Flying Pigs 2010

At the beginning of June a very interesting article appeared in the highly respected British Medical Journal titled “Conflict of Interest” by Cohen and Carter.   It went all but unnoticed by the nation’s media, which is a very different response to the ‘crisis’ of a year earlier, to which it refers.

As I strongly suspected last year when the Great Swine Flu Panic first dominated every ‘news’ report in the western world, there was something of an odeur of pig slurry in the air (see ‘Flying Pigs?’ 29th April 2009), and Cohen and Carter’s excellent piece does everything but formally charge those responsible.

But let’s start with the word ‘pandemic’, which is actually a very good place to start. What does it mean? And who gets to decide whether or not there is one?

In an earlier BMJ article by Peter Doshi we learn that at the beginning of 2009 the WHO (World Health Organisation) believed that

an influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus appears against which the human population has no immunity, resulting in epidemics worldwide with enormous numbers of deaths and illness.

On 8th May 2009, Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO said,

H5N1 [bird flu] has conditioned the public to equate an influenza pandemic with very severe disease and high mortality. Such a disease pattern is by no means inevitable during a pandemic. On the contrary, it is exceptional.

…which is rather different to the WHO’s previous position on what constitutes a ‘pandemic’. In the same speech Dr Chan reassures us: “The decision to declare an influenza pandemic will fall on my shoulders.”

A month later on 11th June, Dr Chan is back, doing exactly that:

I have conferred with leading influenza experts, virologists, and public health officials. In line with procedures set out in the International Health Regulations, I have sought guidance and advice from an Emergency Committee established for this purpose. On the basis of available evidence, and these expert assessments of the evidence, the scientific criteria for an influenza pandemic have been met…The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic.

This apparent change in position by the WHO as to what exactly a ‘pandemic’ is did not go entirely unnoticed, and attracted some comment at the time (if one looked hard enough for it). But in another interesting piece by Peter Doshi we learn that the WHO appears to be airbrushing out its own history, and denying that it ever suggested pandemics had catastrophic consequences. Doshi writes:

Now a second widely cited WHO webpage has been altered. The document was formerly titled “Ten things you need to know about pandemic influenza”, four of which included: “Widespread illness will occur”, “Medical supplies will be inadequate”, “Large numbers of deaths will occur”, and “Economic and social disruption will be great”. The document has been renamed: “Ten concerns if avian influenza becomes a pandemic”. By altering the title, the WHO has changed self-described must-know information about “pandemic influenza” into “concerns” about “avian influenza”. Most troubling, however, is that the contents (and datestamp) of the document remain unchanged.”   (my emphasis)

This observation must bring to mind 1984 to anyone who’s read it, and the sinister ‘memory holes’ that Winston used for his daily job of erasing historical records.

And then one has to wonder if perhaps conflicts of interest might be a slight consideration.

Cohen and Carter point out that prior to all this a good ten years of ‘pandemic preparedness planning’ had been happening at WHO including ‘committee meetings with experts flown in from around the world.’ However, the C & C study goes on to expose in fairly explicit detail the quite significant (but often vaguely-declared) links between many of those ‘experts’ and international drug companies who sell, amongst other things, anti-flu vaccines.

How many people bought Tamiflu last year? This must-have swine-flu treatment was produced by the Swiss drugs company Roche. The drug, itself was originally made by the American company Gilead, and sold to Roche who continued to pay Gilead a sizeable royalty for every tablet sold.

A Swiss news web site,, reported last year that Roche (and Novartis – another Swiss drugs company) spent $7m on American politicians in the first half of 2009, “to influence policy”.  (Why foreign corporations are allowed ‘to influence’ US policy is perhaps something Americans should be a little concerned about).

One such American politician who might have done quite nicely from all this is the charming Donald Rumsfeld. Whilst I’m sure it’s pure coincidence, Mr Rumsfeld happened to run Gilead for a few years. Although he had by then sold his shares in that company (and trousered $5m in the process), there’s no suggestion that he’s in any way connected to this story (although it’s not clear whether he has, or had, any holdings in Roche).

In March 2009 Roche’s shares were trading at about Sf120.

On 26th April the US government declared a national health emergency. Peter Doshi’s article shows this was done when the incidence of flu in the US had been consistently falling for the previous six weeks to a scarcely noticeable 8% of tested respiratory specimens. The US government’s health warning seems to have triggered a huge spike in the number of specimens presented for testing, and although at the time of the warning there is no significant increase in the numbers testing positive for swine flu. The government announcement also seems to have triggered a feeding frenzy for the world’s journalists, and the Great Swine Flu Panic became a permanent fixture for every ‘news’room in the western world.

One month later Dr Chan is clouding the meaning of the word ‘pandemic’, and a month after that Dr Chan is declaring one.

By the end of the year it was pretty clear that the Great Swine Flu Pandemic had failed to materialise and governments around the world were wondering what to do with warehouses full of stockpiled Tamiflu and, oh yes, Roche’s shares were trading at about Sf170.

I can’t think why none of this is of any interest to the same media who, just twelve months ago, were totally obsessed with the subject.

John Andrews is a writer and political activist based in England. His latest booklet is entitled EnMo Economics. Other Non-Fiction books by John are: The People's Constitution (2018 Edition); and The School of Kindness (2018 Edition); and his historical novel The Road to Emily Bay Read other articles by John.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on June 28th, 2010 at 10:00am #

    As is implicit in the author’s starting point, reactions have ben somewhat different in Europe. There has been much criticism in For example, France and Switzerland, of the huge amounts which governments spent buying up supplies of vacine which were never used. The reason they were never used is interesting: the public just didn’t believe the scare! Vaccination centres were opened but medical staff largely stood around with their hands in their pockets! On a broader level, that may well reflect the declining respect for the medical profession and for materialist science in general. I’m old enough to remember (and to remember having hated!) the cumpulsory vaccination campaigns of the 1950s. In those days, nobody would have even dreamed of casting doubt on what the doctors said. The age of Marcus Welby is past and gone!

  2. bozh said on June 28th, 2010 at 11:19am #

    I wld not split science {knowledge} into materialistic and another kind.
    In short, what we know, we know and what we don’t know, we don’t know.
    Technology, religion and all other ideating {includes ab morality} constitues knowledge.

    Of course, it is an entirely different occurrence when people evaluate lies as truth or knowledge. And, many do. Probably, 90% of planetary people, evaluate lies– both deliberate and nondeliberate– as truth.

    And i evaluate as factual that all ideating ab a higher being, including what that higher being wants us to do, can be called a branch of the same science that scientists engage in.
    Once again, one cannot even dichotomize knowledge, let alone split it asunder into many religions; common sense thinking, technology, lore, etc.

    But once the ruling class severs technology from knowledge, we do have a mess on our hands.
    The culprits are always masters of tank-, war-, health, schoolcare; not knowledge! No, not ever, as per necessary truth-knowledge!

    And we need priests to acknowledge this truth since they control ab 3-5 bn people. I doubt they ever will. They have their own self-interests: easy living, good pay, pensions, prestige, etc.

    And we work in dangerous places”: mines, plants; on oil rigs; fish in dangerous waters, etcetc. tnx

  3. Don Hawkins said on June 28th, 2010 at 12:54pm #

    Well let me say thank god I didn’t become a CEO or President of some country or a movie Star can you imagine getting old then have to do commercials to pay the bills thank you God or create tor who or whatever you are. Yes selling a reverse mortgages or a drug maybe insurance thank you. Or Bozh at the G20 eating orange chicken as the World outside is falling apart again thank you or golf the thought especially in twenty ten is beyond good taste. Yes to have to keep that dirty little secret well dirty big secret, secrets and put on the happy face although I have noticed not as many happy faces. To stand up in front of people and say total 100% bullshit must take it’s toll.