Access to life-saving medicines is not a luxury, but a human right.
~Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
To me, the above statement is one of those things that sound like a no-brainer. Put another way, if I were to ask you whether you thought a person's income should determine whether they live or die from something like HIV/AIDS, then I think you would see that the answer is nothing but obvious. But here I am, in Canada, writing this post, because there is a very real danger that members of my government think that this isn't such an easy decision after all - that maybe wealth and business interests do matter when dealing with such ethical choices, and that there is a hierarchy where certain lives are worth more than others.
Let me backtrack a bit, and provide a little context. I'd rather not write a rant, emotional and heart wrenching as this discussion can be - I'd prefer to rely on reason, and not on rhetoric. I want everybody to understand why this is an important issue, one that deserves coverage, and one that deserves our involvement. More importantly, I want everybody to understand why the right thing to do is obvious.
To start, let me mention the letters and numbers that make up the label, "Bill C-393." Keep them in your head - at least for a moment. If you're the sort that prefers hearing at least a quick definition, then this one might work:
Bill C-393 aims to reform CAMR and make it easier for Canada to export affordable, life-saving, generic medicines to developing countries. ~Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
If you're thinking that this is a Canadian thing, then think again. Other rich countries are watching how Canada will behave. There's a few in Europe, and apparently even China is curious. In the U.S., the topic appears to be quenched, but the behaviour of the Canadian government could catalyze dialogue. And if you're not from a rich country? Well, you might actually have lives that will be affected by it, millions of lives even.
Craig Newmark, O.G. internet guy and founder of Craigslist, tells Boing Boing this morning:
Hey, I know I say "this is a big deal" a lot, but this really IS a big deal. I've decided what I want to do for the next 20 years, which is to help connect and protect organizations that are doing good through a program I'm calling craigconnects.
I need your help. Together, we can make a difference.
Dozens of teachers, students, and curriculum developers will join in these discussions to explore how movies, television programs, and video and computer games could be used in the classroom. The summit will include breakout sessions and a group exercise to encourage interaction and brainstorming among participants.
As I publish this blog post, we're just a few hours away from the planned start time of mass protests in Egypt, possibly the largest yet in a week of historically large gatherings calling for Hosni Mubarak to step down from some 30 years in power. Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic tells Boing Boing,
A Twitter follower stepped up to translate excerpts from the
Egyptian protest plan that's been floating around (the one that said
don't use Twitter or Facebook). We're only publishing excerpts -- i.e.
this is more general information and demands, not tactical stuff -- but
they are amazing.
This card was designed by Peter Miller as an alternative to the kicking-of-doors and yelling-and-screaming that usually goes on when someone in a car recklessly endangers the life of a cyclist because they were talking on their phone, putting on lipstick, passing another car in the bike lane, etc etc etc. It's a more subtle statement, but I think more effective. Peter has provided a PDF of the card to allow others to print it out on a magnet of their choice and distribute them as needed. [Thanks to TOLA for noticing it.]
In light of World AIDS Day, I'd thought I'd post a little bit about Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. It's a bit of a mouthful, but it's a student run non-profit that does brilliant things. Even though the video above is two years old, Mike Gretes does a lovely job highlighting some of what UAEM does, and there's also tons of information on their website:
Many important medicines and public health technologies are developed in academic laboratories. Their accessibility in poor nations is profoundly affected by the research, patenting and licensing decisions made by universities.
We are a group of university students who believe that our universities have an opportunity and a responsibility to improve global access to public health goods
This is important for a number of reasons. One example is that it recognizes that almost all therapeutics have their humble beginnings at some lab bench at some university. This isn't necessarily the finished product, but it is often the "eureka" moment that can start the path towards a medicine with real life benefits.
Because of this, that academic lab and its researchers, have this opportunity to lay down some ground rules when the discovery is ultimately marketed out to some company. For instance, they can dictate that licensing is different (amenable to generics) when circumstances compel the drug to be sold in markets that simply can't afford the usual prices set by pharmaceutical companies (think HIV medicine in developed versus developing countries). Unfortunately, this amazing opportunity is usually a missed opportunity: which is why UAEM members stay up nights thinking about ways, to advocate, educate, and guide universities to do the right thing.
Anyway, if you're connected to the university system, it's a must to check it out. There might already be a UAEM chapter at your school (there is at mine). If not, there's also help available to set one up.
Universities Allied for Essential Medicines
So last night, while attempting to explain the plot of Smokey and the Bandit to my husband, it occurred to me that I didn't really understand the back story that spawned this, one of my favorite childhood films. Why did Bandit and Snowman (and Fred) have a long way to go and a short time to get there? There was beer in most parts of Georgia by the 1970s. And even if you were trying to get booze to a dry county, why start in Texas and only give yourself 28 hours?
Thanks to Wikipedia and the very helpful Stephan Zielinski, I discovered the awful truth—Smokey and the Bandit is centered around America's brief love affair with Coors Banquet Beer.
All that work, for Coors? It's true. Wikipedia explained that the beer wasn't available East of Oklahoma at the time. But I didn't get the full extent of what was really going on until I read a 1974 Time magazine article sent to me by Zielinski. If, like me, you didn't begin drinking until the late 1990s, this is going to come as a shock, but, once upon a time, Coors was apparently the best American breweries had to offer.
If you'd told me a year ago that the City of Los Angeles would close off almost 8 miles of primary city streets to let cyclists have free rein for a day I never would have believed it. If I hadn't seen it actually happen with my own eyes yesterday, I'd still be suspicious. But it's true: thanks to the amazing efforts of the die-hard volunteers behind the project, yesterday the first ever CycLAvia (a riff on the South American Ciclovía idea) took place and some 100,000 residents took to their bikes and got a glimpse of what the city might be like if at least some parts of it were car-free.
As an avid cyclist living in LA, I've long said this is an amazing city to bike in and that it takes on a whole new life when you see it from a bicycle. But most often the reaction I get from non-cyclists is that I must be crazy to ride a bike in LA. I'm not, and judging by the photos on flickr and reactions on twitter a ton of people now see the city a little differently. With any luck this is just the first of many upcoming bike-friendly events in the city. I know I can't wait to see where this leads! (Follow @Cyclavia for future details)
Phil Knight, a Boing Boing reader who works in a Kampala, Uganda hospital treating victims of the recent bombing, posts this blog entry about the attack, the survivors, and ways you can help. "We've been busy and the Seacom cable is down, so internet has been terrible. We've got some catching up to do. All help appreciated."
In an unspecified European city, a group of young people works, studies, travels, publishes on forums and blogs, exchanges on social networks and meets at concerts... A "difficult" situation in the life of a young photo-journalist and his friends' mobilization to help him out of this situation illustrate the breaches of personal data protection facilitated by the use of new technologies. The comic book underlines the consequences but also possible remedies. A glossary and links to useful websites come with the comic book.
The comic book "Under surveillance" is available in Catalan, Czech, English and French. Online versions are made available on the project partners' websites. 20,000 hard copies are available in each language and are disseminated for free.
The youth photo training group Project Einstein got its start with group of young people living in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. One of the participants came up with the name because "Einstein was a refugee but could still do great things."
The photograph above went viral a few weeks ago, when massive storms and volcanic eruptions caused displacement, injury, and death throughout Guatemala. The sinkhole snapshot is long gone from the top of trending Google link lists, but people are still suffering throughout the country—the worst off, as usual, are marginalized indigenous communities who make up the poorest sector of the population.
As dramatic as this photo was, the sinkhole is the least of Guatemala's worries. How you can help...