Disarmament Insight

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Signing Off for 2007


The (thankfully quite uncontroversial) Meeting of States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention has just ended, bringing to a close a typically busy year of disarmament and arms control work in Geneva. In the previous posting, John Borrie reviewed 2007 as perceived and analysed through the lens of the Disarmament Insight blog. Before signing off for the year and wishing all of our dedicated readers a pleasant holiday, I would like (at the risk of ruining your festive repose) to cast an eye forward to what awaits us next year.

Of course, we'll have all of the usual fare:

  • -- The Conference on Disarmament will continue its struggle to break its now more than decade-long deadlock so that it can finally start negotiating a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.
  • -- States Parties to the Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention will continue their intersessional work programme (this time by holding expert meetings on biosafety and biosecurity, as well as on codes of conduct for life scientists) and will also hold their usual annual Meeting of States Parties.
  • -- States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) will also hold their usual annual meetings on Amended Protocol II (on mines, booby traps and other devices), on Protocol V (on explosive remnants of war), and on the convention as a whole.
In addition, however, we will have some new and interesting elements thrown into the 2008 mix:
  • -- There will be a bevy of new so-called "Groups of Governmental Experts" discussing such issues as missiles, conventional ammunition stockpiles, an Arms Trade Treaty, as well as, in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, discussing Protocol V on explosive remnants of war and "negotiating a proposal" to deal with the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions.
  • -- The Oslo Process on cluster munitions will hold conferences on opposite sides of the world, in Wellington (February) and Dublin (May), the latter to finish negotiating a treaty banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. A signing ceremony is foreseen for Oslo in the autumn.
  • -- The second Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will take place in Geneva in April/May.
  • -- The third Biennial Meeting of States on the UN Programme of Action on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons will be held in New York in July.
So, whether you work in the area of disarmament and arms control as an analyst, activist, diplomat or observer, have a nice break over the holidays. You're going to need it!

This is Disarmament Insight signing off for 2007. We will be back online early next year to bring you more alternative, out of the box (and off-the-wall) analysis of the latest developments in disarmament and arms control from a humanitarian perspective.

Until then, peace.

Patrick Mc Carthy


Photo credit: "The War on Christmas" by Cuttlefish. Retrieved from Flickr.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Disarmament Insight: 2007 in review


As we head into the festive season and begin to wind down for the holiday break, the Disarmament Insight team thought it would be worth pausing to review some of the main themes we’ve covered on the blog in 2007, and a few of the highlights readers might have missed.

Since we launched the blog in March, it’s grown from a small ‘neighbourhood’ site known to 20 or 30 people in Geneva, Switzerland (where UNIDIR’s project on Disarmament as Humanitarian Action and the Geneva Forum are based) to attracting thousands of visitors, at least some of whom we hope have bookmarked the site and return on a frequent basis. Indeed, this post is the 111th. We’d like to thank in particular our Geneva Forum and DHA project donors, our guest bloggers and everyone who’s used the blog’s comment function to contribute their thoughts over the course of 2007.

Cluster munitions have been a major theme in recent months as concurrent international processes have unfolded by means of the Oslo process and a mandate in the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons process (CCW). Patrick and I have just returned from an international conference in Vienna last week on cluster munitions as part of the Oslo process. Related reporting and analysis will continue to be feature of the blog in 2008. (I’ll even be in Wellington, New Zealand, to report on that conference and civil society events in February.)

International work on cluster munitions is a practical manifestation of ‘disarmament as humanitarian action’. But there are others, including the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, work on small arms and the Arms Trade Treaty, and even reframing in the context of nuclear disarmament. In June we were present in Washington D.C. when outgoing British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett outlined the UK’s policies, including a strong call for a redoubling of effort on nuclear disarmament - in effect signaling to think-tankers there that it’s okay to use the “D” word (disarmament) again. (Some of us never stopped...)

Meanwhile, the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva remains deadlocked, of course, and there are looming challenges ahead for the current review cycle of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) despite its squeaking through to a preparatory meeting result in Vienna in May.

For our part, we’ve been taking our motto seriously about “thinking differently about human security”. Not only is the DHA project about showing how humanitarian perspectives are relevant to making disarmament and arms control work more effective, we’ve also sought to introduce new perspectives to some of the multilateral practitioners in these processes - not only in the context of the Disarmament Insight blog, but in workshops we’ve run near Geneva throughout the year.

In choosing themes and contributors to these events, we and the Geneva Forum sought to mirror a view among researchers on the DHA project that insights from the natural and behavioural sciences can be of help. In May, for instance, the primatologist Frans de Waal spoke at a workshop we held entitled “human security, human nature and trust-building in negotiations”. Any sniggering about monkeys was silenced by Professor de Waal’s fascinating talk on “War and Peace and Primates” and we received numerous pieces of feedback from participants that it had prompted them to think about their negotiating interactions in fresh ways. You can still hear Frans de Waal’s talk as a podcast from our home-brewed podcast site, or by typing “Disarmament Insight” into the search box in the iTunes Store podcast directory (all of our podcasts are free).

Other talks we’ve put online include those by the economist and author Professor Paul Seabright, Quaker UN Office representative David Atwood, and physicist and science writer Philip Ball. Unfortunately a technical malfunction prevented us from also presenting great talks by economist Paul Ormerod from the same workshop in September on complexity and arms control diplomacy and by our very own Aurélia Merçay. But Philip offered a range of cogent and entertaining insights on the physics of social behaviour, and what it may mean for multilateral responses to armed violence. This linked in nicely to some of our own writing on the subject, especially Aurelia’s work on non-linear modeling of small arms proliferation in the third DHA volume.

Looking ahead, one of the threads followed by the DHA project concerns the impact of cognitive constraints on the perceptions and interactions of multilateral practitioners. This has also been a persistent theme on the blog this year. Drawing from the work of psychologists and behavioural economists, we’ve been thinking about how better understanding, for instance of psychological biases, might improve decision making, and how issues like new communications technologies affect negotiations. In the New Year, along with Aurélia Merçay and Ashley Thornton, I hope to complete a small book tying some of our thinking on the subject together. Watch the blog for more news.

Finally, 2007 has also been a year in which we’ve grown accustomed to new faces in disarmament. But along the way we’ve lost some greats such as Randy Forsberg and, in June, my great friend and former ambassador, Clive Pearson of New Zealand. They’re greatly missed.

These are just some of the things we’ve written about on the Disarmament Insight blog in 2007. Best of the festive season to all of our readers, and please keep reading our blog.


John Borrie

Photo by author.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Defection Denial


One of the themes the DHA project has explored over the past two years is how cooperation emerges in multilateral negotiating environments. One of the challenges in informal social exchange in these situations involves judging others and deciding who is trustworthy and who’s not – in game theory terms this would mean discerning the difference between a cooperator and a defector. We would expect known defectors to be punished for their infractions. But recent research suggests this is not how humans normally react in everyday situations. Instead, we tend to overlook or “forgive” the wrongs others commit.

In fact, as University of Miami psychologist Michael McCullough told the New York Times recently:

“The closer you look, the more clearly you see that denial is part of the uneasy bargain we strike to be social creatures… We really do want to be moral people, but the fact is that we cut corners to get individual advantage, and we rely on the room that denial gives us to get by, to wiggle out of speeding tickets, and to forgive others for doing the same.”
One recent study used a simple investment game, where two people decide whether or not (and how much) to contribute to a shared investment pool, to explore this phenomenon. In this version of the game, one player could “cut off” their opponent if they believed his/her contributions were too low. The study revealed that once players were in a pattern of mutual trust based on repeated adequate donations to the investment pool, it became harder to punish future infractions. Some players would tolerate four to five selfish moves by a “trusted” opponent before cutting them off whereas they would tolerate only one infraction from a stranger. The researchers interpreted this result to be rooted in denial – players believed “trusted” opponents had to be making errors, not simply trying to maximize their personal gains.

Simulating this result through many generations on a computer revealed that this denial strategy was critical to the stability and evolutionary fitness of the overall group. In other words, overlooking or forgiving defection was an important survival strategy. This corresponds with Karl Sigmund and Martin Nowak’s findings of their evolutionary computer tournament, run in 1991. The most successful strategy was generous tit-for-tat (GTFT). GTFT is a “nice” strategy meaning it was never the first to defect, even if defection was its opponent’s first move. GTFT also randomly cooperated once for approximately every three defections against it. In this simulation, as it seems in real-life, it pays to let bygones be bygones.

Psychologists suggest that denial could be important in protecting us against unbearable news and that this ability is critical to forming (and maintaining) close relationships. Moral violations are glossed over as “stumbles or lapses in competence,” making the original violation more bearable. Since people oftentimes aren’t as trustworthy as we assume them to be, this attitude allows us to overlook potentially devastating defections in everyday life and carry on as normal, nurturing close relationships despite a few wrongs here and there.


Ashley Thornton

References
Photo retrieved from flickr.com.
Denial Makes the World go Round,” New York Times, 20 November 2007.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cluster Munitions: Passing the baton from Vienna to Wellington


The Vienna Conference on Cluster Munitions ended a few hours ago. With participation by 138 States, NGOs from more than 50 countries (under the umbrella of the Cluster Munitions Coalition), eloquent testimony from victims, and participation by parliamentarians and United Nations agencies, the Vienna Conference brought the Oslo Process on Cluster Munitions to a new level of participation and momentum.

As pointed out by the CMC, only 4 users of cluster munitions did not participate in the Vienna conference (Eritrea, Israel, Russia and the United States). Twenty-three of the 34 producers of cluster munitions were here; as were 55 of the 79 stockpilers.

The conference sketched the lines of the negotiations that will take place at the diplomatic conference in Dublin on May 19-30 next year that is scheduled to negotiate a new treaty banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. The next meeting in the Oslo Process, however, will be in Wellington on 18-22 February. Registrations for governments and civil society are already open.

Highlights of the Vienna Conference for me were:

-- The appeal during the NGO Forum on Tuesday by young Soraj Ghulam Habib who lost both of his legs and a cousin to a cluster bomblet while on a family picnic in Afghanistan. There was a technical problem with translating the last part of his talk but it didn’t matter. His passion was eloquent enough.

-- The clip from the documentary film “Unacceptable Harm” that showed 11 year-old Zahra Hussein Soufan try to deal with confusion, pain and rejection by her schoolmates after losing her hand to a cluster bomblet that she confused for a toy in southern Lebanon.

-- The united voice being found by African States in calling for a comprehensive ban on cluster munitions. About 40 African States participated in the Vienna meeting, thanks in large degree to an effective sponsorship programme funded by Austria and Norway and administered by the United Nations Development Programme. Today, Uganda and Zambia announced that they would co-host an African regional forum on cluster munitions in March with the aim of developing a common African position on the need to prohibit cluster munitions.

-- The presentation of a new report analysing the reliability of the M85 cluster sub-munition. The M85 (pictured above) is equipped with a self-destruct timer that is designed to detonate the bomblet if it does not explode on impact. According to its manufacturers, it has a failure rate of only around 1 percent. Based on this, some States claim that the M85 does not cause unacceptable harm to civilians. The new report undermines those arguments by explaining the litany of things that can (and do) go wrong with the M85's mechanical arming and self-destruct mechanism and, based on rigorous studies of bomb sites, shows that its failure rate in southern Lebanon in 2006 was an order of magnitude higher at around 10 percent (even after discounting parent munitions that failed to open properly).

-- The frank and open debate that took place on the issue of defining a cluster munition (see John Borrie's previous post).

-- The already quite detailed discussions on clearance, victim assistance, storage and stockpile destruction, international cooperation and assistance, and transparency and compliance that seek to build on similar provisions in the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.

The Vienna conference leaves plenty of work to do in Wellington and Dublin. Its great contribution, however, has been shedding light on the most important (and most contentious) issues and, in so doing, beginning to define the outlines of the debates and negotiations to come. For civil society, the conference provided the invaluable service of clarifying where national campaigning is most needed in the coming period.

The Wellington meeting will need to continue and intensify the discussions that took place in Vienna and, in particular, to deal properly with issues that were not given sufficient attention due to lack of time; issues such as interoperability with States using cluster munitions, definition criteria based on the weight and volume of sub-munitions, sensor-fused weapons, and risk education.

If I take one thing away from the Vienna meeting, it is that the Oslo process is not, as some might claim, on the crest of a wave; surging now but destined to crash and break later. It seems more like a snowball gathering speed downhill (and the forecast is for more wintry weather).

Patrick Mc Carthy


Photo: Presentation of the report, "M85: An analysis of reliability" to the Vienna Conference on Cluster Munitions (photo courtesy of the author).

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cluster Munitions: Vienna – tough talk on definitions


As foreshadowed in our preceding post about the first day of the Vienna international conference on cluster munitions, definitions were the focus of today's discussions.

Why are definitions important? February's Oslo Declaration contains a commitment for states to “prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians”. Article 2 of the Vienna discussion text arguably goes further – it doesn’t mention the phrase “that cause unacceptable harm to civilians”.

In setting out scope Article 1 says as follows:

“Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:
a) Use cluster munitions.
b) Develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to
anyone, directly or indirectly, cluster munitions.
c) Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited
to a State Party under this Convention.”
And the Vienna discussion text defines cluster munitions broadly. There is also an explanatory annex in it to reflect the divergence of views expressed over a definition expressed at an earlier conference of the Oslo process in Lima, Peru in May.

Today’s discussions were a chance to test views on the new language, and to hear proposals, including for exceptions to a general prohibition.

Talks on this agenda took most of the day, co-chaired by New Zealand and Austria. It began, however, with a presentation from an expert, Colin King, and a presentation of a ground-breaking report he and colleagues at the NGO Norwegian People’s Aid produced entitled M85: an analysis of reliability pictured above.

M85 bomblets are considered ‘state-of-the-art’ cluster submunitions, with so-called self-destruct mechanisms. M85s, or their derivatives, were used in Iraq this decade by British forces and by Israel in Southern Lebanon in 2006.

The M85 analysis showed, among its findings, that claims of 1 percent failure rates are way off: instead, it was around 10 percent – a big concern in view of the large number of submunitions dispersed in any cluster munition attack. King’s presentation (drawing on the report) showed definitively that “there’s a lot to go wrong” in the M85 arming sequence, which results in the submunition malfunctioning and prevents the self-destruct mechanism from activating.

In many cases, the arming sequence can be completed by an accidental encounter. (Norwegian defence scientists spinning M85 bomblets in concrete mixers – with often fatal results for the mixer, around 40 "killed" so far.) It helps to underline that there is no such thing a “non-hazardous dud” submunition, a term sometimes heard.

It also shows that testing doesn’t offer a realistic indication of what will happen during actual cluster munition use because they’re always carried out under favourable conditions.

King’s powerful presentation set the scene for what was a constructive but occasionally fractious debate that continued from mid-morning until late this afternoon.

Many countries spoke. Some, such as France, Switzerland, Netherlands and the UK reiterated that they do not think all cluster munitions have unacceptable consequences for civilians, arguing that concepts of accuracy and reliability should be benchmarks for what is deemed acceptable or not – drawing on an ICRC formulation. The ICRC responded that its terminology was to describe the characteristics of cluster munitions unacceptable in terms of their harm to civilians (in its view, virtually all used to date) and not threshold criteria for a definition.

Germany again put forward proposals for exceptions to a total ban. It has crafted what it called a 3-step approach that while immediately banning some cluster munitions (step 1), would allow others to continue to be used for an as-yet unspecified period (step 2) before – optional – replacement with “alternative munitions” (step 3), as yet undetermined and possibly not invented. This met with considerable criticism from a range of states and the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). For its part, Norway acidly commented that it could not follow the German proposal’s logic.

The discussions underlined that there’s still a long way to go on definitions. Today’s talks were never intended by the co-chairs to be more than a ventilation of views, but they did make some progress on discussing less problematic exceptions to a comprehensive prohibition including mines (covered by other treaties), flare, smoke and chaff munitions and sub-munitions that are inert post impact. And, they paved the way for further talks this afternoon on Article 1 of the Vienna discussion text on general obligations and scope, in which military inter-operability concerns dominated. But that’s for another post.

John Borrie

Cluster munitions: Vienna Conference day one


Yesterday, the Vienna international conference on cluster munitions formally commenced. On Tuesday it had been preceded by a civil society forum (see our previous post for Patrick Mc Carthy's impressions of that gathering). The Vienna Conference is the latest step in the so-called Oslo process to address the humanitarian impacts of cluster munitions on civilians.

Readers may recall from earlier posts on this blog that, less than a month ago, members of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) agreed a mandate to work on addressing cluster munitions in 2008 - a mandate that most involved seemed prepared to concede had come about largely because of the existence of the Oslo process. Nevertheless, there was uncertainty in some quarters about what the impact of the CCW mandate might be for participation in Vienna. Would it undercut support for the Oslo process? Hopes among campaigners on cluster munitions were that the goal of 100 states would nevertheless be achieved.

In fact, 133 states have registered, according to the Austrian Foreign Minister, Ursula Plassnik, who launched Wednesday's proceedings. This is astounding progress for an international humanitarian initiative launched only in February of this year: it means that more than two-thirds of the international community want to see a treaty to address the impacts of cluster munitions on civilians by the end of 2008.

And that number doesn't count a large civil society contingent (mainly within the umbrella of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC)) along with international and regional organizations including United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the European Commission and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Later, in welcoming the broad turn-out, the CMC noted that a majority of past users and producers of cluster munitions are now participating in the Oslo process, as well as almost all affected states.

Certain user and producer states were not at the meeting though, such as China, India, Pakistan, Russia and the U.S. The need to try to engage with all users and producers clearly concerns some states, and was a theme throughout the agenda item on "a treaty on cluster munitions" co-chaired by Austria and New Zealand. This agenda item ran grossly beyond time, however, as the co-chairs' request for delegations to keep general statements to a bare minimum went largely ignored. After a brief introduction of the Vienna text by New Zealand, Australia, Portugal (on behalf of the EU), Egypt, Hungary, Montenegro, the CMC, Thailand, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Morocco, Mali, Japan, Argentina, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Guatemala, Chile, Canada, Croatia, Sudan, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Algeria, Lithuania, Sweden, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Netherlands, Senegal, Bangladesh, Turkey, Mozambique, Uganda, Honduras, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Albania spoke.

I'm not going to try to summarize what they said. And yesterday there was also some productive discussion of cluster munition clearance issues and victim assistance (the latter talks continue this morning) under subsequent agenda items. But a recurrent theme - beside wide support for the Vienna text as a basis for discussions and the need for a legally binding international instrument (a treaty, in other words) - was of the need to define unacceptable cluster munitions.

Definitions are pivotal because, following the terms of February's Oslo Declaration, unacceptable cluster munitions will be banned. For their part, the members of the CMC would like to ban all cluster munitions, and this seems to be the avowed view of at least several states too.

But a total ban on cluster munitions is not what all states signed up for - and some, such as the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands - said as much yesterday. So the definitions agenda item today will be a key testing ground for various proposals for how cluster munitions, submunitions and associated concepts should be defined, and deriving from that, a better idea of what is likely to be outlawed in the agreement to be negotiated next year. At present, the core group's suggested Article 2 in the Vienna text is drafted as a pretty comprehensive prohibition on cluster munitions. But it makes provision for possible exceptions - the burden of proof being on states to justify why such exceptions are necessary.

It's going to be an interesting discussion. Watch this space.


John Borrie

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

If this blog was a cluster bomb, you'd be dead


The Vienna Conference on Cluster Munitions, the latest step in the Oslo Process, kicked off today with a parliamentary forum in the morning and an NGO forum in the afternoon; both of which sought to set the bar high for the intergovernmental discussions that will take place over the remainder of the week.

Over 130 States have registered for the conference, almost double the number that participated in the last global meeting of the Oslo Process in Lima in May. The momentum that this process has gained in quite a short period of time is truly remarkable and lends credence to the claim made earlier today that the Oslo Process is now "unstoppable;" that it is no longer a question of whether it will succeed in negotiating a new treaty on cluster munitions, but rather how strong that treaty will be.

It is clear from today's discussions that NGOs want a very strong treaty indeed. The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) is no longer talking about banning cluster munitions "that cause unacceptable harm to civilians," the formulation that lies at the centre of the Oslo Declaration. The talk now among NGOs is just about banning cluster munitions, pure and simple, since, the CMC argues, all cluster munitions cause unacceptable harm. Any government wishing to argue otherwise will by asked (perhaps too polite a word) by NGOs to back up their arguments with credible evidence.

The cause of a comprehensive ban was boosted this afternoon by an announcement by the Austrian Federal Minister for European and International Affairs, Ursula Plassnik, that the Austrian parliament will promulgate a new law on Thursday this week banning all cluster munitions.

NGOs fear that most governments will not wish to follow Austria's example and will instead insist on excluding certain types of cluster munitions from the scope of the treaty being negotiated. The Vienna discussion text certainly leaves open this possibility. Article 2, which defines what a cluster munition is, contains three as yet blank place-holders that seem designed to contain descriptions of cluster munitions that would not be banned by the treaty.

It is likely that some States will push to exclude from the scope of the treaty cluster munitions that (manufacturers claim to) have low failure-rates, that are equipped with self-destruct mechanisms, that engage targets through the use of sensors, or that contain small numbers of sub-munitions. Today, NGOs made it quite clear that they find such exceptions to be unacceptable and, for good measure, added that they would also not accept a transition period to allow cluster munitions to be phased out nor allowances for joint operations with States that continued to use cluster munitions.

Fighting words aside, this afternoon's meeting did a fine job of bringing the voices of victims of cluster munitions to the forefront of the debate. Whether it was the impassioned plea of young Soraj Ghulam Habib from Afghanistan, who lost a cousin and both of his legs to a cluster bomb, or Branislav Kapetanovic's barely disguised rage not so much at his own injuries but at the indescribable carnage he saw cluster munitions wreak in Serbia, everyone who participated in today's meeting was reminded again and again that the goal of the Oslo Process is to protect civilians and assist victims.

It was not all harmony and meetings of minds however. A panel on "cluster munitions and the military" made up of serving and former military officers posed some pointed questions on the military utility of cluster munitions and on military alternatives to them. In the process, it highlighted some contentious issues that will no doubt continue to be discussed over the coming days.

The discussions that will take place over the next three days among the more than 130 registered governments will undoubtedly attempt to lower the bar set today by NGOs in the Cluster Munition Coalition. The biggest immediate challenge, however, would seem to be finding a room large enough to fit all participants in the Oslo Process. As of tomorrow morning, about 500 representatives of governments, NGOs and international organisations will begin to engage with one another in earnest.

Things are just getting interesting so stay tuned and feel free to add your voice to the debate by using the comment function below.

Patrick Mc Carthy


Photo: Wanda Munoz, Head of Victim Assistance, Handicap International (photo by the author)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Clusters: Dah-dump... Dah-Dah-Dah-dump (bsssh!)


Ah Vienna. Eat your heart out Midge Ure and Ultravox (check the outfits)...

This is a quick post to note that Patrick Mc Carthy and I are in Vienna this week to attend an international conference here on addressing the humanitarian impacts of cluster munitions, which is being hosted by the Government of Austria, as part of the Oslo process.

We're aware that there's a lot of interest out there in the progress of the meeting, and we'll try to give you updates over the next few days about what's going on, (hopefully) starting with tomorrow's civil society forum on cluster munitions.

Additionally, if there are any questions you want us to try to answer, just drop us a line using the comment function on this blog (see below).

John Borrie