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Why Haven’t We Helped Rebuild Beirut?

One year ago, a massive blast destroyed part of the city of Beirut and levelled its port facilities.

Since then, Beirut has cleaned up much of the debris field extant in the aftermath of the catastrophic explosion which claimed 218 lives, injured 6,500, and the country has suffered widespread political and economic instability.

Not much rebuilding has occurred within the blast zone, but repairs to buildings are progressing as homeowners and business owners can afford to do so with their own limited funds. Very minimal Lebanese government assistance has been made available to those affected by the disaster.

One bright spot is that Lebanon got a new Prime Minister last week — which means that if reconstruction can be directly and efficiently stimulated at this important moment — that in itself will assist political stability in the country.

Lebanon: Billionaire Najib Mikati named new prime minister-designate (Al Jazeera)


Timing is Everything

Especially where disasters are concerned — whether natural or human-caused — there exists a short window of opportunity where assistance can (when it arrives on time) act as an economic multiplier in the local economy, compared to the same amount of assistance (monetary value) arriving later in the crisis which isn’t appreciated as much as early aid.

Now that most of the rubble has been cleared, now that inspection of the site is no longer required by investigators, now that the country has appointed a new Prime Minister (who is also a former Lebanese Prime Minister) now is the time for the UK to lead Western nations in sending exactly the kind of aid that Beirut needs, in a timely fashion, to help the long-suffering Lebanese people rebuild their damaged city and its demolished port facilities.


Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way!

Sending ‘too little, too late’ isn’t the way a Top Ten country should comport itself at any time — let alone when now is the optimum time to respond. For if such countries don’t lead at troubled times, they don’t deserve their high place in the world.

To whom much is given, much will be required.” (Luke 12:48)


What Should the UK do?

Lead. Plain and simple.

UK leaders must respond to the newly changed political situation in Lebanon as a Top Ten economy should.

This could be as simple as sending one aid ship per week to Lebanon for the next 12-months.

What should the first shipment include? Obviously, the world is still in the middle of a pandemic, and therefore, PPE and COVAX vaccines should be made available to the people of Lebanon as they’re dealing with the same COVID-19 (and variants) as everyone else, and they’re still dealing with the aftermath of an apocalyptic explosion.

So, the next time you catch yourself bemoaning having to wear a mask in public, remind yourself that Lebanese people had half of their country’s most important city blown up a year ago, it’s still blown up, and they must still wear masks in public. Now that’s something to complain about! Having to wear a mask to the office isn’t.

The second shipment might need to be drinking water, or fuel, or maybe some excavating equipment so that Beirut workers can do some quick repair work on its port facilities to ensure foreign aid arriving in ships can be efficiently unloaded and goods directed to the appropriate organizations.

Whatever the people of Beirut need on a week-to-week basis; It should be our sincere pleasure to send it.


How to Pay for It

There’s no need for the UK government to consider raising taxes to pay for weekly aid shipments to Beirut for the next year as the government has already set aside .7% of GDP to spend on its annual Foreign Aid budget.

The UK can spend that .7% of GDP anywhere in the world and it makes sense to help Lebanon at this pivotal time and the disaster in Beirut should become the UK government’s highest foreign aid priority over the next 12-months.

Instead of the risk attached to sending huge sums of money as foreign aid that could be diverted to less worthy causes (it happens, sometimes, in politically unstable countries) it’s better to send useful goods to Beirut by ship, every week, thereby employing the UK foreign aid budget in a way that directly helps Beirut residents cope with the devastation they’re experiencing and stimulates rebuilding of the heavily damaged port and city.

Let’s hope that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson sees the wisdom of sending concrete aid, in a timely fashion, to the long-suffering people of Lebanon, in keeping with the UK’s high moral standing and privileged position in the world.

by John Brian Shannon

Finding the ‘Right Touch’ with Our Heroic NHS Employees!

After one year of the Coronavirus pandemic, the UK public (rightly) felt gutted by the stress imposed upon them — either by suffering unprecedented illness themselves, or from watching loved ones wither and sometimes die alone in Hospital, or by living with the unnatural conditions in a ‘lockdown’ that was implemented to protect large numbers of Britons from becoming exposed to, or spreaders of, the COVID-19 pathogen.

So try to imagine what it was like for the country’s NHS (National Health Service) staff who worked all day within inches of severely ill people suffering from a largely unknown virus, while wearing ill-fitting PPE, and in Hospitals filled beyond capacity with massively ill, congested and coughing people. And the only thing that changed from month to month was ever-larger numbers of COVID-19 patients coming through the door.

Some NHS staff themselves perished from Coronavirus because it wasn’t then known that carers needed to be wearing full PPE and receive a full decontamination at the end of each shift — and later in the pandemic — at the end of each DOUBLE shift!

Other NHS staff lost family members to the disease and couldn’t be with their loved ones during their last moments on planet Earth due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

There’s no overestimating the stress that NHS staff worked under during the Coronavirus pandemic: Only soldiers who fought in the trenches of Nazi-occupied Europe during WWII, who watched their friends getting blown to pieces in front of them or cut to ribbons by IED’s every week, living in the freezing cold 24/7, with little food (and only rarely, hot food) or courageously fighting-on with multiple injuries, or who were ‘shell shocked’ (mentally numbed, as if in a trance-like state on account of all they’d seen) could understand how NHS employees have suffered over the past year.

And for all the professionalism NHS employees have displayed, for all the heroism they showed, for all the determination to keep going in the face of almost insurmountable odds… the UK government offered NHS employees… a 1% pay rise?

Wrong touch, Boris! Wrong touch.

It was interpreted by NHS staff as an insult to their core. IMHO, it was a well-meaning but clumsy attempt by an uncomprehending government to reward the hardworking NHS employees who risked their lives to protect Britons at great cost to themselves and their dependents.

Now, keep in mind that the heroic soldiers who returned home from WWI and WWII didn’t get anything more than a tiny bonus (equal to today’s £500) and then they were suddenly and unceremoniously discharged from the military (meaning; they were suddenly unemployed, with no means to provide for themselves or their families in a time of sudden and huge unemployment typical in the aftermath of war) without any government provided options like unemployment insurance, Universal Credit, or any other government helps that are considered basic human rights in the 21st-century.

Pragmatism is the watchword of governments everywhere as governments must do what’s best for their country as a whole — not what’s best for heroic soldiers, not what’s best for heroic healthcare staff, and not what’s best for unhappy citizens caught in a ‘lockdown’ situation — governments must do what’s best for the entire country.

If a country has a ‘good government’… soldiers receive a generous discharge package when they leave the military at the end of a war, and citizens get much understanding and ongoing explanations from the government as to why a civil rights infringing ‘lockdown’ is important so the public aren’t left wondering why such extreme measures are required to protect citizens.

But in the immediate aftermath of WWI and WWII, there were no generous discharge payments because the government claimed that the war impoverished the country and it was therefore unable to afford to take care of the people in its care. (!)

And in our time, the UK government claims its finances are tight and is unable to reward heroic NHS staff with a meaningful pay rise.

And it’s true that taking on more government debt to properly reward NHS employees (and military combat veterans) could bankrupt the country (but only because successive UK governments have run-up obscene levels of national debt on far less important priorities) but if every NHS employee walked off the job in the middle of a pandemic, suddenly, bankruptcy wouldn’t seem so bad now, would it?

Priorities, Boris! Priorities!


Sometimes it Isn’t About the Money

Sometimes, it’s about showing respect. Sometimes, it’s about giving all NHS staff the summer off with full pay.

(More NHS staff would need to be hired, and existing staff would need to be flexible about which 60 consecutive days off they wanted for vacation time. Fair enough!)

Where to get enough temporary staff so that NHS employees who worked the pandemic could take-off for Ibiza (or wherever) to soak up the Sun and swim in the ocean for all of May/June, or all of June/July, or July/August, or August/September?

Why, the UK military, of course!

Yes, careful scheduling of summer holidays between present NHS employees, in addition to the UK military stepping in to temporarily replace NHS staff could ensure that every position remains covered. And former NHS employees could assist by returning to work for 6-months so that fatigued, COVID-weary and traumatized NHS staff could receive 60-days of uninterrupted vacation time to recharge their spirits.

Of course, military personnel temporarily working within the NHS would need to be vaccinated prior to ‘subbing in’ for NHS staff. But that’s no dealbreaker.

My polite suggestion to the UK government is to forget about the stillborn 1% pay rise.

Cancel it and show the NHS some respect, because it isn’t about the money. It’s about showing NHS employees the proper respect and carefully working with the media to showcase the astonishingly dedicated NHS people, and about getting them the summer off with full pay so they can recharge their batteries, and then get them back to work doing what they do best: Which is… saving our lives every day of the year!

Time for a reset, Boris!

I politely urge the Prime Minister to make it Parliament’s mission to show NHS carers that not only the public, but that the government and the media too, deeply appreciate the commitment and sacrifice that each NHS employee demonstrates as they walk their patients to restored health — no matter what illness befalls us.

Written by John Brian Shannon

Image courtesy of: TopDoctors.co.uk

Brexit? Done! Post-Brexit EU Trade Deal? Done! Tying-off Remaining Odds & Ends? Erm…

1653-days after the UK held a referendum giving Britons their first opportunity to vote on EU membership, the Conservative government of the United Kingdom has succeeded in Brexiting from the European Union and agreeing a basic free trade deal allowing mostly uninterrupted trade to continue between the two European neighbours.

While the timeframe (4.5-years!) seems a long time, keep in mind that it takes two to tango and that the EU seemingly did everything in its power to delay Brexit and a post-Brexit trade deal, and it only relented when British politicians showed the strength and resolve to get the job done.

Very noteworthy is that every time the UK government seemed to dither or lose confidence, the EU quickly ramped-up their effort to quash Brexit and the post-Brexit trade deal that followed-on a year later.

“Every day we teach others how to treat us.”

Indeed! Therefore, European Union leaders have taught United Kingdom leaders to firmly and resolutely pursue all future goals with the EU and to never, ever, show weakness or indecision.

I hope that lesson has been learned by UK politicians. If it hasn’t, someone has been busy studying far less important matters.


As Expected, There Have Been Some Delays at the Ports

Of course, this was expected. How could it not occur when both sides spent 4.5-years bickering, rather than solving problems?

But, you get what you pay for.

Perhaps if we paid UK Parliamentarians double the remuneration we do now, we’d be twice as happy with them? Hmmm…

Minor gripes aside, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has gotten the job done — and that, in the middle of an unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic! Well done, Boris!

Yes, some minor adjustments will be required. It’s been reported by the BBC that some Northern Ireland shipments have been turned back or refused, and UK residents will face more paperwork than ever if they want to visit the EU, especially if they want to bring their pets along.

In summary, the whole process could’ve been smoother, faster and more complete. But aside from the few things to be worked out, Brexit and its follow-on trade deal with the EU has been delivered as promised by the Prime Minister and his government.


Hearty Congratulations to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to his Conservative Party, and to other Brexit Supporting UK Parliamentarians!

Rather than suffering a failure of statecraft, the leaders of the United Kingdom and the European Union got the job done in the middle of a massive COVID-19 pandemic and they deserve a huge round of applause and our undying gratitude!

Finally, the UK can begin to maximize its opportunities and again become a full partner in the world community of nations.

Finally, the UK can forge its own trade deals with other countries and blocs.

Finally, the UK can design its own foreign policy to benefit the interests of the United Kingdom and its people.

Finally, the UK can create its own domestic policies to benefit Britons and visitors to the United Kingdom.

Finally, the UK can renew and re-energize its relationships with the other Commonwealth of Nations countries.

And the UK can begin to concentrate on what works best for itself and its people, instead of having to clear everything with a foreign power, first.

Even while we’re still under the shadow of the horrible Coronavirus pandemic, its clear to see that the UK’s future is going to be bright and prosperous. Just give it a few months and we’ll see a reinvigorated country — one that no longer hesitates to reach for better and produce better than ever!


Now the UK can Get On With Building a Better Britain!

Now that the EU restraints have been cast-off, the UK will have a free hand to solve its domestic and foreign issues, and to become all that it can and should be.

Brexit has occupied 4.5-years of time and effort, and there was precious little oxygen left in the room to discuss other matters needing attention.

First on the list must be to complete the campaign to eradicate COVID-19 from the United Kingdom, to further assist both individual Britons and those businesses hurtfully impacted by Coronavirus, and to reset the economy when it is safe to do so.

Second, the UK needs to level-up the incomes of those stuck in the bottom economic quintile — thereby ending homelessness in the UK. Maybe the government will create a programme to pay unemployed Britons a minimum wage (or better!) to plant 1-billion trees per year in the UK, neatly solving three problems at once; Homelessness, Unemployment, and helping the UK to meet its CO2 Reduction Targets via their natural photosynthetic process whereby trees store carbon for up to 500-years, in the case of oak trees.

Third, the UK needs to put a major push to become a major exporting country like Germany. I can hardly wait for that! However, it is inappropriate to spend money, time and effort on this in the middle of a major Coronavirus pandemic.

Fourth, the UK needs to finish the many projects still on the books — like HS2 and others. But closely following those projects should be a plan to reclaim 100-square miles from the sea surrounding the UK, annually. In a country of 68-million (as of last week) all the existing land will soon be spoken-for, and thankfully, much of the sea surrounding Great Britain is shallow and therefore perfect to build-up and fill. Beside the obvious benefit, is that seawalls at 40-feet above the high tide mark will build resiliency into the UK’s shorelines with easily available rock and gravel/soil. Doing so at-scale means creating half a million good-paying jobs and building dozens of scenic golf resorts and hotels, thousands of seaside homes, and themed communities to support them.

And that’s just the beginning of the benefits of Brexit, folks!

Thank you again to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to government negotiators, to the UK Cabinet, and to all MP’s and Lords who followed the instructions of Britons and voted for Brexit and a post-Brexit trade deal! Well done!


Written by John Brian Shannon