Thursday, July 14, 2011

Misc. repugnant transactions

What is it about mercenaries? Deane-Peter Baker explores the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights view on the repugnance of mercenaries:  Are mercenaries just warriors?

"In its most recent annual session, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed resolution A/HRC/15/L.31, which addresses “The use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination”. In the resolution, the UNHRC declares itself, among other things, to be “Extremely alarmed and concerned about recent mercenary activities in developing countries in various parts of the world, in particular in areas of conflict, and the threat they pose to the integrity and respect of the constitutional order of the affected countries.”
"Consider first the title of the mercenary resolution. It’s directed against “The use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.” That certainly sounds like something to be concerned about. After all, violating human rights and the self-determination of peoples is undoubtedly a bad thing. But, on reflection, it seems somewhat odd for the resolution to be focused on mercenaries. To see why this is so, consider another, fictional, UNHRC resolution directed against “The use of boxcutters as a means of hijacking passenger aircraft in order to crash them into buildings and commit mass murder and violate state sovereignty.” If I were to read the title of such a UNHRC resolution my first instinct would undoubtedly be that this is something I’d want to support. But then it would be very odd indeed if the resolution turned out to be all about the evils of boxcutters. That would seem to miss the point, to say the least.

"Perhaps, however, we might imagine from its title that the point of the mercenary resolution is to delineate inappropriate uses of mercenary forces (violating human rights, impeding peoples’ self-determination) from legitimate uses of mercenaries. If that were so, then focusing the resolution on mercenaries would make some sense. It turns out, however, that this is not the case. As we read on further we find the UNHRC expressing itself to be “Convinced that, notwithstanding the way in which mercenaries or mercenary-related activities are used or the form they take to acquire a semblance of legitimacy, they are a threat to peace, security and the self-determination of peoples and an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by peoples.” So, then, no matter how they are used and no matter what form they take, mercenaries are nonetheless a threat to peace, security, the self-determination of peoples, and human rights."

"win a baby" game draws fire
"A controversial IVF lottery will launch in Britain this month giving prospective parents the chance to win thousands of pounds toward expensive fertility treatments in top clinics.

"The scheme, which the media have dubbed "win a baby," has already run into trouble on ethical grounds with critics calling it inappropriate and demeaning to human reproduction.

"Britain's Gambling Commission has granted a license to fertility charity, To Hatch, to run the game from July 30.

"Every month, winners can scoop 25,000 pounds' ($40,175) worth of tailor-made treatments at one of the UK's top five fertility clinics for the price of a 20 pound ticket bought online. The tickets may eventually be sold in newsagents.

"The lottery is open to single, gay and elderly players as well as heterosexual couples struggling to start a family.

"If standard IVF fails, individuals can be offered reproductive surgery, donor eggs and sperm or a surrogate birth, the charity says, though the winner will only be able to choose one treatment."
"Britain's fertility regulator, The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said using IVF as a prize was "wrong and entirely inappropriate."
"The Gambling Commission said it had noted reaction to the scheme but said it had no regulatory powers to intervene and that any decision to revoke a license would be a government one.

"This particular example, perhaps, has thrown up some questions which may need looking at and whether that is by us or the government I don't know," a spokesman said.

"There has been concern expressed about this, but from our perspective it's a pretty straightforward granting of a license application for a lottery operator."

(HT Dean Jens, who sent the link to me in an email whose subject line was "gambling and IVF -- a repugnance twofer!"

Susanne Lundin in Lund University, an ethnologist, writes about illegal kidney black markets: The Great Organ Bazaar .
"Trade in humans and their bodies is not a new phenomenon, but today’s businesses are historically unique, because they require advanced biomedicine, as well as ideas and values that enhance the trade in organs. Western medicine starts from the view that human illness and death are failures to be combated. It is within this conceptual climate – the dream of the regenerative body – that transplantation technology develops and demand for biological replacement parts grows.
"One of the more obvious manifes­tations of treating the human body as a resource to be mined is the hospital waiting list, used in many countries. "

A compromise that both sides find repugnant: In Rhode Island, Chafee makes same-sex civil unions legal

"Governor Lincoln Chafee signed a bill into law yesterday that allows gay couples in Rhode Island to enter into civil unions, acknowledging that it was an imperfect piece of legislation but a “step forward’’ toward full marriage rights. Chafee said the bill fails to give homosexual couples the full marriage rights given to heterosexual couples and that he was concerned that an exemption given to religious groups was too broad. But he added that the legislation “brings tangible rights and benefits to thousands of Rhode Islanders.’’ The General Assembly voted Wednesday to approve civil unions. Gay rights groups urged Chafee to veto the measure, saying it continued discrimination against gays. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence denounced the Assembly vote."

Saudi women defy ban to take driver's seat: Several women drive around in kingdom in open defiance of rule that prohibits them from driving.
"Women who had driving licences obtained abroad were urged to run their errands themselves without relying on male drivers."

Some believe a rabbit's place is cuddling on the sofa, not stewing with garlic and shallots on the stove. Agriculture laws should reflect that, bunny advocates said.
"Raising rabbits for food is not 'green,' it's not eco-friendly. It only adds to animal suffering," said Marcy Schaaf, director of Save a Bunny, a Mill Valley nonprofit. "Rabbits are sentient beings, just like dogs and cats. In our culture, they're companion animals."
Companion animals already have Oakland's shelter busting at the seams, Webb said. The shelter barely has staff to care for the 7,000 animals a year that filter through. Animal control officers are already swamped with animal abuse cases, including cock-fighting and other livestock-related infractions, she said.
Some think Oakland should go one step further and discourage residents not just from slaughtering rabbits but from eating them.

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