Mar 312010
 

New York Times

A federal judge on Monday struck down patents on two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer. The decision, if upheld, could throw into doubt the patents covering thousands of human genes and reshape the law of intellectual property.

United States District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet issued the 152-page decision, which invalidated seven patents related to the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, whose mutations have been associated with cancer.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York joined with individual patients and medical organizations to challenge the patents last May: they argued that genes, products of nature, fall outside of the realm of things that can be patented. The patents, they argued, stifle research and innovation and limit testing options.

Myriad Genetics, the company that holds the patents with the University of Utah Research Foundation, asked the court to dismiss the case, claiming that the work of isolating the DNA from the body transforms it and makes it patentable. Such patents, it said, have been granted for decades; the Supreme Court upheld patents on living organisms in 1980. In fact, many in the patent field had predicted the courts would throw out the suit.

Judge Sweet, however, ruled that the patents were “improperly granted” because they involved a “law of nature.” He said that many critics of gene patents considered the idea that isolating a gene made it patentable “a ‘lawyer’s trick’ that circumvents the prohibition on the direct patenting of the DNA in our bodies but which, in practice, reaches the same result.”

The case could have far-reaching implications. About 20 percent of human genes have been patented, and multibillion-dollar industries have been built atop the intellectual property rights that the patents grant.

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Mar 282010
 

Monday, March 29, at 7 pm

THE GREAT CONSPIRACY: The 9/11 News Special You Never Saw



Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Auditorium

Northeast corner of Speedway and Mountain

Free, and open to the public

Free, easy parking East of building

This comprehensive documentary addresses in depth the failure of the military on 9/11, the inappropriate behavior of George Bush that day, and the cover-up by the 9/11 Commission. The film also makes clear the massive amount of 9/11 misinformation in the mainstream media from the very first day.

Sponsored by Voices of Opposition

As part of the Monday Night Film/Lecture Series

For information, call 622-6419 or http://www.voicesofopposition.com/>

Mar 282010
 

news.theage.com.auA senior minister on Sunday warned that Israel would “liquidate” the Islamist Hamas-run government in Gaza following deadly weekend clashes that killed two Israeli soldiers.

“Sooner or later we will liquidate the military regime of the pro-Iranian Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip,” Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, from the governing rightwing Likud party, told public radio.

“I am not setting a timetable, but we will not tolerate this regime continuing to strengthen itself militarily and providing itself with an arsenal of rockets that threaten our territory,” he added.

An Israeli officer and soldier were killed over the weekend in the deadliest clashes since Israel’s 22-day offensive in Gaza launched in December 2008.

That war killed some 1,400 Palestinians and flattened entire neighbourhoods in Gaza, leaving thousands of people homeless. Thirteen Israelis were killed during the fighting.

When asked whether Israel may launch a new invasion of the territory, Steinitz replied: “We have no choice.”

The Islamist Hamas movement — which is pledged to Israel’s destruction and blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the West — seized power in Gaza in June 2007 after routing forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

The 2008-2009 war largely succeeded in its aim of halting years of near-daily rocket attacks on southern Israel, but recently there has been a rise in attacks, and a Thai labourer was killed earlier this month.

Mar 272010
 


Wired.com

America’s undeclared drone war has been controversial, for any number of reasons: Pakistani politicians have cried foul over “counterproductive” strikes. Critics worry they may create more popular support for militants. And civil liberties groups have asked whether, in effect, it amounts to a program of targeted killing.

Now the State Department’s top legal adviser has offered a rationale for the ongoing campaign: Legitimate self-defense.

In a keynote address last night to the American Society of International Law, State Department legal adviser Harold Koh said it was “the considered view of this administration” that drone operations, including lethal attacks, “comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.”

Al Qaeda and its allies, he continued, have not abandoned plans to attack the United States. “Thus, in this ongoing armed conflict, the United States has the authority under international law, and the responsibility to its citizens, to use force, including lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level al Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks,” he said.

It’s worth giving a closer look at the speech, excerpted here by ASIL. But this is not likely to appease critics of the drone war. Most recently, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Defense Department, the State Department and the Justice Department, demanding that the government provide more details about the legal basis of the drone war, including details about who authorizes drone strikes, how the targets are cleared and the rate of civilian casualties.

Koh addressed several of the concerns raised by rights groups:

Some have suggested that the very use of targeting a particular leader of an enemy force in an armed conflict must violate the laws of war. But individuals who are part of such an armed group are belligerent and, therefore, lawful targets under international law…. Some have challenged the very use of advanced weapons systems, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, for lethal operations. But the rules that govern targeting do not turn on the type of weapon system involved, and there is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of technologically advanced weapons systems in armed conflict — such as pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs — so long as they are employed in conformity with applicable laws of war…. Some have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force.

Obviously, this doesn’t end the controversy, but the administration has made it quite clear it sees no legal reason to scale back the escalating drone war.

Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

Mar 272010
 

Antiwar.com

In a move that was widely expected, Obama Administration officials headed to the Senate to press for approval of a $33 billion war supplemental bill, with most of the money going to pay for the Afghan War.

The $33 billion supplement would be in addition to the record $708 billion military budget reported in January. The Obama Administration had defended the record military funding by saying that the war costs would be folded into the military bill instead of being part of a supplement, though at the time they had already conceded that they would need a supplement.

The Obama Administration was already reporting the $33 billion request in January, on the grounds that the latest escalation into Afghanistan was not covered in the budget. At the same time, however, portions of the request did not involve the escalation, including around $1 billion in funding for Iraq.

Members of Congress reportedly expressed concern about the spiraling war costs and the lack of a deadline for ending the conflicts. Yet if $700 billion war budgets are not enough to make them balk, it is unclear what will.

Mar 242010
 

Desert Peace

By Cindy Sheehan

Whose Streets? (Our Streets between 1pm and 4pm With a Permit)

On the 7th commemoration of the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq, there was a rally and march in DC sponsored by the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition that was attended by about eight thousand people.

For quite awhile, I have been having problems with marches on Saturday, anyway. It seems like we march past empty buildings and shake our fists at them and promise that if those empty buildings don’t change their ways, we will be back next year to do the same thing. The arrests are symbolic and don’t shut down anything, except in the case of large arrests, where the police stations are busy for a few hours.

As far as I know, there were no large civil disobediences scheduled for last Saturday’s rally, but some coffins were built on the sidewalk in front of the White House and four protesters decided to lie down near them and not move. Two of these protesters were good friends of mine: Elaine Brower of Military Families Speak Out and Matthis Chiroux of Iraq Vets Against the War. When I went over to check the action out, the four were begging the hundreds of others surrounding the protest to join them. The four were cordoned off with barriers and crime scene tape.

I began to plan a way to join Matthis and Elaine when I went to the front of the barrier and saw my dear friends, who have always been there for me, lying on the sidewalk by themselves. Just as I was figuring out how to get over the barriers, the section I was at collapsed onto the sidewalk and I took the opportunity to step over hoping that dozens, if not hundreds, would follow.

As soon as I crossed the barrier, I was slammed by a couple of cops, handcuffed and then actually run around the front of the White House while the cops tried to find a paddy wagon to stick me in—about 50 people were running with the cop and I, yelling: “Let her go, let her go.” When the officer and I finally got to the paddy wagon, I was surprised to find that only two others had followed me. One other crossed the line to bring our detained numbers up to eight.

During my speech at the rally, I iterated the importance of “throwing our bodies upon the gears” of the machine, as well as marching—I got a huge cheer and during the march the participants chanted: “Whose streets, our streets.” Eight detainees? Apparently the streets are only “ours” when we have a permit–god forbid we take them when the event is not permitted by the Police State!

Why, when the barrier was compromised, did more people not follow us to actually put their beliefs into higher relief than merely marching in a circle on Saturday? While we were being (tightly) handcuffed and loaded onto the hot paddy wagon, the crowd of on-lookers chanted, “This is what hypocrisy looks like.”

I was, to say the least, very disheartened that hundreds of people didn’t join us. Watching the video of my “crossing over,” you can see a couple of people go over and then run back when the police come—but most of the people step back like the downed barrier is a livewire.

After a bumpy and sweaty ride, we eight arrive at the Park Police Station in Anacostia. As we were being processed, it started to become very clear that some of us were going to be detained until Monday. Ultimately, two of us were released and six of us were held. The two that were released were from DC and those of us held were out-of-towners. Immediately, we knew this explanation was total b.s. because I have been arrested in DC about 13 times now and I have always been from “out-of-town,” and have never even been held overnight, let alone two nights.

Was it a coincidence that Camp OUT NOW had two major actions over the weekend to try and hold our campsite that I missed due to being jailed? I don’t think so

Well, those two days were some of the most miserable days of my life! We were taken to a lock-up and Elaine and I were put into a freezing room and I had a t-shirt and flip-flops on, being unprepared to be arrested. For four women, our cell had one cement block bench that was about 7-8 feet long, so at least one of us always had to be on the stone-cold floor. Sleeping was fitful as it was very chilly all night—and very noisy!

Thirty-six hours, and eight bologna-like and cheese-substitute sandwiches later, we were taken to the court for our arraignment and stayed in that cell for seven hours and were finally released at 5pm after we all pled “not-guilty” and were scheduled for a trial on June 9th.

Basically, six of us stayed in jail for 50 hours for an offense that ends up to be the equivalent of a traffic ticket and we even had to go to traffic court to be arraigned. I am positive that everyone in DC who gets a traffic ticket and is from “out-of-town” does not have to stay over night. Then, I found out that the penalty for my charge “Crossing a police line” doesn’t even carry any jail time. I spent two nights in jail on an offense with no jail time! The maximum penalty is $300! Boy, I will be even more pissed if I go through a trial and have to pay $300 dollars after I have already spent two nights in jail.

To make matters even worse, I was the only one who was forced to come back for a trial even though Elaine has more DC arrests than I do. The other seven have chosen to go to trial with me, but they were given the option to “pay and forfeit” which means to pay the fine and forfeit your right to a trial.

The icing on the entire crappy cake came when the eight of us were given a “stay away order” from the White House—I asked the Judge how could that be legal because we weren’t convicted of anything, but the Judge assured me that conditions could be placed on our release. I also think this is very suspicious considering our Camp OUT NOW actions were focusing on the White House.

Many times during the 50 hour ordeal, Elaine and I were asked if we thought it was “worth it,” to go through so much hardship for so little gain.

My answer is, first of all, if more people crossed the line with me, we wouldn’t have had to stay 50 hours in jail and I was very upset that we were left to hang out to dry like that. Secondly, the war didn’t end while we were suffering—but knowing how awful it is to spend so much time in jail and be treated like one is a serial killer and not a protester—I would do it again and again, as I have.

There are literally billions of people suffering all over this planet due to my nation’s militarism and greed and I know many people would have traded places with me in a heartbeat and think the conditions were pretty damn good.

AND this never happened to me when Bush was president.

UPDATE: Three of us went to pick up our property this morning at the Park Police station and as we were being jacked around, an officer named Thomas (Badge number 628) told me that if I “stopped getting arrested” I wouldn’t have to go through all of this.

I said: “when the wars stop, I will stop.” He actually then told me: “The wars will stop when we nuke them and take their oil.”

I wonder why they are called “pigs.”

Mar 232010
 

by Shamus Cooke


What looks like a big victory for Obama and the Democrats may be their greatest undoing. It’s true that the passage of Obama’s health care bill represents a significant political victory for the Democrats. But sometimes a battle won could equal a lost war.

It’s telling that Obama had so much trouble in getting his own party to pass the bill on a simple majority basis: the bill was so blatantly watered down with the corporate hose that anyone with their name attached to it feared future electoral doom.

This kept the Democrat’s left wing — the so-called progressive wing — from initially giving their seal of approval. It must be remembered that some of the left Democrats initially claimed support for single payer health care. After being scolded by the Party leadership that this demand was “off the table,” the lefts moved to the right and demanded a “strong public option.”

The public option grew weaker and weaker as the health care bill evolved. The left Democrats pinned all their hopes on it; they ignored the rest of the health care bill, which slashed Medicare and taxed the “Cadillac” health care plans of union workers, all in the hopes that a miniscule public option would give the lefts some political cover.

It wasn’t meant to be. The final health care vision is the brainchild of the monopoly corporations who dominate health care in America. Their power will remain untouched. Indeed, it will only grow.

Dennis Kucinich, the most “radical” of the progressive Democrats, waited until the last round before he threw in the towel to the health care industry. His capitulation is especially symbolic, as many progressive activists around the country remained in the Democratic Party solely because he was there. His inglorious surrender signals what many progressives already knew: the Democrats are a corporate dominated party, where liberal ideas are tolerated so long as they have no actual effect on policy.

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