African Leaders Consider Free, Open Trade

In late May officials form 20 African countries met to push for freer trade
and open borders within Africa. The countries represented at the summit were
members of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa, formed in 1984 o
achieve regional free trade areas in Africa by Oct. 31, 2000 and a system of
common tariffs among member nations by 2004 (a common currency is supposed to
take affect by 2025).

“We must resist the temptation to go back to protectionism and price controls
as a solution to our problems,” Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi said at the
summit. “I believe in the United States of Africa.”

Unfortunately two major obstacles stand in the way of COMESA. The first is
Africa’s major blight – war. Various COMESA members are at war with each other
or are backing rebel movements operating against fellow COMESA members. Widespread
African conflicts pose a major stumbling block to any genuine free trade agreement.

The second obstacle is Africa’s major success story of the past couple decades
– South Africa. With sanctions lifted from South Africa after the dismantling
of apartheid, that nation has taken its place as the continent’s preeminent
economic power which doesn’t sit well with other African nations. Trade officials
in several African countries have accused South Africa of dumping goods in their
markets. Mozambique and Lesotho withdrew from COMESA recently out of fear that
South Africa will come to dominate any free trade zone in south and eastern
Africa.

Of course as Adam Smith demonstrated a couple centuries sago, the principle
of comparative advantage would make it in the best interests of all parties
in Africa to trade freely even if South Africa does dominate such trade. But
since European countries still haven’t learned Smith’s lesson, it won’t be too
surprising if Africa doesn’t either. Still, the tendency toward trade liberalization,
however tentative, is a welcome trend.

Source:

Africa considers open, freer trade at summit. Michelle Boorstein, Associated
Press, May 24, 1999.

Asian Companies Rebounding Quicker Than Expected from Financial Crisis

According to the World Bank, Asian companies are recovering faster than expected
from the Asian economic crisis. Asian corporations that restructured their often
bloated, bureaucratic operations are seeing brisk turnarounds according to a
World Bank survey of 4,000 companies in South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Indonesia and Thailand.

In South Korea, for example, the economy is expected to grow about 2 percent
in 1999 – up from a 5.5 percent decline in 1998 according to a recent
International Monetary Fund Report.

Source:

Asia rebounding faster than expected, World Bank says. Todd Zaun, Associated
Press, May 24, 1999

Primate Freedom Tour

The Primate Freedom Tour is
rolling through the United States, spreading misinformation about medical
research involving primates and generating a fair amount of controversy
even within the animal rights movement.

The tour travels across the
United States stopping at primate research facilities long enough to protest
and grab a bit of media attention. In large measure, however, the tour
has backfired on its sponsors due to the tactics they have adopted.

Along with the typical animal
rights tactics — one protester locked himself in a cage for three days
outside of a Coulston facility — members of the Primate Freedom Tour
have protested outside the homes of researchers working at primate facilities
and released the home addresses of their targets in press releases. In
several cases police have come close to arresting primate tour members
and a University of California of Davis researcher was arrested recently
for allegedly assaulting protesters outside his home.

Such tactics have garnered
the tour a wave of negative publicity, helped out by press releases form
the tour itself that emphasize the group’s militant stand and tactics.
By July 1, Suzanne Roy and Eric Kleiman, program director and research
director respectively at In Defense of Animals, had enough and issued
a “Personal statement against certain tactics of Primate Freedom Tour”
attacking the militant tactics which, Roy and Kleiman correctly perceive,
only work against the animal rights movement.

As Roy and Kleiman write,

A number of years ago, the A[merican] M[edical] A[ssociation]
developed an action plan for neutralizing the animal rights movement.
Its strategy was to portray animal rights advocates as extremists and
terrorists … We believe the Tour is certainly making the jobs of A[mericans
for] M[edical] P[rogress] and other similar groups easier. Their attempts
to portray all animal advocates as extremist fanatics, engaged in a terroristic
‘jihad’ that must be constrained by the police … are certainly being facilitated
by the Tour’s organizers.

Roy and Kleiman are certainly
right about the ethics and media effect of home protests, but their own
statement itself belies the claim that animal rights activists are being
falsely painted as extremists and terrorists by the AMP and AMA. The fact
is that most animal rights activists and organizations are extremists
as evidenced by the fact that Roy and Kleiman had to release their comments
as a “personal statement” and make very explicit that their views don’t
reflect that of In Defense of Animals, which is one of the sponsors of
the Primate Freedom Tour. Since the Tour began, Roy and Kleiman are the
only two individuals to my knowledge to issue such a statement and no
animal rights organization has come out with any statement containing
anything but praise for the Primate Freedom Tour.

This silence is deafening
and yet Roy and Kleiman would have us believe that the extremists who
would protest at a researchers home represent a small minority of animal
rights activists and the rest of the movement is unfairly associated with
this tiny fringe of the movement. Please, give it a rest already. This
is as believable as the constant refrain that the Animal Liberation Front‘s
acts of destruction don’t represent the animal rights movement, even though
all but a handful of animal rights groups refuse to condemn such actions
and most express their sympathy with the terrorists.

Ongoing Investigation of University of Minnesota ALF Action

Animal rights activists were
up in arms after a grand jury investigating the sabotage carried out at
the University of Minnesota recently called the student who claimed to
be an Animal Liberation Front Press Office Spokesman. On May 5, the Federal
Bureau of Investigation raided the home of Kevin Kjonaas and searched
the house for two hours.

Two days later Kjonaas was
subpoenaed and testified before the grand jury on June 14. The Minnesota
legislature briefly included a provision in an anti-animal rights terrorism
bill that would have penalized those who acted as spokespersons for terrorist
organizations, but the provision was removed from the final law that Gov.
Jesse Ventura recently signed.

Many activists were up in
arms at the raid and the subpoena, but it shouldn’t be too surprising
that someone who claims knowledge of a crime apparently obtained in some
manner from the perpetrators of the crime would be investigated as a possible
suspect. For example another former ALF “spokesperson,” Rodney Coronado,
had a habit of taking part in the crimes for which he later claimed to
serve only as a spokesperson.

PETA protester charged with arson

In June, Timothy Andrew Ray,
35, of Norfolk, Va., was charged with first-degree arson for allegedly
starting a fire on the steps of the Iowa capitol to protest the World
Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. Ray could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

The Iowa fire was one of two
fires set at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protests this year — in January twelve people were
arrested at a protest at the U.S. capitol after someone set fire to bales
of hay set up as part of a PETA protest.

PETA spokeswoman Dawn Carr
said the Iowa fire was not a planned part of the protest and tried to distance
PETA from Ray, saying “We were just out doing our thing with the
dancing pig when this guy ran up and tried to set the hay on fire.”

As Americans for Medical Progress noted in its newsletter, however, the Des Moines Register reported
that none other than Carr herself put up $6,500 to bail Ray out of jail
on June 15. Pretty generous for someone Carr claimed not to have met before
the Iowa protest. (PETA’s spokesperson bails out a suspected arsonist
she claims she didn’t even know and yet IDA’s Roy and Kleiman insist Americans
for Medical Progress and others unfairly portray the animal rights movement
as full of extremists!)

Patent Office Rejects Patents Containing Human DNA

Jeremy Rifkin is at it again.
In June, Rifkin and biology professor Stuart Newman made the national news
when the US Patent Office rejected as unpatentable their proposal for
a human/animal hybrid species. The Patent Office ruled that allowing
any partially human organism to be patented would violate the 13th
amendment, which abolished slavery.

Rifkin, who generally opposes all
genetic engineering of organisms religiou grounds (his 1993 book, Algeny,
cited creationists in its attack on Darwinian evolution), plans to appeal
the decision and force the government to draw its regulations on the patentability
of life forms more clearly in the apparent hope the government will decide
to reject all patents on living organisms.

The obvious way out is for a court or the Patent Office to rule that it erred in its bizarre interpretation of the
13th amendment. Since a patent on an organism or a derivative
of that organism (such as a genetically engineered human insulin-producing
goat) does not grant anyone ownership of persons under U.S. law, the application
of the 13th amendment in this case was patently absurd and
represents a gross misunderstanding of the status of genetically engineering
animals with human genes. This is a widespread misunderstanding, however,
as the Internet is now filled with discussions about how corporations
could one day own human beings (this line of reasoning makes about as
much sense as claiming that the companies who make ultrasound equipment
have an ownership stake in the fetuses their equipment helps diagnose).

In fact, in contradiction to
the Patent Office’s rejection of Rifkin and Newman’s patent, the Patent
Office has already issued several patents for animals that contain human
genes or organs.

The danger, of course, is
that politicians will react out of the same ignorance and misunderstanding
as they rushed to act when the news broke about the cloning of Dolly the
sheep. Without patent protection, many of the next generation of medical
treatments that are already under development will be stymied and in many
cases killed outright since it will be incredibly difficult for companies
to recoup their development costs without such protections.

Rifkin himself is responsible for
a lot of the misunderstandings of cloning and genetic research that many
in the public have. Rifkin has a serious problem with reality — he convinced
numerous religious leaders to sign a petition in 1991 against genetic
engineering by sending out a letter claiming that a biotech company had
gained a patent for “an unaltered part of the human body.” In fact the
company in question, SyStemix, obtained a patent for a process of obtaining
a modified version of human bone marrow stem cells that may someday have
uses as a treatment for AIDS, cancer and other human diseases.