Several leftish bloggers have published their doubts that the alleged avian flu menace is anything more than another Bushevik distraction. - and just in time to draw our attention away from Plamegate and the "Scooter" Libby indictments.
Who can blame them? After all, as Keith Olberman recently pointed out, each of the Department of Homeland Security's thirteen color-coded "terror alerts" shortly followed some instance of Bush Administration bungling. And sure enough, the orange alerts took the embarrassments off the front pages and the TV newscasts.
Unfortunately, this time the threat is all-too real.
We can know that the bird flu is an oncoming disaster because the scientists tell us so. I count myself among the apparently declining minority of Americans who believe that science remains the most reliable source of factual information. Far more reliable than faith or George Bush's gut.
As a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), I subscribe to it's journal, Science, which has been warning of this menace for several years. (Most recently in the July 15 and October 7 issues). And the AAAS is no friend of Dubya's "faith-based" anti-science administration.
In addition, the cover story of the October, 2005 issue of National Geographic, is "The Next Killer Flu: Can We Stop It?" For much, much, more, Google "Avian Influenza," and you will find over two and half million hits. Leading the list are reports from the World Health Organization and the U.S Centers for Disease Control.
The 1918 influenza pandemic killed from 50 to 100 million people. The same proportion of victims, adjusted to the increase in population since 1918, would add up to 180 to 360 million. (National Geographic). Needless to say, such a catastrophe would devastate the world economy, causing millions more to die of starvation and other diseases, as vital services and the distribution of essential supplies would be paralyzed. The good news is that medical science has advanced significantly since 1918. The bad news is that international air traffic would accelerate enormously the spread of the pandemic. The worst news: scientists tell us that the outbreak is a virtual certainty - more likely sooner rather than later.
Much more might be said here about the biological and epidemiological aspects of this looming threat. But my space here is limited, and an abundance of scientific information about avian flu from qualified experts is readily available. Instead, I will confine my comments to the politics of the bird flu menace.
To put the matter bluntly: among recent US administrations, the Bush regime is the absolute worst to be in power at a time when a global pandemic is about to break out. Bush's Health and Human Services Secretary, Michael Leavitt, admitted as much: "There have been many who foresaw this and urged the country to begin preparations sooner, and it would have been better if we had done so." (Newsweek, October 31, 2005).
But as Katrina demonstrated to us all, planned preparations for foreseen national emergencies are just not the Bushists' thing. Nor is it much the concern of the GOP Congress, which has slashed funding for emergency services, bio-medical research and the Centers for Disease Control. The request for influenza research this year was $119 million. Presumably, this is one of the "big government" programs that Grover Norquist and his gang would like to "drown in a bathtub." By way of contrast, the Congress readily appropriated $10 billion (with a "b") for anti-ballistic missile defense - a "defense" against a non-existent threat that does not, and arguably can not, work.
The public apathy and lack of preparation in advance of the coming pandemic catastrophe must be blamed, at least in part, on the past PR manipulations by Bush's White House. In addition to the thirteen false terror alarms noted above, we've been told these demonstrably false Iraq/WMD warnings: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." (Cheney, August, 2002) "We know where [the WMDs] are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad." (Rumsfeld, May, 2003). "We found the weapons of mass destruction." (Bush, May, 2003). Add to that "the smoking gun in the form of the mushroom cloud," Saddam's bio-war "Winnebagos of Death" (Colin Powell to the UN, February 2003), the pilotless balsa-wood and bailing wire "aircraft of doom."
And now a flu pandemic? Yeah, sure! So what else is new??
Remember the fable of the boy who cried "Wolf!"? Here's the validation.
So what are we to do about the coming bird flu disaster? Research and development of a vaccine? Too little and too late. Emergency production of Tamiflu, the best available medication? No facilities in the United States - they've been "outsourced." The primary manufacturer and license holder of Tamiflu is Roche Holding AG of Switzerland, and we wouldn't want to violate its corporate rights now, would we - merely to save a few million lives? In fact, Roche is willing to license other facilities to produce Tamiflu. But all this falls short of the required massive production increase. Even so, the French now have 13 million doses of Tamiflu ready for their population of 60 million. But what would you expect: those poor souls have "socialized medicine." In the U. S., there are 2.3 million doses of Tamiflu on hand. Why not more? Because "many American drug companies no longer even make flu vaccines - because there is little long-term profit to be made in vaccine manufacturing."
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