August 12, 2011 : NEWS IN BRIEF - WATCHING

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- Olympic village sold to property developers

- Pfizer pays out to families of children who died during drug trial

- New business opportunities in the immigration biometrics market

- UK Pension funds complicit in Israeli apartheid

- Veolia forced to pull out of scores of countries as BDS pressure continues

- Oxford University receives money from Israeli Trust

- Sellafield Mox nuclear fuel plant closed

Olympic village sold to property developers

East London's 'Olympic Village' has been sold for £557 million to a joint venture between retail developer Delancey and Qatari Diar, the property development arm of Qatar's sovereign wealth fund. The deal, hailed by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt as "fantastic", is still £175 million short of the £832 million of public money spent on developing the site. It follows an announcement in 2009 that housing association Triathlon Homes will invest £268 million in buying 1,379 houses.

After the 2012 Games, the 'village' will be converted into a luxury residential neighbourhood. Delancey and Qatari Diar will buy 1,439 houses from the Olympic Delivery Authority and turn them into expensive private housing, in addition to six adjacent development plots with the potential for a further 2,000 houses. The properties will be rented rather than sold, creating the first privately-held fund of more than 1,000 homes in the UK. The village will include an academy, clinics, shops and bars. Celebrating this latest gentrification project, Hunt said: "The village will be the centrepiece of a new, vibrant East London community."

Pfizer pays out to families of children who died during drug trial

Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceuticals company, has made the first payments to the parents of the children who died during a highly controversial meningitis drug trial in Nigeria in 1996.

During a meningitis epidemic in the northern state of Kato, a hundred children were given an experimental oral antibiotic called Trovan, while a further hundred received ceftriaxone, used for comparison in the clinical trial. Five children died on Trovan and six on ceftriaxone. It was later alleged that Pfizer did not have proper consent from parents to use an experimental drug on their children and that the company had prescribed low doses of ceftrixone to make the results for Trovan look better.

The payments are from a $35 million fund created in a settlement between Pfizer and Nigeria's northern Kano State. In 2009, Pfizer agreed to pay a record $2.3 billion to resolve civil and criminal liability for fraudulent marketing of four of its drugs, Bextra, Geodon, Zyvox, and Lyrica.


New business opportunities in the immigration biometrics market

As part of its Employers' Checking Service (ECS), which is used by employers to check the validity of migrant workers' documents, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has invited tenders to bid for £40m-worth of “additional biometric technology.”

The notice of tender, published in the latest Official Journal of the European Union, says the agency may also require “future services enabling remote checks,” which may include biometric chip-reading technology for download and biometric chip-reading hardware. The chosen supplier would provide a web-based interface for data-gathering, data-staging and transfer of data to and from the immigration authorities, as well as managing information and payments from customers. According to the Home Office, the services will also be made available for use by other government departments and agencies.

Link: Home Office press release

Related: New biometric cards for foreign nationals - October 2008


UK pension funds complicit in Israeli apartheid

North Yorkshire Pension Fund

The North Yorkshire Pension fund is invested in by dozens of UK employers. They include local councils, universities and charities. A full list of employers investing in the fund can be found www.nypf.org.uk/NYPF_Links_SchemeEmployers.htm">here. In addition, a list of companies which the fund invests in that are complicit in Israeli apartheid, militarism and occupation, and companies who operate in Israel, sell Israeli goods or invest in any of the above, can be found http://corporateoccupation.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/uk-pension-funds-com.... This is not a divestment list, simply a guide for campaigners hoping to put pressure on the fund.

The Universities Superannuation Scheme

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is a pension fund in the United Kingdom. Its members include staff in United Kingdom universities, mainly those that were universities prior to 1992 (staff in the post-1992 universities are mostly members of the Teachers Pension Scheme.) USS claims to be “the second largest pension scheme in the UK by fund size”. A list of companies involved in the scheme can be found http://corporateoccupation.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/1230”>here on the Corporate Watch Corporate Occupation blog.


Veolia forced to pull out of scores of countries as BDS pressure continues

Veolia, the world's biggest listed water utility company, has announced that it will pull out of half of the 77 countries it operates in due to financial difficulties.

Veolia is the subject of a mushrooming campaign by the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement due to its operations in Israel and in occupied Palestine (see still doing israels dirty work veolias tovlan landfill in the jordan valley). Campaigns by grassroots groups have cost the company billions of dollars through exclusion from public tenders.

At the beginning of August 2011 it was announced that Ealing Council in London had failed to select Veolia for a comprehensive tender for its domestic refuse, street cleaning and parks maintenance contract. The contract is worth approx £300m in total over 15 years and one of Ealing Council’s largest single contracts.

Source

Oxford University receives money from Israeli Trust

Campaigners for an academic/institutional boycott of Israel may be interested to know that Oxford University receives sponsorship from a philanthropic organisation close to the Israeli state.

One course at Oxford, 'Tradition and its Discontents; Ruptures in the Abrahamic Religions', is sponsored by Yad Hanadiv, which acts in Israel on behalf of a number of Rothschild family philanthropic trusts. Projects of Yad Hanadiiv have included the building of the Israeli Knesset and the Israeli Supreme Court.

Palestinian academics and intellectuals have called upon the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel's occupation, colonization and system of apartheid (read more here)

Sellafield Mox nuclear fuel plant closed

On 3rd August, the Sellafield Mox (mixed-oxide) nuclear fuel plant was closed just nine years after it opened, with the loss of 600 jobs. The main customers of the mixed-oxide fuel from the plant was the Japanese nuclear industry, including companies like Chubu and Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Company). Due to the Fukushima incident in Japan in March, there are no longer sufficient customers or funding for the plant to continue, since the market for processed fuels to be used in nuclear reactors has proven to be much smaller than expected. It will take several months for the plant to fully close and those who have lost their jobs may be re-employed in other parts of the Sellafield complex. The plant was commissioned in the early 1990s and has cost £1.4bn so far.

However, the closure of Sellafield Mox does not mean other plants, such as Thorp, will be closed or that new plants will not be built, they would just use different fuel. The government is still encouraging companies like French EDF and German RWE to build new reactors in the UK, which would not use Mox or plutonium. At the same time, the government cannot admit that Mox is not viable, because then the hundreds of millions of pounds worth of plutonium stored here (the biggest stockpile in the world at 113 tons) would have to be acknowledged as a massive financial liability. The day after the plant was closed, local politicians and trade unions in Cumbria started putting pressure on the government to build a new plant that would convert the waste plutonium into fuel that can be burned in a new generation of nuclear reactors in Britian. However, it may well be cheaper to use the existing Sellafield Mox plant to make low-spec Mox for safer, long-term storage of plutonium than building an entirely new plant.

Links:

Guardian article

Independent article