Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sordid History of HPV Vaccine: Cures of Big Pharma Worse than Diseases

Death by a Thousand Cuts: When the Cures of Big Pharma are Worse than the Diseases

The more chemicals, drugs, vaccines, additives, toxins they make, the more difficult it is to escape from big business’ straight-jacket  
The vaccine debate and prying into Planned Parenthood’s Standard Operating Procedure are two arenas I have not gravitated toward. Genetically-engineered crops, industrial farming, confined feeding operations (CAFOs), dams killing wild salmon, these are my fortes.
The news daily is like death by a thousand cuts for me tied to new studies on collapsing ecosystems, indigenous people fighting against mines and other extractive industries, and more and more on climate change/global warming.
I never thought I’d be embroiled in a fight for my livelihood because I questioned the rampant vaccination of girls (and now boys) with the Merck marketed HPV vaccine, Gardasil. To date, more than 270,000,000 doses have been distributed worldwide, this HPV vaccine (World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety) distributed by both GlaxoSmithKline and Merck versions. There are scientists who say the human papillomavirus is not the cancer threat posited by the drug manufacturers and their paid-off doctors;  that most immune systems can fight off the HPV; that the vaccine only hits two of the more than 40 different HPV phenotypes.
My story with HPV vaccine started when I was in a Planned Parenthoodtraining last month, a mandatory course for social workers titled Fundamentals of Sex Ed. For a total of possibly 30 seconds out of a 16-hour two-day training (I was kicked out after day one, eight hours worth), I voiced my opinion about the potential risks associated with Gardasil.
The opinion was put down on a slip of paper, then, and thrown in with dozens of other comments from the 40 participants. This is in Seattle, one of the bigger Planned Parenthood locations, and the comments I made were specifically sold to us all as “an anonymous forum.” I went further with two more comments on the slips of paper — about 60 words answering this first day evaluation question: “What could Planned Parenthood have done differently today in the training?”
I am really disappointed that Planned Parenthood in Seattle is so lock-step in line with Big Pharma. Especially in the case of Gardasil, which is a vaccine that has gotten tens of thousands complaints about it. Anyone, including my 16- to 21-year-old clients, could easily Google ‘Gardasil Dangers’ and find a plethora of very disturbing and legitimate information about its dangers. I wish Planned Parenthood showed more critical thinking and independent pedagogical standards, including informed consent.
Less than two hours after the training, I was called at my hotel room by my supervisor from Portland, who let me know:
The Planned Parenthood trainers said they do not want you back for the second day of training. I am putting you on administrative leave. I am looking into what happened in Seattle. Do not return to the office until further notice.
That was October 15, and I have since been terminated, have been on the job market, am attempting to collect a few weeks of unemployment assistance, have a lawyer investigating my case, and started writing about my case on multiple forums. You can read my posts “My Fate as a Social Worker Sealed by a Vaccine Named Gardasil“; “Planned Parenthood, A VaccineDouble-think Alive and Well in the World of Non-profits“; “Gardasil and the American Bald Eagle – What Would Rachel Carson Do?
The Sordid History of the HPV Vaccine
I have collected a hundred reports, articles, documentaries and blogs tied to the HPV vaccine, which has been in use since 2006. Here are just few: How Much Does the Vaccine Cost?, Sacrificial Virgins, Gardasil Did It/ Fue el Gardasil. The treasure trove is enlightening, intimidating, depressing and validating. Every drug and chemical in the world should have this amount of scrutiny, and yet, the depressing part is that once something is introduced into our systems of medicine, food production/ processing, and modern industrial existence, the unintended consequences and synergistic downsides are more difficult to elevate to a level of grave public concern.
The PR firms, legal teams, government agencies, law makers, and politicians all have a stake in the game with trillions of dollars in profits at stake. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry is the single largest contributor (number two being insurance industry) to congressional accounts in the United States, spending almost 2.5 billion dollars the past decade in lobbying efforts, more than double the spending of the defense industry. This is, of course, in addition to the many billions more spent on marketing their products to both consumers and directly to physicians.
The issues whirling around Gardasil represent a microcosm of all that is wrong with our healthcare industry. It is difficult at best and impossible for most to speak out against the power purchased with these multi-billion dollar budgets; in many cases, Big Pharma is killing us with their practices, marketing and products. If you are a citizen, a consumer group, a watchdog agency or journalist going against the grain, the road to hell is paved with threats, lawsuits, and vitriol. We are labeled conspiracists, Luddites, anti-science extremists and crazies or nuts. Death by a thousand cuts!
Here is an anonymous comment emailed to me, and it’s endemic of the HPV vaccination controversy involving thousands of victims (and deaths) ascribed to the vaccination doses given these young girls and women:
I’ve been extensively investigating vaccines for 23 years and I believe that vaccines are one of the biggest contributors to the childhood epidemics of chronic disease. Over half of the kids in this country have been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Not only is it not prudent to mandate vaccines, it is in violation of informed consent and an affront to parental rights. The rush to get Gardasil (and all vaccines) approved is about one thing: $$$. Gardasil is not mandatory though in any state. It’s recommended but not mandatory – yet. It’s one of the most dangerous vaccines and should be completely avoided.
Whether it is vaccines, medications, agricultural or industrial chemicals, questions of safety are rarely tolerated. I knew this from my background in environmental studies, writing and activism. Even so, I was caught off guard by these recent events.
Toxic History and Citizen Action: The Fight Never Ends
I cut my teeth as a budding reporter in Arizona working on issues tied to sprawl, city and county politics, the cop shop, and more as a community journalist for several dailies. I also ate up journalism from other great venues, including one that links tangentially to the Gardasil story. It was on the Love Canal case (a neighborhood near Niagara Falls, NY) in the 1970s. Love Canal’s toxic history began when Hooker Chemical Co. used an abandoned canal from 1942 to 1953 to dump 21,800 tons of industrial hazardous waste (‘Love Canal’ still oozing poison 35 years later).
Later, the slurry was “capped,” and then hundreds of homes and a school were built on top of it. A harsh winter in 1977 with several meters of snow resulted in a spring melt seeping into the buried 16-acre canal which forced chemical waste into groundwater and to the surface, oozing into yards and basements (Superfund).
Residents began complaining of miscarriages, urinary and kidney problems and mental disabilities in their children. A quiet mother and homemaker began putting pieces together and contacted scientists and state government agencies.
Headlines like this anchor what she did as just a common person: “Lois Gibbs, a housewife leads the charge for evacuation, compensation and warns against resettling the area.”
That case led to the formation in 1980 of the Superfund program, which helps pay for the cleanup of toxic sites (From homemaker to hell-raiser in Love Canal).
As I have set up this series with environmentalist-scientist Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, this fourth article around this controversy (for DV) dovetails with environmentalist Lois Gibbs. How insane is it that she revisited the Love Canal site on the 35th anniversary in November 2013 and witnessed a new generation of mothers and fathers locked into lawsuits with Occidental Petroleum Corp., the new caretaker of the land, again, because of the toxic soil and health implications for them and their families (Happy Birthday, Love Canal). Rashes, stomach sickness, fainting, seizure. Insanity, the ooze that Gibbs tied to birth defects was recapped (mitigated) with new homes built where those in Gibbs’ old neighborhood had been demolished.
It was so weird to go back and stand next to someone who was crying and saying the exact same thing I said thirty-five years ago, Gibbs said.
More than 1,000 tons of contaminated soil are being now being shipped to an incinerator in Lincoln, Nebraska (Love Canal soil going to Kimball incinerator). We don’t know who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” but Albert Einstein did say, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Like Carson, Gibbs penned a few books – Dying from Dioxin (1995); Love Canal The Story Continues (1998); Love Canal: and the Birth of the Environmental Health Movement (2010) – and founded an organization fighting toxins:
The Center for Health, Environment & Justice which supports a nationwide network of more than 300 local community groups to achieve critical policy impacts at the local, regional, statewide and national levels. The communities we serve are largely rural, low-wealth or working class—the kind of areas where toxic chemicals, polluting facilities and other environmental dangers are sited.
Get Lit with Literature!
The biggest influences for me in regard to social justice and the power of collective action came to me through the arts, poetry and literature, at a young age. For me, the game changer was considering Herman Melville’s short story, Bartleby the Scrivener, or Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when without moving from his privacy, Bartleby, in a singular mild, firm voice, replied, ‘I would prefer not to.’
— Herman Melville
The mind of man is capable of anything–because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valor, rage–who can tell?—but truth–truth stripped of its cloak of time.
— Joseph Conrad
This very concept of those willing to kill and maim and conquer for a profit came to bear quickly after reading Conrad and so many other thinkers. The idea, though, of this strange man, Bartleby, basically intoning his manager, “I would prefer not to,” symbolizes one of the world’s most powerful phrases. “I would prefer not to.” How many among us can say the same when faced with ethical challenges.
Fact is Stranger than Fiction
What I am finding in my own nascent life tied to Gardasil and Planned Parenthood is a type of bearing witness, knowing there are deeper and more layered and nuanced ways of looking at the mad men in advertising, marketing, propaganda and more existential ways of contemplating the insanity of unlimited growth, the consumer assault and battery from the merchants of death.
The leap from literary/poetic to environmental and science writing was not a high one. I was still reading  writers like Eduardo GaleanoVonnegut Ursula Le GuinDenise Levertov and  Jorge Luis Borges, but I did devour Carson’s Silent Spring when I was 16, and that too put me on a course toward writing literary works, and poetry, as well as becoming a journalist hoping to cover science. Carson was on the staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 16 years and was highly cognizant of the fact the government played a huge role in promoting and defending chemical poisons.
“The crusade to create a chemically sterile, insect-free world,” Carson wrote, “seems to have engendered a fanatic zeal on the part of many specialists and most of the so-called control agencies.”
She believed that she was living in an era …
dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged. When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half-truth. We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts.
The cross-pollination of a huge marketing campaigns with scientists and medical companies and pharmaceuticals is both bizarre and business as usual. Here, in 2006, from one of those marketing firms:
More than 95 insurance plans–covering 94 percent of insured individuals–have decided to reimburse Gardasil, according to Merck. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also added the vaccine to its Vaccines for Children Contract, making it available to Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, under-insured, or Native American children up to the age of 18.
Analysts are optimistic about the vaccine’s market potential. ‘It’s very clear that patients are going to be interested in it,’ said John Lebbos, MD, therapeutic area director of infectious diseases at market research firm Decision Resources. ‘From what I’ve seen, it’s going to be a blockbuster.’
Education about the vaccine is going to be a critical piece–due both to a lack of understanding about HPV as well as early controversy that vaccination might lead to teen promiscuity.
Note the terminology of the purveyors of capital and profit-making health care: “vaccine’s market potential” and “it’s going to be a blockbuster.” Words from an MD whose Hippocratic oath states first do no harm!
From the onset of Gardasil, after the fast-tracked shoddy FDA approval (Examining the FDA’s HPV Vaccine Records), Merck deployed the services of one of the world’s propaganda firms, AKA PR outfits:
The PR genius behind all stages of Merck’s HPV and Gardasil campaigns is the PR giant Edelman. The world’s largest independent PR firm, Edelman boasts more than 2,100 employees working in 46 wholly owned offices worldwide, plus the additional resources of more than 50 affiliates. Apparently Merck is hoping that most, if not all the states in the US, will mandate a vaccine against HPV as a pre-requisite for school attendance. And beat rivals to it, before GlaxoSmithKline gets FDA approval for its Cervarix.
In the dozens and dozens of articles in the New York Times, in reports by PR Watch and Judicial Watch, scant few mentioning of the untold physical incapacitation, chronic illness and deaths tied to Gardasil by many citizen groups with some scientists behind the calls to stop the Gardasil-Cervarix mass vaccination program (TruthWiki   US Court Pays $6 Million to Gardasil Victims    Judicial Watch:  a,   b,  c    Are You Concerned Over Genetically Modified Vaccine?  HPV Researchers, Planned Parenthood Win Prestigious Lasker Medical Awards).
But, 11 years ago, even before FDA approval, Merck and Edelman were on the PR war-path beating the cervical cancer drums:
Merck used its deep pockets to make sure that even before the FDA had approved Gardasil, there was a growing awareness of and concern about HPV and its link to cervical cancer. According to Bloomberg News, Merck spent $841,000 for Internet ads alone relating to HPV in the first quarter of 2006 — months before the FDA had even approved Gardasil (Part One: Setting the Stage).
Again, this series on Gardasil-Merck-Planned Parenthood-and-my-termination looks at the funding and ties to non-profits, but also at the new documentaries and court cases illuminating the young girls and women who say they have been injured (and many family members of deceased girls say killed) by the HPV vaccine.
Here’s just one tip of the iceberg in this non-profit collusion with the funders, health care for-profits, and this is a three-part series written for PR Watch in 2017 by journalist Judith Siers-Poisson:
According to their website, “Women in Government is a national 501(c)(3), non-profit, bi-partisan organization of women state legislators providing leadership opportunities, networking, expert forums, and educational resources to address and resolve complex public policy issues.” The campaigns that they feature on their home page deal with kidney health, Medicare preventive services, higher education policy, and the “Challenge to Eliminate Cervical Cancer,” which was publicly launched in 2004.
On February 2, 2007, Texas Governor Rick Perry, against the wishes of his conservative base and to the surprise of critics, signed an executive order mandating HPV vaccination for girls entering seventh grade. Then, unfortunately for Perry and Merck, details of his many connections with both Merck and Women in Government became public.
Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe noted, “It turned out that Perry’s former chief of staff is now a lobbyist for Merck. Did that look bad? Whoa, Nellie. Did it look bad that Merck had funded an organization of women legislators backing similar bills? Whoa, Merck.” USA Today reported that Perry’s current chief of staff’s mother-in-law, Texas Republican State Representative Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government. Perry’s wife, Anita, a nurse by training, addressed a WIG summit on cervical cancer in Atlanta in November 2005. Perry also received $6,000 from Merck’s political action committee during his re-election campaign.
In 2004, more than 20 WIG funders were pharmaceutical companies or entities heavily invested in health care issues that could come before state legislators. A short list includes both Merck & Co., Inc and Merck Vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline (which will soon have the second HPV vaccine on the market), and Digene Corporation (which manufactures an HPV test). Other drug interests listed as donors to WIG include Novartis, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Bayer Healthcare, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb (both the company and their foundation), and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, also known as PhRMA, one of the largest and most influential lobbying organizations in Washington representing 48 drug companies.
The funders of Women in Government today, as I am looking at their website, are still those big ones listed above and others in the for-profit health care fields.
What comes next will be articles tying Planned Parenthood to the makers of Gardasil, and how the science behind the HPV vaccine is not only faulty, but in some ways corrupted. The influence of these private for-profit drug makers to ruin scientists lives is also a big part of the story coming up (Biologist Peter Duesberg was all but banished from science for his views on HIV)  The next part of the series will look at the cases of young girls damaged and killed and whose cases are being highlighted in documentaries and added to class action and personal liability cases against Merck and GSK.
Part one of the series over at Hormones Matter & DV was getting the reader’s feet wet effort: Gardasil and the American Bald Eagle.  What I am hoping to elicit from this second part is reader’s feedback on the collusion of marketing and science. How do readers see that interplay affecting what they eat, consume, use and purchase? How can a citizen get a handle on all the complicated findings and PR spin and manufactured consent the for-profit world enlists as their marketing schemes?
GMOs, Genetic Engineering, Recombinant Drugs, Vaccines
I end with a lament, since I opened this piece around my background researching and writing about mostly environmental and social justice issues (certainly forced vaccinations in USA and other countries is a social injustice issue). I have many friends and sources in the arena of GMO — genetically modified (engineered) organisms and that giant, Monsanto. In fact, Gardasil is a genetically-engineered virus. The news today exploded with mainstream media touting a new study “clearing” Round-up, also known as glyphosate, of any definitive cancer-causing links.
Of course, this one study is not the final word on cancer and Round-up. One study, versus thousands linking Round-up to all sorts of problems in humans and animals. But then Monsanto is a giant with connected politicians, Supreme Court Justices and PR firms. Monsanto and others like Bayer subsidize entire university programs and departments. Autism and Round-up? HereGlyphosate in vaccines?
It all ties together, this better living through chemistry-plastics-GE drugs. Even Stephen Hawkins is weighing in on this Genetic Engineering of vaccines.
My friend, who is now deceased, Mae-Wan Ho, submitted to an interview by me a few years ago, and this passage from it elegantly discusses the inherent dangers of GMOs:
The new genetics, for example, is enchanting; it is completely different from the old obsolete genetics that motivated genetic engineering and genetic modification. It has turned conventional genetics upside down. Instead of a one-way flow of information from DNA (the genetic material) to traits (biological function) to the environment, there is a circular feedback from the environment and the organisms’ experience that marks out which genes are to be expressed or not, even changing the genes themselves. I call this natural genetic modification. It is an intricate molecular dance of life that is essential for survival. Natural genetic modification is done with finesse and precision by the organisms themselves, without damaging the genome. In contrast, artificial genetic modification done in the laboratory by genetic engineers is crude, imprecise, uncontrollable, and ends up scrambling and damaging the genome with totally unpredictable effects on safety. It also interferes inevitably with the natural genetic modification process, and that is ultimately why artificial genetic modification is inherently hazardous.
Some writers say “vaccines are the Third Rail for writers. Otherwise totally progressive sites have drunk the Pharma Kool-Aid and [shut down] journalists for simply suggesting that vaccines are neither all safe or all unsafe! Imagine!” (a recent email from a writer answering my questions, preferring to stay anonymous).
Add to my dilemma as a white male, Marxist, 60, dare to complain about anything to do with Planned Parenthood, even this bizarre personal attack on me, as Planned Parenthood Seattle ended up pressuring the former non-profit I worked for to sack me because of my recalcitrance, aggressiveness and non-compliance of a “zeig heil” to all vaccines, manufactured and distributed (sold) by Merck and GlaxSmithKline, not exactly the angels in Big Pharma.
I’ve got compatriots, luckily, at DV, in the writing and voice of Martha Rosenberg 
Of course there are many reasons women may veto the vaccine for themselves or their children. Even though the vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective in preventing precancerous cervical lesions and protects against the two HPV strains that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts, it isn’t effective against all HPV strains. It is also not more effective against cervical cancer than a Pap smear and even when it does work, may require a booster. Nor do researchers know how long protection lasts.
The HPV vaccine is also the most expensive of all recommended vaccines at $359.25 for all three doses says Pew Research.
And then there’s the morality issue.
“I was greatly offended that Merck suggest I vaccinate my nine-year-old daughter against an STD,” says Kelley Watson, a mother of two in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. “Especially insulting to me was that there was never any mention of HPV as being a sexually transmitted disease. It was presented as something women can contract through tampons or nylon stockings — as if men played no part.”
Actually, men’s part in transmitting HPV is beginning to be acknowledged. Last year FDA also cleared the vaccine for boys, in whom the virus can cause genital warts and anal cancer. Even when an individual declines vaccination, his or her chances of infection are lessened as more people, both men and women, vaccinate — a concept called herd immunity.
Thanks to intrepid and thick-skinned writers like Rosenberg, the public might have a chance at getting real news about pharmaceuticals and all the other snake oil and PT Barnum shell games Big For-Profit Medicine pedals. I’ll attempt to be part of that phalanx of writers skeptical of capitalism’s parasitic infestation of things that should not be given to millionaires, billionaires and their financial vultures for profits and rip-offs — education, health, social security, energy, the commons, banking, and community rights to public health, safety and protection. Add the incarceration complex to the mix, and then also think about how infected farming, food, transportation, and telecommunications and media have become through the perversions of big capital and bigger profit schemes of the financial hit men (and women).
Just a year ago, here, Martha’s Counterpunch piece:
They Aren’t All Safe: Pharma is Willing to Look “Unscientific” to Sell Vaccines
Pharma is unwise to cast such parents, of whom there are many, as “nuts.” The degeneration of their child is not their imagination. Also, there is no defensible reason for vaccines to be given all at once to a child, which many say heightens risks. Administering clusters of vaccines–once not given to children–has been called a major, new profit center for pediatricians.
But anti-vaccination activists should also not be absolutist. Would anyone refuse a rabies vaccine after being bitten by a rabid raccoon? A tetanus shot after a serious wound? Would responsible parents deny their child a whooping cough or polio vaccine?
Like all drugs aggressively marketed these days, patients and parents need to do their own research and weigh benefits and risks—never forgetting Pharma’s spotty safety record.
Seems like sanity to me, as a parent, patient and press member!
Paul Kirk Haeder has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. A forthcoming book (Dec. 15, 2016), Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber, looks at 10 years of his writing at Dissident Voice, and before, to bring defiance to the world that is now lobotomizing at a rate never before seen in history. Read his autobiography, weekly chapter installments, at LA ProgressiveRead other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.

Bill Gates: Corporate Philanthropist - 5

Barbarians at the philanthropic gate: are foundation grants to corporations defensible?

Companies shouldn’t be on the philanthropic take: they should foot their own bills for expansion in new markets. 
“As a businessman, I believe the free market fuels growth,” Bill Gates said in an address to G20 leaders in 2011, adding that “there are relatively simple things we can do to encourage private investment in development.”
One such incentive is the use of direct subsidies to business by philanthropic foundations. In recent years, the Gates Foundation has increased its direct charitable grants to for-profit entities, including recent donations to Vodacom and Mastercard. In both cases, the money was intended to expand financial services to the poor in low-income countries.
Vodacom received over $6 million to ‘grow the mobile banking sector’ in east Africa. Mastercard got $11 million to set up a ‘lab for financial inclusion’ in Kenya. Both grants could help bring welcome services to marginalized people in important ways. But Mastercard and Vodacom are also poised to profit handsomely from the markets created by these charitable offerings while assuming very little of the financial risk involved.
When a business venture has clear commercial as well as charitable objectives, it seems reasonable to insist that grants from foundations should be structured as program-related equity investments or as loans. But that’s not the case with either of these donations. Such grants raise an even bigger question: where’s the evidence that businesses are actually contributing more to improved social outcomes than in the past—and therefore deserve the Gates Foundation’s largesse?
Are companies themselves becoming more charitable? Are they investing more of their overheads in research and development in comparison to what they spend on marketing? Has increased executive pay heightened CEO vigilance when it comes to reining in dubious safety practices?
The answer to all these questions is no.

Bill Gates: Corporate Philanthropist - 4

Would the Gates Foundation do more good without Bill?

Philanthropic organisations such as the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations have had greater flexibility since their founders died
Take Bill Gates’s personal views on patents. He has been adamant that current patent protections don’t hinder access to new technologies and medicines in poor nations. But many global health experts disagree, suggesting the current systems benefits western multinationals at the expense of poor nations, allowing corporations to “expand or maintain their market power in ways that stifle innovation and keep prices high,” as policy experts David Grewal and Amy Kapczynski argued in the New York Times.
At a time when activists are challenging corporate clout, the Gates Foundation is enriching for-profit companies: it has offered tens of millions in non-repayable grants to wealthy corporations such as Mastercard and Vodacom. Gates insists the private sector should play a lead role in poverty reduction – but is he justified in helping to underwrite corporate bottom-lines through tax-advantaged gifts?
Most organisations on a par with the Gates Foundation are fair game for academic and journalistic investigation. When a health catastrophe strikes, many governments and UN organisations such as the World Health Organisation are subjected to sustained internal and external review. The Gates Foundation, while as powerful, rarely faces the same scrutiny.
We need to challenge this silence. We need loudly to ask an uncomfortable question: do foundations narrow wealth inequalities or simply preserve them? Are foundations at their most radical when they exist to serve a benefactor’s hopes and whims – or when they’re emancipated from such an obligation?

Bill Gates: Corporate Philanthropist - 3

Are Gates and Rockefeller using their influence to set agenda in poor states?

Study identifies Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller foundations among rich donors that are close to government and may be skewing priorities

Bill Gates: Corporate Philanthropist - 2

Ten years ago, when the Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates was midway through his startling metamorphosis from monopolistic software magnate to possibly the world’s most admired philanthropist, he made a speech declaring that the traditional American high school was “obsolete”. Instead, his hugely generous charitable foundation invested $2bn in new, smaller schools for nearly 800,000 pupils.
But within a few years, in 2008, the funding abruptly stopped. Some of the schools had to close. Three years on, in one of his carefully rationed newspaper interviews, Gates explained: “The overall impact of the intervention, particularly the measure we care most about – whether [pupils] go to college – it didn’t move the needle much … We didn’t see a path to having a big impact, so we did a mea culpa on that.”
With its mix of idealism and cold jargon, its emphasis on charity needing to achieve dramatic results, and its slight underlying sense that Gates (pictured) wants to play God, this quote is one of many telling moments in Linsey McGoey’s fierce book. A former adviser to the World Health Organisation and a sociology lecturer at the University of Essex, long a base for radical academics, she casts an unsparing eye over “philanthrocapitalism” – as she and some of its practitioners call it. A small group of private donors, she writes, play “an outsized role in national and global policy-making”: they “want to revolutionise the last realm untouched by the hyper-competitive, profit-oriented world of financial capitalism: the world of charitable giving.”
Gates is currently the best known of these hard-nosed modern philanthropists, and the foundation that he and his wife, Melinda, run from a headquarters in Seattle the size of a large city block is the focus of about half this book. But first McGoey explores the thinking and methods of earlier conscience-stricken tycoons. Starting with John D Rockefeller Sr in the late 19th century, she shows that charity organised on business lines is not new, as philanthrocapitalists claim. Rockefeller was even advised by a man called Gates, Frederick T (no relation), a Baptist-minister-turned-management-guru preoccupied with how to give philanthropy the maximum “leverage” and “efficiency”.
McGoey also provocatively examines the power imbalances and ambiguities of charitable giving, “the difficulty of determining whose interests are most served”. While the Rockefellers were establishing their worldwide empire of good deeds, she points out, western anthropologists in Papua New Guinea were studying “‘Big Men’, tribal leaders who used gift-giving to accumulate well-placed friends, and expand trading jurisdictions”. In today’s global economy, where personal networking, reputation management and corporate social responsibility are constant preoccupations, charitable giving is more useful than ever. Philanthropy is a favourite topic when billionaires gather at Davos or a TED conference.
In 2009 McGoey attended another of these self-regarding summits, the annual Skoll World Forum in Oxford, established by Jeff Skoll, a self-styled philanthropist and social entrepreneur who made his fortune as an early eBay shareholder and employee. Her section on the event is too short, barely a couple of pages – you wonder if she was forbidden to take notes – but it does memorably include Skoll telling an audience of well-connected do-gooders, “You are a keystone species in the social change architecture.”
The Gates Foundation comes across better in the book. “The Gateses do considerable good,” McGoey concedes. “Like Melinda’s willingness to speak out about the importance of contraception ... in developing countries. Or Bill’s support for raising the capital gains tax in the US.” Echoing other analysts of modern tycoon philanthropy, she depicts the Gateses and their foundation as unusually “willing to change their minds when the evidence suggests they should. They don’t seem afraid to admit their mistakes.”
But one person’s flexibility is another’s cancelled funding. The book also details the downsides of the Gates approach to global health problems, an area where they spend more annually than many wealthy governments, including Germany. The foundation favours ambitious vaccines and disease eradication programmes. A persuasive array of health professionals cited by McGoey say these are squeezing out cheaper, quicker solutions. She also criticises the foundation’s choice of collaborators: not just farmers and small businessmen in poor countries but Goldman Sachs and Coca-Cola, Monsanto and Rupert Murdoch. Too much of the foundation’s money and activity, she argues, stays in the west.
And in the west few hold the Gateses to account. The last “serious” piece of US legislation regulating charitable foundations, she writes, was in 1969. Nowadays the ubiquity of the Gates organisation in the charity world, and beyond, means that few are prepared to attack it. McGoey’s interviewees are not plentiful, and mostly anonymous.
In the book’s later chapters, the relative even-handedness falls away. She condemns the “egotism” of Gates and other famous donors for “eponymously stamping their mark on their endowments”. She summarises with distaste the claim of some philanthropists (not Gates) that their giving is a form of “self-tax” that exempts them from paying other taxes. Most cuttingly, she says that philanthropy “thrives on … its own ineffectiveness” – in order to justify its own existence, charity needs the problems it addresses to persist.
These are all strong and rarely made arguments. But they feel a bit unforgiving. The highly personalised quality of the Gates Foundation, for example, is surely designed to open doors in a celebrity-driven world as much as it is to make Bill feel and look good. The book does not give as concrete a sense as it might of the foundation as an institution: what its headquarters feels like, how its confident staff talk. Access is not easily gained to either – when I profiled the foundation in 2010, it took months to sort out – and as an out-and-out Gates critic, McGoey may not have been willing or able; but she could have done more snooping around in Seattle.
This is a clear-eyed and much-needed study regardless. The super rich are all around us, but usually out of sight, arranging the world to their specifications. If this book shows what the relatively benign ones are up to, it makes you worry about the others.
 Andy Beckett’s Promised You a Miracle: UK80-82 is published by Allen Lane. To order No Such Thing as a Free Gift for £12.99 (RRP £16.99) go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.

Bill Gates: Corporate Philanthropist

Bill Gates, Big Pharma, Bogus Philanthropy

Many people admire Bill Gates for his intelligence, entrepreneurial spirit and, most recently, his philanthropy. That is all well and good, but we mustn’t forget that he is a relentless capitalist who, throughout his life, dedicated his efforts to only one purpose: making a ridiculous sum of money. Let us also not forget that corporations are, by law, required to do everything possible to maximize their profits and therefore, every single action they take should be viewed as a money-making scheme. Sometimes this means repairing or improving their image through seemingly charitable actions that are designed to allow them, in the long term, to exploit more people without scrutiny or resistance.

Humanitarian Imperialism: Charity for Power

The same day Pope Benedict XVI resigned from his post, New York’s wealthy Mayor Michael Bloomberg inaugurated a collaboration between Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Pope and Bloomberg’s announcements on February 28, 2013 were probably unrelated; nevertheless they underlined a victory of corporate over religious charity. As the Catholic church’s credibility plummeted, the Pope publicly admitted his defeat.Evidently, what the Pope cannot do, the super-rich will try. With the world’s 13th richest man Michael Bloomberg on board, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation represents an unprecedented and rapidly growing collaboration of the world’s wealthiest men, including Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Cyrus Poonawalla: all of whom have devoted most of their lives to acquiring their billions. Does this signal late-onset altruism or something else?

The Gates Foundation's Leveraged Philanthropy: Corporate Profit Versus Humanity on Three Fronts

Guest post by Chemtchr. Part One of Two. Part Two is here.
Philanthropy wonk Lucy Bernholz defines the buzzword leverage
as "the idea that you can use a little money to access a lot of money."
It's hard to think of the Gates Foundation's $26 billion leverage effort
as "a little money", especially since it's been spread over the globe to gain access to vastly more resources than it contributes, including U.S. tax dollars, the foreign exchange of emerging African nations, and United Nations funds for international development and world health.
Gates' leveraged philanthropy model is a public-private partnership
to improve the world, partly through targeted research support but principally through public advocacy and tax-free lobbying to influence government policy. The goal of these policies is often to explicitly support profitability for corporate investors, whose enterprises are seen by the Gates Foundation as advancing human good. However, maximum corporate profit and public good often clash when its projects are implemented.

I Am Puzzled by the Gates Foundation

WHO under siege from private sector

Tom Fawthrop
Reflecting on the growing public concern about the World Health Organisation’s linkages with the corporate world, Tom Fawthropwonders whether world health policy is in danger of falling into the clutches of the unelected gnomes of Davos.
IT was symbolic of the crisis facing the United Nations’ World Health Organisation that billionaire Bill Gates, the Chairman of Microsoft, was the special guest speaker addressing last year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) of WHO member states.
This followed from Gates’ previous address at the 2005 edition of the WHA. Commenting on the then unprecedented invitation extended to Gates to deliver a keynote speech at the WHA, the People’s Health Movement (PHM) viewed it as ‘part of an alarming trend of various UN organisations, including WHO, kowtowing to global multinational corporations under the guise of the “Global Compact” and so-called “Public-Private Partnerships”‘.
‘It is time to either declare Microsoft a WHO member country, or stop the shameful promotion of global corporations at important UN meetings,’ said a PHM spokesperson.
The membership of the PHM is made up of doctors, public health specialists and health activists committed to the principles of free universal health systems.
While Gates was ostensibly invited to the 2011 WHA in his capacity as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, activist groups say that the line dividing his philanthropy from his links to pharmaceutical interests and his company’s business strategy is very thin.
Many corporate giants have been adopted by WHO since 2010, as private sector partners working together for ‘better global health’.
The origins of this public-private sector partnership process can be traced to WHO’s chronic funding problems. Over 80% of its budget is based on emergency services and voluntary contributions, as opposed to compulsory financial commitments from member states.1
Hence, in the WHO search for extra resources, the private sector came up with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The private-sector-funded Global Fund has emerged as a new player on the increasingly fragmented field of world health alongside the World Bank, the Gates Foundation, and other charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Australian health researcher David Legge points out: ‘The reform proposals that [WHO Director-General] Margaret Chan took to the WHA in 2011 had clearly been discussed in advance with Bill Gates. They came up with a package that included an evaluation of WHO and a proposal for a “World Health Forum” to include drug companies, the development banks, and big foundations.’
Naturally Chan needed to reassure member states that WHO, in ‘the interest of safeguarding public health’, was ‘not afraid to speak out against entities that are far richer, more powerful, and better connected politically than health will ever be’, adding that ‘we need to maintain vigilance against any real or perceived conflicts of interest’.
But the question is: have her actions in promoting public-private partnerships been at odds with her speeches on defending the basic mandate of WHO to promote the public health interest on the global stage?
Whatever the role of the Director-General, the private sector package presented by Chan has raised much concern among member states.
There is little doubt that Chan understands to some degree the conflict of interest posed by private sector forces ranged against the WHO commitment to public health systems, in contrast to their promotion of privatised healthcare. The principle of partnership with the private sector has created a dangerous blurring between dedication to public health on one side, and the ambivalent role of philanthropy and the private sector on the other. In the case of the private sector Chan seems to think that it can be wooed away from its role in profiting from global health problems and made to share the burden of funding solutions.
Nowhere was this contradiction more evident than at the UN General Assembly special meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) held in New York in September.
The problems arising from WHO sharing the same bed with private corporations became very obvious during the meeting. That’s because non-communicable diseases – such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and emphysema – are deeply entangled with important global industries, not only tobacco but also food, pharmaceuticals, advertising, transportation and construction. And NCDs are the planet’s biggest health problem, responsible for 63% of all deaths each year, with incidence growing steeply in the rapidly urbanising low-income nations of the world.
A Washington Post report queried: ‘What is the responsibility of rich countries, and the pharmaceutical companies located in them, to improve medical care in poor countries, where 40% of deaths from non-communicable diseases occur before age 60?’
At a UN meeting in June billed as an opportunity for charities, NGOs and the public to voice their views on the outcome document of the September NCD summit, the tabled speakers included representatives of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, the International Food and Beverage Alliance, and the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry.
Among those attending the September meeting itself on behalf of ‘civil society’ were industry representatives, according to the BMJ (British Medical Journal). The journal also reported that GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis and the Global Alcohol Consumers Group were included within the official US delegation. And one well-attended breakfast for conference delegates was hosted by PepsiCo.
Over 100 NGOs and medical groups signed a petition in July saying that there needed to be a code of conduct with industry, as there was a ‘lack of clarity of roles for the industry sector in UN health policy setting and shaping’.
‘Our position is that partnership isn’t the right word. It implies trust and respect,’ said Patti Rundall, who has helped run the campaign against the marketing of baby formula for the last 30 years. ‘The allegiance of the food companies is to create profits. Their voluntary commitments are only good for as long as they want to keep them,’ she said.
The Davos-inspired assault on WHO  
During the 1980s the World Bank effectively sidelined WHO as the primary influence on health policies of governments of the South. The Bank’s Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) imposed major cuts to public health services. At the same time privatisation of healthcare was assiduously promoted.
Today key areas of public health and policymaking across the globe such as prevention of disease, strengthening public health systems and primary healthcare – the key terrain of WHO and the responsibilities of member states – are being coveted by private interest groups led by the new ‘rulers of the world’ known as the World Economic Forum.
It is all part of the WEF’s Global Redesign Initiative to rebuild institutions and mechanisms of global governance, according to Garance Upham, a researcher on health issues.
Upham, who delivered a lecture at the International Association of Health Policy – Europe conference held in Ankara, Turkey last year, explained that the WEF advocates a new governance paradigm for dealing with global health issues which requires a drastic reform of WHO.
The WEF, which holds its high-profile annual meetings in Davos, Switzerland, argues that ‘The model of development characterised by donors and recipients is dead … In place we need to think about collective responsibility. A world where an increasing number of stakeholders should have a role in shaping and making policy is a given. Governance does not equal governments alone.’
Indeed WHO and public health is not only about governments. Other stakeholders are doctors, nurses, patients and communities, but these stakeholders are missing or marginalised in the Davos blueprint. The Davos-distorted definition of ‘stakeholders’ is clearly set out in the proposal to establish a World Health Forum, perhaps modelled on their very own WEF.
The Davos group is advocating that private donors to global health campaigns should enjoy more or less equal seating alongside WHO in formulating policymaking and supervising global health initiatives. All this is coming at a time of growing economic crisis, with many governments only too eager to cut back on health budgets and their contributions to WHO.
It perhaps comes as no surprise that, along with Tony Blair and Kofi Annan, Peter Brabeck, a former CEO and current Chairman of Nestle, is a board member of the WEF.
Upham argues that all this would downgrade WHO from its vital role in intervening to control epidemics, supervising international health standards and promoting primary healthcare, to a more humble role mediating between major donors to the Global Fund, private medical charities like the Gates Foundation and even certain drug companies.
Within this paradigm, ‘health is an area in which entrepreneurship can flourish’, according to a write-up on the WEF website. ‘It is the mission of the Forum’s Health team to galvanise business to take action in global health.’
A response to this comes from public health academic A Shukla, who writes: ‘Private involvement carries large overhead costs and simply needs to deliver some form of profit. There is thus simply an insurmountable gap between public interest and private privilege. Only through putting pressure on the state will the excesses of the private sector in health be eventually done away with.’
It is clear that public-private partnerships are a dangerous path for any vulnerable UN agency to go down. A coalition of conflicting interests usually results in one partner swallowing the other or bullying it into submission.
A fundamental issue is at stake here: whether our world health policy is in the hands of health professionals, health ministries and grassroots NGOs, or falls into the clutches of the unelected gnomes of Davos and their business blueprints for ever greater control over the vital sector of public health.                                
Tom Fawthrop is a journalist and filmmaker who attended the first People’s Health Assembly – the founding conference of the People’s Health Movement – in 2000 and also participated in the second People’s Health Assembly in 2005. He is the director of Swimming Against the Tide, a documentary on the Cuban health system. DVDs are available from
  1. Some UN agencies such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP) receive compulsory contributions from member states. But in the case of WHO, its fixed contributions have been whittled down and it is now increasingly dependent on voluntary contributions. See Delhi Statement, ‘Time to Untie the Knots: The WHO Reform and the Need for Democratising Global Health’, May 2011, available

Corporate Philanthropy & the Gates Foundation: Global Vaccine Program Conflicts of Interest

Bill Gates is reported to be one of the richest individuals on Earth, with a current net worth of $87.4 billion.1 The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), founded in 2000, is the largest private foundation in the world.2 The foundation’s mission is to support and fund international development initiatives that improve social, economic and health conditions on a global level.3 The BMFG has been praised for pumping massive amounts of money into public health policy initiatives and scientific research on issues that forward the personal vision and social reform goals of Bill Gates.2
A recent report released by a U.K. based organization Global Justice Now, closely examines the BMGF operations and reveals that the foundation’s influence on global health initiatives is greater than any other donor country including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Ireland and Italy.2 However, unlike democratic governments who are accountable to their electorates, the BMGF is a private foundation that essentially remains unaccountable to populations impacted by the foundation’s social reform and public health initiatives, with the exception of tax reporting requirements.2
More recently, the BMGF has come under scrutiny regarding the manner in which it operates and the impact of its programs and initiatives. Philanthropy, particularly on a large scale like this, is not as simple as it may appear to be.4 Global Justice Nowexpresses its concern by stating:
Perhaps what is most striking about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is that, despite its aggressive corporate strategy and extraordinary influence across governments, academics and the media, there is an absence of critical voices. Global Justice Now is concerned that the foundation’s influence is so pervasive that many actors in international development, which would otherwise critique the policy and practice of the foundation, are unable to speak out independently as a result of its funding and patronage.2

Accountability and Conflicts of Interest

Concerns have been raised regarding the foundation’s lack of accountability and conflicts of interest with multinational corporations. Although the BMGF spends only 5% of its annual global health budget on lobbying and advocacy, this 5%, which translates into over $100 million speaks volumes on the political power held by the foundation.4 The BMGF funds scientific research, including new vaccine development, and also gives significant amounts of money to institutions ranging from universities to non-governmental organizations. It is also the single largest donor to the World Health Organization (WHO).2 4
In 2015, the BMGF contributed 11% of the WHO’s entire budget.2 In 1999, the foundation committed $750 million over a 5-year period as seed money to launch the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI),5 an international organization committed to “improve access to new and underused vaccines to children in low-income countries.”6Since 2000, the foundation has contributed $2.5 billion to GAVI.2 Interestingly, according to the Global Justice Now report “members of the GAVI board always include companies in the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, which involves GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, and Pfizer, among others.”2
These types of public-private partnerships no doubt gives the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation considerable leverage in influencing health policy priorities in the U.S. and other countries, which creates both perceived and real conflicts of interest.4 Gregg Gonsalves, an long time AIDS activist and co-founder of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition voices his concern about the power of the BMGF:
It’s not a democracy. It’s not even a constitutional monarchy. It’s about what Bill and Melinda want. We depend on them learning, and it’s not as if there are many points of influence for this.4
The BMGF is heavily intertwined with corporate America. Most of the senior staff employed at the foundation have previously worked at multinational corporations.2 4
This is particularly common with the BMGF’s health programs whereby former pharmaceutical industry executives lead the work rather than public health professionals.2 To name a few examples, Sue Desmond-Hellman, CEO of the BMGF, previously held a senior position as President of Product Development for 14 years at Genentech, a biotechnology company.2 Genentech and GlaxoSmithKline also employed the current COO of the BMGF, Leigh Morgan.2 There are several more such examples highlighted in the Global Justice Now report.

Microsoft and Tax Avoidance

Bill Gates wealth largely comes from Microsoft, the software company he founded in 1975.2 In 2008, Gates decided to stop working full-time for Microsoft in order to focus more on his foundation. Still serving on Microsoft’s Board of Directors, he spends one-third of his time working for the company and remains the single largest shareholder owning 4.5% of the company.2
Microsoft’s tax record has been the center of controversy for many years. Global Justice Now reports:
A 2012 US Senate found that the company was using offshore subsidiaries to substantially reduce its tax bills, describing Microsoft’s complex web of interrelated foreign entities to facilitate international sales and reduce U.S and foreign tax. The report noted that despite the company undertaking most of its research in the U.S and generating U.S tax credits, profit rights to the intellectual property were largely located in foreign tax havens. This meant that Microsoft was able to shift offshore nearly $21 billion (in a 3-year period), or almost half of its U.S. retail sales net revenue, saving up to $4.5 billion in taxes on goods sold in the United States, or just over $4 million in U.S. taxes each day. The $4.5 billion in taxes lost to the U.S Treasury each year is greater than the BMGF’s annual global spending. Furthermore, Microsoft’s value as a company has undoubtedly been inflated by its tax planning, meaning that more of Gates’ philanthropy has been paid for by the U.S Exchequer, thus U.S taxpayers.”2

The BMGF’s Global Vaccine Programmes

While there is considerable general concern over BMGF’s influence on U.S. public health policy, there is particular concern about the foundation’s global vaccine initiatives, which lack independent review and evaluation.2 The BMGF, via its funding to GAVI, is now one of the world’s largest funders of vaccine programs in low-income nations.2 Its vaccine initiatives have raised some serious ethical issues.2 Global Justice Now explains:
the BMGF also stands accused of assisting pharmaceutical companies to circumvent or short-cut Western regulation by sponsoring cut-rate drug trials in the developing world. It costs billions to develop new drugs, mainly in fees to conduct clinical trials required by the authorities in the US and Europe… Yet several reports in recent years raise serious questions about the impact of some of these BMGF-funded vaccine trials. Some point to significant numbers of illnesses and even deaths among those being administered vaccines.2
Conflicts of interest and lack of accountability issues appear to be inherent in the growth of public-private partnerships. Corporate philanthropic funding of scientific research, new drug and vaccine development and operation of public health programs, including mass vaccination programs, deserves far greater public scrutiny.