Sunday, February 19, 2017

Offensive trademarks

Can repugnant speech also be intellectual property? The Supreme Court has a case that touches on this. The NY Times has this recent story: Justices Appear Willing to Protect Offensive Trademarks

"The Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared deeply skeptical about the constitutionality of a federal law that denies protection to disparaging trademarks. Almost every member of the court indicated that the law was hard to reconcile with the First Amendment.
The court’s decision in the case, concerning an Asian-American dance-rock band called the Slants, will probably also effectively resolve a separate one in favor of the Washington Redskins football team.
The law denies federal trademark protection to messages that may disparage people, living or dead, along with “institutions, beliefs or national symbols.”
Malcolm L. Stewart, a deputy solicitor general, said the trademark law does not bar any speech, as the Slants remain free to continue to use their name. The law “places a reasonable limit on access to a government program rather than a restriction on speech,” he said, and so “does not violate the First Amendment.”
Continue reading the main story
But Justice Elena Kagan said that even government programs may not discriminate based on speakers’ viewpoints.
“The point is that I can say good things about something, but I can’t say bad things about something,” she said of the law. “And I would have thought that that was a fairly classic case of viewpoint discrimination.” Viewpoint discrimination by the government, the Supreme Court has said, is presumptively unconstitutional.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the law interfered with free expression.
“We have a culture in which we have T-shirts and logos and rock bands and so forth that are expressing a point of view,” he said. “They are using the market to express views.”

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Memorial conference for Professor Reinhard Selten, April 28

Memorial conference for Professor Reinhard Selten
Friday, April 28th 2017, Bonn,

Reinhard Selten was a pioneer of the analysis of strategic interaction of both fully rational players (game theory) and boundedly rational humans (experimental economics). From 1984 until his death in 2016, he was associated with the University of Bonn, where he established one of the first experimental laboratories in economics. In 1994, Selten was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, together with John Harsanyi and John Nash, for their pioneering analysis of equilibria in the theory of non-cooperative games.
To honor his outstanding contributions to Economics, the University of Bonn and the University of Cologne are hosting a memorial conference for Reinhard Selten. The aim is to bring together renowned speakers presenting work connected to or inspired by Selten’s research. The conference will take place on Friday, April 28th 2017 at the Günnewig Hotel Bristol in Bonn, Germany. To help us with our planning, please register as soon as possible if you plan to attend!


Friday, February 17, 2017

Vatican statement on organ transplantation

When I posted recently about the Vatican conference on organ trafficking and transplant tourism I focused on the participation of China, and the reaction it drew.

Now I've had a closer second look at the conference statement  (whose title is Statement of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Summit on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism).

It's a very tough statement, which casts quite a broad net when talking about "crimes against humanity." Here's the opening paragraph:

"In accordance with the Resolutions of the United Nations and the World Health Assembly, the 2015 Vatican Summit of Mayors from the major cities of the world, the 2014 Joint Declaration of faith leaders against modern slavery, and the Magisterium of Pope Francis, who in June 2016, at the Judges’ Summit on Human Trafficking and Organized Crime, stated that organ trafficking and human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal are “true crimes against humanity [that] need to be recognized as such by all religious, political and social leaders, and by national and international legislation,” we, the undersigned participants of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Summit on Organ Trafficking, resolve to combat these crimes against humanity through comprehensive efforts that involve all stakeholders around the world."

Here's the paragraph defining what those crimes against humanity are, which to my eye seems to conflate three very different things. It is number 1 in their list of recommendations.

"That all nations and all cultures recognize human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal and organ trafficking, which include the use of organs from executed prisoners and payments to donors or the next of kin of deceased donors, as crimes that should be condemned worldwide and legally prosecuted at the national and international level."

That is, if I read the full statement correctly (you should read it yourself), they are proposing that 

  1. taking organs from executed prisoners, 
  2. making payments to living donors, and 
  3. making payments to next of kin of deceased donors 

should all be considered crimes against humanity.  

Incidentally, the phrase "crimes against humanity"  is one that I hear most often in the context of genocide, although I recognize that it is also used for other horrific crimes that target populations.

I am not encouraged that this will lead to a sensible discussion about either incentives for donation or (even) removing financial disincentives.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Doctor assisted suicide in Colorado: repugnance outlives legalization

You can figure out much of this story from the headline (but there's more): Colorado’s aid-in-dying law in disarray as big Catholic health systems opt out

"A third big health system in the state, HealthONE, has decided it won’t dispense life-terminating medications or allow patients to take them on the premises of its eight hospitals. But HealthONE, which is not faith-based, won’t impose similar restrictions on its doctors. A spokeswoman declined to provide details.

"The state’s law, which became effective last month, requires that such patients be 18 or older, have six months or less to live, be mentally competent, and ask for aid in dying twice over 15 days, in addition to a separate written request.

“Everyone is in a mad scramble figuring out what they’re doing to do and how they’re going to do it,” said Jennifer Moore Ballentine, president of The Iris Project, a Colorado consulting firm that is running a series of seminars on the new law over the next few weeks.

Colorado’s aid-in-dying law contains “conscience” provisions allowing physicians, nurses, and pharmacists to “opt out” of participating. Health systems can also bar the practice on their premises. Other states where aid in dying has become legal — Oregon, Washington, California, Vermont, and Montana — have similar provisions, and Catholic health care systems in those states have taken advantage of it.

But the Colorado law specifically states that health systems can’t prohibit doctors who work for them from discussing end-of-life options with patients or writing prescriptions to be taken off-site. This provision was crafted to prevent health systems from erecting barriers to access; only Vermont has a similar rule, but it doesn’t have a heavy concentration of Catholic hospitals.

Advocates for Colorado’s law say the two big Catholic health systems may be testing that provision."

And in Vermont: Vermont governor discloses his father used state’s end-of-life law

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The politics of assisted suicide / death with dignity

My discussions of assisted suicide / death with dignity as a repugnant transaction included a recent post noting that in the most recent elections, Colorado joined the states (including California) that allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to mentally fit, terminally ill adults who want to end their lives.

It's therefore interesting to note that Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil M. Gorsuch has a 2006 book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia suggesting that this is never justified. The publisher's website says:
 “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia provides the most thorough overview of the ethical and legal issues raised by assisted suicide and euthanasia--as well as the most comprehensive argument against their legalization--ever published.”

In other (related) news, 
House committee moves to block D.C.’s assisted-suicide law

"In a rare step, a House committee voted 22 to 14 Monday night to block a law that would make assisted suicide legal in the District, opening a new front in the conflict between congressional Republicans and the overwhelmingly Democratic capital city.

It was one of only a handful of times in the four-decade history of D.C. home rule that members of Congress have tried to use their constitutional power to overturn a city law, and the first attempt since the GOP took control of both Congress and the White House in January.

The vote was largely along party lines, as 21 Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, voted yes while 13 Democrats and one Republican, Darrell Issa of California, voted no."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

An interview about travel bans, and universities, and science...

„Grenzschließung wäre eine große Schande“

PREMIUMStanford-Professor und Nobelpreisträger Alvin Roth sorgt sich um den Forschungsstandort USA. Im Interview spricht er über die Folgen von Donald Trumps Einreiseverboten und die Universitäten als Spiegelbild Amerikas.

Im Jahr 2012 gewann Alvin Roth den Nobelpreis für Wirtschaftswissenschaften. Der 65-Jährige, der an der Universität Stanford in Kalifornien lehrt, macht sich Sorgen um den Forschungsstandort Amerika.
It's in German, and it's gated, but the interviewer asked me what I thought the effects of travel bans and immigration bans would be on the U.S. I replied that universities are in some ways a microcosm of the US, in that both have thrived by being open to participation from people around the world.  Universities, American science, and America will all suffer if we cut ourselves off from the rest of the world.

Valentine's day

What do Valentine's day and National organ donor day have in common?  Well...hearts.  And love. And the same day...

February 14: National Donor Day
Focused on five points of life: organs, tissues, marrow, platelets, and blood. Many nonprofit health organizations sponsor blood and marrow drives and organ/tissue sign-ups across the nation. National Donor Day was started in 1998 by the Saturn Corporation and its United Auto Workers partner with the support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and many nonprofit health organizations.

February 14 is National Donor Day

Each year, February 14th is significant for more than just Valentine's Day.  Today is designated as National Donor Day focusing on the "five points of life"  organ, tissue, marrow, platelets, and blood donation.  Donation drives are held throughout February nationwide.  Be a hero!  Be a donor!  And THANK YOU!


Valentine's day celebration is also repugnant in some places:
Pakistan bans Valentine's Day for being unIslamic
Ban on the traditional Christian celebration of love follows a similar move by Saudi Arabia
"Pakistan has become the latest country to ban Valentine's Day.
It has prohibited all public celebrations and any media coverage because the celebration is not part of Muslim traditions."

And (I'm sorry to say) this: Mob Kills Eloped Lovers After Storming Afghan Police Station

Monday, February 13, 2017

First kidney exchange in Vietnam

The first kidney exchange in Vietnam was performed last month. It was a two-way exchange in Ho Chi Minh City: VietNamNet has the story.

VN doctors perform first paired-kidney exchange transplant
Doctors at Cho Ray Hospital in HCM City have successfully performed the country’s first living paired-kidney exchange transplant.

"The surgery was successful and the four patients are in stable condition, according to Dr Thai Minh Sam, head of the hospital’s urology department.
Nguyen Thi Hue, 58, volunteered to donate one of her kidneys to her daughter Vu Thi Hue, 32, from Kien Giang province who had end-stage renal disease and has been on dialysis since June 2014.
But she and her daughter did not match well, Sam said at a press meeting held yesterday.
Another pair in the same situation, Le Thi Anh Hong, 31, from Dak Nong province with end-stage renal disease, has been on dialysis since April 2015.
Hong’s stepfather, Truong Ngoc Xuan, 51, could not donate one of his own kidneys to his daughter as they were incompatible.
Paired donation matches an incompatible donor and recipient to another pair in the same situation.
Doctors at Cho Ray Hospital carefully consulted opinions from leading experts in kidney transplant and explained the procedure to two donor/recipient pairs who agreed to undergo paired kidney exchange.
Hue’s mother gave one of her own kidneys to Hong. In exchange, Hong’s stepfather, Xuan, donated one of his own kidneys to Hue.
Doctors removed the kidneys from the donors in the morning and transplanted them in the recipients on January 11."