Blog of Mass Distraction

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Saving Lives

The amount collected for tsunami relief globally is over $5 billion now. It's amazing that so much money can be found for donations in such a short time. Though, frankly, it's a little disheartening that all the other crisis that were going on before the tsunami which are still happening now, such as Darfur (+100,000 dead), Iraq (+100,000 dead), starvation in North Korea (2 million dead in 5 years) and HIV/AIDS (which kills thousands of people every day); even the other problems such as poverty, malnutrition and malaria which will be exacerbated by the effects of the tsunami, receive so little attention and even less financial aid. It's always terrible to play a numbers game but this is just the reality of the world today.

Indonesia a couple of days ago announced that it wants all foreign military personnel out of Sumatra by March. The foreign militaries there now are assisting with the relief effort (ferrying supplies to remote areas and such); but Yudhoyono's government says they don't need the assistance past March. Already they've asked all foreigners there to register with the government and want to track their movements. They say they are taking all these precautions because of the rebel movement there and don't want people attacked by the rebels. Though no such attacks have happened, the Indonesian government is very wary particularly of cameras and journalists being in the embattled provinces. Before the tsunami several journalists had been killed in the area and the military there had made efforts to expel all foreigners from there.

The United States just announced yesterday that it wants to stop helping in the relief effort. It has been helping particularly in Indonesia (a close ally) but would now like the governments of the affected to take over the operations that they have been managing so they can pull out their people. This decision seems to be in the wake of increasing violence in Iraq in the run up to the elections. In fact the governor of Baghdad was assassinated earlier this month.
Already we've been told that several key actions would break the back of the insurgents. From capturing Saddam over a year ago, to the hurried and secretive handover of power from Paul Bremer to Iyad Allawi, to the razing of Fallujah, and now the election.

In Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas aka Abu Mazan has been elected as leader of the Palestinian people. His election is hailed on both sides of the conflict since he's seen as a moderate and in the wake of Arafat's death, Abbas appears to give a glimmer of hope for peace. Though it remains to be seen if the newly reinvigorated Sharon government will be a real partner for peace. And frankly, I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

A couple of other notes, Ralph Klein wants to push the envelope of what is legal for under the Canada Health Act. He wants major changes to allow private health care. I'm all for considering alternatives and for open and fair markets, but there are certain things that absolutely should not be put under the capitalist market system and health care is one of them (education is another, but that's a different story). Of the most developed countries (particularly the G7), the US is the only one without universal health coverage. The US has a free market system for health and there are some 40 million people with no health coverage at all. Technically, if you're dying you can get immediate treatment to save your life, but for those that are slowly being consumed by cancer, AIDS or other chronic illness, they're just out of luck. Yet the US still spends the most per capita on health care because what little coverage there is, it's also the most expensive place to get health care. That's how health care works under capitalism, if you need an expensive procedure to save your life, are you really going to say no to the cost? There isn't much opportunity to shop around, so your only other option is death.
Also the supposed ring leader of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal has been sentenced to 10 years and a dishonourable discharge upon release. He still maintains he was following orders from higher up, which memos from soon to be Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would seem to suggest, but Rumsfeld is not going anywhere and Gonzales has already been promoted. That's justice for you...


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