Tuesday, August 30, 2011

CFI petitions FDA about homeopathic "medicines"

In its industry-wide petition, CFI and CSI request the FDA to initiate rulemaking that would require all over-the-counter homeopathic drugs to meet the same standards of effectiveness as non-homeopathic drugs. Although the FDA has the authority to require homeopathic drugs to undergo testing for effectiveness, it has to date declined to do so.
Hard to believe this is necessary in 2011. Homeopathy is ludicrous.

Against the Tide

An interview with Ben Kalina yesterday on Democracy Now! reminded me of a book I've recommended several times since I read it several years ago, Cornelia Dean's Against the Tide:

It's that rare find: a suberb science book with significant implications for public policy.

The Elephant in the Living Room

Another outstanding documentary, this one about "exotic pets" (I don't believe there are exotic pets, only captive wild animals) in the US. The film doesn't say much about these species' lives in the wild or the ugly business of capturing and trading in them - it gives a sense through hidden-camera footage at an exotic animal show and auction - but it is compelling and heartwrenching throughout.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tim Zimmermann on captive whale attacks

I'll have a lot more to say about captive wild animals and related issues in the coming weeks and months, but I wanted to point to a recent article by Tim Zimmermann, "Blood in the Water," about the killing of Alexis Martínez by Keto at Loro Parque in the Canary Islands, just two months before Tilikum killed Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld Orlando.* In it, he refers and links to his article from last year, "The Killer in the Pool." They have a slightly different focus than I do, but I recommend both.

*Tilikum's story is tragic. According to Wikipedia, SeaWorld has put him back to work.


Also from Democracy Now!: the Vatican against Aristide

I've talked about the longterm interference in Haitian politics by the US and other governments. The latest reports based on documents revealed by Wikileaks call attention to an aspect that's received less attention: the involvement of the Vatican. From the interview:
AMY GOODMAN: Give us specific examples that you found in the documents.

KIM IVES: Well, the Vatican, for instance. Here, they said they had no regrets about Aristide being removed. They said, “The priest had to go.” When he was out, and there was, after the earthquake, talk of bringing him back, they said, “This would be a disaster. It would be destabilizing.” It was very interesting, too, how they were seeing it as similar to Cuba. And they said, “Cuba is a much harder problem, because that’s a system there. In the case of Haiti, it’s just Aristide. It’s an individual. We can get him out easily.” So, they’re openly talking among themselves on this worldwide basis about how to block this guy.


AMY GOODMAN: March 5th, 2004, U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican James Nicholson wrote a cable reporting that the Holy See’s Deputy Foreign Minister had "no regret at Aristide’s departure, noting [that] the former priest had been an active proponent of voodoo.”

KIM IVES: Of voodoo, yes. Well, we have to remember, the Vatican has a huge grudge against Aristide. He was one of their star priests. That’s how he rose to prominence as a Salesian priest, St. John Bosco in Port-au-Prince in the 1980s. He was talking about liberation theology, putting the hierarchy on the spot.

The RCC seems fairly content to let people see them as champions of freedom and justice in the Americas on the basis of the involvement of some priests and nuns in liberation movements. But the Vatican has been supportive of the most brutal dictatorships in the region and hostile to Catholics on the front lines of social justice struggles, even exposing local clergy to harassment and violence.

In the future,...

when someone raises the subject of the national debt, I shall link to this.

...According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joe Stiglitz, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone will exceed $5 trillion. With a cost like this, why isn’t war central to the debate over the national debt?

Two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler had it right 75 years ago when he said of war: “It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious [racket]. ... It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives ... It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many.”

As President Barack Obama and Congress claim it is Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that are breaking the budget, people should demand that they stop paying for war.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

You know you have a problem

...when Monckton is the relative voice of reason on your panel.

A month ago I posted an open letter to the Chronicle of Higher Education expressing my displeasure with their irresponsibly hosting Peter Wood's blog. The particular post that drove me to it was an attack on John Mashey. Mashey and Rob Coleman have since responded, and Mashey as usual leaves little to add.

But reading Mashey's response and report led me to look around a little more at Wood's previous posts. This one made some interesting connections. Apparently, Wood attended both the creationist/antienvironmentalist conference I posted about in June and another on "Christian business ethics" featuring an address about morality by none other than Jack Templeton (Templeton is also, according to Mashey's report, a major funder of Wood's organization) and odious perspectives like this:
One session towards the end dealt with a well-intended business venture in Africa that failed because of the embezzlement and self-dealing by the African partners. Biblical principles met tribal self-interest, and tribal self-interest triumphed. How are the blessings of the free market going to be achieved in the global community when confronted with obstacles like that?
That post reminded me to return to the videos of the California conference where Monckton made his infamous remarks.* I watched this panel with Monckton on "Religiosity and Global Warming Advocacy":

Watch live streaming video from bigfootprintconference at livestream.com

It is hilarious.

***CORRECTIONS***: Well, the first is more of a clarification. I called Templeton a "major funder" of Wood's organization. Mashey's report (p. 24) puts Templeton's funding at 3% of the total contributions; the major funders are clearly Sarah Scaife and to a lesser extent the Bradley Foundation (Templeton's $169,000 is not negligible, however). But there was a far more serious problem with my post's title. I had forgotten that this was the panel for which the first listed panelist was "Michael Chrichton [sic] (dec'd)." Monckton was not the relative voice of reason. The dead guy was.

*Here's Wood's description:
Lord Monckton is an agile, nose-tweaking, derisive foe of those who believe that significant global warming has resulted from human contributions of CO2 to the atmosphere. He is more caustic still towards those who believe that carbon reductions, cap and trade, windmills, and the like can be deployed to achieve any meaningful reduction in greenhouse gases. Let’s say Lord Monckton’s keynote address was not an attempt to find the redeeming features of a flawed movement, or to discover a winsome approach to those who are ambivalent about the alleged threat of global warming.

NIMH director: chemical imbalance notion antiquated

Via Critical Psychiatry comes this bit of news about NIMH director Thomas Insel claiming that mental illness is a "disruption in neural circuits" (despite admitting that they don't know how to define neural circuits). I don't buy this claim, at least in the form he makes it, but the strangest part comes in the conclusion:
While the neuroscience discoveries are coming fast and furious, one thing we can say already is that earlier notions of mental disorders as chemical imbalances or as social constructs are beginning to look antiquated.
Leaving aside the bit about social constructs - not sure what he even means by it - this is quite a statement from the head of NIMH. So he's acknowledging that the host of drugs whose supposed mechanism of action is altering chemical "balances" don't in fact have a scientific basis? This is indeed what the research has long shown, but it's striking to see it acknowledged so casually and for this not to be news.

Murders in Honduras

Adrienne Pine has been posting about the killings of peasants in the Bajo Aguán. The terrible situation is described here.

The US and Canadian governments bear a large part of the responsibility for this.

Grassroots International has started an e-action for people to make themselves heard to the US and Honduran governments.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fidel at the Dolphinarium

I was struck by a passage in Jeffrey St. Clair’s introduction to Jason Hribal’s Fear of the Animal Planet in which he describes Cuba’s National Aquarium and its role in the dolphin trade. In my searches I found references to Castro’s visit last year, which also reminded me of an earlier post of mine.

Fidel at the Dolphinarium

Breathing the warm Havana air,
the recluse attends the spectacle.
Young ones perform late into the nights,
propelling the people up, noses under their feet.
Attacks are very very rare, the bosses tell him.
The beasts enjoy their work.
They greet him at the acrylic window
standing on their heads, smiling.
Guevara beams.
Working with women is good,
and much safer.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Another good documentary - Terror's Advocate

Recently, I recommended a great French documentary, which I've now seen a few times and recommend even more highly. This one I'd wanted to see a while back when it was out in the theaters (...well, the theaters I tend to go to) but didn't have the chance. I was finally able to watch it the other day on a "small" screen, and it's solid.

Fear of the Animal Planet, Jason Hribal

…Topsy had no choice but to continue to resist. Her final act was charging after a group of Italian construction workers. A week later, several ‘very matter-of-fact electricians from the Edison Company’ arrived at the park and began setting up for the execution...On the afternoon of January 4th, Mr. Edison’s executioners attached electrodes to the elephant’s feet. At 2:45 pm, they flipped the switch. ‘There was a bit of smoke for an instant’, a New York Times reporter noted. ‘Topsy raised her trunk as if to protest, then shook, bent to her knees, fell, and rolled over on her right side motionless’. Two minutes later, she was declared dead. (43)

This is a radical book. It should make most readers, if they can get past the fact that the cover quotation is from the president of PETA, see things in a radically new way. By no means is this to say it’s a perfect book. The criticisms in the Amazon ratings are largely accurate: It needed (much better) proofreading and editorial guidance. Far more importantly, neither the fascinating preface by Jeffrey St. Clair ("Let Us Now Praise Infamous Animals") about the history of animal court trials nor the text itself contains any footnotes at all. You could say that it’s a polemical work, a pamphlet of sorts, so strict academic standards don’t apply, but such a work is far more effective when well and carefully documented. Even the most skeletal standards of scholarship require quotations to be sourced. (Disappointingly, it doesn’t contain any photos, either.)

Nevertheless, Hribal’s sad account of animal resistance is compelling. It tells the stories of animals – elephants, primates, and sea mammals - and their acts of, I’m convinced, defiance and resistance. Its approach poses problems for those visions of animal welfare or cross-species understanding that present nonhuman animals as mute or passive objects. (It doesn’t seem strange to speak of these as patronizing after reading the book.) It speaks to epistemic injustice, especially in the all-too-brief sections on proposed explanations for the animals’ angry, willful, and often ingenious actions. It speaks to moral progress.

It’s a seditious history from below, in the spirit of the histories of oppressed human groups (really - read that link); indeed, Hribal often talks about the animals as workers and discusses their acts in the same terms as we talk about labor struggles. This is a key element: most of us can recognize individual animals’ acts against specific people as something more than instinctual, but this book leads us to consider them in terms of (sometimes effective) patterns of resistance to systemic violence and exploitation.

Some of the stories I’d heard on the news or read about, but seeing them from a vastly different perspective elicited a different emotional reaction. In some cases, I found myself cheering them on in their acts of escape, sabotage, and even violence.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Interlude - Happy Jerry Day!

Coincidentally, this was going to be the next Interlude in any case, but I was cued by a reminder from Rev. BigDumbChimp to throw it up today:

(It ends rather abruptly, and the person who put it up seems confused about what year it was, but that's OK.)