Media Watch 14/3/15

By Rowan Williams

Cyclone Pam has hit the southern Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu, leaving devastation in its wake. Eight people have been confirmed dead, though United Nations aid agencies have said that figure could rise to dozens. Vanuatu’s President Baldwin Lonsdale has appealed to the international community for aid following the cyclone. Rain and winds of up to 170mph battered the islands, including the capital Port Vila. Fears now grow for communites on more remote islands, with worries that entire villages may have been destroyed by winds.

Britain’s mental health services will receive a funding boost in next week’s Budget, with £1.25 billion allocated for services, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has confirmed. The fund will be spent over five years and will focus on helping young people. Money will also be used to support pregnant women and new mothers. The Liberal Democrats have made addressing mental health issues a priority for their party, stressing the issue in their election manifesto. Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget is to be announced in full on Wednesday.

China has summoned the Myanmar Ambassador after a bomb dropped in Chinese territory from a Myanmar aircraft killed four Chinese civilians. Fighting in Myanmar’s border region with China continues between Myanmar government forces and local rebels, with China repeatedly urging calm on all sides. Myanmar has denied it carried out the bombing, claiming that rebels may have fired into China to create misunderstanding. The incident comes just days after a stray shell flattened a house in Chinese territory, though in that instance there were no casualties.

The Papers

A few health stories appear on the front pages today. The Independent leads with news that scientists in the US are trying “to modify human eggs genetically”. While the research raises questions about ‘designer babies’, the paper notes the technique “could eliminate inherited diseases from affected families”. The Times leads with news that the government has pledged funding to improve child mental health services, after a campaign on the issue by the paper. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that “incompetence and negligence” in the NHS “nearly killed” UK Independence Party Leader Nigel Farage. The report comes from a serialisation of a book written by Farage. The Guardian leads with news that senior Liberal Democrat Vince Cable has ruled out a “grand coalition” of three parties that includes the Scottish National Party (SNP) after the general election. While a coalition of Labour, Lib Dems and the SNP had been speculated at, Cable called it inconceivable that his party would ally with a party wishing to break up the UK. The Financial Times leads with news that after the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing programme, investors have poured “record amounts” into European shares.

British Media on China

On Britain and China’s Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB): Britain announced plans to join the China-led AIIB recently, receiving a warning from the US in the process. The story received coverage from the BBC, Guardian and Daily Telegraph. The BBC writes that the UK is the “first big Western economy to apply for membership” of the AIIB, and notes the UK’s difficult position in trying to find a balance between the US and China. The Guardian writes of US “anger” at Britain’s decision “in a rare public breach of the special relationship”. Britain will “be able to shape the new institution” as a founding member, the paper reports UK officials as saying. The Daily Telegraph features an opinion piece on the story by Martin Vander Weyer, Business Editor of The Spectator, asking “Who cares what America thinks?” Chancellor George Osborne “should ignore Washington’s reprimands”, the article opines. The only way to influence Chinese behaviour “is to be at the table doing business” with China, Vander Weyer writes.

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