What next in the Gaza?

Armed Islamist factions in Gaza put their men on alert today after ending a six-month truce with Israel and warned the Jewish state not to attack. But apart from the rhetoric, calm prevailed.

Some of Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinian residents, who rely on supplies via illicit tunnels from Egypt as long as Israel keeps borders closed, feel the truce was a swindle anyway, but there is an uneasy peace in the area.

So what happens now? Both sides need to justify their next steps to their own supporters but is there a next step that will keep both sides happy? Is there any way of making progress?

Zimbabwe: How to get Mugabe out

The international community is stepping up attempts to boot Robert Mugabe from office.

In Britain, the government and the Church of England have gone further than ever before in the strength of their language against Africa's great survivor.  The question is, how far would you go to remove Mugabe?  Are words and modest sanctions enough, or is there time for a new tack?  Might having an American President with roots in East Africa make a difference?

Or, indeed, is it anything to do with us?

Costa Coffee colonises the NHS

Coffee shops Starbucks and Costa are continuing their rapid expansion by moving into NHS hospitals.

A survey by The Independent shows that 40 of 170 English NHS hospital trusts now has a branded fast food outlet. A further five are about to sign up chains. Most are cafes like Costa, Ritazza and Uppercrust. A few are takeaway joints such as Burger King.

Does it matter that these brands are moving into the NHS? For burger chains, the answer is obvious, though apparently not to hospital managers in Cambridge, Southampton and Rotherham. But some coffee shop food is unhealthy, too.

Surprisingly, some Starbucks and Costa Coffee sandwiches have more fat than a Big Mac and the sweet pastries can be as salty as bacon - although it's difficult to know because they are not required by law to display nutritional information. Perhaps the National Health Service should associate itself only with healthy food.

On the other hand, a familiar branded cafe may brighten up an otherwise distressing hospital visit. Judging by their proliferation, coffee shops are popular. They are also paying the hospitals money, which presumably goes back into frontline patient care.

Still, it's food for thought.

Below are details of our survey. The hard work of phoning 199 NHS trusts was done by Lucy Pearce, a trainee journalist.

Branded food chain outlets at NHS Trusts and Authorities:

1. Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – Costa Coffee
2. Bromley Hospital NHS Trusts – Costa Coffee
3. Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – Costa Coffee, Burger King, Uppercrust and Café Ritazza
4. Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - Costa Coffee
5. Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust – Costa Coffee
6. Ealing Hospital  - NHS Trust - Costa Coffee
7. Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust - Costa Coffee
8. Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust – Costa Coffee and Café Ritazza
9. King's College Hospital NHS Foundation – Costa Coffee
10. Kingston Hospital - Costa Coffee
11. Chelsea and Westminster Hospital  NHS Foundation Trust - Costa Coffee
12. Luton and Dunstable Hospital - NHS Foundation Trust - Uppercrust and Café Nova
13. Great Ormond Street  Hospital for Chidren's NHS Trust - Costa Coffee
14.Newham University Hospital NHS Trust - Costa Coffee
15. North West London Hospitals Trust - Costa Coffee and Starbucks
16. Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals – Starbucks
17. Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation - AMT Coffee
18. Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Trust – Café Ritazza
19. Southampton University Hospital NHS Trust – Café Ritazza, Uppercrust and Burger King
20. Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – Café Ritazza
21. The Hillington Hospital NHS Trust - Ritazza Coffee
22. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Kings Lynn NHS Trust - Ritazza Coffee
23. University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust – Costa Coffee
24. University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust – Costa Coffee and Java Café
25. Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust – Subway
26. NorthTees and Hartlepool  NHS Foundation Trust – Uppercrust
27. Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – Java City
28.Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust – Uppercrust
29. Heart Of England NHS Foundation Trust – Costa Coffee, Hargreaves
30. Mayday Healthcare NHS Trust – Café Ritazza and Uppercrust
31. North Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust – Uppercrust
32. Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust – Costa Coffee
33. Swindon and Marlborough NHS Trust – Starbucks
34. Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust – Costa Coffee
35. Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust – Costa Coffee
36. Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - Costa Coffee
37. Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust - Café Ritazza
38. Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – Starbucks
39. The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust – Burger King and Uppercrust.
40. Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – Costa Coffee

Five NHS trusts are planning or considering having branded outlets:
1. Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
2. Walsall Hospitals NHS Trust
3. Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust – Agreed a deal with Costa Coffee
4. Basingstoke and North Hampshire NHS Foundation Trust
5. St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust – Agreed a deal with Costa Coffee

No NHS trust in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland admitted to having a branded food outlet.

The battle for the Old Confederacy

North Carolina has been a Republican stronghold for decades. So can Barack Obama really overcome the history of racial prejudice in the southern states?

The polls suggest that America will elect Barack Obama its first black president in two weeks. But the tidal wave of enthusiasm for him points to him not just winning the White House but capturing two important states of the Old Confederacy, North Carolina and Virginia.

Both have reliably gone Republican during every presidential election for 40 years, and only once since 1948 has Virginia voted to put a Democrat in the White House. On a US electoral map, these are the highest peaks of prejudice the Democrat is poised to overcome. North Carolina, especially, is a place where some of the nastiest race-based campaigns have been fought in modern times. The ground is now shaking under the country club Republicans as the polls give Senator Obama a margin of some 10 percentage points in Virginia and put North Carolina on a knife edge. Read more.

Question: Can Obama really pull this off and does it mean a sea-change in US society as well as politics?

Hello from the Independent and the UK

The Independent is one of Britain’s leading quality newspapers (online since 1999) known for it’s even-handed approach and for building opinion and analysis based on intelligent thought, rather than the opinions of the proprietor.

As such, we’ll be covering the US Election with our eyes on how it affects the Washington elite, how it’s playing amongst ordinary Americans and how the rest of the world views it all. So we want your views on whether you feel motivated by this election, and whether you’ll vote – and maybe even which way you’ll vote. Is Obama viewed with such glee as he is in Europe? Would you define McCain as experienced or as part of the old guard? And, if you’re American, do you care what the rest of the world thinks?

We’ll be posting news and comment stories here, as well as, of course covering it on our own site


and blogs

So, stick with us, and join the debate…