Saturday, February 5, 2011

Last Call

The United Nations is hoping for quick action on the Nagoya Biodiversity Treaty.

The Nagoya Protocol enters into force 90 days after it is signed by 50 states.

"We hope to get them (the 50 signatures) before the end of the year," the Montreal-based organization's spokesman David Ainsworth told AFP.

Adopted in October 2010 at a conference in Nagoya, Japan, the protocol sets out new rules for the collection of genetic resources such as wild plants to make medicines, cosmetics and other products.

It also calls for a fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

Coveted by drug and other companies in developed nations, these materials are mostly found in developing nations such as Brazil with its treasure trove of resources in the Amazon basin.

The legally binding protocol ensures that countries with genetic resources enjoy some of the profits of the assets' commercial development.

However, many details of the protocol, such as how much this may cost pharmaceutical companies and developed nations, were left for later negotiations.

It's that "later negotiations" which may turn into a serious problem.   Republicans of course will make sure the United States isn't a signatory to Nagoya and will refuse to ratify it, which will of course cause major headaches down the road for both the government and for pharmaceutical companies here in the US.  The next batch of breakthrough medicines will not come from the US, but from countries where drugmakers worth with nature, not conquer it.

Big Pharma knows this, so they may be able to tame the GOP on this out of enlightened profit motive.  We'll see.

Oh The Places You'll Go! Not.

Clearly George W. Bush is going to need to either A) stay in Texas forever or B) grow a mustache.  Gawker:

George W. Bush has cancelled an appearance at a Swiss charity gala after human rights groups put pressure on the government to arrest him for war crimes when he arrived. This is the exact opposite of a Roman Polanski situation.


Bush was to be the keynote speaker at Keren Hayesod's annual dinner on February 12 in Geneva. But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters the Alpine country.

Criminal complaints against Bush alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva, court officials say.

Human rights groups said they had intended to submit a 2,500-page case against Bush in the Swiss city on Monday for alleged mistreatment of suspected militants at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base in Cuba where captives from Afghanistan, Iraq and other fronts in the so-called War on Terror were interned.

Leftist groups had also called for a protest on the day of his visit next Saturday, leading Keren Hayesod's organizers to announce that they were cancelling Bush's participation on security grounds -- not because of the criminal complaints.

But groups including the New York-based Human Rights Watch and International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) said the cancellation was linked to growing moves to hold Bush accountable for torture, including waterboarding. He has admitted in his memoirs and television interviews to ordering use of the interrogation technique that simulates drowning.

We can't send this guy anywhere.

Maybe if he had a hat or something.  Or a book.  Nobody would ever recognize him if he was wearing a beret and holding a copy of Anna Karenina.  It would be the perfect disguise!  "That can't be him, he's holding Tolstoy!"  And he could go visit whatever country he wanted to without all this messy war crime tribunal and international human rights violations crap.

Totally worth it, Dubs.

Denial Really Is A River In Egypt, Part 5

The Obama administration is officially behind showing Mubarak the door, according to Hillary Clinton's latest diplomatic meetings in Munich.

The Obama administration on Saturday formally threw its weight behind a gradual transition in Egypt, backing attempts by the country’s vice president, Gen. Omar Suleiman, to broker a compromise with opposition groups and prepare for new elections in September.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking to a conference here, said it was important to support Mr. Suleiman as he seeks to defuse street protests and promises to reach out to opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Administration officials said earlier that Mr. Suleiman and other military-backed leaders in Egypt are also considering ways to provide President Hosni Mubarak with a graceful exit from power.

“That takes some time,” Mrs. Clinton said. “There are certain things that have to be done in order to prepare.”

Her message, echoed by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, was a notable shift in tone from the past week, when President Obama, faced with violent clashes in Cairo, demanded that Mr. Mubarak make swift, dramatic changes.

Now, the United States and other Western powers appear to have concluded that the best path for Egypt — and certainly the safest one, to avoid further chaos — is a gradual transition, managed by Mr. Suleiman, a pillar of Egypt’s existing establishment, and backed by the military. 

It's a good plan, certainly better than months of chaos with Mubarak at the helm.   The question is will Suleiman be any better?

My answer is "no".

The intelligence chief tapped by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak as his vice president and potential successor aided the U.S. with its rendition program, intelligence experts told ABC News, and oversaw the torture of an Al Qaeda suspect whose information helped justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In the midst of Egypt's protests, Omar Suleiman went on television Monday to say that President Mubarak had ordered him to launch reforms and begin talking to opposition parties. But for the U.S., the CIA, Israel, and Egypt's Islamist opposition, 74-year-old Suleiman, who has been the head of Egyptian intelligence since 1993, represents a continuation of the policies of the old regime.

"Mubarak and Suleiman are the same person," said Emile Nakhleh, a former top Middle East analyst for the CIA. "They are not two different people in terms of ideology and reform."

And I'm pretty sure the people aren't going to be terribly excited about Suleiman being in charge, either.   Should this backfire and the Egyptian people see this as the US replacing one dictator with another, things are going to go very, very badly.  All indications are this guy is as rotten as Mubarak is.

The other choice is Mohamed Elbaradei, and there are a number of questions about him as well.  He has a Nobel Peace Prize and headed the UN's nuclear watchdog agency for a time, but many on the right think he's just a puppet for the Muslim Brotherhood, and Republicans will make all sorts of trouble for him if he's in charge.

Either way, American-Egyptian relations aren't going to improve anytime soon.

We'll see.

The Worst Thing I've Heard All Year Part V

A woman who desperately wanted to be a grandmother was arrested after allegedly arranging for her daughter to be raped.
The 51-year-old South African mother has appeared in court after being accused of employing a local man to carry out the attack in the hope that her 24-year-old daughter would conceive.
Both the woman and the alleged attacker were arrested when the victim reported the plot to police after she was raped on Sunday near her home in South Africa's Limpopo province.
That is so the front runner so far this year.  I'm just boggled and shaken. 

There's Just Something Wrong Here

I'm convinced that Republicans just don't like women.  At all.  Take this new bill by GOP Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania for example (with the Orwellian name of the "Protect Life Act".)

"The Protect Life Act simply extends these provisions to the new law by inserting a provision that mirrors Hyde-Weldon," the spokesperson added, referring to current federal law banning spending on abortion and allowing anti-abortion doctors to refrain from performing them while still receiving federal funds. "In other words, this bill is only preserving the same rights that medical professionals have had for decades."

A bit of backstory: currently, all hospitals in America that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are bound by a 1986 law known as EMTALA to provide emergency care to all comers, regardless of their ability to pay or other factors. Hospitals do not have to provide free care to everyone that arrives at their doorstep under EMTALA -- but they do have to stabilize them and provide them with emergency care without factoring in their ability to pay for it or not. If a hospital can't provide the care a patient needs, it is required to transfer that patient to a hospital that can, and the receiving hospital is required to accept that patient.

In the case of an anti-abortion hospital with a patient requiring an emergency abortion, ETMALA would require that hospital to perform it or transfer the patient to someone who can. (The nature of how that procedure works exactly is up in the air, with the ACLU calling on the federal government to state clearly that unwillingness to perform an abortion doesn't qualify as inability under EMTALA. That argument is ongoing, and the government has yet to weigh in.)

Pitts' new bill would free hospitals from any abortion requirement under EMTALA, meaning that medical providers who aren't willing to terminate pregnancies wouldn't have to -- nor would they have to facilitate a transfer.

The hospital could literally do nothing at all, pro-choice critics of Pitts' bill say.

"This is really out there," Donna Crane, policy director at NARAL Pro-Choice America told TPM. "I haven't seen this before."

So, I'm failing to see how this proposed legislation protects life when it's based on allowing hospitals to say "Yeah, we'd rather risk your death than perform a medically necessary abortion to save your life.  Sorry about that."

Talk about your death panels.  These guys have no problem regulating the uterus of every woman in the country, but Obama's the fascist.

It Depends On How You Define Extremist

It appears UK Prime Minister David Cameron is a bit upset with immigrants, in a reminder that going after folks who don't look like you certainly isn't just an American phenomenon.

Mr Cameron suggested there would be greater scrutiny of some Muslim groups which get public money but do little to tackle extremism.

Ministers should refuse to share platforms or engage with such groups, which should be denied access to public funds and barred from spreading their message in universities and prisons, he argued.

"Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism," the prime minister said.

"Let's properly judge these organisations: Do they believe in universal human rights - including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in equality of all before the law? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separatism?

"These are the sorts of questions we need to ask. Fail these tests and the presumption should be not to engage with organisations," he added.

Going after Muslims here on their civil rights record is one thing, there are those who don't take kindly to European liberalism and do strive to abrogate the rights of women and non-Muslims.  But if you look at Cameron's words, the first thought that crosses my mind is "Well, he must not be a fan of the Republican Party here, then."

I'm sure that's news to the Republicans.   They fail all four of Cameron's questions, having voted against women's rights and calling America a Christian nation, doing everything they can to disenfranchise gays and other minorities legally, wanting to get rid of the 17th Amendment allowing people to elect Senators, and well, they're not real big fans of integration, either.

Does this mean that American Republicans are an extremist group in Britain?  Someone should ask him.

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