Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

April 4 roundup

NAFTA not nannyish enough for NYT

Advocates claiming the mantle of public health would like to introduce scary new warnings on foods high in sugar, salt, or fat, and restrict marketing, as by banning the use of cartoon characters. For years they’ve been trying to advance their schemes through the use of international organizations and institutions, but now the United States, or at least its federal government, has begun pushing back. The New York Times doesn’t like that one bit and my latest Cato post examines the difference between what a principled position might look like, and the position the Times actually takes. Excerpt:

Like international organizations, treaty administration bodies tend to draw for guidance on an elite stratum of professional diplomats, conference-goers, NGO and nonprofit specialists, and so forth, most of whom are relatively insulated from any pushback in public opinion. That might be a good reason to minimize the role of transnational panels in governance where not absolutely necessary. It is not a good reason to adopt the Times’s implicit position on lobbying for international standards, which is that it’s fine when done by our side but illegitimate when done by yours.

Related: Good piece on sugar/fat wars, with one proviso: when it’s Stanton Glantz spreading a tale, don’t just call it “University of California” [David Merritt Johns and Gerald M. Oppenheimer, Slate]

October 25 roundup

“Cultural appropriation: Make it illegal worldwide, Indigenous advocates say”

“Indigenous advocates from around the world are calling on a UN committee to ban the appropriation of Indigenous cultures — and to do it quickly….Since it began in 2001, the committee [a “specialized international committee within the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a United Nations agency”] has been working on creating and finishing three pieces of international law that would expand intellectual-property regulations to protect things like Indigenous designs, dances, words and traditional medicines.” [CBC/Yahoo]

Explains the WIPO site: “Traditional cultural expressions (TCEs), also called ‘expressions of folklore’, may include music, dance, art, designs, names, signs and symbols, performances, ceremonies, architectural forms, handicrafts and narratives, or many other artistic or cultural expressions.” Also under consideration are rules for “genetic resources” such as seeds, and folk or traditional knowledge.

One wonders how the novel intellectual property regime being contemplated will diverge from earlier, longstanding IP regimes on such questions as which products of the human mind are subject to protection, how long property rights in cultural expression are to persist after original creation and dissemination, and when if ever creative expressions originating with individuals, whether recently or generations ago, may (or must) have their rights assigned to national or ethnic collectives claiming to represent them. Presumably it will be difficult to limit the idea of collective property rights in folkloric expression to indigenous or tribal groups only, and other national groups and ethnicities, including the economically advanced, will also get in line to stake future claims.

Ed Krayewski, writing at Reason, points out that the project could have a potentially welcome consequences if it serves to impede the patenting by sophisticated Western concerns of medicines that were already in traditional usage, and likewise for the copyrighting of traditional designs and the like. Of course, intellectual property systems already are not generally supposed to confer IP rights on knowledge, uses, or expressions that were in use or known about before the claimant’s purported act of creativity, but national IP systems may not always do a good job of recognizing prior art, use, or knowledge.

For the most part, however, this is an effort to restrict the public domain and the creative and expressive liberties it brings with it. Note that an American law professor, formerly United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, is helping push it; earlier on Prof. James Anaya, now dean at Colorado, here.

November 2 roundup

  • Clarence Thomas completes a quarter century of distinguished service on the Supreme Court, not that certain journalists will ever see past their loathing [Adam White, Weekly Standard; Ann Althouse]
  • Hollywood actor’s lawsuit-related vengefulness against anonymous Twitter troll endures past death [Mike Masnick]
  • United Nations panel: U.S. owes racial reparations [PBS]
  • “Yesterday’s Antitrust Laws Can’t Solve Today’s Problems” [Tyler Cowen]
  • “As a gay man, I’m horrified that Christian bakers are being forced to surrender their beliefs” [Neil Midgley, Telegraph on ruling by Belfast, Northern Ireland court of appeal]
  • Another review of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s new book, The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians [W. B. Allen, earlier] ABA Journal covers ongoing controversy over Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) [earlier]

Food and nanny state roundup

  • Has Obama administration endorsed anti-GMO campaign with new labeling law? Not really [Thomas Firey, Cato, earlier here, here, etc.]
  • United Nations anti-tobacco meeting seeks to exclude persons overly involved with tobacco production, ban list turns out to include many officials of member governments [Huffington Post UK]
  • Dumping Michigan tart cherries to comply with USDA marketing order? There must be a better way [Baylen Linnekin]
  • “I am the man, the very fat man, who waters the workers’ beer.” [Science Daily, prompting Christopher Snowdon’s recollection of that line of song]
  • Feds alone have spent $500 million chasing food-desert mirage, with “negligible” impact on health [Mac McCann, Dallas News, earlier]
  • “FDA Assigns Zero Value To Smokers Who Die Because Of Its E-Cigarette Regulations” [Jacob Sullum, more on vaping]

Environmental roundup

  • Supreme Court should clarify whether agency has discretion to ignore any and all costs in designating Endangered Species Act habitat [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer on Cato certiorari amicus in Building Industry Association of the Bay Area v. U.S. Dept. of Commerce]
  • Unanimous decision in Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes is second SCOTUS ruling this year against Environmental Protection Agency, and umpteenth blow to its reputation [Ned Mamula, Cato]
  • Speaking of billionaires with vendettas against speech: Tom Steyer of San Francisco pushes New Hampshire attorney general to join probe of wrongful climate advocacy [Mike Bastasch, Daily Caller, earlier here, etc.]
  • “Modern zoning would have killed off America’s dense cities”: 40% of Manhattan’s buildings couldn’t be built today because they would violate a law [New York Times, Scott Beyer/Forbes]
  • And if anyone should know about tainting it’s them: United Nations human rights bureaucracy probes Flint water contamination [Associated Press]
  • Anti-fossil-fuel demonstrators block rail line and the Associated Press can’t find a single critic to quote [related, Shift Washington]

Profs: considering credit history could violate rights of mentally ill

Various federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Housing Act, prohibit discrimination against disabled persons, and mental illness is a disability. And so — say three professors — businesses may be violating these laws by dinging credit applicants for poor credit history unless they make allowance for persons whose poor financial choices were the result of mental illness. Bonus: citation to authority of “United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (which the United States has signed)” [Christopher Guzelian, Michael Ashley Stein, and H. S. Akiskal, SSRN via @tedfrank]

WHO: children should not be allowed to watch films with smoking

“Bad news for Pinocchio and Cruella De Vil.” The ever-meddlesome World Health Organization “would like to see all films that feature smoking given an adult rating.” That would exclude kids from many of the kid-oriented classics of the past, from Alice in Wonderland (hookah-smoking caterpillar) to Peter Pan (Captain Hook), to say nothing of more recent films such as “Lord of the Rings (Gandalf and his pipe) or X-Men (Wolverine and his cigar)” [The Guardian; Brian Doherty]