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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

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

UK Election 2019: The People Have Spoken & Brexit It Will Be!

by John Brian Shannon

It was an historic night in the UK where a formerly weak Conservative government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson swept to power in a massive majority.

Every party in the United Kingdom has lost ground to the Conservatives — except for the Scottish National Party (SNP) which won 48-seats giving them a grand total of 4% of the UK vote — but that pales in comparison to Boris Johnson’s Conservative and Unionist Party’s 45% of the votes cast in the UK Election 2019. The Brexit Party (a brand-new party only weeks old) gained 2% of the vote, but didn’t win any seats.

Here are the percentage of votes cast in the UK General Election 2019

Conservatives = 45%
Labour = 33%
Liberal Democrats = 12%
SNP = 4%
Green = 3%
Brexit = 2%
Other = 1%

Which translates into this many seats by party affiliation

Conservatives = 365
Labour = 203
SNP = 48
Liberal Democrats = 11
DUP = 8
Sinn Fein = 7
Plaid Cymru = 4
SDLP = 2
APNI = 1
Green = 1
Brexit = 0
UUP = 0
IND = 0


Winners and Losers in the UK General Election 2019

WINNERS

UK VOTERS: The biggest winners in this election are UK voters, as every person who wanted to vote was able to vote, unlike in some countries where armed thugs try to prevent people from voting unless they’re voting for the ‘approved’ thug party. Further, a situation no longer exists where a paralyzed UK House of Commons is unable to do the work of the UK people. Following this clear election result, the UK government can now move smartly to get The People’s business done. And Number One on that list is Brexit.

LOSERS

REMAIN VOTERS: The biggest losers in UK General Election 2019 are so-called ‘Remain’ voters — those who wanted to ignore or overturn the democratic result of the 2016 EU referendum. The UK people spoke clearly in the 2016 referendum, in the UK General Election 2017, and now in the UK General Election 2019, with thousands of traditional Labour, Liberal Democrat and even SNP voters changing their traditional voting patterns (this time) to empower the leave-supporting Conservative and Unionist Party, and some people casting votes for the new-ish Brexit Party to reward their ongoing commitment for leaving the European Union.

WINNERS

THE BREXIT PARTY: Brexit Party members and their leaders should be leaping for joy, because, although they didn’t elect one MP to the UK House of Commons, they’ve dramatically changed the political landscape in the United Kingdom by capturing hundreds of thousands of votes from traditional Labour voters who disagreed with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Remain Brexit position, and from other Remain-supporting parties across the UK. Strange as it may seem, the Brexit Party like the UKIP Party before it have influenced the UK and continental Europe for generations to come. I’m not sure that Brexit Party candidates and supporters have realized this profound point just yet… But in the meantime, ‘Hats Off’ to Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party!

LOSERS

FORMER LIBERAL DEMOCRAT LEADER JO SWINSON: Jo Swinson lost her Dumbarton seat and (thereby) her position as Lib Dem leader — and for no other reason than she cut across the popular mood of the country which was and still is to leave the EU. A polished, responsible, and committed member of Parliament, her defeat can only be seen as a loss for the Lib Dems and the House of Commons in general. But when you’re the leader of a major political party, you must be able to read the mood of the people in a democratic system, otherwise you’re soon gone.

WINNERS

THE EU: Because for the first time, the European Union now has a reliable partner across the English Channel with which to negotiate Brexit and a follow-on trade deal with the UK. Unfortunately, in the former ‘hung parliament’ situation it was very much a case of ‘mixed-messages’ coming from the UK House of Commons over the past 3-years.

LOSERS

THE UK LABOUR PARTY: As votes are still being counted, it looks like the Labour Party has lost 59-seats, but only because they supported ‘Remain’ instead of properly reading the mood of voters (who, with increasing resolve week-by-week) wanted to ‘just get Brexit done’ and get-on with whatever paradigm that will exist post-Brexit. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a principled, hard-working, and committed MP and the long-serving leader of HM official opposition. Again, being able to read the mood of the public and represent their preferences is a prerequisite for the leader of a major political party. Having retained his own seat, I hope Mr. Corbyn will continue as leader of the Labour Party until an appropriate time can be found for a proper leadership contest within the Labour Party.

WINNERS

EACH MP WHO WON A SEAT IN THE UK GENERAL ELECTION 2019: Congratulations to each and every MP who won or retained their seat in the UK House of Commons. These are the people who will act on the valid and important concerns of UK citizens, such as Brexit, the NHS, the environment, industry, social care, transportation and international trade. And so much more.

Finally, a big Thank You! to the UK journalists who stayed-up all night to cover the most important UK election in decades, doing so with style, grace, and neutrality. Well Done!