Socialist Worker

Bird flu – Profits and property rights put health at risk

Issue No. 2037

The government is desperate to reassure us that the HN51 bird flu virus outbreak is under control. It also claims that Britain is ready if the virus spreads to humans in this country.

No reason to worry then? Well no one has died so far in Suffolk, but in Indonesia it is a different story. The virus is confirmed to have spread to humans in 83 cases, killing at least 63 people.

The normal procedure is that virus samples are shared internationally to help identify mutations in order to find a vaccine.

However, the Indonesian government says it wants to retain control of intellectual property rights over the most deadly strain of the virus.

The grubby truth is they have signed a deal with Baxter International, a US pharmaceutical giant, which hopes to use its exclusive rights to produce a vaccine. No doubt that would guarantee them a pretty penny while, in all likelihood, delaying the creation of any vaccine.

Last month Baxter International announced a 48 percent increase in profits for the last quarter, lifting their share price to its highest level in four years. A case of profits before people?


Downwardly mobile

Tony Blair bluffed his way through questions about “cash for honours” during a major interview on BBC Radio 4 last week.

But he had no answer when he was challenged over a more fundamental issue – the fact that after a decade of a Labour government it is actually harder for poor people to progress in society than it was when Blair came to office.

Former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn, who grew up on a council estate, said that “shamefully” it would be harder today for someone from a similar background to get ahead in society than it was a generation ago.

A London School of Economics report in 2005 detailed the declining social mobility in Britain, with more poor children becoming poor adults, and more rich children staying rich in later life.

New Labour’s leaders have no solution because such problems are the inevitable product of a society where the rich are encouraged to guzzle resources, no obstacle is allowed to hinder big business, and trade union rights are systematically denied.

There’s your legacy, Blair – a generation condemned to war and the poor kept firmly in their place.


We must stop Bush

Last Sunday an Iranian diplomat in Baghdad was abducted by armed men wearing Iraqi army uniforms. Last month two Iranian diplomats in the city were arrested by US forces.

This follows claims by the US administration that Iranian forces are not only arming the Iraqi resistance but are involved in attacks on US and British forces.

Yet after US forces in Baghdad announced that they could present evidence on illicit Iranian activity in Iraq, they pulled back again, with national security adviser Stephen Hadley saying claims of Iranian involvement were “overstated”.

Despite that, George Bush seems determined to carry out an attack on Iran. The US Navy and warplanes are amassing in the Persian Gulf.

Bush’s plans for further military adventure must be stopped.

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What We Think
Sat 10 Feb 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2037
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