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Rebellion flares across US cities

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Instead of addressing the root causes of police violence, the authorities have done nothing

Minneapolis is burning and the fire is spreading across the country.

George Floyd was murdered on 25 May by the Minneapolis Police Department. He was murdered by Derek Chauvin, an officer who has murdered innocent people in the past and gotten away with it.

For three nights in a row, Minneapolis has been ablaze. Crowds of thousands have gathered, setting buildings on fire, destroying police cars and getting into skirmishes with the cops.

West Bank and Gaza are trapped between pandemic and siege

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The Israeli occupation seized tents in the West Bank that were being used as emergency clinics reports Yousef Asfour, Palestinian activist living in the Gaza strip

In Gaza, we understand what being under a blockade is like. More than two million people have lived under siege for over ten years, it is one of the most crowded places in the world and has experienced three wars that have destroyed infrastructure including hospitals and health centres.

SNP is culpable in the coronavirus catastrophe

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Edinburgh has tail-ended the disastrous Covid-19 policies of Westminster

It is a given that the coronavirus crisis has exposed the rotten, inhuman priorities of Boris Johnson’s Tory government at Westminster. It is less obvious that Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) administration at Holyrood also has difficult questions to answer.

Covid-19 has been allowed to ravage Scottish society in essentially the same way it has in the other countries of the UK.

The mainstream left face defeat and dilemmas

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It is beggars belief that Piers Morgan and The Sunday Times have been much more effective in calling out the government than the opposition

The defeat of Jeremy Corbyn in December’s General Election and his subsequent replacement as Labour leader by Keir Starmer raises serious questions for the mainstream left. These are underlined by the suspension of Bernie Sander’s bid to become the Democratic Party candidate in the US presidential election and his endorsement of Joe Biden’s candidacy.

Greece wages war on refugees for EU

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On 3 March EU commissioner Ursula von der Leyen went to Evros on the Greek-Turkish border in order to congratulate Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on his murderous policy against refugees.

She also pledged €700 million (£635 million) to continue his work, stating that Greece has become “Europe’s shield”.

Meanwhile, Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias’ request for an urgent EU leaders’ summit on the “refugees crisis” was met on 18 March when they held a conference call.

However, the issues discussed were Covid-19 and the resulting economic crisis.

Sweeping powers puts France under the boot

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France is in Covid-19 lockdown with strong decrees enforced by heavy state power. Nearly everyone accepts that there has to be an end to most social interaction. But it’s being done in a harsh and class-based manner.

The first fine for violating the rules over confinement or being outside without reason is €135. This is increased to €1,500 in the event of a repeat offence within 15 days. In the case of four violations within 30 days, the offence will be punishable by a fine of €3,700 and a maximum of six months in prison.

Private hospitals profit in crisis

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The NHS has done a deal with private hospitals to use almost all their capacity during the coronavirus epidemic.

Despite NHS England’s claim that there will be no profiteering, it seems likely the taxpayer will be hit for the full cost of all private sector beds used. This means a very expensive bailout for private hospitals whose usual business would otherwise be badly affected by Covid-19.

Private health facilities should belong to the NHS in the first place. Most private hospitals, in my experience, contribute nothing whatsoever to training medical and dental staff or any other essential members of healthcare teams.

Their consultant medical staff are generally not salaried by the private hospital. Instead they either bring private patients with them from the NHS or have private patients allocated to them by the hospital, which pays a fixed fee for the elective—planned, non-urgent—procedure.

Private hospitals contribute nothing to out of hours or emergency care, to treating trauma, acute strokes, heart attacks, pneumonias, psychoses and so on. Private hospitals do not offer emergency diagnostics or emergency in-patient treatment.

Even where a well insured person demands to be taken to a private hospital, the ambulance will always take them to an NHS hospital.

Most private hospitals do not offer critical care. They may have ventilators and high dependency beds, especially so if they offer elective cardiothoracic surgery, but if someone suffers complications and requires critical care then almost universally the patient’s consultant will want them transferred to an NHS critical care bed.

Private hospitals are almost all only in the business of providing elective care. Given the government’s Covid-19 advice and guidance, all elective care should by now be cancelled, so private hospitals shouldn’t currently be earning any money and will have significant spare capacity.

The NHS will most likely use private sector beds for recovery and recuperation and to look after rehab patients (who might not get any rehab). It will try and move so called “bed blockers” from front line hospitals. That is patients awaiting community care assessments, packages of care or placements in rehab, continuing care or nursing home care accommodation.

This will help to reduce pressures when NHS capacity is reached—as was already happening in most hospitals several times a week as evidenced by the long trolley waits in A&E departments for emergency inpatient care.

In other words the private sector will provide care and maintenance for a group of very low-cost patients.

The government has been very coy about the cost per inpatient bed day that they have agreed with the private sector. It will, in all likelihood, match the average cost of an acute NHS hospital inpatient bed day.

But costs in the private sector are far lower than those of the NHS. Private sector hospitals directly employ fewer staff—wages in the private sector are about 20 percent of turnover, in the NHS they are 70 percent.

The private sector specialises in uncomplicated surgical procedures with short recovery periods. It will provide only a staff grade non specialist doctor, no consultant led care, no specialty or sub-specialty care, no diagnostics, no rehab and no out-of-hours specialist care.

If things don’t work out, they will simply call an ambulance and return the patient to the NHS. Anyway, it will probably have recruited its staff from the NHS which trained them.

A small number of private hospitals might agree to take Covid-19 patients, but it is very unlikely that they will take critically ill patients.

Government funding will, I suspect, be used to diagnose and treat urgent but straightforward NHS cases during the crisis, or to catch up with waiting lists after the crisis rather than investing in NHS capacity.

I don’t generally comment about the private health care sector. It is used by the super-rich, people whose employers buy health insurance for staff, rather than pay corporation tax to fund the NHS, and by individuals driven to despair by the failings of a grossly underfunded health service to deliver them the treatment they need.

I have no confidence in private health care management or its standards of care.

It is parasitic on the NHS and should be brought into public ownership now.

Johnson’s U-turn

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Who could have foreseen the extraordinary events of March when the Covid-19 crisis led the Tories to shred every orthodox belief of the past 45 years?

Boris Johnson has been forced to subsidise the wages of millions of workers while throwing more money at business than during the 2008 bank bailout.

Business has been paramount in his calculations. But Johnson has been running to catch up with the reality of infection and deaths.

Rishi Rich takes top job as chancellor

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Boris Johnson has just installed the richest man in the House of Commons, Rishi Sunak, as Chancellor of the Exchequer in his “people’s government”. The fact that Sunak is a disgusting sycophant, only appointed because he was prepared to demonstrate absolute commitment to the realisation of Johnson’s greatness, and who would do what he was told, should not disguise this fact. Indeed, a willingness to publicly humiliate and demean oneself before Johnson is now an essential requirement of being a Tory minister.

Election spells the end of Ireland’s old order

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The reverberations of the dramatic Irish General Election continue as we go to press. Sinn Fein’s astonishing electoral insurgency has put a serious dent in the old order of Fine Gael/Fianna Fail, which had prevailed for nearly a century.

Not only did Sinn Fein win more of the popular vote than any other party, its leader Mary Lou MacDonald topped an impressive election campaign by winning more votes for Taoiseach (prime minister) than either the incumbent Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael or Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail.

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