Daily Archive: 09/12/2012

Sep 12 2012

US Envoy & 3 Others Killed in Libya

US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other American foreign service officers were killed in an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The American news media is reporting that the attacks were spurred by an obscure film that was insulting to the Muslim religion that was promoted by anti-Islamic Florida pastor Terry Jones. The foreign press said that it may have been started by “hardline jihadists:”

The exact circumstances of the ambassador’s death remain unclear. On Tuesday night a group of extremists attacked the US consulate building in Benghazi, setting it on fire, and killing one US diplomatic officer.

On Tuesday the US state department confirmed that one of its employees had been killed by the mob that stormed the US mission in Benghazi, incensed by a US film that they deemed blasphemous to the prophet Muhammad. Libyan officials said Stevens and two security staff were in their car when gunmen fired rockets at it, Reuters reported. The official said the US military had sent a military plane to transport the bodies to Tripoli and to fly them back to the US.

One witness told the Guardian on Wednesday that a mob fired at least one rocket at the US consulate building in Benghazi and then stormed it, setting everything ablaze. “I was there about an hour ago. The place [consulate] is totally destroyed, the whole building is on fire,” said Mohammed El Kish, a former press officer with the National Transitional Council, which handed power to an elected parliament last month. He added: “They stole a lot of things.”

Kish, who is from Benghazi, blamed the attack on hardline jihadists. He said locals in Benghazi were upset by the activities of Islamist groups and would revolt against them. He also said the US consulate was not well protected, unlike the fortified US embassy in the capital, Tripoli. “It wasn’t that much heavily guarded. In Tripoli the embassy is heavily guarded.”

One of the other foreign service officers killed, Sean Smith, was mourned by the gaming community were he was an active participant and often spoke about his job.

President Barack Obama, speaking from the White House, strongly condemned the violence:

“These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity,” Mr. Obama said in a televised statement from the White House Rose Garden where he stood side-by-side with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Make no mistake: we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.”

 Mr. Obama also offered praise for the Libyan government, noting that Libyan security forces fought back against the mob, helped protect American diplomats and took Mr. Stevens’s body to the hospital. “This attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya,” he said. [..]

“While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants,” Mr. Obama said, calling Mr. Stevens “a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States” who had “selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi” and, as ambassador, “supported Libya’s transition to democracy.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who appeared visibly upset, made this statement:

“This is an attack that should shock the conscience of people of all faiths around the world,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We condemn in the strongest terms this senseless act of violence and we send our prayers to the families, friends and colleagues of those we’ve lost.”

Mrs. Clinton described the Benghazi assailants as “a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya.”

Only two of those killed have been identified, Amb. Smith and Foreign Service Off. Sean Smith

Sep 12 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Ducking the fundamental issues

“We think ‘we’re all in this together’ is a better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own.'” Not surprisingly, former president Bill Clinton best summarized the choice Americans face this fall. And now that all the staging, balloons and drone of both conventions are behind us, the choice this November is clear – but so too are the limits of this debate.

Nowhere is the polarization of the parties clearer than on social issues. The Democrats in Charlotte were unabashed cultural warriors, making women’s right to choose, the right to marry whomever you love, immigration reform and an embrace of the Dream Act kids a central theme. And the Republican right turned the platform into a bludgeon in these alley fights. Mitt Romney appeared to be nervously looking for escape routes, but his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, has too long an assault record on these issues for him to slip away.

Michelle Chen: The Democrats’ Missed Opportunity

In failing to link immigrant rights and women’s rights, DNC speakers overlooked how injustices interlock

Last week, two issues highlighted at the Democratic National Convention represented a notable departure from the talk of jobs and economic growth. There was a classic striving immigrant narrative, embodied in the poetic if oversimplified family story of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. And there was a passionate defense of reproductive rights delivered by Sandra Fluke, who famously incurred ultra-conservative wrath for speaking out on contraceptive access. Both speeches showed the double-edged power of political storytelling: to inspire while masking the deeper issues that the mainstream political realm deftly obscures every four years.

Pivoting to Latino and women voters, the Democrats were capitalizing on ideological divisions in Washington on reproductive choice and immigration. But while the party repackaged those issues into slickly marketed talking points, the messaging spoke to messier unrest at the grassroots. Responding to years of grassroots pressure (from the sit-ins staged by so-called Dream Activists to the bold protest-on-wheels of the Undocubus, which rolled defiantly outside the convention), Obama has offered temporary reprieve to undocumented youth and promised to ease mass deportations for many immigrants with clean records. Meanwhile, the White House has cautiously pushed back against right-wing assaults on women’s health in the Affordable Care Act. But the response to the war of attrition on women’s rights comes amid rising frustration among pro-choice advocates who’ve witnessed Democrats’ repeated capitulations to anti-choice forces that have monopolized the abortion debate.

Laura Carlson: Public Security – The Greatest Casualty of the Drug War

In stops all around the country, the Caravan for Peace has found that convincing people that the war on drugs is destructive and wasteful is not the problem. The polls show the public came to this conclusion long ago and now close to a majority favor what used to be considered “radical” solutions like legalizing and regulating marijuana. Although most people weren’t aware of the impact of the violence in Mexico, it’s immediately obvious to them that the drug war-trying to block supply in places like Mexico and stop consumption by criminalizing drugs in the U.S.- is not working. Anywhere.

The question then is: If a public consensus on the failure of the drug war, why hasn’t anything changed?

Why does the U.S. government continue to send millions of tax dollars to cities to fight the drug war, as they close down schools for lack of funds? Why does it waste more millions financing a bloody war in Mexico? Why does the Mexican government continue to pay the economic and political cost of a disastrous and destabilizing war? The U.S. has spent 2 billion dollars on the Mexican drug war in the past five years, mostly through the Merida Initiative and the Mexican government has spent at least four times that much.

To answer these questions, we have to look behind the scenes of the drug war. There we find that this disastrous policy has some powerful promoters.

Nisha Swinton: A Crooked Proposition: Toxic Tar Sands Oil May Find its Way to New England

This past year saw the highly visible airing of concerns surrounding the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline project. A broad group of citizens opposed KXL, citing the climate change impacts of extracting and transporting Canadian tar sands oil and the (not unlikely) possibility of a toxic tar sands oil spill over the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska or above the Ogallala aquifer, a critical source of drinking water for the Great Plains.

In at least a temporary victory for this broad group of concerned citizens, President Obama punted Keystone’s approval. Yet, tar sands oil remains a threat to communities and essential resources, not just along the proposed path of KXL, but in other parts of the country as well. There is reason to believe that New England is especially at risk.

Valerie Strauss: The Real Problem with Rahm’s School Reforms in Chicago

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been pushing a school reform agenda backed by the Obama administration that is at the center of the strike that the Chicago Teachers Union is now waging in the third largest school district in the country.

This is not about whether or not you think the union should have called a strike as it did on Monday, but rather about the central problem with the reforms that Emanuel has been advocating: There’s no real proof that they systemically work, and in some cases, there is strong evidence that they may be harmful.

The reforms championed by Emanuel, a former chief of staff to President Obama, have been pushed by Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, and implemented in a number of states.

Here are some things you should know about some of the major issues [..]

Sep 12 2012

The Homecoming of Aziza:

As I pointed out at the end of the last long diary that I posted here on the Stars Hollow Gazette, I did get another exotic bird, after my 20 year old Noble Macaw, McGee, passed over the Pet Rainbow into Bird Heaven, in early February of 2010.   I did some research on birds, both on and offline, and decided on a beautiful, adorable baby Congo African Grey Parrot.

This is a photograph of Aziza, where she looks like she’s doing a dance.  She’s in one of her favorite poses, on her favorite outside-her-cage height and place:

Homecoming of Aziza

Here’s yet another photo of  Aziza,

Homecoming of Aziza

playing in her cage, looking curiously down at something while she’s on her bong rope swing, which is a favorite inside-her-cage perch of hers.

Here’s another more exuberant photo of Aziza.

Homecoming of Aziza

She certainly reveals her beauty, exuberance and gracefulness when she’s in that position.  It’s great!

This is a photo of Aziza perched on my forearm/hand.  You now have a close-up view of her, and you can see her beauty on a somewhat larger scale.

Photobucket

Here’s yet another photo of Aziza, in one of her most pensive modes:

Aziza my baby Congo African Grey Parrot.

This photo, too, reveals how beautiful she really is!  One of my favorite photos of Aziza.Now that I have presented afew (albeit familiar) pictures of Aziza, many of them taken when she was even younger than she is right now, I will proceed with the essay itself.

After the unfortunate passing of my (almost) 20-year-old Noble Macaw, McGee in early February of  2010 due to unknown and natural causes, I knew in my heart that I wanted another exotic bird.  Yet, going out and getting another bird right away didn’t make sense.  I needed time to mourn and do research as to what kind of bird that I wanted.  It was at about ten-thirty on a Sunday night, when I went to cover McGee’s cage.  Seeing McGee lying still on the bottom of his cage, I called his name, and caressed him, hoping to wake him up.  There was no response forthcoming, so I immediately knew the worst;  McGee had passed over the pet rainbow to bird heaven.   Probably not the best thing to do, but, being in shock, I was just thinking on my feet, so to speak.  The next morning, I called my sister and told her the sad news, and then I got a call from my brother a few minutes later, after my sister had called him and given him a message.  I received much condolences from my family, friends and some of my neighbors who I told.  I knew that I  wouldn’t be getting another bird until the spring, and, although it was a fairly short time, I began to feel the emotional pain of  not having a pet to greet me when I walked in the door, and I often found myself looking over at McGee’s old cage in the corner of the living room, expecting him to be there, but finding an empty cage instead.

A week later was my birthday, and one of my birthday presents was a couple of books about parrots;  One was called Parrots for Dummies, and the other was a complete book on African Greys, because I was leaning towards getting an African Grey Parrot.  I did much research on African Greys and other parrots both on and offline.  I asked around about a reputable pet store in our area, talking to the veterinarian that I’d taken McGee to, a couple of her assistants, and a neighbor who’d purchased a Red-Lored Amazon at that same place ten  years before.  All roads pointed to a pet store down in East Walpole, MA, called Bird and Reptile Connection.  After I explained about the passing of my Noble Macaw,  I went down and visited the place, and looked at a not-quite-a year-old Goffins Cockatoo, which is one of the smaller cockatoos.  It was a beautiful bird–all white with a sort of orangey-pink coral color underneath.  The Goffins and I got along splendidly, but after doing much on and offline research, I decided against getting the Goffins cockatoo, and I concentrated on the African Grey instead.  I asked about the baby Timneh African Greys that were due to arrive in April, which were a little cheaper than the Congo African Greys and were reputed to be somewhat more easygoing.  I decided to look at the Timneh, being set on that.  I bided my time, doing as much research as I could, on the Greys, housing for them, care, and food for them.  I kept in touch with the people at Bird and Reptile Connection via telephone and email.  April finally came.  

Sep 12 2012

Five Years!

Crossposted from DocuDharma

This puts us a mere 5 years behind Atrios who celebrated his 10th anniversary earlier this year and 3 years behind dK.

1827 days.  30,833 essays posted (17 a day).  20,089 featured (11 a day).  343,863 comments (188 per day).

Yes, that seemed like an awful lot to me too.  The initial values are taken directly from the database which sequentially numbers each essay and comment.  The larger amount of essays includes everything that the post button was pushed on including static, draft, and deleted pieces as well as all those that were not featured on the Front Page.  The featured essays come from direct measure of the number of Main Archive Pages (now 673 @ 30 per page +19 from the inception of the site on August 17, 2007) starting at our very first essay on our official launch day, September 12, 2007 (page 667 currently).

So 11 features a day seems reasonable since we’re currently running around 8 or 9, but 188 comments?  Well, if you average them out per feature you end up with about 17 comments which is not orders of magnitude outrageous when you consider that many of the 30% that didn’t make the Front Page got comments too, some quite a few.

Even if the numbers are a little inflated though, it’s still quite a record of accomplishment and I want to thank you, our readers and contributors, for making it such a success.

There are 2 individuals I’m going to publicly embarrass- Robyn and mishima.  They’ve been part of the site since before the beginning and the consistent high quality of their work as well as its dependability is an example for anyone, including myself.

For your amusement I thought you might like to see our opening day line up-

September 12, 2007

Another damned, thick, square book!  Always scribble, scribble, scribble!  Eh, Mr. Gibbon?

Doing the research for one of these retrospectives exposes you to some pretty interesting content, parts of which you are expected to be familiar with even if you weren’t around for the entertainment.  Here’s some meta from pre-launch.

And our first Hide Rates

We talked a lot about regulating controversy.  Oddly the central concept, having Editors debate questionable actions in private and recommend temporary penalties for misbehavior to buhdy who would make the final decision instead of automatic banishment based on witch-hunting mobs, didn’t generate nearly as much as the questions of whether it should be possible to express disapproval of a statement without further explanation (Wrong!) and if Pony was simply too cutesy to live.

When we found out there was no way for Members to examine hidden comments and uprate them if they disagreed with the assessment, we suspended ratings for all but Admins and Editors until Soapblox could fix the problem (a big surprise to sites that had been using ratings but not checking them).

Unfortunately, some people have difficulty following the Eight Fold Way (and distinguishing a metaphor from scripture I might add).

Have I mentioned I like irony?

I kind of miss the big guy and expect his disputes with Jeralyn over Zimmerman/Martin and Markos over… well everything, to soon lead to his finding something of substance to write about.  He wasn’t always wrong you know.

Later I’ll be re-publishing So Today’s The Big Day! which is kind of about the positive energy we felt when we opened our doors and Welcome New Users which describes some of the basic tools and organization.  Our handling of HTML has gotten much better with time so we now do have formatting buttons and a literal character (backslash-‘\').  While technically limited to avoid spam, there’s no practical cap on your daily essays if you get in touch with TheMomCat or I.  We monitor pretty closely, but we’re not instantly available necessarily.  I’ve kind of come to enjoy the slower pace where no one sets a serious time limit for you to provide linked evidence of your unfounded accusations, conspiracy theories, and catalog of calumnies and slanders!

I hope you’re enjoying your experience here as much as we do providing you a forum to have it.  I’m looking forward to many more years of stimulating discussion and thought provoking pieces.

Nostalgia Posted:

Sep 12 2012

The Daily Show/The Colbert Report Convention Interviews: Part 2

Andrew Sullivan

James Carville

Austan Goolsbee as aired

Extended Interview Pt. 1

Extended Interview Pt. 2

Extended Interview Pt. 3

Bill Richardson

Ed Rendell

Sep 12 2012

The Daily Show/The Colbert Report Convention Interviews: Part 1

Tom Brokaw as aired

Extended Interview Pt. 1

Extended Interview Pt. 2

Reihan Salam

Kirsten Gillibrand as aired

Extended Interview Pt. 1

Extended Interview Pt. 2

Michael Grunwald

Sep 12 2012

Memoir to McGee:

Sadly, my  beautiful, beloved pet Noble Macaw, McGee, passed over into Bird Heaven on Sunday night, February 7th, 2010, at the age of roughly 20.  I found him dead, at around 10:30 p. m., on the bottom of his cage.  It was very much of a shock, which I still haven’t gotten over, but I hope it’ll wear off soon.  

So saying, I’ve decided to write a memoir of McGee.  Here goes:

I had been wanting a pet bird for quite a long time.  After doing some research and looking in various pet stores, we hit upon one in Boston’s Back Bay area called Back Bay Aquarium & Pet Shop, which is no longer in business.  After looking at some Noble Macaws, I decided I wanted a Noble Macaw as a pet.   After going on vacation for a couple of weeks, I picked out one of the young, green macaws, with a blonde beak, red under the wings, and olive yellow underneath closer to the body.   Accompanied by my parents, I picked out the bird,  selected a cage, reserved the bird and, then my parents and I went to lunch at Chang-Sho, a popular Chinese restaurant in Cambridge’s Porter Square.  All during lunch, we kept throwing out names for the bird, and my mother finally asked me  “What’s the name that Ian (my younger brother) constantly calls you out of affection?”  “McGee”, I replied.  So, the name stuck, and we all agreed that the name “McGee” was a good name for the bird.  

The next day, Sunday, was a rainy, cold day, and I picked up McGee from the Pet Shop.  The pet shop manager put McGee in a cardboard carrier, and I drove him home and put him in his cage, gave him food and water, and allowed him to become acclimated to me and his new surroundings.  McGee squawked happily, and enjoyed himself.  However, the euphoria was relatively short-lived, when a now ex- neighbor who worked nights and slept during the day, complained about the noise.  The guy who lived with her was more amiable, and said that he’d prefer not to be woken up before 7:30 a. m. by McGee’s noise, so I purchased a dark brown cover for the bird’s cage, and made a point of closing my Venetian blinds with the slats facing outward to keep the early-morning sun out of the apartment.  It worked, and that part of the problem was solved.  Since I  then had a fulltime job, I ended up confining McGee to my studio, which was an OK compromise.  At the manager’s suggestion, I took him up to my loft to meet McGee, who immediately won him over.  

Although the woman wasn’t  satisfied, and continued to give me a hard time, it had to do.  One day, as I was going out for a morning run, and the complaining woman had just finished her run, I decided to confront her, saying  “Hey!  If you’ve got any problems, it would be very much appreciated if you’d come and talk to me about it first.”  The woman quickly ran upstairs.  A little later, as I was finishing my morning run, I saw the woman going towards the MBTA station, in the opposite direction from where I was going.  When she saw me, she fled to the opposite side of the highway, stumbling and almost falling down as she ran across the road!  

Sep 12 2012

On This Day In History September 12

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 12 is the 255th day of the year (256th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 110 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1940, Lascaux cave paintings discovered

Lascaux is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The original caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the Dordogne département. They contain some of the best-known Upper Paleolithic  art. These paintings are estimated to be 17,000 years old. They primarily consist of primitive images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time. In 1979, Lascaux was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list along with other prehistoric sites in the Vezere valley.

The cave was discovered on September 12, 1940 by four teenagers, Marcel Ravidat, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel, and Simon Coencas, as well as Marcel’s dog, Robot. The cave complex was opened to the public in 1948. By 1955, the carbon dioxide  produced by 1,200 visitors per day had visibly damaged the paintings. The cave was closed to the public in 1963 in order to preserve the art. After the cave was closed, the paintings were restored to their original state, and were monitored on a daily basis. Rooms in the cave include The Great Hall of the Bulls, the Lateral Passage, the Shaft of the Dead Man, the Chamber of Engravings, the Painted Gallery, and the Chamber of Felines.

Lascaux II, a replica of two of the cave halls – the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery – was opened in 1983, 200 meters from the original. Reproductions of other Lascaux artwork can be seen at the Centre of Prehistoric Art at Le Thot, France.

Sep 12 2012

TPP: SOPA on Steroids

Since 2007 when George W. Bush lurked in the Oval Office, the United States has been in secret negotiations to cut a trade agreement with several Pacific rim countries called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. Those talks continued under President Barack Obama. I’ve written two articles, the first focused on the how TPP would affect the Internet. The second was on the content of the document leaked by Public Citizen in June of this year. That document (pdf), a work in progress, could without congressional approval  hamper free speech on the Internet, reduce access to affordable medicines, deregulate environmental laws, and harm labor rights, not only in the US but around the world. It could give vast political power to multinational corporations in global trade including power over governments to make and enforce their laws.

In other words TPP is “NAFTA on steroids” and “will broadly strip rights from ordinary citizens in favor of global financial players to an unprecedented degree:”

Today, Amnesty International called on the participating countries, which currently include the U.S., Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, to ensure that any new rules adhere to core principles of transparency and uphold human rights. [..]

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact has the potential to affect nearly every aspect of our lives as Americans,” said Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club. “Alarmingly, however, is the opaque process in which the trade rules are being written. While hundreds of elite business executives have a hand in writing the rules that will affect American consumers, the public is largely left in the dark. This is a stealth affront to the principles of our democracy.”

Even the ACLU has become involved:

When asked how the TPP relates to the ACLU’s quest to fight for the protection of digital freedoms, the ACLU representatives said, “The TPP relates to the ACLU’s agenda of protecting free speech and privacy online, open government principles and ultimately protecting the Internet as the most open and innovative platform the world has seen.”

“While strong regulations are necessary to protect IP and promote innovation online, these must be crafted carefully and in a fully transparent fashion,” they continued. This is an incredibly important point which must be emphasized. In opposing CISPA, SOPA, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), ACTA, and the TPP, I am not saying that we should not protect intellectual property and online innovation.

To take such a position would be entirely nonsensical since I rely on such protections provided for my work as well.

“We are concerned that an overly broad policy to crackdown on copyright infringement would allow for the takedown of non-infringing content as well, in violation of the First Amendment, which was the same concern presented by SOPA and PIPA,” said the ACLU’s Fulton and Rottman.

“We also have strong concerns over any provision that would create legal incentives for ISPs to step up surveillance of Internet communications in search of suspected copyright infringement, which would potentially endanger the privacy of users. We also believe that whole site takedowns pose serious due process concerns,” they added.

In an article at Huffington Post Robert Naiman made this analogy about TPP’s impact on access to life saving medications:

It is reported that Stalin said, “The death of one person is a tragedy; the death of a million people is a statistic.” Today, a latter-day Stalin might say, “The death of four Yemeni civilians in a U.S. drone strike is a tragedy; the death of a million people because we let brand-name drug companies own U.S. ‘trade policy’ would be a statistic.”  [..]

What we can say with confidence is this: In an agreement that USTR hopes will eventually cover 40 percent of the world’s population, the negotiating position of USTR has reneged on previous commitments the U.S. government has made to promote the ability of governments to pursue public health goals in “trade agreements” rather than undermining the ability of governments to pursue public health goals.

And regardless of anything else, that fact alone should be a national scandal. When, at long last, you nail acknowledgement of a fundamental human right to the wall, it should stay nailed there. We shouldn’t have to fight USTR on access to essential medicines every time they negotiate a new “trade deal.” USTR should cry uncle on this for all time, no matter how much money brand-name drug companies spend on lobbying and political campaigns.

Naiman also points out that this agreement could severely hamper the ability of NGO’s to treat and contain the AIDS epidemic, putting millions at risk. He noted an article posted by  Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders in PLOS after the 19th International AIDS Conference that tool place August 2012 in Washington, DC>. MSF’s US Manager of the Access Campaign, Judit Rius Sanjuan related how this trade agreement threatens the prospects for an AIDS-free generation:

(To) achieve these goals, antiretroviral (ARV) drugs need to be available at affordable prices. Here’s where the contradiction comes in. The U.S. government is promoting restrictive trade policies that would make it much harder for patients, governments and treatment providers like MSF to access price-lowering generic drugs. [..]

Specifically, the U.S. is asking countries to create new, enhanced and longer patent and data monopoly protections for multinational pharmaceutical companies so they can keep competitors out of the market and charge higher prices for longer.

For example, the U.S. government wants TPP countries to lower the bar for patentability, thereby granting pharmaceutical companies new patents on variations of old drugs with little therapeutic benefit for patients. These provisions could stifle the production of less expensive generic forms.  And, the U.S. would make it impossible to challenge a patent’s validity before it is granted – a commonly used tool that helps to prevent frivolous and unwarranted patenting and which is vital to fostering an IP system that rewards innovations benefiting patients.  The U.S. demands also extend patent monopolies beyond the traditional 20-year period and make it harder for generics to get regulatory approval, which will serve to keep generics out and prop up drug prices for longer.

With these demands, U.S. is turning its back on existing commitments to promote public health in trade agreements and is undermining the sustainability of its own global health programs such as PEPFAR and international initiatives like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

President Obama promised that his administration would be transparent, yet he negotiates this agreement behind closed doors. John Nichols, at The Nation said in his article that to show his worthiness to be reelected, the president should back up his “talk”, “walk the walk” and make this trade agreement transparent:  

The secretiveness mirrors negotiations the led to the North American Free Trade Agreement and other deals that have been devastating to the American manufacturing sector. These are precisely the sort of agreements that take away the “level playing field” both Obama and Mitt Romney say they want for American workers. Yet they keep being negotiated by Republican and Democratic administrations because they are not just favored by Wall Street and the multinationals, they top priorities of the CEOs, hedge-fund managers and speculators who form the donor class of American politics. [..]

President Obama spoke in Charlotte about seeking “a future where we export more products and outsource fewer jobs.” Trade agreements play a critical role in determining that future. Good trade agreements, grounded in “fair trade” values and a commitment to aid the workers of the United States and other countries, produce good results. Bad trade agreements, grounded in “free trade” fantasies and the demands of Wall Street speculators and lobbyists for multinational corporations, produce bad results.

What Americans need to know is whether the TPP, which is being negotiated in their name but without their informed consent, is headed in a good or bad direction.

In Charlotte, President Obama declared, “You elected me to tell you the truth.”

It is time for Pres. Obama to make good on his promise about being transparent, open these negotiations to public scrutiny and tell the American people the truth.

He can start by ordering his trade representative to remove the cloak of secrecy, begin serious consultations with Congress and make TPP negotiations open and transparent.

Sep 12 2012

No Dancing VII

Leave It

I’ll never understand why 4 part a cappella harmony didn’t storm the floor.