Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
ISSUE 290, FRIDAY 19th January, 2001
DYING FOR PROFIT
“Imagine witnessing devastating plague and sitting on a cure for fear of incurring shareholders revolt.” - Ben Jackson, Action for Southern Africa
With AIDS sweeping through Africa like the plague, the world’s most powerful drug companies are showing the usual corporate compassion by taking the South African government to court to stop cheap drugs being used to help people with HIV.
In 1997 former President Nelson Mandela passed a law which gave the country the right to buy huge amounts of generic drugs and sell them cheaply to help people with HIV. The law also gives South Africa the right to ‘compulsorily license’ HIV drugs – allowing a drug to be produced more cheaply by someone other than the patent holder, if it’s in the public interest.
The response of the pharmaceutical industry, the US and EU governments was swift and deadly. The US threatened trade sanctions, and the European Commission argued the law broke World Trade Organisation rules. Meanwhile 40 pharmaceutical companies took legal action to declare the law unconstitutional.
This has meant, in the words of the South African’s health minister “pioneering legislation…has, to date, been crippled by legal challenges, cynically mounted by multinational companies, in order to preserve their narrow self-interest in exorbitant financial profit”.
25 million people are currently infected by the HIV virus in sub-Saharan Africa, yet only 25,000 Africans (0.1 per cent of those infected) receive the drugs which are available in the West to help prolong lives.
The big drug firms are scared that if they turn a blind eye to cheap drugs in South Africa it will set a dangerous precedent and hit their future balance sheets. Yet just 1 per cent of drug revenues comes from the entire African continent.
One of the most blatant examples of a company profiteering from AIDS is Pfizer. Pfizer manufactures fluconazole which is used to treat two common infections associated with HIV which are often fatal if left untreated. Fluconazole costs over 10 times more in South Africa than high-quality equivalents available from countries like Thailand and India. The result of Pfizer’s profiteering is that many hospitals in the country have insufficient stocks of fluconazole, and many people suffer or die because they cannot afford the private sector price for the drug.
The Treatment Action Campaign is currently preparing legal action against the company.
“We cannot allow global trade rules to be used to put the commercial interests of drug companies over the public health interests of millions in Southern Africa.” - Ben Jackson, Action for Southern Africa.
The South African government has come under fire because they have signed up to the World Trade Organisations TRIPS – Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. This allows owners of ‘intellectual property’ to control the exploitation of their inventions worldwide, determining the price at which they can be sold and the royalties they receive. Brazil meanwhile – which has not yet fully implemented the WTO TRIPs agreement – has cut the cost of anti-retroviral treatments by 72 per cent since 1996 by using locally made versions in a national treatment scheme. In Sao Paulo AIDS deaths have fallen by 53 per cent since 1995.
Still, what do the drug companies care? Well, another one of those companies taking part in the legal action is GlaxoSmithKline who recently became the world’s biggest drugs group. It’s mission statement says how it “is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.” But that is, of course only if you’ve got the cash.
AIDS – THE FACTS
CRAP ARRESTS OF THE WEEK
For saying Boo! Last October, during a demonstration against the Biomedical Primate Research Centre in Holland an activist was arrested for saying boo to a cop.
For dragging a flag! Veteran peace campaigner Lindis Percy has been charged with causing harassment, alarm or distress after she dragged a US flag in front of cars driven by Americans at the US Spy Base Menwith Hill. www.gn.apc.org/cndyorks/caab/
In Da Area - *SPOR Community Space in Brighton
23-28 January. Featuring performances, installations, a kid’s space, cafe, sculpture, photography, video, and music. The space is to be organised around the theme “The Shape of Nature”, there will be events around climate change, alternative energy, permaculture, and other related topics. At the same time there will be a host of information about the people and institutions that are responsible for the current problems we are facing, and creative solutions to those problems. Contributions are welcome. The venue is in central Brighton and will be announced on Monday. Call 01273-321112 for details, or check www.spor.org.uk, email@example.com
*The Rebel Alliance Brighton’s occasional direct action get together will take place next Wednesday (24) at the Spor community space. Ring SPOR for directions. Food will be served from 6.30pm, meeting starts 7.30pm with films afterwards.
They re-activated the peace and anarchist movement, gave punk a good kick up the backside, had a record label that sold thousands of records with ‘pay no more than’ stickers plastered all over them and generally trumpeted the DIY get off your arses ethos. Now ex-members of CRASS are trying to save the commune that spawned these and many other ideas from the developers.
They’ve already saved Dial House from the developers once, arguing successfully in court that the grade 2 listed 16th-century cottage on the outskirts of North Weald was a cultural outpost (described as the punk equivalent of the Bloomsbury set’s Charleston House!). Supporters are now trying to raise the £80,000 needed to buy the house. To find out about giving donations email firstname.lastname@example.org
*The Stonehenge Free Festival was one of the ideas that came out of Dial house. Read Penny Rimbaud’s Shibboleth: My Revolting Life (AK Press) to find out what happened to the man who dreamt it up.
If you fancy learning the basics about renewable energy, or if you’re interested in perhaps installing your own green energy system. The University of Aberystwyth is running a 3-day course on the following dates: 3, 24 February and the 17 March. Interested then contact Green Dragon Energy, ‘Panteg’, Cwm Llinau, Machynlleth, Powys SY20 9NU Tel: 01650 511378 The course costs £35/25 cons, and needs to be booked in advance.
SchNEWS TRAINING DAY
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SchNEWS in brief
Turkey’s political prisoners remain on hunger strike in protest against their removal to isolated cells containing 1-3 people with no access to lawyers or medical treatment. The move comes as an attempt by the Turkish authorities to break up the solidarity and self-regulation of political prisoners. The hunger strikers have now been holding their fast for around 85 days and many are in a critical condition.
In recent weeks 4 police have been killed and around 30 injured through retaliation attacks to the storming of 20 prisons on December 20th in which 30 prisoners were killed.
The Turkish government has imposed a censor on the press, with all reporting relating to the situation of the detainees prohibited, whilst 5 branches of Turkey’s Human Rights Association have been closed with members detained.
Last week four activists were arrested whilst laying a wreath outside the Istanbul offices of the Democratic Left Party, they are currently held in prison awaiting trial which could result in 1 year sentences.
For more information and updates on the situation contact The Free Captives/Anti-Fascist and Anti-Imperialist Prisoners Support Group at London Information Bureau, BM Box 8253, London, WC1N 3XX, 0207 254 1266 www.ozgurluk.org
A cyber version of Tales of the Unexpected The Centre for International Legal Studies was stuck for a speaker for a conference on international trade last October in Salzburg. So they visited the website www.gatt.org and sent an invitation to Mike Moore, the World Trade Organisations Director General. They received a reply he couldn’t attend, but that he’d send Dr Andreas Bichlbauer to speak in his place.
Dr. Bichlbauer attended the conference and gave a speech entitled “Trade Regulation Relaxation and Concepts of Incremental Improvement: Governing Perspectives from 1970 to the Present”. The gist of the speech was that Italians have a lesser work ethic than the Dutch, that Americans would be better off auctioning their votes in the presidential election to the highest bidder and that the primary role of the WTO was to create a one-world culture. The speech didn’t go down too well, not because of the brutal truth of the role of the WTO, but because of its reference to Italians. Despite receiving a pieing on leaving the conference, Dr Bichlbauer, defended his speech, “While we of course do not advocate vote-selling or siesta-banning at the present time, it is quite true that efficiency and the streamlining of culture and politics in the interests of economic liberalisation is at the core of the WTO’s programme”. A few days later Dr Bichlbauer was on his deathbed. Allegations began to fly that perhaps the Dr had been targeted by his own organisation who were none too impressed by his honesty. A week later Dr Bichlbauer’s death was announced by e-mail.
The twist in the tail then became apparent. Dr Bichlbauer was an impostor - the organisers of the conference had been the victims of a hoax. If they’d looked at the website a bit more closely they would have perhaps realised that it wasn’t run by the WTO, but by anti trade campaigners “The Yes Men”. A spokesman for the group later stated “We think the ethical thing to do is to represent the WTO more honestly than they represent themselves”. Full story at www.theyesmen.org/wto
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Last updated 19th January 2001