 1970s I was warned to start taking the then standard prophylactic, chloroquine, a couple of weeks before l left the UK, and to continue to take two tablets weekly as long as I was there. This I did religiously. The local people didn’t need to take prophylactics because they had built up immunity during childhood. After just short of four years at Port Moresby High School I moved to a Sixth Form College in the Highlands. There it was too cold for the malaria-carrying mosquitos to survive but I was advised to “keep on taking the tablets” if I was likely to travel back to the coast for any reason. This I did. After two years I moved to an Anglican Mission School at Popondetta, close to the north coast and the weekly dose of chloroquine became obligatory again. The School a “living memorial to the Anglican Martyrs who remained in PNG during the Japanese invasion, took Anglican boys from all areas of PNG. Those who cam from lowland areas had the usual immunity, but boys from the Highland areas needed to take chloroquine tablets. In a symbiosis of religious practice and medical science the Highland boys were required, immediately after receiving communion at the Sunday Morning Eucharist, to queue up outside the school clinic, to receive their chloroquine tablets. Some Highland boys were from areas which didn’t like to accept treatment from women so would furtively throw away the tablets dispensed by our female school nurse. So there were odd cases of malaria in the school which had to be treated at the local aid post. On these occasions I would issue stern head-masterly warnings. Although I kept up with my own weekly “two tablets” regime” strictly, somehow or other malaria managed to get into my blood. It was a pretty mild form but it needed about three doses of treatment by my GP on my return to the UK before it was eradicated. When I want to work in Malawi in the late 1980s I was based in Blantyre. Although this city is at a fairly high elevation (just over a thousand metres,) and so not sweatily hot, malaria prophylactics were still advised, along with sleeping under mosquito nets. Once again I followed the advice, and remained malaria free until almost the end of my two-year VSO stint. With only a few seeks to go I took the holiday leave to which I was entitled and visited Kenya, primarily to take part in a Quaker World Conference, but I also spent a few days camping in one of the famous game reserves.. On my return to Blantyre I was stricken by violent agues while at work. Fortunately a colleague recognised the symptoms and I was rushed to a well-equipped hospital with which VSO had a contract. It was run by the Seventh Dav Adventist (SDA) Church. There I was placed on a quinine drip, went completely deaf, but recovered after a few days along with most of my hearing.) I was lucky. Although I had kept up my chloroquine treatment I suspect that I had caught the malaria in Kenya, where there was known to be a chloroquine-resistant strain of mosquito which was working its way gradually south. Malaria is endemic in Rwanda, where the government plans to deport refugees and asylum seekers who come to the UK by illegal routes.. Rwanda is on roughly the same latitude as Kenya so I speculate that the malaria there is from the same chloroquine-resistant strain. A more scientific explanation is given in this letter to the Guardian which appeared a few days age: Rwandan residents will have built up resistance from malaria, so will any refugees or asylum seekers who have grown up in areas where malaria is endemic. Those from malaria-free areas, without access to posh hospitals run by such as the SDA in Blantyre, are probably being condemned to serious illness or even death.

Friday 21 April 2023

What a healthy economy looks like.

A note from the blog author. Dear Reader, Many thanks for clicking on my blog, and I hope you gain something useful from it, despite the poor presentation. When I write a post, I use all the conventional techniques for “setting out”: paragraphs, spaces between them, where appropriate bullet points, numbered lists, heavy type or italics for emphasis. However, when I click the “publish” icon all this disappears and the post appears as one continuous paragraph. For example, this “note” is written in italics and separated from the subject of the post by a two-space gap. However it will appear in normal type with no separation. Why this happens I don’t know: it didn’t until a few months ago. If anyone knows what I need to do to restore normality I’d be grateful if they’d tell me in a comment. THE IRISH ECONOMY (WITH THE UK IN BRACKETS) The following information was published by RTE (the Republic of Ireland’s national broadcaster) on the 18th April. You can see the original article here: • Budget surplus €10bn (UK , a deficit of £152bn, which is 6.1% of GDP)* • Growth 2.1% (UK 0.4%) • Inflation 4.4% (UK 10.1%) • Debt/GDP ratio 44% (UK 99.2%)** It should be noted that the Irish economy suffered from the 2008/9 banking crash in much the same way as did the UK and the rest of the world. It has also, obviously, experienced the pandemic, rising energy costs resulting for the war in the Ukraine, other international factors causing world-wide inflation, and all the other excuses parroted by UK government spokespersons to excuse the parlous state of the UK economy after they've run (should that be "ruined"?) it for 13 years What’s more Ireland is governed by one of those allegedly unstable coalitions which result from a proportional system of voting - indeed, it's the best as advocated by theLiberal Democras:propportional representation by single transferable vote in multi-member conituencies. * The gereally acceptable maximum for a budget deficit is 3% of GDP. So the UK is currently double that. ** The generally accptable level of accumulated governmt debt to GDP is 60%. Ireland, at 44%, is well within the range. The UK is almost double it.

Monday 17 April 2023

Defender of Faiths?

Rumour has it that the printing of the “Order of Service” sheets for the Coronation is delayed because of a dispute between King Charles and the church authorities as to whether he should swear the traditional oath, to be “Defender of the Faith” or, as he apparently prefers, ”Defender of Faiths.” If that is the case I’m on Charles’s side in this. The title “Defender of the Faith” was granted by Pope Leo X to Henry VIII in 1521. Although it was probably never intended to be hereditary it is still applied to current monarchs, and it is still found in its Latin abbreviation Fid. Def. or F.D. on our coinage (I had to check and it is). Henry VIII received the title became he had written a “pamphlet” defending the Roman Catholic interpretation of Christianity against the teaching of the “heretic” Martin Luther and what later became known as Protestantism. However, when England decided to adopt our own interpretation of Christianity as expressed by the Church of England, the monarchy, as its titular "Supreme Governor," presumably decided that the continued use of the title would bolster its legitimacy in that role. Charles is to be crowned king of a (small “l”) liberal democracy. There’s an element of inconsistency in that sentence, but that’s a subject for another debate. What is relevant to this issue is that a liberal democracy guarantees several freedoms: of speech, of assembly and . . . freedom of religion. We all have the freedom do, think and express whatever we like, provided we do not interfere with the freedom of others. In these multicultural and multireligious (and no religion) days it is no longer appropriate for the monarch to swear to defend only the C of E interpretation of Christianity, or even Christianity itself. Swearing to defend all faiths, or not to have a faith, subject to the restriction of not interfering with the liberty of others to do the same, is the appropriate position for the titular head of a liberal democracy

Monday 10 April 2023

GFA: we got by with a lot of help from our friends

Good Friday Agreement A major theme of the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum was that the UK should "reclaim" its independence and become a Sovereign Power once more. Freed from the alleged shackles to the EU and behoven to no foreigners we should be able to rove around the world asserting our influence and increasing our prosperity. The 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland, which we celebrate today, is a stark reminder that, not only were we then or are we now, a super-duper independent-acting world power, and, for that matter, neither is anyone else. In fact, we weren’t even capable, on our own, of sorting what was and is by world standards, a titchy little problem. The population Northern Ireland is barely 2 million (1 903 100 at the 2021 census if you want to be exact): a mere 3% or so of our population. That some of them were then and still are unhappy with their lot is, like Brexit, a self-inflicted wound. Or more precisely, also like Brexit, a Tory inflicted wound, because not once but three times the Tories torpedoed the attempts of Liberal governments to grant Home Rule to the whole island of Ireland. Indeed, the third time the patriotic "Land of Hope and Glory" Tories actually called upon the army to mutiny if the proposal were implemented. In the end the country was partitioned, a “fudge” unacceptable to “patriots” on both sides of the border. After years of violence, a sort of peace was restored with the Good Friday Agreement, not by the UK government acting alone with Irish government, but with discussions chaired by the United States Senator George Mitchell, and with the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, in close touch on the telephone. I strongly suspect that the welcome rush to massage Prime Minister Johnson’s botched Northern Ireland Protocol into the slightly more acceptable Windsor Framework was motivated by anxiety to curry the favour of US President Biden and ensure his blessing on the anniversary with the visit with which we are to be honoured tomorrow. The purpose of this post is not to air resentment of the involvement of the US or to belittle the difficulty on the situation. It is to point out that most issues these days, be they boundary disputes, drugs, trade, safety standards, human rights, energy, pollution, education, health, sustainability, tourism or whatever, involve international co-operation. The Brexiteers' promise of a nation independent of the ties that bind us to others is a false prospectus. Just as “no man is an island,” neither is a country, even if it is physically surrounded by water.

Wednesday 5 April 2023

Lawson: Tories argue that black is white.

The Tories and their supportive press are hailing Nigel Lawson, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher, as an heroic figure whose economic policies rescued Britain from being an overtaxed, overregulated, bloated state into a roaring economic success. It is true that Lawson was a conviction politician who overturned the Keynesian policies which had become conventional in the post war period into what became known as the Washington Consensus of small states, low taxation, privatisation and deregulation. This he believed would lead to dynamic prosperity. Unfortunately, as we are now experiencing, his convictions were wrong. On taxation he was much applauded for cutting the basic rate of income tax to 25% (sic). He set the trend and it is now 20%. He managed to pay for this by increasing the levels of VAT: fine, but regressive in that it impinges on the poor rather than the wealthy and contributes to the present-day unacceptable and dysfunctional levels of poverty and inequality. Yes, there is plenty of room for taxation reform, but by switching from taxing desirable and productive activities (eg employment) to taxing undesirables (eg pollution, excess profits, rising house prices, land hoarding, short-term financial transactions). Another source of finance for his tax-cutting gamble was the sale of public assets - privatisation (gas, electricity, water, the railways, social housing etc.). These provided a “one off” boost to the treasury but have left us with utilities owned not by our government but foreign ones, hedge funds, and buy- to- let landlords. all capable of reaping excess profits for their own rather than our pockets. The deregulation and inadequate supervision of that which remained led to the 2008/9 banking crash and the current pollution of our rivers with sewage, to name but two. Our smaller state means that we have an impoverished education system, the highest level of child poverty for generations, a health service on its knees, a totally inadequate care service, prisons overcrowded, courts with a two-year backlog, endemic homelessness and a transport system not fit for purpose. As for the dynamism that was supposed to be unleashed - well , the 1% at the top have done very nicely, but largely through the ries inpropety prices short-term financial manipulation rather than innovative investment. For the rest of us, we have the lowest growth-rate in the G7 and, in terms of income per head, Poland will overtake us by the end of the decade.

Tuesday 4 April 2023

More "beyond awful."

There are local government elections in a month’s time. The government is currently highlighting three of its “beyond awful” polices which are absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with local government but which are presumably designed to appeal to the worst instincts of their supporters and encourage them to turn out. 1. There is huge emphasis on their policy to discourage migrants and asylum seekers from coming here. Their three-word slogan “stop the boats” is copied from that used in Australia. The threat to disallow each and every claim for asylum made by someone who has arrived here illegally itself contravenes international international law to which the UK not only subscribes but in fact played a leading part in creating. 2. There is a threat to clamp down on “Grooming Gangs.” What are really needed are policies and resources to deal effectively with all forms of child abuse, most of which is perpetrated by individuals and within families. However, by highlighting “grooming gangs” our recollections are triggered of a prominent case of grooming by an gang of Asian men who operated in Rochdale. Hence there’s strong whiff of “dog whistle” racism. 3. “Wokism” is highlighted as an impediment to dealing with crime and all sorts of anti-social behaviour, as are the efforts of “lefty lawyers” who operate to ensure that people’s rights, not least their human rights, are respected. I take “Woke” to mean "respect of and sensitivity towards other people’s feelings.” Aided by the right-wing press, the Conservatives are , with some success, turning what might otherwise be called “politeness” into a term of abuse. I fervently hope that the Tories have misjudged the national mood, and the evidence will be their trouncing in the coming council elections, as a prelude to their eviction from office as and when they dare to call the general election