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Sticking to the guns: April 29 – May 5 on openDemocracy

Has a red line been crossed in Syria? Bob Rigg urges caution and takes us through the history of chemical weapons in the Middle EastMary Kaldor looks at what arming the rebels would do and laments the lack of a serious discussion about the plight of the Syrian people, Shelley Deane examines the life cycle of civil war, while, on the ground, Rita asks if FSA fighters can ever get their lives back.

4 May 2013

Has a red line been crossed in Syria? Bob Rigg urges caution and takes us through the history of chemical weapons in the Middle EastMary Kaldor looks at what arming the rebels would do and laments the lack of a serious discussion about the plight of the Syrian people, Shelley Deane examines the life cycle of civil war, while, on the ground, Rita asks if FSA fighters can ever get their lives back.

While we worry about gas in Syria, there are still plenty of nukes around, and in a series of pieces Rebecca Johnson covers the UN Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and concludes the NPT is toothless in the face of real world dangers.

openDemocracy columnists Vron Ware and Paul Rogers look at warfare too, military wives and the dangers of developing new weaponry, from drones to lasers. (Another, Dan Hancox, ponders Occupy's legacy in New York.) Erwin van Veen looks at how we can reduce global violence but so far the gun peddlers aren’t suffering, making arms deals in the Gulf and doing just fine in Europe.

In Europe Bernard Rorke calls on the EU to officially recognizeanti-Gypsyism as a long-standing and deeply rooted form of European prejudice, Mario Pianta presents the new Italian PM Enrico Letta and asks if austerity is at the beginning of its end.

Nickel mining threatens Russia’s breadbasket, its nature and population, while government inspectors enforce Putin’s anti-NGO foreign agents bill and Dmitri Travin wonders if the new campaign to combat corruption is real or not.

Marissa Begonia reflects on the fight for the rights of migrant domestic workers in Britain and we look at the link between immigration policy, labour markets and exploitation, and how the country may squander human rights for the sake of deporting a single extremist in a populist move.

In Bangladesh, bloggers have found themselves hunted by fundamentalists, denounced in mosques as atheists, arrested by the government, while in France the different reactions to theban on burqas and to the legalisation of same-sex marriage lay bare the hypocrisy of the French right.

There are attempts at peace and reconciliation in Mali and the Philippines, but we’re warned our optimism should be cautious. In Guatemala dictator Rios Montt is on trial for genocide, while elsewhere Israel continues its policy of impunity for its military and political officials.

Everyone at openDemocracy are very sad to see Niki Seth-Smith leave as co-editor of Our Kingdom, but do read her goodbye letter. Also: UK republicans and tax justicean evening with the Iron LadyUK surveillance lawtrans women in feminism and Jo Shaw on the terror watchdog that failed to bark - Britain's secret justice legislation.

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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.


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