Monday, November 01, 2004

A Coincidence? Surely Not!

I'd like to demonstrate the awesome power I wield as the author of a several-week-old blog that virtually no one reads.

Less than 24 hours after my alarmist post on the H5N1 virus, the WHO sprang into action (or, if you prefer, sidled into mobility) and arranged a conference on the matter.

The World Health Organization has called an unprecedented summit meeting next week of flu vaccine makers and nations to expand plans for dealing with the growing threat of a flu pandemic.

Sixteen vaccine companies and health officials from the United States and other large countries already have agreed to attend the summit in Geneva, Switzerland, on Nov. 11, said Klaus Stohr, influenza chief of the United Nations' health agency.

Isn't it altogether wonderful that I choose to use my power for good? Lucky thing for all of you that the coin I tossed came up heads, eh?

Hold on, there's more. The WHO is also trying to stir the world from its privatization-mad, neoliberal torpor by explaining that international and domestic public-health systems need to be strengthened in the 21st century.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) began a final drive to convince governments to update rules for stopping the spread of infectious diseases across borders, amid fears that the measures cannot tackle new threats such as SARS, the Ebola virus or bird flu.

Talks on new regulations have over the past decade become bogged down by concerns over their potential economic impact, but recent outbreaks of previously unknown diseases like SARS and bird flu in Asia have forced governments back to the negotiating table, health officials said Monday.

Yes, it's a real problem, the "potential economic impact" of necessary public-health measures. However, the economic impact of epidemic disease can be equally inconvenient. I don't want to seem shrill, but let me say it again: free-market capitalism discourages responsible, long-term planning on issues of public health and safety. Economists who advance the notion that the free market can solve these problems are in the position of Medieval scholastics who believed that all planetary motion must be circular, on account of Aristotle said so.

I don't know if anything will come of this conference, or of the WHO's "final drive" (and isn't that an ominous phrase?), but I'm glad an effort's being made. And I think we can remain certain that the Kerry administration will be far more responsive to the group's long-term recommendations than BushCo would be.

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