Monday, June 20, 2005

Today's Financial Times: Stem cells, Saddam's trial, and the typo of the month 

I flew to London last night, and spent Monday at our plant in southern England. A colleague and I then hopped across to Paris, in time for a late dinner and a good night's sleep in advance of a long meeting tomorrow morning with our lawyers.

British Airways handed out free copies of Financial Times, which I read cover-to-cover owing to a long stretch on the tarmac at Heathrow. I noticed a couple of things. Unfortunately, FT is available online subscription only, so you'll have to take my word for some of this stuff.

On the front page, there is an article entitled "Universities and companies rush to file stem cell patents in spite of controversy." The essence of the article is that all the public controversy has not delayed work in stem cells:
Companies and universities are patenting stem cell discoveries at a frenetic pace in spite of public controversies and legal and regulatory difficulties, according to a study due to be published today at the world's biggest biotechnology conference.

The report by Marks & Clerk, a London-based firm of patent attorneys, shows that more than 3,000 patents related to stem cells have been filed worldwide in the past five years. The rate of filing has doubled during the period with the U.S., Japan, Australia and UK toping the league table.

Claire Irvine, co-author of the report, said: "The message seems to be simple: biotech companies are undeterred by the hostile research environment that currently governs the stem cell sector."

As I have argued before, the argument over federal funding for embryonic stem cell research will not determine whether discoveries are made or people are cured. It is entirely about subsidizing professors who want to do their work inside American universities instead of in the private sector or abroad. The Financial Times article is, I believe, evidence that the work is being done all over the world including the United States, notwithstanding the lack of funding from our federal government.

Today's issue also contains an op-ed piece about the "dubious justice" that Saddam may receive on account of Iraq's failure to live up to Western procedural niceties. The article ("Saddam's trial risks delivering a dubious justice") is by Michael Byers, professor of law at the University of British Columbia. Byers contends that "two different trials will soon begin in Baghdad," Saddam's and "the tribunal is itself under scrutiny, to determine whether it meets international standards of justice and due process."

Byers proceeds to twist his hanky for 15 column inches over the many theoretical flaws in the prosecution of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi Special Tribunal that will try Saddam, for example, "was born in dubious circumstances" because Paul Bremer and the Iraqi Governing Council selected the judges prior to Iraq regaining its sovereignty. Not only does Washington "still [fund] the tribunal," but "the Federal Bureau of Intelligence [sic] helps gather evidence." According to Byers, Washington's dollars and the support of the FBI compromise the fairness of the trial that Saddam will face. WTF? Were the Nuremberg trials illegitimate because the Allies paid for them?

Byers is also troubled that the law under which Saddam will be prosecuted does not require that built be established "beyond a reasonable doubt," but only that the judges be "satisfied" of guilt. Query whether this isn't the same standard under which Saddam prosecuted his enemies. Goose, gander, etc. But even if two wrongs do not make a right, it is probably safe to assume that if Saddam were prosecuted under the standard Byers proposes he might very well be the first person prosecuted in Iraq under such a, er, Western burden of proof. Don't we want to raise the bar after Saddam and his henchmen have been convicted?

Among the tribunal's other outrages, Saddam was not allowed a defense counsel in the courtroom when charges were read against him last year (precisely how did this prejudice his rights? -- would the lawyer have counseled him not to rant about how he was still the president of Iraq?), and he has "suffered legal prejudice" because "Iraqi ministers have repeatedly stated that he is guilty and must be promptly put to death." George W. Bush also violated the presumption of innocence, according to Byers, when he suggested that he "deserves justice, the ultimate justice." Indeed, Byers argues that Saddam inherently suffers because many governments and organizations that would support the process refuse to participate in a capital trial.
The death penalty also creates a moral dilemma for Human Rights Watch. For more than a decade, the international human rights organisation has compiled evidence of atrocities committeed during Mr. Hussein's regime. This evidence could ensure a conviction but it could also lead to punishment that the campaigners oppose.

Brilliant. Now capital punishers the world over know that Human Rights Watch is looking out for their interests. At least once they are no longer in a position to punish capitally.

Byers is passionate that Saddam be tried under perfect procedure, writing on it repeatedly for European and Canadian audiences. Indeed, this campaign in support of Saddam is a continuation of Byers' extensive efforts against American policy in Iraq, much of it before the invasion. One might well wonder whether his repetitious pile of screeds challenging the procedures for the prosecution of Saddam and his cronies is really just another means of undermining the legitimacy of American policy in Iraq. Since there is no evidence that Byers campaigns for criminal procedure reform elsewhere in the Arab world, it is safe to conclude that he is motivated more by pro-Ba'athism or anti-Americanism than any genuine concern for Arab civil rights.

Finally, in an article devoted to the "new bulls" supporting the recent rally in the United States dollar, we have this headline (surprisingly not evidence in the online edition):

Posted by Hello


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