Wednesday, September 30, 2009

UPDATED - The Professor as Entrepreneur: Chief virologist in Holland under fire over drugs firm link


I am not sure which is wackier, the disaster politics of the H1N1 vaccine or ethics standards at Erasmus University Medical Center, a teaching hospital in Rotterdam. Ab Osterhaus, chief virologist at Erasmus, has advised the the Dutch government and international agencies (WHO, for one) on approaches to fighting the flu pandemic and has even recommended that the government purchase flu vaccines. reports he works part time for—and has a 10 percent share in—the university-owned ViroClinics which is researching a flu vaccine.
Anton Westerlaken, chairman of Erasmus MC, told the Telegraaf professors have to become a shareholder in any company set up under university auspices to exploit a patent. Any profits are divided 80% to the university and 20% to the professors involved, he said.

Osterhaus told the paper he had done nothing wrong. 'I have always said I am involved in that company and shares are all in the game,' he said.
Earlier this year Osterhaus denied having shares in the companies making vaccines.

Of course, as a powerful institution clearly worried about its reputation, Erasmus has covered its ass today with a perfunctory statement (Dutch) stating that there is no conflict of interest. But it owes the public a thorough explanation of how and why Professor Osterhaus' initially lying about his connection to profit-making companies did not violate medical center ethical guidelines. Was Erasmus aware of that? If so, why didn't they do something about it?

Cross posted at Antemedius and The Poetry Tree.


This story is becoming worthy of a Molière farce. Professor Osterhaus' interests and influence are a tangled web indeed. Erasmus MC may want to revise its statement. cites reports today in Financieele Dagblad that he
is also chairman of Belgian foundation ESWI which promotes the use of vaccines and is sponsored by the global vaccine industry, the paper says.

GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, the two companies which are supplying the Dutch government with 34 million swine flu doses on Osterhaus' recommendations, are both among the sponors, the paper says.

In addition, Osterhaus is an advisor at Britain's Jenner Institute which develops animal vaccines and has close industry ties.
Good on the FD's investigative journalism! So, Erasmus gave Osterhaus a pass and a nod. How many members of the hospital's ethics board are linked to BigPharma?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Well, kiss my wooden shoes

Religious schools can ban gay teachers

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Religious schools will be able to continue refusing to employ homosexual teachers, despite home affairs ministry plans to amend discrimination laws, it emerged on Tuesday.

The government is to scrap a clause which bans discrimination against people simply on the grounds of sex, race, sexual orientation or nationality because it is 'confusing', home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst told MPs on Tuesday.

And schools will still be able to refuse to employ gay teachers who practise homosexuality because it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

The change in the law maintains the balance between anti-discrimination laws and freedom of education and religion, the minister said.

Fundamentalist Christian

The Netherlands has dozens of fundamentalist Christian schools which oppose homosexuality on Biblical principles. While funded by the government, they are run independently. Such schools may not discriminate but are free under European rules to determine their own 'professional demands' for teachers, the paper says.

In May a strict Protestant primary school in Gelderland suspended a teacher because he was gay and lived with another man. That case is being taken to the equal opportunities commission.

Gay rights groups said they are very disappointed at the decision. There is a real chance that certain schools will feel their anti-gay stand is now legitimate, Wouter Neerings, of the COC lobby group told Nos tv.

MPs are due to debate the issue on Wednesday.

New England: Brides' march against domestic violence

From Lawrence, MA, the North Andover Eagle Tribune reports,

Women dressed in bridal gowns, and men, many clad in black, walked from
114 Plaza to Campagnone Common on Saturday to mourn victims of domestic
violence. The 150 walkers in the seventh annual Brides' March were
joined by Miss Massachusetts 2009, Amanda Kelly.

Candles were lit as the names of victims of domestic violence were read. [...]
The ceremony concluded the walk, which is held annually in memory of Gladys Ricart, a Dominican immigrant, who was murdered on her wedding day by her estranged boyfriend 10 years ago in New Jersey. ... more

H/T to Episcopal Cafe's The Lead.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Local: ReCycle North is ReBranded

Call it reBranding for a reLaunch: Burlington's famous ReCycle North on Pine Street has seen its mission expand in the eighteen years since it was founded - and as the economy has worsened. As of today, it's now officially called ReSOURCE with the help of a local marketing firm with a mouthful of a name, Brandthropology. There are two other similarly focused organisations using the same name in Colorado and Minnesota. From today's BFP:
It became more and more apparent that so much of what we do and who we are is misunderstood. In some ways our name had become a hindrance.” [says exec director Tom Longsreath]

To remedy the situation, ReSOURCE spells it out with five sub-brands:

ReSTORE — the retail operation in Burlington, and more recently, the Barre branch — where people can find deals on everything from washing machines and furniture to paperbacks;

ReBUILD — incorporating the recycled building supply depot at 339 Pine St., as well as a deconstruction/salvage service and Waste-Not-Products — all three of which highlight creative re-use of cast-offs;

ReTRAIN — a job training program that teaches skills through YouthBuild, internships and on-the-job experience;

RePAIR — a certified appliance and computer repair service; and

ReLIEF — which provides necessities for needy residents through voucher-for-merchandise agreements with local and regional service providers.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ongoing: The Siege of Tegucigalpa

The situation in Honduras is getting worse indeed. Why doesn't our Dear Leader speak out?

From The Real News Network

My friend RickB at Ten Percent updates for us:

As the Peruvian government threaten to sue Narcosphere for reporting what appear to be Peruvian police munitions used by the Honduran coup regime more detail of the weapons being deployed against the Brazilian embassy (and for that matter G20 protesters in Pittsburgh) even after the UN condemned them-

Narco News and its team of technical engineers and counter-surveillance consultants has identified the apparatus as the LRAD-X Remote Long Range Acoustic Device, manufactured by the American Technologies Corporation.

The coup regime held a “cadena nacional” (mandatory broadcast on all radio, TV and cable channels) this afternoon to deny having engaged in any chemical warfare and to say it would allow the international Red Cross and Dr. Andres Pavon, a human rights leader, into the embassy to check the health of those inside. A group of doctors, including Pavon, just emerged from the examinations and reported the following:
That the symptoms were definitely caused by some kind of “contaminant.” Upon review of the photos of the unidentified device in the final photograph above, Pavon concludes that it is a humidifier and that the plastic bag contained some kind of liquid to put where water usually goes, and that it was the likely cause of the contamination of the embassy. It was not concluded whether the contaminant weapon was chemical or biological.
The doctors also confirmed, for Radio Globo, that UN officials had entered the Embassy with them to participate in the investigation.
The coup regime has just called a military curfew for most of the country’s population from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. tonight.... more

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flu Nightmare: Officials ponder extreme triage measures UPDATED


Thanks to Edger at Antimedius for bringing this news to our attention. (Today's post can also be read at The Peace Tree.)

Sheri Fink recently wrote an in-depth article about post-Katrina deaths at Memorial Medical Center. Now she - pardon the pun - ventilates proposed shocking plans in ProPublica, September 23, 2009 (view source). Oh my, talk about government death panels... during a severe flu pandemic, a family's advance directive plans ensuring their loved ones' end of life and other critical healthcare decisions will not be honored [my emphasis in bold]:

With scant public input, state and federal officials are pushing ahead with plans that -- during a severe flu outbreak -- would deny use of scarce ventilators by some patients to assure they would be available for patients judged to benefit the most from them.

The plans have been drawn up to give doctors specific guidelines for extreme circumstances, and they include procedures under which patients who weren’t improving would be removed from life support with or without permission of their families.

The plans … more


This morning I spoke with a person in the Advance Directives section at the Vermont Department of Health. Here's the current Vermont Statute about them. She was unaware of this story and was understandably perplexed by it (I sent her the link.) She promised to get back to me about the VT DoH's stance. Developing...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Right before Yom Kippur, too

A mitzvah this ain't. From Politico -
A White House official told Jewish leaders on a conference call today that the U.S. will use its veto in the U.N. Security Council, if necessary, to block the international body from acting on a report accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza, according to two people on the call.

[Jay V edit: it's the 575-page Goldstone report by a fact-finding mission organised by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.]

The National Security Council's Dan Shapiro said President Obama assured the Israeli Prime Minister yesterday of the U.S stand on the Goldstone Report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which has been a source of major concern for the Israelis. Shapiro said the U.S. agrees with the Israeli view that the report is one-sided, and would block a referral to the International Criminal Court.

The U.S. pledge comes as the Israeli side was already declaring victory in avoiding a total freeze on settlements, and it's likely to further alienate Palestinian leaders whom the U.S. is simultaneously trying to lure to the negotiating table.

The JTA, which broke the news, has more background on the subject.

Cross posted at Antimedius and The Peace Tree.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Obama's Wars: It's shades of Vietnam as U.S. commanders beg for more troops to fight in Afghanistan

Cross posted at The Peace Tree.

Four quotes from an article by Eric Margolis in the Toronto Sun show how Americans don't know their history of failed imperialism when they plan their wars of occupation.
'Each time the U.S. sent more troops and bombed more villages, Afghan resistance sharply intensified and Taliban expanded its control, today over 55% of the country.'
'Any student of Imperialism 101 knows that after invading a resource-rich or strategic nation you immediately put a local stooge in power, use disaffected minorities to run the government (divide and conquer), and build a native mercenary army.'
'Such troops, commanded by white officers, were called "sepoys" in the British Indian Army and "askaris" in British East Africa.'
'The American command, deprived of men and resources by the Bush administration, only managed to cobble together an armed rabble of 80,000 Afghans. The Afghan army, like the post-Saddam Iraqi army, is led by white officers -- in this case, Americans designated "trainers" or "advisers."

'Afghanistan keeps giving me deja vu back to the old British Empire, and flashbacks to those wonderful epic films of the Raj, Drums, Lives of a Bengal Lancer, and Kim. The British imperialists did it much, much better, and with a lot more style. Many of their imperial subjects even admired and liked them.'

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kissing Ass: Vermont's Faux Alternative News

Good analysis from my friend Michael Colby. If only Seven Days - Vermont's faux-alternative news rag - had writers like Mr Colby to keep our Vermont politicians honest.

Willy Ronis: Un photographe exceptionnel

In the mid-1990s I spent several weeks in Paris and made a point of walking the neighbourhoods, especially the area around Belleville-Ménilmontant - on the eastern slopes of the city. Willy Ronis photographed the people who lived in this area. (The neighbourhood was working class and still inhabited by Cambodians and Vietnamese and other ethnic groups from former French colonies in the 1990s, but already high rise flats were quickly changing the atmosphere; now it's full of trendy bars and student hang-outs.) Mr. Ronis died on September 12. Serge Bavard (sergelebombe on YouTube) has made a lovely hommage - an Internet retrospective with many photographs:

Thanks to Christophe Renoux for featuring an interview (French) with the photographer on his blog. (Also, a remembrance here.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

We don't live in a post-racist society

Gosh, with Obama's election almost a year ago, after his election, people were saying that we now live in a post-racist society. But with the Limbaughs, Roves, Becks, fuckin' teabaggers et al.

and this most recent (diversionary) attack on Acorn

(and not to mention ...Vermont's oh so wonderful -- according to Seven Days -- Rep. Peter Welch doing the Racist Republicans bidding in voting against funding of that agency)...

just watch today's DN! interview with Bertha Lewis, the CEO of Acorn

and say it ain't so.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Broadcasting & Cable:-

The FCC has reasserted its power to regulate fleeting nudity and says it wants to further investigate "whether CBS' indecency violation [in the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Super Bowl reveal] was willful."

"The evidence in this case strongly suggests that CBS had access to video delay technology at the time of the 2004 Super Bowl," the commission said Tuesday in a brief to the Third Circuit Appeals Court in the Janet Jackson Super Bowl reveal case. The FCC asked the court to remand the decision back to the FCC so it could investigate further its assertion that the violation was "willful."

The Third Circuit, in reversing the FCC's fine against the broadcast, said the evidence that delay technology was available at the time was "scant." The FCC disagrees and wants the chance to determine "whether CBS was reckless not to use video delay technology for this broadcast."

R.I.P. Mary Travers

Well, what a bummer at finding out today that Mary Travers has died. PP&M--my absolute favorite group in High School--saw them almost every time they came to Houston when they got back together. Definitely the end of an era.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Let's not let volume beat reason."

Yes, it's a a fine line that separates madness from sanity, and these people have clearly gone over into a retrograde nihilism. Here's a brilliant new video production of disturbing interviews at the clam bake last Saturday in DC.

I hope we'll see more from this NewLeftMedia.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Father Roy Bourgeois in Burlington, Thursday, September 17th

Father Roy Bourgeois, Founder of the School of the Americas Watch, will speak on Thursday September 17, 7pm
First Unitarian Universalist Society at the top of Church St.

In 1990, Fr. Roy founded the School of the Americas Watch,
an office that does research on the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Each year the school trains hundred of soldiers from Latin America in combat skills - all paid for by U.S. by US taxpayers.

Admission is FREE.

Obama's Wars: Victims' families tell their stories following Nato airstrike in Afghanistan

As far as I know this has not been reported in US media. 'I took some flesh home and called it my son.' The Guardian interviews 11 villagers
'"We didn't recognise any of the dead when we arrived," said Omar Khan, the turbaned village chief of Eissa Khail. "It was like a chemical bomb had gone off, everything was burned. The bo...dies were like this," he brought his two hands together, his fingers curling like claws. "There were like burned tree logs, like charcoal."'

'"A man comes and says, 'I lost my brother and cousin', so we gave him two bodies," said Omar Khan. "Another says I lost five relatives, so we gave him five bodies to take home and bury. When we had run out of bodies we started giving them limbs, legs, arms, torsos." In the end only five families went away without anything. "Their sons are still missing."'

"Mr Public Option Now" is cool in the furnace

The man was at an anti-health care reform rally in DC on Saturday and required police protection.

H/T to FDL

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Big Fool says to push on with "overseas contingency operations"

As we celebrate Perpetual War Day, I am reminded of this song sung by Pete Seeger.

Cross posted at The Peace Tree.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson on Democracy Now!

"The fact of the matter is, we all know that we have faithful Christian gay and lesbian people in all of our denominations, no matter where they stand on this issue. The question is, are we going to affirm them the way that I believe God affirms them, affirms us? And I believe the Episcopal Church has stated quite clearly, yes, we are. And I think other denominations are looking to see, you know, are we going to come apart over this issue? No, we’re not going to come apart. Are we going to be stronger because of it? Yes, we are. And I believe you’ll see other denominations, just as we saw the Lutherans do a few weeks after our convention, following suit." - ++ V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire on Democracy Now! (September 8, 2009)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Amsterdam versus O’Reilly 2

Here's another video - take 2 - from the two guys from Amsterdam. Robbert and Elian have started a site, The Truth about Amsterdam. I've added their blog to the list in the sidebar.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Self-serving PR Stunts

So much for respecting the dignity of every living thing. Hypocrites among us: the mysogynists at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have given Price Chopper a"Compassionate Action Award" for removing its sponsorship of a lion and tiger act at the Champlain Valley Fair.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Drinking vodka out of each others butts"

Sounds like an ad on craigslist. But it's another kind casual encounter, as Rachel Maddow reports, funded by our taxes.

Also from Democracy Now! today:
Danielle Brian: “This involves supervisors, it’s not just a bunch of guys who are blowing off steam. It’s supervisors who are really sort of predatory, who are engaging young recruits into this really weird, deviant behavior. And if they refuse or complain about later, they’re retaliating against them. So it’s way more than just a party.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wednesday Music: Quick Tempo for Marriage Equality!

Yes, it's been quite a week in Vermont. And the celebration continues with this by Saint-Saens: "Wedding Cake," played by Daniel Chorzempa with Edo de Waart conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. I love this piece. It's usually played in about eight minutes; Chorzempa whips through it in just under six minutes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Vermont: Happy Marriage Equality Day

In honour of today, here's State Rep. Jason Lorber's speech to the VT Statehouse on same sex marriage.