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Fantasy illness…

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Issue 1759

Inside the system

Fantasy illness…

GIANT DRUGS firms have a new pitch-make up a disease and then sell a “cure”. Social anxiety disorder, an acute form of shyness, has become a popular disease over the last few years in the US. Magazines, newspapers and TV programmes repeated the “fact” that it is the US’s third most common mental disorder, with ten million sufferers. Except it doesn’t exist. The drugs firm SmithKlineBeecham, before its merger with Glaxo, hired a public relations agency to promote awareness of this “common disorder”. The agency promoted Paxil as the “first and only approved medication” to treat social anxiety disorder. Paxil was made by SmithKlineBeecham. Some of the medical experts on TV talking up the wonders of Paxil were paid consultants for the drugs company. Sales of Paxil, an anti-depressant, rose by 18 percent last year. Perhaps directors at the merged GlaxoSmithKline have a touch of social anxiety disorder-none of them were prepared to be interviewed about the scandal.

…and jobs

SHOCKED Corus steel workers faced with mass redundancies across Wales were told in February that there was hope for a new job. EXi Telecoms announced it would take on 4,000 workers.

Its press release boasted of “retraining and full time, permanent employment to manufacturing employees including those at Corus”. This was a joint initiative with the AEEU engineering union, backed by the Department for Trade and Industry, then run by Stephen Byers.

AEEU leader Sir Ken Jackson said, “This is a genuinely radical way of dealing with the threat of redundancy. It’s the first time a trade union has ever done this. But it’s the way forward if we are to help our members cope with manufacturing change. These are real jobs for people who face an uncertain future.”

The main steel workers’ unions, the ISTC and TGWU, dismissed the announcement as a “cruel fantasy”. Michael Leahy, ISTC general secretary, said, “We believe Corus has used this event to divert attention away from their destruction of the steel industry.” Now the truth is out. Not a single steel worker has been taken on by EXi.

Bargain basement conference

NEW Labour has been forced to offer knockdown prices for passes into its Brighton conference.

Organisers fear members will boycott the conference after the government’s unpopular policies over privatisation and cutting disability benefits. They have sent letters to councillors offering week tickets for 22 instead of the usual 42, and special cut price day tickets.

Persecuting the persecuted

THE BRITISH Immigration Service has set up a camp in Prague’s Ruzyne airport to interrogate Roma Gypsies flying to Britain. Immigration officers say they want to identify potential asylum seekers to stop them ever getting to Britain.

No Czech Gypsy has ever been granted asylum by the British government, although a few have won refugee status on appeal. “The actions of the British immigration officials is blatantly racist,” said Jan Culik, a Glasgow University professor. “Since they don’t speak the local language the only thing that they can do is to eliminate those travellers who have a dark skin.

“On the first day they prevented nine Czech families (all dark skinned Romanies) from boarding planes to Britain.” Roma Gypsies face systematic racism and poverty inside the Czech Republic. In one local authority a wall was built to separate Roma Gypsies from the rest of the village.

BRITISH Nuclear Fuels has been caught out lying again about safety. Managers at the nuclear plant in Chaplecross in Scotland claimed they had dropped 24 fuel rods a distance of 2 feet to the floor of a reactor on 5 July.

But ten days later managers of the privatised nuclear firm said the distance might be 50 feet. They eventually admitted it was 80 feet. The firm has also admitted some of the rods are still missing.

Off the rails

THE CHIEF executive of Railtrack, Steve Marshall, has come up with an ingenious scheme to pull the company out of its financial mess. He has told staff he wants Railtrack to earn money by telling other countries how to run their railways. Marshall revealed his cunning plan in an interview with in-house magazine Track Record. Alongside the appeal Marshall made comments that may put potential clients off. He acknowledged they had “probably” been running an unsafe railway around the time of the Paddington crash. He also said that Railtrack beat down suppliers’ prices “without due regard to the impact it has on quality”.

RAILTRACK is still cutting back on safety despite recent rail crashes. It is shelving plans to build hundreds of miles of walkways to provide safety access points for rail maintenance workers on the west coast main line. “It would appear certain projects within Railtrack are being slowed down or put on hold while financial problems following the Hatfield disaster are addressed,” said one source.

Things they say

“TIRELESS energy and enthusiasm are Jeffrey’s hallmarks. These are precisely the qualities that the Tory candidate for mayor of London requires.”

  • MARGARET THATCHER on Jeffrey Archer, August 1999

“JEFFREY Archer is a candidate of probity and integrity. I am going to back him to the full.”

  • WILLIAM HAGUE, October 1999

“LORD ARCHER is my friend, has been my friend and always will be my friend.”

  • JOHN MAJOR, April 2000

“IT IS most unlikely that he has been involved in any wrongdoing.”


“I JUST know what Jeffrey said is correct.”

  • LORD TEBBIT after Archer’s libel trial in 1987

“FYLINGDALES is a more inflammatory target than Menwith Hill. Some in the Ministry of Defence privately doubt whether its physical extension, necessary for National Missile Defence, could be done in the face of direct action against the American bulldozer and the desecration of the Yorkshire moors.”

  • Guardian journalist HUGO YOUNG on the impact of Bush’s “Son of Star Wars” plans in Britain

“IT LOOKS as if we want power for its own sake. That is a guaranteed way to kill politics. On issues that are important to people’s lives we have had negligible impact. We failed during the election to say anything new. Voters don’t like us because they think we do not like them. Workers in the public sector are feeling fed up.”

  • Blairite Labour MP FIONA McTAGGART

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