“The Long Con of William Jefferson Clinton”
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The art of the con lies in several factors: the sophistication and cool of the con man; the grandiosity of the scheme (if it’s big enough, no one will believe it’s actually being contemplated); and the ability to sustain plausible deniability amid suspicion. Former American president, William Jefferson Clinton is presently engaged in one of the greatest cons in recent memory. This con will continue whether or not his wife rises to the office of President of the United States. This con is grand and includes the active collaboration of the current president George W. Bush, his father and former president George H.W. Bush, the world’s two richest men – Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and a host of others. This con is about the future of the nation, about oil, energy and the silencing of 40 million persons with a critically vested interest in the outcome. This con is about the historical positioning and vulnerability of Black elected officials. This con is about the use of long range planning to achieve an aim which is imperceptible to the naked eye.
STAGING – Horatio Alger Goes to Washington
The primary actor in this game burst on the American scene as a rags-to-riches, “Where’s my daddy?”, Rhodes scholar from Arkansas. He was not quite the rube which George Bush has chosen to put on display for the American public. Nonetheless, he arrived in the public consciousness as a flawed man with poverty and abandonment and achievement in his dossier. Clinton never attempted to appear less than intelligent, but he did seek to connect with “the masses” through his tone and mannerisms. He was not the first choice when the presidential campaign of 1992 began, but he managed to put himself in position to win. Clinton connected with people. He looked them in the eye – an essential tool of the con man, and he seduced them. He’s still got it. He grasped and extended a conversational template mapped by the Georgian peanut farmer, James Earl Carter. Clinton would become only the second President elected from the deep South in generations. His successor would masquerade as the third. George W. Bush, born in Connecticut, graduate of Exeter, Yale and Harvard donned the mask of a Texas tonto to delude Americans into embracing the public version of their dumbed down selves. It has worked masterfully. Few Americans question W’s stupidity, even though the likelihood of such a thing borders on the absurd. It is assumed that there is abundant evidence of his mindlessness – and yet, it should seem impossible that the son of a man who led both the FBI and CIA could be such an empty vessel. There is no question that accomplished men can give birth to less gifted children, but an honest look at the current president suggests he’s far smarter than the pundits who ridicule his every move.
Bill Clinton is cut from the same cloth – the cloth of deep deception. Moreover, he now enjoys close, public relations (albeit not sexual relations) with the Bush family and its reigning patriarch. Bill Clinton and George Herbert Walker Bush are now bosom buddies.
No, no, no! Closer!
Okay. That’s it. The driver and the rider – doing what a good Scottish boy should do…riding around on the links seeking counsel with a wise elder.
Of course, the nation was first given a glimpse of this surprisingly dangerous liaison in the aftermath of the levee collapse in the city of New Orleans. The collapse of levees, after continuous underfunding by the Bush 43 administration, flooded the historic Ninth Ward and much of the city subsequent to the landfall of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Bush the Elder and Bill Clinton then embarked on an international philanthropic tour to demonstrate the bi-partisan commitment of the United States of America to provide relief to those impacted by natural disasters. These two even had the generosity of spirit to fundraise for the victims of the tsunami in Asia. Of course the United States government could only pull together a measly $15M. W’s piss is worth more than $15 million. It remains unclear exactly what these two were doing aside from “priming the mark.”
The Mark – Black America
Marks are the targets of confidence games. Marks, not unlike persons in those infamous words attributed to P.T. Barnum, are born every minute. Skeptics are also born every minute. In our world, in order to overcome the tenacious work of a skeptic, a con man must dream big dreams. If it is true that you cannot steal from an honest man, then a con man must offer the world in order to entice not merely the larcenous petty criminal, but the unwitting crowd BEHIND that larcenous petty criminal. This is precisely the appeal of Three Card Monte. Pay particular attention to the final trick in the video – it’s the real deal.
For years, William Jefferson Clinton has mislead the world, and most notably esteemed Black authors, into believing that he was an ally of the black folk, and more specifically a friend of the black elected official. Some people believe he has earned the lifelong respect and fidelity of Black America. For some, the basis of that opinion is tied his policy prescriptions while in office. For others, the opinion is based on his manner of dealing with and communicating to Black persons, elected and unelected. There are still others who can recall the personal battles waged by Mr. Clinton on the road to and through the White House. There is one problem, however, with every bit of this analysis. It ignores the single greatest fact of life as a political Democrat since 1960. The road to the White House goes through Black America. No Democrat can win the highest office in the land without the energetic and vigorous support of Black Americans, period.
The Democratic Party can always find candidates, but cannot always find men or women whose message, tenor and history invite the support of Black folks. Prior to seeking national office, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, James Earl Carter and William Jefferson Clinton all managed to secure the energetic and vigorous support of Black Americans. Each was elected to the highest office in the land. There have been a slew of other candidates like Walter Mondale, Al Gore and John Kerry who have run unsuccessfully and may have garnered high percentages of the Black vote – but they NEVER secured the energetic and vigorous support of Black America. Each of those candidates lost. Bill Clinton was well aware of the centrality of the Black vote when he sought office in 1992. He was also aware of the predispositions of black elected officials when he sought office. Though it’s been said many times, many ways, it may have been best said by a Marxist, integrationist with whom I share a few opinions (Manning Marable):
“Effective block voting for white capitalist candidates certainly changed the results of these presidential elections, but it did not represent any meaningful increase in Black political power. During Kennedy’s first two years in office, he issued a mild executive order banning discrimination in federally-financed housing [constructed subsequent to the implementation of the order], but did nothing directly to assist the civil rights social movement. Carter proved to be an even greater disappointment. Richard Hatcher (former mayor of Gary, Indiana) even admitted, “Now it’s difficult for any Black leader who pushed the election of Jimmy Carter to face the people he’s campaigned with.”
What Richard Hatcher did not say in this particular instance was that it did not matter to James Earl Carter how difficult it may have been for him to face his people. Carter had made the ascent. The same was true of Kennedy. He repeatedly urged the very people who put him in office to postpone their petitions for justice. None of this is surprising because the party of the Dixiecrat evolved into a plantation, of sorts. The options available to Black voters and candidates in the 20th century, according to Marable, had two only dimensions. In the first instance, Blacks ran candidates along third-party platforms (either in all-Black parties or in socialist/liberal parties in collaboration with whites). In the second instance, Blacks consolidated votes around white candidates when the broader American polity was split. Well for the larger Democratic party, the first instance hardly warranted a comment. And, the second instance was precisely what was desired. Bill Clinton knew this in 1992 – and he knows that his wife faces a wholly unique and unprecedented moment in 2008. More on that later.
Black America has been the mark of American political parties for decades. The Democrats have worked with indefatigable ardor to maintain their stranglehold on reliable votes. The black elected official, by and large, contributes to this intractable dilemma by pursuing two courses of action: 1) failing to devise viable national campaigns for the highest office in the land (with the notable exceptions of 1984 and 2008); and 2) failing to build the political knowledge, acumen and effectiveness of their constituents. It is precisely these two failings which contribute to the vacuums of vision in the Democratic Party where candidates like Paul Tsongas, Walter Mondale, Al Gore, John Kerry fill the breach as “the lesser of two evils” and allow arch-Republicans like Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush to seize the apparatus of the state. In other words, what is the point of being in the Democratic Party if you’re going to defer to folks like Gore and Kerry? Could you not simply resign from office and stay home? Bill Clinton understood that a Democrat who would be President had to seize the day. He couldn’t be a pushover like Gore or Kerry or Mondale or Dukakis. I remain unconvinced that any of those four actually WANTED to be President. Clinton clearly did and he hit his mark. In more ways than one.
The Stakes: Africa, Oil, the Dollar and $500 Billion
On his way out the door, Dwight Eisenhower had the following message for his fellow citizens.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
I didn’t like Ike. The United States of America, under the leadership of Dwight Eisenhower played a role in the death of one of Africa’s most important freedom fighters, Patrice Lumumba. I will not recap that story here, but it is always worth noting whenever devils like Eisenhower’s name must be mentioned. Our enemies are our enemies – regardless of whom they have as friends.
Bill Clinton’s stake in all of this is very simple. It goes like this:
- The United States of America has a protection arrangement with the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia. The arrangement, negotiated by the Bush family, ensures that Saudi oil prices and its currency are pegged to the deflating dollar. In exchange for this iron clad reinforcement on the US deflationary currency, the US provides unconditional military support for Saudi Arabia. The deflating dollar essentially allows the US to tax every nation whose central bank retains large amounts of deflating dollars. Exhibit A: China. Exhibit B: Japan.
- The US, while committed to this relationship with Saudi Arabia, will continue to diversify sources of energy to ensure an adequate supply for domestic uses and to ensure price stability by limiting supplies to China, Japan, India and other nations.
- The next region with large supplies of untapped oil for the United States to claim is Africa.
- The US is embroiled in a power grab in Iraq and Iran. Saddam Hussein was a former partner in this arrangement, but apparently sought a unilateral renegotiation. Neither Kuwait nor independence from dollar hegemony were on the table for consideration. Hussein either ceased to care about or simply misunderstood the seriousness of his blood oath. Iran, of course, is seeking to liberate itself from the clutches of the West, but will be increasingly isolated in coming years. Having securing alliances with a nuclear Saudi Arabia and a nuclear Pakistan (to say nothing of a nuclear Israel), the US’ interests in the regions will be secure within five to ten years.
- Competitors in Europe will resent and resist intrusions into Africa, their former colonies, without a solid cover story and unfettered domestic support. They are likely to resist anyway, but domestic support among the white majority must be consolidated around a humanitarian cover.
The Cover Story – Emerging Infectious Diseases
This is a long con. It’s not a short con. The long con takes years and years to unfold. Of course, in the grand scheme of history, this is a relatively short con – but with respect to terms of office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this is a truly long con. In the past fifteen years, there have been two massive genocidal events on the continent of Africa. The United States of America has not intervened in any way shape or form in either event: Rwanda in the 1990’s and today in Congo. The government of the United States does not, has not, and will not have an authentic humanitarian interest in Africa. How will “emerging infectious diseases” become a cornerstone of American foreign policy in Africa? Simple. It already has.
Nicolas King, in Security, Disease, Commerce: Ideologies of Postcolonial Global Health (Social Studies of Science, Vol. 32, No. 5/6, pp. 763-789) writes of the emergence of a “worldview” as far back as 1989 at the National Institutes of Health and Rockefeller University. In May of that year, these entities co-sponsored a conference on “emerging viruses” and the selected experts included Robert E. Shope, Joshua Lederberg and Alfred S. Evans. According to King, Shope and Lederberg would carve out leading spaces at the table in defining this issue. In 1992, they authored Emerging Infections: Microbial Threats to Health in the United States. The report argued that the US was no longer insulated from the international threat of viruses…that global interdependence, modern transportation, trade and changing social and cultural patterns were all bases for the threat. For King (who provides far more detail than space allows here), these scholarly formulations echoed the old colonial frameworks of a century ago. Moreover, these works suggested a new basis for Western intrusions into Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Quoting from King:
“To address this risk, the report recommended the expansion and financial support of public health infrastructure in four areas: epidemiological surveillance of outbreaks and infectious diseases and the emergence of antimicrobial resistance; training and basic research in molecular biology and virology; public and private development of vaccines and therapeutic drugs; and the strengthening and coordination between local, national and international public health institutions.”
He adds later in his paper:
“Determining exactly how and why the emerging diseases worldview had such widespread appeal is beyond the scope of this paper, but one of the most prominent strategies employed by its backers was explicitly to associate infectious diseases with American economic and security interests. Doing so allowed campaigners to make a case for federal funding not only through traditional health institutions, but also to take advantage of ‘trickle down’ funding through the Defense Department.”
As it happens, “in June 1996, President Clinton issued a Presidential Decision Directive calling for a more focused US policy on infectious diseases. The State Department’s Strategic Plan for International Affairs lists protecting human health and reducing the spread of infectious diseases as US strategic goals,and Secretary Albright in December 1999 announced the second of two major U.S. initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS. The unprecedented UN Security Council session devoted exclusively to the threat to Africa from HIV/AIDS in January 2000 is a measure of the international community’s concern about the infectious disease threat.” (Global Infectious Disease Threat and Its Implications for the United States. January 2000 National Intelligence Estimate). Oddly enough, the 1996 Presidential Decision Directive was announced by the Vice President, Al Gore. This is the same Al Gore who founded the internet, led the fight to end global warming and sat silent on the floor on the United States Senate as Black elected officials stood on his behalf and on behalf of the disenfranchised voters in Florida who delivered the popular vote to the Democratic nominee in 2000. It’s the same Al Gore who has presented himself as a disinterested arbiter of a pending dispute between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over the nomination of the party in 2008.
The 1996 PDD set six policy goals and established 8 new U.S. government roles and responsibilities. Perhaps most importantly of all, it EXPANDED the MANDATE of the United States Department of Defense. Looking back to Nicolas King’s research, we find that a public health policy paper written in 1992 advocated for epidemiological surveillance. Under Bill Clinton, the Department of Defenses’ mission was simply expanded to include surveillance – among other things. Consider this, the first new government role and responsibility:
“The Federal government, in cooperation with State and local governments, international organizations, the private sector, and public health, medical and veterinary communities, will establish a national and international electronic network for surveillance and response regarding emerging infectious diseases.”
There isn’t a single word about international governments such as those on the ground in Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania or South Africa. There is, however, a great deal about likely coordination between, for example, the Federal government, the State of Florida or the State of Texas and the local government of the city of New York or the city of Chicago, and private sector firms like GlaxoSmithKline and public health communities like the NIH or even international organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Each of these disparate entities is to have a role in establishing a national and international electronic network to surveil and respond to emerging infectious diseases.
Consider that the 2nd of three bullets, under the 8th and FINAL item calls for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to “continue to address the root causes of emerging diseases through its ongoing portfolio of assistance to developing countries.”
The final bullet expands the mission of the Department of Defense to include “support of global surveillance, training, research, and response to emerging infectious disease threats. DoD will strengthen its global disease reduction efforts through: centralized coordination, improved preventive health programs and epidemiological capabilities; and enhanced involvement with military treatment facilities and United States and overseas laboratories.” This isn’t much to hang your hat on – but this 1996 initiative is organically tied to the biggest budget item under consideration by Hillary Clinton that is not named defense or social security. Have you seen her $50 billion plan for addressing HIV/AIDS in Africa?
Note: Please note the use of the word “global” in these documents and on the web sites of many international health and policy advocacy organizations. The word “global” refers usually to Western (US or European) organizations operating outside of the West for a specific purpose. It is to be contrasted with the word “international” which refers to nation states and government entities operating on a global basis. Therefore “global surveillance” specifically excludes the “home government” from all that is being surveilled if the entity conducting that surveillance so chooses. As all of these activities are to be conducted under the guidance of the United States Department of Defense, the combating of emerging infectious diseases is effectively no longer under the control of the governments of African nations who have any working relationship with a US-based global organization. Simply put, Bill and Melinda or whomever else operates an NGO under this and related programs will run the show wherever their dollars are on the ground and a Marine gunship is in the air.
In Part II: The Players, the Money and Rise of Barack Obama.
In Part I, I asserted that former United States President William Jefferson Blythe Clinton is in the midst of a grand scheme to snatch billions of dollars from the African continent, and that his scheme is based on a charade. This charade, though, has some substance to it. This is not all smoke and mirrors. If it were, it would have been exposed at its inception. Nonetheless, the ruse is still alive because the authentic elements of this Long Con are so compelling that one is hard pressed to dismiss them. There really are many, many persons suffering from infectious diseases. These con men and women have established such credibility and goodwill (in recent years), it’s hard to imagine their association with something so inhuman…and yet, here we are.
There is an intergenerational component to this work. And it is of such significance that there needs to be some discussion of this “back story.”
In what can only be described as a coincidence, the wisest business man that John D. Rockefeller ever knew was his advisor, Frederick T. Gates. The New York Times once referred to Gates as “The Man Who Thinks for Rockefeller.” I’ve not been able to divine a relationship between the world’s greatest financial advisor of the 19th century and the wealthiest man of the 21st century. It seems that Frederick’s legacy includes the creation of the Rockefeller Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation and the University of Chicago. He was a minister with a penchant for doing “good things.” Of course, most of this goodwill toward man evolved at at time when the inconquerable John D. needed some public relations help. The nation had grown tired of his name, face, wealth and tactics. It was precisely the work of men like Gates that allowed Rockefeller to leverage the power of the press on his behalf.
The medical work of the Institute, under the leadership of Jewish immigrant and Kentuckian Simon Flexner, was intimately concerned with diseases. In fact, Flexner established himself as a leading pathologist, conducted experiments on behalf of the US government in the Philippines and lived till the ripe old age of 83. Flexner, pictured below with Hideo Noguchi, led the Rockefeller Institute until 1935. (Noguchi , in or about 1912 was charged by several prominent New Yorkers with injected 146 persons (many of them children) with syphilis. The case was settled out of court. Given the Rockefeller’s ownership of the entire nation, it’s unlikely that any other result was have occurred. The New York Times, as is their habit, came down on the side of the Rockefeller Institute and it’s beleaguered Japanese scholar. Noguchi died in Ghana working on a cure for Yellow Fever. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has established the Hideo Noguchi Memorial Award for scientists making contributions to medicine in Africa. )
Simon Flexner was born to a large family. He was not the only Flexner child with an interest in medicine, nor was he the only one to have a significant career. In fact, his brother Abraham Flexner studied at The Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University and Berlin. With the assistance of Newark-based retailer Louis Bamberger, Abraham Flexner would direct the Institute for Advanced Study. Bamberger seeded the Institute with $5 million in 1930. The Institute, initially housed at Princeton University, would serve as a home for scientific research (including bio-chemical research on infectious diseases). Flexner and Bamberger established a safe haven for Jewish scientists who were being summarily removed from critical positions in Europe. Albert Einstein worked there. J. Robert Oppenheimer worked there.
Abraham Flexner also wrote The Flexner Report. The full title of the report is “Medical Education in the United States and Canada: A Report to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. This report in 1910, according to historians, became an influential guide in the reform of medical school education. It’s worth reading. There’s even a section called “The Medical Education of the Negro.” In that section, Abraham Flexner wrote:
“The medical care of the negro race will never be wholly left to negro physicians. Nevertheless, if the negro can be brought to feel a sharp responsibility for the physical integrity of his people, the outlook for their mental and moral improvement will be distinctly brightened. The practice of the negro doctor will be limited to his own race, which in its turn will be cared for better by good negro physicians than by poor white ones. But the physical well-being of the negro is not only of moment to the negro himself. Ten million of them live in close contact with sixty million whites. Not only does the negro himself suffer from hookworm and tuberculosis; he communicates them to his white neighbors, precisely as the ignorant and unfortunate white contaminates him. Self-protection not less than humanity offers weighty counsel in this matter; self-interest seconds philanthropy. The negro must be educated not only for his sake, but for ours. He is, as far as [the] human eye can see, a permanent factor in the nation. He has his rights and due and value as an individual; but he has, besides, the tremendous importance that belongs to a potential source of infection and contagion.”
“Of the seven medical schools for negroes in the United States (Howard University, Flint Medical College – New Orleans, Leonard Medical School – Raleigh, NC; Knoxville Medical College; Medical Department of the University of West Tennessee – Memphis; Meharry Medical College – Nashville; National Medical College – Louisville), five are at this moment in no position to make any contribution of value to the solution of the problem above pointed out…They are wasting small sums annually and sending out undisciplined men, whose lack of real training is covered up by the imposing M.D. degree.
Meharry at Nashville and Howard at Washington are worth developing, and until considerably increased benefactions are available, effort will wisely concentrate upon them…The upbuilding of Howard and Meharry will profit the nation much more than the inadequate maintenance of a larger number of schools.”
The ties that bind William Jefferson Clinton and Bill Gates to John D. Rockefeller do not extend merely to the realms of politics and finance. In fact, there are more direct connections inside the science lab – and given the history of the scientists associated most closely with Rockefeller, integrity is always an issue. There was the case of Hideo Noguchi and injections of syphillis, but there was also the case of a young doctor in the employ of the Rockefeller Institute who, in 1931, openly contemplated genocide in Puerto Rico.
Susan Lederer, in the American Literary History journal, describes the case of Cornelius Packard Rhoads. Lederer writes, quoting Rhoads:
“Porto Ricans are beyond doubt the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever inhabiting this sphere. What the island needs is not public health work but a tidal wave or something totally exterminate the population. I have done my best to further the process of extermination by killing off 8.”
Rhoads, also known as Dusty, was a graduate of Harvard Medical School (1924). Like Noguchi, he was never found guilty of any wrongdoing. Rhoads would later work for the United States Atomic Commission. What makes his case interesting is that his quote was actually found in a letter he’d written to a colleague. The letter was made public by Puerto Rican nationalist leader (and chemical engineer) Pedro Albizu Campos. His mission in Puerto Rico was to provide relief for persons suffering from the debilitating effects of hookworm. According to Lederer, hookworm was the leading cause of death at the time Rhoads and the rest of the Castle Commission ventured to Puerto Rico. It was also a devastating illness in the American South.
Rhoads also threatened to expose wide segments of the population to cancer. He was the beneficiary of a vigorous defense by his colleagues. He was also allowed to leave the island. Certainly the Puerto Ricans lacked sufficient authority or force to detain him. Lederer’s comprehensive coverage bears reading. She states that another Rockefeller Foundation physician George C. Payne lied to investigators about the possibility of transmitting cancer to an unsuspecting population. Payne used a tactic which is still much in evidence today. He suggested the possibility was ludicrous. “In an ironic twist to the cancer transplant story, Rhoads, after his return to the US, pursued the transmissibility of cancer as Ewing’s successor as director of the leading cancer research facility, the New York Memorial-Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research. In 1954 Rhoads described to the American College of Surgeons how a “hopelessly sick, heroic woman” allowed doctors to “graft living cancer cells under her skin” to demonstrate that “control over cancer can be won through chemicals.”
That sounds a great deal like the case of Hideo Noguchi – all the way down to the undying support of the American media.
More to come in Part III.
In Part II, I sketched the roots of America’s tradition of work in the biological and chemical sciences within the context of two institutions: the Rockefeller Institute and the Institute for Advanced Study. I dedicated much of that post to making connections between “Rockefeller men” like Simon and Abraham Flexner, Hideo Noguchi, and Cornelius “Dusty” Rhoads precisely because of their work in the study, work and legacy on infectious diseases. From the beginning, the work of US-based scientists (and others who will be discussed as we continue) with respect to infectious diseases has been international, political, adversial, and couched as philanthropy. Historians, by and large, acknowledge that Rockefeller’s immersion in this work served two functions: first, to provide the billionaire with a means to improve the public perception of him and his empire; second, to provide the United States government and those of Europe with a means to understand, control and restrict the provision of health care in various colonial possessions.
Many of the leading figures during this era were advocates of the idea of eugenics. There are several complications with this idea – not the least of which is the biological notion of race and the subjective list of factors which white supremacists have deemed to constitute “race.” By way of example, a Ghanaian person with “black” skin, thin lips and nose (relatively speaking), and liniferous hair is considered “Black” or “negroid.” A person from the Indian sub-continent with the skin color, width of lips and hair with straight hair is deemed “Caucasian.” However, according to racial scientists, hair texture does not determine “race.” While the depth of this particular deception is beyond the scope of this post, it must suffice to say that “Caucasians” (as an international people) are a fiction of a man who had an odd fascination with the skull of a young female war casualty – and that the Indian connection to those mythical “whites” is tenuous, at best. Given all of this, my discussions of “race” seldom, if ever, focus on biology. The focus is on measures of collective and individual control and power, as refracted through the illusion of biology. And the illusion precludes rationality (look below…who is “white” and why? – well, depending on whom you ask, they all are, one is, two are or none are)…
Eugenics, according to the following definition:
the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, esp. by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics)
Cornelius Packard Rhoads provided an interesting point of departure because his letter, written in the 1930’s in Puerto Rico, put forward a perspective that was and is widely shared in certain circles. In addition to affirming the virtue in exterminating all Puerto Ricans, he added, “The matter of consideration for patients’ welfare plays no role here – in fact, all physicians take delight in the abuse and torture of the unfortunate subjects.” Abuse and torture, as a principle, cannot be divorced from notions of personal sovereignty, citizenship, and collective force. For persons without the capacity to resist, they are subject to the impositions of others…they are subjects.
Borrowing again from Susan Lederer:
“Humor and racial difference between the investigator and the research subject appeared in Harvard microbiologist Hans Zinsser’s semi-autobiographical account As I Remember Him: The Biography of R.S. (Zinnser apparently used the initials R.S. for “romantic self” or “real self” to refer to himself). In this popular account, serialized in 1939 in the Atlantic Monthly, the microbiologist contrasted the rich man’s big-game hunting in Africa with his own “little-game hunting” in Boston.
Whereas big-game hunting was a comfortable occupation “in which one employs ‘express rifles’ to shoot with, black boys or goats as bait, and professional hunters to prevent accidents on safari,” “little-game hunting,” R.S. insisted, required considerably more ingenuity to trap the insects that carried malaria, plague, typhus, spotted fever, and other dangerous diseases. For his work on typhus, the researcher needed to acquire local lice from the Boston area. Unsuccessful in his canvas of the bedbug preserves in flophouses and cheap motels, R.S.’s assistant accosted a policeman near the Harvard Medical School, who, fascinated by the strangeness of the quest, offered “an old coon that sells pencils down near the South Station” as a source of the insects.
After dragging the reluctant Mr. Collins to the police station, the police captain implored the pencil vendor to allow the researcher to examine his head. “I ain’t done nothin’,” Collins repeated. “I’m an American citizen and I got my rights. I dunno what youse all talkin’ bout de cause o’ science.” Threatened with arrest in the “cause of science,” the vendor eventually allowed the researcher to remove the nits from his “crinkly hair.”
The jocular tone, the vulgar racial characterization, and the dialect adopted by R.S. in this vignette illustrate the casual and explicitly public appropriation by laboratory researchers of the bodies of African Americans. Like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, the 40-year-study of untreated syphilis in African-American men conducted between 1932 and 1972, such appropriation was no secret.”
What should be evident from a close reading of these tales (deeper than the glimpses provided here) is the confluence of interest and action between the private sector (the Rockefeller empire), the not-for-profit sector (the Rockefeller Foundation), the academy (Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Rockefeller Institute, Johns Hopkins University), the fourth estate (the New York Times, Time Magazine, Atlantic Monthly), and the military (Boston police, military incursions into Puerto Rico and the Philippines). The emergence of biological and chemical research and experimentation which objectified Black and other bodies was part of a broader cultural framework. The value system of the scientists was consistent with broader societal beliefs and was framed within a pseudo-humanitarian “box” which condoned the invasion of the sovereign body in the same way that the notion of “civilization” and “democracy” and “capitalism” condoned the invasion of sovereign lands.
The invasion of sovereign lands has always been a complicated endeavor for Europeans. The spectre of disease has always loomed large. Eradication, then, has been critical to support the managerial requirements of appropriating wealth from “hostile environments.” In most instances, stating that objective has been too bold for public consumption. Instead, Western philanthropists have emphasized the long-term needs of children versus the short-term needs of adults in their approaches to humanitarian aid. For children, the priorities are education (solution: build schools), healthcare (solution: provide vaccines), and security (solution: subsidize persons or groups promising democracy or at least access to markets and natural resources). For adults, the issues are a bit different – and adults are not the focal point of these efforts – except as it relates to testing.
In December 2003, the Seattle Post Intelligencer hit the mark. Tom Paulson, the lead writer on Gates Foundation initiatives, wrote:
“Bill Gates is waging a revolution in global health.
The battleground is disease prevention, not treatment. The tactics are businesslike performance, not traditional charitable giving.
Its weapons are improved health technologies that, if successful, will reproduce in the Third World like an e-mail virus.
Only countries that can demonstrate progress against disease and are willing to invest in their own public health systems receive money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent billions to improve the health of the world’s poorest. Within five years, those countries are expected to immunize at least 80 percent of their children, gradually picking up more of the tab.”
This is not the approach to humanitarian aid that most people imagine when they think of Bill and Melinda Gates or Bill Clinton. This is a narrowly focused initiative intended to achieve a specific aim. Paulson continues:
“In some desperately poor nations, corrupt governments and a chronic shortage of doctors and nurses make establishment of a rudimentary public health system a huge challenge. Those systems must be in place before children can get their shots.
Gates, the world’s richest man with the world’s biggest philanthropic war chest at $24 billion, has made fighting disease in the developing world his top humanitarian priority.
The Seattle philanthropy spends about $800 million a year on global health — nearly the same as the World Health Organization’s annual budget and about as much as the U.S. Agency for International Development gave this year to fight AIDS and other diseases in developing countries.
“I don’t think very many people appreciate just how significant this is, in both concept and scope,” said Dr. William Foege, the former chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Foege, who crafted the global strategy that defeated smallpox, now advises Gates.
In effect, the Microsoft co-founder has become the director of his own world health organization.”
The scope of the enterprise contemplated by the Foundation is enormous. However, for Bill Gates, this expenditure amounts to a tithe. In the Church of Infectious Disease Eradication, his commitment of more than $3 billion should go a long way to opening doors for the West.
“The foundation has so far spent $3.2 billion on hundreds of public health programs in more than 100 Third World countries. Gates is especially interested in expanding access to basic and new vaccines. He is focused largely on preventing the spread of disease.
“There really isn’t anything like vaccines, where you can so simply save so many millions of lives,” Gates said in an interview.
Nearly four years after he launched the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, or GAVI, with $750 million in seed money, an estimated 300,000 children’s lives have been saved.
The ultimate goal is much more ambitious: Stop the 3 million child deaths caused every year by conditions such as measles, diarrhea, hepatitis or tetanus.
Although Gates portrays himself as a partner in these global health efforts, his rapid rise in the arena has reverberated worldwide — and made him controversial.”
With $3 billion committed to this global initiative, it is worth asking if there are any limitations to Gates’ reach. It appears there are a few which merit elucidation.
The foundation’s strategy can best be understood as triage.
Triage was developed by World War I battlefield doctors facing an overwhelming number of wounded. Recognizing that they couldn’t care for everyone, medics gave the highest priority to those for whom immediate help could do the most good. The most severely injured soldiers were simply allowed to die.
When it comes to global health, most leaders talk in terms of moral obligations. Children have a “right” to live a healthy life. Sick people “deserve” care. Nobody should be left to die.
But the Gates game plan was prompted by a sobering reality: Many sick and deserving people don’t get basic care, particularly in the Third World. Many lives are cut short for lack of a vaccine or drug that costs only pennies.
“The thing that just screamed out to me is that these very low-cost interventions like vaccines were not getting attention,” Gates said.
AIDS, for which there is no vaccine or cure, is widely regarded as the top priority in global health. AIDS receives most of the attention and money in global health because it kills about 3 million people a year and is still a scourge for the West as well as for the developing world.
Yet many millions more die from “routine” diseases that can be easily prevented by vaccines or cured by cheap drugs. A study in The Lancet, the British medical journal, estimated this global death toll at nearly 11 million a year — about the number of people who live in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
Using another yardstick — a widely accepted WHO method for calculating the impact of disease called “disability-adjusted life years” — AIDS ranks as just the fourth-leading cause of death and disability worldwide, behind respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis and diarrhea.
There is something wrong with this picture. And this one…
Resolving the critical needs of African adults – the care takers of African children – requires different solutions. For all the millions spent to cure the fourth leading cause of death, thousands of African communities continue to suffer from the THREE LEADING CAUSES of DEATH for lack of a 21st century WATER and SANITATION system.
Do these folks actually want to keep the baby, and throw out the parents with the bathwater?
Madonna, giddy from her seizure of 13 month-old David Banda (son of Yohane Banda), created a foundation called Raising Malawi. Her foundation is actually a subsidiary of The Kabbalah Centre International. (Readers are encouraged to forward any and all references in the Kabbalah concerning the theft of children.) I am certain that Madonna has underwear more costly than the contribution which might have kept young David with his father, but that is beside the point. After all, she is a free woman – and not a subject. And who are the Malawians to resist this student of an ancient mystical tradition? After all, it was in Malawi where the pre-Nazi Germans introduced and perfected their techniques for concentration camps, medical experimentation with humans, and techniques for murder.
By the way, the Clinton Foundation was the first big institutional supporter of Madonna’s conduit for soothing the aches of “white” female infertility.
More in Part IV…including a word or two about British pharmaceutical giants in the Sudan.
The rabbit hole is deep, deep, deeper than Atlantis. Deeper than the sea floor traveled by the mantis. With apologies to the Wachowski Brothers and X-Clan (and Alice in Wonderland), the quest for bio-chemical information, access and profits is of staggering dimensions. Experiments which began in the early part of the last century are part of a continuum. Today, clinical trials involving 40,000 Malian adults are high-risk experiments where the payoff must be questioned. Tests to assess the responsiveness of 2,000 Mozambican children or 2,500 Malawian children are being conducted by scientists with deep pocketed donors. And everyone has a history – from the top to the bottom. At the bottom of all this empirical research is “the cell.”
(I am not a scientist by trade or training. I am a historian. As such, it’s easier for me to gather the pieces quickly than to process them and “interrogate” my sources against solid references. For that reason, I’ve been particularly cautious in advancing claims I could not defend. (That’s not anything new – but I have a heightened awareness of being on unfamiliar ground here.) Lacking the depth of scientific background required to lay bare some of these complex issues, I have instead sought to leave those arguments to the professionals – and in the context they intended.)
Immortal cell lines
The historic relationship between the Rockefeller Institute and the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has points of intersection. In Part I, I discussed Simon and Abraham Flexner. Abraham, the younger brother, was a student at Hopkins who would eventually lead the Institute for Advanced Study. Simon, the elder, studied briefly at Hopkins and would become director of the Rockefeller Institute. Pioneering work on keeping cells alive for study began in the early 1900’s at both the Rockefeller Institute and Johns Hopkins University. In fact, one of the leading scientists at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Alexis Carrel, was one of Simon Flexner’s first hires at Rockefeller. The immunology research to identify viable cells went on for decades before scientists were able to isolate the cells that would support Dr. Jonas Salk’s research on polio (April 1955).
The story of this brand of immunology research, however, is the story of a Black woman born during a time – and in a part of the nation (Halifax County, Virginia) – when my own great grand mother and her siblings were coming of age. It is not inconceivable that they knew one another or that our families sat in the same church pew or shopped in the same stores or rode on the back of the same buses or worked for small shares on the same plantations. The woman’s name was Henrietta Lacks.
In July of 2006, The Scientist (Terry Sharrer) wrote about Ms. Lacks and the immortal cells which carry her name in a modified form. The form was modified to shield her identity.
By January 1951, while a new war in Korea was propelling the local economy, Lacks made a troubling discovery: abnormal vaginal bleeding. She consulted William Wade, a family practitioner, who referred her to the women’s clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital. There, Howard Jones made the preliminary diagnosis of cervical cancer, then the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Lawrence Wharton Jr. performed a cone biopsy, which confirmed the diagnosis and noted its advanced stage.
When Wharton took the biopsy specimen on February 9th, he had sent a portion of it to George Gey, director of the Tissue Culture Research Laboratory in the hospital’s Department of Surgery. Gey had been trying for some time to grow tumor cells in vitro but had failed repeatedly. It was his laboratory assistant, Mary Kubicek, who first noticed that Lacks’ cells remained alive in a nutrient solution of chicken plasma. They not only survived, but after six weeks the cells were dividing every twenty hours, much faster then they grew in vivo.
Gey was only secondarily interested in cancer research; tissue culture for growing poliovirus topped his agenda, and the now designated HeLa cell line suited that work perfectly. In 1953, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis set up a production facility for polio virus at the Tuskegee Institute, using HeLa cells that Gey provided, thus opening the way for Jonas Salk’s killed virus polio vaccine. Gey also sent Lack’s cells to medical researchers, pharmaceutical companies, and biologists studying the effects of zero gravity in space. When President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act in 1971, initiating the so-called war on cancer, HeLa cells provided the living context for many discoveries about cancer genetics and tumor viruses.
Surely there are millions of Americans who would never warm to the idea that the critical cancer research which saved their lives was predicated upon the cells of a Black woman. Perhaps more than that is the disturbing truth that Lawrence Wharton, Jr. took a culture from Ms. Lacks without her knowledge or permission. Her family was never informed and only came to the information by happenstance.
From the New York Times, November 17, 2001:
Deborah Lacks closed her eyes as a young cancer researcher opened the door of his floor-to-ceiling freezer. She stood clutching the ragged dictionary she uses to look up words like ”DNA,” ”cell” and ”immortality.” When the icy breeze hit her face, she opened her eyes slowly, and stared into a freezer filled with tiny vials of red liquid. ”O God,” she gasped, ”I can’t believe all this is my mother.”
Fifty years ago, when Deborah Lacks was still in diapers, her 30-year-old mother, Henrietta Lacks, lay in a segregated ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. The resident gynecologist sewed radium to her cervix in an attempt to knock out the cancer that was killing her. But before he finished, and without telling her, he took a small sample of her tumor and sent it downstairs to Dr. George Gey (pronounced guy), head of tissue culture research at Hopkins. Dr. Gey had spent almost 30 years collecting cancerous human cells and trying to make them grow, but until Ms. Lacks came along, they never did. Though Henrietta died a few months after her radium treatments, her cells are still living today.
Henrietta’s cells — named HeLa after the first letters in Henrietta and Lacks — became the first human cells to live indefinitely outside the body. They helped eradicate polio, flew in early space shuttle missions and sat in nuclear test sites around the world. In the 50’s, HeLa cells helped researchers understand the differences between cancerous and normal cells, and quickly became a standard laboratory tool for studying the effects of radiation, growing viruses and testing medications. HeLa is still one of the most widely used cell lines; in fact, this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded for research in which HeLa cells played a pivotal role.
Yet it was not until nearly two decades later — just before magazines like Jet and Emerge started writing stories about a black family whose mother had made important contributions to science without their knowledge — that anyone in Ms. Lacks’s family knew what had happened. Ms. Lacks, 52, doesn’t remember how she heard, but she’ll never forget her reaction: ”I went into shock,” she said. ”Why didn’t they just ask if they could use her cells?”
If the issue of using patient tissue without permission wasn’t a pressing one in the 50’s, informed consent has certainly become a heated topic today.
”In 1951, they wouldn’t have felt like they needed to ask,” said Ruth Faden, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Bioethics Institute. ”It’s a sad commentary on how the biomedical research community thought about research in the 50’s, but it was not at all uncommon for physicians to conduct research on patients without their knowledge or consent.”
Today, when patients go in for surgery, they’re usually asked to sign a form saying whether their tissues can be used for research. But, said Lori Andrews, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law and co-author of ”Body Bazaar: The Market for Human Tissue in the Biotechnology Age,” that practice doesn’t solve an important problem.
”All of us have blood or tissue on file somewhere,” Ms. Andrews said. ”Today, every drop of blood taken from people, every organ or biopsy removed by a surgeon, is in the pipeline toward research and commercialization. Since the 60’s, every newborn in the U.S. has been tested for genetic disorders, and many of their samples are still on file for use in later research. There are no rules governing who has access to these samples.”
The Times continues by outlining the awful consequences of how scientists have communicated their “role” in the evolution of immortal cell lines:
Within a few years of learning about HeLa cells, the Lacks family began getting letters from researchers, asking them to donate blood so scientists could find genetic markers to help identify Henrietta’s cells. But Ms. Lacks remembers differently: ”It was a typed letter, stating we need samples of the Lacks family to check her blood cells with theirs, to see if anybody has the same thing that she had,” she said. Ms. Lacks was in her late 20’s and had always worried that she might die at 31, just like her mother.
”I cried and cried,” she recalled. ”I had my two children, they was babies at the time, and I said ‘O God, am I going to make it past 31?’ ” She dodged the researchers at first, because she didn’t want to know whether she had cancer. When she finally decided to take the tests, she thought she’d get a phone call telling her whether she was going to live or die. She never heard back from the researchers and soon had the first of what would become several breakdowns.
Ms. Faden said: ”This could have been a very innocent misunderstanding. But this is why researchers have to be as straightforward as possible, because the expectation is that when a doctor wants to do something to you, it’s for your benefit. Physician-researchers need to make this clear by saying, ‘I’m not doing this to help you, I’m doing it to advance science.’ ”
Bobbette Lacks, Henrietta Lacks’s daughter-in-law, says that if researchers had told them about HeLa cells, then informed them of future research, her family would have cooperated. But not now. ”I would never subject my kids to that,” Bobbette Lacks said.
This year, the 50th anniversary of Henrietta Lacks’s death, some scientists wanted to honor her contribution. The National Foundation for Cancer Research had invited Deborah Lacks onstage to thank her for her mother’s cells. But the conference had been scheduled for Sept. 13 and was canceled after the terrorist attacks. So for now, Ms. Lacks is back to learning about her mother on her own.
Until Ms. Lacks looked into that freezer filled with vials earlier this year, she had only read about her mother’s cells; she had never seen them.
These are the immortal cells of Henrietta Lacks.
Here are pictures of the doctors who led the research on Ms. Lacks in the 1950’s and also misdiagnosed her condition:
Lawrence Richardson Wharton:
George Otto Gey (pronounced “guy”):
The importance of immortal cell lines cannot be underestimated. Nor, however, can we underestimate the extent to which scientists (for more than 10 decades since the founding of the Rockefeller Institute) have operated with the sense that human beings (especially Africans) are not much more than chattel.
The Purpose of US Vaccination Efforts on Malaria
Listen to Major General Lester Martinez-Lopez (April 25, 2002):
“Our goal is to produce a vaccine that will protect military personnel in malaria endemic regions, but it’s clear that this vaccine candidate also holds tremendous potential for children,” said Major General Lester Martinez-Lopez, commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, which oversees WRAIR’s work. “With MVI adding critical support for these trials, we all can move that much faster toward our respective goals.”
From the Seattle Times (February 6, 2008):
With an unprecedented infusion of cash and a businesslike approach, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has kicked the quest for a malaria vaccine into high gear. Since 1999, no single government agency or organization has spent more on the effort. Of all the diseases the foundation has tackled, only AIDS gets more money than the $1.14 billion committed to malaria so far — and Bill Gates vows to keep the funds flowing.
“This is the time period where malaria can be largely conquered,” he said in an interview. “Whatever it takes, we’re just going to stay at it.”
The Gates Foundation has almost single-handedly revitalized malaria research, says retired Maj. Gen. Philip K. Russell, a medical doctor who oversaw the Army’s malaria research for more than 15 years. “It was not on anybody’s agenda until Gates put it there.”
No one has ever developed a vaccine against a human parasite. The current version is the most advanced in the world, but in early trials it kept only about a third of children from getting sick.
According to a New York Times article from July 7, 1913, a University of North Carolina professor, Dr. Wade Brown, conducted experiments funded by the Rockefeller Institute and determined the causative factor in malaria as early as 1912. Given the history of this disease (it was treated with quinine in the 1640’s), one wonders why a man as smart as Bill Gates would focus his efforts on finding a vaccine which may be one day or one century in the offing. Is this akin to trying to outdo Steve Jobs with more vulnerable, proprietary software? If this approach reflective of a truly modern open-source approach to resolving issues on the ground?
The article continues:
Many clinics in Africa don’t have refrigerators. Roads are often no more than rutted tracks. Villagers who travel days to visit a doctor may find no one there because health workers are fleeing for better-paying jobs. And while Gates has committed nearly $350 million to develop a vaccine, it will cost billions to manufacture and distribute it in countries where most people live on less than $2 a day.
Critics who fault the Gates Foundation for its faith in technological solutions say the shelves are already groaning with drugs and devices that never reach poor Africans because of these “downstream issues.”
Dr. Regina Rabinovitch, leader of the foundation’s infectious-disease programs, is well aware of the stakes. “We know our job is not finished when the vaccine is done,” she says. “It doesn’t do any good if it doesn’t get out there.”
In Part III, I sought to establish the close connection between systems of clean water and sanitation as causes for disease. Here, the Gates Foundation acknowledges that in addition to water and sanitation, transportation and energy (electricity, solar, or other) are also of critical concern in delivering the product. The work of the foundation, however, does not address these critical areas. The work of the Clinton Foundation does not address these areas either. Still, the idea of opening African markets to private investment lies at the heart of this endeavor — after identifying a vaccine that will protect the American military.
Clinical Trials, Mandatory Testing and Guaranteed Demand
The global community of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have developed new terminology to define many of the unique actions in which they are engaged. In Part III, I provided some historical context and mainstream links on the nature of the business mapped by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Simply, the BMGF is engaged in the business of triage. The term which is now widely circulated by European and US-based NGOs (and the US government) is “child survival.” The US government has even established what is known as the US Coalition for Child Survival.
“Child survival” is part of a broader paradigm which focuses, essentially, on improving the survival rates of women and children. Critics of the paradigm have argued the donor inattention to the basic, but more expensive, requirements for clean water, sanitation, and transportation undermine the entire effort. Moreover, there is little mention of the place of African men in this paradigm (more on this in future installments).
The US Coalition reports that 27 million children, under the age of five, die each day from various conditions. The leading causes of death are, in order, malnutrition, neonatal causes, pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles and finally, the myriad diseases classified as AIDS.
Large multinational pharmaceutical firms are continuing the work by leading clinical trials in Africa.
- Merck in South Africa (September 24, 2007)
- From the New York Times (May 9, 2007):
“Jeffrey L. Sturchio, a vice president at Merck in New Jersey, says his company strives to balance providing the broadest possible access to AIDS drugs while maintaining financial incentives to attract companies to conduct research and development on new drugs.
Brazil and Thailand have overridden Merck’s patent on the AIDS drug efavirenz, an ingredient of the new, improved first-line AIDS therapies. Merck had been charging Brazil $577 annually per patient, a price it agreed to drop to $400 a year after Brazil said it was considering overriding the patent. The Clinton Foundation’s new price for the generic drug is $164.”
How was the former President able to secure these price reductions? By guaranteeing that the United States Armed Forces (remember the Presidential Decision Directive from 1996) would implement mandatory testing in EVERY African nation with a high prevalence of infection.
From the Financial Times (April 25, 2006):Bill Clinton may no longer be an elected politician, but the outspoken former US president has stepped into an ethical quagmire by expressing support for the controversial idea of mandatory HIV testing in countries with a high prevalence of infection.Speaking to a group of journalists in London recently, he endorsed Lesotho’s pioneering programme launched last November to offer universal testing, and suggested other countries and companies should launch extensive efforts to diagnose HIV.His comments come at a time when several countries have raised concerns that although they are scaling up Aids treatment, they are still losing the battle to reduce rates of HIV infection, which are causing widespread economic damage.For a long time, the idea of widespread diagnosis made little sense in the developing world, where confirmation of HIV was simply a death sentence, with no prospect of treatment. But that has changed significantly since the turn of the millennium.Malawi, which has significantly increased its HIV treatment in recent months, has toyed with an “opt-out” system to identify infection during patient check-ups unless they specifically refuse.Kevin de Cock, head of the World Health Organisation’s HIV/Aids programme, said he supported such an “opt-out” system, but only on condition that it was voluntary and linked to patients being able to get treatment if found to be HIV positive. “That is a valid type of informed consent,” he said. Lesotho’s programme does just that in principle, with the aim of providing universal treatment by 2007, although some observers suggest that social pressure may mean voluntary agreement is in practice partly coerced.Mr Clinton suggested he might support programmes that went still further, explicitly requiring mandatory testing and even compulsory disclosure of positive HIV results to the partners of those found to be infected.Asked about the ethics of such compulsion, he argued that it could be justified in countries with high infection rates, on condition there was guaranteed diagnosis, treatment and anti-discrimination measures put in place. “In a population with extremely high rates of infection, [mandatory testing] overcomes other reservations,” he said, warning of the “social wreckage” devastating poorer countries with widespread HIV incidence.
Cuba launched mandatory programmes for Aids testing and treatment in the 1980s, triggering substantial international criticism at the time, although it appears to have been able to successfully maintain very low rates of HIV infection since.
Its model may attract new interest at a time when the battle against Aids elsewhere remains tough. The latest United Nations figures suggest that despite a sharp rise in international funding, just 1.3m people are currently receiving anti-retroviral treatment for HIV in the developing world, compared with 6.5m estimated to need it.
The Clinton Foundation itself has contributed to an acceleration in treatment by negotiating sharp reductions in the cost of HIV medicines and diagnostic tests in developing countries, as well as launching efforts to strengthen healthcare structures.
However, about 40m people around the world are now living with HIV – the highest number ever, and those newly infected rose last year by another 5m, suggesting that prevention efforts continue to lag behind treatment.
In that context, politicians continue to float more extreme measures. Public officials in the Indian state of Goa became the latest to propose one such initiative – compulsory HIV testing ahead of marriage, for example – although it is unlikely to be implemented.
Richard Coker, a reader at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, argues that it is ethically justified for doctors to protect the partner of someone found to be HIV positive by informing them of the diagnosis if their patient refuses.
But he criticises the idea of mandatory testing. “Coercive measures don’t work. If you have to launch mandatory programmes, that suggests the person is not persuaded of the benefits and you would have to isolate them or force them into treatment.”
He argues that such an approach would be both unethical and counterproductive, since it would probably lead to poor compliance with treatment and discourage people from coming forward for testing.
Many countries in the developing world are still far from achieving any significant coverage of HIV patients with treatment, suggesting it will be a long time before they can justify more aggressive testing programmes backed up with the incentive of drugs.
But as the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialised nations consider how to meet their pledge at last year’s Gleneagles summit to try to give HIV treatment to all who need it by 2010, the continuing growth in infection means they will face the still more difficult political and ethical challenges in tackling prevention.
Mandatory and universal testing requirements ensure demand for the manufacturers of generic, lower cost drugs. They’re for everyone. Everyone. Everyone!!!!
Clinton has made agreements with two firms in India – and has provided (with Bill Gates) the leverage for these firms to provide these drugs which continue to require trials to ensure their efficacy. After 100 years of lab-research on malaria by John Rockefeller, the US Army and Bill Gates, mosquitoes continue to impose their will. And yet, today, there are questions about whether or not the story has been overstated.
The All-American Raison D’Etre
Chinese demands for energy are driving the US to pursue new relationships in Africa. The guise of humanitarian aid must be viewed within the context of the Defense Department’s critical role in the advance of US-Africa relations. And, perhaps most disastrously, it must be borne in mind that at precisely the point when Gilead Sciences (a leader in HIV vaccination research) was making its most headway, the chairman of its board was none other than Donald Rumsfeld (more in Part V).
From Reuters (February 28, 2008):
LOS ANGELES, Feb 28 (Reuters) – A safety board has recommended that certain AIDS patients taking part in a study of GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s (GSK.L: Quote, Profile, Research) Epzicom consider switching to Gilead Sciences Inc’s (GILD.O: Quote, Profile, Research) Truvada, sending Gilead’s shares up about 4 percent on Thursday.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease’s AIDS Clinical Trials Group, a unit of the National Institutes of Health, is comparing the two drugs in a head-to-head trial involving 1,858 patients.
The unit said on Thursday that an independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board recently found that for patients with high levels of HIV virus, treatment regimens containing Epzicom were less effective at controlling the virus than regimens containing Truvada.
The board also found that patients with high levels of HIV virus treated with Epzicom developed side effects such as body aches and high cholesterol more quickly.
Glaxo said in a statement that the NIH study did not routinely exclude patients at risk for a known reaction with Epzicom, which might have accounted for some adverse events.
The trial recommendation applies to about half the patients being treated with the Glaxo drug and, if translated to real world usage, could mean a 20 percent market share gain for Gilead’s Truvada and Atripla, Morgan Stanley analyst Sapna Srivastava said in a research note on Thursday.
Remember Tamiflu and the avian flu virus? That was also Gilead Sciences.
The stakes in the energy game are very high. In 2006, China’s president visited Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya. Today, the United States of America imports more oil from Africa than from Saudi Arabia. The US has protected the House of Saud from all comers and precluded other nations from breaking up the dollar-oil peg which prevails in Saudi Arabia. No such arrangements exist on the ground in Africa…and yet – the US is proposing to establish its first military command. China’s strategy for African partnership centers on infrastructure.
Beijing plans to invest $4 billion in Nigeria’s infrastructure, including a Nigerian state-run oil refinery, a railway line and power plants. Two Chinese telecommunication companies will install rural telephone services financed by $200 million in loans from Beijing.
On the eve of Hu’s visit, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) paid $2.7 billion for a 45 percent stake in a Nigerian oil field due to start production in 2008. Last year, Nigeria agreed to provide 30,000 barrels of oil per day for five years to China’s largest state-owned oil company, PetroChina, in a deal worth $800 million.
Oil was also top of the agenda in Kenya on April 27-30. In Nairobi, the Chinese president signed an agreement for licenses to allow CNOOC to explore six possible oil blocks off the coast of Kenya. Last year, China provided $36.5 million in aid to Kenya, mainly to upgrade its power stations.
China’s deals with Nigeria and Kenya, as well as other African countries, are direct challenges to the traditional domination of the continent’s oil by American and European companies. (See Western concern at China’s growing involvement in Africa)
China’s energy diplomacy was spelled out by Yang Peidong, a foreign ministry consultant, in a recent edition of China Economic Weekly. Beijing is now focusing on “the extension of trade and the promotion of energy, resources and technology cooperation” as the heart of China’s foreign policy, he wrote.
China’s strategy is to offer infrastructure projects to the resource-rich countries in Middle East, Africa and Latin America to facilitate, and in exchange for, the export of minerals to China. China is now the world’s sixth largest engineering contractor, with its new contracts up 24 percent to $39 billion last year. In some cases, China has also financed and even armed regimes, such as in Sudan and Zimbabwe, in order to protect its resource interests.
In comments to Reuters during Hu’s visit, former Nigerian foreign minister Bolaji Akinyemi attempted to play down possible tensions with Washington. “In the Middle East, the US regards China’s incursion with alarm, but Nigeria is more virgin territory for suitors and Washington should not be too worried,” he said.
The Bush administration, however, regards China’s moves in Africa as far from benign. Its recently published National Security Strategy openly states US concerns over China as “expanding trade, but acting as if they can somehow ‘lock up’ energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up—as if they can follow a mercantilism borrowed from a discredited era; and … supporting resource-rich countries without regard to their misrule at home or misbehaviour abroad of those regimes.”
The West has not directed itself to resolving the infrastructure crisis across the continent precisely because they are architects of that crisis.
For more information on the complexity of dealing with malaria (for example, in contrast to HIV), check out this link.
Janus – Roman God of Gates, Doors, Beginnings and Endings
According to a January 7, 2007 article posted in the Los Angeles Times, “The Gates Foundation has poured $218 million into polio and measles immunization and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. At the same time that the foundation is funding inoculations to protect health, The Times found, it has invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France — the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing the delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the United States or Europe.”
In addition, The Times found the Gates Foundation endowment had major holdings in:
• Companies ranked among the worst U.S. and Canadian polluters, including ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical Co. and Tyco International Ltd.
• Many of the world’s other major polluters, including companies that own an oil refinery and one that owns a paper mill, which a study shows sicken children while the foundation tries to save their parents from AIDS.
• Pharmaceutical companies that price drugs beyond the reach of AIDS patients the foundation is trying to treat.
Using the most recent data available, a Times tally showed that hundreds of Gates Foundation investments — totaling at least $8.7 billion, or 41% of its assets, not including U.S. and foreign government securities — have been in companies that countered the foundation’s charitable goals or socially concerned philosophy.
This is “the dirty secret” of many large philanthropies, said Paul Hawken, an expert on socially beneficial investing who directs the Natural Capital Institute, an investment research group. “Foundations donate to groups trying to heal the future,” Hawken said in an interview, “but with their investments, they steal from the future.”
In South Africa:
AT a clinic in Isipingo, a suburb of the South African port city of Durban where the HIV infection rate is as high as 40%, Thembeka Dube, 20, was getting a checkup.
Dube had volunteered for tests of a vaginal gel that researchers hope will be shown to protect against HIV. The tests are part of a study conducted by the New York-based Population Council, and funded by a $20-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Dube’s boyfriend won’t use condoms. She hoped the tests would show she could use the microbicidal gel, called Carraguard, and stop worrying about AIDS.
Research into prophylactics such as Carraguard can fight AIDS by empowering women, Bill Gates told the International AIDS Conference in Toronto in August. “Whether the woman is a faithful married mother of small children, or a sex worker trying to scrape out a living in a slum … ” he said, “a woman should never need her partner’s permission to save her own life.”
Two days before Gates spoke, Kyrone Smith was born only a few kilometers from the Isipingo clinic. At the same time the Gates Foundation was trying to help Dube, it owned a stake in companies that appeared to be hurting Kyrone.
At six weeks, his lungs began to fail. Kyrone struggled to cry, but he was so weak that no sound came out — just husky, labored breaths.
His mother, Renee Smith, 26, rushed him to a hospital, where he was given oxygen. She feared it would be the first of many hospital visits. Smith knew from experience.
“My son Teiago was in and out of hospital since the age of 3,” she said. “He couldn’t breathe nicely…. There are so many children in this area who have the same problems.”
Two of the area’s worst industrial polluters — a Mondi paper mill and a giant Sapref oil refinery — squat among the homes near Isipingo like sleepy grey dragons, exhaling chemical vapors day and night.
The Sapref plant, which has had two dozen significant spills, flares, pipeline ruptures and explosions since 1998, and the Mondi plant together pump thousands of tons of putrid-smelling chemicals into the air annually, according to their own monitoring.
In 2002, a study found that more than half of the children at a school in nearby Merebank suffered asthma — one of the highest rates in scientific literature. A second study, published last year, found serious respiratory problems throughout the region: More than half of children aged 2 to 5 had asthma, largely attributed to sulfur dioxide and other industrial pollutants. Much of it was produced by companies in which the Gates Foundation was invested.
Michael Larson may be to Bill Gates what Frederick T. Gates was to John D. Rockefeller. Michael Larson was unavailable to speak to the Los Angeles Times in 2007, but the most recent investments of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are an open book. More than 40% of the portfolio is Berkshire Hathaway stock. The rest of the portfolio is full of “blue chip” pharmaceutical manufacturers like Merck, Schlering Plough and others (More on this in Part VI). Even Abbott Labs, the first which issues HIV tests, is among the leaders. The Gates Foundation appears to have the financial compensation side of giving money away completely covered.
Just as the Roman god Janus was able to look forwards and backwards, so too does the Gates Foundation fund that which brings life and that which takes life. Bill Gates is a new god of beginnings and endings – and he has the endowment to prove it. At the time of the LA Times article, the BMGF had assets sufficient to rank 56th in national Gross Domestic Product. It would rank 89th among corporations based on market capitalization. To date, it has dispensed more than $13 billion.
Mama! It’s that Rockefeller Man, Again!
The Population Council was created in 1952 as a permanent organization. The business of the Council was to study population and drive public policy on issues of reproduction and birth control. One of the first board members for the Population Council was Lewis L. Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission from 1953 to 1958. Another prominent member was Frank Notestein. Notestein directed the first population office at Princeton University and also led the United Nations’ Population Division in the 1940’s. No Population Council is complete without a eugenicist who has “academy cred.” The Rockefeller’s man of science was Frederick Osborn. (Osborn also served on the Atomic Energy Commission.) Of particular concern to the Population Council was the reproduction of Africans and Asians residing in “Third World” nations. We’ve reached that moment in time when wealthy people feel the need to make grant to Rockefellers. This may be a strange time, but in an international discourse about population, it might as well be 1920. That was the year that Lothrop Stoddard penned his classic tome on race relations: The Rising Tide of Color Against White-World Supremacy. One of Stoddard’s principal beliefs was that whites contributed to the growth of population in Africa by ending “tribal wars, waging truceless combat against epidemic disease”,improved communications and distribution of food. The evidence supporting these claims is at least as two-sided as the face of Janus. His fear was that emigrating Asians and Africans would eventually leave their over-populated homelands and move to lands dominated by “whites.” Stoddard’s book was well-received then and it would be as well received today as Ben Wattenburg’s The Birth Dearth. Justifications for deeply embedded concerns about population, reproduction, survival, death and dying are deeply immersed within all of this work. The philanthropy numbers do not amount to much more than pennies in the grand scheme of things.
The 2007 budget for the Population Council: $71.5 million.
From the PC website:
The Population Council has been conducting research and other programs in the sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region for 40 years.
Much of the Council’s current portfolio of activities in sub-Saharan Africa are part of the FRONTIERS and Horizons programs. Because SSA carries the heaviest burden of the HIV pandemic and has the least amount of access to reproductive health services of all the Council’s regions, it is not surprising that many of the region’s activities fall under the work of these two programs.
In most of the countries where the Population Council has been active, the focus has been on examining ways to improve availability and the quality of contraceptive and reproductive health services and reducing the transmission of HIV.
Recent safe motherhood activities in Kenya included providing technical assistance for updating the standards and national guidelines for essential obstetric care and undertaking innovative research with the Ministry of Health in four districts of Western Province to test new approaches to providing safe motherhood services. The expected outcomes of these activities are improved quality of antenatal, delivery, postnatal, and post abortion care services; demonstrated effectiveness of systems of referral, access, health management, and information, education, and communication services; and enhanced and appropriate safe motherhood components in all safe motherhood strategies.
In addition, Population Council staff in Kenya have been engaged in a three-year collaborative project with the K-REP Development Agency to test and scale up a saving and micro-credit program for adolescent girls and to expand the urban-based pilot program to a rural area of Kenya. In South Africa, as part of the study on the transition to adulthood in the context of HIV and AIDS, a project was implemented to increase young people’s knowledge of risky behaviors. In Burkina Faso, Council staff worked with the government, the Burkinabe Association for Family Welfare, the Mille Jeunes Filles project, and the United Nations Population Fund/UNICEF/United Nations Foundation to strengthen social and health services to meet adolescent girls’ health and development needs. The project aimed to test the feasibility of using community resource people to provide reproductive health information to adolescent girls; define appropriate venues, including special spaces for adolescent girls; determine appropriate content of training; and develop appropriate indicators for evaluating project outcomes.
In Ethiopia, Population Council staff worked with the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia on an operations research study to explore the impact of expanding access to coital-dependent methods of family planning (e.g., male and female condoms) and emergency contraception. Results of the two-year study are expected to point to strengthening the quality of health care services and maximizing the potential of these two methods-either individually or as dual protection-to reduce the risk of both HIV/STI transmission and unwanted pregnancy.
Two community-based distribution projects are being undertaken in Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire in an effort to increase access to and use of reproductive heath services in rural areas of the two countries. Activities consist of strengthening the functional capacity of district health centers and introducing a community-based intervention program on reproductive health services. A research focus in Cameroon was to design a study to test the community-based distribution model and determine its cost-effectiveness in improving access, quality, and sustainability of community-level reproductive health services.
Could This Be Happening?
In Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins introduces the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). This organization was supported by the Rockefeller’s and served as a front for espionage and other programs in Ecuador. On page 166, Perkins writes:
“SIL had been working extensively with the Huaorani tribe in the Amazon basin area, during the early years of oil exploration, when a disturbing pattern appeared to emerge. While it might have been a coincidence (and no link was ever proved), stories were told in many Amazonian communities that when seismologists reported to corporate headquarters that a certain region had characteristics indicating a high probability of oil beneath the surface, some SIL members went in and encouraged the indigenous people to move from that land, onto missionary reservations; there they would receive free food, shelter, clothes, and medical treatment, and missionary-style education. The condition was that, according to these stories, they had to deed their lands to the oil companies.
Rumors abounded that SIL missionaries used an assortment of underhanded techniques to persuade the tribes to abandon their homes and move to the missions. A frequently repeated story was that they donated food heavily laced with laxatives – then offered medicines to cure the diarrhea epidemic. Throughout Huaorani territory, SIL airdropped false-bottomed food baskets containing tiny radio transmitters; the rumor was that receivers at highly sophisticated communications stations, manned by US military personnel at the army base in Shell, tuned in to these trasmitters. Whenever a member of the tribe was bitten by a poisonous snake or became seriously ill, an SIL representative arrived with antivenom or the proper medicines – often in oil company helicopters.”
The stakes are high. Whether we’re talking about oil in Ecuador or tissue for conducting research within the United States, international organizations and medical research professionals were a thin mask of legitimacy that should be snatched off at every instance. Beneath that mask, there is often a duplicitous, greedy soul with an unquenchable thirst for recognition, acclaim or wealth. The history of science in this nation is full of stories where the ghastly meet the horrific.
In Part VI, a tale of 1,000 brains, Albert Einstein and the rise of HIV.
“They took my brother’s brain without consent, and the doctor, in his obituary it said that he had one of the largest brain collections,” says Karen. “And if there’s any way for me to find that, I would like to put him back together.”