Press**Watch: swine flu profits


Gaybashing, swine flu and losing the Afghan war

Hilariously, Admiral Mike Mullen and Secretary of Imperial Wars Robert Gates had to stand next to the President yesterday, as he announced signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  That’s because the Dems had inserted the hate crimes bill into the 2009 war appropriations, thereby guaranteeing its passage, and infuriating the Right.  But for the top brass it was don’t ask, don’t tell about their official loathing for gays, because they wanted their money and there was nothing for it but to stand there and pretend that majority rules.  Oh yes it was sweet.

Here’s how the Baltimore Sun’s editorial department describes it: “The legislation signed by the president Wednesday will give victims of anti-gay violence the same federal protection already extended to victims of violent crimes because of their race, color, religion or national origin. The disabled also get protection in the new law.”,0,1519136.story

Here’s what it means, in real terms: when a queer like me gets beaten or shot by screaming bigots, the local authorities won’t necessarily be able to turn away.  Now that there is federal legislation, prosecution of violent bigots will be cheaper and easier, and that will have a chilling effect, just as it has for other civil rights categories.  Ironically yesterday I was taunted at my workplace by a couple of law enforcement officers, so I gave the situation some thought.  This new legislation doesn’t mean that their balance of power has shifted—they can mock me, and realistically speaking they could do me in if they wanted.  But the underlying current of unchallenged bigotry that they once rode has started drying up.  The bigots are whining in the right-wing media that they have been silenced, but as usual that’s a straw-man argument, as there is no language in the new law preventing the usual verbal venting of hatred.  Queer-bashing will continue unabated for now, in both verbal and physical forms, but a new tool for justice has been added.


It isn’t just that your emails and phone calls are monitored….

Your words and thoughts are being sorted and processed.

WSJ  3-10-08  Siobhan Gorman

“….According to current and former intelligence officials, the [NSA] spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called "transactional" data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA's own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge's approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

“The NSA's enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light. They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world's main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.

“The effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called "black programs" whose existence is undisclosed, the current and former officials say. Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach. Among them, current and former intelligence officials say, is a longstanding Treasury Department program to collect individual financial data including wire transfers and credit-card transactions.”

The effort to spy on absolutely everyone continues across the Pond as well, according to this article by Tom Burghardt reprinted in Global Research titled “Mind Your Tweets: The CIA Social Networking Surveillance System.”

It says in part:

“In this context, the whistleblowing web site
Wikileaks published a remarkable document October 4 by the INDECT Consortium, the Intelligence Information System Supporting Observation, Searching and Detection for Security of Citizens in Urban Environment.


“Hardly a catchy acronym, but simply put INDECT is working to put a human face on the billions of emails, text messages, tweets and blog posts that transit cyberspace every day; perhaps your face.

“According to Wikileaks, INDECT's "Work package 4" is designed "to comb web blogs, chat sites, news reports, and social-networking sites in order to build up automatic dossiers on individuals, organizations and their relationships." Ponder that phrase again: "automatic dossiers."

“This isn't the first time that European academics have applied their "knowledge skill sets" to keep the public "safe"--from a meaningful exercise of free speech and the right to assemble, that is.

“Last year The Guardian
that Bath University researchers' Cityware project covertly tracked "tens of thousands of Britons" through the installation of Bluetooth scanners that capture "radio signals transmitted from devices such as mobile phones, laptops and digital cameras, and using the data to follow unwitting targets without their permission."

“One privacy advocate, Simon Davies, the director of Privacy International, told The Guardian: "This technology could well become the CCTV of the mobile industry. It would not take much adjustment to make this system a ubiquitous surveillance infrastructure over which we have no control."


But wait, these are the guys on our side, right?  You trust them with their automatic dossier combining all of your phone and Internet activity to create an automated assessment of your entire personality, right?  Because I don’t.  And this is exactly the sort of information that the FBI has cheerily offered to share with industry under the Infragard program.  Isn’t it comforting to know that your corporate bosses can have a cybernetic assessment of your psyche as well?  After all, what’s good for business is good for America.


School Undercounts Raise Pandemic Concerns
Recombinomics Commentary 17:34
October 26, 2009

"It's been a combination of things," Soper said. "We do know we have the H1N1 flu up here, but there's also the seasonal flu, bronchitis, strep throat, pneumonia, it's just a combination of - the perfect storm."

The above comments represent one of many examples of media reports calling H1N1 infections something other than swine flu.  Other media favorites include "bad cold", "stomach flu/bug", "allergies".  This confusion is largely traced to a misunderstanding of the meaning of an influenza A positive sample, or attempts to classify swine flu patients who
don't have a fever, but have one or more symptoms associated with swine flu. These misconceptions create serious media undercounts of H1N1 infections.

Although the official seasonal flu season has begun, there have been virtually no confirmed seasonal flu cases in the US, in part because the season is very young, and in part because of a crowding out of seasonal flu by swine flu.  Consequently, many physicians use an influenza A test to diagnose swine flu because over 99% of influenza A positive samples are swine flu.

Confusion and misdiagnosis can largely be traced to the use of fever on the swine flu case definition.  A high percentage of swine flu infections do not produce a fever, but since "fever" is in the case definition, many try to apply an alternate designation for such cases.  However, these feverless cases appear at the same school and at the same time as the cases with fever, supporting multiple presentations of cases with the same etiology.

As the pandemic evolves, the number of infected students has increased at an alarming rate, leading to
attack rates approaching 100% and massive school closings.  In Michigan, 196 schools were closed on Friday (see map
) and many schools throughout the country are reporting absenteeism rates well above 10-15%, which have been used in the past to close schools.  Now many school closings are driven by a high absenteeism rate among teachers and staff, which prevent the school from functioning properly.

The high levels of infections will doubtlessly lead to more strain on the health care system, which were a factor in the declaration of a health emergency.  The increases in cases lead to a lack of treatment, which produces more hospitalizations, heroic efforts, and deaths.

The high frequency of cases also raises re-infection concerns, which are supported by anecdotal evidence, increasing the likelihood that the current disruption and school closings will continue.

[see for more of Dr. Henry Niman's commentaries.]


For the latest on swine flu, I’ll have to turn to Chinese journalists:

      NEW YORK, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- The first phase of A/H1N1 immunizations in New York City schools got underway Wednesday morning.

    This marks the beginning of a three-phase initiative to vaccinate the city's school-age population against A/H1N1 influenza.

    The first phase includes 125 public elementary schools with enrollments of less than 400.

    "Starting the week after this, we will have the weekend clinics on Saturdays and Sundays, totally 58 those clinics we prepared for several weeks," said New York City Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley.

    "That is (an) opportunity for children in middle and high schools to receive the vaccination," he said.

    New York health officials said there would soon be enough doses of the vaccine to go around.

    "We have 30 percent parents signed in permission and more coming in," said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs. "It is a volunteer program and part of the challenge is all of the organizations to have to fill out the forms and get them in. Thirty percent is a very good rate."

    Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have said that more than 22 million doses of the vaccine are now available.

    "Eventually, there will be enough vaccine for all who want to be vaccinated to get vaccinated," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. "We wish we had more vaccine available now, we wish it had been available weeks or even months earlier but we are beginning to get to a significant increase in the availability."

    The second phase of immunizations at city schools will begin on Nov. 4 and the third will begin on Nov. 9.

    The United States received about 9 million more doses of A/H1N1vaccine from drug makers last week, bringing the total available for distribution to 23.2 million.

    U.S. President Barack Obama declared A/H1N1 flu a national emergency on Saturday. The disease is spreading across the country and caused 411 confirmed deaths and over 8,200 hospitalizations from Aug. 30 to Oct. 17, the CDC said.


Getting information on the h1n1 flu outbreak  has been a little like trying to grab warm jell-o out of the pan.  Apparently, according to the CDC, there were 351 school closings as of a couple of weeks ago.  For example, here is a quote of the grossly outdated information you will find on the CDC’s web page today:

“During the week of October 11-17, 2009, influenza activity continued to increase in the United States as reported in FluView. Flu activity is now widespread in 46 states. Nationwide, visits to doctors for influenza-like-illness are increasing steeply and are now higher than what is seen at the peak of many regular flu seasons. In addition, flu-related hospitalizations and deaths continue to go up nation-wide and are above what is expected for this time of year.”


Meanwhile worries about the vaccine continue to mount.  You may recall that there have been assurances from the CDC that adjuvants such as squalene would not be used unless there turned out to be a severe shortage.  The pharmaceutical industry would love to have a full-scale test of adjuvants, since it would lead to increased profits in coming years if the adjuvants actually work.  Handily for them it seems that the shortage has indeed appeared, and whoops it seems that the vaccine industry itself is to blame—as mentioned in the New York Times in an article by Cheryl Gay Stolberg yesterday:

“….But the administration, and in particular Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, have come in for strong criticism from those who say they created a false sense of expectations with overly optimistic predictions about the availability of the vaccine.

........[more at link]


Gosh, naive?  Or perhaps collaborative in spirit?

The opportunities for pharma profits continue to mount as the pandemic progresses.  The Examiner has this article:

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the use of intravenous (IV) antiviral peramivir for certain adult and pediatric patients with confirmed or suspected 2009 H1N1 influenze infection, according to an FDA news release. This move was done in response to a request from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Specifically, IV peramivir is authorized only for hospitalized adult and pediatric patients based on one or more of the following criteria:

  • The patient is not responding to either oral or inhaled antiviral therapy,
  • When drug delivery by a route other than an IV route -- eg, enteral (absorbed by the intestines) or inhaled -- is not expected to be dependable or feasible,
  • For adults only, when the clinician judges that IV therapy is appropriate due to other circumstances.




Obama’s Defense Bill Restarts Gitmo Tribunals

Less Than Three Months Left for Obama to Make Good on Closure Promise

by Jason Ditz, October 28, 2009

With less than three months left to make good on his promise to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay within one year and virtually no effort made so far to do so, President Barack Obama has signed the military funding bill which will effectively restart military tribunals at the facility.

Today’s move finalizes a plan concocted by the president in May, which would make a handful of cosmetic changes to the tribunal system, giving detainees a little control over their legal counsel and

[more at]……


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