December 10, 2005

WHO’s Mental Health/Human Right’s Initiative

Category: Politics — @ 1:53 pm

Denied citizens

Mental health and human rights

World Health Organization (WHO) Exposes
a Global Emergency of Human Rights
Violations in the Mental Health System.

MindFreedom Welcomes WHO’s Announcement,
Calls for “International Mobilization.”

The World Health Organization announced they
are dedicating International Human Rights Day,
10 December, to all people diagnosed with
mental disorders “and the all-too-prevalent
violations of their basic human rights.”

To draw attention to this crisis the World
Health Organization (WHO) has created a new
online photo essay called ‘Forgotten People:
Mental Health and Human Rights,” along with
other new materials and a press conference.

MindFreedom International, as a
Non Governmental Organization (NGO)
accredited by the UN, has worked
with WHO for two years encouraging
a focus on the topic of human
rights and mental health.

MindFreedom director David Oaks
said, “While we have so very much
that we seek to change about the
mental health system, including
at WHO, we are gratified to see
that WHO is exposing the emergency
of human rights in the mental health
system to people internationally.”

MindFreedom issued a call for an
“International mobilization of
resources for a nonviolent
revolution throughout the mental
health system.”

JAMA reveals Merck Downplayed Risks

Category: Pharma,Politics — @ 1:48 pm

Lawyers Evaluate Censure of Merck
# As jurors deliberate in one Vioxx trial, experts say Merck will be hurt in the many other cases.

By Lisa Girion, Times Staff Writer

Jurors continued deliberating Friday in the latest Vioxx trial as some legal experts said Merck & Co.’s defense against thousands of similar lawsuits would be hurt by an accusation that company scientists had downplayed the pain reliever’s heart attack risk.

A rare “expression of concern” posted online Thursday by New England Journal of Medicine editors chastised Merck scientists for failing to report three nonfatal heart attacks among Vioxx users who were at low risk of cardiac problems.

The editors said two scientists employed by Merck knew about the three heart attacks more than four months before the journal published an article by the scientists about a Vioxx study conducted in 2000. The editors said they determined that information about the heart attacks had been deleted two days before the article was submitted.

The editors also said the three heart attacks would have led to different conclusions about the risk of Vioxx, particularly among users who were not predisposed to heart problems.

Merck representatives did not return calls Friday. The company issued a statement Thursday saying the heart attacks had been reported after a cutoff date for data for the study. Merck also said it promptly disclosed the three heart attacks to the Food and Drug Administration, as well as in a news release.


December 8, 2005

The encoding of values

Category: Debian,Ethics,Politics,Research,Tech — @ 7:09 pm

Whether it is the Incompatible Timesharing System from the early days at the MIT lab, Unix, or the Internet, it is clear that hackers encode and realize values through the making of various technologies. But this encoding is not always straightforward and it tends to embody a multiplicity of potentialities that get realized in sometimes conflicting modes.

As interesting is that geeks theorize this, and do so in a dialogically, enganged manner. The following 2 blog entries are by Debian developers and they are about Debian, Unix permissions, and the ways in which openness/opaquness foster different forms of access and possiblities. I don’t have time now to give any analysis but here they are:

From From Joey Hess’ Blog:

I could give many more examples of subsystems in Debian that exist at different point in the spectrum between locked down unix permissions and a wiki. There seems to be a definite pull toward moving away from unix permissions, once ways can be found to do so that are secure or that allow bad changes to be reverted (and blame properly assigned). Cases of moving in the other direction are rare (one case of this is the further locking down of the Debian archive server and BTS server after the server compromise last year).

Anyway, the point of this is that, if you survey the parts of dealing with the project where Debian developers feel most helpless and unempowered, the parts that are over and over again the subject of heated discussions and complaints, you will find that those are the parts of the project where unix permissions still hold sway. This can range from simple cases such as a cron job that only one person can look at and modify[1], to various data files that could perhaps be kept in svn, but aren’t, all the way through to stuff like the Debian keyring. I would love to see a full list developed, although many of the things that remain are obscure little corners like certian blacklists in the BTS, bits of the buildd infrastructure that only a half dozen people know about, etc.

And then a reply from former Debian release manager, Anthony Towns:

One interesting approach, to my mind, is worrying less about permissions and more about space Ė so that different people with different ideas on how to do things can do them independently. Thatís part of the idea behind usertags and usercategories: rather than having people try to find an imperfect compromise, let them work on the same stuff in the way they actually prefer. That reduces the risk of carelessness, in that you stop having any reason to bother other people, and also reduces the problem of restrictions, in that if you donít have permission to work in someone elseís area, you can just setup your own area and work there.

Perhaps the worst problem is if the drawbacks feed on each other: a restrictive system turns away contributions, which causes prospective contributors to get frustrated and hence careless, which then reinforces the reasons that the restrictions were put their in the first place and diminishes the chance theyíll be reconsidered. Thatís a hard cycle to break, but itís not one where anyone really wins.

December 7, 2005

A Revival of Fair Use

Category: IP Law,Politics,Tech — @ 7:59 am

Yesterday Peter Jaszi who was at the forefront of the critique of authorship project in the early 1990s, came to visit at the Center for Cultural Analysis. During his seminar presentation as well as public talk on his project he brought up some very interesting points about the limits of the Creative Commons project when discussing copyright activism aimed at building a strong fair use foundation for documentary film makers.

His critique of the Creative Commons was the following: In affirming the creation of a commons through individual choice and voluntary gifting, it trivializing the importance of public rights and access that are built in to the copyright system. The danger is that we will end up with two different systems in which the commons material will only arise from those creators willing to relinquish some of the exlusive rights of copyrights. This is quite valid and perceptive. But in many ways, given the seemingly unstoppable movement of copyright law toward greater protections, I think the only way to put a stop to it was through the creation of an alternative model. In this case, legislation and policy was not going to do the trick.

That said, now that there is a robust alternative, now that the hegemony of IP assumptions have been punctured, it does seem more imperative than ever to foment a copyright culture that respects, much more than it does now, the idea of public access and goods.

This is where in fact Jaszi is channeling his energy. He is one of the folks behind the Best Practices in Fair Use at the Center for Social Media. It is a project aimed at cultivating an ethic for greater access and set of best practices among documentary filmmakers who are being strangled financially because of licensing fees for music and other materials.

According to his talk last night, in the last decade there has been a “fair use renaissance” honoring the principle. This project fosters this awakening in the realm of documentary film by creating a set of best practices that are presented to courts who apparently are quite interested in what communities of practices do in regard to their craft. On top of it, they are using this material in film schools which seems so essential. So much of our professional ethics derive from educational socialization so this is vital component to this project.