Mike Davis

Swine Flu: the real dangerous swine wear suits

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With deaths mounting in Mexico authorities warn of a swine flu pandemic. Mike Davis argues that governments, pharmaceutical companies and agribusiness create the conditions for these health crises

The Spring Break hordes returned from Cancun this year with an invisible but sinister souvenir. The Mexican swine flu, a genetic chimera probably conceived in the fecal mire of an industrial pigsty, suddenly threatens to give the whole world a fever. The initial outbreaks across North America reveal an infection already travelling at higher velocity than the last official pandemic strain, the 1968 Hong Kong flu.

The betrayed generation

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Our societies are supersaturated with unrecognised anger that can suddenly crystallise around a single incident of police abuse or state repression. Yet although the seeds of revolt have been so flagrantly sown bourgeois society seldom recognises its own harvest.

In Los Angeles in 1992, for example, every teenager on the streets (or, for that matter, every cop on the beat) knew that Armageddon was coming. The widening faultlines between inner-city youth and city government should have been visible to even the most naive observer: there were weekly mass arrests, innumerable police shootings of unarmed kids, indiscriminate profiling of youth of colour as gangsters, outrageous double standards of justice, and so on.

US elections - the new deal?

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The US ruling class are desperate to rescue their system from catastrophe. Mike Davis looks at what the new incumbent of the White House faces and what this means for ordinary Americans.

Let me begin, very obliquely and strangely, with the Grand Canyon and the paradox of trying to see beyond cultural or historical precedent. The first European to look into the depths of the great gorge was the conquistador García López de Cárdenas, in 1540. He was horrified by the sight and quickly retreated from the South Rim. More than three centuries passed before Lieutenant Joseph Christmas Ives of the US Army's Corps of Topographical Engineers became the second visitor. Like García López, he recorded an "awe that was almost painful to behold".

People burn here

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Fires in California hit the headlines with stories of Arnold Schwarzenegger giving hope to his super-rich friends. But the real victims weren't those who lost a wing of their mansion, writes Mike Davis.

The most heartbreaking sign in California can be found at Doghouse Junction, near the craggy summit of fire-scarred Otay Mountain, overlooking the gorge of the Tijuana River. It is a simple, chilling image of a woman desperately fleeing flames. Anyone likely to encounter the sign - that is to say, mostly border patrol agents and their furtive prey - will instantly understand its meaning: People burn here.

When the Gringos Go Down South

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These days the visitor crossing from the Mexican city of Tijuana to San Diego in California is immediately slapped in the face by a huge billboard screaming, "Stop the Border Invasion!" Sponsored by the rabidly anti-immigrant vigilante group, the Minutemen, the same truculent slogan reportedly insults the public at other border crossings in Arizona and Texas.

The Minutemen, once caricatured in the press as gun-toting clowns, are now haughty celebrities of grassroots conservatism, dominating morning hate radio programmes as well as the even more hysterical ether of the right wing blogosphere. In heartland as well as border states, Republican candidates vie desperately for their endorsement.

With the electorate alienated by the dual catastrophes of Baghdad and New Orleans, the Brown Peril has suddenly become the issue through which the Republicans hope to retain control of Congress in next month's elections.

A Clean Sweep

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"Slum clearance" often means attacks on the poor

The world's dark forces seem obsessed with urban hygiene these days. France's minister for truncheons and teargas, Nicolas Sarkozy, denounced the 'scum' (racaille) in Paris's suburban ghettoes and promised to use a big hose 'to clean them out'. While bloated bodies were still floating in the flooded streets of New Orleans' black neighbourhoods, a Republican congressman thanked god for 'finally cleaning out the housing projects'.

The Science News

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Climate change may act more suddenly than we have expected till now.

The genesis of two Category 5 hurricanes in a row (Katrina and Rita) over the Gulf of Mexico is an unprecedented and troubling occurrence. But for most tropical meteorologists the truly astonishing 'storm of the decade' took place in March 2004. Hurricane Catarina - so named because it made landfall in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina - was the first recorded South Atlantic hurricane in history.

New Orleans, Old Prejudices

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Mike Davis finds that every aspect of the response to Hurricane Katrina disaster was shaped by race and class.

The tempest which destroyed New Orleans was conjured out of tropical seas and an angry atmosphere 125 miles offshore of the Bahamas. Labelled initially as 'Tropical Depression 12' on 23 August, it quickly intensified into 'Tropical Storm Katrina'. Making landfall near Miami on 24 August, Katrina had grown into a small hurricane - 'Category 1' on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Crossing over Florida to the Gulf of Mexico where it wandered for four days, Katrina underwent a monstrous and largely unexpected transformation.

Evil Paradise: An Artist's Vision of Dubai in the Future

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Mike Davis asks if the road to the future ends at Dubai.

The narration begins: As your jet starts its descent, you are glued to your window. The scene below is astonishing - a 24 square mile archipelago of coral-coloured islands in the shape of an almost finished puzzle of the world. In the shallow green waters between continents, the sunken shapes of the Pyramids of Giza and the Roman Coliseum are clearly visible. In the distance are three other large island groups configured as palms within crescents, and planted with high-rise resorts, amusement parks and a thousand mansions built on stilts over the water.

Ecology against Capitalism: Slum Ecology

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Urban poverty and climatic hazards are a deadly cocktail for millions, as Mike Davis explains.

A villa miseria outside Buenos Aires may have the world's worst fenshui: it is built 'over a former lake, a toxic dump, and a cemetery, and in a flood zone'. But then a hazardous, health-threatening location is the geographical definition of the typical squatters' settlement: whether it is a barrio perched precariously on stilts over the excrement-clogged Pasig River in Manila, or the bustee in Vijayawada where 'residents have door numbers written on pieces of furniture because the houses, along with the doors, [are] washed away by floods every year'.

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