24 April 2008

from darfur, with love

"Tomorrow will be the fifth anniversary of the Darfur conflict. On this occasion, a remarkable petition, consisting of over 30,000 handwritten signatures and testimonies from Darfuri refugees, will be submitted to Gordon Brown in Downing street."

you can read the entire post here. when i first read about the petition, it made me cry.

22 April 2008

the quirks of US politics

you can imagine my surprise at this particular headline, 'pay up or risk long battle, obama told' in today's guardian. the lead paragraph surprised me even more:

"Barack Obama has been warned that his refusal to pay the traditional "street money" to local operatives to help get the vote out in Philadelphia today could cost him the crucial percentage points needed to knock Hillary Clinton out of the race for the White House."

my immediate impression was that of bribery and gang warfare, reminiscent of politics in many parts of the world. as i continued reading however, i learned that 'street money' is apparently a normal practice in america:

"The committee people and the ward leaders have to buy lunch for hundreds of people, otherwise they won't have good workers. They have to buy coffee, orange juice and doughnuts. That's just the way it is."

i also learned that obama has not been playing by the rules, instead building up his own 'volunteer network'. if he hadn't, estimates suggest he would've paid out between usd 400,000-500,000 (just in philadelphia). wow. maybe this is why he hasn't reported any debts yet, unlike hilary.

but seriously, the amounts of money involved in the us presidential elections are
staggering. and disturbing.

another disturbing (but highly amusing) story told to my news class by scmp's foreign correspondent last week: when he was covering the 2000 elections, he went to a town in new hampshire, where al gore was to speak. there were apparently many student supporters present, ready to wave their banners and all as soon as the tv cameras arrived. none of them however, were in fact from new hampshire; they'd all been transported from columbia university and other places.

again reminiscent of political practices in other countries. countries where we're trying to change the norms.

15 April 2008

hk's three-month health care reform 'consultation'

health care reform in hk has been on the books for a long time, with one of the first commissioned reports appearing in 1999. nearly 10 years later, the government has prepared yet another report, which is now (supposedly) under public consultation. in other words, you have three months to choose from a list of options set out in the report.

from the government's point of view, it is the financing of hk's health care that is in need of urgent reform, due to 'an aging population and rising medical costs' which are an increasing burden on the current tax funded health care system. for this reason, a substantial part of the report focuses on different financing options, all of which require additional funding. from the middle class it seems.

legislator fernando cheung notes the absurdity of the government refusing to tax capital while insisting on the necessity of taxing those with an average wage of hkd 10, 000 or more in its various financing options (such as a mandatory medical savings account like in singapore).

"one cannot but feel that true to its character as a bulwark of business, the SAR government recognizes a tax only when it is levied on profit-making; when a tax is levied on wage-earners, the government finds it appropriate to call the tax by numerous other names except admit it is a tax... the government owes society an explanation as to why it considers it appropriate to impose the entire burden on wage-earners with monthly income at $10,000 and above."

it is therefore important that issues of equity and access are discussed, and some social consensus reached on the reasons and benefits of health care reform and financing.

01 April 2008

cairo cycler's club

while living in cairo, i would never have envisioned a cycler's club as being feasible, let alone something i (or my friends!) would join. while i'm still not confident enough on a bike to think of navigating cairo's crazy streets, i am very excited that such a club exists. all the more so since it involves social activism, awareness and ck! (did you get the helmets yet?!)