World Health Organisation spokesman Glenn Thomas, one of dozens of health experts and officials on MH17. Photo: AAP/United Nations, CC BY
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Global Aids community mourns loss of friends and colleagues in MH17 crash

Many of those on flight MH17 were experts in Aids research, flying to Kuala Lumpur to make a connecting flight for the 20th International Aids Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

The international Aids community is mourning the deaths of researchers whose plane was shot down over Ukraine and who were travelling to Melbourne for a global Aids conference.

The former International Aids Society president Joep Lange and his partner and ArtAids board member Jacqueline van Tongeren have been confirmed as having been on the flight, while there are reports of others including a World Health Organization spokesman, Glenn Thomas.

298 people – 283 passengers including three infants and 15 crew – were killed on the Malaysia Airlines flight 17.

Global leaders mourned
David Cooper, director of the Kirby Institute at UNSW Australia, was a friend of Joep Lange. He received a call at 3am telling him that Lange and his partner were on the flight.

Professor Cooper said his colleague of 30 years had “an absolute commitment to HIV treatment and care in Asia and Africa”.

“Joep was absolutely committed to the development of affordable HIV treatments, particularly combination therapies, for use in resource-poor countries,” Professor Cooper said.

Professor Lange was a professor of medicine and head of the Department of Global Health at the Academic Medical Centre at the University of Amsterdam. He served as president of the International Aids Society from 2002 to 2004.

In his 30 years of researching HIV, he led pivotal trials of antiretroviral therapy and published more than 350 papers in peer-reviewed journals.

“Another outstanding area of [Lange’s] contribution has been his pioneering role in exploring affordable and simple antiretroviral drug regimens for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in resource-poor settings,” Professor Cooper said.

“Both of these have been part of his dedication to increasing access to effective HIV treatment.

“The joy in collaborating with Joep was that he would always bring a fresh view, a unique take on things, and he never accepted that something was impossible to achieve.”

More AIDS2014 delegates feared lost
Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has told reporters this morning: “A number of people who were travelling to Malaysia for an international Aids conference were also on board”.

The Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was due to connect with a flight to Perth, before people travelled onto Melbourne, Reuters and others have reported.

UNAIDS director Michael Sidibe, who is already in Melbourne for the week-long 20th International Aids Conference, tweeted: “Many passengers were enroute to #AIDS2014 here in #Melbourne.”

The conference organisers, the International AIDS Society, released a statement expressing “sincere sadness” at the news of the M17 disaster:

At this incredibly sad and sensitive time the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy."

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.The Conversation

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Leader: The age of Putinism

There is no leader who exerts a more malign influence on world affairs than Vladimir Putin.

There is no leader who exerts a more malign ­influence on world affairs than Vladimir Putin. In Syria, Russia’s military intervention has significantly strengthened the tyrannical regime of Bashar al-Assad. Under the guise of fighting Islamist terrorism, Mr Putin’s forces have killed thousands of civilians and destroyed hospitals and schools. Syrian government forces and their foreign allies have moved closer to regaining control of the rebel-held, besieged eastern part of Aleppo, a city in ruins, after a period of intense fighting and aerial bombardment. In Europe, Russia has moved nuclear-capable missiles to Kaliningrad, formerly the Prussian city of Königsberg, through the streets of which the great philosopher Immanuel Kant used to take his daily walk.

Across the West, however, Mr Putin is being feted. As Brendan Simms writes on page 30, the Russian president has “annexed Crimea, unleashed a proxy war in eastern Ukraine and threatens Nato’s eastern flank, to say nothing of his other crimes”. Yet this has not deterred his Western sympathisers. In the US, Donald Trump has made no secret of his admiration for the Russian autocrat as a fellow ethnic nationalist and “strongman”. The president-elect’s refusal to commit to Nato’s principle of collective defence is an invitation to Russian expansionism in the Baltic states and eastern Europe.

Mr Trump is far from alone in his admiration for Mr Putin. In France, François Fillon, the socially conservative presidential candidate for the Républicains, favours the repeal of European sanctions against Russia (imposed in response to the annexation of Crimea) and a military alliance in Syria. In return, Mr Putin has praised his French ally as “a great professional” and a “very principled person”.

Perhaps the one certainty of the French election next spring is that Russia will benefit. Marine Le Pen, the Front National leader and Mr Fillon’s likely opponent in the final round, is another devotee of the Russian president. “Putin is looking after the interests of his own country and defending its identity,” she recently declared. Like Mr Trump, Ms Le Pen seems to aspire to create a world in which leaders are free to abuse their citizens’ human rights without fear of rebuke.

In Britain, Paul Nuttall, the newly elected leader of the UK Independence Party, has said that Mr Putin is “generally getting it right” in Syria. Mr Nuttall’s predecessor Nigel Farage named the Russian leader as the politician he admired most.

Mr Putin, who aims to defeat the West by dividing it, could not have scripted more favourable publicity. But such lion­isation masks Russia’s profound weaknesses. The country’s economy has been in recession for two years, following the end of the commodities boom, the collapse in the oil price and the imposition of sanctions. Its corrupt and inefficient bureaucratic state now accounts for 70 per cent of its GDP. Its population is ageing rapidly (partly the result of a low ­fertility rate) and is forecast to shrink by 10 per cent over the next 30 years, while life expectancy is now lower than it was in the late 1950s.

Yet this grim context makes Mr Putin an even more dangerous opponent. To maintain his internal standing (and he is popular in Russia), he must pursue external aggression. His rule depends on seeking foreign scapegoats to blame for domestic woes. Not since the Cold War has the threat to Russia’s eastern European neighbours been greater.

How best to respond to Putinism? The United Kingdom, as Europe’s leading military power (along with France), will be forced to devote greater resources to defence. Theresa May has rightly pledged to station more British troops in eastern Europe and to maintain sanctions against Russia until the Minsk agreements, providing for a ceasefire in Ukraine, are implemented. The Prime Minister has also condemned Russia’s “sickening atrocities” in Syria. Germany, where Angela Merkel is seeking a fourth term as chancellor, will be another crucial counterweight to a pro-Russian France.

It is neither just nor wise for the West to appease Mr Putin, one of the icons of the illiberal world. The Russian president will exploit any weakness for his own ends. As Tony Blair said in his New Statesman interview last week, “The language that President Putin understands is strength.” Although Russia is economically weak, it aspires to be a great power. We live in the age of Putinism. Donald Trump’s victory has merely empowered this insidious doctrine.

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage