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Monday, December 14, 2009
U.N.'s H1N1 scientists linked to companies making vaccine
Posted: December 07, 2009
9:53 pm Eastern
By Chelsea Schilling
© 2009 WorldNetDaily
World Health Organization scientists are suspected of accepting secret bribes from vaccine manufacturers to influence the U.N. organization's H1N1 pandemic declaration, according to Danish and Swedish newspapers.
Meanwhile, pharmaceutical profits from swine-flu-related drugs have soared – with earnings between $10 billion and $15 billion in 2009, investment bank JPMorgan estimates.
As WND reported, WHO Director General Margaret Chan initially raised the influenza pandemic alert to its second-highest level in May – but evidence reveals the agency may have made it easier to classify the flu outbreak as a pandemic by changing its definition to omit "enormous numbers of deaths and illness" just prior to making its declaration.
The world was gripped with fears of swine flu as the alert increased from Phase 5 to Phase 6, the highest level. Immediately, pharmaceutical companies began working to develop vaccines, and countries tailored their responses to address the situation.
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Danish newspaper Information reported that when Chan raised the level of pandemic alert on June 11, the declaration meant substantial economic benefits for the pharmaceutical industry – especially since many countries have contracts with major drug companies and are required to purchase vaccines in the event of a pandemic. Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet echoed Information's report.
"Many of the apparently impartial researchers the WHO uses, however, are paid by the companies that produce vaccines," states a translated version of the Information article, "Strong lobbying behind WHO resolution on mass vaccination."
One expert in a WHO H1N1 advisory group, Dr. Albert Osterhaus, has been subject to a Dutch government investigation. The government convened a crisis meeting after an article in Science magazine indicated that Osterhaus has financial interests in several pharmaceutical companies.
Osterhaus, known as "Dr. Flu," is the head of the department of virology at the Erasmus Medical Center, University of Rotterdam. According to a European Commission Research website, Osterhaus is co-founder of two biotech companies and promotes vaccines as solutions for pandemics.
Another expert who advises WHO on vaccines, Dr. Frederick Hayden, is described as a flu-research coordinator from the Wellcome Trust in London.
However, according to the report, Hayden also serves as a "paid adviser" for pharmaceutical companies Roche, RW Johnson, SmithKline Beecham and Glaxo Wellcome.
WHO expert Dr. Arnold Monto is also purportedly a paid consultant for MedImmune (a company that produces nasal flu vaccine), Glaxo Wellcome and ViroPharma. However, WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts never divulged those ties, according to the report.
The newspaper also states that numerous pharmaceutical companies maintain an active presence during WHO advisory group meetings, with representatives listed as "observers."
Professor Tom Jefferson, epidemiologist at the Cochrane Center in Rome, told Information he believes the researchers' dual roles are problematic, and he noted the WHO's emphasis on drugs rather than proper hygiene habits.
"The WHO's latest recommendation on the control of pandemic influenza has frequent washing of hands mentioned twice," he said. "Vaccines and antivirals are, however, mentioned 24 and 18 times. Why would an international public-health agency focus on much more expensive interventions, such as vaccines and medication, when it is not proven that they work?"
Jefferson said washing one's hands is the only proven method of flu prevention.
Wolf Dieter Ludwig, head of the drug commission of the German Medical Association, told Der Spiegel he has no doubt pharmaceutical companies have been seeking to capitalize off what he called a "nonexistent threat."
WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told Information it's natural to allow representatives of the pharmaceutical industry to participate in WHO meetings.
"Everybody has something to contribute in this process – industry, [nongovernmental organizations] and professional players – so we can gather all information," he said. "They cannot vote. They have no influence on the outcome, and they can only speak when they are asked. We make vaccine recommendations, so we need knowledge about what is required to produce a vaccine. Only the manufacturers have that knowledge."
According to the report, WHO does not publicize information about advisers' financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
"All staff must sign the declaration of conflicts of interest, so we are clear about their background," Hartl said. "But again, Frederick Hayden is the best influenza virologist in the world, so if you want to know how influenza behaves, you ask Fred Hayden."
Asked why WHO doesn't publish the advisers' financial ties to drug companies, he replied, "I'm not sure why we didn't publish it. I can't answer that. … It is possible that we will look at a code of disclosure of financial information, but I cannot promise anything."
He continued, "WHO has a system that guarantees independence. … We do not let anything or anyone influence us."
Louise Voller, journalist at the Danish daily and co-author of the report, told Russia Today, "The biggest problem seems to be that we don't know enough. There's not enough transparency on financial disclosure on the expert groups used by WHO. ... Scientists who appear to be independent are also hired consultants working for the same pharmaceutical companies who produce the vaccines. This is clearly an issue that needs to be taken care of."
Voller said she does not expect that the WHO will publish the financial disclosures on its experts unless public pressure is put on the organization.
Asked whether any solid investigations are being conducted to explore the allegations, she replied, "Not currently. I don't think so. ... [I]t has to be public what is going on in these meetings and what is going on in these expert groups. Who are the people working for WHO? And who else are they working for?"
According to Voice of America, Keiji Fakuda, WHO director general on pandemic influenza, refuted claims that WHO is in collusion with the pharmaceutical industry. He also noted that 150 million doses of H1N1 vaccine have been distributed in 40 countries.
Meanwhile, WHO reports the global H1N1 death toll at 8,768 as of Dec. 4.
According to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2,500 and 6,100 Americans died from swine flu between April and Oct. 17 this year.
However, the CDC also reports that during a typical U.S. winter, normal seasonal flu strains result in an average of 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 American deaths – roughly 10 times the current swine-flu death rate.
Leading epidemiologists are now predicting the pandemic may rank as the mildest on record.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Taiwan and China
By PHILIP BOWRING
Published: October 6, 2009
HONG KONG - Taiwan’s position as a de facto independent state seems to be morphing very slowly toward the “one country, two systems” status of Hong Kong. The process is not irreversible but the sentiments of those of mainland origin in the governing Nationalist Party, along with the self-interest of business groups and a widespread sense of economic vulnerability are all pushing the island toward accommodation with Beijing.
The trend could mean an erosion in the support Taiwan gets, albeit erratically, from the United States and Japan.
The most striking evidence of a desire to please Beijing — at the expense of the liberal values which have gained Taiwan much praise in recent years — was the denial of entry to the exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer. This was done in the name of “national interest,” apparently linked to the finalization, expected soon, of a memorandum of understanding on cross-strait financial links.
For sure, the memorandum would be a major advance, enabling banks in particular to escape the confines of Taiwan, with its low growth and surplus savings, for the fast-growing mainland. And it would bring more mainland capital to local stocks and property. But the government of President Ma Ying-jeou may have forgotten that Taiwan’s national interest as an independent state, albeit one that may one day merge with the mainland, sometimes requires sacrifices. The degree of autonomy that Rebiya Kadeer has been seeking for Uighurs is a fraction of that enjoyed by Taiwan or even Hong Kong.
There is real benefit in increasing cross-straits financial links. Banks have much to gain by being able to service clients in Taiwan with business on the mainland. Cross-straits links may attract service industries to Taiwan that would otherwise go to Hong Kong. Mainland tourism is also an unqualified plus.
But Taiwan seems to be talking itself into believing that it is even more dependent on the mainland than need be the case. The island would be a more attractive place for foreign business if it removed the many restrictions that exist to protect local businesses, or stem simply from bureaucracy and outdated rules. Tax issues also tend to keep business offshore while not preventing a huge outflow of capital. The Ma government has made progress on these issues, but they get scant attention compared to cross-straits ones.
It is easy to blame a lackluster economy on being unable to take full advantage of the mainland. But in reality, Taiwan is a mature economy with minimal growth in its work force. Like Japan, its problems lie with an inefficient domestic services sector, not with an inventive export-manufacturing one.
Dependence on China is often overstated. While 40 percent of Taiwan’s exports go there, more than half are components for globally traded items like laptops and cellphones made by Taiwanese companies and then re-exported from China. The dependence is self-imposed for profit reasons, which may be shifting as mainland costs rise. There are alternatives.
Worrying too for friends of Taiwan’s liberal democracy is the vengeance being meted out to the opposition by powerful supporters of the governing Nationalist Party, or KMT. Former president Chen Shui-bian was found guilty of corruption and his conduct has left the opposition Democratic Progressive Party demoralized and frustrated. But given the pervasiveness of money politics and the past reputation of the Nationalists for corruption, the life sentence for Chen is extreme. Now, in the name of fighting corruption, there is talk of a witch-hunt against other members of the Chen administration. To some this smacks of an attempt by pro-unification elements to please Beijing by demonizing Chen, who supported independence and who suffered much in the cause of breaking the KMT’s authoritarian hold on power.
None of this is likely to help Taiwan’s relations with its main supporter, the United States. Chen upset a natural ally in George W. Bush by needlessly provoking Beijing in an attempt to score political points at home. Now the KMT seems to have gone to the other extreme. Taiwan has long disappointed Washington with unwillingness to spend money on arms. Now it may sense a lack of willingness to pay an economic price for the principles of independence and liberalism it claims to stand for. President Ma remains well-regarded abroad, but his grip on the KMT is uncertain. Taiwan lacks a strategic view of itself and how to balance relations with the Chinese mainland, the United States and the global economy with liberal democracy and de facto independence.
新紀元周刊 陳邁克 編譯
獨立作家包雲(Philip Bowring)十月七日在《紐約時報》發表〈臺灣與中國〉(Taiwan and China)一文。作者認為，馬英九政府為了經濟利益，對北京過度讓步，可能危及臺灣的民主自由。
全球安全網站(GlobalSecurity.org)在五月十一日發表的資深研究員史奈德(Scott A. Snyder)的文章〈臺灣逐漸惡化的戰略地位與兩岸關係〉(Taiwan's Deteriorating Strategic Position and Cross-Strait Relations)，就已經表示，儘管兩岸關係改善、經濟合作增加，但在中共持續擴軍的情況下，臺灣的戰略地位卻日益惡化。臺灣同時需要美國持續供應武器以及在政治上的支持，才能保有必要的空間及政治力量，而不受制於中共。
馬英九倡議與胡錦濤背書的「兩岸經濟合作架構協議」(Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement，ECFA)，可能增加彼此在經濟上的相互依賴性，也可能減少中共在政治上對臺灣與東南亞鄰國建立自由貿易協定的干預，否則，臺灣的競爭地位可能因此而蒙受損失。