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Voice from the Back

HARD TIMES

Capitalism treats everything as a business. The Thomas Deacon Academy in Peterborough is a good example. Chief executive of the new ú46 million academy Alan McMurdo makes his aims plain. He will have no playground and insists that the school will be a business concern. "Dr McMurdo ... says that he wants to run his school like a business, treating pupils as employees. Lunch will be incorporated into the third lesson of the day, when students will be escorted to the refectory and given 30 minutes to eat before returning directly to the classroom. ... ‘It's all about the investment of public money,’ he said." (Times, 14 May) Charles Dickens’s tyrannical school teacher Gradgrind looks positively benevolent compared to McMurdo.

MORAL MAJORITY NONSENSE

The death of Jerry Falwell, the founder of Moral Majority Inc. marks the end of an obnoxious combination of rightwing politics, homophobia, racialism and US nationalism. In the 1980s he had a 21 million TV viewing audience and a church that was enjoying an income of £45 million a year. "While MMI was avowedly bipartisan, he claimed that Democrats were a ‘dangerous minority of homosexuals, feminists, socialists and freezeniks’. He said that anyone who was anti-Israel was anti-God, but later added that the Antichrist was Jewish, and that Jews, like Roman Catholics, had no place in heaven." (Times, 16 May) His life is a sad commentary on the gullibility of many American workers. Eventually his MMI ended in financial bankruptcy to match its intellectual bankruptcy.

USA, FANTASY AND REALITY

"At least 10 of the Republicans and Democrats hoping to run for U.S. president in the November 2008 election are millionaires, The Washington Post reported on Thursday. Collectively, the candidates are worth at least a quarter of a billion dollars, the newspaper said. Republican Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and founder of a private equity firm, is the richest of the field with personal assets estimated by his campaign at $190 million to $250 million, the Post reported. ...The Post noted a long history of the very wealthy becoming president, from Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush." (Yahoo News, 17, May) So much for the fantasy of "log cabin to White House".

MERCHANTS OF DEATH

"The Government's pledge ten years ago to act ethically and openly when licensing arms export sales has failed to eradicate corruption or stop weapons ending up in the wrong hands, a report says today." (Times, 21 May) The report The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: a Decade of Labour's Arms Exports is produced by Saferworld and reports that Britain has consistently approved military exports to countries accused of violating human rights, including Colombia and Indonesia. They make peaceful electoral promises, but in power - business is business.

LET THEM SUFFER

"Sick children who have been taking part in trials for a drug that has transformed their lives now face the prospect of being denied the treatment because of NHS cost-cutting. Doctors have condemned the NHS for inflicting misery on children who have the painful rare blood disorder sickle cell anaemia. Some children have gone from the agonising routine of having their parents insert a needle into their stomach for eight to 12 hours a night at least five nights a week, to taking two Exjade tablets daily. The drug cleanses their blood of life-threatening excess iron - a side effect of the frequent blood transfusions needed to treat the disease." (Observer, 3 June) 10,000 people in the UK suffer from this condition, so why the delay in supplying this drug? It costs £10,000-£15,000 for a year's supply for a sufferer. Need any other explanation?

CAPITALISM DISTORTS SCIENCE

Two separate items from the same day's newspaper illustrate the harshness of capitalism. "Several men were arrested in an organ-smuggling inquiry in Jordan for allegedly luring poor people to sell their kidneys. More than 80 cases have been uncovered in recent months. Each kidney can sell for up to $2,000 (£1,000)." (Times, 5 June)

"Clinical trials that compare two similar drugs are significantly more likely to favour the one made by the company that pays for the work, according to a study that sheds new light on bias in medical research. ...The work, by a team led by Lisa Bero, Professor of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco, raises fresh concern about the influence of pharmaceutical companies over research." (Times, 5 June)

GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY

The journalist Mary Riddell paints a dire picture of what it is like to be old when you are poor. "Some of the 31,000 pensioners who died of cold-related illnesses in the last five winters would still be alive, but for enforced frugality. ... In its Spotlight survey out this week Help the Aged will present a disturbing picture of worsening old age. According to its findings, 144,000 people never leave their homes, 21 per cent live in poverty and more than one in 10 is chronically lonely, a figure up significantly in the past year; 73 per cent of adults say older people face routine discrimination." (Observer, 10 June) After a lifetime of work and exploitation, this is the fate of many workers inside capitalism.