With all the media smothering us in the phone-hacking scandal, other stories are being under-reported. Harry Raffal casts his eyes about the lower reaches of the newspapers to bring you five stories you may have missed.
With the fallout from the hacking scandal continuing to dominate the news, only briefly broken to inform us that a fat couple from Scotland have won over £160 million on the lottery and that the Beckams have provided a ridiculous name to their daughter (so she won’t be bullied by other celebrity kids), here are the five news stories you may have missed if you were busy fretting over who was going to win the apprentice.
One: The decision has been taken to release funds to the Libyan rebel forces of the Trans National Council (TNC). Despite NATO having launched over 6,000 sorties against Gaddafi forces the TNC has failed to provide the advances on the ground. A lack of equipment and ammunition has been blamed and the decision last week will allow us to provide arms and munitions on a larger scale whilst also receiving payment for them. No doubt previous arms supplies will also be calculated. In today’s news are reports that the Libyan rebels are close to capturing Brega, a major oil refining centre in the east of Libya.
Two: The Territorial Army is going to be increased in size and provide improved training. However, this will be at the expense of the regular army with news today confirming those cuts are likely to run to 19,000. This measure will undoubtedly save money if our troops are not sent into another conflict in the decade after this reduction. However, should we need to mobilise 10,000 TA soldiers in that period the cost of providing further training and the additional logistical expenses, purchased at short-notice, may well see these savings significantly eclipsed. It all comes down to a bet that are foreign policy is going to be run rationally, given that are last five Prime Ministers have all been involved in wars I’d be wanting better odds than are being offered here to take that bet.
Three: The British Government is donating £52 million to aid the crisis in the Horn of Africa. Whilst this has allowed Andrew Mitchell, the Secretary of State for International Development, to tell the BBC that Britain is taking the lead on this issue one has to ask what are WE getting for our money? Assuming that a little over 10% of that money will be lost through wastage, inefficiency and local corruption roughly £45 million will reach those affected to buy food, medicine, shelter and other necessities. But what will this accomplish? Supposing the rest of the world is similarly generous, and so far countries such as Saudi Arabia (who one might reasonably expect to take the lead given those involved and its proximity but has yet to significantly contribute), we might save large numbers of lives. But what then? A question particularly pertinent given the large number of Somali refugees. A) They will migrate away from the area with the likely destination for many Europe via a circuitous route. B) They will return to their homes. In Somalia this will mean returning to land torn by conflict where they will either be drawn into the local conflicts or piracy or face starvation next year C) they will remain in the area and cause serious disruption and further problems requiring more aid at a later date. For the record I don’t oppose foreign aid and it would be difficult to do nothing here. However, I do dislike that our aid policies often seemed geared to the short-term and fail to address the long-term development of Africa. I also find it objectionable that our government should feel it appropriate for us to take the lead on this crisis when countries with a more natural moral obligation fail to do so.
Four: NATO forces in Afghanistan have handed the province of Bamiyan over to local security forces. This is the first area to be to be handed over, others are in progress, and with the pending reduction in the number of NATO troops this is emerging as a period of transition in Afghanistan. The death of Ahmed Wali Karzai, governor of Kandahar, is also of serious consequence.
Five: Flying low under the radar is news of the immense ecological damage caused by the drilling at two leaking oil platforms in the Bohai Sea. The Chinese Government, who suppressed news of the leak for a month until the 850km Oil Slick required action, have now ordered the operator, US company ConocoPhillips, to cease drilling.