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Capitalism and Covid Care

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Carbon-Health California: A case study of the absurd

by Kumar David

To whet your appetite I will begin with a real life story; I can vouch for every word. Carbon Health a private health-care provider (carbonhealth.com) is paid millions of dollars from public funds to vaccinate folks in California. It is one of many for-profit clinics cashing in on public vaccination needs. The correspondence reproduced below – with adjustments to mask identities – tells it all.

 

 

QUOTES May 9, 2021

Dear Carbon Health Support Team,

My name in XYZ, I had my first vaccination on 1 Feb 2021 and my second on 24 Feb 2021 both administered by Carbon Health at 10965 Dronfield Blvd. The Health Pass issued to me on 14 April records only the second jab of 24 Feb and makes NO MENTION of the first (1 Feb). In fact it describes the second vaccine as the first! Please send me a corrected Health Pass that includes notification of both vaccinations. A scan of the white vaccination record card is attached for your inspection.

 

The subsequent replies from Carbon Health are as follows

 

Sun 9 May; response from Carbon Health

##- Please type your “complaint” above this line -##. Note by XYZ: “Done but ignored”.

 

Mon, 10 May, 19:22. After XYZ complained again the following reply was received.

##- Please type your reply above this line -##. Note by XYZ: “Done again but ignored again”.

 

Thu, 13 May, 18:28. Repetition of the same story.

 

END QUOTES

Finally XYZ received the following strange reply, a month after the initial complaint.

 

QUOTE

Melody E. (Carbon Health Support), 7 June 2021

 

Hello XYZ,

I apologize for the delayed response. Currently, we are not yet able to pull this data into the Health Pass, but we are actively working on a solution. You are more than welcome to keep a photo of your vaccination card in our system in case you misplace your physical card. For now, you will need to save your vaccination card received at the site you went to as your proof of record. I also want to let you know that we have submitted a ticket for you with engineering and our engineers are working diligently to resolve these errors as quickly as possible but we still do not have a time frame on when that will happen. Thank you again for your continued patience in these trying times.

Melody Eisenhauer

Central Support. Carbonhealth.com

END QUOTE

XYZ then complained to the California Department of Health and received the following response.

QUOTE

“Dear XYZ,

Unfortunately, we do not have an answer available at this time. However, there are a few resources where you may be able to find more information. If you’re interested in general COVID-19 information, you can also visit the California Coronavirus Response website. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns and bringing this to our attention. I can understand why you would be frustrated. The pandemic is creating challenges for all of us. Emails like yours help us to become aware of what is happening in our communities. We are aggregating information such as this and are sharing with leadership to ensure that your voice is heard. The pandemic has brought with it many challenges and disruptions to “normal life.” Rest assured we are working hard during this rapidly changing environment to bring you the most up to date information available. We stand with you in these difficult times and will continue to be a resource for all questions related to COVID-19 Vaccination. Thank you for contacting the California Department of Public Health to share your questions and concerns. DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE. Date: Tue, 8 Jun 2021 23:16:45 +0000.

END QUOTE.

The logistics of Carbon Health and other private providers has gone belly-up; there are numerous complaints. It is unsurprising that over 30% of Americans say they don’t want to be vaccinated for reasons that include lack of confidence in the delivery systems. The point is that vaccinators like Carbon Health are raking in millions of dollars of public funds but making a cock-up. There is a backlash against involvement of for-profit companies and clinics in covid-care programmes but the need is so great that their utilisation is unavoidable in the American system. Public anger on several aspects of vaccine production and distribution has grown but the Biden Administration’s strenuous effort is undermined by slip-shod delivery, vaccination logistics and medical record keeping.

One important new campaign is an initiative demanding that the system of private patents be ended. The ‘End the Private Patent System Manifesto’ calls for a pharmaceutical industry under popular control and free, universal and public vaccination. Among the supporters are Noam Chomsky, Nancy Fraser, Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, trade union and community leaders and parliamentarians from 15 countries. More than 250 organisations and 350 well known persons are signatories to a petition. The unusually hard-hitting statement reads:

“Thanks to huge scientific efforts, international collaboration and historic amounts of public money, humanity has been able to develop several effective vaccines against Covid-19 in less than a year. However, this achievement could be overshadowed by the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. The exceptional measures demanded from the population must also apply to the pharmaceutical industry. The suspension of Covid-19 vaccine patents is a priority. Philanthropy and public-private initiatives are not the answer. The capitalist system and neoliberalism have been at the helm at all stages.

“At root is the transformation of the relationship between humans and nature – the ecological and health crises are intertwined. Predatory neoliberalism has exacerbated the crises. To ensure universal accessibility, it is necessary and urgent to suspend patents, nationalise pharmaceutical industries and raise investment in public pharmaceutical industries. We must choose: capital or life. We must act to create a global universal guarantee of high quality health care. Our demand is carried in our poster “#FREECOVIDPATENTS shown here”.

 

Naught for your comfort

The highly contagious Delta Variant, the Grim Reaper, is on the prowl in the U.S. This variant, dominant in the U.K. and first detected in India now accounts for over 6% of infections in the U.S. according to the Centre for Disease Control. The highly transmissible variant accounts for about 20% of cases in some Western U.S. States.

Here’s how the Delta variant is affecting the world (information extracted from several sources). The UK is considering a delay of up to four weeks from the scheduled June 21 end to all lockdown. Public Health England found that infections from the variant rose by nearly 30,000 in a week. WHO-Europe warned that it is “poised to take hold in the region”. France is racing to contain scattered cases. Zimbabwe HAS announced a two-week lockdown for some districts after detecting 40 cases in three days. A high health official here said that the variant has been found in the island – Chandima Jayawardena, director of Immunology at Sri Jayewardenepura U said that variant was detected in one person in a quarantine facility.

Guangzhou, China has reported over 100 cases of the Delta variant. The All India Institute of Medical Science alarmingly reported that the variant is “predominantly found even after getting a single dose or both doses of the vaccine and is 100 per cent more transmissible than the previous alpha variant”. The situation in Lanka is murky and statistics and news stories inspire little confidence in the authorities. A top Lankan scientist Chandre Dharmawardena in Canada laments: “In this Covid scenario why don’t they give leadership to Tissa Vitarana, the only qualified biochemist-virologist in parliament?” So many inexplicable happenings! It’s as if the regime is hell bent on hara-kiri.

Two months ago I took the initiate and pronounced that the tide had turned against the Gotabaya regime and that presidential cabal and government were in disorderly retreat. Two weeks ago I asserted more confidently that people were fed up with the President (Gotabaya Fatigue I think I called it). The slide since has been faster than anticipated. There is hardly one pro-government Editor in the media, Ministers fight in public like dogs at a garbage dump, SLPP Secretary and Energy Minister brawl while packs of mongrel MPs line behind each imposter. A third bunch of wretches declares “If Basil were here this cock-up would have been averted” – the implication is that Gota has screwed up everything.

I now feel bold to make a third prediction about this mad hatters’ tea-party. Public anger will spill, defiance of regime misconduct will intensify and as the economy worsens – unavoidable – mass demonstrations are but months away. Will Gota shoot? Well, shooting Sinhala Buddhists is not as simple as shooting Demalas! And neither the Lankan population, nor India, nor America will let the (Raja) Paksas impose a military coup. Nor will China ride in on a saffron dragon to rescue drowning Paksas – what for? The real sting however is elsewhere; sooner the pandemic dissipates sooner people will mobilise in numbers; longer it persists, fairly or unfairly Gota and his henchmen will be blamed.



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Features

The battle against KNDU: Renewing our contract with the people

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By Sivamohan Sumathy

The KNDU Bill is designed to single-handedly change the face of education in Sri Lanka. Since the ‘90s, successive governments have tried to roll back the gains of the Free Education Poliicy of 1945. The history of free education is not linear, nor is it without contradictions. It is implicated in the hierarchies of class, ethnicity, gender and the multiple vectors of violence of state and civil society. Despite and because of these very contradictions Free Education has come to represent and symbolise the often contradictory but powerful assemblage of social aspirations and social desires of the general body of citizenry, particularly the vast majority situated on the margins or near margins of society. Free education does not serve everybody equally, but over the years and across decades, it has come to represent the hope of a vast majority for a better place in society. For a populace that is increasingly disempowered, it opens up opportunities toward social mobility, limited as they are; and as or more importantly, becomes the ideological and political weapon of the vast majority in the struggle for justice, social justice and bid for a democratic pact with the state.

Privatisation, Corporatisation, Militarisation

The State university system is an integral part of the state apparatus. Successive governments, have attempted and, to some degree, succeeded in undermining its integrity from within, creating parallel systems of higher education that would be on par with it. Privatisation of higher education follows a two pronged plan; the creation of fee levying centres and bodies of education and the degradation of state universities through under funding and sub-standardization. The fortnightly Kuppi Talk column in The Island has consistently foregrounded the pressures exerted upon the state university compelling it to carry out multiple reforms that compromise on standards and force it to privatise itself. From the ‘90s onwards (if not before), spending on university education has steadily deteriorated and in the post war years spending on education has stayed under 2% of the GDP (Niyanthini Kadirgamar, “Funding Fallacies,” https://island.lk/funding-fallacies-in-education/). The Humanities and Social Sciences are the most affected as highlighted in the various contributions of the Kuppi Talk column. It is no accident that the most recent move toward privatisation from within and without takes place by fiat and through militarisation. Much has been written about the principles of militarised authority that the KNDU bill enshrines. I do not have to reinvent the wheel here, but want to note that by rolling back the gains of free education and its potential to empower people, the KNDU bill points toward a future of repressive technocratic governance and repressive exclusions of those who most desire education as the path to mobility.

While the ‘80s and ‘90s saw a few stuttering steps toward privatisation of education, at the turn of the new millennium one is witness to the onset of an aggressive campaign toward the the dismantling of the long cherished free education apparatus as we know it. I trace this historical trajectory in “SAITM: Continuities and Discontinuities” looking at the different impetuses behind the establishment of NCMC and SAITM, the ideological similarities notwithstanding (http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=161915

Certain forms of privatised tertiary education have existed for a long time and have expanded in recent years, but to this day, the establishment of a fully-fledged private university has run into problems. Popular will stood in its way. But it is also a fact that the country simply does not have the infrastructural, intellectual and investment-capacity for a viable private university to take off. Private sector in fact is weak in Sri Lanka. In the post war years, the then Mahinda Rajapaksa Government, with S. B. Dissanayake as Minister of Higher Education spear headed a move to formalise private universities through an umbrella organization that would act as an accreditation council, bringing private and state universities on par and under the same purview and placing this purview within the ambit of corporate interests. In their eyes, Sri Lanka is to become an education hub, attracting foreign investment (“Education and its discontents,” ). The Yahapalana government is no better and blindly follows through on the privatisation plans of the previous regime with its Private Public Partnership policies, SAITM, and the degrading of Arts Education to some vague notion of soft skills development. The KNDU Bill was gazetted in April 2018 and was opposed by the academic communities and members of civil society. As with most corruption ridden neo liberal moves that render all aspects of life commodified, in this instance too, the state becomes an investor in privatised education. We hear that Bank of Ceylon and NSB have been ordered to pledge 36.54 billion rupees to KDU. (https://www.sundaytimes.lk/210725/business-times/kotelawala-uni-gets-over-rs-36-bn-from-boc-nsb-449828.html) If the rationale for privatising education is to ease the burden on the state, why does the state continue to subsidize these institutions? The logic boggles the mind.

The Democracy Call

From 2011-2012 the Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) launched the greatest challenge that the teachers had ever made to an incumbent government and in the post war era brought together diverse disgruntled forces under its slogan of Save State Education and the 6% GDP campaign. It brought together different groups and a wide range of actors together to formulate a response to the neo liberal forces that were riding rough shod over the needs of an anxious working and professional class. Its call for action was framed by the call to save democracy. However, in the Yahapalana years and after, the struggle for education lost its momentum. FUTA itself was riven from within, preoccupied by its members’ narrower preoccupations, diverse aspirations, and loyalties. Other disparate groups took up the mantle to fight against privatisation, some of which may not have developed in desirable directions.

Today, the bill threatens to become a dangerous reality. It is not just Universities that are threatened by the KNDU. School teachers led by their unions have jumped into the fray. Beaten by the crippling conditions of COVID 19, teachers and students are facing the dire consequences of years of underfunding in education. FUTA is joining the protest as a key player, a mighty powerful player, but not as the only player. As Shamala Kumar eloquently put it at a press conference called against the KNDU bill on 24 July, 2021, the struggle against the authoritarian bill is a struggle against the PTA, a struggle for working people’s rights, guaranteeing safety of working conditions in the informal sector, particularly women, and a struggle for democracy within the university, including raising one’s voice against ragging. University teachers, rallying forces under FUTA, are once again on the cusp of a decisive moment of the history of education in the country. Let’s defeat the KNDU bill together!

 

Sivamohan Sumathy is attached to the Department of English at the Univ. of Peradeniya

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Condolences, warnings and admonition never to forget

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Two great Sri Lankans have died and we as a country are much the poorer, and mourn their deaths. Manouri de Silva Muttetuwegama has vacated her long held position as a wise, consistent, fearless combatant for women and particularly those underprivileged, discriminated against, and helpless against forces of war and ethnicity that caused them suffering. Another noteworthy trait of the woman and characteristic of her work-ethic was quiet efficiency in going about her remedying, healing work with no fanfare and never seeking of publicity and praise. She was a lovely friendly person, always with a sincere smile lighting her face. Manouri served the country well and her daughter carries the torch.

Business magnate and media moghul R Rajamahendran, who used his money, influence and power to help the country is mourned, more so as he could have served his company Capital Maharaja Organisation and Sri Lankan media longer. The appreciation of him by Rex Clementine in The Island, Monday July 26, detailed the great good he did for Sri Lankan cricket. Teaming up with Gamini Dissanayake he literally fought for test status for our country, amply justified by teams of yore, one of which won the World Cup and another nearly did.

(Note: Cass uses the verb ‘died’ and the noun ‘death’ in preference to the softer, gentler ‘passing’, ‘passing away’ et al as she prefers the more real though stark word to euphemisms. Death is death.)

 

Never forget crimes committed

This is the thought that came to mind when coincidentally Cassandra, on 22 July watched the movie 22 July, almost a documentary on the 32 year old Anders Behring Breivik, who parked his bomb-laden van outside the PM’s office in Oslo; it killed eight people and caused utter damage, and then crossed to a summer camp on an island where he shot, point blank, the manager who welcomed him as a police officer but then wanted to see his ID, and a woman in authority. He embarked on a killing spree, which left 69 Youth League workers dead and many more injured. When the police arrived he tamely surrendered. At his trial he said he wanted to save Norway and Europe itself from multiculturalism, particularly naming Muslims, and that the killing of innocents was a wakeup call. His defence attorney attempted pleading schizophrenia but on hearing the awfully heartrending testimony of some of the young campers who escaped death but were injured grievously, he was found guilty on all counts and jailed in solitary confinement for more than two decades.

We, most fortunately have had no single mass murderer like Breivik and American school killers but murder most foul continues and may surface any time.

Cass’ thought was never forget terrible crimes committed on persons who were innocent or who were doing their duty. Yes, we as a nation must never forget these grievous crimes. The death of Richard de Zoysa stands out stark, but the police person who took him away from his home and his mother ‘for questioning’, tortured and killed him and dropped him far out at sea died gruesomely along with Prez Premadasa on May 1. Richard’s body washed ashore though weighted and dropped far out at sea. The person who probably ordered his demise too was killed by the same LTTE bomb. Thus, they paid for their heinous crime.

Others who murdered or ordered murders seem to live on powerfully and mightily. The gruesome murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge is kept alive by his daughter, but to no avail. Never to be forgotten or forgiven is the killing of the young, harmless ruggerite whose only ‘crime’ was cocking a snook at those who thought they were superior. What the telling vine conveyed was that the rugger captaincy almost going to him had him tortured and killed. Again a coincidence or overconfidence brought to light the crime: Thajudeen’s body was placed next to the driving seat and his car pushed against a wall to fake an accident. It was all covered up. But people remember this murder, though no one shouts for justice for Thajudeen’s grieving parents.

When you question how come murderers and torturers seem to thrive, the answer is karma, Cass supposes. Maybe, the perpetrators suffer in the midst of utter luxury and in power. Maybe, even slightly, they are overcome with shivers of fright, but never remorse, we surmise.

Unanimously, we are all triumphant that the 15 year old Tamil girl’s death by immolation after prolonged rape in an ex-Minister’s home is being investigated. We hope it will move to correct, just conclusion.

 

Notes on news items

Highly commended is the article ‘Whither the Sangha and Buddha Sasana?’ by S M Sumanadasa in The Island of July 26. If you have not read it, and are a Buddhist, please retrieve the article and read it. It is spot on though gently written, very timely with so many protests going on, most headed by yellow robes. He starts by saying “As a keen observer …, I feel confident and justified in what I say…” Perfectly justified and every point made is valid. The majority of our Sangha strictly follow the 200 odd vinaya rules and render invaluable service to Buddhist lay people, to Buddhism, and the country, but the yellow robed bad eggs are truly rotten. The Sangha may only advise leaders and from a back seat. Sumanadasa queries why the Buddha Sasana Ministry and the Nayaka Theros do not stem the growing tide of indiscipline and reprehensible behaviour of men in Sangha robes. We ask the same. He states a truth that the death of Buddhism in Sri Lanka is really caused by the Buddhists themselves and some members of the Sangha.

An agreeing opinion by Piyasena Athukorale is in The Island, Wednesday July 29.

Proposed Plantation University and its economic benefits by Dr L M K Tillekeratne appears in the same newspaper. Cassandra retorts: Oh goodness! Enough universities! What benefit when sane advice by university dons and experts in agriculture and related subjects have been completely ignored by the President, the PM, the Cabinet and others in power. They have still not rescinded or withdrawn the overnight ban on import and use of inorganic fertilisers. When famine stares us in the face after the demise of the farmer (the country’s so called backbone) through suicide or utter disgusted exasperation and loss of livelihood, we Ordinaries will have to suffer hunger pangs and malnourishment while those who ordered the very ill-advised and too sudden ban, will live on happily. Maybe, exotic food from around the world will be helicoptered to them!

Professor Channa Jayasumana, I was told, has said that the long awaited and longed for Astra Zeneca vaccine was delayed in transport to our land by the Olympic Games. Cass really did not know that these Games blocked air routes or interfered with air travel. Maybe, the Prof meant that the vaccine gifted (we seem never able to buy this absolute requisite) by Japan was stymied by the Games in Tokyo. He should know as he is a professor.

Why Cass mentioned this tale is because thanks to Professor Jayasumana, she increased her life span by ten years, rolling around choking with laughter (bitter though) at the explanation of why the A-Z Vaccine is so delayed.

 

Enough is absolutely enough

Please, whoever the authority is, stop that telephone message that comes in the three languages exhorting us to act with care during this period. I have forgotten the terms used in

Sinhala and English as I don’t listen when the message comes through, but they are synonyms of urgencies, calamities, crises; which last short spells of time, not months and months as the telephone message has been. This is parallel to the Sri Lankan habit of hanging bunting, posting posters but never bothering to remove them.

It is better the government just calls up protesters for meetings (even though it intends doing nothing) so that spreader of the C19 will cease or at least decrease. We stay home – telephoners – so why have we to suffer a double whammy – eternal message and risk contracting C19. We completely disapprove of teachers protesting en masse all over the country for salary hikes. Not done, not done at all during a country’s economic crisis.

Will we ever learn to put the country’s good and people’s wellbeing before our acts of self-seeking and selfishness?

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Organic fertiliser

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Doing the right thing the wrong way

By Jayasri Priyalal

Nurturing nature is the right thing to do when mother nature is struggling to adjust to the manufactured damages taking their toll and challenging the mutual cohabitation of all living beings on earth. Feeding seven billion people with depleted natural resources and a degraded environment is a mammoth task for humanity. During the past ten millennia, homo sapiens have evolved to adjust and move ahead with their advanced cognitive abilities. However, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, there is ample evidence and warning signs to suggest that human beings have crossed the line in harming nature. Maintaining balanced biodiversity is advised by experts to mitigate natural disasters triggered by climate change.

Research in 2020 by the World Economic Forum found that $44 trillion of economic value generation – more than half of the world’s total GDP – was moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services and is therefore exposed to ‘nature loss’, including tropical forests.

This article was prompted by the presentation delivered by Senior Professor Buddhi Marambe, Department of the Crop Science, University of Peradeniya, yesterday (24 July 2021). My special thanks go to the Peradeniya Engineering Faculty Alumni Association [PEFAA] for organising the timely event.

The learned Professor presented his arguments with facts and figures from authentic sources and clarified many myths about synthetic fertiliser and pesticides use in Sri Lanka. All Sri Lankans are truly indebted to all these professionals dedicated to improving our agricultural productivity in a scientifically sound manner, causing minimum impact on biodiversity. Sri Lanka’s ranking in the use of synthetic fertiliser and pesticides, and emergence above our competitors in the region on maintaining food security was an alarming highlight of the lecture.

The discussion heightened the public awareness of the proposed move by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to ban the import of synthetic fertiliser and agrochemicals and switch to organic fertiliser. Professor Marambe dealt with points and forewarned the dangers of these short sighted policy directives that appear to have been formulated without sufficient consultations with experts dealing with agriculture, instead relying on ill-advised opinion makers, based on assumptions instead of scientific facts.

Recent developments in the country, mainly various draft bills, attempting to militarise higher education, attempting to dispose of the country’s iconic properties to attract investment, indicate the quality of advisors to the President. Those who teamed up with him as Viyath Maga experts appear to have misled President Rajapaksa.

At the webinar, Prof. Marambe revealed that he and other agricultural experts had been appealing for an audience with the President to explain the dangers of this policy directive, which entails long-term adverse repercussions to an agricultural economy. President Rajapaksa has come out with strong convictions on the benefits of using organic fertiliser and sadly lacks scientific evidence to back the perceived benefits and advantages of the proposed policy directive.

I am making a humble appeal to President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and his team of advisors to seek expertise from the experts and decide on the policy directives instead of counting on assumptions.

Fareed Zakaria devotes a chapter on why people should listen to experts and experts should listen to people, in his book ‘Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World’. He refers to President Donald Trump being questioned about experts he consults, during the 2016 Republican nomination campaign. Trump responded, “I am speaking with myself, number one because I have an excellent brain; my primary consultant is myself.” His idea to inject a cleaning solution to treat COVID-19 patients could have surfaced through this process of self-consultation. Trump ridiculed the experts in 2016 thus: “Look at the mess we’re in with all these experts that we have.” The rest is history; the mess he created during his tenure as the US President. These are useful lessons for many other political leaders.

 

 

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