Much has been made of the ethics of bloggers who receive compensation -- usually in the form of demo units and trial versions of products -- in exchange for reviewing those products, often with the implicit understanding that the review is a positive one. These questions prompted an FTC investigation, and last fall the agency revised their formal guidelines governing endorsements and testimonials to include bloggers or other "word-of-mouth" marketers. The Interactive Agency Bureau maintains that the guidelines are unconstitutional, and is calling for the FTC to rescind the rules as they apply to bloggers and other online outlets. The latest casualty? An intern at TechCrunch asked for a MacBook Air in exchange for a post. In the wake of this revelation, TechCrunch fired the intern and issued a formal apology. To his credit, the intern has posted his own mea culpa.
Do plants have a consciousness? Michael Pollan seemed to argue they do in The Botony of Desire (original book) and that they were inextricably involved in co-evolution with their human cultivators, affecting human development, perhaps as much as the humans who are selectively choosing traits in plants. If that’s true, that plants are conscious, is it okay to eat them?
On Thursday, the 12th of November, Karen Armstrong (previously & previously) unveiled her Charter for Compassion. The charter is the product of her Feb 2008 TED prize wish to “restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine.” The project began with a “unique web-based decision making platform”, allowing “thousands of people from over 100 countries added their voice to the writing of the Charter.” These contributions were then given to the Council of Conscience for the construction of the final charter. Previous attempts at the promotion of a "global ethic" grounded in the Golden Rule have been largely, globally, ignored. Some people dislike the idea of blurring the differences between religions, some have problems with the Golden Rule itself. [more inside]
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home Tribe of Heart's first film, "The Witness", was an eye opening look at how one man's whole life was changed by an encounter with a kitten. Their new film, "Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home", tells the story of a group of farmers coming to grips with the realization that they can't continue to make a living from the suffering of animals.
Michael Sandel's "Justice" has long been one of the most popular courses at Harvard. Now for the first time the class is being broadcast online. The site for "Justice." [more inside]
Was it triage or murder? A disturbing NY Times story about the choices made by certain medical staff at a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina. Long and not easy reading.
Sydney radio station 2dayFM earned the ire and backlash of the Australian public - rape counsellors, Australian media, and Community Services ministers - after an on-air stunt by morning crew Kyle and Jackie O went horribly wrong. During their regular "lie detector" segment, a 14-year-old girl was interrogated by the hosts and her mother over her sexual history, against her will, and revealed that she had been raped at 12 on air (warning: possibly triggering audio clip embedded in news article). [more inside]
Neurosecurity: security and privacy for neural devices. "An increasing number of neural implantable devices will become available in the near future due to advances in neural engineering. This discipline holds the potential to improve many patients' lives dramatically by offering improved—and in some cases entirely new—forms of rehabilitation for conditions ranging from missing limbs to degenerative cognitive diseases. The use of standard engineering practices, medical trials, and neuroethical evaluations during the design process can create systems that are safe and that follow ethical guidelines; unfortunately, none of these disciplines currently ensure that neural devices are robust against adversarial entities trying to exploit these devices to alter, block, or eavesdrop on neural signals. The authors define 'neurosecurity'—a version of computer science security principles and methods applied to neural engineering—and discuss why neurosecurity should be a critical consideration in the design of future neural devices." [Via Mind Hacks]
The Medill School of Journalism's Washington Program revealed its Pentagon Travel project last week (multimedia). Most privately paid for travel was found to be within the bounds of federal law, but some still show a clear conflict of interest. Key findings: From 1998 through 2007, sources outside the federal government paid for more than 22,000 trips worth at least $26 million. The medical industry paid for more travel than any other outside interest — more than $10 million for some 8,700 trips, or about 40 percent of all outside sponsored travel. Among the targets: military pharmacists, doctors, and others who administer the Pentagon’s $6 billion-plus annual budget for prescription drugs. Medill acquired 10 years worth of trip data and partnered with the Center for Public Integrity to form a searchable database which includes destination, date, sponsor, sponsor nationality, cost of trip or agency.
The Dark Knight - On Sir Allen Stanford
How wrong is it to use a kitten for personal sexual pleasure? Depends on whether you've washed your hands.
The New York Evening Graphic was published by Bernarr Macfadden, body builder, health crusader, and prolific author (Strong Eyes , How Success is Won , and Brain Energy  to name a few of his hundred titles). [more inside]
Philosophy’s great experiment. "Philosophers used to combine conceptual reflections with practical experiment. The trendiest new branch of the discipline, known as x-phi, wants to return to those days. Some philosophers don’t like it." [Via]
In 1998, a journalist at The New Republic named Stephen Glass wrote a compelling piece in the influential magazine entitled 'Hack Heaven'. It told the story of how Glass witnessed a 15 year old hacker named Ian Restil being hired by a large Californian computer company named Jukt Micronics at a hacker convention as a security analyst after Restil hacked Jukt's website. But the entire story was, in fact, entirely fictional. [more inside]
The Tax Gap - "The Guardian will examine the extent of tax avoidance by big business, day-by-day over two weeks. We are naming more than 20 major British companies, and analysing their secretive tax strategies to ask: are they paying their fair share?".
The Canadian Journalism Project (CJP) and its websites, J-Source.ca (English) and ProjetJ.ca (French), provides a source for news, research, commentary, advice, discussion and resources about the achievement of, and challenges to, excellence in Canadian journalism.
Sam Adams, the recently elected openly gay mayor of Portland, Oregon, has come under fire for lying about a relationship he had with a teenage legislative intern in 2005 named Beau Breedlove. When first asked about the relationship in 2007 during the election campaign, Sam (then 42) claimed he was being a mentor to the young man. Sam recently cut short a trip to DC to return to Portland to publicly apologize and control damage over a new article in which he admits to having a sexual relationship with Beau. It's got the town divided over whether he should resign of if the whole thing is being blown out of proportion.
Three psychology experiments that raise ethics questions because of the danger they posed to the research assistants. (via) [more inside]
Professor Mills Kelly of George Mason University had his History 389 class spend the fall semester on a class project about the intriguing figure of Edward Owens, the "Last American Pirate". They blogged about their research, made videos for YouTube, and gave Owens a Wikipedia entry. The story even got some media attention. There was just one problem: History 389 was a class on historical hoaxes, and Edward Owens was their fictional creation. [more inside]
Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy - a commentary in Nature that says, "we call for a presumption that mentally competent adults should be able to engage in cognitive enhancement using drugs". Farkesque debate here. [more inside]
Psychology Group Changes Policy on Interrogations. The American Psychological Association has adopted a measure prohibiting its members from participating in interrogations of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay and other military prisons where detainees have been tortured (previously). [Via Paper Chase]
To treat, or not to treat? Samuel Golubchuk is 84 years old, in a coma on life support in a Winnipeg hospital, and the subject of ethical, religious, and legal debates. Three doctors have refused to continue providing care, while one has stepped in, potentially keeping the intensive care unit in operation.
The Stupidity of Dignity: Conservative bioethics' latest, most dangerous ploy. Steven Pinker reviews Human Dignity and Bioethics, the latest report from the President's Council on Bioethics. [more inside]
The blood substitute PolyHeme has been previously discussed on MetaFilter, but new evidence shows that PolyHeme actually raises the chances of death by nearly 30%. PolyHeme was notable mostly for the reaction to its clinical trials, which, controversially, did not require patient consent.
Ask a Philosopher. Is the sentence of death really a punishment? How can we discern the difference of how we authentically "feel" as opposed to how we "think" we feel? If humans didn't exist, would animals still have rights?
No, I am not just trying to get your attention - there is a Vegan Strip club in Portland. Very much a clash of ethics for some, a great opportunity to 'spread the message' for others. [more inside]
The Cult of Wikipedia - An expose by The Register on conflict of interest at Wikipedia.
The Moral Instinct. "Evolution has endowed us with ethical impulses. Do we know what to do with them?" [Via The Mahablog.]
The Checklist - "If a new drug were as effective at saving lives as Peter Pronovost’s checklist, there would be a nationwide marketing campaign urging doctors to use it" [single page]
Vanity Fair sits down with Larry Flynt --his history and hits and misses, how much he pays for scandals involving hypocritical public figures, and a new (and limp) Nixon anecdote -- and tons of other juicy tidbits, of course).
Do Not Resuscitate. "For families facing the impending death of a loved one, few topics trigger more anguish than the Do Not Resuscitate order... There is little ambiguity in a DNR order: Emergency medical staff must withhold CPR and other life-reviving treatments if the patient's heart or breathing stops, allowing death." But, DNR orders aren't always cut-and-dried. There are many situations that complicate the medical professional's decision to comply. Related: Some people have opted to get a "D.N.R." tattoo, but others have wondered if it will hold up in court as a legal directive. [First link Via].
I pledge to buy handmade this holiday season, and request that others do the same for me. Why? Better gifting experience, better ethics, better for the environment.
Journalist's efforts to rescue teen from porn questioned. Kurt Eichenwald, author and NYT journalist discovered teen Justin Berry prostituting himself online and intervened, financially and legally. Eichenwald even appeared with Berry on Oprah. Two years after his initial expose was published, his life is in ruins. [more inside]
"Killing others is not loving them.” --meet US Army Captain Peter D. Brown, just granted Conscientious Objector status due to his religious beliefs and honorably discharged after first being denied and taking them to court---only 224 applicants were approved for it during 02-06, out of 2.3 million serving. [more inside]
Fort Hunt's Quiet Men Break Silence on WWII. After 60 years of silence, the World War II veterans who interrogated Nazi prisoners of war at Fort Hunt are telling their story. [Via The Reality-Based Community.] [more inside]
The Right Livelihood Award "celebrates and supports people of vision. People who have ideas and apply them in concrete initiatives for the public good. They give hope for tomorrow, for a world in peace and balance. They demonstrate how we can overcome oppression, war, poverty, the destruction of our environment, and a widespread sense of meaninglessness and fear."
California Where the Rich do Fine While the Poor are Doing Time "Hell, you got to live with it, there's nothing else to live with except mendacity, is there?" Big Daddy, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
Laud Humphreys was studying to be an Episcopal priest in the mid-1950s when he learned, shortly after his father's death, that his father, Oklahoma State Representative Ira D. Humphreys, took trips to New Orleans to have sex with other men. After being dismissed as an Episcopal priest in the 1960s, Laud Humphreys then enrolled as a sociology grad student where he completed a dissertation about men who had sex with other men in public bathrooms in St. Louis, which Humphreys researched by agreeing to serve as a "watch queen", looking out for the police. After writing down the license plate numbers of the men having sex, Humphreys traced the men's addresses and contacted them in disguise, claiming to be collecting data for a public health survey. The research, which was condemned as unethical for its use of covert methods, was published in 1970 as Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places. [more inside]
U.S. military practices genetic discrimination in denying benefits. "Those medically discharged with genetic diseases are left without disability or retirement benefits. Some are fighting back."
Rorschach and Awe. "America's coercive interrogation methods were reverse-engineered by two C.I.A. psychologists who had spent their careers training U.S. soldiers to endure Communist-style torture techniques. The spread of these tactics was fueled by a myth about a critical 'black site' operation."
The ethics of infertility: After taking fertility drug Clomid, Ryan and Brianna Morrison conceived sextuplets. Their religious beliefs steered them away from undergoing a selective reduction procedure in favor of bringing all six fetuses to term. Four of their newborns have died; the remaining two are in critical condition. This mother of multiples says that while she's grateful that insurance and Medicaid covered her million-dollar hospital bill, her "quest to have a family resulted in a significant drain on society's resources."
Dr. Craig Venter, known for his role as a pioneer in the human genome project, has taken a major step towards creating life from scratch: transplanting the entire genome from one bacterium cell to another. Commence the ethics wars.
Paternity Discrepancy. "My little boy was there, he was up at bat, and I started yelling for him, 'Go Matthew [not his real name]! Knock it out of the park!' And another man started screaming for Matthew. Louder than me. I looked over, and I looked at him, and I was like, Who is this guy? And I looked at my son, and I looked at him … and they were identical."