More Bush collateral damage: flu virus sharing

The world's five decade influenza surveillance system can be added as more collateral damage to George W. Bush's Global War on Everybody he Doesn't Like:

Anti-US sentiment contributed to Indonesia's success in leading developing countries to push the U.N. health body into agreeing to change a 50-year-old influenza virus-sharing system, the health minister said.

Iran, Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, Bolivia and Myanmar were among the 23 countries supporting Indonesia's argument that the existing system of unconditional sample-sharing was unfair to poorer nations, because they could not afford commercial vaccines.


"The countries that immediately signed their support for our draft resolution were not very fond of the United States," Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told reporters.

The preliminary deal, reached at the World Health Assembly on May 2 outlines in broad terms how governments will work together to combat the threat of bird flu, included a tentative agreement to share virus samples. But its implementation is voluntary, and exceptions are possible.

Indonesia especially appreciated the support of Iran, Supari said. Its government provided Jakarta with an international lawyer to fight attorneys from the United States. (AP)

There are many strands woven through the virus sharing dispute. There is a genuine and substantive problem about vaccine affordability. There are intellectual property issues, distortions and misunderstandings. There are grandstanding personalities of incompetent Indonesian officials.

But one of the underlying facts of life is that Bush has made antipathy to the United States, and anything associated with it such as Big Pharma, an easy and unifying excuse. Anger at the US does not come from just one quarter. It is widespread and can manifest itself in many ways, whether it is booing the US entrant in the Miss World competition in Mexico City or a much more important problem, global influenza surveillance. George Bush has put his stamp on American foreign policy. How many years or decades it will take for the stain to wear off -- if it ever does -- we don't know.

Meanwhile, Bush and his cronies in Congress are one of the reasons the scientific community doesn't have all the information about a possible pandemic virus it might otherwise have. Whether it is the War in Iraq or a pandemic, short term, or climate change, longer term, this has been perhaps the most dangerous and deadly American administration in history. It's hard to think of any that even come close.

Bush believes History will absolve him. I doubt that very much, but we all have to live long enough to find out one way or another. He seems to be hedging his bets by making that less likely.

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... what's the probability of that?

Not too shabby, if the wheels come off with a vengeance in this country.

Chaos is a forcing house for sociopathic personalities.

By Charles Roten (not verified) on 01 Jun 2007 #permalink

Anti American sentiment has existed long before G.W. Bush came around and will continue far beyond him. To lay this upon his feet when we as a democratic society elected him, is doing him and our system of government false.

We as Americans citizens need to take responsibility for the actions of the leaders we bring to power.

"Indonesia especially appreciated the support of Iran, Supari said. Its government provided Jakarta with an international lawyer to fight attorneys from the United States."

Shocking? I think not.

By Heidi Harrison (not verified) on 01 Jun 2007 #permalink

>>We as Americans citizens need to take responsibility for the actions of the leaders we bring to power.

What about the actions of leaders who came to power through means other than having actually been elected by a majority vote among American citizens? In an America where such a thing is possible, we may only be able to take more responsibility for our own actions. Even the most irresponsible American president cannot do as much damage as American consumers can through the collective impact of their consuming habits (though he certainly does seem to be giving it his best effort).

Heidi: Think back to 9/11. We had the whole world with us. And now? Bush has stoked anti-American sentiment more than any President. Some, like Kennedy and Roosevelt, actually decreased it. It is not a given of history. It is a product of failed foreign policy and incompetence. Americans who voted for the SOB (less than half in 2000) can take the blame, but I won't. I have fought his policies tooth and nail from the outset. Our system requires us to suffer the policies of the leaders we elect, it is true, but we have little recourse until the next election. Meanwhile, vigorous criticism is what the democratic process is all about. Wouldn't you say?

I read an article yesterday that exposed the workings of Indonesian Government lobbyist in Washington. The Clinton administration cut of military assistance to Indonesia because of human rights abuses committed by the Indonesian Military. Former Senator Bob Dole led a major lobbying effort to restore military aid to Indonesia. But, the effort failed.

But, Secretary of State, Condoleza Rice came to the rescue and restored the military aid and training programs to Indonesia in the name of the war on terror.

And, now Indonesia's Supari gloats about using anti-american sentiment to orchestrate her Coup D'etat at WHO.

And so goes another Bush foreign policy fart. I hope we don't see a 'mushroom cloud' from burning bodies rising over US cities.

Come on Revere they were bitching about these isolates and sequences long before GWB took office. Look at the countries=> Iran, Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, Bolivia and Myanmar. Those countries all had it in for us BEFORE GWB ever took office.

It works to their advantage and it ensures that they will be the last to get any vaccine. Big Pharma isnt going to give them squat even though the US and others agreed to it. This isolate/sequence stuff is important but its not the end of the world. It is the end of the world for all of us and they used this time, this place to extort what they think is going to be a real position. They cant have their cake and eat it too and the US can agree to it but that doesnt give them the right to tell a pharmaceutical company what they are going to do with their product. Thats the law. I can assure you that they can afford better lawyers than the US government. Wrong, but only morally in some peoples eyes. I wonder what they will say when their kids are dying having a month before thought that we had the responsibility to provide for the rest of the planet?

Supari trying to get them to state that they will give up free vaccine doesnt mean a thing. If BF comes and there IS a vaccine, Indonesia will be DEAD by the time it arrives. If a vaccine is found and it goes into FULL TILT production they wouldnt be able to cover even a tenth of the population of the world before its gone. You have commented yourself on this. We got blackmailed, extorted in fact. Instead of promising them vaccine, I would have promised them body bags. I blame Auntie Margaret for this little debaucle. She too was outmaneuvered. They are fools if they think this is going to work out in the long run.

This is yet another subsidy that the people with money will have to pay for the poor. Now its a world right that the US has to foot the bill for that we are already footing so much of. So lets see we have to UHC the US, and then we have to extend that to Indonesia now too, or so the implication is there. There are 300 million of us, and a few more like at 350 of them. I would tell them they can have it after we get the people who are footing the bill are vaccinated first. W/WO vaccine we are talking six months after the pandemic onset that the antigens will be decoded and how do we make a vaccine if it kills eggs? Please someone address that for me.

I would also let them know that the food production for that year is going to be diverted back to the US to cover our needs. You know, the people who are paying for it. Wonder how long they will last without it? I dont like threats and I would if I were in charge just let them know who is calling the shots. Not some group that I have no input to challenge their "decision" with. I and others didnt elect Supari Prime Minister for the poor of the planet. They can change the rules anyway they want, but we all know its not going to change the outcome. Without a vaccine they are dead, we are dead. They know it, we know it. Who is kidding who here? So what is this, bragging rights?

I guess we would have to foot the bill for China too? Myanmar? IRAN? Please, are we going to be told that WE have to pay for all of those people and their vaccinations too? GWB got out maneuvered here and honestly I would just bail from the WHO and the UN, it would be hugely more cost effective. Neither is effective any longer and we pay lots of money for the end result of nothing...except something that would get you arrested for here. Two years into the next world problem and they would and will be begging us to come back.

Start with the WHO and pull our funding from it. Our actual contribution in 2004-05 was get this 185,383,880 ...they wanted more. In 2006-07 they got that and an additional 300 million. There is your UHC administration budget Revere. Dump that into the VA or the public health here. Geez we pay for them already to be vaccinated for everything else. Between the US, Japan, and the UK we account for nearly 2/3rds of the entire bloody budget of the WHO. So who is footing the bills? Who is getting pushed around here?

Lets take the toys and leave. It might cause outbreaks of all sorts of things in the third world and then to us but we would be paying for it anyways here. Then it comes out the way it should be and that is that it belongs to us and not the world, or is it that their samples belong to them and not the world... Clarification please.

Harsh? Yep. But so is extortion. They treat this cooperation thing like they have anything but a hand out stakeholders issue. Their attitude is that "We are too poor to afford vaccine." Indonesia made 400 billion dollars last year on oil...Where did it go? Too poor? So what are they going to do when it comes? We were too stupid to give up the isolates/sequences in time for someone smarter and bigger than we were to do something about it...

Supari, "Lets blame GWB and the US for our ills and mismanagement. We have to have a scapegoat this week and he is it. Oh yeah, be sure to get that out in the blogs in the US. Have I gotten the deed to my house in Thailand yet? Yes, thats right first class seating on Royal Thai Air. Dinner, hmmm I'll have the steak, Dom, and yes I will be accompanied."

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 01 Jun 2007 #permalink

I agree with Heidi Harrison. There was plenty of Anti American sentiment before 2000. In the 1999 East Timor independance process, a major influence on the Australian government was Australians developing anti-US sentiment because of the Australian and US governments doing nothing to help people whose country was being burnt to the ground (90% of buildings destroyed) and depopulated (massive foreced expulsion across the border). The US (under Clinton) then used its financial clout and Australia supplied peace keepers (with Indonesian agreement). Many Indonesians still hate Australia for "invading and stealing" their land. I'm sure they also hate the US for its involvement in these final parts of the loss of the East Timor territory.

Revere: "Think back to 9/11. We had the whole world with us." - Don't you remember the film of celebrations around the world ? A year later we had the Oct 2002 Bali bombings, aimed at Americans and other westerners (sure it mainly killed Indonesians, but they were non-muslim Balinese, so that was OK by the bombers). There was widespread sympathy for the US over 9/11, but it didn't come bear to overcoming pre-existing resentments.
Note: I'm Australian.

> this has been perhaps the most dangerous and
> deadly American administration in history.
> It's hard to think of any that even come close.

now you are clearly exaggerating.

And I am sure someone will pipe up and be the first to tell us about all the Iraqi dead (some 600,000 I hear), well we didnt kill them so I wonder who you think is dangerous here?. I can tell you now that In my military career I can only account for about about 20 and that was using some very high tech weaponry to reach out and touch someone. I probably got 10x that using air strikes and artillery but hard to make a count after that. They would have needed to start simply executing people on the street to get to that number. So either they are lying or someone else is whacking the citzens....Hmmm maybe Iranians...We do see them and Al Qaeda beheading people on TV.

You are right, this is a deadly administration. It hasnt become deadly enough to the people standing in the way of the democracy of Iraq. That I think is about to change. Its not the most deadly or dangerous, that was under Reagan and we are about 2/3rds of that now. No one really wanted to screw with Reagan and it was mostly because they knew he would do them. GWB has missed an opportunity here and that is to go after Teheran. It will come again though.

One thing is sure, we arent experiencing any explosions or buildings going down in the US since 9/11.

By M.Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 01 Jun 2007 #permalink

You know, I'm no fan of the Bush Dynasty -- and I understand that this whole vaccine business is a (power-)struggle between the haves and the have-nots -- and of course all nations and their health ministers ought to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of their citizens (whether they actually do or not is another question)...

...but I have to say I'm getting more than a little irked nowadays by all the whinging from certain developing countries. I mean, without the West many of them wouldn't even KNOW what a virus was -- or a vaccine for that matter. How about a little thanks on that front for us sharing this knowledge? (Yes, yes -- I know us sharing our knowledge benefits us and that's our main motivation, but come on -- a little thanks every now and again just might be in order.) And, let's not forget about all the NAMRUs and Weybridges and Pasteur Insitutes and Baxters sharing their expertise.... Sheesh, already.

anon: Maybe you would like to name a candidate for a more dangerous administration?

Randy et al.: Please read what I said with more care. What I said is what numerous people have said over the last 6 years, including some repentent neocons: the Bush administration, its foreign policy and most especially the war in Iraq have done immeasueable damage to US standing, status and regard in the world, exacerbating dislike where it already existed, creating it where it didn't and enabling successfuly recruitment of formerly neutral parties to a stance in cases, as in the virus sharing one, which hurts everyone.

Revere-There are a couple of kinds of respect. First is the kind from where you fear your neighbor(s), second is the kind that you get from helping people as Jun posits, third is the kind you get when you buy them off, fourth is the kind when you stand your ground and say to someone they shall not pass.

Everything beyond this is simply a matter of variables. As for the standing in the world we need to finish this deal with Iraq and be done with it. We were lambasted in every EU country for going into Iraq. We did it to set the stage for Iran. We were in Japan for ten years after WWII and they were a society that wanted peace and to get back to business. These guys in Iraq only want to kill each other and an occasional American soldier. Now we have Iran and they aint making electricity with centrifuges. Our standing in the world has historically been one of the four in various stages and its a never ending cycle. Get out of Vietnam or win it? Remember that one. We are either setting up to go to Iran and finish those idiots for "world peace" or we are bogged down in another Vietnam. I cringe everytime I hear someone got whacked over there. Even one of my old unit people lost a finger last week when he leaned into a Humvee and someone missed him and got his hand.

We are fighting this as an outnumbered local sherrif who has unlimited resources at his disposal and we could end it in under a week. The Gulf States want us to do Iran and we are going down the road. While we are negotiating with them about Iraq, they take three of our people hostage. Okay, time to let the diplomacy thing take effect. After they hold on to them for about another six or eight months, we are going to go in and get them. Not to mention probably deposing the leadership. My bet is that we are going to see the Iranians launch another missile just ahead of that. It could be nuke tipped by then as well. And then we will do them. The UN Security Council has told Iran that they aint going to get one and they all concur with it. Its just a matter of time now. I guess our standing will just have to take yet another hit.

As for the virus deal. Well its not going to change the outcomes now is it? If the vax were available today it would take more than three years to make enough to go around. So the Indonesians and others need to remove their shoe bomb and shake it around with everyone watching. They wont need to light it, it will go off on its own and take everyone with it.

Wonder how THEIR standing will be recorded in history if anyone is around to record it?

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 02 Jun 2007 #permalink

Randy: I disagree with almost everything you have said here (no surprise). We'll see what happens with Iran (BTW, we hae taken several oftheir diplomats hostage, too, before our academics got nabbed). If Iran is going to make a weapon, they will be able to do so, just as Pakistan (much more dangerous than Iran) has, and Israel and India. We haven't done anthying about those countries, all belicose and all irrational in their own ways, so why Iran? If it were the Shah would you care? I'll be very surprised if anyone is stupid enough to go into Iran militarily, but stupidity isn't in short supply in the Bush adminsitration. They seem to have a bottomless pit of the stuff. But they don't have the military wherewithal to do it. As for Vietnam, losing there wasn't exactly a catastrophe for the US, now, was it?

What Bush did is prove that US military power is a paper tiger. We can't defeat a country of 30 million. So for the neocons, that's a catastrophic loss. Not for the world, IMO.

I wish Carter had stuck to his guns when he said that Bush was the worst American president in history. (And history hasn't even judged him yet because his term isn't over.)

Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and Myanmar are hardly countries one should embrace as "allies" if you are seriously challenging someone else on a moral or ethical issue. Actually, their inclusion puts Indonesia clearly in the camp of the bad guys.

Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari is a vile human being who is doing her best to make Bush look good in comparison.

Revere-It all depends what you call defeat. If we remove the head of the hydra then I'd call that a defeat.

Marissa-I guess you dont live in the area around the old WTC's do you? Does it occur to you that part of this problem is that Carter wussied out and didnt call in the 101st and go in and take those people back in '79. No, I doubt it. The sure as hell repatriated those sailors when they were held illegally and GWB said give them back along with Blair. The Brits alone have enough horsepower in the Gulf to do Iran without setting foot in the place. The US has two full carrier battle groups in the Gulf, and another sitting outside of it.

Guess we will just have to wait and see.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 02 Jun 2007 #permalink

revere, dangerous for whom ?
Interesting BTW. that you think you can measure and compare
"danger" from administrations but not "danger
from H5N1" which had been the main subject of this blog.

Let's assume you mean danger to the life of the citizens
living under that administration.
What danger could that be ? Terrorism ? Bird flu ? War ?
come to mind - but I'm clearly no expert in US-history.
About 45 administrations so far, the current one is not particularly special in building life-threats to its citizens. After all life expectancy is much higher now than it was under most of these administrations.

anon: No, I meant to the world, including US citizens. But US citizens are not particuarly affected more than others. This is one of the freeest countries to live in for its citizens but it often makes lives hard for others around the world. The danger is in the form of neglect (or worse) of climate change, nuclear proliferation, armed conflict, exacerbating terrorism and other forms of extremism, to name a few more prominent items. In terms of civil liberties other Preesident have been much worse (e.g., Woodrow Wilson), so it isn't about US citizens. Your list of Presidents I assume was meant to say Bush is no different than any other President. I beg to differ. US actions today have a different character than 100 years ago in terms of their consequences because the world is different. I also don't agree that all Presidents are of equal quality. It does make a difference.

Regarding my being able to compare Bush to others but not say when a pandemic will occur, all I can say is that these are two very diffferent kinds of judgments. One is qualitative, the other you ask me for a quantitative one. The fact that I can't make a judgment about one thing doesn't imply I can't make it about anything.

Randy, every president has made istakes and in carter's case one can argue that he did better after he was out of office. My point is that Carter was ethical and honest. Bush is neither.

revere, dangerous to the world ? Ask the world then ! Cuba-crisis was dangerous,
cold war with nukes building up was dangerous, WW2 was dangerous.
Iraq,Afghanistan is a very small part of the world.
Global warming ? No immediate threat, not decided by Bush alone but also by those who follow.
So, what is it ? You compare Bush with other presidents, compare Birdflu with other health
problems ! What's the most dangerous disease to the world ? Aids ? H5N1 ? XDR-TB ?

anon: I'd say climate change was the biggest threat, but of course regarding the others you have to ask, along what dimension? Total deaths? Economic impacts? Potential for cultural or political change? Could be different for all three and each is hard to estimate along any of those. One of the several reasons I don't have an opinion. It isn't a well formed question.

Carter needed to just work for a social work group and build houses. As for being ethical and honest-you were talking about the present and past Presidents of the United States Revere?

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 03 Jun 2007 #permalink

OK, climate change. Thanks.
However, no significant climate change during this administration period. Deaths and money can be converted,
insurances do it, generals do it. Cultural or political change is no danger per se.
You don't have an opinion ? You just gave it. Yes, all these questions are not well formed,
but I doubt that this is your criterion for opinion forming.
The health question is better formed than the
administration-danger question.

Revere: "Meanwhile, vigorous criticism is what the democratic process is all about. Wouldn't you say?"

I certainly agree with you that criticism is needed in a democratic society. My concern is that our sometimes reckless display of freedom of speech in this country erodes the view of those outside our free society. They begin to think (incorrectly in my opinion) that there is weakness where there is disent. They begin to feel that anti-American senitiment is prevalent within America itself. This in turn creates a sense of empowerment among those who would do us harm.

I don't have a solution as to how to have an open discourse of argument and criticism of politics without this occuring but I do know that the words we write and post online can and will be read by anyone all over the world and we should keep this in mind.

I chose to do my part by being a (many times monority) voice online who says that even when I disagree with a course of action I still support our leadership and the course America is taking in our world.

Does the Indonesian Health Minister feel that she can play on anti American sentiment because she can see the same sentiments posted by it's actual citizens each day on the internet? Who's to say?

America is great because of the freedoms we have and it is up to each of us as individuals to utilize those freedoms as we see fit.

btw... send me your address and I'll ship you a bag of rice for when the bird flu hits, you just may need it. ;)

By Heidi Harrison (not verified) on 03 Jun 2007 #permalink

The original article takes it that influenza surveillance and the global response to the disease are damaged under the new international agreement. That is, that the way that things used to work was better. But if the way that things used to work was, as claimed by its critics, more likely to leave poorer countries or their population unable or unwilling to vaccinate (and that's social medicine, right?), and to turn them into half giant graveyards and the other half a vast reservoir of infection lapping at the borders of the U.S., then ist't the new deal likely to work out better when the next Big One comes along?

By Robert Carnegie (not verified) on 05 Jun 2007 #permalink

Robert: Having each country decide which company they will "give permission" to make vaccine from "their" virus is neither workable or good for global health. The problem isn't sharing virus. The problem is insufficient vaccine productive capacity, a dysfunctional patenting and licensing regime and a market system that doesn't work for vaccines like this. The proposed "solution" is worse than the defective system now in place.

Robert-Its been said many times here. The witholding nations are using this to extort something from the world community we dont even have and that is vaccine. The idiots know we cant begin to make one without isolates, samples, and sequence data. So they grandstand, they rant and you know how much vaccine they'll get when it does come available from "their" little lifeforms that get out into the world. Goose egg, de nada, jack shit, squat. They also used this little deal to force themselves up onto the world stage and that has gone over like a lead balloon too. Their information they have been witholding is worthless the second that H5N1 broaches into the general population of the world. We will have plenty then. Only restriction will be that you have to drag the bodies out of the road before you get your stuff. Wouldnt want the bodies treated inhumanely. I saw an outbreak of typhoid once and people were just near death everywhere. It wasnt a big one (less than 100) but it leaves an impression. So did this deal with Indonesia that happily swallowed 500 million in the last year and hasnt done a thing to slow or stop BF. In fact they simply did nothing. Compensated with US and world money and they went right back to growing birds. A never ending money pit is what we are developing here. At some point its going to have to stop. We could use that money for Revere's programs, or to build up the states. One thing is sure and that is just about EVERYONE says this crap is coming in some form and soon.

What did the WHO and Auntie Margaret do after they were extorted? Offered them a seat on the Executive Council and more money. Now thats a kick in the butt for you.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 05 Jun 2007 #permalink

Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and Myanmar are hardly countries one should embrace as "allies" if you are seriously challenging someone else on a moral or ethical issue. Actually, their inclusion puts Indonesia clearly in the camp of the bad guys.

Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari is a vile human being who is doing her best to make Bush look good in comparison.