TENNESSEE’S HEALTHCARE CUTS
Trudy Lieberman’s article on TennCare cuts, “Mismanaged Care” [Dec. 12], should bring national attention to a shameful act. If readers would like to see the faces of some of those cut off–including, most likely, some of the 3,311 people that the state has effectively sentenced to death–they should take a look at Joon Powell’s superb “Faces of TennCare” portraits at www.joonpowell.info/tenncare.html, the personal project of a gifted young photographer.
SHOW ME THE WOMEN!
I was excited to receive your Fall Books issue [Dec. 5]–until I opened it, that is. You have reviewed twenty books by men and only one book by a woman! How is it possible that you didn’t find this troubling before the issue was published? This is an even worse ratio–I believe–than last year’s issue. I find it very discouraging.
NO SWEAT STUDENTS
San Bernardino, Calif.
I was pleased to see Richard Appelbaum and Peter Dreier’s “Students Confront Sweatshops” [Nov. 28] describing the United Students Against Sweatshops Designated Supplier Program. I am proud to let Nation readers know that the California Faculty Association (SEIU/AAUP/NEA), representing all faculty on the twenty-three campuses of the California State University, has adopted a resolution of support and assistance for the USAS campaign in the CSU (the nation’s largest public university). We urge other university unions and organizations to adopt similar resolutions supporting USAS’s campaign to set a new standard in the apparel industry. In union,
Co-chair, Ad Hoc Committee on Peace and Justice
California Faculty Association
LYING, NO-GOOD ‘GERM BOYS’
Jeremy Scahill, in “Germ Boys and Yes Men” [Nov. 28], distorts the truth about efforts to better secure the nation against a bioterrorist attack. The article questions why the government gave VaxGen a contract to provide a new anthrax vaccine. The government funded the development and has now ordered a next generation anthrax vaccine from VaxGen because the product is purer, more consistent and requires half the number of doses compared with the existing product. In contrast, according to a recent Newsday article, the FDA reported that the existing anthrax vaccine manufactured by BioPort may have been linked to twenty-one deaths and 4,100 illnesses, including 347 termed “serious.”
Scahill portrays Jerome Hauer, a former government bioterrorism official, as a courageous biodefense expert struggling to protect the American people. Yet the article fails to disclose that Hauer is a board member of and lobbyist for BioPort and that he has been aggressively trying to persuade the government to buy BioPort’s anthrax vaccine.
Scahill also failed to disclose that when Hauer was still employed by the Department of Health and Human Services–before he became a BioPort lobbyist–he persuasively advocated for the development of a new vaccine instead of buying BioPort’s. In February 2003, then-acting assistant secretary Hauer wrote BioPort saying, “A rigorous internal assessment of longer-term strategic options led to the decision to invest HHS funds in the accelerated development of a second-generation recombinant vaccine manufactured with modern technologies that allow the final product to be more rigorously controlled.”
VaxGen is now developing and preparing to deliver this “second-generation recombinant vaccine manufactured with modern technologies.” Nation readers were poorly served by an article that told half the story and omitted glaring conflicts of interest.
Vice president for corporate affairs, VaxGen, Inc.
It is very telling that in accusing me of “distort[ing] the truth about efforts to better secure the nation against a bioterrorist attack,” Lance Ignon fails to refute–or even address–a single fact I reported about VaxGen. He doesn’t address the close relationship of VaxGen’s CEO to powerful decision-makers at the Department of Health and Human Services, or the fact that NASDAQ delisted the company for financial irregularities a few months before it was awarded the nearly $1 billion contract by the Bush Administration. Nor does Ignon address how his company won this contract despite VaxGen’s never having successfully produced an FDA-licensed vaccine. Ignon also conspicuously avoids mentioning that Stewart Simonson, the man appointed by George W. Bush to head the nation’s response to public health emergencies and who was influential in awarding VaxGen its generous contract, is viewed by many public health and disaster management professionals as unqualified.
Instead, Ignon chooses to focus on former HHS official Jerry Hauer, against whom VaxGen is currently engaged in a public relations battle. These two companies are having a fierce conflict, which has been covered substantially by the media. Had I quoted Hauer criticizing VaxGen, I would have explained his relationship with competitor BioPort, a company that has been and deserves to be heavily scrutinized and investigated. I reported about VaxGen specifically because it was awarded a whopping contract despite significant questions about the company and the award process, not to judge whether its vaccine is better or worse than BioPort’s. There are many public health groups and professionals that would say neither vaccine is safe and that VaxGen’s massive contract is evidence of the warped national health priorities of the Bush Administration.
‘CANCER IS BIPARTISAN’
I serve on a federal panel that evaluates the funding merit of cancer research grant applications. To my deepening alarm, the National Cancer Institute is now able to fund only about 9 percent of the research applications it receives, but in my opinion about 60 percent are worthy of funding. This gap widened greatly after the Iraq War and Republican tax “reform” began to strain the federal budget. Some important proposals that have been denied money recently include studies of tamoxifen in women at risk for recurrent breast cancer, acute leukemia in children, links between obesity and lymphoma, prostate cancer incidence, genetic instability in cervical cancer, mechanisms of melanoma and genetic profiling studies of colon cancer. If these priorities continue, Americans not in uniform will start to pay for this war with their lives, not just with their taxes. In a decadent and reckless manner, our scientific base is being gutted, not only in unfunded specific projects but in terminated careers of cancer investigators who cannot obtain funding and must abandon their research. It will soon be time to include among the Iraq casualty lists some Americans who will be diagnosed with cancer. Connect the dots: Cancer is bipartisan.
BACK TO PEARLS FOR GIRLS?
I can’t tell you what a relief it was to read Katha Pollitt’s reaction to Maureen Dowd’s book Are Men Necessary [“Subject to Debate,” Nov. 28]. Having received the book as a birthday present, I delved into it only to discover with horror Dowd’s proclamation that not only are feminism and success destined to keep women single but that as a result women are flocking en masse back to the pearls of 1950s wisdom they had once avoided. I am in my mid-20s, fully aware of the sexual perils, contradictions and seemingly backward progress that women my age and younger face. Yet Dowd’s musings on the doomed nature of strong-willed women made me look at my feminist, Planned Parenthood-volunteering boyfriend as a tenuous happenstance, and I half-expected him to morph into Mr. Hyde the minute I stepped too far forward. Thank you, Katha, for reminding me of the rest of the story, and for highlighting the progress that we as women have made, and that men have made as well.
I thank Katha Pollitt for her column on Maureen Dowd. I don’t think Dowd has much access to real women in the real world who are just living the advances made in the past thirty years without thinking too much about it. (Of course, there is a long way to go.)
With apologies to Mel Torme, my song, inspired by your December 26 Torture Issue:
Chest hairs toasting on an open wire,
Jack knife cutting off a nose.
Cheney’s torturers, just guns for the hire,
Leave folks depressed and lachrymose.
Everybody knows, this jerk cares not just where his missile goes,
With his reason gone, he’s not too bright.
But hatching plots, with no evidence to show
Makes it hard to sleep at night.
‘Cause he knows that Santa’s in his sleigh,
And it would blow up if Saddam were still in play,
And every Democrat is gonna try
To blame him if a war makes people die.
And so he’s offering this simple phrase
To Moslem, atheist and Jew:
Come Christmastime there can be no other way,
All will be Christian, including you.
In his December 26 “Beat the Devil” column, Alexander Cockburn quoted Alex Constantine on the topic of the CIA and its connection with journalists. Constantine’s comments are not from a book, as the column suggested, but were part of a web posting under the same name, which can be found at www.whatreallyhappened.com/RANCHO/POLITICS/MOCK/mockingbird.html.