Socialist Worker

Of mice and men (and a killer virus)

Issue No. 1876

THE PENTAGON has apparently reallocated large numbers of military experts hunting for those elusive weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to other duties.

Perhaps they will be brought home, where their searches will yield far faster results. New Scientist last week revealed how, 'A scientist funded by the US government has deliberately created an extremely deadly form of mousepox, a relative of the smallpox virus, through genetic engineering.

'The new virus kills all mice even if they have been given antiviral drugs as well as a vaccine that would normally protect them.

'The work has not stopped there. The cowpox virus, which infects a range of animals including humans, has been genetically altered in a similar way.' Mark Buller of the University of St Louis told New Scientist his work was necessary to explore what 'bioterrorists' might do.

'But the research brings closer the prospect of pox viruses that cause only mild infections in humans being turned into diseases lethal even to people who have been vaccinated.' The US has refused to sign up to relevant international conventions on restricting or banning biological and chemical weapons.

IN THIS WEEK - snapshots from history - 1917

The workers' councils, thrown up during the Russian Revolution, take power. The Bolshevik Party has won the leadership of the councils and leads the revolution. Martov, a political opponent of Lenin, declares, 'Almost the entire proletariat of Russia supports Lenin and expects its social liberation from the uprising.'

Mugging the facts

THE SUNDAY Times has taken a leaf out of David Blunkett's book.

The Sunday after the BBC programme that exposed police racism the Murdoch paper claimed 'whites are more likely than blacks to face police searches on the streets'. The article claimed that because blacks and Asians are more likely to be unemployed, they are more likely to be out on the streets.

So it can't be racism that makes the police pick up more blacks and Asians. But the Sunday Times was at a loss to explain why black people are still eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites at night when the unemployed are more likely to be stuck at home.

Council's jammy dodgers

IF YOU ever had occasion to attend a meeting with councillors in Brighton and Hove make sure you ask for tea and biscuits.

The council pays £14 for every plate of biscuits provided by private company Ecovert under an eight-year contract.

Not foxed by sexism

SEXIST LAD rag FHM sparked outrage when it wrote to women journalists asking for 'foxy girls' to get a makeover, get 'pissed' and appear on the FHM sofa to reveal their 'kiss and tell' secrets.

The e-mail said only 'attractive' women could apply.

Journalists were outraged at the further suggestion that 'any nurses would be great'.

Sick shop joke bombs

WOOLWORTHS has finally been forced to withdraw sick fireworks named after weapons used by the US and Britain in Iraq.

The 'Clusterbomb' fireworks were selling at £7.49 a piece.

Firm dumps doctors' orders

SOME INSURANCE firms are called ambulance chasers, but one east London company doesn't bother with the ambulances-it goes straight to the hospital ward.

Helphire specialises in encouraging car crash victims to claim for compensation. The company was given permission to tout for custom among accident victims being treated at the Royal London Hospital.

Helphire promised to give a percentage of successful claims to the hospital, amounting to around £1 million a year.

Health watchdogs are outraged. Malcolm Alexander, director of the Association of Community Health Councils, says:

'It is absolutely outrageous that a hospital should be working with these people and could even be making a profit from patients when they are vulnerable.' The outcry has forced the hospital to reconsider its plans.

US sees enemies all over

IRAQI LAWYER Mohammed Al Rehaief was one of several Iraqis who took care of Private Jessica Lynch before her 'rescue' by US troops was staged.

He travelled to visit her, but she could not find the time to see him. 'I know she had a very difficult time in Iraq and she takes rest,' he said graciously.

But we won't be reading much about Mohammed in Lynch's book, I Am a Soldier, Too, which is released next month after a £600,000 publishing deal.

Also left out will be the contrast between Lynch's treatment by the US military and that of Shoshana Johnson.

Johnson was shot early in the war and shown on Iraqi television. She is about to be discharged from the army, still walking with a limp. Johnson is to get a 30 percent disability benefit from the army. Lynch, with lighter injuries, gets 80 percent. Shoshana Johnson is black.

STUNG BY a rocket attack that nearly killed Pentagon number two Paul Wolfowitz, George Bush blamed Syria and Iran last week for allowing 'foreign fighters' into Iraq.

Leave aside the absurdity of Bush complaining of foreign intervention, the Washington Post ran an interesting piece last Wednesday:

'Commanders of US military forces responsible for monitoring the border between Iraq and Syria say there is no evidence from human intelligence sources or radar surveillance aircraft indicating that significant numbers of foreign fighters are crossing into Iraq illegally.'

Figure it out - 21,800

The number of elderly people who died from the cold last winter.

Help the Aged said the official government estimate was a disgrace, and added that when 15,000 old people died in the French summer heatwave there was a public outcry.

The charity said, 'Every year we witness this shameless cull of the older population, with little or no action being taken.'

Who says?

'I don't see society in terms of class interests. We're all a bunch of individuals.'
Charles Kennedy, Lib Dem leader on Desert Island Discs

'Women these days don't like being taken for granted. It's very important they get credit for what they do.'
Boss of Ebookers on why he pays his wife £880,000

'I have a horrible feeling that some people are in for a nasty shock, particularly those who took out mortgages in low interest rate times.'
Ann Foster, chair of the Financial Services Consumer Panel

'Mow the whole place down.'
Trent Lott, US senator outlines his plan for reconstruction of Iraq

'There was this sense that I don't quite understand what it's all about.'
Iain Duncan Smith assesses his leadership

'Iraqis are beginning to get quite angry that foreigners have come in and started to follow a war on their soil against their interests.'
Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's envoy to Iraq - but not talking about US forces

'I think it's our duty to rebel. I think direct action in this modern political climate is the way forward.'
Thomas Crockett, huntsman pledging to defy any hunting ban

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 8 Nov 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1876
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