Many of you have probably heard about the suicide of Aaron Swartz, who took his life on January 11 2013 at the age of 26.
I never found the time to write about Aaron, but received an email today that I’d like to share. This is especially for us who work in academia, but also relevant for people who believe that information should be shared, and that education is a basic right. The email was written by Prof Bruce Stinebrickner.
Dear DePauw Faculty and Staff,
As many of you may know, our daughter Taren’s beloved partner, Aaron Swartz— human rights activist and computer genius—died Friday. He took his own life in despair over prosecution by the US government. On Tuesday, Aaron was buried, but we hope that the ideals to which he devoted his life were not buried with him. Here are six things we can do, individually and collectively, to further his legacy.
1) Support the adoption of an open-access policy by DePauw faculty and DePauw University. Aaron believed passionately that information—especially scholarly information—should be freely available to all people on this planet, not just privileged individuals like us who have the institutional ties or individual wealth necessary to access it. We believe that, too. In recent years, faculty at some of the world’s leading universities have adopted policies requiring that all research published in scholarly journals by faculty and students at that institution also be made available on-line for free. Hope College, a GLCA sister institution of DePauw, has already adopted an open-access policy. DePauw should follow suit as soon as possible, and then encourage the rest of the GLCA and other liberal arts colleges to do so as well.
2) Consider making your publications open-access. Most open-access policies at universities are prospective, not retrospective, thus denying most people free access to scholarship that has already been published. In solidarity with Aaron, this week thousands of scholars have posted their own published articles at http://pdftribute.net/ If you have none to post, then post something by a scholar who has died and cannot liberate his or her own articles. As Aaron wrote in 2008, “Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. . . . Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves.”
3) Support the nomination of Aaron to be the recipient of the American Library Association’s 2013 James Madison Award. Before Aaron’s death, DePauw librarian Bruce Sanders was preparing to nominate Aaron for the ALA’s annual award to the person who has “championed, protected and promoted public access to government information and the public’s ‘right to know.’” James Jacobs and Shinjoung Yeo of Stanford University seconded the nomination, as did the People’s Librarians of Occupy Wall Street through Mandy Henk. If you are a member of the ALA, please consider adding your voice in support.
4) Sign the White House petition protesting overreach of prosecutorial power. Hundreds of articles and blogs have been written in the past few days about the overreach of prosecutorial power that led directly to Aaron’s death, including one by the retired federal judge from the US District Court where Aaron was indicted. But Aaron is only one of literally millions of people in the USA—most of them poor and powerless—who suffer from a system of injustice that allows prosecutors to pile on charges and potential years of incarceration to the extent that nearly all defendants are forced to accept plea bargains. Fewer than 3% of defendants in federal cases last year had the temerity to take their cases to trial. The White House petition, which has already been signed by 35,000 people, asks for the dismissal of Aaron’s prosecutor—a symbolic but important step to take. Prosecutorial discretion at the federal, state and local levels needs to be reined in and federal prosecutors in particular need to be made more accountable.
5) Support the newly proposed “Aaron’s Law,” which would reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). On the day Aaron was buried, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren introduced “Aaron’s Law,” which would amend a key part of the CFAA, one of the statutes under which Aaron was indicted. According to DemandProgress.org (one of the many organizations that Aaron founded in his short life), “The CFAA makes violations of a website’s terms of service agreement or user agreement—that fine print you never read before you check the box next to it—a FELONY, potentially punishable by many years in prison. That’s how over-broad this dangerous statute is, and one way it lets showboating prosecutors file charges against people who’ve done nothing wrong.” You can sign the letter supporting Aaron’s Law here.
6) Share this letter with colleagues at other universities. The day after his death, Aaron’s family and Taren released a statement about Aaron’s legacy that read in part:
“Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.
Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the range and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across the world. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.”
Like so many others, we loved Aaron and shall miss him terribly. Thank you for your help in honoring his memory.
Oberhaupt der katholischen Kirche, 8. Dezember 2012: Homosexualität ist “eine Beleidigung der Wahrheit des Menschen, und eine schwere Verletzung der Gerechtigkeit und des Friedens”.
Hier der komplette Teil der Rede, der sich darauf bezieht:
Auch die natürliche Struktur der Ehe als Verbindung zwischen einem Mann und einer Frau muß anerkannt und gefördert werden gegenüber den Versuchen, sie rechtlich gleichzustellen mit radikal anderen Formen der Verbindung, die in Wirklichkeit die Ehe beschädigen und zu ihrer Destabilisierung beitragen, indem sie ihren besonderen Charakter und ihre unersetzliche gesellschaftliche Rolle verdunkeln. Diese Grundsätze sind keine Glaubenswahrheiten, noch sind sie nur eine Ableitung aus dem Recht auf Religionsfreiheit. Sie sind in die menschliche Natur selbst eingeschrieben, mit der Vernunft erkennbar und so der gesamten Menschheit gemeinsam. Der Einsatz der Kirche zu ihrer Förderung hat also keinen konfessionellen Charakter, sondern ist an alle Menschen gerichtet, unabhängig von ihrer religiösen Zugehörigkeit. Solch ein Einsatz ist um so nötiger, je mehr diese Grundsätze geleugnet oder falsch verstanden werden, denn das stellt eine Beleidigung der Wahrheit des Menschen dar, eine schwere Verletzung der Gerechtigkeit und des Friedens.
This was the title of an investigation by Plakun (former chair of APA’s Committee on Psychotherapy by Psychiatrists and director of admissions and professional relations at the Austen Riggs Center) and West (policy research director for the American Psychiatric Institute for Research and Education (APIRE)).
The conclusion: “There is a lost generation that was trained at the point of the deepest commitment to biological reductionism. That’s part of the reason why the Committee on Psychotherapy by Psychiatrists was originally formed. There was a recognition…that psychotherapy was in danger of being a skill lost in the practicing of psychiatrists and the training of residents.”
Here is a 5 minutes Youtube video in which Plakun explains their findings.
This is the third case (#1; #2) in two months in which a major US pharmaceutical company is proven to have been involved in outrageous illegal activities over many years.
Admittedly, the two other cases were much worse. But shouldn’t we start doing something about this? Because – once again – the “fine” Pfizer has to pay is ridiculously low, compared to the benefit they gained from these activities. And, once again, the company pays some money and the perpetrators are not prosecuted.
PEOPLE did illegal things. Could we like, prosecute them, or something? Maybe put them in jail? You know, things we do if other people commit crimes?
Just a few days ago I wrote about the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. They agreed to pay $520 million to settle a federal civil lawsuit in which the company was accused of illegally promoting its antipsychotic drug quetiapine, marketed under the brand name Seroquel, for unapproved indications.
Yesterday, GlaxoSmithKline pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges. They agreed to pay $3 billion to settle what government officials on Monday described as “the largest case of healthcare fraud in U.S. history”.
What had happened?
“GSK targeted the antidepressant Paxil to patients under age 18 when it was approved for adults only, and it pushed the drug Wellbutrin for uses it was not approved for, including weight loss and treatment of sexual dysfunction, according to an investigation led by the U.S. Justice Department.
The company went to extreme lengths to promote the drugs, such as distributing a misleading medical journal article and providing doctors with meals and spa treatments that amounted to illegal kickbacks, prosecutors said.
In a third instance, GSK failed to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration safety data about its diabetes drug Avandia, in violation of U.S. law, prosecutors said.
The misconduct continued for years beginning in the late 1990s and continued, in the case of Avandia’s safety data, through 2007.”
–– Source: finance.yahoo.com
People at GlaxoSmithKline made these decisions. They knew what they were doing. They decided to actively poison tens of thousands of people with drugs that were not approved for their condition – including children. And we’re we are not talking about vitamin-C pills, we’re talking about drugs that seriously affect the neurotransmitter systems in your brain, causing severe side effects in some patients.
I don’t understand how it is possible that no one goes to jail for that. Who cares if the company has to pay billions in compensation? As long as there are no consequences for the people who made the decisions, nothing will ever change.
Maybe the system does not work anymore? I don’t know. What I do know is that Western Civilization TM has watched companies screwing with the lives of millions, without interfering. Because they pay our politicians, most likely. And because people don’t pay attention, and don’t seem to care. Maybe because they don’t understand.
In any case, there is yet another case of a pharmaceutical company paying a large amount of money to avoid a sentence in court.
“AstraZeneca has agreed to pay $520 million to settle a federal civil lawsuit in which the company was accused of illegally promoting its antipsychotic drug quetiapine, marketed under the brand name Seroquel, for unapproved indications.”
– Source: psychiatryonline.org
Think about that for a second: a company pays over half a billion dollars to settle a lawsuit. That’s that then. They committed a crime against humanity. They actively and on purpose poisoned many thousand people (I can’t find numbers, but probably many more than many thousand – Seroquel is a very common drug), just for the money. And now they pay a ridiculous sum – ridiculously high for us, ridiculously nothing for them – to make “up” for it. How can you make up for such a thing?
AstraZeneca promoted a drug for conditions it had not been tested on, and (much worse) without any proof that it might actually do any good, and (worst) without any proof that it would not do harm. It is like promoting antibiotics for concentration problems, or suicidal thoughts – just much worse.
“Federal prosecutors alleged that from 2001 through 2006 AstraZeneca promoted quetiapine for treating unapproved conditions, including aggression, agitation, dementia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and insomnia.
In the settlement of the federal suit, AstraZeneca denied any wrongdoing. The company continues to face more than 10,000 civil suits filed by individuals alleging personal injuries, primarily development of diabetes, due to taking quetiapine.
There have been many of these cases before. We really need to start doing something about this.
Last fall, Pfizer paid a record $2.3 billion to settle cases involving illegal promotions of four drugs, including ziprasidone (Geodon) and pregabalin (Lyrica) (Psychiatric News, October 2, 2009). Previous cases involving off-label promotions included ones against Eli Lilly for marketing olanzapine (Zyprexa), BristolMyers Squibb for marketing aripiprazole (Abilify), and Cephalon for marketing modafinil (Provigil).
It is safe to assume that Lamarck wasn’t all that wrong, after all. We know that epigenetic processes not only do exist, but we also have gathered very convincing evidence in the last five years or so that parts of our epigenomes are transmitted to subsequent generations. Screwing with our brains might mean screwing with the brains of our unborn children. That is what you do when you eat shitty food all your life as well, by the way. Or it might be.
So what is happening here is not only a crime against the people who are affected by this, but also very likely a crime against future generations of unborn children. Most leading psychiatrists agree that we don’t know what these drugs are doing, exactly.
That does not mean we shouldn’t use drugs like Seroquel or Prozac, at all. But we have to study the effects much better, and be more careful who gets a prescription.
The largest study ever conducted on antidepressants – STAR*D, the results are available online – found that in a trial of over 5.000 depressed patients, in stage 1, only about 35% of the subjects were positively affected by antidepressant treatment. Placebo level lies about 30%. Go figure.