Archive for September, 2010
“They’re just a pair of big girl’s blouses” muttered Albert as he shook the rain from his ferreting coat. It is a long time since I took an interest in blouses, big or otherwise, and his meaning was lost on me until others joined in the moan and I realised that the brothers Miliband saga is beginning to irritate my pals.
To the newspapers it is a soap opera of Lady Gaga proportions but even by those standards some of the explanations given for David Miliband’s decision not to serve under his young brother beggar belief. Most ludicrous of all is the claim that he wishes to spend more time with his sons, Isaach and Jacob. Does anyone seriously believe that he would have said that had he won? Almost as daft is the stuff about giving his brother space or being embarrassed by their conflicting views on Iraq. The history of Cabinets, shadow or government, contains hundreds of examples of ministers serving together yet retaining individual beliefs. No, the explanation is , we ferreters suspect, a much simpler one.
Older brothers find it impossible to accept their younger sibling, however much loved, as their boss. And who can fail to sympathise? Just imagine the case of the Milibands. David was born into the home of famous Marxist academics who regularly entertained the likes of Tony Benn, Tariq Ali and all. We read that by the time he was ten David was a regular participant in the discourse and it is easy to imagine that the much younger Ed was packed off to bed.
Anyone who has had sons, or is a brother, will know only too well the extent to which an older brother – four years is a chasm in early years – dominates and protects his younger brothers. Often he is asked by Mum or Dad to ‘set an example’ and , equally often, to keep an eye out for him at school or play. Often he enoys the role of playing ‘Mr Superior’ when passing on knowledge. Always there is rivalry and competition for parental approval. In all but disfunctional families there is always an underlying feeling on the part of the older boy of affection mingled with scorn at how relatively little junior knows about cricket. As the years roll by the intellectual gap may narrow but the innate feeling of seniority prevails.
By the time he was in his 20s, David Miliband was part of Tony Blair’s policy circle and it is not hard to imagine that thoughts of his young brother overtaking him in the political heirarchy would never have occurred to him. In fact he almost certainly enjoyed telling him of encounters with the then political elite. And as the boys became men the gap in seniority was maintained. Ed eventually entered parliament in 2005 but by then his brother was almost a household name. Again it is easy to imagine that David provided a good deal of advice on the peculiarities of Westminster.
Loyal by nature David refused to challenge Brown when the chance came but defeat in the general election opened up another opportunity and this time he made his move. Everyone around him would have assured him that his victory was a mere formality. And then his younger brother, his prodigy, announced his candidacy. That would have been a surprise but older brother probably regarded it with equanimity. If young Ed did well it would provide the chance to include in the Shadow Cabinet someone he could trust.
And suddenly the world of David Miliband is turned upside down. The lad whose ear he occasionally clipped had, against all expectation, won. Would he accept him as his boss? Impossible to live with such a notion. David is undoubtedly a man with great self undertstanding. He will quickly have realised that his only route to self pride lay in mounting another challenge in two years time. He could only do that honourably from the backbenches. At no time will he do other than support his younger brother but he must either challenge him or leave politics altogether.
Meantime Ed has his chance. Yes, he is considerably less experienced than David but there is little likelihood of a general election for four years given that the Lib Dems risk annihilation if they bring the coalition down. He has already shown good judgement in replacing the mischievous Nick Brown with Rosie Winterton as chief whip. Her powers of persuasion will help. But he has a way to go befiore convincing the electorate on his penchant for increased civil liberty, even if his condemnation of Iraq has proved popular.
I may be wrong but I cannot believe that David Miliband will ever be able to reconcile himself to serving under his young brother however much he loves him. If Ed manages to lead well the turbulant ranks of the Labour Party we may well have seen the last of the former Foreign Secretary in a political sense. On the other hand if Ed falters or even if he does well but loses an election we can be sure of two things. David will be back and Ed will be happy to serve under him.
After all that wouldn’t be a new experience! I suspect that when Wordsworth wrote ’how fast has brother followed brother from sunshine to the sunless land’, he had in mind that the leader would be the older!
BANKS ARE UNREPENTANT!
Today’s report from the Financial Services Authority makes interesting reading. Given their record of abysmal failure one would expect to learn of improvements all round. One would be wrong!
Over the past six months an astonishing 1.3 million complaints have been lodged. The subects include sloppy service, poor advice and the misselling of financial products. State-owned banks such as RBS-Nat West are among the worst offenders in terms of the proportion of complaints upheld.
Nice to know that they are still earning their bonuses isn’t it?
SO MUCH FOR NICK CLEGG’S WORD!
“After Labour’s long assault on civil liberties, we’ve scrapped child dention in the immigration system” boasted Nick Clegg in a letter to supporters attending the Lib Dem conference. Not true! Almost as delegates found their rooms, two children were reported to be locked up in the infamous Yarl’s Wood centre in Bedfordshire. And Immigration Minister, Damian Green, no longer talks of ending child detention but speaks of ‘minimisng’ it instead.
Get those tee-shirts out. It is Nick’s fault after all !
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. 1974 2. Amnesty International
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Whio was the author of the 1973 title ‘The Honorary Consul’? 2. In TV’s ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ whom did Mr Hudson marry in the 1975 showing?
Another day and another leak to the Daily Telegraph which seems to have more moles in Whitehall than we have in our local cricket pitch. It almost has one wondering if there is some ministerial sleight of hand involved. But they wouldn’t do that would they? As they say in Pantomime oh yes they would. At the very least today’s appearance on the front page of the daily leaker will have done the cause of Liam Fox no harm at all. Whatever the slashers and cutters now do to our armed forces he will be seen as the man that warned against it!
In his ‘for your eyes only’ letter to David Cameron, Dr Fox has emphasised that draconian cuts cannot possibly be carried out at a time when we are, rightly or wrongly, engaged in what is going to be a long war in Afghanistan. As he argues such action at a time when our troops are overstretched, and suffering constant fatalities, would lead to a dangerous loss of morale. It would also leave us short of replacements needed to enable the front line men to have vital breaks. Most people probably agree with Ed Miliband’s description of the Iraq invasion as a terrible mistake and many will extend the verdict to Afghanistan but the fact remains we are committed and our armed forces are suffering terrible consequences. To simply accept defeat as we did in Basra would give a hugely dangerous boost to terrorists. We have no option than to battle on. I say we but the battling is down to brave men who had no part in the decisions to go to war. To talk of redundancies would be the most abject betrayal of each and every one of them.
Dr Fox has gone well beyond war in his refusal to accept significnt cuts and he is surely right to do so. We cannot foretell what other emergencies will require the use of troops. He has cited examples such as a strike by firemen, Mumbai -style attacks, the 2012 Olympics, flooding – there is a near endless list of possible emergencies when the use of troops is the only answer. And he has not confined himself to the army.
The proposed reduction in ships would make many of our present commitments in the Falklands, Indian Ocean, Caribbean or Gulf impossible. The loss of amphibious shipping would rule out for ever any special operation such as the one we staged in Sierra Leone. And the defence of our traditional last line of defence, the English Channel would be in jeopardy. In today’s world air is often the biggest factor of defence and Dr Fox has set out the risks involved in reducing our airforce to what some experts are predicting will be its lowest number of aircraft ever. We may no longer be in a position to intercept incomimg ‘rogue’ hi-jacked aircraft, mount air-sea rescues or provide vital back-up in places such as Afghanistan. In other words we will for the first time in our history have inferior forces to those of our potential enemies and will certainly not be in a position to unite with NATO countries in common cause.
It is one thing to talk of cutting Quangos ( always provided it is properly planned) and quite another to even consider divesting ourselves of the nation’s defence. Even if the war in Afghanistan was to end tomorrow the need for fully manned and armed forces would remain. So long as it continues any reductions would spell utter disaster.
Who knows whether the wily old Fox knew anything about the leak of his letter. But if ever a leak has drawn the need for plumbers to the nation’s awareness this is it. Either way the doctor has for once served the nation well.There was always potential for uproar on this but the knowledge that even the Minister regards it as lunacy serves to reinforce the public view that, howver dire our Banker-induced crisis may be, we cannot tolerate the destruction of our national security.
The American dramatist Tennessee Williams ( Thomas Lanier Williams) wrote in 1953 that “We have to distrust each other. it’s our only defence aginst betrayal”. Good advice. Fortunately for once it is not the hunting enthusiast Cameron who has the fox cornered. The shoe is very much on the other foot!
IS MANKIND IN DANGER FROM GLOBAL WARMING?
Scientists continue to warn that man’s time on this planet is limited unless drastic measures are taken to prevent the destruction of the environment. But I continue to draw comfort from the fact that no government shows any real concern and most people still regard issues such as Lady Gaga’s head-covering or Adrian Chile’s demeanour as infinitely more important. As I splash around the flooded allotment my self understanding tells me that I am essentially an ostrich, but even with my head buried I still worry about signs that the boffins just may be right.
Last week provided more food for thought for ostriches. On Monday a typhoon in China poured more than 640mm of rain accompanied by winds up to 123mph. The storm triggered landslides and up to 60 people were killed. Between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning a storm system in the US brought over 75 mm of rain around Minnesota and some places were drenched with over 150mm. Meanwhile on Thursday in Asia , Seoul was hit by torrental downpours and the South Korean capital received its highest rainfall levels since records began in 1908. The Gangseo area had 293mm! At the same time New Zealand suffered winds of 62mph and more than 70 pilot whales became stranded at Spirits Bay, Northland.
Never mind, we can console ourselves with the fact that politicians are in charge of our destiny!
A READERS THOUGHT FOR TODAY; Life’s biggest battles are never seen for they all rest in your head! With thanks to Bob the Builder.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. India 2. Becuse of fuel shortages
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which year did Turkey invade northern Cyprus? 2. Which organisation, founded in Britain, won the 1977 Nobel prize for peace?
The wheels seem to be coming off the coalition’s cost-saving bandwagon! When ministers announced, within days of the election, the scrapping of Strategic Health Authorities, Primary Care Trusts and Quangos galore the initial reaction from most of my fellow ferret breeders was one of delight. That was when they laboured under the delusion that there were precise plans in place. Now it is a different matter altogether for it is becoming clearer by the day that the headlines we heard were all that there was.
No fewer than 177 quangos perished at a stroke, may of them deservedly for they had bred like rabbits under the last goverment. Who, in a supposed age of localism, needs a central advisory panel on local innovation? Who needs quangos that monitor quangos? And who needs advice from the great, good and friends of ministers that pack these bodies? But those who defend the rights of mentally ill and disabled people do need a champion yet the Public Guardian Board has suffered the same fate as countless others. Most of us have never heard of many of those now resting in Sir Humphrey’s out tray but we have heard of the Audit Commission which represented the only realistic check on just what local authorities are spending our cash on. It too now lies dead. But who or what is going to take on the important role that it played?
Right now there is chaos across the land. Surely someone should have had the wit to examine what each quango actually does before axeing it. Yes, we all dislike the name but even the most vehement critic must acknowledge that at least some of them did something that needs to be done. Leaving all the organisations over which they presided free to spend on the first thing that comes into their heads does not sound very sensible.
In the NHS absolute chaos prevails. Primary Care Trusts have made huge numbers redundant and some have set up joint commissioning panels in anticipation of the inevitable inability of GPs to take over their roles as announced by the hapless Andrew Lansley, who has the doubtful honour of being named by clinicians as the worst ever Secretary of State for Health. He can expect patients to follow suit once they realise that the ad-hoc commissioners are switching services vast distances from their local hospitals! And who will regulate the finances of Foundation Trusts now that Monitor has been diverted on to other tasks? Talk to anyone employed in the NHS and encounter bewilderment on a grand scale!
It doesn’t need Alan Sugar to work out that massive changes such as those triggered by a flurry of hasty announcements need to be planned carefully, and phased in only as the replacements become available. There is every reason to believe that all this is going to sharply increase costs and impair services in the short term And you don’t need to be the sacker of apprentices to know that short term in this context means two to three years!
What is it about the Brits that makes us so incompetent? The Labour government added layer after layer of bureaucracy in almost every field and they employed an army of expensive management consultants to arrange them. The coalition has leapt in the opposite direction but clearly has no overall strategy or understanding of what needs to be done or the consequences of doing it. And they are running a vast enterpise called the United Kingdom.
The popular view seems to be that Lansley, Gove ( who even had to amend his announcement on schools within days), and the rest of them, are merely rearranging the chairs on the decks of the Titanic. Perhaps the time has come to send for the Monster Raving Loony Party!
SAVING IS THE NEW EVIL!
The name of the deputy governor of the Bank of England is Mr Bean, which seems apt. I say that because his statement on saving strikes me as plain barmy. In esssence he has told savers to stop moaning and to start spending. In fact most are now doing just that given the virtual elimination of interest and the total withdrawal of National Savings index-linked certificates.
Of course one can understand the benefit to the economy in the short term but surely the longer term effect will be to render the state liable to fund all nursing and residential home care once the present mass of older people reach the stage of needing it.
And isn’t it also fundamentally unfair? At present the state has to totally support many who have simply not bothered to ‘save for a rainy day’. Now it seems that the prudent ones, who surely deserve applause, are to be villified for their prudence. Something tells me that Mr Bean hasn’t used his self understanding to think this through!
GOOD ADVICE FOR THE TORY ASSASSINS!
For me the best column of the day is that of Julian Glover. He warns that smearing Labour’s new leader, a decent man, will backfire. They should be testing him instead.
There seems to be evidence that Ed Miliband is not as excitingly adventurous as his brother and may prove vulnerable on detail. But simply attacking him with endless childish abuse will have the effect of endearing him to the public which always swings behind any victim of mindless bullying. One would have thought that the Tories and their press baron friends would have learned a lesson from the dramatic rise of Nick Clegg. Instead of questioning his policies they resorted to a tirade of abuse and millions set up a ‘all Clegg’s fault’ campaign aimed at both defending him and making the bullies look ridiculous.
A glance at today’s polls ought to be a warning. For the first time in three years labour leads the Conservatives!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Londonderry 2. Uganda
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which country exploded its first nuclear device in 1974? 2. Why did Britain work a three-day week in 1974?
It may not surprise you to learn that quite a few of the allotment shed crowd use so called ‘alternative’ medicines. The one most widely used is Saw Palmetto (berry) Extract, a popular remedy with men suffering from prostate problems, a fairly common complaint with older men. Does it work? Because there has been no detailed clinical research no one can be sure but my pals swear by it and regard it with considerably more equanimity than prescribed drugs which carry all sorts of unpleasant side-effects. It is just one example of the dilemma facing people of all ages and genders.
I was prompted to mention this by the latest revelations concerning prescribed drugs. Around 90,000 British diabetes patients have been warned against continuing use of Avandia. Evidence linking the drug to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke has been building since 2007. The pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has imsisted that the drug is safe, yet in July last agreed to pay $460 million in damages to settle claims linking the drug’s use to patients suffering serious medical setbacks. But it is only now that British GPs have been instructed to discontine prescribing following the ruling by the European Medicines Agency that the benefits of the drug do not outweigh its risks. It is perhaps relevant to mention that the Agency had been involved in a three year battle with the drug company.
This, of course, is just one example of what happens on a regular basis and involving all drug manufacturers. All high-powered chemically produced drugs carry significant side-effects. A medical consultant told me recently that he is regularly faced with the problem of other drugs prescribed for other conditions reacting against those prescribed by him. Some elderly patients, he told me, are a walking cocktail of potentially dangerous drugs most of which are beneficial but only if not taken with other drugs.
When you think about it the practice of modern medicine, although a million miles on from that of yesteryear, is now almost entirely dependent on drugs tested and recommended by powerful drug companies whose main concern must be the bottom line of their balance sheets. And they employ an army of salesman to maintain good relations with clinicians, even to the extent of sponsoring events, dinners and all. And however devoted to his oath, the doctor has no option than to accept the information produced by the companies. But even they may well be unaware of side-effects not detected during even the most painstaking research.
To return to the so-called alternative medicines which fill the health stores across the country, we have to ask ourselves if they are in fact completely safe let alone effective. The honest answer has to be no. Like most people who maintain a daily link with nature many of my allotment pals believe that there are cures for every condition out their somewhere. But without the financial clout of the giant pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers of alternatives cannot afford research. Even worse, some make what are clearly ludicrous claims for their products.
There is really only one answer to this burgeoning nightmare. Someone has to produce funding to enable at least the most promising, based on anecdotal evudence, natural products to be scientifically tested. At a time like this there is no chance of this coming from the treasury so governments around the world have to be prepared to make some alternative medicine research a condition of their licence to sell.
It sounds far-fetched I know but the stakes are very high. This very day your GP could be prescribing for you a drug with harmful side-effects unknown to him. Even more frustrating, he could be missing an opportunity to let you have treatment based on something both natural and safe. Even the massive research charities such as Cancer Research at present research only manufactured drugs as possible cures or alleviatiors.
My pals will continue to take their Saw Palmetto. The consultant several of them see has said that there does seem to be a beneficial outcome but, in the absence of research, he cannot be sure that it is not down to mind-over-matter. Just how crazy can we get? My self understanding tells me that I enjoy risk-taking but it also reveals an antipathy to unsubstantiated claims. It is hard to know which way to turn.
BIASED NEWSPAPERS ARE PLUMBING THE DEPTHS!
Our national newspapers have always shown a degree of bias but never to the extent of those adorning our breakfast tables now. Today is no exception!
Take just three. The Telegraph has devoted its headline to the theme of ‘New Labour is dead’, a blatant attempt to both whip up those faithful souls who still mourn the passing of Tony Blair and to frighten the middle classes with the image of Ed Miliband as someone to the left of Karl Marx. By way of back-up the middle pages raise the issue of his issues. One already here and another on the way and both born out of wedlock. That hardly sounds a telling point in today’s world but in the absence of skeletons it is better than nothing by way of a start to a campaign to denegrate the younger Miliband. Interestingly there is no mention at all of tonight’s Panorama programme which was, before being mysteriously withdrawn at the last minute, claimed to expose tax avoidance on the part of Lord Ashcroft, the outgoing Tory deputy chairman and biggest donor.
The Daily Mail leads with ‘Last rites for New Labour. It seems that Ed Miliband is a pretty dastardly chap for he is accused of failing to condemn unions over strike threats, of backing higher taxes, of curbing top pay and of sounding a death knell. Just in case we haven’t got the message, the Max Hastings column is headed ‘Labour has climbed into its coffin and is nailing down the lid’. Oh yes and there is a piece claiming electoral ‘ballot shambles. With so much to report on young Ed the Mail too was unable to fit in anything on the Lord Ashcroft story.
By contrast The Guardian front page not only covers the Lord Ashcroft story but tells us that Ed Miliband will lead from the front, a sort of version of General Booth and his Salvation Army.
I could go on but the point is that every paper now not only pursues a political agenda but happily resorts to selective coverage. Remember the uited attempt to destroy Nick Clegg when he first appeared as a threat to the Conservtive prospects? Over a million people subscribed to a web site entitled ‘All Clegg’s fault’ and added such revelations as his being the lookout on the Titanic. I suspect we are heading for a repeat performance with young Miliband cast as the world’s greatest villain. Perhaps it is not just the saga of MP’s expenses that has brought politics so low in the public esteem! And in view of the original intention and subsequent u-turn of Panorama the likelihood is that, as I type, the knives are being freshly sharpened in Downing Street. Our only source of objective truth is under threat as never before!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. 1971 2. They visited Communist China
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which city ws the scene of Bloody Sunday in 1972? 2. From which country in Africa were many Asians expelled in 1972?
It would be good to report that as the allotment folk arrived this morning by car or bike, they were agog at the news of Ed Miliband’s election. It would be good but untrue for hardly a soul mentioned it. A visitor from outer space would have assumed that the main issues facing mankind are Chelsea’s defeat at Maine Road, a loopy referee at Fulham and Lady Gaga wearing a steak on her head, in roughly that order. Despite the impression the little green man might have gained from the media, we Brits are not terribly interested in politicians!
But the appointment of a leader of her Majesty’s opposition is an important event, not least because a democracy needs one. The absence of such can prove disastrous, if proof is needed just cast your mind back to the autocratic days of Blair! But to be effective an opposition needs to be united and here is the first challenge for the younger Miliband. He starts off wth a handicap, having been elected on the strength of his trade union support. The unions no longer command vast respect even amongst their traditional followers. The thought, should the government fall at the hands of rebel Lib Dems, of their taking beer and sandwiches at No 10 is not likley to be a popular one.
Of course the first hurdle is for Ed to get his older brother on board. During the campaign he spoke of his love for David but so far there has been no reciprocation. Both men are likely to have politics running through their veins if background is any criteria for their father Ralph was one of Britain’s leading Marxist intellectuals. When, as a post-graduate at University studying Social History, I had to endure endless lectures on the Miliband approach not to mention various publications all of which had little good to say of capitalism. The other trait that the brothers may well have inherited is toughness and self understanding for both Ralph and his acdemic wife Marion Kozak were survivors of the Holocaust. Some pundits worry that the relationship between the brothers could match that of Blair and Grumpy Gordon but that seems unlikley for Ed has made clear his dislike of the constant rows, many of which he defused in the role of Brown’s go-between.
At 40 Ed is four years younger than David and he has only been an MP since 2005 when he won the seat of Doncaster North. He was quickly spotted by Brown and became one of his closest confidants, and chairman of the Treasury’s Council of Economic advisers. He is widely seen as a maths genius which may give him a head start in his clashes with David Cameron. He is unlikley to feel at ease with the Prime Minister in the way that Nick Clegg does for his background is very different and decidedly less priviledged.
One advantage Ed Miliband does have in battling to win back the affection of the great British public is that he was not an MP at the time of Iraq and has lost no time in describing Blair’s decision as a ‘tragic error’, a position on which he contrasts with his brother who was very much a Blair-man. He has also positioned himself firmly to the left of David’s views in advocating a ‘living wage’ higher than the minimum, a High Commission to limit top salaries and the permanent retention of the 50% tax rate. Yes, there sounds a good deal of the socialist about Ed Miliband and the support he received from his fathers old friend Tony Benn surprised no one.
And therein lies his greatest challenge. Clearly Ed Miliband’s instincts and ideology call him to move sharply back to the policies of Old Labour but he musn’t move too far for if Blair got anything right it was in believing that without the middle-class vote Labour was unelectable. Then again anything he does to create clear political water between his party and the Conservatives may restore some much needed interest in politics. When the electorate can spot no difference between government and opposition apathy flourishes. And perhaps the good news is that distinctions may well serve to draw back into the Labour fold the millions who deserted it to the Lib Dems who have now become indistinguishable from the Tories.
The next couple of years will decide whether the arrival of a new young leader will revitalise Labour. And one suspects that the line pursued on the econmy will play a major part. If, as some leading commentators believe, Ed Miliband pursues his belief that the coalition’s plans for cuts are too draconian, and likely to tip the economy back into recession, he will have a fertile populist tune to play. And every section of society will identify with attacks on proposals that threaten them. We have already heard much from him about fairness and compassion and, if the economic winds blow favourably, the new leader will score heavily. Throw in his declared aim to win over Lib Dem MPs and voters and the Old Etonians may struggle. However, should the economy respond well to the harsh medicine of the coalition he will struggle.
At the very least we should all rejoice that the opposition will now concentrate on the government rather than on each other. We should rejoice but if my pals are any indication we will continue to focus on such vital matters as Manchester City and Lady Gaga. Funny old lot aren’t we?
LAND OF SOAP AND GLORY!
The nation may be verging on bankruptcy but it seems that nothing can prevent us from indulging in the unique British pastime of inventing posh titles and dressing up in ermine robes.
Remember Sue Nye, who was blamed for landing Gordon Brown with the ‘bigoted woman’ of Oldham? She is now Baroness Nye of Lambeth. If this is the standard, every soldier in Afghanistan should get a knighthood at least!
THE FRIGHTENING POWER OF THE DRUG COMPANIES!
Just as soon as the noise in the Shed diminishes I would like to debate this with you. The latest revelations about the side-effects of a drug being prescribed for Diabetes reminds us of the influence that the giant drug companies exercise over our GPs and, indeed, our hopes of staying alive. Are we all the victims of a system that puts profit before wellbeing? Would love to hear from you!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Muliple Independently Targetable Re-entry vehicles 2. In 1977
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which year did the UK introduce decimal currency; 1971, 1975 or 1979? 2. The US table tennis team started a thaw in international relations in 1971. How?