March 14, 2012
By Rady Ananda
As courts and bureaucrats continue to assert that citizens have no fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice, we find Monsanto lurking nearby. The Wisconsin judge who recently ruled that we have no right to own a cow or drink its milk resigned to join one of Monsanto’s law firms.
Former judge Patrick J. Fiedler now works for Axley Brynelson, LLP, which defended Monsanto against a patent infringement case filed by Australian firm, Genetic Technologies, Ltd. (GTL) in early 2010.
GTL had sued several biotechnology firms, a medical lab and a crime lab that had used its patented methods for analyzing DNA sequences. Though a federal case, the district court which heard the matter sits in Dane County, Wisconsin, where Fiedler coincidentally served as a state judge.
In that case, the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) “upheld Genetic Technologies Ltd.’s patent for noncoding DNA technologies, giving more firepower to the Australian company’s patent infringement suit against Monsanto Inc., Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. and a slew of rival laboratories,” reports Law360.
In another link, Myriad Genetics, which holds the exclusive U.S. patent on human genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, granted the license to GTL in 2002. These human genes are associated with breast and ovarian cancer.
In 2009, the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation (PubPat) sued the PTO, Myriad Genetics, and principals at the University of Utah Research Foundation, charging that patents on genes are unconstitutional and invalid. The suit also charges that such patents stifle diagnostic testing and research that could lead to cures and that they limit women’s options regarding their medical care.
In an absurd ruling this year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the patent on these human genes, even though the DNA sequence occurs in nature. The court decided that simply because researchers had been able to extract it, the firm owns it. Of course, under this thinking, all of nature can be patented if human technology allows extraction.
“The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted thousands of patents on human genes – in fact, about 20 percent of our genes are patented,” said the ACLU. “A gene patent holder has the right to prevent anyone from studying, testing or even looking at a gene. As a result, scientific research and genetic testing has been delayed, limited or even shut down due to concerns about gene patents.”
The US ruling gives Myriad monopolistic control over these human genes, and over diagnostic testing for that DNA sequence. The case is now headed to the US Supreme Court.
The Myriad patent was also challenged in Australia and at the European Patent Office. In 2009, the EPO granted a highly restricted BRCA1 patent.
Australia’s case will be heard in February 2012. Dr Luigi Palombi, who supports the pending Patent Amendment Bill, believes the US decision “is irrational, contrary to scientific fact and little more than a knee-jerk reaction to the fear mongering of the American biotechnology industry. It claims that without gene patents it will not have any incentive to undertake necessary research. Of course, this is a lie.”
February 3, 2012
By Steve Watson
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit this week against the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the CIA, demanding the release of any information pertaining to the deaths of three American citizens resulting directly from drone missile strikes in 2011.
Details regarding the deaths of accused Al Qaeda leaders Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Kahn, both American citizens, have been kept under wraps. Both men were reportedly killed in targeted drone attacks last year in Yemen.
The third US citizen to be killed was Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, who was killed in a drone attack two weeks after al-Awlaki and Kahn.
At the time Obama described the death of Awlaki as a “significant milestone” in the war on terror.
“Our government’s deliberate and premeditated killing of American terrorism suspects raises profound questions that ought to be the subject of public debate,” Nathan Freed Wessler of the ACLU writes.
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March 21st, 2011
By: Dave Roberts
The Assembly Higher Education Committee approved two bills on Tuesday allowing college students who are in the state illegally to receive financial aid. Dubbed the California Dream Act, AB130 allows illegal immigrants to receive privately funded college scholarships, and AB131 allows them to receive taxpayer-funded financial aid such as Cal Grants.
Currently, illegal students who spend at least three years in California high schools pay only the in-state tuition rate — a significant cost savings over legal citizens from other states who are attending California colleges. That benefit was provided by AB540, which passed in 2001.
The AB130/131 sponsor, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, told the committee that while AB540 was a good first step, it does little good for undocumented students who can’t afford the lower rate.
“AB130 puts forth the proposition that we should recognize that there are young men and women in our universities and community colleges that were brought here through no choice of their own,” said Cedillo. “Young men and women who have learned our language, embraced our cultures, our values and made one choice: to work hard, play by the rules and be the best they can be. We are obligated to educate these young men and women. There is no law in this state and nation that says we should punish the children for the acts of the parents.
“The greatness of this nation is that you can come from very challenging circumstances, and within one generation you can transform your life through public education. It’s the great equalizer. California leads the nation in many areas of public policy, AB32 comes to mind. We have a chance to be very progressive about recognizing the immigrant history of this state and nation. Most importantly, to recognize a vision and dream that began with our founding fathers. This is a nation of immigrants. That is the dream and why we are here today.”
Cedillo was backed by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who said that in-state tuition and housing is about $31,000 per year, adding, “UC Berkeley students are some of California’s best and brightest. This includes undocumented students who need our help. This will ensure they can attend UC Berkeley.”
UCLA Vice Chancellor Scott Waugh said that these students have it tougher than other students: “Many overcome everyday obstacles, some have long bus commutes, others sleep on friends’ couches. Despite this, they thrive at UCLA. We strongly believe they will be future leaders of California and our nation if we give them the opportunity.”
One of those students is Anna Gomez, who graduated UC Berkeley with a 3.7 grade point average. She told the committee that she has had to put on hold her plan to attend law school “because of financial difficulties. [Financial aid] would make such a huge difference in the lives of so many people and stop so many people from living a life of despair, and give them a chance to study and hope that they can attend university.”
More than a hundred people voiced support for the bills. But only one, Rowena Donnelly, the granddaughter of a farm worker who legally immigrated to this country, stood up in opposition. She is also the wife of Assemblyman Tim Donnelly R-Twin Peaks, a self-described minuteman who cast one of the two votes against the bills.
Donnelly, who is the Assembly seatmate and a friend of Cedillo, argued against the legislation’s unfairness for California’s beleaguered taxpayers, for those who chose to come here legally and for American citizens in other states who have to pay much higher tuition to attend California colleges.
“You talked about us being a nation of immigrants — you left out that we are also a nation of laws,” said Donnelly to Cedillo. “The problem with AB130 is you are looking to set a precedent that will become an incentive for more people to come here illegally. I’m a huge proponent of legal immigration. With the budget cuts, we are shrinking the number of spots available (in state colleges). The cuts haven’t even started yet – we have $5.5 billion worth of cuts. That means (openings) won’t be available for citizens or members of the military. Using taxpayer funds to essentially cheat citizens of an opportunity at the colleges at a time when that is most needed — people need to be trained for new jobs — I don’t see how this is an appropriate use of funds. Even though the cause may tug at our heart strings.”
The other vote against the bills was cast by Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, who was born in Lebanon to Armenian parents. He legally emigrated to the United States, “where through hard work and perseverance he was able to pursue the American Dream,” he states on his Web site. At Tuesday’s hearing, Achadjian argued that it will do little good for illegal students to graduate from college if they are not legally allowed to get a job afterwards. The focus should instead be on providing citizenship for college graduates, he said.
Addressing Gomez and another student who testified on behalf of the bills, Achadjian said, “If I want to make this country my home, I want to knock on every door to make sure somebody gives me an opportunity. We want you to be a part of our community. I can look at you with all sincerity, but that question does not leave me alone: Why aren’t you trying to become U.S. citizens?” The students were offered an opportunity to respond but declined.
Last November the California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the legality of AB540, overturning a lower court ruling. The plaintiffs seeking to overturn AB540 argued that federal immigration law banning post-secondary education benefits for illegal aliens preempts it.
“By making illegal aliens who possess no lawful domicile in the state of California eligible for in-state tuition rates, while denying this benefit to U.S. citizens whose lawful domicile is outside California, the state of California has denigrated U.S. citizenship and placed U.S. citizen plaintiffs in a legally disfavored position compared to that of illegal aliens,” is the way the lower court summed up the anti-AB540 argument.
The California Supreme Court disagreed, ruling, “It cannot be the case that states may never give a benefit to unlawful aliens without giving the same benefit to all American citizens.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who argued the anti-AB540 case, may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. In an op-ed he wrote, “It makes no sense to hand this valuable subsidy to illegal aliens when so many U.S. citizens can’t afford to attend college — even at the in-state rates. If we are going to subsidize anyone’s tuition, let’s help out our own citizens before we reward aliens who are breaking federal law by remaining in this country.”
AB130 and AB131 will next go for review by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Cedillo co-authored AB540 and has sponsored numerous unsuccessful bills to allow illegal aliens to have driver’s licenses.
December 8th, 2010
By: Julian Assange
WIKILEAKS deserves protection, not threats and attacks.
IN 1958 a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide’s The News, wrote: “In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.”
His observation perhaps reflected his father Keith Murdoch’s expose that Australian troops were being needlessly sacrificed by incompetent British commanders on the shores of Gallipoli. The British tried to shut him up but Keith Murdoch would not be silenced and his efforts led to the termination of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.
Nearly a century later, WikiLeaks is also fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.
I grew up in a Queensland country town where people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully. The dark days of corruption in the Queensland government before the Fitzgerald inquiry are testimony to what happens when the politicians gag the media from reporting the truth.
These things have stayed with me. WikiLeaks was created around these core values. The idea, conceived in Australia, was to use internet technologies in new ways to report the truth.
WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?
Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.
People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.
If you have read any of the Afghan or Iraq war logs, any of the US embassy cables or any of the stories about the things WikiLeaks has reported, consider how important it is for all media to be able to report these things freely.
WikiLeaks is not the only publisher of the US embassy cables. Other media outlets, including Britain’s The Guardian, The New York Times, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables.
Yet it is WikiLeaks, as the co-ordinator of these other groups, that has copped the most vicious attacks and accusations from the US government and its acolytes. I have been accused of treason, even though I am an Australian, not a US, citizen. There have been dozens of serious calls in the US for me to be “taken out” by US special forces. Sarah Palin says I should be “hunted down like Osama bin Laden”, a Republican bill sits before the US Senate seeking to have me declared a “transnational threat” and disposed of accordingly. An adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister’s office has called on national television for me to be assassinated. An American blogger has called for my 20-year-old son, here in Australia, to be kidnapped and harmed for no other reason than to get at me.
And Australians should observe with no pride the disgraceful pandering to these sentiments by Julia Gillard and her government. The powers of the Australian government appear to be fully at the disposal of the US as to whether to cancel my Australian passport, or to spy on or harass WikiLeaks supporters. The Australian Attorney-General is doing everything he can to help a US investigation clearly directed at framing Australian citizens and shipping them to the US.
Prime Minister Gillard and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have not had a word of criticism for the other media organisations. That is because The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel are old and large, while WikiLeaks is as yet young and small.
We are the underdogs. The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn’t want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings.
Has there been any response from the Australian government to the numerous public threats of violence against me and other WikiLeaks personnel? One might have thought an Australian prime minister would be defending her citizens against such things, but there have only been wholly unsubstantiated claims of illegality. The Prime Minister and especially the Attorney-General are meant to carry out their duties with dignity and above the fray. Rest assured, these two mean to save their own skins. They will not.
Every time WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies, Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State Department: “You’ll risk lives! National security! You’ll endanger troops!” Then they say there is nothing of importance in what WikiLeaks publishes. It can’t be both. Which is it?
It is neither. WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we have changed whole governments, but not a single person, as far as anyone is aware, has been harmed. But the US, with Australian government connivance, has killed thousands in the past few months alone.
US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates admitted in a letter to the US congress that no sensitive intelligence sources or methods had been compromised by the Afghan war logs disclosure. The Pentagon stated there was no evidence the WikiLeaks reports had led to anyone being harmed in Afghanistan. NATO in Kabul told CNN it couldn’t find a single person who needed protecting. The Australian Department of Defence said the same. No Australian troops or sources have been hurt by anything we have published.
But our publications have been far from unimportant. The US diplomatic cables reveal some startling facts:
► The US asked its diplomats to steal personal human material and information from UN officials and human rights groups, including DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, credit card numbers, internet passwords and ID photos, in violation of international treaties. Presumably Australian UN diplomats may be targeted, too.
► King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia asked the US to attack Iran.
► Officials in Jordan and Bahrain want Iran’s nuclear program stopped by any means available.
► Britain’s Iraq inquiry was fixed to protect “US interests”.
► Sweden is a covert member of NATO and US intelligence sharing is kept from parliament.
► The US is playing hardball to get other countries to take freed detainees from Guantanamo Bay. Barack Obama agreed to meet the Slovenian President only if Slovenia took a prisoner. Our Pacific neighbour Kiribati was offered millions of dollars to accept detainees.
In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government”. The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.
August 27th, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Senior citizens who take antipsychotic drugs are twice as likely to contract pneumonia as seniors who do not take the drugs, according to a study conducted by researchers from Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
“Anti-psychotics are prescribed too frequently without doctors thinking about the consequences,” said Steve Field, chair of the United Kingdom’s Royal College of General Practitioners. “This paper yet again gives us evidence why we should not prescribe them unless absolutely necessary and if you do you should closely monitor the patient.”
Researchers examined the health records of 1,944 residents of the Netherlands over the age of 65 who had been treated at one of more than 300 general practices. In the Netherlands, medical records include not only visits to a specific doctor, but visits to all doctors, hospitals and outpatient clinics.
The researchers found that patients taking antipsychotic drugs were twice as likely to contract pneumonia as those who did not take the drugs. The pneumonia risk was highest during the first week of drug treatment.
The relationship between antipsychotic use and pneumonia was strong in users of both typical and atypical antipsychotics, although the risk from the newer (atypical) drugs was slightly lower.
The use of antipsychotic drugs in elderly patients has become an issue of growing concern. Although the drugs are designed for the treatment of disorders such as schizophrenia, they have become increasingly popular for unapproved use on patients suffering from dementia. Yet recent studies have shown that elderly dementia patients who take the drugs are significantly more likely to die from heart attacks, strokes and pneumonia than patients who do not take them.
Of the patients in the current study taking antipsychotics, only 5 percent had been prescribed the drugs for schizophrenia. The vast majority had been given the drugs in response to dementia-linked behavioral or psychological disorders.
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July 28, 2010
An anti-illegal immigration group is calling on the Obama administration to ensure a smooth exit for illegal immigrants who are trying to leave the U.S. due to the weak economy and Arizona’s strict new immigration law.
Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) is urging U.S. citizens to pressure the White House and the Homeland Security Department to establish “safe departure” border checkpoints along the U.S. border for illegal immigrants so they can leave without fear of being detained or prosecuted for immigration crimes.
“The peaceful and gradual exodus of illegals from Arizona shows there is no need for comprehensive immigration reform amnesty,” William Gheen, president of the group, said in a written statement. “Comprehensive immigration enforcement works and has the desired effect without mass deportations.”
Gheen said the safe passage would ensure that illegals “leave in an orderly fashion, instead of trying risky desert crossings, paying money to the cartels for passage south, or fleeing to other states.”
“This is about the only situation we would ever advocate that our immigration laws be waived,” Gheen said. “We want to encourage the illegals to leave America on their own and thus we ask Obama to provide them safe passage out of America.”
Neither the White House nor Homeland Security responded to e-mails seeking comment.
The call comes as the Obama administration seeks an injunction in federal court to block Arizona’s immigration law, set to take effect on Thursday, that would make illegal immigration a state crime and require police to check the residency status of anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. A ruling on the case is expected Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
An estimated 100,000 illegal immigrants have left Arizona in the past two years as it cracked down on illegal immigration and its economy was hard hit by the recession. A Department of Homeland Security report on illegal immigrants estimates Arizona’s illegal immigrant population peaked in 2008 at 560,000, and a year later dipped to 460,000.
It is not clear how many have left since the new law passed in April. Some are leaving the U.S. and others are heading to neighboring states.
A pro-immigrant group called the safe passage proposal “a little suspicious.”
“I think it’s clearly part of the attrition strategy. Make things so horrible for immigrants that they will self deport,” said Sarahi Uribe, a regional organizer for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “But while it’s true some people are leaving Arizona, a great deal of people are staying.”
Uribe dismissed Gheen’s idea as a “thinly disguised” strategy to “drive people out of the state of Arizona.”
“It’s kind of sick they would paint this as humanitarian relief when Arizona’s immigration law has created a humanitarian crisis.”
Gheen told FoxNews.com that he would not want safe passage for illegal immigrants accused of serious criminal offenses, such as murder or rape.
“The main thing is, we just want them to leave,” Gheen said, adding that if all immigration laws were enforced, the number of illegals would be reduced to less than 1 million in 10 years.
July 22, 2010
By: Nat Hentoff
In May of last year, David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus from 2006 to 2008, co-authored a strategic analysis (“Death From Above, Outrage Down Below,” New York Times, May 17, 2009). He emphasized that the “public outrage” among Pakistan’s civilians caused by our drone attacks “is hardly limited to the region in which they take place.”
Extensively reported by the news media, “the persistence of these attacks on Pakistani territory offends people’s deepest sensibilities, alienates them from their government and contributes to Pakistan’s instability.”
A year later, in Foreign Policy in Focus (fpif.org, May 19), Conn Hallinan, reporting on the increase in drone strikes in Pakistan, notes that the continuing controversy over the actual number of corollary civilian deaths “is a sharply debated issue.” Neither President Obama, who authorizes them, nor the CIA, which does the actual killing, directly gives us the numbers. As for the Pakistani government’s figures, Hallinan continues:
“The word ‘civilian’ is a slippery one, because no one knows exactly what criteria the United States uses to distinguish a ‘militant’ from a civilian. Is someone with a gun a ‘militant’? Since large numbers of males in the frontier regions of Pakistan carry guns, that definition would target a huge number of people.”
I mentioned this life-ending ambiguity in drone strikes to a person who claims to be concerned with human-rights abuses. Shrugging, she said: “I don’t have to worry about that. The drones aren’t coming here; and since they’re pilotless, there are no American casualties. So I’m all for their use.”
But drones are indeed in our skies.
Constitutionalist John Whitehead – who is also a careful master researcher – points out (“Drones Over America: Tyranny at Home,” Rutherford.org, June 28), that “unbeknownst to most Americans, remote-controlled pilotless aircraft have been employed domestically for years now. They were first used as a national-security tool for patrolling America’s borders, and then as a means of monitoring citizens.”
He cites a 2006 news story, moreover, that “one North Carolina county is using (an unmanned aerial vehicle) equipped with low-light and infrared cameras to keep watch on its citizens. The aircraft has been dispatched to monitor gatherings of motorcycle riders at the Gaston County fairgrounds from just a few hundred feet in the air – close enough to identify faces.”
As John Whitehead also reports, “Drones (are) a $2 billion cornerstone of the Obama administration’s war efforts.” And Defense Secretary Robert Gates adds, “The more we have used them, the more we have identified their potential in a broader and broader set of circumstances.”
So broad that – and this is Whitehead’s core discovery – “the Federal Aviation Administration is facing mounting pressure from state governments and localities to issue flying rights for a range of (unmanned aerial vehicles) to carry out civilian and law-enforcement activities.”
You think an unmanned aerial vehicle won’t be interested in you, innocent of any conceivable (even by the CIA) terrorist connections? Do not underestimate an all-seeing, suspicious government. “State police,” writes Whitehead, “hope to send them up to capture images of speeding cars’ license plates.” And, in 2007, “insect-like drones were seen hovering over political rallies in New York and Washington, seemingly spying on protesters.”
As I was writing about drones watching over us, I found a triumphant breakthrough (“Unmanned Phantom Eye Demonstrator Unveiled,” spacedaily.com, July 13): “The Boeing Company has unveiled the hydrogen-powered Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system.” Said Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, at the St. Louis unveiling ceremony:
“Phantom Eye is the first of its kind and could open up a whole new market in collecting data and communications. … The capabilities in Phantom Eye’s design will offer game-changing opportunities for our military, civil and commercial customers.”
Will we citizens have any say in whether we want to be part of this continually omnivorous government game? Whitehead gives you the answer: “Unfortunately, to a drone, everyone is a suspect because drone technology makes no distinction between the law-abiding individual and the suspect. Everyone gets monitored, photographed, tracked and targeted.”
But not terminally targeted like the innocent civilians during Predator and Reaper strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. However, the Obama administration has made it clear that, like its predecessor, it has decided the battlefield against terrorism can be anywhere – including the United States.
And should there be another Sept. 11 or a successful suicide bomber in New York’s Times Square, the government – with its ever-increasing, undeniable evidence of homegrown jihadists (who look just like your neighbors) may use unmanned aerial vehicles not only for surveillance but in the self-defense of us all. Drones have already committed extrajudicial killings outside our borders. Are we immune at home?
Whitehead summons James Madison: “A standing military force with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.” Are the drones to remain beyond the American rule of law? It’s past time to begin to find out.
So far, we are told nothing credible of whom we are targeting, and why, in other countries. We should at least be let in on the rules of this grim game as it may affect our own fate. Failing our responsibility as citizens, we have become almost entirely complicit in the extent and depth of our being continually surveilled at home outside the Constitution.
Will drones continue to hover outside the Constitution? Barack Obama knows.