Voice From the Back

Free (?) Trade
The embattled head of the World Trade Organisation, Mike Moore, is pledging to use next week’s global trade talks in Seattle to open up the rich markets of the west to poor countries in an attempt to defuse the biggest demonstration in America since the Vietnam war. With the FBI fearful that the arrival of up to 150,000 protesters against the start of a new round of trade liberalisation talks may result in widespread disruption and violence, Mr Moore said in an interview with the Guardian that he was seeking to put right the “great injustices” of the world’s trading system . . . However, attempts by trade diplomats to produce an agreed text in advance have foundered and the WTO has come under attack from non-governmental organisations for being undemocratic, indifferent to the environment and dominated by multinational companies. Guardian, 25 November.

The death trade
Britain last year continued to sell weapons to countries with poor human rights records despite the government’s pledge to bring an “ethical dimension” to foreign policy, the annual report on arms sales published yesterday shows. The government approved export licences for a wide range of military equipment to Indonesia, Turkey, China, Bahrain, and Algeria, as well as Saudi Arabia, Britain’s main arms customer. The report shows nearly £2bn worth of weapons were exported by Britain last year, including 38 armoured combat vehicles to Indonesia, 18 Tornado aircraft, 100 air-to-ground missiles to Saudi Arabia, and over 400 air-launched missiles to the United Arab Emirates. Guardian, 4 November.

Saving lives or profits
The Boeing Corp. failed to disclose key findings from a 1980 report about fuel-tank problems in its jumbo jets that could have assisted federal safety investigators probing the crash off Long Island in 1996 . . . Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the subcommittee that oversees airline-disaster probes, told the Post that Flight 800’s crash could have been prevented had Boeing disclosed the report earlier. In 1990, a fuel-tank explosion on a different model jet, a Philippines Airline 737, killed eight people. New York Post, 29 October.

Couldn’t care less
Old people are dying after operations because of hospital staff shortages and poor training, according to an independent investigation. Delays and dangerous negligence lay at the heart of a “poor” standard of care for the elderly after surgery, the enquiry concluded. Times, 18 November.

Define “professional”, please
Headhunters are “unprofessional, unethical, money-mad, short-term chancers who would shaft anyone for a quick buck”. It’s official. A headhunter says so. The recruitment industry has been shaken by an e-mail sent by one of its oldest members to staff at a number of rivals in an attempt to poach them. Yes, really. Is there no honour among thieves? Claiming to be “the truth about recruitment agencies”, the message included the above description and suggested that, since they are treated so badly, staff owe their employers no loyalty and might as well switch sides. It came from a director of Lorien, a quoted company specialising in IT staff, and found its way to Computer Weekly.

Free market madness
Free coal, the traditional perk for retired miners, may soon be shipped from China. The pensioners are being urged by the government to take the cheaper, subsidised Oriental fuel to cut the cost to the taxpayer. Financial Mail on Sunday, 28 November.

Not ethnic conflict—plunder
The war in the Congo perpetuates a conflict that affects nearly every country in Africa; Congo, located in the centre of the continent, has borders with nine other countries . . . It is, in reality, one giant war against all of Africa, as a detailed analysis of any one of these wars readily shows. The real belligerents were not even at the peace talk in Lusaka: the British Commonwealth and allied French interests who, operating with complicity channels in the United States, are seeking to destroy the nation states of Africa in a domino chain of wars, and to ensure the full domination of Africa’s vast resources for themselves. The People Newspaper, Uganda, 4-18 August.

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