Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Engineered Grass Found Growing in Wild

August 17, 2006 — By William McCall, Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — Grass that was genetically engineered for golf courses is growing in the wild, posing one of the first threats of agricultural biotechnology escaping from the farm in the United States, a new study says. Creeping bentgrass was engineered to resist the popular herbicide Roundup to allow more efficient weed control on golf courses.

But the modified grass could spread that resistance to the wild, becoming a nuisance itself, scientists say.

"This is not a killer tomato, this is not the asparagus that ate Cleveland," said Norman Ellstrand, a geneticist and plant expert at the University of California, Riverside, referring to science fiction satire about mutant plants.

But Ellstrand noted the engineered bentgrass has the potential to affect more than a dozen other plant species that could also acquire resistance to Roundup, or glyphosate, which he considers a relatively benign herbicide.

Such resistance could force land managers and government agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, which relies heavily on Roundup, to switch to "nastier" herbicides to control grasses and weeds, Ellstrand said.

The bentgrass variety is being developed by Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. in cooperation with Roundup's manufacturer, Monsanto Co.

Spokesmen for both companies said they had been expecting the results of the study, to be published in the journal Molecular Ecology. "We've been working to mitigate it," said Jim King, spokesman for Ohio-based Scotts. "Now we're down to maybe a couple dozen plants." King said seed from a test plot escaped several years ago while it was drying following harvest in the Willamette Valley, home to most of the U.S. grass seed industry and the world's largest producer of commercial grass varieties.

The main question now, King says, is whether the government will allow commercial use of the experimental bentgrass for golf courses. "Eradicating it has not been a difficult issue," King said. "The only difference between the turf seed we're working to produce and naturally occurring varieties is that it has a gene resistant to this specific herbicide (Roundup)."

The engineered bentgrass is under review by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which published a "white paper" in June that assessed the threat but did not reach any conclusions -- leaving that for an environmental impact statement being prepared by the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

But the USDA review paper noted that glyphosate is "the most extensively used herbicide worldwide," and that creeping bentgrass and several of the species that can form hybrids with it "can be weedy or invasive in some situations." In 2003, the International Center for Technology Assessment in Washington, D.C., filed a federal lawsuit seeking to halt development of genetically engineered bentgrass. The suit is still pending, a USDA spokeswoman said.

The latest study was done by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists based at Oregon State University. Jay Reichman, an EPA ecologist and lead author, was not available Wednesday. But he has said there is a possibility the engineered strain could persist in the wild.

"There could be consequences," said Steven Strauss, who heads the biotechnology issues analysis program at Oregon State. "But they're not catastrophic because there are Roundup resistant species out there -- I have them in my back yard right now," Strauss added. He noted that scientists have been dealing with genetically engineered corn and soybeans for years, but those crops do not pose the airborne seed problems faced by commercial grass seed growers.

Ultimately, Strauss said, development of the engineered grass may be an economic question rather than a biological issue -- whether it could affect the cost of agriculture and weed control. "And that's very difficult because this is in a gray zone," Strauss said.

Source: Associated Press

Friday, August 11, 2006

Apologies for not keeping this blog going. I've been starting up a new one from the 'crafting gentleness' page. I was a little concerned that an exclusive focus on enclosure would let the dynamics of enclosure become far more important to me in my life than I want them to be. So, the politics of gentleness is my main focus now, although I intend to continue on with the critique of enclosing dynamics as part and parcel of that. I also hope to keep an eye on this blog from time to time as well! :)

It's a little obvious, but for a paradigmatic example of the dynamics of enclosure take a look at the people dying in Lebanon. Elimination of uncertainty, elimination of lives. Eradication. Deluded insanity.

From: Shirin Ebadi
Sent: Saturday, August 05, 2006 1:54 PM

There is a very important matter I would like to discuss with you. I
conduct my human rights activities through the Defender of Human Rights
Center (DHRC). I am the president of this center and we have three important responsibilities:

a. We report the violations of human rights that take place in Iran.

b. We defend political prisoners pro bono -- about 70% of the political prisoners in Iran are clients of our center and we do not charge them for our services.

c. We support the families of these prisoners both financially -- if
they require financial aid -- and spiritually.

This center is a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and has been registered there. It has also been awarded a human rights prize by the Human Rights National Commission in France. This center is very well known and credible in Iran. Two days ago the government of Iran announced that this center is illegal and provided we continue our activities, they shall arrest us. Of course me and the other members of the center do not intend to shut down the center and we shall continue our activities. However, there is a high possibility that that they will arrest us. The government's action in this regard is illegal.

Therefore, I kindly request that you broadcast this message by all mean and gather spiritual support for our center. This center has been established and working for more than four years now. I believe this decision of the government has been triggered by my memoir being published. In any case, I am happy that my memoir has been published, for the truth must be told.

Many thanks,
Shirin Ebadi

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Enclosure and the pyeongtaek farmers


"The farming town of Daechuri, Korean for "Great Harvest Village", will never reap its famous rice harvest again, if the United States military continues with the planned expansion of its Camp Humphreys Army base. This concentration of U.S. troops in the Pyeongtaek region of South Korea will destroy the farming communities of Daechuri, Doduri, and others. Over 500 households and thousands of residents live within the zoned areas.The rice farmers have chosen to resist the occupation of their homeland and stand up to the Korean government and the United States military. Facing the imminent onslaught of bulldozers, riot police, and two nation's militaries, the farmers of Pyeongtaek have decided to risk imprisionment and death before they will willingly surrender their homes and their way of life. These peaceful villagers have fought the expansion of the base and the theft of their land through all possible legal means while being deceived and ignored. On February 7th, 2006, the farmers, having realized that the Korean government was not listening to their pleas and would not help them, declared autonomy and renounced their Korean citizenship. They have since been organizing the daily life and the defense of their land and community through general councils, independently of the local government. "

See the Amnesty International Press Release:

"Several human rights activists are being detained after protesting at the forced eviction by riot police of elderly villagers in Pyongtaek, in the north west of South Korea. Their village is subject to an eviction order to allow for the expansion of a neighbouring US army base, Camp Humphreys. The residents of Daechuri village, mostly farmers in their 60s and 70s, suffered bloodied noses and were pushed over while resisting the latest eviction attempt on 15 March and during an earlier attempt to evict them on 6 March. They say the compensation offered will not be enough to buy equivalent land elsewhere and their livelihoods are at stake. "Most of these villagers are very old and it is distressing to hear of force being used against them," said Rajiv Narayan, East Asia researcher at Amnesty International. "Given their age, the police should take special care to ensure they are not hurt and to allow prompt medical treatment if they are -- which does not appear to have been the case so far"."

Sign the petition if you would like to ...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Documentary makers decry Smithsonian deal

Sat, 01 Apr 2006 16:29:45 EST


CBC Arts

Two well-known American documentary filmmakers have come out against a recent agreement between the Smithsonian Institution and Showtime Networks Inc.

The New York Times reports Ken Burns, who directed The Civil War, Jazz and Baseball documentary series, called the deal "terrifying." Burns said the agreement means he would have been prohibited from making some of his documentaries that rely on archival material from the institution.

The agreement, cemented in early March, restricts film and television shows which are using Smithsonian materials from offering their work to public television or other non-Showtime broadcast outlets, unless they first offer it to Smithsonian on Demand, the institute's new broadcast outlet, or Showtime.

Burns told the newspaper the Smithsonian has "essentially optioned America's attic to one company."

Filmmaker Laurie Kahn-Leavitt said she had been told that her film Tupperware! - a historical recreation of the rise of the food-storage containers - would have fallen under the deal. The documentary was shown on PBS.

Kahn-Leavitt said a public archive should not be used on "an exclusive basis to anyone," reported the New York Times.

Jeanny Kim, vice president of media services for Smithsonian Business Ventures, said the agreement would affect a small number of works — ones that draw heavily on archival material.
Kim said documentaries using a few minutes of pictures or elements of the Smithsonian collection would be outside of the agreement.

Details of the contract have been left hidden. Smithsonian officials said they would not release it publicly and said outlines of the agreement have been left deliberately vague to allow the institution to consider projects on a case-by-case basis.

Margaret Drain from WGBH, the Boston public TV station, said programs such as Nova and American Experience would suffer under such restrictions. Drain said she was "outraged" by the deal.

Silence in class
University professors denounced for anti-Americanism; schoolteachers suspended for their politics; studentsencouraged to report on their tutors. Are US campuses in the grip of a witch-hunt of progressives, or is academic life just too liberal?

By Gary Younge
Tuesday April 4, 2006

Guardian Unlimited

Original Article

After the screenwriter Walter Bernstein was placed on the blacklist during the McCarthyite era he said his life "seemed to move inever-decreasing circles". "Few of my friends dropped away but the list of acquaintances diminished," he wrote in Inside Out, a memoir of the blacklist. "I appeared contaminated and they did not want to risk infection. They avoided me, not calling as they had in the past, not responding to my calls, being nervously distant if we met in public places."

As chair of African American studies in Yale, Paul Gilroy had a similar experience recently after he spoke at a university-sponsored teach-in on the Iraq war. "I think the morality of cluster bombs, of uranium-tipped bombs, [of] daisy cutters are shaped by an imperial double standard that values American lives more," he said. "[The war seems motivated by] a desire to enact revenge for the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon ... [It's important] to speculate about the relation between this war and the geopolitical interests of Israel."
"I thought I was being extremely mealy-mouthed, but I was accused of advocating conspiracy theories," says Gilroy, who is now the Anthony Giddens professor of Social Theory at the London School of Economics.

Scot Silverstein, who was once on the faculty at Yale, saw a piece in the student paper about Gilroy's contribution. He wrote to the Wall Street Journal comparing Gilroy to Hitler and claiming his words illustrated the "moral psychosis and perhaps psychological sadism that appears to have infected leftist academia". The Journal published the letter. Gilroy found himself posted on Discoverthenetworks.org, a website dedicated to exposing radical professors. The principle accusation was that he "believes the US fabricated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein".

Then the emails started coming to him and his colleagues, denouncing him. "Only one person said anything," says Gilroy."Otherwise, nobody looked me in the eye. There was something about the way it never came up that made me realise how nervous and apprehensive they were."

Few would argue there are direct parallels between the current assaults on liberals in academe and McCarthyism. Unlike the McCarthy era, most threats to academic freedom - real or perceived - do not, yet, involve the state. Nor are they buttressed by widespread popular support, as anticommunism was during the 50s. But in other ways, argues Ellen Schrecker, author of Many Are the Crimes - McCarthyism in America, comparisons are apt.
"In some respects it's more dangerous," she says. "McCarthyism dealt mainly with off-campus political activities. Now they focus on what is going on in the classroom. It's very dangerous because it's reaching into the core academic functions of the university, particularly in Middle-Eastern studies."

Either way, a growing number of apparently isolated incidents suggests a mood which is, if nothing else, determined, relentless and aimed openly at progressives in academe.

Earlier this year, Fox news commentator Sean Hannity urged students to record "left wing propaganda" by professors so he could broadcast it on his show. On the web there is Campus Watch, "monitoring Middle East studies on campus"; Edwatch, "Education for a free nation"; and Parents Against Bad Books in School.

In mid January, the Bruin Alumni association offered students $100 to tape left wing professors at the University of California Los Angeles. The association effectively had one dedicated member, 24-year-old Republican Andrew Jones. It also had one dedicated aim: "Exposing UCLA's most radical professors" who "[proselytise] their extreme views in the classroom".

Shortly after the $100 offer was made, Jones mounted a website, uclaprofs.com, which compiled the Dirty 30 - a hit list of those he considered the most egregious, leftwing offenders. Top of the list was Peter McLaren, a professor at the UCLA's graduate school ofeducation. Jones branded McLaren a "monster". "Everything that flows from Peter McLaren's mouth and pen is deeply, inextricably radical," wrote Jones. "In keeping with the left's identity politics he has been a friend to the gay community."

McLaren was shocked. "I was away when the story broke and when I came back there were 87 messages waiting for me. I was surprised a list like that could be created in these times. I thought, 'Wow, somebody's out there reading my work fairly carefully.'"The main impact, he says, was to try to insulate those close to him from the fallout. "I had to take down lots of things from my website - family pictures and contacts with other people. I didn't want other people to pay the price."

Also among the Dirty 30 was history professor Ellen DuBois. She was described as, "in every way the modern female academic: militant, impatient, accusatory and radical - very radical". DuBois told the Los Angeles Times, "This is a totally abhorrent invitation to students to participate in a witch hunt against their professors."

McLaren, who describes himself as a marxist-humanist, agrees. He believes the list was a McCarthyite attack on academe, with the aim of softening up public hostility for a more propitious moment: "This is a low-intensity campaign that can be ratcheted up at a time of crisis. When there is another crisis in this country and this country is in an ontological hysteria, an administration could use that to up the ante. I think it represents a tendency towards fascism."

Six weeks after Jones released his list, two Los Angeles county sheriffs arrived unannounced at Professor Miguel Tinker-Salas's office at Pomona College and started asking questions. Tinker-Salas, a Latin American history professor, was born in Venezuela and is a vocal critic of US policy in the region. The sheriffs, part of a federal anti-terrorism task force, told him that he was not the subject of an investigation. Then, for the next 25 minutes they quizzed him on whether he had been influenced in any way by or had contact with the Venezuelan government, on the leadership within the local Venezuelan community, the consulate and the embassy. Then they questioned his students about the content of his classes, examined the cartoons on his door. "They cast theVenezuelan community as a threat," says Tinker-Salas. "I think they were fishing to see if I had any information they could use."

Pomona's president, David Oxtoby, says he was "extremely concerned about the chilling effect this kind of intrusive government interest could have on free scholarly and political discourse."
Last year, some students at the Department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University ran a campaign against alleged anti-Israeli bias among professors, criticising the university as a place where pro-Israeli students wereintimidated and faculty members were prejudiced. A faculty committee appointed by Columbia concluded that there had been no serious misconduct.

These issues are not confined to university campuses: it is also happening in schools. Since February, the normally sleepy, wealthy district of Upper St Clair in Pennsylvania has been riven with arguments over its curriculum after the local school board banned the International Baccalaureate (IB), the global educational programme, for being an "un-American" marxist and anti-Christian. During their election campaign, the Republicans of Upper St Clair referred to the IB, which is offered in 122 countries and whose student intake has risen by 73% worldwide in the past five years, as though it was part of an international communist conspiracy, suspicious of a curriculum that had been "developed in a foreign country" (Switzerland). "Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian valuesand we have to be careful about what values our children are taught," said one Republican board member. Similar campaigns have also sprung up recently at school boards in Minnesota and Virginia.

Meanwhile, in January in Aurora, Colorado, social studies teacher Jay Bennish answered questions in his world geography class about President George Bush's speech from his students at Overland High School. Caricaturing Bush's speech, Bennish said, "'It's our duty as Americans to use the military to go out into the world and make the world like us.'" He then continued: "Sounds a lot like the things Adolf Hitler used to say: 'We're the only ones who are right, everyone else is backwards and it's our job to conquer the world and make sure they all live just like we want them to.' Now I'm not saying that Bush and Hitler are exactly the same. Obviously they're not, OK? But there are some eerie similarities to the tones they use."

Unbeknown to him, one 16-year-old student, Sean Allen, recorded part of the class on his MP3 player. When his Republican father heard it he was so incensed that he shopped it around to local conservative radio stations, where it finally found a home with radio talk-show host Mike Rosen.

Later in Bennish's class, the teacher had told his students, "I am not in any way implying that you should agree with me. I don't even know if I'm necessarily taking a position. But what I'm trying to get you to do is to think, all right, about these issues more in depth, and not just take things from the surface. And I'm glad you asked all your questions because they're all very good, legitimate questions." Rosen only played the first part of the tape on his programme. He also put it on the internet.

The next day, the Cherry Creek school district suspended Bennish, arguing that he had at least breached a policy requiring teachers to be "as objective as possible and to present fairly the several sides of an issue" when dealing with religious, political, economic or social issues.
The suspension sparked rival demonstrations at school. Hundreds of students staged a walkout, a few wearing duct tape over their mouths while some chanted, "Freedom of speech, let him teach." A smaller demonstration was staged against Bennish, with students writing "Teach don't preach" on their shirts.

But it has primarily been universities that have been on the frontline. And on the other side of the trenches has been the right wing firebrand David Horowitz. Horowitz, who had Jones on his payroll but fired him after the taping controversy, was raised by communist parents and was himself a marxist as a teenager. He is involved with Campus Watch, Jihad Watch, Professors Watch and MediaWatch; he was also connected to discoverthenetworks.org, which targeted Gilroy. A few years ago he founded a group, Students forAcademic Freedom, which boasts chapters promoting his agenda on more than 150 campuses. The movement monitors slights or insults that students say they have suffered and provides an online complaint form. Students are advised to write down "the date,class and name of the professor", get witnesses, "accumulate a list of incidents or quotes", and lodge a complaint. Over the past three years Horowitz has led the call for an academic bill of rights in several states. The bills would allow students to opt out of any part of a course they felt was "personally offensive" and force American universities to adopt quotas for conservative professors as well as monitor the political inclinations of their staff.

The bill has been debated in 23 states, including six this year. In July, Pennsylvania approved legislation calling on 14 state-affiliated colleges to free their campuses from the "imposition of ideological orthodoxy". Meanwhile, House Republicans have included a provision in the Higher Education Act which calls on publicly funded colleges to ensure a diversity of ideas in class - code for countering the alleged liberal bias in classrooms.

"The aim of the movement isn't really to achieve legislation," says Horowitz. "It's supposed to act as a cattle prod, to make legislators and universities aware. The ratio of left wing professors in Berkeley and Stanford is seven to one and nine to one. You can't get hired if you're a conservative in American universities."

Reliable empirical, as opposed to anecdotal, evidence to back up Horowitz's claim of political imbalance is patchy but rarely contested. The most detailed study, conducted by California economist Daniel Klein and Swedish scientist Charlotta Stern, did reveal a significant Democratic bias which varied depending on the course they taught. It showed that 30 times as many anthropologists and sociologists voted Democrat as Republican, while for those teaching economics the ration plummeted to three to one.

But these results gave only a partial account of campus life. Limiting their research to the social sciences and the humanities excluded a substantial portion of the university experience. According to the Princeton Review, four of the top 10 most popular subjects - business administration and management, biology, nursing and computer science - are not in the social sciences or humanities. Republicans are probably more inclined to find a home in some of these disciplines. In any case, most academics do not deny that there is a progressive, liberal bias in academe. "Of course," says Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at the Columbia School of Journalism. "There's a lot of conservatives in oil. But there aren't a lot of conservatives planning on studying sociology."

And while liberals may be more numerous, argues Schrecker, a professor of history at Yeshiva University in New York, that does not necessarily mean they are more powerful. "Progressive academe is like the ninth ward of New Orleans before the levees break -neither secure nor particularly safe. It's one of the few areas left with some kind of progressive culture."
That, rather than protection of free expression on campus, is precisely why it remains a target for the right, they say.

In February, Horowitz published a book, The Professors: the 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, in which he lists, in alphabetical order, the radical academics whom he believes are polluting academe with left wing propaganda. "Coming to a campusnear you: terrorists, racists, and communists - you know them as The Professors," reads the blurb on the jacket. "Today's radical academics aren't the exception - they're legion. And far from being harmless, they spew violent anti-Americanism, preach anti-semitism and cheer on the killing of American soldiers and civilians - all the while collecting tax dollars and tuition fees to indoctrinate our children."

The book is a sloppy series of character assassinations, relying more heavily on insinuation, inference, suggestion and association than it does on fact. Take Todd Gitlin, a journalism and sociology professor at Columbia University. Gitlin was the leader of Students for Democratic Society, a radical anti-war movement in the 60s. Today, his politics could be described as mainstream liberal. He supported the war in Afghanistan but not in Iraq and hung out the Stars and Stripes after the terrorist attacks on September 11. He has recently written a book, The Intellectuals and the Flag, calling for progressives to embrace a patriotic culture that distinguishes between allegiance to one's country, which he supports, and loyalty to one's government, which he does not.

None the less, Horowitz slams him for participating in an anti-war teach-in in March 2003 at which his colleague Nicholas de Genova called for "a million Mogadishus" to be visited on American soldiers in Iraq - referring to the murder of US military in Somalia. But Gitlin has never met or spoken to Genova and was not participating in the teach-in when Genova spoke. Horowitz also slates Gitlin for "immersing students in the obscurantist texts of leftists icons like Jürgen Habermas", but omits to mention that Gitlin also teaches from the works of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, Burke, Adam Smith and the gospels.

"Horowitz's idea of research is cherry-picking," says Gitlin. "And he can't even be trusted to find cherries. He comes up with bitter prunes."

Victor Navasky, the Delacorte professor of journalism at Columbia University, is also on Horowitz's hit list. Navasky, publisher emeritus of the left wing magazine The Nation and chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review, is accused of "bankrolling" the review and denounced for organising lectures by "prominent leftists" such as Michael Tomasky of American Prospect and HendrikHertzberg of the New Yorker. Navasky points out that he has also hosted a lecture by Fox news anchor Bill O'Reilly and the editor of the rightwing Weekly Standard at Columbia, and that the only cheque he ever sent the Review was one he returned after the magazine paid him for an article.

"Were it not for all the inaccuracies I would say that I would be flattered to be on the list, but I don't think I earned it," says Navasky."I don't think anyone seriously considers me a clear and present danger to the republic."

Horowitz accuses those who accuse him of McCarthyism of being McCarthyites themselves. "All they do is tar and feather me with slanders," he says. "It's the politics of Stalinism."

Evidence to back up his central argument - that these political leanings are at all related to a teacher's ability to be fair, balanced or competent in class - are non-existent. Most of the criticisms of lecturers on both the Dirty 30 list and in Horowitz's book are levelled at comments professors have made outside the classroom and rarely do they provide any evidence of the accused actually criticising or ridiculing students with rightwing ideas.

Nobody denies that bad left wing lecturers exist. As Russell Jacoby argued in The Nation, "Higher education in America is a vast enterprise boasting roughly a million professors. A certain portion of these teachers are incompetents and frauds; some are rabid patriots and fundamentalists - and some are ham-fisted leftists. All should be upbraided if they violate scholarly or teaching norms. At the same time, a certain portion of the 15 million students they teach are fanatics and crusaders." It is not their work as professors Horowitz does not like; it is the ideologies they espouse, whether in or outside the classroom.

Political assaults on intellectuals are not new. Nor are they specific to the US. At the dawn of western civilisation, Socrates was executed for filling "young people's heads with the wrong ideas". Mao targeted professors for particular humiliation during the culturalrevolution.
Mark Smith, the director of government relations for the professor's union, the American Association of University Professors, says that these broadsides vary according to the political climate. Shortly after world war one, the litmus test was those who opposed America's participation in the war or backed the fledgling Russian revolution; during the 50s, it was communists; during the 80s, it was leftwing professors in Latin American studies departments. During the early 90s, Lynne Cheney, the wife of the current vice-president, was chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, when she lead the bureaucratic charge against "political correctness". In many humanities faculties, she claimed, the common thinking is that "there is no truth. Everything we think is true is shaped by political interests ... Since there is no truth ... faculty members are perfectly justified in using the classroom to advance political agendas."

"These things go in cycles," says Smith. "Horowitz did not invent this. He's capitalising on an ongoing anti-intellectualism and fear of the other."

Many believe that this current cycle has intensified as a result of the official response to 9/11. Two months after the terrorist attacks,the conservative American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), founded by Lynne Cheney in 1995, branded colleges and universities the "weak link in America's response" to the terrorist attacks and called on lecturers and professors to defend westerncivilisation. In a report entitled Defending Civilization: how our universities are failing America and what can be done about it, ACTA president Jerry Martin and vice-president Anne D Neal, wrote: "While faculty should be passionately defended in their right toacademic freedom, that does not exempt them from criticism. The fact is: academe is the only section of American society that is distinctly divided in its response to the attacks on America."

Regardless of their accuracy, integrity and provenance, some believe that these assaults do have an effect. "There is a cunning behind the battyness," says Gitlin. "It's not just the self-aggrandisement. It's an assault on one of the few social enclaves that the right doesn't control. There is a scattershot bellicosity whether the fortunes of the political right are up or down. They find it useful for fundraising if nothing else."

Others argue that while the individual accounts are troubling, their ultimate effect on academe can be exaggerated. The response to the recent article in the London Review of Books by two prominent American professors arguing that the pro-Israel lobby exerts a dominant and damaging influence on US foreign policy may be a case in point. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer have been accused of being anti-semites and bigots, prompting accusations of a McCarthyite witch-hunt. Shortly after publication, it was announced that one of the authors, Walt, was stepping down from his job as academic dean at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and the school removed the piece from the front page of its website. But the Kennedy School and Walt's colleagues said that the move had long been planned. Meanwhile, the school explained the website change thus: "The only purpose of that removal was to end public confusion; it was not intended, contrary to some interpretations, to send any signal that the school was also 'distancing' itself from one of its senior professors."

"The University of Chicago and Harvard University have behaved admirably in difficult circumstances. We have had the full support of our respective institutions," Mearsheimer said. So all that is left are the accusations which, given the nature of the original article, not even the authors say surprised them. People have a right to be offended. It is when that offence is either based on flawed information or mobilised into an institutional or legislative clampdown that accusations of a witch-hunt truly come into play.

"Clearly these things are disturbing," says Jon Wiener, professor of history at UCLA. "But I don't think they are happening because students are demanding it. The Bruin Alumni Association [turned out] to be one ambitious, well-funded guy. There are some frightening moments, but then things seem to return to normal."

"It's not even clear this is much other than the ill-considered action of a handful, if that, of individuals," says DuBois.

But however many people are involved, the attacks do make a difference, claims Gilroy. "Of course it has an effect," he says."There's a pre-written script you have to follow and if you chose not to follow it, then there are consequences, so you become veryself-conscious about what you say. To call it self-censorship is much too crude. But everybody is looking over their shoulder".

Thursday, March 23, 2006

African sisters win royalties to ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Copyright is pricing consumers out of knowledge


20 February: A new Consumers International report has condemned World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) technical assistance as 'thoroughly inadequate', and is demanding a wholesale review of the organisation's legislative advice to developing countries. The criticism comes as WIPO delegates meet in Geneva to discuss the organization's developement agenda.

The Copyright and Access to Knowledge report examines copyright law in 11 Asian countries. It finds that all 11 countries, including China, India and Malaysia, have given copyright owners far more protection than the intellectual property treaties they have signed up to require.

Download the report, the latest press release and CI's statement to WIPO.

Monday, February 06, 2006

He Took On the Whole Power-Tool Industry

From: Inc. Magazine, July 2005

By: Melba Newsome

In February 2001, Stephen Gass strode to the podium in a conferenceroom at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and began the video presentation for SawStop, his new invention. The 75 attendees watched the screen closely as a woodworker fed a sheet of plywood into a power-saw bladespinning at 4,000 rpm. Then a hot dog was placed in the path of the blade. Miraculously, the instant the blade made contact with the wiener, the saw shut down and the blade retracted. The dog escapedwith only a small nick -- substitute a finger and it's the difference between a cut and an amputation.

Gass had given the same dog-and-pony show a dozen times, mostly forwoodworkers, contractors, and a few industry executives. But this audience was different. It consisted of lawyers for the Defense Research Industry, a trade group for attorneys representing the power-tool industry. SawStop could help prevent thousands of serious injuries caused by power tools each year, Gass believed -- if the industry would license it. He returned to his seat thinking he had made his case.

Then Dan Lanier, national coordinating counsel for Black & Decker, stepped to the podium. His topic: "Evidentiary Issues Relating to SawStop Technology for Power Saws." Lanier spent the next 30 minutes discussing a hypothetical lawsuit -- in which a plaintiff suing a power-saw manufacturer contended the saw was defective because it did not incorporate SawStop's technology -- and suggesting ways defense counsel might respond. Lanier recalls it as a rather dry exploration of legal issues. Gass heard something different. To his ears, Lanier's message was this: If we all stick together and don't license this product, the industry can argue that everybody rejected it so it obviously wasn't viable, thereby limiting any legal liability the industry might face as a result of the new technology. (Lanier denies this was his point.)

Gass was stunned. His tiny start-up, run by three guys out of a barn in Wilsonville, Oreg., had captured the attention of the entire power-tool industry. For months, he had been negotiating with major players such as Ryobi, Delta, Black & Decker, Emerson, and Craftsman about licensing his invention. Instead, they seemed intent on trying to make him and his product go away.

Some 32,000 Americans are rushed to emergency rooms with table-saw-related injuries each year, according to the ConsumerProduct Safety Commission; more than 3,000 of those visits result in amputations, usually of fingers or hands. The medical bill to reattach a severed finger runs from about $10,000 for a clean wound to more than $25,000 if there's nerve damage, infection, or other complications, according to James W. Greer, president of theAssociation of Property and Casualty Claims Professionals, a tradegroup in Tampa. Factor in rehabilitation and lost time at work, and the cost per injury can easily reach six figures. Indeed, in 2002, theCPSC estimated the annual economic cost of table-saw injuries to be $2 billion. That's more than 10 times the size of the entire $175 milliontable-saw market. Clearly, this is an industry that could use a better mousetrap.

That's what Gass figured he had in the summer of 2000, when SawStop's technology made its debut. A year later, the Consumer Products Safety Commission awarded the device its Chairman's Commendation for product safety. Popular Science magazine named it one of 100 Best New Innovations. Tool industry bigwigs seemed impressed too. "It is probably one of the most major developments in the area of product safety applicable for table saws," said Peter Domeny, director of product safety for S-B Power Tool, which makes Skil and Bosch tools.

So, four years later, why isn't SawStop on every table saw on themarket? That's the funny thing about better mousetraps. Build one, and the other mousetrap makers will probably hate your guts. They might even try to squeeze you out of the mousetrap business altogether. Just ask the inventors of air bags, safer cigarette lighters, and automatic shutoffs for electrical appliances -- all of which encountered resistance from the status quo. Ultimately they prevailed and their innovations became standard. Gass still has a long way to go.

Gass didn't set out to take on the power-tool industry. Nor did he ever see himself as an entrepreneur. The amateur woodworker was standing in his workshop one day in 1999, staring at his idle table saw. "The idea came to me that it might be possible to stop the blade quickly enough to avoid serious injury," he says. A patent attorneywho also holds a doctorate in physics, Gass loves nothing more than solving complex technical problems. He got out pencil, paper, and calculator and got to work.

Stopping the blade, he figured, would require a two-part process. First, he needed a brake that would work quickly enough when it came into contact with a woodworker's hand. Next, he had to design a triggering system that could differentiate between finger and wood. Given the speed of the blade, it would have to stop in about 1/100 of a second -- or at about an eighth of an inch of rotation after making contact. Any further, and the cut would be so deep that the device would be useless. To stop the blade this quickly would require about1,000 pounds of force to decelerate the blade in 10 milliseconds. That calculation took Gass about 30 minutes. The trigger problem was a little more complicated, but Gass came up with the idea of running a small electrical charge through the blade. The system would sense when the blade hit flesh because the body would absorb some of the charge.The resulting drop in voltage would be enough to trigger the brake and stop the blade almost instantly.

Gass spent two weeks designing the technology and, using a $200 secondhand table saw, an additional week building a prototype. Then he began to experiment. With the blade whirring, he touched his hand toits smooth side. It stopped immediately. The same thing happened whenhe ran a hot dog into the blade's teeth. Gass repeated the experimentdozens of times -- and each time the blade stopped immediately.

Convinced his invention would be embraced by the industry, he videotaped a demonstration, registered the patent, and set out to convince manufacturers to license the technology, which he had dubbedSawStop. He sent a video demo to Delta Machinery in Jackson, Tenn., one of the largest table-saw manufacturers, and waited.

Gass was pleased with his results, but he also knew there was something else to be done: He had to test SawStop on a real finger."There's not a lot of demand for a saw that's safe for hot dogs," he says with a laugh. And so, on a spring afternoon in 2000, Gass stood in his workshop and tried to summon the moxie to stick his left ringfinger into the teeth of a whirring saw blade. He had rubbed the digit with Novocain cream, hoping to dull the pain of the cut. On the first try, his heart beating furiously, he eased in close but recoiled before making contact. A few minutes later, he tried again. This time, he rolled his finger close enough to get a faint red mark, but panicked and pulled back before the brake triggered. By now, his forearm was cramping from the tension. It was difficult to keep his hand steady. Still, on his third attempt, he kept his nerve -- and the blade stopped, just as he knew it would. "It hurt like the dickens and bled a lot," he says. But the finger remained intact.

Several months later, Gass finally heard back from Delta. "No, thanks. Safety doesn't sell," he says he was told over the phone. (Delta, now known as Delta Porter Cable, is now owned by Black & Decker. A Delta spokesperson who asked not to be identified denies that a Delta employee made the comment.) Gass could not believe his ears. "Everybody in woodworking knows somebody who's lost a finger or had an accident," he says. How could a major manufacturer not be interested?

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