More than half the scientists on the swine flu taskforce advising the Government have ties to drug companies.
Eleven of the 20 members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) have done work for the pharmaceutical industry or are linked to it through their universities.
Many have declared interests in GlaxoSmithKline, the vaccine maker expected to be the biggest beneficiary of the pandemic.
The disclosure of the register of interests comes just days after a health expert branded the swine flu outbreak a ‘false pandemic’ driven by the drug companies which stood to profit.
The Government is now trying to offload up to £1billion worth of unwanted swine flu vaccine.
Last July, the Department of Health warned of up 65,000 deaths, with 350 a day at the pandemic’s peak. But the death toll now stands at just 251.
SAGE was created to give Ministers recommendations on how to control and treat the virus.
Official documents show some members are linked to vaccine manufacturer Baxter and to Roche, which makes Tamiflu.
GSK, Baxter and Roche stand to make up to £1.5billion between them from Government contracts related to swine flu.
The scientists declared the interests to the Department of Health.
They were not obliged to declare the amounts they earned but they are thought to range from around £500 for a lecture or presentation to more than £100,000 for a directorship of GSK.
Some will simply be heads of university research departments which received funding from companies… Full article
Eva Bartlett writing from occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 14 January 2010
It’s a sunny day in the border region east of Beit Hanoun. Aside from a glaring absence of the citrus and olive trees which for decades abounded on this fertile land, finally razed by Israeli military bulldozers, all seems idyllic.
“This is the first time I’ve returned here since my friends were killed,” Ahmad Hammad says. He stands at the edge of a vacant plot and gestures to its far end which lies over 1 km from the border separating Israel and the Gaza Strip. “They were over there, I was standing here,” he explains.
Hammad, 24, recalls the day two years ago when three of his friends, all in their early twenties, were torn apart by an Israeli-fired surface-to-surface missile.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported that an Israeli military spokesman claimed that the Israeli army “targeted Palestinian gunmen accused of launching home-made rockets at Israeli towns.”
But Hammad remembers differently.
“They were all sitting over there, beside a small concrete hut. We used to come here all the time, to relax, drink tea, talk of our hopes and dreams. I was late that day.”
The date — 23 February 2008 — is etched in Hammad’s memory. His is a story of seeking a sanctuary where politics, occupation, siege and Israeli attacks didn’t exist. Just friends, tea, tobacco water pipe and talk.
“I left home around 2pm when they called me. They were already here, preparing the tea, relaxing. When I arrived to this spot, Muhammad stood up and began dancing around, joking, waving me to come over.”
He relives the next painful minutes in slow motion:
Then — it was exactly 2:28pm — there was a huge explosion and much smoke. I couldn’t see the area where they’d been standing, the smoke was so thick. When I finally got through the smoke and reached where they’d been standing, I found only pieces of my friends. I couldn’t even identify them by their faces, they were so destroyed.
I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t talk. I cried and cried, for maybe half an hour. Then I tried to call an ambulance, but I was still crying so hard the dispatcher couldn’t understand me. I called a friend instead and told him to bring a car and come here. He asked why, and I just told him to come here, still crying.
We collected my friends in pieces and took them to the hospital.
Hammad walks now, venturing to the site where his best friends were martyred. He sits near a water pipe leading from the ground and explains the area. “That was the hut, it was just a single room. We’d prepare tea and heat coals [for the water pipe] here.”
Pointing beyond the flat space where the hut stood, he notes a pile of rubble. “The room was destroyed in the last Israeli attacks on Gaza.”
The land is parched and cracked from want of rain or irrigation. “All the water pumps and wells in this area have been destroyed,” Hammad says, diverting to the troubles which now plague the region. “My own father’s well, over there, just 700 meters from the border, was destroyed. It must have cost him at least $10,000 to build, and now he can’t water his citrus trees.”
The Hammad family is not alone in repeatedly losing trees, crops and wells to Israeli bulldozers. Throughout the border region, wells, cisterns, piping, houses, farm equipment, and crops have been destroyed over the last decade, the most thorough destruction being during Israel’s invasion of Gaza last winter.
This dry, flat plot of land once sprouted onions. “Some of our other friends rented the land. They wanted to earn some money, so they planted onions and worked the land together. But they always let us come here to relax, whenever we wanted. That’s why we came here that day.”
He points up, over the border region where a fat white blimp hangs in the sky, surveying the land below with great accuracy. “These blimps are along the border. They can see everything with great detail, including my clothes and face.”
What the blimp misses, the drone hovering above sees. During Israel’s invasion, drones clouded Gaza’s skies and accounted for 519 of the 1,419 Palestinian civilians murdered during the Israeli massacre, according to the al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights. Often, the first drone-fired missile would be pointedly followed minutes later by a second or third, striking those who came to rescue the injured.
Earlier this day, Israeli warplanes leafleted the border regions, again declaring the 300 meters from the border mortally off-limits to anyone on the Gaza side. The Israeli-imposed “buffer zone” goes back a decade. And although the current limit is 300 meters, in practice Israeli soldiers target Palestinians up to nearly 2km away.
“They were young, were still dreaming and planning their lives,” says Hammad.
Muhammad al-Zaniin was from Beit Hanoun. He was still in school, studying business and English at al-Azhar University.
“He was an over-achiever, always wanted to get the highest marks possible. His goal was to be first in his class throughout university, and to finish early. He was always studying. Just before he was killed, he had learned the results of some of his exams: 97 percent, 95 percent. But he was killed before he knew the rest. He wasn’t asking for much from life, just to do well in school, get a job, and marry a girl he loved.”
Ibrahim Abu Jarrad was also from Beit Hanoun.
“He was the quietest of us all. He was very thoughtful and a mediator, always solving problems between people. His hopes were very simple: to build a home and marry the girl he loved.”
Muhammad Hassanain was from Jabaliya. His father was dead and Muhammed had taken on the role of providing for the family.
“He dreamed of building a new home, large enough to house the family comfortably. He was such a responsible guy — as paying the university tuition of his younger brother. He just wanted to marry and take care of his family.”
It was the same week that the Israeli military killed another six civilians in Gaza and wounded 16. Among the martyred were an elderly shepherd and a farmer in his thirties, both nearly 3 km from the border when shelled by an Israeli surface-to-surface missile east of Gaza City. A 12-year-old and two 10-year-olds were killed later the same day west of Jabaliya, targeted by Israeli air strikes. An infant was killed by shrapnel to his head and chest after Israeli aircraft bombed a government building surrounded by houses in the center of Gaza City. A 31-year-old in the east Khan Younis region was killed by indiscriminate Israeli fire the day earlier.
“After I saw my friends torn to pieces, I kept thinking, ‘I wish I had been with them.’ I saw part of the missile that looked like it hadn’t exploded, and I wished that it would now explode with me,” Hammad says. “It was the end of the life I had, the end of my dreams.”
The killing of Hammad’s three friends wasn’t his first personal loss, but it hit him the hardest.
“I’d seen my cousins killed, in 2004. But that was nothing. This was the most difficult thing for me, it still haunts me.”
While Hammad no longer visits places that remind him of his martyred friends, he does still regularly visit their families.
“Of course, they are like my own families. But even though I know they love me, I always feel that they blame me, think I was the reason their sons were killed. I see it in their eyes.”
Like most Palestinians who’ve suffered the loss of their loved ones, or suffer from the grinding, nearly four-year-long siege on Gaza, Hammad hides his pain behind smiles and laughter.
“I told my friends that I’d never laugh again after my best friends were killed. But we go on. And my laughter is hollow.”
Fluent in English, Hebrew and his native Arabic, Hammad is educated and employed. But not happy.
“I also had many dreams. I used to dream of doing a Masters degree abroad. Now I just live day to day, continue because everyone tells me I must. This is life. It comes and takes everything you want.”
Eva Bartlett is a Canadian human rights advocate and freelancer who arrived in Gaza in November 2008 on the third Free Gaza Movement boat. She has been volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement and documenting Israel’s ongoing attacks on Palestinians in Gaza. During Israel’s recent assault on Gaza, she and other ISM volunteers accompanied ambulances and documenting the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.
QALQILIA, (PIC)– Jewish armed settlers wreaked havoc in the village of Ematin, Qalqilia district, in a pre dawn raid on Thursday that complemented their sabotage acts in the same village over the past two weeks.
Eyewitnesses said that the settlers from a nearby settlement burnt four vehicles in the village while people were asleep before swiftly withdrawing.
Villagers said that the vehicles were three cars and a tractor.
Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) rounded up 12 Palestinians in various West Bank areas at an early hour on Thursday during which they searched homes and harassed civilians.
The IOF soldiers on Wednesday night bulldozed four dunums of cultivated land lots in Safa north of Beit Ummar village, Al-Khalil district.
Local sources said that the IOF troops commenced their destruction without prior notice, noting that the land was cultivated with fruitful trees.
In the Gaza Strip, the IOF troops advanced into northeast of Rafah city for a few hours on Wednesday afternoon amidst intensified firing at civilian neighborhoods.
PIC reporter said that the soldiers mounting three armored vehicles escorted bulldozers that damaged cultivated fields.
The troops stationed east of Rafah fired at citizens’ homes and IOF artillery fired at agricultural areas east of Jabalia north of the Gaza Strip inflicting material damage but no casualties.
IOF F-16 warplanes flew at low altitudes over the Strip on Wednesday and penetrated the sound barrier spreading fear among civilians especially children.
Press TV – January 14, 2010 07:17:58 GMT
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says Ankara is against imposing further sanctions on Iran over the country’s nuclear program.
“Every country has the right to pursue nuclear power for peaceful purposes,” Davutoglu told the Guardian newspaper during his recent visit to London.
“We also don’t want more sanctions [on Iran]. Sanctions hurt ordinary people and neighboring countries,” he added, repeating a former Turkish offer to mediate negotiations between Tehran and the West.
The Turkish Foreign Minister stressed that the current standoff could only be overcome through diplomatic efforts.
“We don’t forget the very bad experience in Iraq. We would advise intensified negotiations through diplomacy. An absence of mutual trust is the problem,” he said.
Davutoglu reiterated that Turkey was against any kind of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, whether in Iran, Israel or anywhere else.
Israel, the US and their European allies claim that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. This is while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports and US National Intelligence Estimates issued so far point to the contrary.
Although the published reports by the UN nuclear watchdog and the main American intelligence authority confirm Iran’s stance that it does not have a military nuclear program, Washington and Tel Aviv have not backed down from their stance.
While Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Israel remains one of the only three regimes in the world that has not signed the international pact.
Tehran has repeatedly called for the removal of all weapons of mass destruction from across the globe.
Israel, however, is the Middle East’s sole nuclear-armed power with a stockpile that is reported to include over 200 ready-to-launch atomic warheads.
AL – MANAR TV 14/01/2010 – Despite the intensifying crisis between Israel and Turkey, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is insisting to follow through with his scheduled plans to visit Turkey next week. However, on Thursday it became clear that an arrest warrant may await him there.
One of the major human rights organizations in Turkey, Mazlumder, requested from the Turkish state prosecution to order that Barak be arrested upon landing in the country for what they call “his responsibility for war crimes during Operation Cast Lead.”
A statement published Wednesday night by the Istanbul branch of Mazlumder said that the request is rooted in the right of universal jurisdiction and Article CMK98 of Turkish law.
“Israel perpetrated genocide and crimes against humanity. Israeli army forces bombed the UN building, hospitals, and schools. As was proven by lab tests performed by Turkish universities, they also used phosphorous bombs, which are forbidden. It is known that Israel used an assortment of ammunitions that caused physiological and psychological diseases among the Gazan population.”
The organization’s statement also asserted that a request was made in the past to Turkish prosecution to arrest senior Israeli officials, but then Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Shahin rejected it. The organization hopes that this time around, given the crisis in the relations between the two countries and the precedent provided by efforts in Britain to issue an arrest warrant against former minister Tzipi Livni, the Turkish prosecutor will decide to act differently.
“We know that Barak will arrive in Turkey on the 17th of the month,” said the organization. “(We) need to put him trial and prevent every other Israeli who is responsible for war crimes from entering Turkey freely. We remind the Turkish prosecution of its role. We remind them that Britain has already decided to arrest Tzipi Livni when she was slated to arrive in the country. We remind them that Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert must also be arrested according to Article CMK-98 of the Turkish law, which grants us the right to try them.”
Mazlumder is an independent organization that was founded in 1991 by a group of 54 lawyers, businessmen, and media correspondents. It has many branches throughout Turkey. The group defines itself as apolitical and promoting human rights regardless of race, religion, or gender and “without double standards for humanity.”
Chairman of the Istanbul branch Attorney Jihad Gokdimar is signed on the current request for an arrest warrant.
This is the not the first time an attempt has been made in Turkey to issue an arrest warrant against senior Israeli officials. In February 2009, a pro-Palestinian organization asked that then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, his Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and President Shimon Peres be put on trial. The general prosecutor in Ankara rejected their request.
Press TV – January 14, 2010
Latin American nations have scrambled to deploy rescue workers, doctors and supplies to the earthquake-hit island of Haiti.
Rescue efforts stepped up as Haiti’s prime minister warned the death toll may top 100,000 from Tuesday’s brutal 7.0-magnitude earthquake that flattened much of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Neighboring Cuba which also felt the quake and evacuated some 30,000 people following a brief tsunami alert, sent 30 doctors on Wednesday, according to Cuban media.
Some 400 Cuban medical staff already in Haiti were largely unharmed and two Cuban field hospitals in the capital, Port-au-Prince, had dealt with almost 700 wounded by early Wednesday, said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
Brazil said it was sending 10 million dollars in immediate disaster aid, including 28 tons of drinking water and food.
Peru will send two planes with 50 metric tons of humanitarian aid, mainly food, and 18 doctors and nurses and two field hospitals, the health minister said Wednesday afternoon, adding that Peruvian President Alan Garcia may accompany the mission.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez promised more aid after the departure of a first group of 50 doctors, firefighters and rescue workers from Venezuela early Wednesday.
Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala also promised to send rescue workers and aid as soon as possible.
Bolivian Defense Minister Walker San Miguel said none of Bolivia’s estimated 200 soldiers in Haiti had been killed, and that the impoverished Andean nation was offering to help UN rescue operations.