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Return to hell

We the 99 percent suffer worldwide, but in some areas more than others. Haiti could reasonably be described as hell on Earth. 2010's earthquake and tsunami killed more than 160,000 and displaced up to 1.5 million people. More recently, the UN-caused cholera outbreak killed thousands and hospitalised hundreds of thousands. During this time hundreds of women and underage girls traded themselves for food and medicine. The Red Cross avoided killing anyone but after raising half a billion dollars built just six homes - about as effective as using a Band Aid on a tumour. Last month, over 900 lives were lost when a hurricane struck. So why is Haiti so prone to such disasters, UNnatural or otherwise? 'More than half of Haiti's city-dwellers live in overcrowded shantytowns that take the full force of any earthquake, hurricane, or disease outbreak… Massive deforestation has also led to soil erosion, leaving hillside huts and poorly-built houses in the capital, Port-au-Prince, dangerously exposed. In rural areas, topsoil used for agriculture is often washed away. Political instability and corruption have been a factor. Without effective government for decades, Haiti currently ranks 163rd out of the 188 countries on the UN Human Development Index. It spends little on storm defences' (bbc.com, 7 October).

Mighty Pillock

'An Egyptian MP has called for women to be forced to undergo virginity tests before being admitted to university, it has been reported. Parliamentary member Elhamy Agina called on the Minister of Higher Education to issue a mandate requiring him or his officials to enforce the virginity tests, Egyptian Streets reports. He has suggested that university cards could only been issued to female students on completion of a virginity test. In an interview with local media, he said: “Any girl who enters university, we have to check her medical examination to prove that she is a Miss. Therefore, each girl must present an official document upon being admitted to university stating she’s a Miss.” The term "Miss" in Egyptian culture is often used to refer euphemistically to whether a woman is a virgin' (theindependent.co.uk, 1 October). In a socialist world, education will replace schooling and have nothing to do with whether one is a virgin, can pay, possess a certain skin colour or caste origin. Such ideas will be thrown into the dustbin of history, along with degrees in conflict studies, economics, homeopathy, political geography, theology, etc.

Breaking down the profit system

'In his 93 years, Bob Wallace has seen some product-pricing doozies over the decades, but the nonstop national furore over the stratospheric price hikes for EpiPens — now retailing above $700 for a two-pack — was the final shot… So in time-honored Silicon Valley tradition — and piqued by the EpiPen-maker Mylan’s corporate tagline Seeing Is Believing — Wallace and Roland Krevitt, a veteran Scotts Valley manufacturing and tooling consultant, set out to demystify the cost to produce the EpiPen, piece by piece. The auto-injector delivers a lifesaving dose of adrenaline to treat serious allergic reactions to everything from bee stings to food. Hunched over his vintage Shopsmith table saw in his garage, Wallace sliced open the plastic injector to begin reverse-engineering the device. Then it was Krevitt’s turn to break out his gram scale and caliper to crunch the costs for molding and manufacturing the nozzle, needle, syringe, springs, safety cap — and 0.3 mg of epinephrine. Their startling estimate of the cost for a two-pack of EpiPens: $8.02 ' (mercurynews.com, 1 October).

$ick of the $ystem

Whether or not life-saving drugs are made is first a question of profit. Their use is not determined by need, as Dr Francisco Olea-Popelka, from the Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, confirmed recently. He said zoonotic tuberculosis is far more common than previously recognised, with over 120,000 new cases of animal TB each year. The figure is dwarfed by tuberculosis and HIV, with each accounting for between 1.1 million and 1.2 million unnecessary deaths in 2014. But Dr Olea-Popelka thinks we should care, adding 'this is a well-known problem and has been neglected for decades, it is a disease that is preventable, treatable and curable and yet still today we have hundreds of thousands of people suffering from it' (bbc.com, 1 October).