Anti-war abuse towards airmen? Or is it “yobs”?

This whole storm in a tea-cup is yet another propaganda excercise, although a more sophisticated one that the Prince Harry vs. Terry Taliban affair. (Perhaps they’re warming us up for war with Iran? Or is it just fears that there is no public eagerness for forty years of war?)

As David Lindsay points out, it is an insult to send men and women to fight in the Middle East and pretend that they are defending their homeland. Sadly, they are being sent to fight in rich men’s wars…

The Morning Star‘s editorial reveals that “yobs”, not peace activists, were responsible for the verbal abuse directed at RAF personnel in Peterborough.

Because, let’s face it, few would be so foolish as to verbally abuse members of the armed forces – who have less control over their superior officers than ordinary citizens have over the political elite, as the recent denial by Parliament of a referendum on the EU treaty demonstrates.

Patriot games
(Friday 07 March 2008)

IF patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown must be one step away from growing a pencil moustache and donning a smoking jacket.

Since he came to power, he has fallen over himself to shove his flag-waving patriotic credentials in our collective face.

With his obnoxious pronouncements about “British jobs for British workers”, his knee-jerk defence of the Proms against mild criticisms made by one of his own ministers and Friday’s demand that all Britons voice their “gratitude” for the sterling work carried out in foreign climes by our brave servicemen, you could almost believe that he’s the reincarnation of Winston Churchill.

“I encourage the local police to back up our armed forces so that not only can our armed forces wear their uniforms in public but they should have the gratitude of the British public for the work they do,” he thundered at a Downing Street press conference.

Brown was responding to reports that disgruntled members of the public in Peterborough had been giving uniformed personnel from the nearby RAF Wittering base a hard time over their supposed involvement in the Afghan and Iraq wars.

One RAF source declared that the abuse had come from “yobs,” although, if this is the case, they are unusually articulate yobs.

One unnamed Peterborough resident told reporters that, “if the armed forces really did ‘a great deal for this nation,’ they would be respected more in public.

“Working as the instrument of a lying government and doing its filthy, oil-inspired murderous deeds for it is hardly worthy of pride.”

This doesn’t sound like the beer talking. It sounds like a considered critique of the armed forces’ role in carrying out the imperialist dreams of Mr Brown and George Bush and is entirely understandable.

However, while stopping short of sharing Peterborough Tory MP Stewart Jackson’s claim that, “if an airman in uniform was to walk through the streets of Peterborough today, I think people would stop and clap and cheer,” the Morning Star does not endorse individual incidents of abuse.

The Stop the War Coalition has rightly pointed out that “anger should be directed at politicians and the government who took us into these disastrous wars” and has also made the point that many service personnel are strongly opposed to the wars – which put them at far more risk than Mr Brown – but are prevented from speaking out by military discipline.

Those that leave the services to avoid this will not escape however.

Former SAS soldier Ben Griffin, who put his career on the line to reveal Britain’s complicity in rendition and torture, has been slapped with a Ministry of Defence gagging order, which was extended on Friday until April.

His offence was to call for Mr Brown, Tony Blair and other senior ministers to face charges of violating international law.

Mr Griffin is right and so is Stop the War. The best way to voice public disgust at what has been done in our name is not to call individual airmen names, but to mobilise en masse on March 15 and let this warmongering government know that it will be held to account for its crimes.

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The Greatest Gaviscon Rip-off

This was no great shock, I have to say. Never mind Northern Rock, the pharmaceutical companies ought to be nationalised…

Gaviscon maker ‘cheated the NHS’

By Meirion Jones
BBC Newsnight producer

An NHS sign

Reckitt Benckiser’s actions are said to have cost the NHS millions

The makers of Gaviscon maintained an effective monopoly on the market for years after the stomach medicine came off patent, Newsnight has been told.

Internal documents show Reckitt Benckiser executives schemed to create obstacles to block rival manufacturers from selling cheap generic copies.

A former senior executive said Reckitt had “cheated the NHS” and could have saved it “millions of pounds”.

Reckitt said it was a responsible firm which behaved honestly and ethically.

Newsnight was told Reckitt sold Gaviscon to the NHS for three times the cost of generic drugs.

Executives also boasted that they had influenced regulatory bodies to delay the introduction of a generic name for Gaviscon.

We are shocked by the allegations made as Reckitt Benckiser is a responsible company
Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare UK

The generic name should have been published in 2000 but Reckitt objected.

The same happened again in 2003 and Reckitt made further objections in 2005 and 2006.

In each case it cited health and patient safety as the reason for its objections but the secret internal documents tell a different story.

One Reckitt executive wrote: “Should we not drag it out as long as possible… nine million pounds of business is at stake”.

Others wrote of their intention to create “a further barrier to competitors” and “restrict entry for new competitors” by abusing the regulatory process.

Should we not drag it out as long as possible… nine million pounds of business is at stake
E-mail by Reckitt executive

John Schmidt, a competition lawyer from Shepherd and Wedderburn, has examined some of the e-mails and business plans which were supposed to be shredded.

He told Newsnight they raised the question of whether Reckitt had been in breach of competition law.

He said there were “smoking guns in the e-mails so I would be very surprised if the Office of Fair Trading wasn’t interested”.

While the delaying tactics continued, Reckitt persuaded doctors to switch patients to a form of Gaviscon which was still under patent.

The techniques they used to do this were sometimes questionable.

The pharmaceutical companies’ own trade body – the ABPI – found that Reckitt had misled doctors and behaved unethically in its dealings with some GPs in Glasgow.

Patient care

Reckitt says this was an unfortunate one-off incident.

Nine years after its patent elapsed, Gaviscon still has 88% of the market for alginic acid compounds in the National Health Service and there is still no generic name.

Generic copies of Gaviscon could have saved around £40m from the drugs budget since 1999.

Parliament’s health select committee is expected to investigate the Gaviscon case.

Committee member and former doctor Richard Taylor MP said: “I have regular letters from people with cancer and other serious problems who cannot get the drugs and that’s where we should be spending the money, rather than giving companies huge profits on drugs that aren’t really an advance.”

Reckitt Benckiser told Newsnight it was a responsible company which behaved honestly and ethically at all times and that, from the outset, patient care and safety has driven all its actions.

It said it had never objected to a generic name being published, “the timetable of which is not within our control”.

However, it also expressed concern at what it called “the inappropriate sentiment” in some of the internal correspondence of 2003 and would be taking action.