Fears and hopes

In the last days of 2005, leading thinkers and scholars from around the world share their fears, hopes and expectations of 2006. As Isabel Hilton asks: What does 2006 have in store? (Part one)
Neal Ascherson
22 December 2005

For 2006, I fear:

That the hopeful people of Iraq who go out to vote against all the threats of death and destruction will see their country fall apart into new destruction created by foreign meddling and megalomaniac clerics;

That the provincial fools who rule Iran will betray their long-suffering subjects, by driving the country into follies which will tempt Bush and the neocons to strike at them;

That Israel will press forward with the colonisation of the West Bank, until yet another Palestinian uprising and yet another wave of Israeli military reprisals postpones Palestinian statehood;

That China's growing demand for energy, raw materials and food will overwhelm all the world's efforts to conserve the rainforests and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels;

That the European Union will fail to replace its abortive “constitution” or to reconstruct the budget crippled – in the fiasco of the British presidency – by Tony Blair's unforgivable obsession with the rebate, and will begin to drift backwards towards disintegration;

That the Blair government, faced with more illegal outrages by the Bush presidency, will once again fail to protest and shame us with another display of hand-wringing servility.

For 2006, I hope:

That the people of China will gradually bring together all their countless acts ofprotest, in the factories and the countryside, into an unstoppable upheaval of democracy;

That the Israeli government will release Marwan Barghouti, and let him unite the Palestinian factions into a formidable, credible force which can make hard bargainsbut can guarantee that they will stick;

That the European Union will learn the lessons of the disastrous British presidency, and move towards the inevitable: an integrated core Europe which will insulate itself against British reluctance and intrigue;

That Lebanon will complete its liberation from Syrian interference;

That the Turkish people, in the name of a modern democracy, will at last challenge the forces of reaction, controlled by the military and intelligence nexus, which use ignorance and blind chauvinism to maintain their grip.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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