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Voice From the Back

Yesterday's enemy
At the end of the second world war there was a scramble between the so-called “allies” to capture as many German rocket and atomic scientists as possible. The US eagerly sought information from Japanese medical teams who had carried out horrific experiments on captured Chinese children. The British government armed Japanese soldiers to protect British colonies from the threat of nationalists. War crimes were overlooked in the “national interest”. A similar situation is developing in Iraq. “While not confirming it, Mr Bremer (the US-appointed administrator in Iraq), failed to deny a report in the Washington Post that the United States was recruiting members of Saddam's once-dreaded Mukhabarat, the former foreign intelligence service, to provide information on terrorist infiltration from Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia”, Times (25 August). Murderers and torturers are eagerly recruited by the “alliance”. Surely there is something amiss here. Wasn't the war supposed to be a heroic battle to rid Iraq of such villains?

Dying for profit
The whole purpose of production inside capitalism is to make a profit. This holds good whether it is landmines or medicine. As a recent report shows, if profit is poor then production will stop. “Specialists in tuberculosis treatment from Gartnavel General Hospital, Glasgow, expressed dismay at Merck, Sharp & Dohme pharmaceutical company's decision to withdraw a key drug, Zinamide, despite figures showing rates of TB in black African children in England and Wales doubled between 1988 and 1993 and again between 1993 and 1998”, Times (25 August) So kids are suffering and in some cases dying because the directors of a profit driven company decided to stop production. Heartless bastards or shrewd business people? You decide. Perhaps both?

A mad, mad world
Devinder Sharma chairman of the New Delhi-based Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security has come up with some startling statistics that illustrate the nuttiness of the market system. “The richest man in the United Kingdom, the Duke of Westminster, who owns about 55,000 hectares of farm estates, receives an average subsidy of 300,000 pounds sterling as direct payments, and in addition gets 350,000 pounds a year for the 1,200 dairy cows he owns . . . It has now been worked out that the EU provides a daily subsidy of US $2.7 per cow, and Japan provides three times more at US $8, whereas half of India's 1,000 million people live on less than $2 a day”, (2 September www.zmag.org). A society that values the welfare of a cow higher than that of a human being? Truly, capitalism is a mad house.

Flying high
You may have been alarmed at recent reports of airline passengers dying of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) caused by what they call “economy class syndrome” (ECS). No need to panic, help is at hand. You can be sure of plenty of leg room in the luxuriously transformed Boeing BBJ2 737 which is available for private charter for small parties “Range of 5,400 miles or 11 hours non-stop flight. Connolly leather, as used in the interior of Aston Martin cars, walnut tables and trim. Bathroom with shower, separate WC, twill cotton bathrobes and towels. Swivelling chairs, sleeping accommodation for 14. Full service catering, complimentary champagne and caviar”,Times, Business (13 September). One small snag though. It costs £8,500 per hour. So instead of the modified BBJ2 you might have to suffer ECS and risk DVT.

Contrasts
While half of India's 1,000 million may be ”living” on less than $2 a day, one US billionaire is still coining it in. “Bill Gates yesterday became eligible for a $186 million (£116 million) dividend payout, adding to his estimated $32.5 billion fortune from his stake in Microsoft. Gates would earn $2.58 million a year in interest payments if he deposited the dividend in an instant access saving account at Wells Fargo bank. That is the equivalent of $7,000 a day, or $292 an hour, or $4.86 a minute”, Times (13 September). $7,000 a day instead of $2 a day! Who could defend such a system?