February 2001


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Aram Falsafi <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 10 Feb 2001 11:38:49 -0600
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Thanks to Sam for the recent posting of articles about apartheid South
Africa's biological and chemical programs. Truly disturbing. Here are 3
articles on a topic that I find even more disturbing. They represent practices
that are causing actual genocide in Africa (versus the POTENTIAL for genocide
that the bio-chemical programs represented).

But first  an editorial comment. :-) Why in the world would South Africa's
current health minister try to claim that HIV may not be the cause of AIDS,
citing of all people, William Cooper, a discredited scientist with ties to the
KKK? It seems to me (and I have no evidence to back this up) that the South
African government is forced into taking these positions because it can't
admit to its people that it backed down under pressure from the Clinton
administration last year, giving up its right under WTO rules to delare the
AIDS crisis a medical emergency and forcing first world drug companies to
license AIDS medicince for local manufacture.

For those who don't remember, during last year's presidential campaign, both
Al Whore (who was getting major funding from pharmaceutical companies) and US
trade representative Charlene Barchevsky met personally with South Africa's
president Thabo Mbeki and threatened him with loss of trade priveledges if
South Africa went ahead with its plan to force licensing of AID medicines. The
South Africans buckled, which is why they now have to face their own people
and come up with some other solution to the AIDS epidemic. Truly evil. And
there's nothing lesser about this eveil either ...

The first is a recent media critique from Norman Solomon. The other two are
from last September, on the same issue, but from a different angle. One's from
the BBC, the other from The Natal Witnees of South Africa. A little weekend


[part 1 of 3 articles]
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Reporting on Drug Firms and Global AIDS Crisis
Date: Thu, 08 Feb 2001 11:40:55 -0800
From: Norman Solomon <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]


By Norman Solomon   /   Creators Syndicate

         In Africa, 17 million people have already died of AIDS. In
developing countries around the world, twice that many are now HIV
positive. Such statistics are largely unfathomable. And news accounts
rarely explore basic options for halting the deadly momentum.

         But during the past several weeks, some major U.S. media outlets
have taken bold and valuable steps in coverage of the global fight against
AIDS. Mainstream journalists are making headway in reporting on a crucial
issue: How can life-saving drugs get to poor people who need them?

         This week, Time magazine features a 20-page cover story that
combines starkly moving photos with text about AIDS and its victims in
Africa. "We have no medicines for AIDS," says a South African doctor. "So
many hospitals tell them, 'You've got AIDS. We can't help you. Go home and

         While it's an important breakthrough for American journalism, the
Time spread has left ample room for improvement in follow-up efforts. The
critical acuity is sharpest -- and harshest -- when focusing on cultural
and political shortcomings that have contributed to the AIDS disaster in
Africa. But the Manhattan-based magazine is not as tough or explicit when
it assesses culpability closer to home in a one-page closing piece --
"Paying for AIDS Cocktails: Who should pick up the tab for the Third World?"

         Noting that "wealthy countries use multidrug-cocktail therapies
that transform AIDS from certain killer to chronic illness," the article
reported: "Despite years of evidence of AIDS' genocidal toll on poor
countries, no one has brought these drugs within reach of ordinary
Africans. In fact, the people who make the drugs -- American- and
European-owned multinational pharmaceutical corporations -- and their home
governments, notably Washington, have worked hard to keep prices up by
limiting exports to the Third World and vigorously enforcing patent rights."

         Interestingly, Time failed to name any of those drug companies.
But reporter Johanna McGeary and the magazine deserve credit for raising
pivotal concerns in a high-profile way. "During the tug of war so far," she
explained, "the pharmaceuticals and Western governments have prevailed. But
increasingly, poor countries and AIDS advocates are finding ways to shift
the balance." India and Brazil have manufactured generic copies of AIDS
drugs, "selling them at deeply discounted prices."

         Time's reportage comes on the heels of an extensive path-breaking
article in the Sunday magazine of the New York Times, on Jan. 28, by Tina
Rosenberg. "Countries that have tried to manufacture generic medicine have
fallen under debilitating pressure from pharmaceutical companies and from
Washington," she wrote. Among the firms cited in the lengthy article were
Glaxo Wellcome, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck and Pfizer.

         Rosenberg took an in-depth look at Brazil's successful
innovations. "Since 1997," she reported, "virtually every AIDS patient in
Brazil for whom it is medically indicated gets, free, the same triple
cocktails that keep rich Americans healthy. (In Western Europe, no one who
needs AIDS treatment is denied it because of cost. This is true in some
American states, but not all.) Brazil has shredded all the excuses about
why poor countries cannot treat AIDS."

         The Times article pointed out: "On the shaky foundation of its
public health service, Brazil built a well-run network of AIDS clinics....
Brazilian AIDS patients have proved just as able to take their medicine on
time as patients in the United States." And Brazil's program "has halved
the death rate from AIDS, prevented hundreds of thousands of new
hospitalizations, cut the transmission rate, helped to stabilize the
epidemic and improved the overall state of public health in Brazil."

         Hopefully, we'll see a continuation of the current trend toward
clear-eyed investigative reporting about the global reach of the immensely
profitable drug industry. Each prominent example of such journalism helps
to lay the groundwork for others. In late December, the front page of the
Washington Post showcased a series of fine articles, "Death Watch: AIDS,
Drugs and Africa," which included close scrutiny of how drug companies have
raked in huge profits while blocking attempts to provide desperately needed
medication to AIDS sufferers.

         A parallel challenge for journalists is to present broader
contexts. For instance: When Time's cover story mentioned, as a significant
cause of prostitution, that "plenty of women in bush villages need extra
cash, often to pay school fees," the magazine did not explain why millions
of African people have been required to pay tuition for education. A key
fact is that for many years, beginning in the late 1980s, powerful lending
institutions like the World Bank insisted that African countries require
user fees for schools and health clinics -- all part of the push to impose
a "free market" for the benefit of Western lenders and investors.

         If a new era of reporting on the global AIDS crisis is here,
journalists will be probing for deeper questions and answers.


Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His latest book is "The Habits of
Highly Deceptive Media."

[part 2 of 3 articles]

                The South African Government has responded to a
                document by members of the ruling party's health
                committee, which called on President Thabo Mbeki to
                drop his controversial stance that HIV may not be the
                only cause of Aids.

                A government statement issued on Thursday says Mr
                Mbeki has never denied that Aids is caused by the HIV

                Mr Mbeki and Health Minister Manto
                Tshabalala-Msimang have recently come under
                increasing pressure to clarify the government's position
                on Aids.

                On Wednesday, Aids activists demonstrated outside
                parliament in Cape Town demanding that Aids drugs be
                made available to pregnant women.

                And the past week has seen an acrimonious row
                between the government and a private radio station,
                following an interview in which the health minister would
                not state her position on the links between Aids and

                The government's statement on Thursday said that
                "neither the President nor his Cabinet colleagues have
                ever denied a link between HIV and Aids".

                The statement said an interview with Mr Mbeki
                published in Time magazine could have led to
                misunderstanding over the president's position.

                "The context of the full transcript makes it expressly
                clear that he was prepared to accept that HIV might
                'very well' be a causal factor," the statement said.

                Confidential document

                This followed the Cape Times's publication of parts of a
                confidential document drawn up by the health commitee
                of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

                It calls on President Mbeki
                and Dr Tshabalala-Msimang
                to acknowledge that HIV
                causes Aids.

                "The predominant scientific
                view that HIV causes Aids is
                the view that the ANC, its
                leadership and its
                membership has to publicly
                express," the document
                said, as quoted by the
                Cape Times.

                The ANC said in a
                statement that the
                document was a discussion
                paper which did not reflect
                the views of the party.

                About 200 members of the Treatment Action Campaign
                (TAC) joined the demonstration in Cape Town, calling
                on the government to make available the anti-Aids
                drugs which can stop mother-to-child transmission of
                the HIV virus.

                The government has so far refused to make the costly
                drugs available, saying their efficacy has not been

                Heated interview

                Last week, Dr Tshabalala-Msimang became embroiled
                in a controversy over a document which her office had
                distributed to senior officials around the country,
                suggesting that Aids was the work of international
                conspirators who were trying to reduce Africa's

                The health ministry insisted
                later that the document - a
                photocopied chapter from
                William Cooper's book
                "Behold, a Pale Horse" -
                had been distributed for
                information purposes, and
                that the ministry did not
                necessarily endorse its

                But the incident gave rise to
                an acrimonious interview on
                the privately-owned Radio

                Click here to read excerpts
                from the interview.

                Interviewer John Robbie
                repeatedly asked Dr Tshabalala-Msimang whether she
                agreed with the generally-accepted view that HIV causes
                Aids - but she did not answer the question.

                Towards the end of the live interview she rebuked
                Robbie for addressing her by her first name, while he
                dismissed her views as "rubbish".

                The ANC has called for Robbie's dismissal, and
                Primedia, the company which owns Radio 702,
                apologised over the incident.

                But station manager Dan Moyane has defended John
                Robbie and distanced himself from the Primedia's

                The matter has been referred to the Broadcasting
                Complaints Commission.

[part 3 of 3]

Send in the clowns

Two ministers have a knack of shooting their mouths off

PERHAPS Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete and his health counterpart,
Tshabalala-Msimang, should swop places. Tshwete is making an ass of himself by
his mouth off about the cause of the Cape bombings, while Tshabalala-Msimang
plays coy over
whether HIV causes Aids. If the one were more circumspect and the other more
forthcoming, it
would be easier to tell fact from conspiracy theory in these areas of concern.

While Tshwete has long been prone to seeing Pagad behind every pipe-bomb,
Tshabalala-Msimang has only recently taken to disseminating Aids conspiracy
theories. Her
MECs have been privileged to receive extracts from her from the book Behold, A
Pale Horse, in
which the author, William Cooper, a Ku Klux Klan sympathiser, argues that the
Illuminati and extra-terrestrial aliens are behind the Aids epidemic, which is
a diabolical plot to
kill off Africans, presumably so that the KKK can recolonise the continent to
get away from the
repressive American government. As everyone knows, the Illuminati, regardless
of their true
historical origins, are made up of Catholics, Jews, masons, Tony Leon and the
CIA who, by the
way have a cure for Aids but won't let on.

The scary thing about these hallucinations is that they are so close to the
truth, and in some
cases they are the literal truth. Think only of the Nazis, and apartheid's own
Doctor Mengele,
Wouter Basson, who schemed and experimented with ways to kill blacks,
including infecting
activists with HIV. Think of American pioneers handing out smallpox-soaked
blankets to kill off
native tribes; or syphilis trials carried out on blacks without telling them
what their condition
was and, criminally, withholding any treatment and allowing the victims to
die. Medical history
is littered with cases in which black people or minorities have been used as
guinea pigs in
dangerous, often fatal, experiments. It is not surprising then that conspiracy
theories should be
so attractive, especially as a refuge for the helpless and frustrated. Hence
President Quixote's
partiality to the Aids dissidents. Their views present him with a vehicle to
have a crack at global
forces responsible for African underdevelopment and poverty, and at
profiteering pharmaceutical
companies. Viva! They also absolve him from blame for balancing the books by
money for Aids treatment. Not so viva! Even less viva is how a medical matter
has become the
stuff of party doctrine, which was the most depressing thing to be seen in the
infamous John vs
Manto interview on 702. Sure, Robbie was rude, but who wouldn't have liked to
see him let
loose on Hansie Cronje rather than the tame Mike Haysman on

M-Net's whitewash of the disgraced cricketer? Rudeness is a paltry concern
next to a health
minister's refusal to answer the question of whether HIV causes Aids. Mbeki
has argued that
he is opening debate by entertaining the dissidents. Instead, he has locked it
into an alternative
orthodoxy. Even Kader Asmal, usually so outspoken, squirmed at the question
this week,
trying, like Tshabalala-Msimang, not to oppose the president but doing his
best not to look like
an idiot. He more or less succeeded, where the health minister failed.

Tshwete, on the other hand, doesn't mind looking like an idiot. His advantage
is that he
believes the conspiracy theory about who's behind the bombings in the Cape,
and he's been
only too willing to share that with the rest of the world. Unlike Mbeki, he
doesn't have to
consider the weight of evidence to construct his theories because, by the
police's own
admission, there isn't any that will hold up in court. So Tshwete dispenses
entirely with normal
practice and routinely, within an hour of yet another explosion, and before
any solid information
could possibly be available, blames his usual suspect, Pagad. Yet, without
evidence, with no
convictions for the bombings, with no stated political objective emanating
from the supposed
bombers, Tshwete wants to ban the organisation entirely, drawing moral support
from the
illegitimate Algerian government which is experienced at dealing with
troublemakers. He is
simply using Pagad as a vehicle to fast-track the Anti-Terrorism Bill, which
with its extended
powers of search and seizure would erode civil liberties and the judicial
principle of presumed
innocence. It would also hand the bombers the gift of forcing a democratically
government to resort to repressive means. Analysts maintain the bill will be
no more than
another smokescreen for police ineptitude, and will inevitably set them up for
failure when they
find it even more difficult to pursue opponents they have driven underground.
Rather than ban
what they can't arrest, they should concentrate on better crime scene
management and
investigations. They should resist the Tshwete example of announcing guilt and
obviating the need to investigate the crime. It may reduce their workload but
that's about all it
achieves, apart from hiding what we all know: that in spite of three
ring-of-steel security
operations and all the hoopla around the Scorpions, the problem is getting
worse. Police are
none the wiser and cannot explain why the bombers' targets have changed, why
they've moved
from the Cape Flats to town, why they have switched from pipe-bombs to
fertiliser bombs, or
why they have not announced their political agenda, if indeed there is one.

It should not be forgotten that Pagad started with a legitimate campaign
against drugs and
gangsterism on the Cape Flats. Sober voices have been drowned out as much by
hysteria as by the violent methods of some of the organisation's members. It
has even been
suggested that Pagad would have disappeared had the state not got on its case.

Banning Pagad will dim these voices even further, and marginalising the
aggrieved seems a
poor way of tackling their problems. If the police, national intelligence, the
Scorpions, the joint
security committees still don't know for sure what the bombers are on about,
how do they
expect to find out by banning Pagad, thereby removing permanently any prospect
of dialogue?

Tshwete could have taken his pick of theories about who's behind the bombs if
he used as
evidence the question of who stands to benefit. Organised crime benefits
because bombings
divert police resources from other investigations. Corrupt police benefit
because bombs are a
more urgent priority than good housekeeping. Pagad's G-Force, the supposed
vanguard of an
Islamic revolution according to Tshwete, benefits because the state's capacity
to govern is
undermined. The ANC benefits because the government of the Cape is shown up as
incompetent. The DA benefits because they can blame national government for
not prioritising
crime. Tourists benefit because prices are low in no-go areas. Penguins
benefit because
anything cute is welcome relief from daily warfare. Cape Town benefits because
bombs keep
Gautengers away. International currencies benefit because the rand stays low.

If Tshwete bothered to read the health minister's literature, he would realise
that the only
organisation with this kind of reach and influence is the Illuminati, and they
are to be feared
more greatly than Pagad. And if he banned the Illuminati, then Aids would go

Originally published on September 16 2000