No shades of grey

26 January 2005

It's not just the bright sunshine and Brazilian colours that mean there are no shades of grey at the forum. Much of the politics is in black and white

When it comes to the Iraq war, a straw poll - and the posters and graffiti all around - speak with one voice: "farce", "imperialist ploy" and "long live the heroic iraqi resistance".

No space, so far at least, for nuance or any sense that some good may come out of the Iraqi election, however tragic or compromised the circumstances.  For a range of views  - by no means all pro-election, but much more thoughtful - see Iraqis on openDemocracy.

Similarly, the word is that Lula, the Brazilian president, may get a pretty rough ride when he comes to an early morning event tomorrow in stadium. The majority here clearly think he's gone too far in making deals with what is known here as the neo-liberal order.

Before the week is out Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, is almost sure to be greeted as man of the forum.  Not too long after Lula flies off to Davos tomorrow afternoon to build a bridge to the suits, Chavez jets in to Porto Alegre to express solidarity with the T shirts of the MST (Brazil's Movement of Landless Workers).

Chavez comes fresh from overseeing occupation of land in Venezuela owned by an English Lord.  The man has charisma and big cojones. It's hard not to chuckle at his recent offer of a one dollar bet to George W Bush that he would be longer in office than the US president. 

But will Chavez outlast Lula?  The countries are vastly different. Comparisons are not especially helpful.

This will not, however, stop the MST capitalising on Chavez's visit. They are shaping up for a big challenge to Lula a little later this year because they see the pace of land reform in Brazil as far too slow.

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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