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When in Rome...
It is a pity that your 'Short History of Corporations' (Inside Business, NI 347) did not begin two millennia ago because it was the Romans who gave us the concept of the limited-liability company.

Click here to read this NI issue. Wealthy Romans wishing to expand their business interests, but without jeopardizing their existing fortunes, could establish a business called a cartellum. The requirement was that the cartellum had to have seven partners with equal shares. Once set up, individual partners could be sued only to the extent of their capital in the cartellum.

There was also the fiction that anyone who wished to serve the state was obliged to relinquish all commercial benefits and positions. As a result, every aspiring senator devolved the dayto- day running of his businesses to an assortment of subordinate family members, who took the business titles - and any responsibility for problems - without actually controlling the businesses. At this distance in time it is not possible to know if any of the Caesars had connexions with a Grupus Carlylus but I bet they did!

James Cannell
Dilwyn, England

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Look around and you'll see that events are going against neoliberalism, the climate is changing

Wind of change?
After reading NI 347 all I found out was that companies influence government policy. This is not exactly shocking.

All this talk of dastardly conspiracies, GATS and corporate lobbying couldn't hide the central flaw in the analysis - governments are still in control. The GATS treaty may be terrible, but it is in the hands of our government to sign it (or not). While it may not have the revolutionary chic of knee-jerk antiauthoritarianism, why can't the Left lobby to stop the Government signing away our sovereignty?

If we are going to get 'Inside Business' why can't we hear about it? Now that Enron, Worldcom, shareholder value, mergers and acquisitions, accountancy firms, 'market populism' and ratings agencies are discredited, even within the business community, what does that mean for the future? A whole raft of events and trends show that the business world is experiencing its biggest shift for decades, but the NI prefers to talk about Latin America. Look around and you'll see that events are going against neoliberalism, the climate is changing.

Tom Freke
London, England

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I begin to believe that it is still possible to stop the juggernaut

Stopping the juggernaut
Each week I write a column in the local paper on behalf of the Anglican Church of which I am a priest. I try to bring large issues home to my rural Aussie readers in the hope that they will act locally for justice and peace. Some weeks I lean back after writing my 600 words and wonder whether it will do any good at all.

Tomorrow I will put fingers to keyboard; but tonight I read the most dismal issue of NI (NI 347) yet - the power of corporations seems infinite against what's left of people power. Then I turn to this one-page gem on the Mujeres Creando of Bolivia (Making Waves), and I begin to believe that it is still possible to stop the juggernaut.

I am due out now, to a meeting to help establish a community fund to help those who fall between the cracks in an affluent and self-satisfied society. I go with renewed hope.

By all means keep up the battle on the large global issues - but never stop telling us the small good-news stories that energize us in an overwhelming world.

Peter Llewellyn
Bombal, Australia

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Young women at risk
Increasingly, the HIV/AIDS crisis is disproportionately affecting women - in sub-Saharan Africa, women make up more than half of all HIVpositive adults (How to crush AIDS, NI 346). The virus is transmitted from men to women up to four times more easily than vice versa. It is also disproportionately affecting young women. Women tend to become infected at a younger age, and develop full-blown AIDS more quickly than men do.

You rightly highlight the link between poverty and HIV/AIDS. Recent estimates suggest that women make up nearly three-quarters of the world's poor. This places young women in double jeopardy. Y Care International, the development agency of the YMCA movement, agrees with Wayne Ellwood's assertion that, without skills, too many young women face a life of few opportunities, and may even face the bleak choice of becoming sex workers or starving. Our recent report, Young women: learning to earn, looks at how to reach this particular group, who have so often been marginalized within development policy. We would like to see more opportunities for young women everywhere to access training in ways which suit them, in supportive environments and taking account of their existing commitments.

Dr Christopher Beer
Director, Y Care International
London www.ycare.org.uk

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Castro's plan
This is a quote from Fidel Castro, speaking at the UN Millennium Summit, 7 September 2000: 'Our country has sufficient medical personnel to co-operate - if the UN agrees - with the World Health Organization and the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa , who are suffering from this destructive scourge to the greatest degree, in order to organize the infrastructure needed to administer those medications in Africa on an emergency basis. I am not exaggerating. This could signify 1,000 doctors, and 2,000 or 3,000 health workers...'

'Cuba offers the UN, the World Health Organization and the African countries, the personnel necessary for developing not only AIDS programs but other healthcare programs as well, and also to give hands-on training to technical and nursing personnel.'

I am shocked that it was never mentioned in NI 346 which was dedicated to AIDS awareness.

Mijail Mendez
London, England

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Click here to read this issue of NI Dissenting voices
1 The AIDS/HIV problem is indeed tragic, widespread, and genuine. However, your approach failed to address the basic controversy surrounding the disease - does HIV cause AIDS? This is a difficult question that is still open to rational debate. The institutions of government, medicine and science would like the public to think about AIDS/HIV as presented in your 'HIV/AIDS: A Primer'. This is the view of the AIDS/HIV establishment which is driven by power, profit, and politics. However, there is some dissent within respectable ranks which suggests that HIV does not equal AIDS does not equal Death. While you may not agree with these dissenting voices, to fail to present them is suspect.

Bill Goldman
Grandville, US

2 I am very disappointed in the AIDS edition of NI. All the evidence that American AIDS is a consequence of a drug-use epidemic that started in America after the Vietnam War is ignored.

The evidence that AIDS fails all epidemiological criteria for an infectious disease is ignored. The evidence that AIDS in Africa is simply a reclassification of diseases that Africans have been dying from for a long time, for example tuberculosis, dysentery, malnutrition, completely ignored. That there are thousands of HIV-positive tested people who live with no AIDSrelated health problems, ignored. On the other hand that there is no credible evidence that HIV causes AIDS is not a problem at all. As an enlightened Condoman might put it, 'If you can't be game, be shamed.'

Peter York
Melbourne, Australia

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The lads from UNSCOM
David Ransom's excellent essay ('Rogue superpower', NI 347) contains one inaccuracy in the claim that Saddam was responsible for the departure of the weapons inspectors. This is a myth long perpetuated by US and British government spokespersons.

According to Hans von Sponeck, former UN co-ordinator in Iraq - who followed his predecessor Denis Halliday by resigning in disgust at the effect of the embargo - the sequence of events was as follows.

On the morning of 16 December 1998 he arrived early at the UN compound at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad and, to his astonishment, found the weapons inspectors (UNSCOM) packing up their vehicles to leave. Querying them, he learned that there was an imminent bombing by Britain and the US. UNSCOM, raiders of convents, nursery schools, orphanages and churches in their search for weapons, were not about to hang around and be bombed. The fearless lads from UNSCOM scurried off down the Baghdad-Amman highway for Jordan and safety. Whilst they slept in comfort in Amman, von Sponeck and his collegues endured a four-day blitz, sleeping on the floors of their offices. The reason for the bombing was ascribed to a report written by UNSCOM's Executive Director, Richard Butler, stating that Iraq was concealing weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Butler had not even finished writing his report, let alone presented it to the UN.

It also transpired that UNSCOM personnel included CIA and British special-forces operatives, various spies and a number were travelling on false identities - a suspicion Iraq had long held and one of the reasons why Iraq is extremely reluctant to let them back in.

Felicity Arbuthnot
London, England

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Choices for change
Re David Loxley's letter (NI 346) on Another World is Possible.

Although an essential element, unilateral or even organized multilateral abandonment of debt repayments would be insufficient in itself to impact significantly on the fundamental relationships between the rich and poor nations.

From a 'Western' point of view, we must accept that we are going to have less, that we are going to have to pay more to get what we have and we are going to have to do more that is 'useful' to get the money to pay for it. A tough change to make.

We have to make a choice of how this change is going to occur, or have the decision taken from us while we fight a losing battle to maintain the status quo.

Ben Saunders
Kingston-on-Thames, England

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Letter from Lebanon

A visitor in the mountains
Searching for her grandparents' grave, Reem Haddad relives the pain of a region's past.

I had envisaged laying down flowers on their graves, saying a small prayer or even introducing myself. But nothing had prepared me for this scene. Instead of the gravestones with loving inscriptions of my grandparents' names, I stared at skulls and bones strewn around the small cemetery. The marble tombs had been smashed open and the bones and skulls lay scattered carelessly around the overgrown graveyard.

I wasn't sure which skulls belonged to my grandparents and which to other relatives. It was an ugly scene and one which told the story of the hatred which engulfed these mountain villages during the Lebanese civil war.

I was still a child but I remember well my parents talking about the War of the Mountains. I remember hearing the deafening booms of rockets and artillery shells going over our heads from one village to another whenever we approached the mountains. They were times no child could ever forget. I remember hearing of relatives who were killed in the War of the Mountains. And I distinctly remember my father's warnings to the family that we should stay away from the mountain villages for the time being.

As Christians, we were no longer welcome. Neighbours and friends had turned against each other. For centuries, Christians and Druze (an offshoot of Islam) had coexisted in the mountains. True, there had been massacres two centuries ago when Lebanon was a hotbed of European political interests, but life had since settled peacefully around the two communities.

In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon and led the way for its Christian ally militia, the Phalangists, to enter the mountains. One former militiaman later told me: 'We went to help the Christians in the mountains, but they were not grateful and treated us badly.'

Small wonder. It was this 'help' that led to fierce battles in the mountains. Surrounded by Israeli troops, villagers found themselves fighting off the Phalangists. Many atrocities were committed by the Christian militia on Druze villagers. In turn, the Druze fought back and vented their anger on Christian villagers. Suddenly neighbour turned against neighbour. Some Christian villagers joined the Phalangists. To make a long story short, the Phalangists lost and Christian villagers were forced to flee from most of the mountain villages.

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Illustration: Sarah John

That's how it seems to be in a war. If a Muslim militia attacks you, you begin to hate all Muslims. If a Christian attacks you, then you hate all Christians. Cool heads don't prevail. Revenge and anger are all one sees.

And it's obviously all that could be seen by the people who desecrated my grandparents' grave. Since the war ended in 1991, formal reconciliation - overseen by the country's president - has taken place in some of the villages and Christians have been allowed to move back.

But this is not the case in my village. The hatred still runs too deep.

My grandparents loved their village. I never met them but I have always heard a lot about them. Countless stories have been told by my older cousins about the pre-war visits to my grandparents' house in the mountains. My grandmother, Rose, was a good cook and delicious food was always available. My grandfather, Salim, ran a hotel in Jerusalem, Palestine, but returned to his village after Israel was created. They were hard-working village people. Both died before I was born. And according to my cousins, I missed out on meeting two wonderful people.

'We will never forgive what the Christians did to us, never,' said one angry shopkeeper as I stopped to buy some refreshment. 'We don't want them back.'

Later I met some distant relatives of mine. When prompted to relate the past, their answer was immediate. 'The Druze attacked us too,' said one. 'Let me tell you how.'

But I didn't want to hear any more. It didn't really matter. As far as I could see, both groups had committed atrocities. It was time to start anew.

A few weeks later, I met a young Druze man who is from my village of Abey. We have since become good friends. The past didn't matter to us. He promised that the day will come when I will build a home in Abey and we will become neighbours. Once our elders are gone, he said. I think about my family's cemetery sometimes. I know I should attempt to collect the skeletons and rebury them with new gravestones. But at the moment the task is too daunting for me.

I haven't told my father about his parents' desecrated graves. But somehow I think he knows.

Reem Haddad works for the Daily Star in Beirut.
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