Afro-Leo is pleased to bring you a guest post by Isaac Rutenberg, PhD, Patent Agent at Bozicevic, Field & Francis LLP in San Francisco, CA, USA. If you would like to contact Isaac directly, he can be reached at email@example.com.
Is intellectual property always harmful to poor people? Plumpy’nut has been cited as an example that supports the case against allowing patent rights in matters of humanitarian aid. On the contrary, Plumpy’nut is a shining example of how proper use of intellectual property protections could have significantly enhanced international aid and development work.
A recent article in the NYTimes describes the row that has developed over Plumpy'nut. In short, Plumpy'nut is a revolutionary peanut-based product with the potential to end or significantly reduce severe acute child malnutrition. Developed by Dr. Andre Briend, a "crusading pediatrician" who became tired of traditional (frequently unsuccessful) solutions to acute malnutrition, Plumpy'nut is a simple product that is remarkably effective and practical.
So why the row? Turns out that the Plumpy'nut formulation has been patented in 38 countries, including the US, France, and much of Africa. The owner of the patent, the French company Nutriset, appears to be bent on commercializing not just the miracle product but the entire process of combating acute malnutrition. Nutriset and Nutriset's collaborators (including a US for-profit company manufacturing Plumpy'nut in New Jersey for distribution to USAID) have defended their approach and their product, taking steps to prevent others from producing similar products. Criticism of Nutriset has been unsurprisingly harsh: non-profits worldwide say that Nutriset is trying to profit on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable children. Inevitably, there is the claim that intellectual property is to blame for this disaster.
I say, not so fast. The NYTimes article says that Nutriset obtained the patent rights because Dr. Briend "signed a consulting agreement" with Nutriset after developing Plumpy'nut, since he "never knew anything about manufacturing food." This is somewhat vague, but according to a United States Patent and Trademark Office database, Dr. Briend and a co-inventor assigned (i.e., sold) the patent to Nutriset. This left Nutriset entirely in charge of the patent – Dr. Briend has no say in how it is used.
Why didn't he open source copyright the formulation?
You should read the New York Times article. Just be prepared to RAGE. The Peanut Solution
Among the hundreds of thousands of secret US State Department cables recently released by WikiLeaks, the controversial whistleblower website, a cache reveals US diplomats defending the interests of big pharmaceutical companies, even at the risk of the hosting nation’s own public health priorities. The memos dutifully detail the many embassy meetings with local Big Pharma reps, during which US officials are presented with laundry lists of issues to raise with one or another local government ministry. Invariably the goal of the exercise is for pharma to pressure the US to pressure the host country to give favorable treatment to expensive brand name drugs, typically by preventing in-country manufacturing or marketing of far cheaper generic versions.
Separate cables show such industry profiteering tactics threatening to taint US diplomatic relations in emerging nations such as Hong Kong, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Turkey, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and India. Overall, a familiar picture emerges of a diplomatic corps if not held hostage by, at least a captive audience to, the financial interests of the biggest American pharma companies as they come into covert conflict with developing nations that quite naturally prioritize the health care of their people over the high margins that Big Pharma has come to expect. With several hundred drugs and vaccines in development to treat addiction, the scourge of hundreds of millions worldwide, the affordability and accessibility of these innovative (and, no doubt, expensive) medicines will become a pitched battle in global public health over the next decade. The outcome of the skirmishes sketched in the WikiLeaks cables will help decide whether profits or people prove victorious.
The cables by no means paint a uniform portrait of government lackeys doing industry's bidding. Many memos betray a between-the-lines irritation at pharma's monomaniacal self-interest. Still, there is a disturbing silence on the obvious moral or ethical objections to industry demands for high price, long patents, and other protections despite the cost in human lives. Only a single cable—from the outgoing US ambassador to Poland in 2009—lays bare the vast greed that drives these complex, highly technical negotiations.
The developing nations, contrary to what you might expect, in many ways hold the best cards in this political game. Emerging nations have the fastest-growing economies, the most upwardly mobile middle classes, and the biggest untapped markets in the world. And in their impressive pushback against Big Pharma, India has been the 800-pound gorilla over the past decade. A democracy with well-educated but relatively inexpensive brain power, the pharma industry views India not merely as a market but as a potential new hub of drug development and testing.
Aware of its advantage, India has played hardball, starting with its approval of local generic HIV drugs for its hundreds of thousands of citizens with the virus—a defiant challenge to Big Pharma, which had refused to discount its own brand-name AIDS drugs to affordable levels. (In the US, HIV treatment costs as much as $15,000 a year; the Indian generic knocked out knockoffs with a $350 price tag.) In addition, India’s supreme court has been fearless in shooting down foreign pharmas when they sue for patent infringement by Indian generic companies. When an emerging nation's entire legal and legislative apparatus unite to oppose industry interests, the company can either fold its hand or fold up its tent. When drug companies retaliated by boycotting India and refusing to sell new drugs there, they attracted universal opprobrium for denying sick people medicines.
From the island nation known for the quality of its cigars comes some pretty big news today: Xinhua reports that Cuban medical authorities have released the first therapeutic vaccine for lung cancer. CimaVax-EGF is the result of a 25-year research project at Havana’s Center for Molecular Immunology, and it could make a life or death difference for those facing late-stage lung cancers, researchers there say.
CimaVax-EGF isn’t a vaccine in the preventative sense--that is, it doesn’t prevent lung cancer from taking hold in new patients. It’s based on a protein related to uncontrolled cell proliferation--that is, it doesn’t prevent cancer from existing in the first place but attacks the mechanism by which it does harm.
As such it can turn aggressive later-stage lung cancer into a manageable chronic disease by creating antibodies that do battle with the proteins that cause uncontrolled cell proliferation, researchers say. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are still recommended as a primary means of destroying cancerous tissue, but for those showing no improvement the new vaccine could be a literal lifesaver.MORE
Jamaican Bible: 'It preserves the dignity of the Jamaican people'
Courtney Stewart of the Bible Society of the West Indies talks to Riazat Butt about a project to translate the Bible into Jamaican patois (Four minute audio at the link. No transcript though)
2008 The Bible in Jamaican
It is, of course, a tremendously ambitious project, for there is no such thing at the moment as Standard Jamaican Creole. Different dialects are spoken in different parts of . One immediately thinks of those in the west who say: "Him ben a come" while others (from the east) say: "Him a come". Both are 'correct', but they are different, and since I do not expect the translators to produce more than one translation, they are going to have to make choices about which variations they will use. And there are many variations. People from deep rural St Thomas speak slightly differently from people in deep rural Portland, and again differently from those in upper . There is uptown Jamaican Creole and downtown Jamaican Creole, not to mention the variation. Into whose Jamaican Creole will the Bible be translated?
There is a danger that, with the hegemony of the big city, the translators will produce an uptown St Andrew Creole Bible, the Mona Version, which may defeat their purpose. I remember the disdain with which many in the ghetto treated the Uptown of Pluto Shervington and Ernie Smith in the 1970s. If the idea is to reach the Jamaican people with a creole Bible, which Jamaican people will be targeted?MORE
Patwa Rights and Wrongs
Believe it or not, the Jamaican Constitution covertly acknowledges the fact that 'Patwa' is, indeed, a national language. Furthermore, the Constitution guarantees 'Patwa' speakers basic rights in the legal system. But don't take my word for it. See for yourself the relevant sections:
Chapter III of the Jamaican Constitution (2011), Section 14 (2):
(2) Any person who is arrested or detained shall have the right:
(b) at the time of his arrest or detention or as soon as is reasonably practicable, to be informed, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest or detention;
(c) where he is charged with an offence, to be informed forthwith, in a language which he understands, of the nature of the charge;
Section 16 (6):
(6) Every person charged with a criminal offence shall:
(a) be informed, as soon as is reasonably practicable, in a language which he understands, of the nature of the offence charged;
(e) have the assistance of an interpreter, free of cost, if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court;
The Constitution doesn't explicitly state the fact that the language of the court is English. Nor does it openly admit that the first language of the vast majority of Jamaicans is not English, but Jamaican. To concede this gross disparity would be an admission of the fundamental inequity of the justice system. So, instead, we have compromised justice.MORE
Should Creole Replace French in Haiti's Schools?
Creole is the mother tongue in Haiti, but children do most of their schooling in French. Two hundred years after Haiti became the world's first black-led republic, is the use of French holding the nation back?
"The percentage of people who speak French fluently is about 5%, and 100% speak Creole," says Chris Low.
"So it's really apartheid through language."
Ms Low is co-founder of an experimental school, the Matenwa Community Learning Center, which has broken with tradition, and conducts all classes in Creole.MORE
Colonization has been a hell of a thing.
A stream of newspaper articles, and public comments on their contents, have been published over the past six months in Trinidad's Guardian newspaper. It has been a while since I have had a chance to cover the latest news, as reported by the media. Though not unexpected, some of the news is very striking about the degree to which the indigenous Caribs of Trinidad are suppressed, even while supposedly being celebrated, and forgotten even as they are commemorated. It seems that the authorities and elites in Trinidad are not content with any display of Caribness that goes beyond superficial performances and outright simulation. To some extent, the organized body of Caribs, the Santa Rosa Carib Community, is also responsible for buying into that system of official diversity management, whereby select groups are trotted out solely for the purpose of public performance, as if they were barely living, quasi-archaeological artifacts dancing in the state's cultural showcase. Now it seems that they are growing increasingly upset with the superficiality of the attention paid to them, but have not yet devised a strategy that does anything other than produce more of the same: more commemorations in place of any real transformation.
Mockery and Superficiality at the 5th Summit of the Americas
Let us begin with this year's Fifth Summit of the Americas (see also on Twitter). The first in a series of articles that touched on the Carib "presence" at the 5th Summit was Foreign delegates to get taste of local culture, by Michelle Loubon (3 April 2009). There is no note of potential controversy -- on the contrary, it seems that some much needed post-colonial revision will be presented:
In history classes, children learn that before Columbus came, T&T was inhabited by the Caribs and Arawaks. This is followed by the description of the Caribs as ‘warlike’ and the Arawaks as ‘peaceful.’ The Arawaks were decimated, but there remains a strong Carib community in the town of Arima—which diligently celebrates the Feast of Santa Rosa every year. For the 2009 Summit of the Americas, visiting US president Barack Obama and the other dignitaries will get a cultural history lesson on these indigenous peoples from reigning bandleader Brian Mac Farlane.MORE
I remember those history classes. I didn't realize that Caribs and Arawaks still existed still until Pirates of the Caribbeans fucked up a couple of years ago.
Thanks to the recent release of WikiLeaks' U.S. Embassy cables, we have a complete set for Trinidad and Tobago, and many of the items are quite striking and revealing. One is of particular relevance to Trinidad's Indigenous community. It seems that the U.S. Embassy worked to temper any Trinidadian embrace of a new Indigenous Rights charter (that being drafted by the OAS), and that on the other hand, the Trinidadian government had a very selective view of what rights it had actually signed on to at the UN, as well as seeming agreeable to making concessions to the U.S. Of course none of this international diplomatic chatter on the rights of Trinidad's Indigenous People was previously made public.
Apparently the public profile of Trinidad and Tobago's Indigenous community, specifically the Santa Rosa Carib Community, came up in discussions between the Government of Trinidad and Tobago (GOTT) and an officer in the Political Affairs section (PolOff) of the U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain, according to a WikiLeaks cable. The cable is marked as "sensitive but unclassified". In a meeting that took place on 22 October 2007, Ms. Delia Chatoor of the Multilateral Affairs Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs mentioned that "Trinidad and Tobago's own small Amerindian community had recently become more vocal, and that a week dedicated to the history and culture of the group had just concluded [Amerindian Heritage Week]". These remarks were made in connection with developing a government position on the work of the Organization of American States (OAS) in preparing a Draft Declaration of Indigenous Rights (DRIP) (also see this and that), and in light of the then recent passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples--which the GOTT approved. We already know, from other WikiLeaks cables, that the U.S. worked actively on the international front to try to pressure governments to vote against the UN Declaration. However, the remarks by the Trinidadian government official are rather curious.MORE
The United Nations is investigating allegations that five Uruguayan naval troops at a UN base in southern Haiti sexually molested an 18-year-old man in an attack reportedly captured by a cellphone camera.
The UN mission learned of the allegations last week and the scandal prompted Uruguay to sack its naval chief in Haiti.
The soldiers were confined to their barracks pending the outcome of the probe. Cellphone camera video
Shot with a cellphone camera, the clip shows several men in camouflaged uniforms laughing as they pin down a young man on a mattress.
The men seem to be saying "no problem" in Spanish as they hold the teen's arms and hands behind his back. The camera jumps around, and it's not clear from the video what's happening.
A magistrate in Port-Salut, the southwestern coastal town in which the assault allegedly happened, has gathered testimony from the alleged victim and his mother and filed it in court.
Before the cellphone video emerged, the UN unilaterally denied these allegations. Inner City Press writes:
On August 17, Inner City Press asked Ban's now departed deputy spokesman Farhan Haq:
Inner City Press: in Port-Salut there are complaints against the Uruguayan peacekeepers of MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti], including on sexual abuse grounds --what is MINUSTAH’s response on this topic that Ban Ki-moon has recently said is so important to him?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: MINUSTAH is in fact looking into this to see about these allegations and whether there is any credibility to them.
The very next day on August 18, Haq began the noon briefing by reading out a denial:"further to what I said yesterday on an investigation in Port-Salut, Haiti, the UN Mission there (MINUSTAH) tells us that the preliminary report of this investigation was finalized. After discussions with local authorities and members of the population in Port-Salut, the investigators found out that these allegations of misconduct could not be substantiated. The UN Mission in Haiti says that no supporting evidence was provided by anyone, and local authorities confirmed that these allegations were unfounded."
Here's the video. It's not perfectly clear, but strongly suggests abuse.
Documents released by National Archives show prime minister Winston Churchill feared the colony would turn communist
Secret documents declassified on Friday by MI5 reveal in detail how in 1953 the UK under prime minister Winston Churchill overthrew the elected government of British Guiana – now Guyana – because he feared its leftwing leader and his American wife would lead the British colony into the arms of the Soviet Union.MORE
A Cuban man and transgender woman have married in what is being seen as the country's first "gay wedding".
Same sex marriage is illegal in Cuba, but bride Wendy Iriepa is legally a woman after undergoing one of the first state-sponsored sex changes in 2007.
Her fiance, Ignacio Estrada, is a noted dissident and gay rights activist in Cuba and is also HIV positive.
The couple said the wedding, timed to coincide with Fidel Castro's birthday, was a "gift" for the former leader.
The wedding in Havana was attended by prominent dissidents and members of the gay community.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people faced official discrimination for years in communist Cuba.
In the early days of the revolution many were sent to re-education camps to stamp out their "counter-revolutionary" values.
But homosexuality was made legal in 1970, and President Raul Castro has introduced a series of gay rights reforms since taking over from his brother Fidel in 2006.
Last year Fidel Castro himself apologised for the persecution of homosexuals under his rule, calling it a "great injustice".
Ms Iriepa, 37, had her sex-change treatment at the National Centre for Sex Education, which is headed by Raul Castro's daughter, Mariela.
"I dedicate my wedding to all those who want to have their own," she said after the ceremony.
"This is the first wedding between a transsexual woman and a gay man," Mr Estrada, 31, said.
"We celebrate it at the top of our voices and affirm that this is a step forward for the gay community in Cuba."
Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, who acted as a godmother at the ceremony, said that while the marriage was not technically a gay wedding "it is the closest we have come".
"We are very happy with what happened today," she wrote on Twitter.
"It was a big step in a small Cuba".MORE
SEATTLE, U.S., Aug 2, 2011 (IPS) - Jean Ronel Noël, a young Haitian engineer, stood in a centuries-old fort on a small island just off Dakar and looked out at the Atlantic through a portal that once led enslaved Africans to the ships of the Middle Passage.
"Finally we come to 'the door of the voyage of no return'," he wrote in a blog. "My blood wouldn't stop boiling, wave after wave of gooseflesh. I nearly broke down. So it's through that door that my ancestors passed. The Door of Hell! There are two infinite things, Einstein said: the universe and human stupidity."
Noël, though, had come to Senegal looking forward more than backward. He brought with him some technological keys that he believes can unlock the doors of a rich storehouse of renewable energy, and ultimately a more durable and self-sufficient model of development for Haiti and other poor countries.
A Senegalese firm specialising in solar-power installations, KAYER, had invited Noël and technician Frantz Derosier to visit the westernmost nation of West Africa to teach their employees how to fabricate their own photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert sunlight into electricity.
Noël is co-founder, along with his partner Alex Georges, of ENERSA - Énergies Renouvelables, S.A. (Renewable Energies, Inc.). Derosier is one of their 20-odd employees. ENERSA manufactures solar streetlamps and other solar-energy equipment using PV panels that they build from scratch. They count around a thousand such lights installed in over 50 municipalities all over Haiti.
After the catastrophic earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, which knocked out electrical power across the Port-au-Prince area, these lamps were the only public light sources for some localities. The temblor also destroyed much of ENERSA's physical plant, but all the employees survived and the firm was able to restart production within a few months.
During the nine days Noël and Derosier were in Senegal, a former French colony like Haiti, they conducted a week of training sessions with KAYER in the headquarters of a peasant farmers' confederation in the town of Mekhe, about 100 kilometres inland from Dakar, the capital.
The sessions resulted in the first solar panels "made in Senegal". The ongoing collaboration, according to ENERSA, will cover the conception and manufacturing in Senegal of solar products, including solar streetlights. MORE
Last week, thousands of farmers and supporters of Haitian peasant agriculture marched for hours under the hot Caribbean sun to call for more government support for locally grown seeds and agriculture.
The demonstration was organized by the Peasant Movement of Papay and other farmer associations, human rights and women’s groups, and the Haitian Platform for Alternative Development (PAPDA), the Haitian online agency AlterPresse reported from the march. The official theme of the peaceful demonstration was “Land Grabbing is Endangering Agricultural Sovereignty.”
Singing slogans like “Long Live Haitian Agriculture!” and “Long live local seeds!” the crowd – wearing straw hats and red T-shirts – wound its way on foot, donkeys, and bikes through this dusty provincial capital. The demonstration ended at a square named for farmer Charlemagne Péralte, who lead the “Caco” peasant revolt against the U.S. army occupation from 1916 until 1919, when U.S. Marines assassinated him.
One year ago, thousands of farmers covered the same march route to protest the import of a “gift” of seeds from Monsanto. The farmers burned some of the seeds, calling them a “death plan” for peasant agriculture.
Last spring, in violation of Haitian law, the Minister of Agriculture gave the agribusiness giant Monsanto permission to “donate” 505 tons of seeds to Haiti. The first shipment of 60 tons, reportedly of maize and vegetable seeds, arrived in May 2010. Some of the seeds were coated with a chemical (Thiram) so toxic that the EPA forbids its sale to home gardeners in the U.S.. Monsanto announced its $4 million gift was “to support the reconstruction effort” in Haiti.
What has become of the seeds that Monsanto gave? And how real was the fear of Haitian farmer organizations that the donation was a Trojan horse?
Haiti Grassroots Watch explored the impacts in a three-month investigation, “Seeding Reconstruction or Destruction?” and “Monsanto in Haiti.” Excerpts from the report follow.MORE
Widow of Lord Glenconner begs manservant who inherited West Indies estate to give back his fortune
The widow of Lord Glenconner, who has left his fortune to his West Indian manservant, has appealed for him to return part of the estate to the family.
Distressed Lady Anne Glenconner said she hoped that Kent Adonai, 48, ‘would do the right thing’.
Lady Anne, who was a close friend of Princess Margaret, said it was a ‘surprise’ to learn that her husband had left the multi-million pound estate on the Caribbean island of St Lucia to Mr Adonai.
Rewarded: Kent Adonai, with Lord Glenconner, inherited his multi-million pound estate
At a memorial service yesterday for Lord Glenconner, 83, near Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders, Lady Anne said: ‘Kent was beloved by my husband but so were we all – I was married to him for 55 years.’
Mr Adonai had walked the baron’s pet elephant in the Caribbean, cooked for his jet-set friends and slept on the floor by his bed for 30 years.
Lord Glenconner changed his will seven months before his death from cancer to leave Mr Adonai everything that had been meant for his heir, his 17-year-old grandson Cody.
This included his beachside house between the Pitons in St Lucia, all its contents and a valley overlooking the Caribbean.MORE
People, you need to see the 1985 picture of Lord Glenconner and his servants to get the full flavor of this fuckery. THERE IS NOT ENOUGH WTF IN THE WORLD FOR THIS SHIT. And, of course, questions arise as to how exactly that fortune was amassed in the first place! And therefore, I am sure you will join me in wishing Mr. Kent Adonai VERY VERY WELL, and in urging him to do the right thing, which is to send TWO middlefingers in Lady Glennconner's direction, tell them to go fuck themselves, and do with that fortune as he wishes. Last I checked, the Daily Mail comments were right with me.
Here's a longer and more informative article on the whole business (again, Daily Mail)
The International Museum of Women's online exhibit on women and the economy, features slideshows, podcasts, videos and essays on women from countries such as Sudan, Denmark, Philippines, USA, Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina and how they view issues such as poverty, business, family, rights, money and much more.
Economica, IMOW's online interactive exhibit sets out to explore women's contribution in the global economy. Picturing Power and Potential, was a juried photography exhibit showing different ways in which women participate in the economy and are agents of change.
For example, the exhibit's Community Choice Award winner was Brenda Paik Suno, a third generation Korean-American who took pictures of a Jeju Granny of the Sea, a woman who is part of the tradition of female divers of the Jeju Islands who have harvested the sea for generations:
White House Communications Director Dodgey When Asked about War on Women
Daily Kos Associate Editor Kalli Joy Gray: I'd like to ask you about a different kind of war, and this is a war that I am particularly concerned about.I... didn't know that the Hyde Amendment was renewed every year. Are we for real??? Instead of making progress so that the damn thing LAPSES, we keep passing it like its no big thing????
White House Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer: Okay.
Gray: The war on women. [Audience applause.] We're seeing an unprecedented number of attacks on women at the state and federal level—everything from contraception to health care to food stamps, um, drug-testing of women receiving welfare in Florida. Women in Congress, including Nancy Pelosi, are talking openly about a war on women. So, I want to know if the president agrees with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and our new DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz: Is there a war on women?
Pfeiffer: Well, what I can say is that there is no question that there is a sustained effort from Republicans at the federal and state level to, uh, undo a lot of the progress we've done. I think the most, uh, prominent example was the effort to defund Planned Parenthood, uh, during the government funding battle a few months ago, which the president, uh, at that point told the House Republicans that if they wanted to defund Planned Parenthood, that they were going to have to shut down the government over it. We see this in Indiana, where, uh, Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law an effort that would, uh, illegally defund Planned Parenthood, and the federal government is involved in a lawsuit to stop that. And so he, the president, is very concerned about all of these efforts, uh, and the ones on the federal level that we can play an active role to stop, including the use of the veto pen, uh, the president will do that.
[Note from Liss: Notice that Gray asked him a yes or no question: Does the president agree that there is a war on women? And instead of straightforwardly answering her question, Pfeiffer mansplains the problem to her, as if she and her audience are stupid and/or unaware of the issues affecting women. The thing is, he implicitly answers yes just by his reflexive defensiveness; there's no need to defend the president's record if you don't agree that there's a war on women—but he won't say it, because openly acknowledging there is a war on women is to then admit that the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Act ain't fucking enough. Gray, fortunately, zeroes in and does not let him off the hook.]
Gray: Yes, but we also saw during the healthcare debate that, when it comes down to it, women's issues take a back seat for the "larger" issues, so, for example, the president said that accepting the Hyde Amendment, which punishes poor women in this country, was an acceptable status quo and that we needed to put that aside for the bigger picture. So, I'll ask again: Is there a war on women?
Pfeiffer: [pause] Let's talk about healthcare for a second, which is— [Gray laughs mirthlessly at his obvious evasiveness; the audience laughs; Pfeiffer holds up his finger, gesturing to her to hold on and listen.] The, the, the Hyde Amendment— ["Just say yes!" someone shouts from the audience] The Hyde Amendment was, uh, was the law of the land, and so—
Gray: It's renewed every year. It is not the law of the land. It is renewed every year. [Audience applause.]
Pfeiffer: Right, and, and if we tried to repeal it in health reform, there would be no health reform. And that, that was, that was the choice. It was a very simple choice, and so—
Gray: It was a simple choice?
Pfeiffer: It was, well, it's, you have two options—it's simple in the fact that you have two options; it's not an easy choice! [He says this like Gray is being a jerk.] You have two choi—you have two options: And it was no health reform and make that attempt, which would've failed and would most certainly not have passed the United States Senate, so that's the choice you have to make.
[He says this in this really matter-of-fact way, as if anyone would question the decision is an asshole, and when he says "the choice you have to make," I wonder who that "you" is supposed to be, really, because it's definitely not the women who are left without any choice because of the Hyde Amendment.]
But the iniquity of capitalism goes deeper than its injustice as a political economy, its amoral ingenuity in technical prowess or its rapacious relationship to the natural world. However lissome its face or benign its manner, capitalism compels us to be greedy, callous and petty. It takes what the Greeks called pleonexia—an endless hunger for more and more—and transforms it from a tawdry and dangerous vice into the central virtue of the system. The sanctity of “growth” in capitalist culture stems from this moral alchemy, as does the elevation of market competition into a model of human affairs.The truth is that people matter more than money. While most everyone would agree with that statement, few of us direct our lives guided by the principle.
Conscripting us into an economic war, capitalism turns us into soldiers of fortune, steeled against casualties and collateral damage, ransacking the earth to fill the shelves and banks with plunder. Capitalism stands condemned most profoundly not by its maldistribution of wealth or its ecological despoliation but by its systematic cultivation of people inclined toward injustice and predation. And I think we on the left need to start dismissing as utterly irrelevant the standard apologetic riposte: the material prosperity and technological achievement generated by capitalist enterprise. No amount of goods can compensate for the damage wrought on human nature by the deliberate nurturance of our vilest qualities. The desecration of the values we claim to hold most dear is the primary reason we should want to abolish, not reinvent, capitalism.MOR
Personally, I'm beginning to agree.
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Zimbabwe’s blood diamonds
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Discussing nuclear energy (in Lithuania and the wider Baltic region in the wake of Fukushima. Also, Sweden is dropping its traditionally neutral stance in affairs of war.
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Grybauskaite: EU should arouse women desire to learn to use information technologies and seek careers in this field ( Read more... ) 2009 Dalia Grybauskaite: Lithuania’s ‘Iron Lady’ ( Read more... )
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Can you please contextualize the work you do, in what has become a global system of agriculture?
We are now importing the majority of the food we eat. The overwhelming majority of workers who harvest the food we eat in the United States are not from this country. And many if not most of the workers employed in the fields in the United States are displaced farmers from their own countries (mostly Mexico but not exclusively.) So we’re seeing that many of the same pressures and challenges that are facing farmers in the US are the very same ones that are displacing small farmers in the global South and resulting in them coming in search of employment to the United States, Canada, Australia, and European Union. At the same time, farmers and sometimes their spouses in the US are looking for second jobs in more urban settings.
When Vietnam entered the global market with coffee we saw an unprecedented exodus of coffee farmers out of eastern Mexico. When NAFTA was signed, mass exodus of corn farmers – so we see a direct correlation between these international trade policies and agricultural practices and kind of the global crisis of agriculture that we’re facing.
Within that context you look at agriculture in the United States and pretty much anyone born in this country has no aspirations to work in the fields. And I think if we’re honest with ourselves, the reason is because we all know the conditions are not good, the pay is pretty bad, and there’s really no benefits. As a result we have depended on immigrant workers to come up and do the work that we haven’t wanted to do. And so if you look at the history of the United Farm Workers, we’ve had workers literally from around the world as members – from Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Yemen, African Americans and of course, Mexicans, Central Americans, and the internationalization of the work-force continues. We now have workers working under contract from Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, and it’s very much become a global workforce that is harvesting the food we eat.MORE
One Year since the Bagua Massacre: New Actors Facing a State in Crisis – by Raúl Zibechi
“The rainforest is not for sale”, was one of the most-repeated choruses in the marches across Peru commemorating the first anniversary of the Bagua massacre. 34 people died and 200 were wounded when Alan García’s government decided to clear out the Awajun people who were blocking roads in the Amazon in protest of the indiscriminate exploitation of the forest. Thousands of Awajun had been demonstrating for two months and were about to abandon the so-called Curva del Diablo, but before they had a chance to do so they were attacked by rifles on land and by air.
Ten indigenous people were killed at the Curva del Diablo. They later retaliated, causing the death of 23 police officers. The location of one of the protestors, Major Felipe Bazán Caballero, remains unknown. All signs indicate that the minister of the interior, Mercedes Cabanillas, gave the order to open fire. A year later, no one has been found guilty of the tragedy. Shortly after the repression, four of the legislative decrees that had provoked the demonstrations were revoked and, on May 19, parliament approved the Consultation Law, which dictates that locals must be consulted before any projects to exploit community resources are approved. These are two substantial victories for the movement.
But, in addition to their legal triumphs, the indigenous people who make up the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), which brings together around 1,500 communities, obtained the recognition of Peruvian society as new and decisive actors in national political life. This is a symbolic act. On June 5, the father of the missing Major Felipe Bazán, travelled to the Curva del Diablo, near Bagua and the Ecuadorian border, one thousand kilometers northeast of Lima, to embrace indigenous people as they participated in a memorial act, baptizing the site as the “Curva de la Esperanza”.
Time to Value Women's Unpaid Work
SANTIAGO - The time has come for Latin American countries to put an economic value on the work that women do as they take care of households, children and the elderly, says ECLAC, the United Nations regional economic agency.
Haitian peasants march against Monsanto Company for Food and Seed Sovereignty- By La Via Campesina
On June 4th about ten thousand Haitian peasants marched to protest U.S.-based Monsanto Company’s ‘deadly gift’ of seed to the government of Haiti. The seven-kilometer march from Papaye to Hinche—in a rural area on the central plateau—was organized by several Haitian farmers’ organizations that are proposing a development model based on food and seed sovereignty instead of industrial agriculture. Slogans for the march included “long live native maize seed” and “Monsanto’s GMO & hybrid seed violates peasant agriculture.”MORE
CZECH REPUBLIC: Women Resist All-Male Cabinet
PRAGUE, Jul 7, 2010 (IPS) - Women’s rights campaigners say the Czech Republic’s new government has effectively told women they have no relevance to the country’s future after the new cabinet was formed – without a single female minister.
Despite a record number of women elected to parliament in elections in May and pre-election pledges by party leaders that they wanted more women in politics, women’s rights activists said they had been given a "slap in the face" after the make-up of the new cabinet was finally agreed last week. MORE
'Save Us From These Bankers, Fast'
BRUSSELS, Jul 5, 2010 (IPS) - Besieged by bankers opposed to regulation of their sector, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have taken an unusual step. A cross-party alliance has called for an international campaigning organisation to concentrate on remedying the flaws of the financial services industry with the same tenacity that Amnesty International focuses on victims of torture and Greenpeace on toxic chemicals and whales.I could get behind this 110%!
The call -- signed by 70 of the Parliament's 736 elected members -- was prompted by concerns over how the financial lobby had marshalled its ample resources over the past few years in a bid to dilute legislation drafted in response to the global economic crisis. According to the MEPs, the pressure they have been placed under by the financial industry is so intense that it represents a threat to democracy, especially as public interest groups have generally lacked the means or the expertise to mount a robust counter- offensive to the banks' efforts
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Collateral Murder Uncut Version
April 03, 2010 — Wikileaks has obtained and decrypted this previously unreleased video footage from a US Apache helicopter in 2007. It shows Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen, driver Saeed Chmagh, and several others as the Apache shoots and kills them in a public square in Eastern Baghdad. They are apparently assumed to be insurgents. After the initial shooting, an unarmed group of adults and children in a minivan arrives on the scene and attempts to transport the wounded. They are fired upon as well. The official statement on this incident initially listed all adults as insurgents and claimed the US military did not know how the deaths ocurred. Wikileaks released this video with transcripts and a package of supporting documents on April 5th 2010 on http://collateralmurder.com
Global Vocies:Kyrgyzstan: The “Archived” Revolution
The roots of the present revolution are various: South vs. North clash (Bakiev is from the South, the rebels are from the North), corruption and suppressive government (in recent years Kyrgyz people witnessed all forms of oppression from closings of the newspapers [ENG] to independent journalists' murders [EN]), Russia's Great Game interest, Ortega-y-Gasset'ian “revolt of the masses” etc). Whatever the real reasons of the Kyrgyz revolution of 2010 are it is important to note that it was overwhelmingly immediate, furious, bloody and… well-documented.
The role of the new media changed slightly this time compared to other dramatic events (like the protests in Moldova or Iran). Blogs and Twitter didn't serve as serious means of public mobilization since the Internet penetration rate is relatively small in Kyrgyzstan ( just 15 percent in 2009). However, new media were agile enough to cover all the main events giving detailed footage of initial protests in Talas, rampage in Bishkek and looting that followed. At the same time, new media were efficiently used by the opposition attracting the attention of international community and shifting public opinion to the side of the protesters. The opposition leader Roza Otunbaeva (@otunbaeva), for instance, registered her account as soon as she became the head of the provisional government. On the other day, son of president Bakiev, Maxim opened a LiveJournal account to express the pro-government point of view.
As Gregory Asmolov concluded [RUS], it was not “journalists 2.0″ who were the most efficient in covering Kyrgyz events but the “editors 2.0″. Bloggers who both knew the region and were outside the country to see the big picture and collected the photographs, videos and Twitter confessions. Two most informed bloggers in this situation were people outside the country: US-based Yelena Skochilo (a.k.a. LJ user morrire) and Kazakhstan-based Vyacheslav Firsov (a.k.a. lord_fame). They managed to assemble the most complete collections of photos, videos and timelines
Trinidad & Tobago: Election Fever
With one action, the prorogation of Parliament, Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister thrust the country into election mode. (The constitution of the twin island republic states that from the moment Parliament is dissolved, a general election must be held in no fewer than 35 days and no more than 90). As the news broke, the blogosphere was rife with speculation that the move was made to pre-empt a no-confidence motion against Manning that had been scheduled for debate today in the House of Representatives, as well as to avoid the fallout over the report of the Uff Commission of Enquiry into the Construction Sector, which was critical of the modus operandi of the state-owned Urban Development Corporation of T&T (UDeCOTT) - which is not to say that bloggers are not asking other critical questions, some even as basic as “When?
Trinidad and Tobago girls, politics, sports, technology, carnival, and lifestyle, however, starts with the “Why?”:
Why now? Why would the Prime Minister risk losing Government with not even 3 years of his five-year term behind him?
Why? Why when the country can still call on record revenue and a commanding majority in Parliament?
The analysts are pinning it on the no-confidence motion; or Calder Hart. But as Chris Rock asked when speaking on the Columbine shootings, “Whatever happened to crazy?”
It's quite possible Manning is just a nut. A lunatic.
RIGHTS-US: Love Without Borders – Or Papers
Cuba:Old Havana reaches out to the hearing impaired
Peru: Ongoing Mining Strike
Palestinian Christians barred from Jerusalem for Easter
Our Bodies are shaking now: Rape follows Earthquake in Haiti
Bolivia: Polarization persists:Regional elections confirm political split between the western highlands and eastern lowlands
Guatemala: Despite change to Penal Code, poor, indigenous Guatemalans lack resources to bring discrimination cases to trial.
South Korea insists it atomic program is for energy only
Why Washington Cares about Countries like Haiti and Honduras
When I write about U.S. foreign policy in places like Haiti or Honduras, I often get responses from people who find it difficult to believe that the U.S. government would care enough about these countries to try and control or topple their governments. These are small, poor countries with little in the way of resources or markets. Why should Washington policy-makers care who runs them?
Why do they care so much about who runs these poor countries? As any good chess player knows, pawns matter. The loss of a couple of pawns at the beginning of the game can often make a difference between a win or a loss. They are looking at these countries mostly in straight power terms. Governments that are in agreement with maximizing U.S. power in the world, they like. Those who have other goals -- not necessarily antagonistic to the United States -- they don't like.
Not surprisingly, the Obama Administration's closest allies in the hemisphere are right-wing governments such as Colombia or Panama, even though President Obama himself is not a right-wing politician. This highlights the continuity of the politics of control. The victory of the Right in Chile last week, the first time that it has won an election in half a century, was a significant victory for the U.S. government. If Lula de Silva's Workers' Party were to lose the presidential election in Brazil this fall, that would really be a huge win for the State Department. While U.S. officials under both Bush and Obama have maintained a friendly posture toward Brazil, it is obvious that they deeply resent the changes in Brazilian foreign policy that have allied it with other social democratic governments in the hemisphere, and its independent foreign policy stances with regard to the Middle East, Iran, and elsewhere.Read on for a taste of what teh US has been getting up to in Latin America and teh Caribbean recentlyMORE
Seven "Corporations of Interest" in Selling Surveillance Tools to China
The "Corporations of Interest"Drawing from published news articles, EFF has compiled a list of seven corporations that are reportedly selling surveillance technology to the Chinese government and related entities. We're designating them "corporations of interest".
- Cisco: Cisco's deep involvement in the building of China's Golden Shield Project has been admitted by the company. Cisco's involvement has even already been raised before Congress, including the fact that Cisco engineers gave a presentation acknowledging the repressive uses for their technology that quoted their Chinese government buyers as saying that Cisco's products could be used to "combat 'Falun Gong' evil religion and other hostiles." The UK's Guardian reports that Cisco provides over 60% of all routers, switches, and network gear to China and estimates that Cisco makes $500 million annually from China.
- Nortel: Rolling Stone and The Guardian report that Nortel has sold hardware to aid the Golden Shield Project for surveillance and censorship purposes, including working with Tsinghua University to develop speech recognition software to monitor telephone conversations.
Colombia: Doctors obstruct legal abortions
Nearly four years since the Constitutional Court decriminalized abortion in certain cases, women still face challenges to receive the procedure as many doctors and even judges have improperly declared themselves conscientious objectors.
In May 2006, the court lifted a ban on abortion in the case that the mother´s life or mental or physical health is in jeopardy, if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or if the child has fetal malformations.
Ariadna Tovar, a lawyer with Women´s Link Worldwide, a gender equality advocacy group, says doctors or the health care providers they work for have collectively declared themselves conscientious objectors to the procedure.
Judges are doing the same, she says.
Q&A: ''There's a Limit to Fish Harvesting':David Cronin interviews ISABELLA LÖVIN, Swedish fisheries policy activist>a?
ETHIOPIA: Dam Critics Won't Go Away
PAKISTAN: Community Midwives Gain Recognition But Concerns Remain
Costa Rica: Laura Chinchilla Elected First Woman President
Ukraine: Back full Circle
DRC (democratic Republic of Congo)'s Magic Dust: Who benefits?
The new American imperialism in Africa Apparently this essay is a reprint, was first published 4 years ago. But is still relevant.
Mozambique: First woman speaker a step for equality
Diskin to Abbas: Defer UN vote on Goldstone or face 'second Gaza
The request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the United Nations Human Rights Council last year to postpone the vote on the Goldstone report followed a particularly tense meeting with the head of the Shin Bet security service, Haaretz has learned. At the October meeting in Ramallah, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told Abbas that if he did not ask for a deferral of the vote on the critical report on last year's military operation, Israel would turn the West Bank into a "second Gaza."MORE
Also: MIDEAST: Israel Jails Palestinian Peace Activists and MIDEAST: Sale of Land to Israel Threatens to Split Church
This is going to end well.
HAITI-DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Sisters in Catastrophe
BRAZIL: 'Colonisation Made Us Poor,' Say Indigenous Peoples
U.S.: 200,000 undocumented Haitians to seek legal status
Haiti hit by another earthquake
Millions view solar eclipse
Azerbaijan: 20th anniversary of Baku pogrom and Black January
Camara backs Guinea's interim ruler
Clashes near Nigerian city of Jos
Kenya protest turns deadly
Caucasus: Society, sex and the dating game
Poland Has Three Preliminary LOT Bids, May Get More
Frost has killing effects on Colombia's Rose Exports
Huge link list of stories about Muslim women
The Caribbean island nation of Haiti has been beset by a series of natural disasters in recent years, experiencing four devastating tropical storms in 2008.
Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake will only further complicate living conditions for residents of the poverty-stricken country where 80 per cent of Haiti's nearly nine million people live below the poverty line.
Al Jazeera's John Terrett reports. 13 Jan 10
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