Olga Meshoe-Washington at the UN in Geneva

THE suffering of black persons in South Africa under its apartheid regime has become an antisemitic tool by which to delegitimize Israel, Christian pro-Israel activist and Johannesburg native Olga Meshoe Washington said on Monday.

“My people’s history and experience is being used as an antisemitic tool to politically, morally and with incredible pretzel-like twisting and legal gymnastics, legally delegitimize Israel with the hope to criminalize her.”

“We have propped up the morally and legally corrupt notions that Israel is guilty of apartheid, colonialization and genocide. To what benefit? Africa is now the global eye of terrorism and slavery is rampant in no less than 5 African countries, some of which have had a seat on the UNHRC.”

End Vaccine Apartheid Before Millions More Die

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram

SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 23 2021 (IPS) – At least 85 poor countries will not have significant access to coronavirus vaccines before 2023. Unfortunately, a year’s delay will cause an estimated 2.5 million avoidable deaths in low and lower-middle income countries. As the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General has put it, the world is at the brink of a catastrophic moral failure.

Vaccine apartheid
The EU, US, UK, Switzerland, Canada and their allies continue to block the developing country proposal to temporarily suspend the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to enable greatly increased, affordable supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, drugs, tests and equipment.

Meanwhile, 6.4 billion of the 12.5 billion vaccine doses the main producers plan to produce in 2021 have already been pre-ordered, mostly by these countries, with 13% of the global population.

Thirty two European and other rich countries also have options to order more, while Australia and Canada have already secured supplies enough for five times their populations. Poor countries, often charged higher prices, simply cannot compete.

Big Pharma has also refused to join the voluntary knowledge sharing and patent pooling COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) initiative under WHO auspices. Thomas Cueni, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) Director General, snubbed the launch, claiming he was “too busy”.

Pfizer’s CEO dismissed C-TAP as “nonsense” and “dangerous”, while the AstraZeneca CEO insisted, “IP is a fundamental part of our industry”. Such attitudes help explain some problems of alternative vaccine distribution arrangements such as COVAX. According to its own board, there is a high chance that COVAX could fail.

Suppressing vaccine access
Despite knowing that many developing countries have much idle capacityCueni falsely claims the waiver “would do nothing to expand access to vaccines or to boost global manufacturing capacity”, and would jeopardise innovation and vaccine research.

Big Pharma claims manufacturing vaccines via compulsory licensing or a TRIPS waiver “would undermine innovation and raise the risk of unsafe viruses”. US Big Pharma representatives wrote to President Biden earlier this month claiming likewise.

Both Salk and Sabin made their polio vaccine discoveries patent-free, while many contemporary vaccine researchers are against Big Pharma’s greedy conduct only rewarding IP holders regardless of the varied, but crucial contributions of others.

Big Pharma’s price gouging
Vaccine companies require contract prices be kept secret. In return for discounts, the EU agreed to keep prices confidential. Nonetheless, some negotiated prices were inadvertently revealed, with a UNICEF chart listing prices from various sources.

Reputedly the cheapest vaccine available, Oxford-Astra Zeneca’s is sold to EU members for around US$2 each. Although trials were done in South Africa, it still pays more than twice as much, while Uganda, even poorer, pays over four times as much!

US negotiated bulk prices, for Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, are much higher, at US$15.25–19.50 per dose in several contracts, yielding 60–80% profit margins! Moderna will charge the rest of the world US$25–37 per dose.

Hypocrisy
Quite understandably, most developed countries opposing temporary TRIPS suspension have provisions in their own IP laws to suspend patent protection in the national interest and for public health emergencies.

Canada, Germany, France and others have recently strengthened their patent laws to issue compulsory licences for COVID-19 vaccines and drugs. European Council President Charles Michel announced that the EU could adopt “urgent measures” by invoking emergency provisions in its treaties.

Similarly, in the US, 28 US Code sec. 1498 (a) allows the government to make or use any invention without the patentee’s permission. To handle emergencies, the 1977 UK Patents Act (section 55) allows the government to sell a patented product, including specific drugs, medicines or medical devices, without the patentee’s consent.

When avian flu threatened early this century, the US was the only country in the world to issue compulsory licences to US manufacturers to produce Tamiflu to protect its entire population of over 300 million. The drugs were not used as the virus was not brought over either Pacific or Atlantic Oceans.

Biden must act
By helping developing countries expand vaccine manufacturing capacity and access existing capacity, US President Biden can earn much world appreciation overnight. US law and precedence enables such a unilateral initiative.

The Bayh-Dole Act allows the US government to require the owner or exclusive licensee of a patent, created with federal funding, to grant a third party a licence to an invention. Moderna received about US$2.5 billion from Operation Warp Speed, which dispensed over US$10 billion.

Moderna was founded in 2010 by university researchers with support from a venture capitalist. It has focused on mRNA technology, building on earlier work by University of Pennsylvania scientists with National Institutes for Health (NIH) funding.

The vaccine developer also used technology for previous coronavirus vaccines developed by the NIH. The NIH also provided extensive logistical support, overseeing clinical trials for tens of thousands. Moderna has already announced it will not enforce its patents during the pandemic.

Thus, POTUS has the needed leverage. The Bayh-Dole Act applies to Moderna’s vaccine, enabling the Biden administration to act independently and decisively against vaccine apartheid.

Sharing knowledge crucial
Developing countries not only need to have the right to produce vaccines, but also the requisite technical knowledge and information. Hence, the Biden administration should also support C-TAP, as recommended by Dr Anthony Fauci.

When the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) was in similar trouble, the Obama administration came forward to put US-owned patents into the pool while encouraging drug companies to help improve developing countries’ access to medicines.

President Biden knows that early US support was critical for the MPP’s eventual success. It dramatically increased production and lowered prices of medicines for HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases in developing countries.

PANDA’s Response to Daily Maverick: Kung-Flu Panda: dodgy analytics or pandemic propaganda?

[PANDA have been denied the right to respond to a hatchet piece published by the Daily Maverick, as the recipients of similar treatment by our co-opted, press, we publish their response in full below. – Ed]

From: Nick Hudson
Date: Friday, 5 February 2021 at 08:24
To: Rebecca Davis
Subject: Re: Media inquiry: Daily Maverick ~ Panda

RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS FROM DAILY MAVERICK 4 February 2020

PANDA received these questions at 14h38 on 4 February and was required to respond by 9am on 5 February (4 business hours). Some of the questions posed of PANDA relate to the non-PANDA activities of individuals based in Canada, the United States and New Zealand. Given the timezones, it was not possible to get responses from the individuals in question and we have responded based on publicly available information.

The article that our response is requested to premises a conspiracy between various groups around the world, of which PANDA is, by implication, one. The article is such a tawdry concoction of nonsense that it hardly warrants a response. It is not clear what the purpose of the alleged conspiracy is, but the conspiracy is supposedly coordinated by the former lead psychologist at Cambridge Analytica, who apparently advises these “pandemic disinformation platforms”. The article is authored by a journalist once described by Vanity Fair as engaging in “conspiracy mongering” and is published on a controversial “platform for freelance reporters and writers to produce fearless journalism not found in the mainstream media.” It seems its primary purpose with this article is to attack “hard right politicians” in the UK’s Conservative Party. Daily Maverick would be the first mainstream media publication to publish the conspiracy theory about PANDA and thereby the first to lend credence to the fanciful and defamatory statements about PANDA and its members made therein.

Proposed SABC ‘Internet Tax’ is regressive, defeats purpose of content development

THE FIRST South Africa got wind of the draft license regulations mooted by the SABC was in the form of a broad content debate. One involving Netflix and to some degree Youtube. The country is no exception with Canada recently passing laws to compel streaming firms to pay for local content.

Then SABC Head of TV Licences Sylvia Tladi, stepped into the frey with a narrow call for stricter individual regulation to ‘improve compliance in terms of TV Licence fees” and apparently also plans to extend licensing to ‘include tablets and cellphones’. Effectively a plan to tax the Internet instead of asserting local content requirements for large Pay-per-View channels

The Kingdom of Lesotho proposed a similar scheme last month which could see individual users requiring licenses to use social media, at the same time that mobile operator Vodacom was being fingered over its own license conditions.

A similar scheme under the former Film & Publications Board would have resulted in a million censors tackling the proverbial ‘infinite supply’ of content ostensibly to earn billions of rubles in foreign exchange. A fools errand driving our Peso, sorry Rand economy, and one which would merely create a bureaucratic logjam –a national ‘PayWall’, aimed at the purse of anyone producing online content.

The problem with being seduced by this ‘Tax the Internet’, approach ( no millions of lives will not be saved during the Covid Crisis by rolling out new license schemes) aside from the fact it represents a blunt instrument –a regressive tax on a previously untaxed environment — is that it seeks to tax free content and paid content alike.

Free content provided for gratis, such as that available from the same publication you are reading right now, need I mention my Youtube Channel?

In effect, SABC would be charging its audience (read tablet and cellphone users) for access to Medialternatives copyrighted content, alongside the broader Internet, and without any forethought as to the legal consequences of such a scheme — little more than an unfair and irregular means to hijack free content and resell the result. The Mail & Guardian tried something similar back in 2007 before its news aggregation business was closed down.

Publishers such as Medialternatives and many other local and global free sites, (for example popular site MyBroadband), will not earn a cent or gain any revenue from the proposed SABC license scheme.

The old SABC TV license, like the previous Radio license, has traditionally been used to offset costs at the public broadcaster, but I fear, asking online providers of content to bail out the ageing broadcaster and erstwhile content provider, is taking things a step too far, especially when one considers the fruitless and wasteful expenditure under former head Hlaudi Motsoeneng

Robbing Peter to pay Paul , really calls into question the entire rationale behind the license amendment bill and its motivation, supposedly to rectify the adverse effect on local talent who often find themselves competing with foreign media houses. Spare a thought to those of us who find it extremely difficult to enforce copyright even at the SABC, and not least the terms of permissive licenses, within the current legal environment.

I therefore propose something similar to the highly successful Internet Black Out orchestrated by the late Aaron Schwartz, also known as the day the Internet Stood Still. In which online content providers blacked out their content to protest censorship. Until then, simply put up a banner alerting users to the proposed SABC Tax on Free Content.

UPDATE: A document entitled Suggested Approach to Drafting Digital Services Tax Legislation has emerged. Let’s hope we don’t end up with a ‘belt-and-braces’ approach to the issue.

Janice Gassam’s ‘How Communities Of Color Perpetuate Anti-Blackness’

Dear Ed,

Janice Gassam’s ‘How Communities Of Color Perpetuate Anti-Blackness’ Jul 19, 2020, refers.

I live in a country that for many has come to symbolise both institutional racism, and a remarkable transformation from the segregation of apartheid to the non-racialism of our democratic constitution. With many of the Mandela-era promises remaining unfulfilled, and in the light of the recent controversial address on global inequality by UN secretary general Guterres , I wish to remind your readers that our nation’s project of reconciliation and non-racialism remains a current work-in-progress.

Your correspondent Janice Gassam valiantly attempts to ‘deconstruct and dismantle anti-Blackness’ by proposing ‘there must be a normalization of Blackness’. Unfortunately, the context of race in today’s society is anything but normal. Aiming to normalise distinctions made according to race, a tired fiction at best, merely rehashes the logic of the black consciousness movement of the seventies, whose chief proponent, the late Steven Biko, sought to address slogans such as ‘black is beautiful’ at the same time that he maintained “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”

Gassam says: “There is a commonly held belief that white people are the only perpetuators of racism and anti-Black bias and that as a person of color (POC), you do (sic) cannot hold racist views. Adopting this mindset will make deconstructing anti-Blackness much more challenging.”

She then asserts, “One phenomenon that is rarely discussed is the idea of white adjacency. While the term hasn’t been fully defined in a lot of detail, it can be thought of as the benefits received by a POC because of their proximity to whiteness.”

The link provided for the term ‘white adjacency’ is to a student news organisation, and the article is merely an opinion piece without any academic citations nor context. If context were provided, it would immediately become clear that this phrase is positioned within critical theory, and the field of subaltern studies, a field of research which examines colonialism, post-colonialism and the problem of elitism and elites.

Suggesting that all persons of colour who collaborate with their white colleagues, are simply compradors, or ‘agents of whiteness’ is a regressive political position that begs the question of who is white and who is black?

In this myopic worldview, a ‘white student’ standing in solidarity with ‘black students’ on an apartheid campus, cannot be hurt by gunfire. In the same way that it is claimed by some, that Neil Aggett was not tortured by the apartheid special branch, and Ahmed Timol, the subject of a recent inquest, wasn’t murdered.

Furthermore, identity politic of the type advocated by Gassam is bound up with a multiracial view of the world, one which instead of tackling elites by promoting equal opportunity and non-racialism, treats society rather as a binary battle between two competing groups, ‘the blacks’ and ‘the whites’. Both are racial terms which have been shot down by the broader scientific community and have absolutely no merit in academic discourse, save for reminding us that scientists once believed in distinct and separate race groups and thus a multiregionalist theory of evolution.

An identity war between the races may sound appealing, especially if it leads to more sales of Nike products, or a political counter to the Trump administration, I however fear that nothing good can come from such polarisation. Assuming that every act of collaboration with the other, is an act of assimilation, denies human rights and human agency. One may equally claim, that such acts are cultural appropriation and outright theft.

Even worse than denying universal and democratic values, positing blackness or whiteness as a new norm, risks removing any defense a person may have in law against racism. I have only to point out my own unhappy experience being classified by the apartheid state, to demonstrate why such categories are legally and philosophically problematic.


Sincerely yours,

David Robert Lewis

NOTE: Unpublished letter sent to Forbes

A vaccine is just the beginning of the fight against Covid-19 …

THIS PAST week saw British scientists lauded for a successful phase 1 vaccine trial. A working vaccine may be available by the end of 2020. Unfortunately deploying a global immunisation programme may prove to be harder than producing the vaccine.

Although the United Nations is pushing all countries to join ‘an effort to make vaccines and drugs to fight Covid-19 cheap enough that the poorest populations in the world can be treated’, the sheer scale of such an endeavour looks daunting.

South Africa with a population of 58.8 million would require production of at least 160 000 doses per day for over a year to cover the entire country. Dispensing the vaccine would require 6712 jabs per hour to complete in 12 months, a Promethean task, more likely to occur over 5 to 10 years.

In other words, while the good news is that the world has a working vaccine, one of several vaccines capable of producing the right antibodies and killer T cells required to defend against the virus, the logistical problems of immunisation, make the pandemic likely to stay with us for the foreseeable future.

Technological innovation such as robotic application and drone delivery, novel production techniques and other medical advances, could bring this horizon closer — the day when everyone has immunity and countermeasures such as masks, social distancing and other measures are no longer required.

Bare in mind that as more people recover and gain natural immunity, the target population for an immunisation programme is lowered, thereby reducing the immediate task at hand. Although there is some debate as to whether or not, such immunity is short term and may fall off over time.

By that stage, those who would have died from the virus, will in most likely be dead. The risks of cluster outbreaks and casualty ward spikes will have diminished, and the burden on our health system will normalise along with the impact on the economy.

In effect, the virus and its grip on society, will have weakened, at least for now, but the risk of future flare-ups and other coronovirus clades remain.

Targeted immunisation programmes focusing on vulnerable groups and maximising scarce resources could also assist us in meeting our goal. But for now, we stuck with the ‘no longer novel’ coronovirus of 2019, which looks set to become as prevalent as the common cold, and a seasonal disease just like the flu.

Brew some coffee: here are top 5 Alternative Covid-19 Conspiracy Theories

A NUMBER of alternative theories are circulating about the origin of Covid-19. Though none demonstrate conclusive proof beyond what is already known, ( the virus is the result of zoonotic transmission, in all likelihood arising from contamination at a wet market in Wuhan), the resulting conspiracy theories are alarming to say the least. By no means definitive – take with a pinch of salt and remember, the burden of evidence, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

1. Different Origin

“In all the discussions of the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic,” write independent researchers Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD “enormous scientific attention has been paid to the molecular character of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including its novel genome sequence in comparison with its near relatives. In stark contrast, virtually no attention has been paid to the physical provenance of those nearest genetic relatives, its presumptive ancestors, which are two viral sequences named BtCoV/4991 and RaTG13.”

The pair have proposed a new origin, based upon evidence garnered from a Chinese Master’s Thesis and collected from a mineshaft in Yunnan province, China, in 2012/2013 by researchers from the lab of Zheng-li Shi at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

They also write the Case Is Building That COVID-19 Had a Lab Origin’. “most of these ancestor-like bat coronaviruses cannot infect humans . In consequence, from its beginning, a key question hanging over the pandemic has been: How did a bat RNA virus evolve into a human pathogen that is both virulent and deadly?”

Probability: High

2. Engineered Doomsday

Did this virus come from a lab? Maybe not — but it exposes the threat of a biowarfare arms race” writes Sam Husseini in Salon. “There has been no scientific finding that the novel coronavirus was bioengineered, but its origins are not entirely clear.”

“Deadly pathogens discovered in the wild are sometimes studied in labs — and sometimes made more dangerous. That possibility, and other plausible scenarios, have been incorrectly dismissed in remarks by some scientists and  government officials, and in the coverage of most major media outlets.”

“Regardless of the source of this pandemic, there is considerable documentation that a global biological arms race going on outside of public view could produce even more deadly pandemics in the future.”

An editorial published in the New York Times as early as 2012 warned “Scientists have long worried that an influenza virus that has ravaged poultry and wild birds in Asia might evolve to pose a threat to humans. Now scientists financed by the National Institutes of Health have shown in a laboratory how that could happen. In the process they created a virus that could kill tens or hundreds of millions of people if it escaped confinement or was stolen by terrorists.”

Probability: High

3. Mutually Assured Contagion

Did either the Trump administration or Xi Jinping’s party collaborate on, or release a virus as part of protracted trade war negotiations, a retaliatory tit-for-tat, resulting in a bizarre engineered covid trade round?

Although the evidence of both USA and China involvement in the Wuhan Institute of Virology is overwhelming, and has been exposed by Peter Breggin MD, there is no evidence of such a conspiracy, aside from Trumps own ravings on the matter in the days following the global lockdown. Proof would require a thorough examination of the motives and capacity for a release: Why would either party want to set loose a mild, but very infectious contagion, except to disrupt markets and make money? Look at the denial carried by the Wall St Journal.

Probability: Medium to High

4. Mutually Assured Covid-nomics

One subset theory of the above is based upon economic modelling conducted by the Whitehouse several months before the pandemic, that predict a sudden cessation of economic activity, necessitating intervention by you guessed it, the Federal Reserve .

In 2004 Jong-Wha Lee and Warwick J. McKibbin in ‘Estimating the Global Economic Costs of SARS’ published in ‘Learning from SARS: Preparing for the Next Disease Outbreak‘ produced a global model to simulate the economic impact of a long-term SARS epidemic using the period 2002–2081. The so-called ‘G-Cubed (Asia-Pacific) model’ is eerie and prescient in its description. I reproduce it here:

First, fear of SARS infection leads to a substantial decline in consumer demand, especially for travel and retail sales service. The fast speed of contagion makes people avoid social interactions in affected regions. The adverse demand shock becomes more substantial in regions that have much larger service-related activities and higher population densities, such as Hong Kong or Beijing, China. The psychological shock also ripples around the world, not just to the countries of local transmission of SARS, because the world is so closely linked by international travel. Second, the uncertain features of the disease reduce confidence in the future of the affected economies. This effect seems to be potentially very important, particularly as the shock reverberates through China, which has been a key center of foreign investment. The response by the Chinese government to the epidemic was fragmented and nontransparent. The greater exposure to an unknown disease and the less effective government responses to the disease outbreaks must have elevated concerns about China’s institutional quality and future growth potential. Although it is difficult to measure directly the effects of diseases on decision making by foreign investors, the loss of foreign investors’ confidence would have potentially tremendous impacts on foreign investment flows, which would in turn have significant impacts on China’s economic growth. This effect is also transmitted to other countries competing with China for foreign direct investment (FDI). Third, SARS undoubtedly increases the costs of disease prevention, especially in the most affected industries such as the travel and retail sales service industries. This cost may not be substantial, at least in global terms, as long as the disease is transmitted only by close human contact. However, the global cost could become enormous if the disease is found to be transmitted by other channels such as through international cargo.

Probability: Medium to High

5. Viral Population Control

Another variation of the Mutually Assured Contagion theory, is based upon events leading up to the assumption to power of Xi Jinping, and the relationship of Trump to the Jinping administration during the early days of the Trump presidency. It can also be summarised as Mutually Assured, Mad Dictator Syndrome. In order for either party to become President for Life, as Jinping became in March 2018, a way to cement power over the global population had to be found. With growing dissent in Hong Kong, the winning dictator released a contagion, that made command and control of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army a lot easier, and ditto US Army.

In this scenario, alluded to in 2007, epidemics are seen as opportunities for either party elite (read global elites) to seize power or cement control, with the added benefit that global spread of the contagion, empowers similar totalitarian initiatives around the globe. Did we forget to mention the World Health Organisation?

Probability: Low to Medium