Effect Measure

The Indonesian virus sharing impasse is said to be over, and with the dénouement comes some fascinating new information. Many will remember the row started when an Australian vaccine maker took an Indonesian viral isolate and made an experimental vaccine from it (see many posts among those here). At the time it was said the Indonesian Health Minister objected that her country would never be able to afford the vaccine and she therefore stopped making the virus available to WHO. WHO was the source of the seed strain used by the Australian company to make a prototype vaccine.

It turns out, however, there was more to it than affordability:

JEFF WATERS [Australian Broadcasting]: One such prototype vaccine was developed last year from an Indonesian virus sample, by Australia’s CSL company.

The project was funded by the former government and the vaccine was designed to be used to immunise emergency workers if a pandemic broke out.

But it was a statement by the former health minister Tony Abbott, that that vaccine would only be made available to Australians, which apparently prompted Indonesia to stop its sharing virus samples with the rest of the world.

Now in opposition Mr Abbott defends the decision not to share the vaccine.

TONY ABBOTT: We thought that this prototype vaccine, of which a comparatively small amount was being produced by CSL, should be kept fundamentally for Australians.

We thought that it was important to vaccinate Australians before we then went to the rest of the world. (Australian Broadcasting [hat tip Rob T.])

That was the conservative Australian government of Bush-clone John Howard. Now it’s the turn of the Labour government. When they were in the Opposition they pledged to make the vaccine available to Indonesia. Now it’s time to make good on the pledge. We’ll see.

This new information makes the reaction of the Indonesian government less bizarre. But the new book by Health Minister Siti Supari makes her look even more bizarre. The sorry record in combatting bird flu by Indonesia’s decentralized and virtually impotent central government is well known. As the responsible Minister, however, Siti Supari answers to a Higher Authority:

As bird flu continues to claim lives, Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari recently published Saatnya Dunia Berubah, Tangan Tuhan dibalik Flu Burung (It’s Time for the World to Change, Divine Hands behind Bird Flu).

With her book, it would seem, religious doctor Siti seeks a miracle from God, confident in the belief that her ministry has taken all possible measures to alleviate the disease.

[snip]

Several times Siti mentions how she prayed to God for strength, prior to important meetings with World Health Organization representatives or countries opposed to her bold stance.

From her writing it is clear Siti firmly believes God attends her every meeting, even during long flights to Europe, following minutes and, while on the podium, moving her mouth with divine hands to unleash her anger.

In her closing, after a series of diplomatic meetings, she seems to renounce the outcome to God, in her belief that He would never disappoint the oppressed. (Emmy Fitri, Jakarta Post [hat tip Rob T.])

Forget virology and epidemiology. Bird flu is part of God’s plan. Note that the Jakarta Post is very much an Establishment newspaper. It is also quite influential. It seems, then, that her book may have put her out of favor. Indeed the English translation of the book was withdrawn shortly after publication because of alleged inaccuracies in the translation. While she may have believed her manifesto would be greeted with acclaim, it has been greeted with the derision it deserves, even by the establishment press:

Bird flu, as the title suggests, is God’s latest gizmo — adding to the spread of TB, dengue, AIDS, malaria, chikungunya, diarrhea and cholera as well as numerous other scourges Indonesia has been ravaged with.

So, is it God’s will for us to face bird flu even when people live in dangerously unhygienic conditions in densely populated areas?

Is it a divine decision that people and chickens die painful deaths because the virus attacks and infests the lungs in a matter of days?

Could God spare us all with a peaceful departure because He is the supreme Giver?

In hopefully what reflects only her personal opinion, Siti claims those who have died from bird flu are martyrs.

Next time a campaigner knocks on the door and asks the home owner to cage their free-range chicken, the owner could casually answer, “Sorry, the chicken is God’s creation. If I contract bird flu and die, it’s God’s will.”

The book’s title seems to deny all the hard work of scientists who have tirelessly sought to uncover the mysteries of the virus, but we have never heard of desperate scientists jumping t

[snip]

If scientists are found idle at home and are unable to keep the public posted of their latest work, it would be purely because they were not encouraged or assisted.

It’s surely not God’s will there are no proper laboratories where intensive research can be conducted.

Nor was it God’s hands that moved state officials to draft only a scanty amount of budget toward research and development.

If the Agriculture Ministry, supposedly responsible for managing poultry industries large and small, keeps its mouth tightly shut, it must not be God’s will either.

So if we must accept the Health Minister’s much-praised book, we should stay put, run business as usual and wait for God to remove the virus. (Jakarta Post)

It seems that Health Minister Siti Supari’s stock has fallen dramatically. This supports our previous surmise that the publication of her book and the resumption of virus sharing are related.

We would be remiss if we didn’t observe that the position taken by the Howard government was a particularly clumsy incitement Australia’s regioinal neighbor and source of the very seed virus from which Australia was claiming exclusive benefit . . . Health Minister Siti Supari notwithstanding. Siti Supari is a dangerous nutcase and while she remains in the Indonesian government, its reputation will suffer. Meanwhile maybe the new Labour government can start to resuscitate the moribund reputation of Australia.

If so, there may even be hope for the US after Bush.

Comments

  1. #1 M. Randolph Kruger
    March 2, 2008

    For starts Revere, Supari’s book has been withdrawn from publication due to “translation errors.” Big surprise there. I agree that the woman is definitely two digits loose from being able to swing from her tree. Dumb, and dangerous as you say.

    I draw attention to the almost SIMULTANEOUS announcement GSK has developed a possible vaccine using Vietnamese strain virus and it is effective in a two dose low quantity jab. It does apparently produce antibodies to it. How very coincidental. But even Emmy Fitri of the Jakarta Post was laying into her this past week in the editorial and basically telling her off. It was pure prose. She lambasted the minister for this crap that “we are just going to have to accept BF” into our lives and that many will die. Hey, I am with Emmy. Not if we can help it. My position is well known on it and that is to prepare and hope that they come up with a new gizmo drug to stop it. If not, well I am prepared.

    But then Revere you somehow tell the people of Australia that they are idiots for electing and re-electing John Howard. Seems to me they are forced to vote there so how come he won by long margins twice and lost by a moderate one the second time around? Is it just another opportunity to bash? Its a politcal blog for sure but progressives never seem to understand that there are dissenting opinions in the world, that they can only be the right ones and when challenged on it, well those guys are stupid.

    Bush has made some mistakes and they were moderate ones. I dont fault him on Iraq at all because for years we were dependent on electronics rather than people intel. Valerie Plame wasnt outed and if she had been someone would have gone to jail, she wasnt a covert agent. If she was, we would have had to jail her children. And as for the button pushers, tell me one Democrat who didnt have theirs.

    All in all this deal with samples, sequences and data are all a ruse. It doesnt fit what the reality of the world is right now. If Supari is dumb enough to continue it or have a specious manner in releasing them, then Indon is going to pay a huge price as will the rest of the world. Inequalities? Progressives always think that someone else is responsible for your problems in the world. Just like socialists, and on the far end… communists. You either make a deal or you feel the pain.

    Coincidences? I doubt it seriously.

  2. #2 Jonathon Singleton
    March 2, 2008

    Gavin McGuren, editor of the former smalltown Aussie mag I wrote for during the time of my traumatic 1997 and 1998 “packrape” has written an overiew of the new Rudd Labor federal government’s commitment to gay and lesbian human rights ie. tough titties scumfags, you won’t fucking ever have equality under the law on our watch!

    GayinWA.com — “Rudd Government accused over same-sex discrimination” By Gavin McGuren, 27 February 2008
    http://www.gayinwa.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=649&Itemid=230

    Revere: “[Maybe] the new Labour government can start to resuscitate the moribund reputation of Australia?”

  3. #3 bar
    March 2, 2008

    Rudd got elected by saying “me too” on every Howard policy except “work choices” and “sorry”. “Work choices” would have destroyed union power, which is why unions backed the Labour party with so much money (one report estimated the unions put in more money than both political parties together.)

    Personally, I wonder what Rudd will do now that Howard is not around to suggest policies. The looming recession/unemployment is likely to be exacerbated by repeal of “work choices”.

    But on to ex-Health minister Tony Abbott. That statement of his on BF vaccine did not get publicized locally, which is probably why it was not retracted. (I imagine that Howard would not have wanted to publicize it by a retraction.)

    Abbott “the mouth”. Probably that is why his star did not rise quite as quickly as did that of e.g. Turnbull.

  4. #4 hilzoy
    March 2, 2008

    Completely OT, but I just read that McCain said there’s “strong evidence” that thimerosal is responsible for increases in autism. Just thought you’d want to know. Sigh.

  5. #5 gilmore
    March 3, 2008

    To misquote Homer Simpson “Religion, the cause and solution of all of lifes problems”.

  6. #6 Attack Rate
    March 3, 2008

    Jonothan: Rudd was my local member when I lived in one of my student share houses in Brisbane.

    He is not an ally of ours. Best we can hope for is that the community put enough pressure on the rest of Labor (and other parties) to shame him into action.

    Meanwhile, across here in NZ (where I escaped during the Howard years) discrimination is practically unheard of for every group except the gender variant (transgender, transsexual, intersex, etc).

  7. #7 Shannon
    March 3, 2008

    Perhaps the Indonesians can finally divorce themselves from a dangerous Supari. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek.) God willing.

    If only the Aussies were solely responsible for the lack of cooperation. Blame can be aimed in virtually every direction. Far too many nations are focused entirely on the save us and to hell with the rest of the world. And too many respond with, “Since this is going to be a world wide scourge, you owe it to yourselves to save us first or, suffer the consequences”. It doesn’t help that the Tamiflu already sent was in part resold to the rich. Neither does it help that wealthy countries can’t see the benefit of funding flu vaccine research and vax plants for the benefit of everyone and not for the profit of pharma. Business interests will only help those willing to pay for the vax. Some things should be beyond the guiding hand of Adam Smith. Unfortunately, his hand will only be lifted after the fact when fingers start pointing when every family has personal experience with sickness and death. Fingers can be pointed in virtually every direction and hit a culpable target. Still, perhaps this is a start….God Willing.

  8. #8 pft
    March 4, 2008

    This is a different spin now. Concerns from the book when it first came out were related to her fears the US would weaponize the virus to target Indonesians.

    Paranoid? Perhaps, but consider this. From Rebuilding Americas Defenses by the Project for a New American Century (signed by Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld), the same project that suggested we needed another Pearl Harbour to accomplish this:

    “And advanced forms of biological warfare
    that can ?target? specific genotypes may
    transform biological warfare from the realm
    of terror to a politically useful tool.”

    Racial targeting a useful tool. Hoo boy.

    Also, the National Security Study Memorandum 200 of 1974 by Kissinger listed Indonesia as one of 13 countries was to be assigned priority in containing population growth.

    So her fears are not without merit. As for the stuff about God, sounds like she takes after our own President.

    But H5N1 , assuming it is not bio-engineered, is in fact just influenza. One of “Gods” creatures, or at least mother natures. Perhaps it is an immune response of the planet to control the population of the creatures contributing to global warming (greenhouse gasses), or global cooling (particulates). Perhaps escaping the next pandemic, if even possible, sets the stage for something worse. Like they say, you can’t fool mother nature.

    As for free range chickens and small chicken farmers being responsible for H5N1.

    http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=194

    “The transformation of poultry production in Asia in recent decades is staggering. In the Southeast Asian countries where most of the bird flu outbreaks are concentrated — Thailand, Indonesia, and Viet Nam — production jumped eightfold in just 30 years, from around 300,000 metric tonnes (mt) of chicken meat in 1971 to 2,440,000 mt in 2001. China’s production of chicken tripled during the 1990s to over 9 million mt per year. Practically all of this new poultry production has happened on factory farms concentrated outside of major cities and integrated into transnational production systems.[1] This is the ideal breeding ground for highly-pathogenic bird flu — like the H5N1 strain threatening to explode into a human flu pandemic.[2]”

    Perhaps it is a conspiracy among those big factory farms who want to drive out the local chicken farmers.

    I know one thing. The only chickens getting vaccines and anti-virals are those in the big factory farms. So if I had to bet on what is driving the H5N1 evolutionary changes, if not our weapons labs, my money is on the big factory chicken farms.

  9. #9 Jonathon Singleton
    March 4, 2008

    PFT, “I know one thing. The only chickens getting vaccines and anti-virals are those in the big factory farms. So if I had to bet on what is driving the H5N1 evolutionary changes…”

    Onya PFT for pointing out vaccines and antivirals play a role in high CFR transgenic pathogen evolution… I hope you take the time to read the following Crof/EM Blog posting concerned with the other probable factors synergistically driving H5N1 recombination — notably unstable viral-based GMOs…

    H5N1 Blog — Taiwan criticizes the PRC (March 01, 2008)

    http://crofsblogs.typepad.com/h5n1/2008/03/taiwan-criticiz.html

    Response Posting by: Jonathon Singleton (March 01, ’08)

    I’m fascinated by Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Liu Te-shun’s suggestion “that all of the five [constantly recombining] strains of the H5N1 bird flu virus spreading in the world may have originated in China.”

    Given what I understand of transgenic pathogens, it does pose questions — definite food for thought. If only we had a more free Chinese media, then it would be easy to track what Chinese corporations have released over recent years into the mainland environment (eg. viral-based genetically modified forest plantations).

    Are there environmental “hotspots” in which multiple factors come into play, promoting transgenic pathogen evolution!?! Factors such as unstable viral-based GM crops/tree plantations + crappy public health/hygiene + unsanitary poultry farming + untreated water? Specific factors which could not replicate outside China even in countries producing toxic GM crops eg. North America!?!

    I give a great deal of thought to these questions, but personally lack the time and complex resources needed to pursue independent lines of research…

    EffectMeasure — No bigger bird flu problem in China?

    Category: Bird flu • China • Surveillance
    Posted on: February 28, 2008 7:50 AM, by revere

    http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2008/02/no_bigger_bird_flu_problem_in.php#c770299

    Posting by: Jonathon Singleton | February 29, 2008

    Revere: “The question of recombination has also been raised forcefully by some…”

    Thanks tres Revere, for acknowledging and pointing out this viral evolutionary paradigm — a paradigm consistent with a growing scientific view seeing the environmental release of genetically modified organisms as responsible for the trend in high CFR transgenic pathogens… China has had GM crops for over a decade — the evidence is available online!

  10. #10 M. Randolph Kruger
    March 4, 2008

    Jonny-Here is my one problem with GM, China and BF. It was there before we had GM. But and its a big one, did GM accelerate this stuff like bug steroids? Dont know. You can bet though that in this very hungry world that this voice would be silenced if it were the assistant to the inevitable. There is no way now to feed the planet if GM isnt used. Conspiracy? Ducks eating the leftovers in the field in a GM environment? Hmmmm……

    Dont fool with Mother Nature? Yeah, it might have been a good idea a few years ago but now what? More and more people being bred into unproductive societies. What do we do? Keep sending them food and clothing and shelter? First thing they do after that is make more poor babies. We spend hundreds of billions and the first thing they do is produce more babies in a developing world. I dont think that they even know where the already developed nations are. The question is whether this musical chairs thing is about to stop. We hear about peak oil. How about peak population? Have we reached the tipping point where we are simply beaten back by nature? There are indications that we have. If the supply of oil is disrupted for even a day we know it. If it happened for a week, then there would be an economic collapse. Wars would break out. We were still able to get oil in the embargo years, pricey but available. What if something disrupts it such as BF?

    Supari could be right about the ONE THING, and this is God or Natures plan. Pick one, take your seat and prepare for the ride that may be coming.

    Take 3 or more billion people off this planet and quick.

  11. #11 K
    March 4, 2008

    MRK, what kind of God would do this to all the innocent babies who will die in the coming crash – the less innocent adults might deserve this but not the babies (we agree on that matter, that a crash of huge proportions is coming). Nature is cruel, if you can apply a value laden word to something that is mindless. The problem is that we evolved technologies faster than we could evolve brain programs to cope with the advantages they gave us humans. We are in overshoot and it will be evened out. An H5N1 pandemic of huge proportions might be the least harmful in the end. If not as we pump less and less oil while population increases, wars and starvation follow.

    There are several peaks to consider – one is the halfway point of conventional oil, gas etc. Another more important is Peak Production, which we probably are at now. We may never produce more than 85 million barrels per day. That will force us to turn to coal and to scrap what controls we have on that in our desperation to keep powered. Perhaps the most important peak is peak energy per person which happened in 1970 and has been on a plateau. The longer the plateau the sharper the cliff. This forms the basis for Dr. Richard Duncan’s Olduvai theory on the length of industrialized civilization. He predicts the downward trend to start between 2008 and 2012. He predicts the end of industrialized civilization by about 2030.

    Those of faith better pray he is wrong. Those who have no God would do well to check out the science behind the various Peak Oil scenarios and if you find it credible, think about how to personally prepare for a world without oil, gasoline, electricity

    Or one can just pull out the old denial card and enjoy what is left of industrial civilization.

  12. #12 Jonathon Singleton
    March 5, 2008

    Randy, “Jonny-Here is my one problem with GM, China and BF. It was there before we had GM. But and its a big one, did GM accelerate this stuff like bug steroids?”

    K, “The problem is that we evolved technologies faster than we could evolve brain programs to cope with the advantages [and/or profit-driven negatives]they gave us humans. We are in overshoot and it will be evened out…”

    Howdy Randy and K, good points from both of you…

    I use the term “transgenic pathogen” when referring to H5N1 cos it aint a species specific virus like it once was — so Randy, for many years I’ve been saying that GMOs (((DOES))) play a big role in altering the species-specific evolutionary cycle ie. the virus is a new creature due to “steroid” use!

    K has outlined what I’ve believed for many years re: BIG BOYS decision to release new technology eg. GMOs into the environment without proper testing — profit driven environmental release (((IS))) itself the real time test. Look at the where we are and what we face in ’08 compared to ’94 — co-incidence, my ass!?!

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