Thursday, 12 October 2017

Football's coming home to Thailand and UK in 2034? And 2032?

The Bangkok Post article on the possibility of Thailand, and Indonesia, hosting the 2034 World Cup was interesting on several grounds:

Sports and Tourism Minister Khun Kobkarn speaking on The Voice rightly expressed some doubts over the viability of such an arrangement.

Clearly the private sector as well as FAT the Football Association of Thailand should be expected to support such an endeavour. Even match-fund some public sector and government investment.

While it would be asburd to go to the effort and expense of staging the World Cup simply for Thailand to gain a pass to the final.

But is Khun Kobkarn right to be so cautious as not just a Cabinet Minister but one of Thailand's leading business gurus?

Certainly large sporting events are fraught with problems - the Bangkok Post uncharacteristically muddling the Rio Olympics of 2016 and athlete villages in disrepair, with the Brazil World Cup of 2014.

As sure as Winter follows Summer - or monsoon follows sunshine - every Olympics has it's share of buildings almost not being ready or the showers oput on upside down or glass doors on the toilet cubicles etc etc.

And ASEAN as a region has often struggled with big-ticket events: Indonesia losing the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 - both mired in corruption allegations. And this week the England football squad on notice of rabies vaccinations for its qualifying matches in Russia.

As an aside, comedian Simon Brodkin this week racing onto the pitch of the Tory Party conference to hand a P45 unemployment notice to PM Theresa May. Brodkin also infamous with his Jason Bent football character who showered FIFA's Sepp Blatter with fake dollars shouting "North Korea for the 2026 World Cup" amidst the widespread FIFA corruption allegations.

While Vietnam in particular struggled with the Hanoi Games in 2019 which had to be moved elsewhere at the last minute. Hardly an inspiring advertisement for ASEAN planning. Nor the problems of Resilience floods from Climate Change that will only increase.

While the Olympics has probably been even worse in terms of planning since Montreal in 1976 nearly went bust, the Moscow 1980 boycott over the Afghanistan invasion, and London 2012 had problems with its VAT budgeting.

And yet.

Aren't problems to be expected with any major event? No surprises there. Not every Mexican wave at Wembley is as perfect as it could be.

But Thailand, as Kobkarn mentioned, has had great successes with SEA Games and Asian Games - I was at Phuket in 2014 and was hugely impressed.

Superb organization and events - but where was everyone?

While the LA Olympic Games in 1992 actually turned a profit.

And of course the London Olympic Games in 2012 was a massive success, even after the great success of Beijing 2008.

And surely the key point is we're talking Bangkok in 2034: 17 years away. If Thailand (or any other nation) couldn't do it with a 17 year lead then when could it? 2044? 2054? In the 22nd century?

And more importantly than Thailand's accounting for any World Cup budget by 2034 - isn't there a golden opportunity to also host the Oympics in 2032? No doubt after the successes of Tokyo 2020, Paris 2024 and LA 2028?

Following the sun across the Pacific from LA to ASEAN by 2032 must surely be viable for Thailand?

### Thailand leading the field ###

For surely the game has changed for a Bangkok bid with not just a 17 year lead-time to tightly plan its infrastructure and transport and marketing - a regular failing of the Olympics is that bids and events are rushed within only a few years, hence the ramshackle athlete's villages and ghost town stadia.

London 2012 successfully avoiding both those problems through construction efforts by Arup and Murphy and Balfour Beatty that also delivered on the Channel Tunnel, The Shard and Crossrail tunnel, all the largest projects in Europe. And now Crossrail 2 tunnel, HS3 and HS2 hispeed rail.

And legacy planning to regenerate Docklands and the East End, the Laem Chabang or Basson of UK, with new stadia for West Ham United, a world class swimming pool, and investment in Hackney Marshes the largest number of football pitches in Europe. Some stadia and buildings designed to be dismantled after the events for use as public parks and promenades and waterways that must surely be releant blueprints for Bangkok.

UK Sports and Tourism Minister, Kent's Tracey Crouch not just an FA referee, but with an eye to swimming pools and ice rinks and cycling races that UK as a Sporting Superpower after 2012 deserves.

But also, as with Brazil, Bangkok would now have the chance to spread the costs and activity over two major events: the World Cup and Olympics.
The sort of two for one offer that even Tesco Lotus and Boots don't do.

And with Indonesia and other ASEAN nations to spread the events and costs over different sites and regions.

Surely the ADB and even AIIB as well as the Myanmar government would be keen for football in Yangon. Or Olympics events in Phnom Penh and HCMC.

If Phuket can host the SEA Games so successfully (Beach Soccer a World Cup variant yet?) and Buriram not just overhaul its football stadium but also a Formula One race track then surely Thailand is capable of making the effort?

### Brazil Sensacional Olympic advertising ###

And the Bangkok Post is unusually simply wrong to suggest the Brazil World Cup was of little value: the Miami Herald article here details a range of successes:

* 3.1M Brazilians attended games in 12 cities - relevant for Thailand in Isaan and Deep South and North after the referendum divisions? - above the 3M target
* the target of 600k international visitors was swamped by 1.035 foreign visitors from 203 nations - for thailand that would be the equivalent of its annual total of British tourists visiting again
* the success lasted with tourists increasing to over 1M visitors the folowing year
* crucially for any Sports and Tourism Minister keeping tight rein on the national purse strings - 61% of foreign tourists were visiting for the first time and 95% said they wanted to return
* the economic success of the World Cup was estimated at $7.5BN from the $6.7BN target - worth comparing to the 222BN THB annual budgeted sunk costs for Thailand's military expenditure through to 2034
* with MICE such a key aspect of Thai Tourism, the Brazil World Cup yielded a bumper crop of 870 extra conferences and events

Interestingly the Miami Herald echoed the possibilities for ASEAN - and Khun Kobkarn's robust plans to expand UTapao Pattatya EEC airport - as Miami International Airport the gateway to Latin America cited a 16% increase during the World Cup and a continued uplift of 6.9% afterwards.

Even allowing for a bit of Ministry of Tourism and government exaggeration by Brazil the 2014 World Cup was hardly a failure more a grandstanding success.
Khun Kobkarn might even dance a samba of her own on these figures and that USA - hardly renowned soccer nation - bought more tickets than any other nation and stated an extra two days.

While the Brazil Cup and Games proved so successful they've gained the 2019 Student Games too.

And 98% of World Cup Brazil visitors saying they approved of Brazilian hospitality and 93% liking the food surely augurs well for Thailand's hotels and somtam sellers?

Bizarrely the research showed German visitors were impressed how Brazilians shared their tables and beer - surely that shows Germans as a bit mean and overly keen on beer?

That aside, what about UK?

There is a further opportunity for both Thialand and UK. Why wouldn't UK support team Thailand and detail its learnings from 2012 Games and FA Cup and Premiership events?

With Premiership football so popular in Thialand - I've detailed before a visit to the River Kwai (it's 75th anniversary next month surely the start of activity) and spending an evening in a theme bar for Stoke City football club. Even Stoke doesn't have a Stoke City theme pub.

Thailand's passion for UK football is only matched by Britain's indifferent approach to deepening such ties.

Surely UK and Thailand are wasting a golden opportunity to build closer links through Premiership football - and not just the occasional visit by Arsenal or Man United or Liverpool?

While Thailand's and ASEAN's rising visitors to UK surely need more effective marketing activity than being pointed towards Wembley or the National Football Museum in Manchester - who knew of that in Mukdahan or Mindanao?

China already has shown some fancy footwork in creating a Football Plan for 2025 - wouldn't it be an open goal for UK and Thailand to do the same?

### Thailand profiting from Sport ###

Stakes in the ground for Bangkok Olympics 2032 and World Cup 2034 would make the activity concrete - and treelined.

While Khun Kopbkarn's concerns over ensuring public sector support could easily be washed away:

* why wouldn't Siam Cement not want to deliver on new stadia as well as hispeed rail stations?
* why wouldn't Minor want to deliver on its food and beverage trade?
* Singha and Chang wouldn't want to be left out nor the Siamese Foxes
* why wouldn't Erawan W deliver on hospitality for upwards of 1M new visitors
* why wouldn't GMM Grammy deliver on entertainment
* why wouldn't True deliver on its mobile phone and broadcast activity
* why wouldn't Thai Airways be upgrading its fleet on the basis of extra visitors
* why wouldn't SRT be upgrading its train fleet too
* why wouldn't Hitachi get on board the Team Thailand bus to the events
* why wouldn't DHL deliver on deliveries whether the World Cup or the Olympic Torch?

Other brands and nations are available - but somebody is going to host the 2032 Games and 2034 World Cup, why shouldn't it be Thailand 4.0 and ASEAN that grasp the opportunity now?

And it be a roaring success too?

And it's far too soon to talk of a silk football strip or sports science improvements.

While the great success of Hungary's hosting of the Swimming Championships must mark out a range of EU sporting excellence for the future from Budapest to Balaton to Buriram.

Khun Saowaruj of TDRI writes eloquently on the EEC (in Thailand not Europe) and S-curve shifts needed to move beyond just FDI and Thailand 4.0 tech shifts, to a future-facing and future-proofed overhaul of Thai if not ASEAN society:

Khun Kobkarn must surely be best-placed too to translate Thailand's offering through not just ASEAN but Japan's zaibatsu keeping the undoubted success of Tokyo 2020 going to Bangkok in 2034 from Mitsubishi to Hitachi to Nissan.

The Bangkok Games would get China's OBOR plans on side for a new Silk Road of rail and road and ports and airports too?

### The FAT of the Land ###

While just on obesity, the Bangkok 2032 and 2034 Games and Cup make sense. Even rabies as highlighted by Russia 2018 Cup (with 60k deaths worldwide especially in India is surely absurd in the 21st century - isn't that about $60k worth of vaccines, maybe $1M?) and TB too given the potential of improving the lives of soi dogs and London as the TB capital of Europe. The Zika virus and unfortunate problem for the Rio Games.

Or even the danger of dementia and brain damage from heading the ball as sadly highlighted by the problems now faced by the 1966 England World Cup team.

## A game of two halves: famine and feast ###

But obesity would be worth the cost of the Bangkok sports events in itself.

Dr James Bentham of Univeristy of Kent cited in the Independent and the Lancet for World Obesity Day this week details an accelerating global obesity rate especially in Asia from 0.7% of girls in 1975 to 5.6% in 2016, and for boys from 0.9% to 7.8%.

Indeed all the top 10 fattest nations are all in Asia-Pacific: Nauru, Cook Islands, Palau, Tonga, Tuvalu etc with 24.4% to 33.5% of the populations with a BMI over 30. Obesity has also ballooned in USA to 19.5% of children and teenagers compared to 9.4% in UK.

UK's leading celebrity chef Jamie Oliver already active on promoting healthier school dinners and children's meals.

And 124M obese children now, is in stark contrast to 192M underweight (and UNSDG goal #1 of zero hunger and malnutrition), mainly in India as well as Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

Asia by the time of the Bangkok Games in 2032 will undoubtedly be suffering from an obesity epidemic even outweighing famine as the global population edges upwards from 7BN towards 11BN.

A cost in healthcare and shortened and limited lives of cancer and diabetes and supersized dental care - that could be factored into the cost of Games infrastructure.

TDRI estimate 6%of Thailand's GDP could be saved - and redirected - through reducing road accidents to UK levels: similar forecasts could easily be made on the health benefits of sports to Thailand and ASEAN.

Healthy living through sports and food, from pineapples to pomegranates, will be ever more vital - and relevant for Thailand's sports fixtures and foods.

The mountain of plastc waste in the environment from landfill, lack of recycling, or the oceans with plastic bags, and the 2.5BN coffeeshop disposable coffee cups with just 1% recycled and plastic drinks bottle deposit schemes, all now under review by UK parliament, and relevant for Thailand and sports events such as yachting and kayaking even beach polo.

Kayaking say the Yuam river along the Tenasserim Range and Mae Sariang near Chiang Mai could also deliver on showcasing the Hidden Thailand aspect of Thailand Tourism through sports and kickstarting any long-stalled infrastructure and environment projects.

UK is far worse at 40% than Germany and Denmark's household waste recycling at 90% - so Thailand's sheet rubber farmers might not gain much insight or benefit from Olympic sports except perhaps stadium seat cushions and tennis balls. But the mountain of plastic waste choking Asia's canals and rivers could surely be cleaned and recycled into stadia infrastructure as a further sporting economic value-add in terms of jobs. HSBC Vietnam extremely active in its Water Projects in the Mekong Delta.

While dynamic Curtis S. Chin former US Ambassador to ADB/Philippines and director of Milken Institute in California cites progressive policies from smaller Asian nations such as Bhutan with its emphasis on Gross National Happiness as a counterweight to the narrow economic deficiencies of GDP:

Timor-Leste ASEAN member by 2020 helping Thailand achieve the World Cup and Olympics? As no doubt would Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, and UK's Pacific Commonwealth friends. Cambodia could even revive its Commonwealth bid of a decade ago, as could Myanmar.

Thailand's Olympic and World Cup bid could easily encompass such progressive views that are already being developed in UK and EU with the Basic National Income, volunteering, jobshares, and 4 day working week as positives in themselves and in balancing the effects of AI and automation.

And when the Olympic torch is lit in 2034 and the World Cup kicks off in 2032, the crowd goes silent, the stadium lights lower, the Toshiba big screen in the stadium lights up...

...and Khun Kobkarn stands in the penalty area and kicks the first ball into the top left of the onion bag, then another sizzler to the top right, and then kicks the ball out of the stadium through the plasma screen...

...and to the new 2030 Mars space station as the ball passes to the first woman on Mars standing under the UN and Thai flags and UNSDG Goals banner. And she wellies the ball onto Saturn's moons and the next phase of space exploration.

Surely the next generation deserves Bangkok Games 2032 and World Cup 2034. Quibbles over wet cement or a few baht here and there will long be forgotten.
For the World Cup and Olympic Games are iconic sporting events to showcase Thailand as well as women's sports and why not Bangkok as the first UNSDG30 Games - or rather the curtain raiser to the UNSDG second iteration to 2040.

A child born today could well be leading out Thailand's women's football team by 2034 as Khun Kobkarn lays the groundwork for the next generation of girls. The Sport England campaign "This Girl Can" or Paralympics "Superheroes" perhaps one of the most inspiring leads to a sporting future for all in UK and Thailand.


Saturday, 7 October 2017

Road safety UK-Thailand - where the rubber meets the road?

Khun Sirinya’s article on Car-Free Friday “Time for some road justice” is packed bumper-to-bumper with interesting insights for UK as well as Thailand:

Bangkok with some of the world's worst traffic congestion and, as with London grave air pollution problems - 50,000 deaths a year in UK, is best-placed to seek way to improve traffic whether commuting or sightseeing.

How many tourists must have considered never returning given the frenetic traffic of the Big Mango? And Khun Sirinya can't be the only commuter worried about being late for work as the traffic slows to a snail-pace - hopefully British buses with aircon and wifi and who knows even a seatback somtam pouch could make the journey easier even enjoyable for many Bangkokians.

A Smart City grid of traffic lights and streetlights would help the freeflow of traffic - and increased solar power ensuring free energy.

Pedestrians and cyclists and street food stalls must surely have priority over transport at least one day a year, and buses over cars. Modern nations like UK and Thailand can hardly consider it rocket science to implement cheap if not free and comfortable and timely public transport? Bangkok's Skytrain and Thai rail almost do it anyway as do London’s excellent integrated Tube and Bus system. The Oyster card and BTS Rabbit surely ripe for coordination between the transport and tourism authorities?

While former Deputy Ambassador to Cambodia Bryony Mathew sketched out STEM structures for schoolgirls engineering a Skytrain and hispeed rail future in Phnom Penh.

UK as a Road Safety Superpower - and its world-class Olympic public transport work - has taken part in last week's #Project EDWARD - the European Day without A Road Death on 21st September. That road programme with the aim of achieving zero road deaths in each European state. Eire quickly achieving that target although the results aren’t in as yet for every nation, and Lincolnshire Police active also on #Fatal4 activity as well as all-terrain vehicles for rural crime.

Unfortunately Kent announced its annual road safety statistics earlier in the week with a promising fall in deaths from 54 to 45, but a disturbing 40% increase in serious injuries to 887 although that may be due in part to - as with the Fire Brigade -to adjusting the statistics to standardised EU data.

Khun Natcha of TDRI citing Thailand’s road deaths not just for the horrific carnage of over 20,000 dead and 100,000 seriously injured, but a downturn on the Thai economy equivalent of 6% of GDP or half a trillion baht. Imagine if just a fraction of that sum was re-geared to road safety work. The Return on Investment for Thailand not just in funeral costs or hospital beds but longer working lives would be astronomical:

Weak KCC council advertising - to nervous passengers?? - and normally another excellent facet of UK road safety - must surely face demands from Chief Constable Alan "The Chief" Pughsley, due back from his Spring-Summer holiday this week, and Kent Road Police to be coordinated by the police themselves who after all are the ones experienced at picking up the pieces from accidents.

And it's no laughing matter if Sweet Joke's appointment as Thailand Tourism Police chief doesn't fast-forward UK-Thai tourism safety activity. UK has much to learn: no dedicated tourist police, no telephone hotline (bizarrely 2 Foreign Office emergency numbers appeared during the Caribbean Resilience crisis to further confuse stranded UK residents and tourists) or website, few translators and many walk-in police stations closed.

Kent Police forecast to be over 90% accurate and separate details on road safety eg the 5 highest speeding cases between 111mph and 150mph (c.200kph) on Kent roads.

As an aside, the new developments by nearby Surrey University with Netherlands Forensic Institute and Intelligent Fingerprinting (surely a CCU University Broadstairs campus -the Hendon of the South partnership in the offing?) in cocaine detection in seconds through just a fingerprint test must be useful for both police forces and even adapted for yaba amphetamines.

UK tourism inbound visitors up 6% year on year in July with 4M visits. And UK residents pulling on their Union Jack shorts for 6.9M visits abroad just 2% down on 2016 even with sterling down 14% on the euro since the Brexit referendum last year. Nothing it seems deters visitors to Britain or Brits from going abroad.
But how would a Thai tourist - or the police cope - in a road accident or street robbery or losing a passport? In London or Manchester or Glasgow?
While Kent's Janet Street-Porter, the feisty and dynamic journalist and talk show host - often walking from Whitstable to Buenos Ayres (Buenos Ayres Margate not Argentina) probably the most beautiful coast walk in the world. Reculver. TS Eliot's Wasteland. Plum Pudding Island. Everything. And of course Broadstairs and, England's first town, Ramsgate and through to Dover's White Cliffs.

Janet has raised the issue of 100 cycling deaths in 2015 (and 3,000 injured) and horrific 400 pedestrian deaths each year - exactly the type of activity CarFree Bangkok highlights.
The recent death of Kim Briggs a mum of two crossing the street in London by Charlie Alliston on a bike without a front brake designed for Olympic tracks raised forensic examination of UK road safety laws. Bizarrely the prosecution had to rely on an 1861 law for "wanton and furious driving" designed for horses and stagecoaches. And even that Victorian effort resulted in just an 18 month jail sentence.

Yet dangerous driving almost on the Red Bull copkiller case scale.

Janet also citing the problem of cycling on pavements and pedzones as here in East Kent, with illegally parked cars almost begging for a police clampdown once Chief Pughsley is back. Rumours abound of Deputy Chief Paul "Marlon" Brandon back in Vegas to boost the police budget in The Golden Nugget. Perhaps not.
London gangs of mopeds purse-snatching and phone-grabbing an updated version of highway robbery.

Janet mentions how the abuse in suggesting cyclists should wear helmets and a mini-MOT and test resulted in months of abuse form the cycling lobby. In my Police Commissioner campaign – my erstwhile rival Henry Bolton also defeated and gaining the booby prize now of UKIP leader - I can vouch that the cycling lobby and gun lobby were by far the most vociferous and organised. Luckily they hadn't merged into a gun and cycling lobby or nobody would be safe.

Certainly as with the astonishingly successful La Vuelta Spanish cycling race and Tour of Britain it raises issues of how best to promote cycling.
While Latvian friends mentioned how their road safety laws require hi-visibility sashes for pedestrians after dark - that ensuring the clothing and bag sashes became fashion items as well. Strangely, with 400 pedestrian deaths each year, I can't think of anywhere in UK where to buy even basic hi-visibility sashes. Schools? Supermarkets? Surely an East Kent-East Europe project in the making.

While an August Bank Holiday crash killing 8 people made national news headlines simply because such incidents are so rare - that the worst accident in decades. Without being UKIP-racist about it, there certainly is a problem in Frontline Kent, and lack of effort so far, with Eastern European HGV drivers awake at the wheel from Moscow to Manchester - even watching television. 8,000 road deaths in Thailand so far this year, framed at over 4x UK levels have expedited political consideration of how best to work with Thailand on road safety.

A TH-UK Road Safety Group meeting quarterly? Janet Street-Porter would be a terrific keynote speaker on cycling and pedestrians.
Certainly a Car-Free Bangkok is too great an idea to only do once a year.

Time for Change

Monday, 2 October 2017

AI and SCB Abacus processing a new UK-Thailand future?

Khun Sutapa Amornvivat in her SCB feature makes several prescient points on the future of AI and SCB's new Abacus venture.

The dull, dirty and dangerous jobs she cites as being core to AI and even the potential for 50% of jobs to be removed by a mix of AI and automation are edging ever closer.

Banking is already being disrupted via mobile banking, the rise of ATM's and - certainly in the UK - wave after wave of bank branch closures. The latter so extensive that questions are being raised on minimum service levels for both bank branches and post office services.

While Sainsbury’s softlaunching its Euston station store with no checkout service only mobile phone AI selection and invoicing for groceries raises an end to bank queues fo rthose branches remaining.

The elderly and digtially illiterate and cash businesses all require counter services fo r some years yet. How else to cash in old banknotes for the new Jane Austen £10 polymer fibre note issued last week or the new £1 coin earlier this Summer? Hopefully those currency changes not causing too much problems in SCB currency exchanges in Thailand from UK tourists and businesses.

While AI may prove a curse before it is a benefit, not just the doomladen scenario of the Singularity or Terminator-style killer robots now cited by no less than Stephen Hawking. But also more crunchy scenarios such as the flash-crashes plaguing the worlds stock exchanges with counter-intuitive trading moves by AI engines (they are machines after all) wiping away stocks and shares values in milliseconds, as well as overnight.

While UK fears over Chinese investment in nuclear power plants such as Hinkley could see the lights going out - along with AI cybersecurity fears over the new smartmeters.

And Estonia has garnered headlines for its e-business and e-government initiatives - not least the potential for EU citizenship should Brexit lumber out of the morgue again. Yet Britain has quietly been forging a digital future to counteract the shocks of AI and mass unemployment. Basic National Income is under serious discussion as well as reviews of the Finland and Ontario financial exercises.

While identity theft combatted through the Government Verify online programme as well as universal access to welfare benefits. And stepping over the hurdle of the generations computer coding now in the UK school curriculum providing strength in depth for future AI and IT corporations.

Unfortunately not yet Thai initiatives such as Yingluck computers or Children’s Day or societal regearing such as Nurses Day or even consistent alphabet learning. Only Britain could potentially fritter away its asset in the English language.

While the growth in voice recognition with Alexa et al have raised cyberhacking fears of high frequency sonic instructions to drain your bank account, or at least stock up on excessive amounts of Hello Kitty merchandise through Amazon.

A subdued UK parliament turning away from the swamp of Brexit and onto surer ground with a soda bottles deposit scheme, microbeads in cosmetics ban and coffee shop cup recycling as well as increased animal welfare and food legislation. All no doubt relevant for Thai businesses and as Brexit fizzles away, a resurgent EU and the EU office in Bangkok.

As with most technology, AI will be a complement rather than a displacer just look at how radio and cinema and television and the internet continue to thrive together. The EKFOS project - East Kent Film Office and Studio - galvanising regeneration and job creation through the expanded satellite TV market, and digitisation and restoration of archive footage.

What price UK cinema if Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock early films are lost forever? While the advance in colourisation techniques provide a further market.

And if a VR bank branch wouldn't necessarily be a must-have digital destination or replace High St branches then the possibilities are only just beginning. With Paris now confirmed for the 2024 Olympics and LA - Follow the Sun - in 2028 then what price turbo-charged FDI investment for an ASEAN Olympics in 2032?

Kayaking on the Chaopraya in Bangkok or Perfume River in Hue or Surfing off Boracay in the Philippines at the very least make a multi-site Olympics viable in Asai-Pacific. Certainly careful planning for a riverfront promenade and hispeed rail would gain momentum. Both LA and London in the recent past showing how to make the Olympics an economic success as well as a sporting one.

A recent AI conference in London looked under the bonnet of most AI to pronounce improvements only in digital speed rather than complexity. While online advertising with the ubiquitous calls for Facebook ads or the Yahoo home page and top ranking google searches is still hamstrung by weak metrics or adserving algorithms.

My finance sector CRM experience with Barclaycard and Citibank and insurers suggests the IT department still holds the levers of power on data-mining for marketing activity. That LTV strategy and that month's ROI marcomms review oft-delayed to the pressure of the monthly credit card statement run or email messaging.

Yet the UK financial sector is booming: total investment by UK-based venture capital and private equity firms soaring to £21.4BN last year from the depths of £12.6BN at the start of the recession in 2009.

Cuba's sonic weapons a misstep even for an economy enfeebled by USA sanctions and potential fix on tobacco and sugar cane. An issue hardly unknown for the pineapple growers of Chantaburi and Hua Hin - United fruit shortsighted in Andy Hall case or BBC Jonathan Head rather than working with UK and EU markets eg Tesco Lotus.

While London is the IT hub for Europe if not the world outside of Silicon Valley in California could pump-prime Thailand's tech markets faster and easier -for tech startups and expertise in all things AI and digital.

British medical expertise Fleming - Alexander not Ian - and penicillin perhaps the greatest invention of the 20th century. Crick and DNA. Universal free healthcare NHS. Viagra at Pfizer here in East Kent keeping its end up.

SCBAbacus could well benefit more widely from the AI market in UK and London, much as UK financial market could benefit from Thai investment in the City whether SCB or others.

Thai investment in UK is still down over 30% from the failed SSI investment in Redcar steelworks now insulated from Chinese steel dumping and accessing the new Nissan and BMW vehicles. And EV and autonomous vehicles are a reality on UK roads as of next year with a concomitant surge in AI supply chains.

While Moody's downgrading UK to Aa2 below Germany, Sweden and Norway (still the world's 3rd best rating on a par with South Korea and France) the day after PM Theresa May's main speech in Florence on Brexit with a transition from 2019 to at least 2021 for essentially the status quo, speaks volumes on the viability and likelihood of Brexit beyond a few facesaving tweaks. Indeed with the political party conferences underway and the LibDems, usually the 3rd main party, already announcing a policy of cancelling Brexit, October may see the end of May as PM and Boris Johnson as Foreign Minister.

And with the German election forecast to be won by Angela Merkel rather than Martin Schulz, the instigator of Liberation Route Europe, amid almost zero mention of Brexit. Albeit the certainty of a Merkel win even the so-called Jamaica Coalition with the Greens and Liberal Free Democrats as if to reshape Europe's economy and EU policy detailed in the Juncker State of the Union address earlier this week for essentially a Bigger and Better EU with expansion of Schengen and Eurozones.

A note of caution sounded though by the dynamic German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel that: "for the first time since 1945 we will have real Nazis speaking in the Reichstag parliament" as the far-right AFD party likely to gain seats. All the more disturbing for Kent with Nigel Farage formerly UKIP leader, who I stood against in 2015 speaking to the AFD rally with the grand-daughter of the Nazi Finance Minster.

While as UKIP plummets in the polls: the leadership race - yet another for UKIP and most UK parties - with a lurch into raw anti-Islam party and rivalled by Kent's Henry Bolton now the new leader who I stood against in the Kent Police Commissioner election in 2014.

But beyond SCBAbacus sewing AI into the fabric of SCB Bank, or bringing to market fresh new AI investments and companies, surely there are some wider AI implications for UK and Thailand that are currently being neglected:

1. Farm to Pharma - the lightning fast speed of data crunching and data mining for innovation gems must surely be kickstarted in the farm industry with soil sensors? And in the Pharma industry with speeding up the too-long march through the foothills of Cancer and Dementia research. Or the fast sprint - given the legwork already undertaken on polio - for TB, HIV, Dengue and Flu vaccines. The UN cites ASEAN as the next pandemic hotspot and London already similarly afflicted as Europe's TB capital.
2. Resilience - the Caribbean storms and earthquakes and undoubtedly volcanoes at some point - the Mount Agung Bali volcano displacign 10,000 people, drowned out by the static noise around the Caribbean crises - all highlight better weather pattern sensors and satellites expedited by AI. And how absurd if Thailand's booming autoparts industry not only expanded but shifted gears to a space industry.

3. Space - and if humanity's journey to the stars and a woman on Mars by 2030 is still adrift for want of a definitive plan, it could have ended in the Caribbean floods for both NASA in Florida and the European Space Agency launchpads in French Guyana. Surely a wakeup call to EurAsia's Star City and Australia rocket ranges. While the astonishing success of Cassini mission to Saturnxxx has highlighted the decades of data available that may not be processed and delivered upon for years unless AI is actioned.

4. Education - Pepper the robot creates not just the MOOC potential of UK's excellent Open University but AI tailored language learning and translation possibilities for English in Thailand as ASEAN's second official language

5. Transport - the debate around the Bangkok bus reforms, leaving aside the actual buses themselves, raises the AI issue of Smart Cities underway in UK to integrate traffic flow, street lighting and traffic lights etc.

AI processing power with SCBAbacus could speed all the above in Thailand and ASEAN if not UK.


Thursday, 14 September 2017

New USA ambassador in London. Ready to turn on the jets for UK-USA trade?

With new USA ambassador Woody Johnson up and running in his second week in London, surely there are a few points he could consider in making the Special Relationship, well, more special?

Every American schoolchild will be familiar with East Kent's USA links, whether the Jamestown founders - and our Virginia sister state - or Margate and Sandwich weaver Tom Paine.

Just on that basis, East Kent can easily lay claim to creating the United States. No problem. Our pleasure. Have a nice day.
Did our American Cousins think we'd forgotten?

No sign yet though on Martin Luther King events in UK for the anniversary next year - he was certainly more popular on this little rock than in Alabama.

Carnegie Libraries as here in Ramsgate with Microsoft software is an iconic example of the special relationship made real beyond the ceremonial and hands across the ocean guff. And why shouldn't American schools have a slice of Raspberry Pii with their computer lessons too. And Free smartphones and Yingluck computers - former Mayor Bloomberg would have gotten onto it by now?

Here in Meiji Kent, there's also concern over Cambodia's rough treatment of the Seabees after all their efforts. And leaves on the line delays with the BKK-PP-HCMC rail link that would increase trade and tourism to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

And if Total petrol here in East Kent was banned due to USA war crimes legislation over Myanmar, the lack of UK effort in that nation is dismal. And shouldn't USA be more active in helping steer Cambodia to democracy.

But there are lesser-known USA-Kent links too whether General Patton's role in Operation Fortitude for D-Day, or Marlon Brando's love of the countryside threatened by Operation Stack and new town overbuild splodge. And POTUS Johnson issuing silver medals to the Broadstairs RNLI for rescuing the USA ship Northern Belle in 1857 – those medals the forerunner of the Medal of Honor?

Or St Augustine in Florida, the oldest Spanish settlement in USA, just up the road from Mar-a-Lago, and named after the founder of East Kent's Canterbury Cathedral, and the delayed Landings Jorvik-style attraction. East Kent busy founding not just USA but UK too, with the Julius Caesar landings- those even more overdue a bit of American pizzazz than the Mickey Mouse antics around the Paramount theme park.

But UK-USA trade all the worse if the Brexit silliness continues - the ambassador could well be advised to stuff his ears with Johnson and Johnson cotton wool whenever that subject crops up.

Britain's had over a year of such Brexit twaddle and tax-waste before it will eventually cancelled.

The UK's Zombie Parliament has returned replete with mono-issue guff on the maybes and might-be’s of Brexit making Britain a laughing stock even before Boris turns up.

The Scottish parliament zooming ahead in terms of competence: reflecting the auto industry ban on petrol cars by 2030, turbocharging electric car charging points, 100% broadband and free tampons in schools. With free university tuition already, a far more competent judicial system, no hereditary sinecures and remaining in the EU it's hard to see how Westminster is an improvement on Holyrood now.

While risking its European allies and 54% EU exports, would be as silly as UK neglecting its USA allies and 25% exports.
And if Texas isn't what it was at the moment with its ten gallon hat holding twenty gallons, then isn't NASA failing us too?
Mars 2030 will slip sideways without a more vigorous effort with the UK Space agency and European Space Agency? A few more weather satellites are needed given both Harvey and now Irma, and clearing up space junk with Japan's space agency for a start.
Kent's Ghurkas one of the few UK troops in Afghanistan - although not the Ghurka engineers or others yet. And why not forward-positioned in the Caribbean given the dismal response to Harvey and Irma?

Is it so outrageous for Ambassador Woody to have doubled UK and USA trade by the end of his tenure? It's a UK target anyway so he'd be pushing against an open door and a permanent UK red carpet.

He certainly shouldn't hesitate in turning on the jets to turbocharge both the New York Jets and NFL, and the UK-USA helicopter industry. And only 3 USA hurricane-chaser weather aircraft for Irma and none from UK?

Junk like the F35 could be easily replaced with upgrades the USMC Harrier or, as has begun, A-10 Warthog - and far more US Coastguard search and rescue and cargo helicopters. And even Hronn Barney Barges that could refloat UK and US shipbuilding.

While despite Silicon roundabout and Silicon Fen and Reading's Silicon Valley as smaller versions of California's Silicon Valley, there's concern over tech-giants such as Facebook and Apple and Google - even the good folks of Starbucks - and the minimal tax they pay in UK, Eire and EU.

And rather than just storms coming out of the Caribbean why aren't the good folks of Starbucks, not just opening more stores in UK (only one in Kent?) but also a more cohesive coffee and Climate Change strategy with say Guatemala and Nicaragua and the good folks of Cuba? America would be a bananas republic not to take a more serious overview of one of its root industries in the 21st century.

Virginia's dynamic Senator/Governor/VP Tim Kaine can't be the only one keen on the blues harp as well as Spanish?
Better late than never can't continue being the basis for the Special Relationship?

Ambassador Woody must wake up every morning already thinking how can Brand USA achieve more American tourists to India without UK and Commonwealth helping ratchet it upwards from London? And more Americans in Eire and Scotland, is no bad thing either. UK and Eire tourism must surely want to ensure the flight across the pond is maximised more than it is?

And if UK business guru, and UK Business Council chair Luke Johnson has drained his cup in Patisserie Valerie or ICE cancer hospice canteen, where is the refill - coffee not cancer drugs - across Central Mexico and the Caribbean Commonwealth? Certainly ageing ASEAN societies such as Thailand and Vietnam could do with a topup - coffee and cancer drugs - from ChiangMai to DaNang.

While colleague Paul Polman at Unilever and Procter and Gamble are finishing off publishing all their cosmetic and household products surely J&J will be too? And even pushing for a global ban on animal testing - an astonishing oversight and failure in the 21st century given the efforts of UK retailers such as The Body Shop and Boots?

The always-interesting New European newspaper highlighting the Brexit shambles but extraordinary UK-USA links with the quintessential Americana of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and Tortilla Flat and The Grapes of Wrath, the author so fascinated with the quintessential Englishness of King Arthur and the knights of the round table he spent months in UK on research.

And dynamic Steve Ballmer of Microsoft looking glum and sleepless in Seattle in his empty philanthropy skyscraper. He can't watch basketball all day why doesn't fly over to little old Englandshire as a roving envoy on UK and EU trade with USA - a sort of Red Adair of business?

Project Huckleberry Friend as a sub-strategy of Meiji Kent and Farm to Pharma would encourage more Americans to visit East Kent.
Kent University's excellent American Studies dept must surely want to link in with USA universities on that as a minimum? Kent's Charles Dickens also not averse to visiting and writing about USA.

A revitalised Ford in UK would help soak up some of Thailand's rubber glut, with more tyres and bumpers, and Doitung planning with UK jobs at Unipart autoparts too. As well as kickstarting the English and Welsh steel industries from Chinese steel dumping.

And crazy golf is no vast sport as yet compared to East Kent's 2020 Golf Open - where are the US Masters activity?

Isaan and Lao silk long overdue as a presence on the UK High St and in USA malls.

Kent supermarkets clearing their shelves of NZ lamb and wine from the Manston-Infratil scandal would open more space for USA's products - another glass of Californian wine or a Pepsi Max?

Some of Thailand’s dynamic Senator Duckworth's wheat’n'meat consituents would surely appreciate more support for Illinois in UK and East Kent - a gourmet ham sandwich sounds tailor-made for them - and Springfield's Lincoln as well as the good folks at Ramsgate Asda-Walmart.

Hospitals surrounded by barbed wire with the public having to throw in penicillin and Elastoplast shouldn't be the American Way - nor the British Way. Where are the UK and USA hospital exchange programmes on cancer and dementia? Certainly they could easily clear out most of the junk food from hospital and sports hall vending machines and cafes.

The UK as a nation of shopkeepers wouldn't want to be selling supersize portions of unhealthy food whether chlorinated or not.

Surely Cuban healthcare would be better for USA with or without the Castros or the stain of Guantanamo on Old Glory - whether the prison or the colony. UK has nothing to be proud of with its tax haven and drugs colonies in the Caribbean but could be a more palatable gringo on Cuban trade and reforms. Sugar cane is hardly a growth industry once Coca-Cola or Oreo's has gone sugar-free.

And if UK and Canadian tourists tremble with excitement at visiting the Big Apple, or with fear at USA's medieval healthcare system, surely the US Army Medicine Corps can't be sat in barracks folding and refolding bandages. Or just coping with GI trenchfoot in Latvia and Lithuania - why aren't these Florence Nightingales in camouflage more visibly interlinked with UK NHS and the Mediterranean boat people refugees?

Otherwise they must be more bored than UK troops counting sheep on the rates in the Falklands. The Chile-Argentina railroad a far more relevant strategic importance to those nations and UK and USA trade.

And with NFL and baseball, why not some ice hockey along with Kent's efforts on a wave of Olympic swimming pools across UK as we Follow The Sun for LA 2028?

And surely Unilever and Proctor and Gamble and Johnson and Johnson could toss a coin over who goes first, or a joint venture, on increasing their UNSG30 HIV efforts with new condom factories and production, as well as the excellent Lifebuoy soap handwashing efforts in Kenya.

And if the good folks of Coca-Cola are having a refreshing pause in Atlanta on their lunchbreak, surely they'll be more active in UK on recycling packaging and bottle return. Perhaps Atlanta's parks removing their Confederate statues to the museums, so why not UK-USA artistry developed as the Trafalgar Square empty plinth?

Ambassador Woody could easily take a step back from the Brexit waffle and carve out a few more slices of bilateral trade with UK.

He’s touched down in London now let’s see him ramp up UK-USA trade in East Kent and beyond.

Time for Change

UK and Thailand missing the bus?

Another excellent report by TDRI think-tank on Bangkok buses and bus reform in Thaialnd suggests both nations are missing the bus:

Khun Nichamon and Pii cite improvements in regulation and bus specification for example.

I've written previously on the potential for UK as a bus supplier to Thailand, indeed a UK strategic template - the London doubledecker bus as iconic as the Model T Ford or E-type Jaguar:

And the recent UK trade deal with Mexico - as well as hundreds of buses provided everywhere from Jamaica to Hong Kong the perfect example of the possibilities.
Certainly the revitalised UK car industry as well as bus and train industries are a shining light of UK industry at the moment.

Factories from Nissan in Sunderland as part of the Northern Powerhouse with Dennis buses and Bombardier trains in Derby and Midlands Engine and Port Talbot steel and Ford sites retooling for growth.

On that basis alone it's to be hoped that UK hasn't missed the bus, Brexit or no Brexit.

While the same must be said for Thailand with the potential in not just import-export jobs, and vehicle assembly, but also Unipart of the Midlands Engine, one of the world's largest auto-parts group, and peripheral industries such as conventions and expos: MICE worth 0.58% to Thai economy in general and 9.4% to the tourism economy in particular.

And it wouldn't be funny at all if Sweet Joke's role as the new Chief of Thai Police Tourism Board didn't instigate more detailed UK-Thai police and tourism cooperation.

And, to be blunt, the volume of Mexico buses - and Caribbean Resilience bus repairs - makes it all the easier for Thailand to hop on board the UK manufacturing process now.

And why shouldn't Bangkok's citizens enjoy the same aircon comfort and wifi, real-time website updates, and safety, as the Great British Bus - and indeed Tube and Train - public?

UK as a Road Safety Superpower applies all the more to the safety of UK buses and trains. Shouldn't Bangkok buses kick-start wider UK-Thailand cooperation on road safety?

Why would Britain not want to ensure tech-transfer as well as customer service training too?

What is preventing Thailand and UK from exploiting the possibilities of a trade deal on Bangkok buses?

UK bus workers wouldn't thank anyone for reduced employment possibilities. While the UK and German and USA investments in the UK car industry would no doubt be buoyed by extra activity.

And Bangkok's citizens wouldn't thank anyone for polluting buses or being left standing in the rain.

There's no reason either why the Eurocopter helicopter industry and new UK-Japan helicopter defence deals shouldn't be viable for Thailand's Resilience activity.

Bangkok's commuters might not enjoy standing in the rain waiting for a bus - a shelter for every busstop is one minor detail of my politics policies here in East Kent - and even less so stood in a typhoon waiting for a SAR helicopter or urban air ambulance.

And even worse if stranded British tourists are exercising their Dunkirk spirit and drinking the hotel bar dry.

And how embarrassing if Thailand's UN peacekeeping troops in South Sudan were the only ones to enjoy riding on a Great British Bus with 200 supplied to Sudan?

They might even be the first to enjoy the Cape2Cairo rail link with the Royal Engineers scoping out the Nairobi in Kenya missing link through Sudan to Egypt's Aswan dam. Thailand's Moslems might enjoy easier links to Jeddah and Mecca too.

Kent has no automotive or bus industry - a few auto parts suppliers and Hitachi,l so can help shepherd the process through to the relevant UK regions and organisations.

So, why not a UK trade conference under the auspices of DIT, say a day in London at the London Transport Museum with the Bus and tube companies, and City Hall with dynamic London Mayor Khan? Mayor Khan from a bus driving family.

With an open top bus tour of London of course.

A day or two touring UK factory sites to see the manufacturing process in detail.

And then a day's larger technical conference at the Margate Winter Gardens venue given the latest developments at this week's Frankfurt Car Show.

And a day's concrete conclusions seminar at the smaller Canterbury Cathedral Centre to deliver action rather than a talking shop?

A day or so's shopping and sightseeing in London would allow for a full and practical itinerary.

The exercise could then be repeated 3 months later in Bangkok, after email and document exchanges, to tighten up the activity and deliver a detailed MOU.
And why not TDRI as the steering group with British Chamber of Commerce and UK Embassy in BKK and Asia House in London?

Surely a practical step forward now is needed rather than UK and Thailand missing the bus?

Time for Change

Saturday, 9 September 2017

UK and Thailand medical activity disabled?

It's horrifying news that the United Nations has castigated UK for failing on disabled rights.

The latest UN disability report cites numerous concerns over accessibility and liveability that affects the UK's ageing society.

For the UN to issue the most recommendations for improvement to any nation ever is an astonishing UK failure.

The failure all the more concerning as UK has often been at the forefront of disabled rights and welfare. Disabled access has been much improved with new-build lifts and ramps and zebra crossing paving stone bobbles and signage for the blind and hard of hearing that are the weft and weave of much municipal town planning.

Indeed writing in The New European newspaper, Alastair Campbell former Downing St official under PM Tony Blair - and vigorous mental health campaigner -and UN Education chair Gordon Brown, and SOS International charity CEO and former Cabinet Minister David Milliband, wrote eloquently on glasses charities expanding their efforts for the world's c.40M blind and partially-sighted people.

Here in East Kent, Ramsgate's Specsavers and Poundland and Boots the Opticians needing no lessons in their charity work on providing spectacles and sunglasses.
Astonishingly Poundland almost effortlessly living upto it's promise of providing basic reading spectacles for just £1 - about $2 or 50 baht.

With UK DFID aid funds rightly under regular scrutiny, in achieving the UNSDG30 target of 0.7% of GNP and c.$20BN, surely 40M partially-sighted people can't be deprived of $60M of spectacles - the work of moments in any spectacles factory - and some shipping or DHL costs?

DHL Express are not just a key facet of Thailand's SME work but a feature on Ramsgate, and every UK High St, within WH Smith the UK's largest newspaper and bookshop.

Along with coordinated cancer and dementia treatments (surely every one of UK's 130 universities and c.200 hospitals must have a specialism on each of the 200 cancers such as colon and liver as a minimum?), and graphene knee and hip joints, cataract surgeries are a key facet of any ageing society's medicare policies.

And if basic NHS dental care seems to have slipped backwards into pricing out a free service and increased children's sugary fillings, then Operation Smile expertise on cleft palate surgery could be easily expanded.

The UK rolling out its world-class Moorfields Eye Hospital to the Gulf states and India proves such medicare co-operation is possible - along with the debate over what NHS services are provided for free abroad. Wider linkups between the NHS and Thailand's 30 baht health scheme can't be impossible.

While Thailand's chain of Blue Flag welfare shops and e-cards for discounted food and toiletries and medical products would be a step change, as popup shops or shelfspace, for both UK foodbanks and banks and retailers.

But the almost daily reports of repulsive disability welfare and work testing - and the dozens and dozens of resultant suicides are a UK national scandal.

Much as the recent UK election (was it really just 3 months ago?) appalling potential policy of old people having to sell their houses for medical care, in effect crippled the PM May government.

While UK learnings and failures on disabled access must surely be relevant for Thailand such as the Missing Link rail station and disabled lift from Bangkok's main airport.

Even East Kent's biggest boondoggle (second only to the $2M fire station garage on sports fields or Stack megacarparks and megatowns overbuild incoherence), the bizarre $30M Manston Parkway airport-railway-station-without-an-airport limps on, but was planned with wheelchair access and disabled lifts.

As an aside, a rail project even more delayed than the Poipet Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam link - surely UK TH-KH support, along with EU and Japan and Australia could release further ADB/AIIB/EU/JICA/AusAid development funds to end the logjam of the last kilometre and keep the project on track?

And the flow of train carriages and rail-buses and rail stations hopefully with full disabled access. It's especially apt with President Jokowi railing against the slow pace of development and FDI in Indonesia and urging greater enabling efforts.

But the road safety implications of fewer zebra crossings and semi-privatised skywalk overpasses are serious. Flights of stairs in the scorching heat, and without disabled lifts as at Mahboonkrong, essentially create a disabled and elderly no-go zone in central Bangkok if not in other major Thai cities too. As do the cluttered and broken pavements that reduce wheelchair or zimmer frame access to Thailand's buzzing street food scene.

The excess of concrete and absence of greenery also contributing to Climate Change floods.

Recent horrifying Daily Express reports of NHS and council waste of millions of dollars of wheelchairs and zimmer frames, crutches and bed lifts left to rust in nearby Sussex, instead of being refurbished and reused, could as a minimum be shipped to Thailand or Cambodia and Laos for Third Sector development.

The 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death highlighting her work on landmines - and HIV and leprosy and Prince Harry's Invicta disabled games - so rusting wheelchairs and crutches and artificial limbs is a horrifying UK failure.

And BBC reporter Chrissie Reidy's dynamic reporting on a $60,000 NHS Kent training CPR mannekin for use in road safety accidents or asthma - and NHS Sussex burns units - suggests the UK's tsunami of medical innovations could be more fully opened not just to Thailand, but within other Kent and UK hospitals and public sector organisations such as Kent Police and Kent Ambulance.

A Kent Police Innovation Fund on the CPR mannekin for example could ensure regular and round the clock paramedic training - the Dorset and Cornwall police merger certainly not the last nor with the Fire and Rescue service, requiring paramedic expertise - without the dangers or delays of using real patients. Video links and training films with Thai police and ambulance would undoubtedly help reverse the road safety deaths and injuries and expand translation work between the two nations.

Only Britain could possibly consider frittering away its disabled and medical and English language expertise.

While the expansion of defibrillators for heart attack and stroke victims must be both a police and town centre imperative in UK and Thailand even before the first responders respond.

The glum statistic of over 8,000 Thailand road deaths so far this year and cited as over 4x UK road deaths must surely call for UK support as a Road Safety Superpower? Only 4% of Thai citizens using the seatbelt in the back of taxis (if the seatbelts are there) highlights the road safety education work needed that UK has rigorously invested in over decades.

And BBC South East reports on DJ Mike Dowder of Ministry of Sound establishing a soi dog charity in Thailand for vaccinations and neutering and surgery - one dog so crippled as to be dragging itself along the streets until provided with a doggy wheeelchair - must surely also be a UK support facility, for public health and animal health, as well as ensuring a Thailand focus in the Home Counties.

East Kent's MP Roger Gale a keen patron of an animal charity to rescue animals not just in the day to day scandal of soi dogs, but in the Resilience floods now affecting India and Bangladesh and Nepal, from the repeated Isaan and Deep South floods, as well as Texan cattle.

I'm no great animal lover at all, with the exception of Felix the Cat or Hello Kitty, but surely with the monstrous absurdity of at least 20,000 Indian citizens dying each year from venomous snakebites and rabies, plus the dangers of both human and animal TB, UK and Thailand should be active on ramping up the whole range of medical activity?

Discovery Park here in East Kent as the largest USA inward investment in Europe with Pfizer, along with Sittingbourne Science Park and 4 universities and 6 major hospitals within an hour's drive must be the beating heart of UK and Thailand cooperation with Pfizer and Glaxo and Novartis, Watson's and Boots etc.

The new UK Biopharma strategy rather weak in its overreliance on Oxbridge and overcrowded Silicon Fen.

At the moment, UK and Thailand medical activity looks to be disabled.


Thursday, 31 August 2017

Britain in Texas and USA in UK - waving or drowning?

The details of the effects of Storm Harvey on Houston and Texas are horrifying. And the storm warnings now spreading as far as Louisiana.

And as with Storm Katrina and the deluge that afflicted New Orleans just a few years ago, it is astonishing to see a city, an American city, and Houston as the 4th largest American city yet again in a primeval life or death struggle.

That said, to have just two deaths in the first few days and as of now still only seven deaths is very fortunate indeed. Especially with Storm Harvey retreating, then attacking the American coast again.

With most households without insurance and at least 10% and upto 30% of America's oil refining affected, the economic storms - and blame game - will continue long after Harvey has disappeared. Moody's already place the storm damage at upto $50BN - something of an extraordinary guesstimate given the storm still rages.

Certainly Climate Change has yielded one of the strangest Summers - perhaps with La Nina an added and foreseeable factor - with blazing forest fires across California, Portugal, France, the Balkans and Australia. Floods of the same magnitude of Harvey have affected India and Bangladesh, Nepal and Thailand several times this year with 1,200 dead in the latest stormburst.

And with the Arctic icecap at its lowest level and potentially a sea route, Climate Change is cutting no ice in the threat it poses and already a very real factor for Resilience beyond the Lone Star state and levees of Louisiana.

##The only negative on the Bank Holiday the worst UK motorway accident in decades with 8 dead in the sort of minibus and HGV and drinkdriving crash that is sadly all too routine in Thailand - the latest toll of over 8,000 dead so far this year now routinely cited in comparison to (4x) UK levels. The UK as a Sporting Superpower whether by Aston Martin or on the buses should certainly consider itself a Road Safety Superpower too.

And here in Kent the warmest Bank Holiday Monday on record is a relief but likely matched by more severe Autumn and Winter storms. A drop of rain though playing havoc with East Kent's broken sewers and blocked drains that would shame Houston and should shame Southern Water.

While Houston’s issue of building on flood plains and weak town planning is hardly unknown in UK given the rash of mega-towns planned with no more review than dividing the bloated annual housing target by each council.

The rising tide of excessive salaries and pensions for monopoly institutions such as councils has begun to be highlighted by Lord Adonis in readiness for Parliament returning, over university vicechacellors and academy schools.

And still there is no NHS update on last Winter's excess OAP deaths - the awful sight of Houston's La Vita Bella care home patients upto their waists in floodwater a real concern for UK too. While the damage to hospitals and pharmacies and their medical stocks will pose a medical threat beyond diabetes and defibrillators, or statins and tetanus.

While the strange Sussex toxic coastal haze - just down the sealanes from East Kent - with hundreds of sunbathers affected by a mysterious choking cloud has raised questions over shipping pollution, access to decontamination units and even wartime mines.

And if USA as the world's richest nation and plethora of State agencies from FEMA to DHS to National Guard to USCG to military reservists can be so badly affected by not one but two storms, then the warning light is blinking for the rest of the world.

Perhaps the Louisiana Delta should be added to the Bangladeshi and Mekong deltas - or even the Thames Barrier - as the UN regions most at risk of ongoing Climate Change.

And of particular concern is the closure of the UK's Texas consulate during the storm. Surely that's when it's most needed for UK and EU - and USA - residents and tourists and businesses? What worth is a fair weather friend when the storms blow?

It's possibly the worst UK effort on the American continent since Yorktown.

And a Trumpian wall has proved something of a liability given Mexico not hesitating in stepping forward with support for their Texan friends.

And what worth is the UK in the Caribbean if the Royal Navy is not on high alert during the storm seasons?

There's no vast meteorological expertise needed to know that the Caribbean and Pacific in Summer have the most damaging storms - some 90% of all natural disaster casualties. A navy that sails away from the guns and thunder is of little use.

Monserrat for example as a British Overseas Territory and Caribbean Commonwealth member, even suffering a volcanic explosion that affects it today.

But the Bank Holiday Monday hosted the Notting Hill carnival in London - Europe's largest street festival - and slightly more subdued than usual for its proximity to the Grenfell tower block fire.

And astonishingly a Royal Navy parade too. A rum do indeed.

Surely the Royal Navy is needed in Texas and the West Caribbean not sashaying through West London, on the lash for rum and sodomy?

This RN pina colada party on the rates all the more embarrassing with the Edinburgh military tattoo hosting a US admiral for the first time, and the grim accidents afflicting overworked US Navy ships such as USS John McCain.

The UK's Royal Marines could perhaps best deployed in their traditional role of shooting down errant bluejackets if this is the best use of tax.

The excellent Max Hastings book Catastrophe 1914 even cites Winston Churchill - the archbuccaneer of Channel raids and Gallipoli - as First Sea Lord(!) that: "the Navy are very bad at war" and much earlier that the navy was: "intellectually becalmed in the smoke of Trafalgar".

Losing the peace seems the order of the day now - or at least the Caribbean - and endangering UK citizens with a lack of Resilience rigour.

How would British relatives contact Texas with the consulate closed? More pressure on the 911 numbers? Via the UK embassy in Washington - a continent and two or three time zones away so that it may as well be in the Solomon islands. Via the Eire embassy and overwhelm their phone systems too? Or leave a soggy voicemail after the beep if the electricity is still on?

Operation Smile medical ships as a minimum would be a serious improvement in military medical support. Although the NATO naval efforts in the Mediterranean regimes collapse and thousands of boat people deaths, even with Britain only now refloating the Libyan embassy and Thomas Cook refloating the Tunisian tourism industry, hardly inspires confidence.

And if the success of the RNLI in fundraising is perhaps negative in excessive kit - a quad bike roaring up and down Kent's Blue Flag beaches? - for just 40 water deaths a year then surely as a sea-based Red Cross its international activities are far weaker than they should be? 400 water deaths in Vietnam and the same again in Thailand and Philippines can only increase without Climate Change Resilience efforts.

While the UK's municipal dither and can't-do over incidents such as Grenfell, or Thor mercury – is that so different from the Arkema explosion or flood dangers at UK nuclear sites such as Dungeness - is in stark contrast to the firm leadership of US Governor's Abbott in Texas with Harvey, McCauliffe in Virginia with Charlottesville, and Bobby Jindal with Deepwater Horizon.

While Asia's Prayut and Duterte haven't been caught slow in stepping forward on the Isaan floods and resurgent ISIS Marawi conflict.

Fortunately, Arizona's veteran Senator shrugging off brain cancer in the sunlit uplands of the fight for Obamacare. And Thailand's dynamic Senator Tammy Duckworth leading the charge on aviation improvements in Illinois factories and universities that, beyond mere earmarks, and the scraping of the pork barrel, would fully deliver American Resilience.

While previous Ambassador Barzun sterling efforts in highlighting Kent's Pocahontas and Virginia's Jamestown whether in the cold Kentucky rain, London fog or Kent sunshine means he’s not the first Kentucky thoroughbred or hopefully the last to turn up on Kent’s shores.

Flyover country can't always be a flyspeck in Washington? And there must be more inspiring sports events than the Bladensburg Races?

And new Ambassador Woody Johnson must also be loosening his dungarees, tapping out his corncob pipe and pulling up a straw bale at the County Barn to see how Kent and USA links can be developed? Any fried chicken mess on the front seat of his Jeep Landrover or John Deere tractor could be wiped away with a Johnson and Johnson wetwipe to develop USA trade beyond junk food. Just look at the success of Wyoming in ASEAN.

A 21st century Lend-Lease for say cargo helicopters and support ships for Caribbean and Pacific nations is hardly impossible - nor is consistent global emergency numbers and websites. At least Texans on holiday know to call 911 in New Orleans or New York but what about in New Delhi or New Caledonia or if there was a Harvey in Havana, or even the Shambles of Old York underwater again?

And such efforts would be sustainably viable to help refloat the global economy and minimise future storm damage. In my advertising role, perhaps icons such as The Man from the Pru, or the quiet diligence of Willis, is needed once more if the men from the Royal Navy are out partying?

And in my politics role I've long argued for Town Insurance Schemes - Bristol and London scoping out similar green energy plans - of reduced insurance for say East Kent's 250,000 citizens and 75,000 homes joining a council plan. Such volume and certainty, would also allow for rapid and full settlement of claims along with, say free travel insurance for Kent's citizens, as well as any Texan visitors.

Certainly the storm clouds of UKIP medical tourism would be held at bay - and Learmonth's Learjet on standby for Kent citizens unfortunate to fall prey to the worst excesses of America's dysfunctional healthcare systems.

For East Kent in the shadow of the white cliffs of Dover, needs no lessons in the value of the sea, and not since the days of the perilous storms of the Spanish Armada with UK citizens and sailors abandoned dead and dying in the streets of Margate has there been such failure of national will in the howling winds of Climate Change.

With most of the world's 7BN mouths in cities and most of those cities by the coast and rivers, the dangers of Harvey are ever more likely and the failures of Katrina ever more unacceptable.

While the absurd overspend on aircraft carriers without any - or very few - aircraft seems a result of what Hastings terms the Admiralty's slow seadogs. The Russian Defence Minister - worryingly also viewing UK through the telescope of the defunct Cold War as an implacable European foe - simply terms them bigger targets for drones.

And the UK RN base in the Gulf seems to be the Navy's 7 ships trying to ape the role of the USN 40 ships. Or worse, propping up some of the worst Gulf kingdoms - that increasingly an anachronism with the end of both oil and the combustion engine.

Private Eye citing the Northern Ireland police denying then confirming training the Omani police and military in torture techniques raises questions of how UK military and civilian police should be used abroad.

The chaos of the Trump White House still hasn't appointed FEMA hurricane directors and only now some 10 months on after election and the tempest of Oval Office purges, a USA Ambassador to London. Shouldn't Anglo-American relations be better than the usual better late than never? Perhaps the Lone Star state should reopen its old embassy in Trafalgar Square to fast-forward support from the limeys and other Europeans.

But for all the Royal Navy's idling in port, Hastings cites over 809,000 men, 203,000 horses and 250,000 tons of stores shipped across the stormy Channel without loss, as well as fending off the first Uboat induced famine, in the Autumn of 1914.

The lack of cargo helicopters and in-air refuelling now suggests deeper failures in Resilience and war-making capabilities sit under the surface. The US Marines buying up all the UK's Harrier jump jets, for carrier and jungle and desert airstrips.

And even President Trump raising concerns over the cost and viability of the F35 jets, and Saudi Arabia flying more British military jets than Britain, suggests the Royal Navy is adrift in a sea of vanity projects, Cold War reactionism, inter-service rivalry, and plain old-fashioned nautical nincompoopery.

Since at least the carrier battles of 1944, the role of the world's navies has been something of an anachronism as well as a luxury. And Houston underwater is an unacceptable price to pay for either a lack of UK Resilience efforts or the UK standing both shoulder to shoulder and knee deep with the Lone Star state.

The beginnings of another round of naval disarmament and limits may be beyond any one military service, but at the very least a more co-ordinated UK and NATO is crucial. And Resilience factors, whether the military and first responder coordination or cargo helicopters and forward-placed aid dumps and rotations is vital.

A cheap and simple and recyclable Higgins Boat – developed on the bayous before DDay -or Barney’s Barges, if you will. Britain's shipyards couldn't build them all but whether in San Diego or Virginia Beach, or Dhakar or Hong Kong or Pusan a raft of such Gresham Liberty Ships, and new materials such as graphene would be a breakwater against Climate Change.

While Bill Gates sat in the pouring, ever warmer, rain of coastal Seattle must surely have computer-crunched population centres and rainfall with the 8% of malaria deaths not in Africa, or at least in Central America's Nicaraguan Mosquito Coast and Haiti?

How disastrous if the Houston disaster was to last as long as the aftershock of the Port-au-Prince earthquake.

While USA struggling already with Third World medicare even before the Trumpian attemps to reverse Obamacare, must highlight the need for civil and military medical Resilience. Even if the Canadian NHS has to provide it.

To say nothing of cancer or dementia drugs poured down the plughole in hospitals and pharmacies from disasters such as Harvey.

The UK's year of silliness on Brexit, and now the empty position papers must have cost at least 0.7% in GDP for nothing at all except national decline and drift.

And Gates and Buffett and Branson and Bezos and Slim and Polman and Bono and Carter and Annan urging a G20 UNSDG 0.7% Fund would almost instantly deliver it. Who would want to delay the UNSDG30 and Resilience in its first year? If President Trump delayed, then President Zuckerberg certainly wouldn't, but why wait four more years or even four more months?

While the bumper glut of Latin American crops this year and the usual tsunami of Thai and Indian rice should refloat any Resilience city or island, as well as being regularly funnelled into UNFAO Scaling Up Nutrition work against malnutrition.

Virginia's dynamic Governor and First Lady keeping a weather eye out for childhood malnutrition, and proving their Breakfast Club has more substance than an ‘80's teenflick. All the more concerning here in UK with a rising tide of food banks, junk food malnutrition, cuisine culture fading and inattention to five a day foods.
And even important beyond La Vita Bella for Kent's pensioners in care homes, or with meals on wheels nursing, and especially Kent's Special Measures hospitals if water already has to be issued on prescription.

And Houston may yet face the waterborne diseases and alligators that Togo with the Carter Center has helped overcome this week to end lymphatic filariasis.
But Port Arthur battening down the hatches in true Dunkirk spirit and issuing an SOS call for a fleet of citizens and Little Ships that Ramsgate knows all too well.

The issue for the Lone Star state though is how quickly Houston will be rebuilt - the aftermath of Katrina and Fukushima, and Kobe and Nepal earthquakes even now suggests far less than is needed, or stated, will be done.

But certainly Royal Navy ships and helicopters would have been vital assists.

And what happens with the next storm? Waving or drowning again in USA and UK?