Thursday, 14 September 2017
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
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
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.