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Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 08/07/2014 - 09:06
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Steven Hoffman and Julia Belluz write that the current ebola outbreak - like many health catastrophes in the developing world - is traceable largely to the warped incentives facing medical researchers:
(W)e've learned a lot about Ebola: that it's spread through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, that we can stop it by using simple precautionary measures and basic hygiene practices. But every once in a while, these nightmarish outbreaks pop up and capture the international imagination. Worries about global spread are worsened by the fact that Ebola has no vaccine and no cure.

Here's what's surprising and interesting about this state of affairs: it is not caused by a lack of human ingenuity or scientific capacity to come up with Ebola remedies. It's because this is an African disease, and our global innovation system largely ignores the health problems of the poor.
Ebola will continue to move through Africa — this time, and again in the future — not only because of the viral reservoirs and broken health systems specific to the continent. There are much larger issues at play here. Namely, the global institutions we designed to promote health innovation, trade, and investment perpetuate its spread and prevent its resolution.

This shouldn't be news. Most all of the money for research and development in health comes from the private sector. They naturally have a singular focus — making money — and they do that by selling patent-protected products to many people who can and are willing to pay very high monopoly prices. Not by developing medicines and vaccines for the world's poorest people, like those suffering with Ebola.

Right now, more money goes into fighting baldness and erectile dysfunction than hemorrhagic fevers like dengue or Ebola. In the graph below, you can see global pharmaceutical spending in 2013. Neglected diseases (ie., Ebola) got hardly any of the share of funding.  - Meanwhile, Justin Ling writes that Canada's own intellectual property system stands to become even more biased in favour of big pharma if the CETA comes into effect. And Aaron Carroll writes about the dangers of pay for performance within the medical system.

- Josiah Mortimer reports on the UK Cons' latest attack on the unemployed, this time deliberately requiring newly-unemployed workers to go up to six weeks without pay before receiving any employment benefits.

- Finally, Shannon Gormley discusses how mass surveillance may make it impossible for journalists, lawyers and other professionals who need to be able to assure confidentiality in defending important public interests to live up to their promises. And Conor Friedersdorf rightly questions how anybody could trust a system which allows state actors whose actions are under investigation to choose for themselves what information to release about their own wrongdoing.

Consequence upon consequence

Dawg's Blawg - Thu, 08/07/2014 - 08:27
We are often encouraged not to play the blame game, not look too far into the Abyss/history/whatever, etc, but the plight of the Yazidi minority in Iraq, besieged with genocidal intent by ISIS, is a situation where we should... Mandos

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 08/07/2014 - 08:10
Here, on the need to take downside risks into account in discussing industrial development - especially when our water, land and lives are at stake.

For further reading...
- The CP and Jenni Sheppard report on the many warning signs which should have identified the causes of the Mount Polley spill before it turned a town's water toxic. Stephen Hume rightly concludes that the spill can be traced to a lax regulatory culture. Alison Bailey's report points out that similar ponds set up for larger mining projects could cause even more damage. And Nature Canada discusses the deliberate choice not to require tar sands operators to assess the risk of tailings pond breaches.
- Mike de Souza reports on the "investigation" into the continuing Cold Lake oil spill - which included regulators allowing Canadian Natural Resources Limited to self-report and collect its own evidence. And Laura Broadley's report reminds us about CNRL's stonewalling in even admitting that a problem existed.
- CBC reports on Toledo's water contamination, as well as the earthquakes caused by fracking in the U.S.
- Tanya Lewis discusses the methane releases which are blowing holes in the Siberian landscape. And Brian Merchant notes that similar uncontrolled methane releases from the ocean floor could make climate change far worse than even the most dire scenarios currently under discussion. So while Marc Jaccard may be right to point out the need for honest discussion about climate change, that conversation also needs to factor in the growing dangers of leaving emissions to soar.
- Finally, PressProgress highlights the policy choice to imposing all kinds of new and unassessed risks on an unknowing public - as the Cons fully intend for their lax regulation to cause a wave of applications for projects whose damage to land, water and wildlife would never have been permitted before.


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