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Broken Britain 7: prolonged, tragic sagas: infected blood transfusions, OP poisoning and Gulf War Syndrome, denial and delay, pending death

The Haemophilia Society has blown the whistle and called for an enquiry into its own failure and that of government, pharma and clinicians. More here.

Medics and politicians knew by the mid-1970s that commercially manufactured blood products from the USA were suspect. By the mid-1980s there were warnings of a similar situation in respect of HIV. Nevertheless these products continued to be imported and used – just as OP sheep dips were.

British haemophiliacs and other victims’ lives were blighted in the 1970s and 1980s by these cheap imported US blood products, harvested from inmates and drug addicts. More than 7,000 were infected and went on unknowingly to infect family and friends. Read more in The Journal.

Last week in The Times, Margarette Driscoll recalls that in 2015, following the Penrose report into contaminated blood products in Scotland (which many victims denounced as a whitewash), David Cameron apologised to those who were infected by HIV and hepatitis C.

Weasel words

References to “compensation” have been changed to “payments” – to avoid admitting the liability which is already common knowledge? The sums received by victims of the contaminated blood scandal are known as ex gratia payments.

In April, as he left the Commons, the former health secretary Andy Burnham declared there had been a “criminal cover-up on an industrial scale in the NHS” over contaminated blood and called for a Hillsborough-style inquiry.

Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North, has been campaigning on the issue since she met one of her constituents, a mild haemophiliac who was given factor VIII in 1983 to prevent excessive bleeding when he had a tooth removed in hospital. He discovered he was infected with hepatitis C in 1995, when it showed up on blood tests for an unrelated illness.

As Theresa May had set up the Hillsborough inquiry when she was home secretary, Johnson was hopeful she would do the same for contaminated blood.

May refused. Johnson requested an urgent Commons debate, which was due to be held on Tuesday. She then got the six leaders of the opposition parties — including the DUP — to sign a letter to Ms May asking for an inquiry, and this is to be set up.

Adding insult to injury? Payment to many victims of NHS blood contamination is to be cut

In March this year a scheme to pay the victims of NHS blood contamination is to be scaled back under government plans announced on Monday. Ministers believe the reforms are necessary because more people are now considered likely to develop serious health issues – and be entitled to higher payouts – pushing the programme as much as £123m over budget.

The government has proposed measures that would cut predicted costs, including limiting the availability of the higher level of financial support under the scheme

Will an enquiry compensate the victims of this NHS for the cuts?

 

 

 

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As Jeremy Corbyn implied: “The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

It is the 50th anniversary week of the Six-Day War of 1967 when Israel seized 1,200 square water-rich kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria and later annexed it – though its right to this land has never been recognised by the international community.

Donald Macintyre, who lived in Jerusalem for many years and won the 2011 Next Century Foundation’s Peace Through Media Award, recalls in the Independent that fifty years ago Shlomo Gazit, head of the Israeli military intelligence’s assessment department, heard detailed reports of the destruction that morning of almost the entire Egyptian air force by Israeli jets – his 23-year-old nephew being among the few missing Israeli pilots. He then started work on a clear-sighted blueprint for the future of the territories Israel had occupied, arguing that “Israel should not humiliate its defeated enemies and their leaders.”

Jerusalem: an open city or UN headquarters?

There were then, as now, many leading Zionist Israelis who believed that occupation was a wholly wrong course. Gazit outlined plans for an independent, non-militarised Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the Old City of Jerusalem would become an “open city … with an international status resembling that of the Vatican”.

A British Quaker, Richard Rowntree, advocated moving the UN Headquarters from New York to Jerusalem and years later Sir Sydney Giffard, a former British Ambassador to Japan, presented the social and economic advantages to Israelis and Palestinians of moving the UN Headquarters to the vicinity of Jerusalem (Spectator link only accessible if account created). Whilst recognising difficulties and obstacles, Giffard felt that UN member states giving determined support to this project “could enable the UN to effect a transformation – both of its own and of the region’s character – of historic significance”.

But after 50 years the Palestinians, as Macintyre points out, “a resourceful and mainly well-educated population, are still imprisoned in a maze of checkpoints closures and military zones, deprived of civil and political rights and governed by martial law (denounced by Mehdi Hasan here, destruction of sewage system pictured above). And all this nearly three decades after Yasser Arafat agreed to end the conflict in return for a state on Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – 22% of historic Palestine (Even Hamas, so long one of many excuses for not reaching a deal, last month issued its qualified support for such an outcome)”.

“The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

Under this heading, Macintyre points out that the US provides Israel with over $3bn (£2.3bn) a year in military aid and the EU implements trade agreements which exempt only the most flagrant economic activity in the settlements from its provisions, leading Benjamin Netanyahu to believe he can maintain the occupation with impunity.

He summarises the potential gains of a peace agreement for Israel: “full diplomatic and economic relations with the Arab world, an end to the growing perception of Israel as an apartheid state, the reduction of costs – moral and financial – to its own citizens of using a conscript army to enforce the occupation”.

Co-existence in Iran

In several Stirrer articles, opening with this one, Richard Lutz reports on his visits to Iran – as a Jew, albeit lapsed – and Roger Cohen’s account in the New York Times is not to be missed. He – like Lutz, “treated with such consistent warmth” in Iran, says, “It’s important to decide what’s more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations — or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshipping in relative tranquillity. Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric”.

As so many civilised Israelis and Palestinians work for peace, some details recorded here, and the settlement of Neve Shalom (above) shows what is possible, Macintyre ends by saying that it is not just the Israelis and the Palestinians who should be reflecting this week on the impact of what is surely the longest occupation in modern history:

“It is time for the Western powers to reflect on their part in prolonging a conflict which will never end of its own accord”.

 

 

 

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

 

 

“Our ‘noble’ cause? Dropping bombs on behalf of Al Qaeda”

This is the title of Peter Hitchens’ latest article found after hearing a reference on Radio 4.

He asks readers to:

  • consider first that early on Friday morning the United States Navy launched 59 cruise missiles on behalf of Al Qaeda;
  • note that the President of the United States did not even bother to pretend that he was seeking United Nations cover for what he did;.
  • note next that in the same week our Prime Minister, Theresa May, made a duty visit to pay homage to the medieval despots of Saudi Arabia, who kindly buy our warplanes and bombs and are currently using them to savage effect in Yemen
  • and that President Trump was playing host at the White House to the head of Egypt’s military junta, General el-Sisi, whose security forces undoubtedly massacred at least 600 protesters (probably many more) in the streets of Cairo in August 2013.
  • Then mark that the pretext for this bizarre rocket attack was an unproven claim that President Assad of Syria had used poison gas.

Yes, an unproven claim. No independent western diplomat or journalist can gain access to the scene of the alleged atrocity, and what information we have is controlled by Al Nusra.

Another question from Hitchens (left): “Is the gassing of children (undoubtedly a horror) so *much* worse than the other atrocities which the USA knowingly tolerates among its clients in the Middle East, or indeed excuses as collateral damage in such places as Mosul and Ramadi?” The brutality of Sisi and the Saudis is beyond doubt. They didn’t use gas, but our leaders’ outrage at Assad’s alleged gas attack looks a little contrived if they keep such company.

What happened to the rules of evidence? Many people have written, spoken – and now acted – as if the charge was proven. Why the hurry?

Assad is currently winning his war against Islamist fanatics, with conventional weapons. He had finally got the USA to stop demanding his dismissal: “Five days before the alleged attack – five days! – America’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, announced: ‘Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out’ . . . He knows that the use of poison gas is the one thing that will make the USA intervene against him. They have said so.

So why would he do such a thing, and throw away all his victories in a few minutes? It makes no sense of any kind”.

Hitchens points out that the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, alias the Al-Nusra Front, the Syrian ‘opposition’ which we in the West have been supporting for several years . . . is the local franchise of ‘Al Qaeda’.

Al-Nusra is the Saudi-backed group which seeks the removal of Assad as leader of Syria controls the area where the alleged gas attack took place, and controls all the information coming out of that area. He describes atrocities they have committed and continues. “This is the group whose aims the USA is now supporting, and backing with cruise missiles”.

The only big difference he can see between Al Qaeda and Islamic State is that we drop bombs on Islamic State. And that therefore, in effect, we are dropping these bombs on behalf of Al-Nusra/Al Qaeda. 

Hitchens believes, “The once-wealthy and powerful West is bankrupt and increasingly at the mercy of people who have begun to demand something in return for their trade and their loans. It is all very sordid, and bodes ill for the future”. He ends:

“I would mind it less if we admitted what we were doing, rather than pretending these wretched events were some sort of noble act”.

 

 

 

 

The post truth debate: an organic farmer prompts a search

Post truth: ‘for the birds’ ?

 tom-rigby-4

With thanks to Tom Rigby (above) – known for his effective advocacy on behalf of farmers poisoned by use of government-required organophosphate sheep dips (latest reference) – who often offers worthwhile Twitter feeds. Today one led to a rare challenge to the widespread acceptance of assertions that we live in a “post-truth” world.  

He links to an article by Robert Fisk (‘always worth reading’) who bluntly asserts: “We do not live in a “post-truth” world, neither in the Middle East nor in the West – nor in Russia, for that matter. We live in a world of lies. And we always have lived in a world of lies”.

Rune Møller Stahl’s PhD fellow at University of Copenhagen, Department of Political Science and Bue Rübner Hansen is a postdoctoral fellow at Aarhus University, Denmark explore the subject in Jacobin: a voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics and culture. 

Stahl and Hansen use the term ‘liberals’ in a way that needs further definition.

jacobinFar removed from the admirable political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality, an online search (including Wiki) offers the explanation that Liberal writers start from the belief that economic liberalism’s values — the right to private property, the valorization of self-interest, and formal freedom without material equality — best describe human nature.

To explain what happened in the United Kingdom and the United States this year these writers all agree that voters and politicians increasingly deny facts, manipulate the truth, and prefer emotion to expertise .They ask how voters could defy the warnings of so many pundits, wonks, and fact-checkers?

Almost unanimously, they answered that we live in an age characterized by post-factual politics and noted that, pushed by major media organizations like Forbes and the New York Times, “post-truth” recently became Oxford Dictionaries’ new word of the year.

Stahl and Hansen sardonically observe that the liberal media don’t seem to know how we entered this post-fact world or when the factual age, which must have preceded it, ended, asking “Was it in the 2000s, when the whole world debated imaginary weapons of mass destruction before being conned into war?”

Historical points made in Jacobin:

  • In the 1990s centrist technocrats like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair ‘pioneered . . . a false progressivism that was premised on profitability and stopped short of any proposal the political center might object to, no matter how just’.
  • The right-wing fringe led by Fox News, conspiracy theorists, and televangelists remained marginal until 9/11/01 threw the United States — liberal and conservative alike — into a patriotic mass hysteria that culminated in two poorly planned wars.
  • But historical events started calling liberal truths into question. The 2008 financial crash revealed the failure of liberal economics. Occupy and Black Lives Matter threw light on structural problems that triangulation and managerialism not only can’t address but refuse to.

pinn

In sum, they end that it’s time to stop blaming (the current version of) fake news and realize why so many believe it: the simple reason is that the mainstream of the political class have squandered people’s trust, by not having their best interests at heart. Stahl and Hansen believe that only a democratic revival will challenge authoritarianism and liberal managerialism and combat the regressives who now run their country – and ours.

 

 

 

Political loyalties: EU or USA? The red carpet treatment wins the day

cameron red carpet muscat

Saudi Arabia, with Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan led a gulf coalition airstrike against Yemen in March. The Obama administration is supporting the Saudi-led air war with intelligence, air refueling operations and expediting weapons deliveries and other crucial support.

Today a Moseley reader draws our attention to the news reported by the Guardian that – eager to follow suit – David Cameron has extolled the ‘defence’ products made by BAE Systems and assured the company that every effort would be made by the UK government to support the selling of their equipment to Saudi Arabia, Oman and other countries.

This, despite the European parliament’s vote in favour of an EU-wide ban on arms being sold to Saudi Arabia in protest at its heavy aerial bombing of Yemen, which has been condemned by the UN.

According to a BBC report, Houthis – aka Shiite Muslim rebels – are seeking change from weak governance, corruption, resource depletion and poor infrastructure, unemployment, high food prices, limited social services and large-scale displacement.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have taken to the streets of the capital, Sana’a, to voice their anger at the Saudi invasion.

yemen bombing

Death and destruction: the fruits of Saudi, UK, USA labour

 

US runs amok: if only, as Oborne conjectured, Jeremy Corbyn had directed British foreign policy over the past 15 years . . .

Oborne’s question is called to mind as our unrestrainable psychopathic ‘friend’ bombs a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières killing 22 people – targetted by a US plane that returned repeatedly to the scene, dropping bombs on a building from which staff and patients were trying to escape.

Extracts from George Monbiot’s Guardian article:

The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.” This is how an anonymous Nato spokesperson described Saturday’s disaster in Afghanistan.

The lies and euphemisms add insult to the crime. Nato’s apparent indifference to life and truth could not fail to infuriate, perhaps to radicalise, people who are currently uninvolved in conflict in Afghanistan.

Of course the Taliban, Isis and Al Qaeda not only kill civilians carelessly, but also murder them deliberately. But this surely strengthens, rather than weakens, the need for a demonstration of moral difference.

An analysis published last year by the human rights group Reprieve revealed that attempts by United States forces to blow up 41 men with drone strikes killed 1,147 people. Many were children. Some of the targets remain unharmed, while repeated attempts to kill them have left a trail of shattered bodies and shattered lives. Because the US still does not do body counts, or not in public at any rate, the great majority of such deaths are likely to be unknown to us.

As the analyst Paul Rogers points out, the US Air Force dropped 1800 bombs while helping Kurdish fighters to wrest the town of Kobane in northern Syria from Isis. It used 200 kg bombs to take out single motorbikes.

Sometimes (Ed: always?) this professed battle for civilisation looks more like a clash of barbarisms.

An air force major involved in the bombing enthused that “to be part of something, to go out and stomp those guys out, it was completely overwhelming and exciting”.

Every misdirected bomb, every brutal night raid, every non-combatant killed, every lie and denial and minimisation is a recruitment poster for those with whom the US is at war. For this reason and many others its wars appears to be failing on most fronts. The Taliban is resurgent. Isis, far from being beaten or contained, is growing and spreading: into North Africa, across the Middle East, and in the Caucasus. The more money and munitions the West pours into Syria and Iraq, the stronger the insurgents appear to become.

The US, with Britain’s help, created Isis

By invading Iraq in 2003, destroying its government and infrastructure, dismantling the army and detaining thousands of former soldiers, the US, with Britain’s help, created Isis. Through bombing, it arguably helps to sustain the movement. Everything it touches now turns to dust, either pulverised directly by its drones and bombers, or destroyed through blowback in the political vacuums it creates.

Unstoppable? The obstacles:

  • A vast intelligence and military establishment that no president since Carter has sought to control;
  • the tremendous profits to be made by weapons companies and military contractors and
  • a propaganda machine that portrays these conflicts in the media as necessary and even heroic.

And – Monbiot ends: here comes the UK government, first operating covertly, against the expressed will of parliament, now presenting the authorisation of its bombing in Syria as a test of manhood.

Always clear in his parliamentary strategy, never clear in his military strategy, David Cameron seeks to join another failed intervention that is likely only to enhance the spread of terrorism.

Barbarians clash indeed – both ‘sides’ are abhorrent!

 

Will future generations curse our indifference?

Yesterday, ‘An unethical bet in the climate casino’, by Martin Wolf, was published in the Financial Times. Wolf believes that the Republican victory in the mid-term elections will have big implications for the future of the US and the rest of humanity.

The US is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and among the highest emitters per head and Wolf thinks that “the most important consequence of this election may therefore be to bury what little hope remained of getting to grips with the risk of dangerous climate change”.

US executes world

A truism: ‘countries cannot keep bits of the atmosphere to themselves’ – moving off the world’s current trajectory is a collective task. Without US will and technological resources, the needed shift will not happen. Other countries will not – indeed cannot – compensate.

Many Republicans seem to have concluded man-made climate change is a hoax. If so, this is quite a hoax. Just read the synthesis report of the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. One is asked to imagine that thousands of scientists have put together a complex fabrication in order to promote their not particularly remunerative careers, in the near certainty they will be found out. This hypothesis makes no sense.

After summarising some of its findings, Wolf continues:

“If we continue on our path, the report adds, larger changes in climate are highly likely. The equilibrium rise in global average surface temperatures caused by a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations relative to pre-industrial levels would be between 1.5C and 4.5C. But the concentrations of greenhouse gases have already risen by more than 40%. Likely consequences of further rises include disease, extreme weather, food and water insecurity and loss of biodiversity and valuable ecosystems”.

He sees no indication that humanity will move off the path towards ever greater emissions, with potentially huge and irreversible consequence.

Indifference to the fate of future generations

Those standing in the way of mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing the emission of green house gases are accused of indifference to the fate of future generations:

“Why should we bear costs of mitigation today for the benefit of those we will never know, even if that includes our own descendants? After all, the indifferent might ask, what have future generations ever done for us?

A strong moral argument, unlikely to prevail, Wolf:

“The ethical response is that we are the beneficiaries of the efforts of our ancestors to leave a better world than the one they inherited. We have the same obligation even if, in this case, the challenge is so complex.

“But, however strong such a moral argument may be, it is most unlikely to overcome the inertia we now see.

“Future generations, and even many of today’s young, might curse our indifference. But we do not care, do we? “

martin.wolf@ft.com

STOP PRESS:

Will Mr Wolf be reassured by the APEC Obama climate change agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping that would cut both countries’ greenhouse gas emissions by close to a third over the next two decades?

Long overdue: counting just one of all the unacceptable costs of war

In 2004. Mark Tully (New Delhi) inspired a report counting the costs of our economic system. Molly Scott Cato made a major contribution to the report and obliquely supplies an answer to the madness of embarking on military ventures: ‘Counting is what capitalism is good at, what it thrives on. Counting is what the accountants and management consultants do, and they now decide how businesses and indeed government should be run”.

Warfare is undoubtedly good for the aggressors’ business, whether it be through manufacturing arms, securing resources or seeking contracts to rebuild damaged infrastructure.

harry patch quote

A reader sent a link to an account by Guardian journalists Simon Hattenstone and Eric Allison which counted just one of the costs of warfare: post-traumatic stress disorder.

Other costs include:

  • the social and economic cost of diverting resources to warfare,
  • the environmental damage done by warfare
  • and the human and infrastructural devastation in the attacked countries.

Simon Hattenstone and Eric Allison report that in 2009, the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) recorded 8,500 veterans serving sentences in UK prisons, and a further 11,500 on probation or parole and estimated that half of veterans in prison had depression or PTSD (compared with 23% of the male prison population). They give accounts of several cases of former soldiers eventually diagnosed with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder.

Denial and delay by the MoD keeps costs down

Those diagnosed with combat-related PTSD are entitled to a disablement pension, while victims of the crime could also potentially claim compensation. Between 2005 and March 2014, 1,390 claims were awarded under the Armed Forces and Reserve Forces Compensation Scheme for mental disorders (including PTSD). The NAPO figures indicate that half of the former soldiers currently on probation or in prison (at least 4000-at most 10,000) could make a case for compensation, as could any victims attacked by them.

In America, 20% of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq have been diagnosed with PTSD; in 2011, 476,514 veterans were treated for it. At least 191,000 soldiers have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, so according to the estimate made by forensic psychiatrist Dr Deirdre MacManus, in the next decade or so there could be more than 13,000 ex-service personnel returning from combat zones with mental health problems.

The British criminal justice system should learn from America, where veterans who are arrested are put through a different legal process and given access to psychiatrists, psychologists and lawyers who specialise in combat-related PTSD.

Above all, Britain and America should learn from Bruce Kent and Harry Patch: abolish war – it is barbaric, destructive, wasteful and futile.

As US politics faces a ‘tidal wave of money’, UK gears up for the 2015 elections

New World: After Watergate campaign finance laws were passed to cut out corruption

us supreme court

Now, Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly employed by Monsanto, voted with the majority as the US Supreme Court struck down a cap on political donations, on the grounds that this is a restriction on free speech. Under the new rules, a single individual may now spend $3.6m per election on candidates, their parties’ committees and various political committees.

Justice Thomas also delivered a separate opinion saying all such limits on donations should go.

As Richard McGregor in Washington writes in the FT, overnight this has handed greater power to wealthy political patrons.

Old World

DEFRA minister Owen Paterson using a particle gun used in the testing of GM crops

DEFRA minister Owen Paterson using a particle gun used in the testing of GM crops

Environment secretary Owen Paterson has actively promoted the introduction of GM technology, despite public opposition in Britain and the fact that 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and most countries in Europe have either banned GM crop production outright, or put in place tight restrictions on the production and use of GM products.

 

The Monsanto connection will be continuing to work hard behind the scenes for an outright Conservative victory in Britain, funding an army of lobbyists and PR firms; an overall majority would allow them to introduce GM crops.

Export-hungry British government please note: GM food regarded as ‘controversial’ in China

cui yongyuanZhang Junmian reports that Cui Yongyuan, a political advisor, writer, director, sound designer and former CCTV host, has called on the government to strengthen supervision of GM crops.

GM food is described as a controversial issue for the Chinese public, who are sceptical about its safety and question the lack of labelling of GM ingredients in consumer goods.

Yongkuan challenged by Chinese-born US scientist who promotes GM corn

Fang ZhouziIn January US resident Fang Shimin, a vocal supporter of GM technology, who graduated in China and obtained a Ph.D. in biochemistry in Michigan State University “engaged in a fierce war of words on a microblog with Cui” after he had questioned Fang’s promotion of GM corn last year. Fang has charged Cui with defamation in a Beijing district court.

In March, before the opening of the second session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s national advisory body, Cui Yongyuan said the government should strengthen its supervision of the commercialization of GM crops, especially the practice of illegally growing GM crops:

“According to our surveys over the past six months, GM crops, including GM corn and rice, are illegally grown on a large scale in some Chinese provinces, including Jilin, Guangxi, Hunan and Hubei. The reality is that many GM crops have entered our food chain.”

Cui said that any foods that contain GM ingredients should be explicitly labeled to allow consumers to decide whether they want to buy them. On March 1, Cui uploaded online a 68-minute-long documentary based on his surveys on the status quo of GM food production and consumption in the United States in December 2013. He announced on his micro blog that the video was being made available for free, with the aim of presenting the controversies on GM crops overseas and arousing the public’s awareness of health.

So far, China has approved only the production of GM cotton, and only on an experimental basis, according to Cui, but Niu Dun, China’s vice minister of agriculture, later said that the country currently permits production of GM cotton and papaya. No GM staple foods, such as meat, eggs, milk or seafood, are allowed in commercial production.