Archive for March, 2006

This week, I'd like to celebrate the life and work of a highly influential feminist writer and activist, Andrea Dworkin (1946-2005).
Andrea Dworkin was, and is still, a highly controversial figure. She lived quite a life, from working as a prostitute, to marrying and abusive Dutch anarchist, to coming out as a lesbian, to being sexually assaulted while in police custody after being arrested during and anti-war protest, to later marrying a gay man (John Stoltenberg) with whom she lived for decades, to her outspoken activism against pornography, to having some of her books held up at the border after laws designed to stop the proliferation of hamrful pornography were passed in Canada. She spoke out against pornography during a time when pornography began to become more and more violent and companies selling pornography made more money than ever, with circulation rates higher than any other magazines in the world. She was the subject of several pornographic "political" cartoons published in pornographic magazines. Even now, after her death, she is still the subject of heated discussion and controversy.

Andrea was a proficient writer, and authored non-fiction and fiction books as well as poetry and short stories. Her writing is beautiful and eloquent, and her non-fiction work on pornography is cutting. Most of her detractors have been men who have been threatened by her outspokenness and her identification of patriarchy as "male-supremacy." She viewed pornography as representative of male-dominated culture's opinion and value of women: that the nature of women and women's sexuality was wanting to be raped and prostituted, and so doing those things was not wrong, not abuse, not cruel. She also wrote about prostitution, abortion, lesbianism, the Holocaust, rape, and spousal abuse.

Andrea Dworkin was certainly a radical feminist, a woman with a mission. Because she argued so strongly against pornography because it creates a hostile environment in the world under which women must live, she was able to affect change in legislation that offered women protection against these harms. Dworkin was a popular and effective orator; many of her speeches have been published, and she spoke before congress, graduating law students, men's groups, and feminist activists (as part of the very first North American Take Back The Night March in San Fransisco in 1978).

There have been some really powerful things said about Andrea Dworkin. Gloria Steinem said, "Every century there are a handful of writers who help the human race evolve. Andrea is one of them." Also, "Andrea Dworkin is to Patriarchy what Karl Marx was to Capitalism." — Erik Emanuelsson. After her death, her co-author and friend, feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon said, "It feels like the north pole is gone now."

I came to find Andrea Dworkin last year during the study of pornography law in Canada for one of my courses. She intrigued me, and after reading her work, I find her to be a powerful contributor to feminism. I don't think feminism would be what it is today without the contribution and work of Andrea Dworkin. I'm glad she was with us, and I'm sorry she is not here any longer. Celebrate with me the life and work of a great feminist, Andrea Dworkin!

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I have had, over the years, an interesting array of female friends. Because I'm an only child, my friendships are very important to me, and I tend to treat my friends like they were sisters. What is interesting to me is the dynamics of those friendships, and the ways in which they have been formative for me. So, this week's topic is the politics of female friendships in a patriarchal society.We live in a patriarchal society. Men have power, women do not. Individual women can be more powerful than individual men, but overall, as a group, men have more power than women. This is nothing new, and should not be a surprise to anyone. Under this system, the best chance a woman has to advance her social position is not to work really hard and get a great job and be successful; rather, it is to marry a man. Not even just "marry well", as they say when a woman marries a man whose economic prospects are very good. Marry any man. Because men have more power in our society, they have better chances of making money, and being able to provide for a family, if you want to take a biological approach to the issue. So, many women concentrate a good deal of their energy – mental and otherwise – into finding a man to marry. (No wonder many men feel trapped by women who just want to get married! An interesting aside: most men, if asked whether they think they have more power in society, do not feel that way at all. The pressure to be masculine is pretty heavy, and involves complex webs of homophobia, racism, and sexism. I'll talk about that another time, perhaps.)

In Canada, male to female population ratios are pretty close – 49% male, 51% female overall for the country. However, when you take a closer look, males are more populous up to age 25, and after that age, there are more women than men. The percentages aren't that disparate (except for women over 70), but still… when a woman's best economic prospect is to marry a man, and there are fewer men than there are women, that is a problem. And, when you further take into account sexual preference, which is not currently measured by Demographics Canada or Statistics Canada, there are fewer still males available for a female to marry. (Yep, I realize that many lesbians would prefer not to marry men, but lesbians are still women, and their best economic chances are still to marry a man. Nice, huh?) Then factor in age, ethnicity, language, and all the other things that are important to a specific woman, and you've got a very small pool in which to fish.

So, then, where does this leave women? In competition with each other, that's where. It starts at an early age, and works its way along, undermining female friendships all the while. And how, precisely, do women compete with one another? Through femininity, of course! (see last week's Feminism Friday article for more on that.) And so femininity becomes a game and a means of survival. Women who are successful at femininity are both reviled and envied by their peers; one of the most common ways among women of attacking a woman's femininity is to imply that she is not "naturally" as feminine as she looks – that she has had plastic surgery to help her along. Another common way to undermine a woman's hard-won femininity is to talk about how fleeting youth and beauty is: "she may look good now, but just wait until she's had three babies!" Women can be cruel and critical of one another, and competition is a major part of that.

I haven't had much experience with competition between female friends, mostly because I'm not very competitive by nature. I would rather challenge myself to do as well as I can, and push my own limitations, than compare myself to other people. To me, that seems like setting myself up for failure. But I did have one friend in particular who was very competitive with me, always wanting to do better at school, or have more boys like her, or be thinner, or whatever. She once sent me an email to an IQ test to see if she was measurably smarter than me! She challenged my expertise in my job, and often copied my personal style. Ther was another girl who wasn't really my friend – I couldn't stand her, actually – who did EVERYTHING I did, joined all the same things, grew her hair long like mine (the other friend cut hers short like I did), and even got a job where I worked! She drove me crazy, always trying to do exactly the same things as me. My mother used to say, "Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery", but I don't think that's quite what was at the heart of these two women, whether they knew it or not.

Now, my female friendships are very supportive, for which I am truly grateful. I know that I can tell my girlfriends anything I want, and it won't be used against me, or they won't show up wearing the same sweater or shoes. I am comfortable to be just who I am, and allow them the same room. This is, I think, the biggest thing we women can do to bolster our social position. When women are in competition with one another constantly, it takes a lot of energy, and they only reinforce patriarchy: divide and conquer strategies really do work to keep power away from the oppressed. The best thing we can do is to have wonderful female friendships, tell other women that they are beautiful and smart and fabulous and have great things to offer the world. The best thing we can do is support and encourage one another, and refrain from tearing one another down with cutting comments and mean-spirited actions. Refuse to play the competition game, and we will gain so much through solidarity!

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Just wanted to quickly wish everyone a happy International Day for the Elimination of Racism! I'm hopeful that this world will one day become one in which people are seen as special and interesting because of their differences one from another rather than as deviant from a mythical norm of white-christian-heterosexual-middle class-able bodied-male. Celebrate diversity and create space for solidarity and learning!It's funny, race relations was the locus of my first real awareness of the importance of equality and equity, rather than feminism which is so central to my studies now. I have always felt it deep in my bones whenever I have heard of injustices based on racism: my nerves tingle, my hairs stand on end, and my jaw sets, locks into a tightness that can't be relieved. I can never understand the fear and hatred involved in racism – hating entire groups of people you don't even know takes a lot of energy. I fail to see how racists (and sexists and heterosexists etc.) do not see the basic truth, that we are all members of the same species and all deserving of respect and support and social justice.

Anyway, I don't have much time tonight, but it's an important occasion to mark, so I wanted to do so and invite you all to share a wish with me to end racism.

"Imagine all the people living life in peace…. you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." – John Lennon

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well, it has been one month of Feminism Fridays, and I'm feeling really good about it. I wanted to write each week about a topic relating to women's issues in order to highlight some problems that some people might not be aware of, and also to build solidarity with other women. I thought this week I'd talk a bit about something all women can relate to: femininity and the constraints it places on women. This is also something I'm going to be writing a paper about, and I thought I'd warm up a bit here!I've written here before about the theory that gender (among other things) is a social construct. Briefly, the idea is that "woman" and "man" are based on biological differences between male and female of the human species. Because male and female are different, society expects man and woman to behave differently: in ways that are masculine or feminine. These ways are proscribed by society, not by biology, and so constrain people (including people who do not identify with their biological sex, or who are intersexed, such as hermaphrodites) into one of two dichotomous or opposite gender roles. Along with these roles come physical and psychological behaviours and beliefs, and men and women are expected to play these roles throughout their entire lives. We are expected to display to others what gender role we have been assigned, through outward appearance, personal pronouns, manner of speech, physical movement, etc. We are also expected to show others that we recognize what gender role other people play by treating men and women differently based on our own gender role. This behaviour begins at birth, when the doctor/midwife announces the sex of the newborn and wraps the baby in either a blue or pink blanket, and the parents give the baby a name. There are, of course, entire groups of people who do not play by the gender rules, and either display themselves as members of the opposite sex, or refuse to play either role and display themselves as simply people. It should be noted that androgynous people often feel comfortable using identifiers of both genders, such as wearing men's clothing with women's underclothes and makeup.

These practices of sex-marking and sex-identification are elaborate and pervasive, but are particularly constraining for women. Men are also constrained by these practices, but as I will outline, this is much more so for women.

I'll begin with outward appearance and adornment. Women are expected to have a specific body type: noticeable breasts, hips, and a slender waist. In the West – I've not looked at other parts of the world in-depth, so I'll restrict this discussion to western culture – the expectation is for women to be slim through the legs, arms, and stomach. Hips mustn't be too round, but breasts should be. This is the accepted and endorsed cultural body image for women. Women, in order to be as accepted as possible within these guidelines, must diet and exercise in order to display a feminine physique (the women who are held up as examples of femininity are 1% of the population). Diet and exercise can lead to wonderful healthy bodies, but can also lead to disorders surrounding food that affect both mind and body. Of course, diet and exercise are not always sufficient for achieving a feminine physique. Plastic surgery is the other way to do this. A woman can get fuller breasts, breasts that sit higher on her frame, excess fat removed, excess skin removed from her stomach, arms, and even labia, and now implants are available for the buttocks and calves. Surgery comes with risks, as does any surgery that requires general anesthesia, and additional risks such as infection, internal bleeding, and for breast implants, capsular contracture, where the muslces surrounding the implant contract and harden, which is quite painful and requires further surgery to repair. Also, most implants are only good for 10-15 years, and must then be replaced, requiring additional surgery. Surgery requires recovery time during which the patient heals incisions, swelling and bruises.

Aside from achieving and maintaining a feminine physique, women are expected to adorn their bodies with identifying clothing. Women's clothing is usually more expensive than men's clothing, and usually not as well-made. Women's clothing is traditionally impractical and made from flimsy material, and so women are restricted by their clothing. This is most true of evening wear such as dresses or gowns, and high heel shoes. If a woman wears a skirt or dress, she is not able to do certain things, such as climb a fence, or stand over a subway grate, and if high heels are part of the ensemble, she cannot run very fast or walk very far, and certainly cannot hike or trample through the wilderness. Because we spend much of our time protecting our sex organs from injury and exposure, there are many things women cannot do in skirts or dresses. Additionally, women must wear supportive undergarments that men are not required to wear. Men's clothing is more sturdy, and is not typically restrictive; the most restrictive thing a man could wear would be a suit and tie. While it may not be comfortable, men can still run, climb, etc. in this outfit. The implication is that women's clothing is easy-access and could fall apart easily to expose her sex organs. This perpetuates the idea that women are perpetually sexually available for men to "take".

Jewellery is another form of bodily adornment that is much more elaborate for women than for men. While men and women both wear rings, watches, pendants, earrings, etc., usually the style for women is more elaborate, larger, flashier, and more expensive.

Additionally, personal grooming is a major part of femininity. Men can prepare for a special occasion very easily by showering, shaving, trimming, brushing their hair and teeth, and dressing. Women on the other hand have all of these things to do plus more. Women are expected to remove hair from approximately 90% of their bodies, either by shaving, dissolving it with harsh chemicals, or pulling it out by the root through tweezing or waxing. This particular feminine ritual, of hair removal, is largely based in homophobia: a heterosexual man who touches another person wants to be sure that person is not a man before reaching the sex organs. (Of course, this is quite simple for a man to do as well, which negates this theory, but primarily still in our culture, men wear more body hair than do women.)The most recent innovation in hair removal is performed with lasers, which dissolves the hair below the surface of the skin. The sensation is like a rubber band being snapped against the skin, and is extremely expensive – to remove hair from the entire body (except for eyebrows, eyelashes, and the top of the head) would cost tens of thousands of dollars. The trend in hair removal has become a bit unsettling in regards to pubic hair: the "brazilian bikini wax" removes all hair from the labia, vulva, buttocks, and around the rectum, leaving only a small strip of hair at the mound of venus. I find this particularly unsettling as it is quite painful, but also because it leaves the woman looking like a pre-pubescant child rather than a mature woman. This is particularly distasteful considering the rampant use of child pornography and child sexual abuse.

In addition to removing hair, women also wear more elaborate hair styles that require more time, money, and energy to perfect. Of course, men can wear their hair long as well, although those who do seldom take the care that women do with their long hair. And, women may also wear their hair short, but usually still take better care of it than men with short hair do. There are hot rollers, curling irons, straighening irons, chemical dyes, curl relaxers, perms, hair dryers, sprays, shampoos, conditioners, gels, mousses, serums, etc. Keeping one's hair looking and feeling smooth and healthy is time consuming and expensive.

On top of all this, women must prepare their skin. In addition to sunscreen, which everyone should wear to protect against skin cancer, there are cleansers, toners, moisturizers, serums, masks, and exfoliants to help make the skin clear and radiant. Women are expected to perform these steps, men are not (although some do). Also, women more than men go to aestheticians and dermatologists who preform elaborate skin treatments such as facials and chemical peels, which remove several layers of skin and are far from comfortable. These treatments and products are not cheap. Some men do undergo these treatments, but generally only to treat acne, a medical condition. Women typically undergo these treatments to prevent and treat ageing. Our culture is terrified of death, and in particular women who can no longer bear children are devalued and made invisible. Because of the inequalities between men and women economically, the best chance for a woman to improve her socio-economic situation is still to marry. In this patriarchal society, competition between women to secure a mate is fierce, and a young woman who is fertile has a much better chance of securing a mate than an older woman whose fertility is questionable. Because of this, older women – who find themselves victims of divorce more and more – undergo all sorts of procedures (plastic surgery again) to prevent ageing. How sad that a woman's primary value in this culture is tied to bearing a perfect (male) child.

Women also adorn their fingernails and toenails with nail polish, and wear makeup. Makeup is extremely elaborate, and many women do not bother because of the time and effort involved in not just applying makeup, but learning how to apply it with skill. Makeup is also extremely expensive. Foundation, powder, concealer, blush, highlighter, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, eyelash curlers, lip sticks and glosses, false eyelashes… the list goes on.

Women are expected to act in certain ways according with the ideal of femininity. Women must not be too loud, nor take up too much space. Women typically sit compactly, with knees together or legs crossed and hands sitting in their laps. Men typically sit and take up a good deal of room, spreading their legs apart and resting their arms on the backs of chairs or loose by their sides. I can attest to this myself – I once found myself in a middle seat on an airplane, flanked on either side by men who both spread their legs wide and took both armrests. I actually had to tell them both that they were taking up too much of my room for me to be comfortable, and had to make a point to physically take up more room in order to maintain my personal comfort zone. Women must be graceful and move in a certain way, with fluid gestures and a particular way of walking, with hips swinging just so – too much sway is liable to be seen as sexually suggestive, and too little is seen as rigidity. Women must also speak in a certain way, with a lilt to the voice, not too low, not too roughly, sort of in a sing-song way, and with language that is not too direct. This ensures that women are not heard. Often, when a woman is direct in her speech, men and even other women find it intimidating and uncomfortable.

Finally, women are ridiculed for these behaviours – both for participating, and for not participating. Women who conform to these behaviours are seen as frivolous, silly, air-headed, subjects of laughter and joking for taking too much stock in their appearance and not enough in world events or intellectual pursuits. Women who do not conform are seen as intimidating, mannish, of "questionable" (read: lesbian) sexuality, asexual, butch, not interesting, etc. Both women and men make these judgements, making femininity a prison by which its subjects internalize the restrictions placed on them and self-correct accordingly.

I hope this gives an idea of the ways in which feminine norms of behaviour are restrictive to women. Many men never think of these sorts of things, and take for granted their own relative freedom of movement and speech. Many women also never realize the extent to which society requires them to perform in these ways, and for some women, it is all they can think about.

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Well, I wrote a paper for class recently that turned out quite well, so I thought I’d post it here. It has to do with the nastiness that is the pharmaceutical industry, and although there is so much more that I could dicuss about it, the question posed to me for the paper was “Would facilitating more generic drug manufacturing mean less cutting edge research by large pharmaceutical companies?”

BIG, BAD, PHARMA: The Myth of Research and Development and the Threat of Generic Drug Manufacturers

Drugs are expensive. In 2004, Canadians spent $18 billion dollars on prescription-only drugs (in contrast, spending on services provided by doctors was $16 billion).[1] In 2003, prescription drug costs reached $180 billion in the United States.[2] Why are we spending so much money on drugs?

The answer to this question depends on to whom the question is directed. Pharmaceutical companies would have us believe that prescription drugs cost so much because the price helps to pay for the innovative research they conduct in order to find new treatments for life-threatening illnesses. This paper will show that this claim is a myth perpetuated by the group of large pharmaceutical companies colloquially known as Big Pharma in order to disguise the real reason drug costs are so high – namely, to preserve big profits[3].

Why ARE We Spending So Much on Drugs? A Simple Answer

The reason we are spending so much money on drugs is that drugs themselves are expensive. A prescription for the antidepressant Paxil® at a 20 mg dose once per day for one month filled by the online pharmacy CanadaDrugs.com costs $61.54 CDN. Multiply that by 12 months, and the cost for the year is $738.48 CDN. The same prescription filled at U.S.-based online pharmacy RxUSA.com (advertising “deep” discounts), totals $86.06 USD, putting the yearly bill at $1032.72 USD. Drug costs in the U.S. are on average one-third to one-half more expensive than in Canada, because the U.S. government does not regulate drug prices. In Canada, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board regulates prescription drug prices in a number of ways to prohibit excessive pricing[4].

Why Are Drugs So Expensive? Big Pharma’s Answer

Big Pharma says the reason that drugs are so expensive is because they have to fund the cutting-edge research and development (R&D) that results in new drugs that save lives. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) web site declares their slogan to be “Disease is our enemy. Working to save lives is our job.”[5] A quote on the home page at this site from PhRMA president Billy Tauzin claims, “We are – as an industry – focused on one thing: the patient.”[6] Sounds great, doesn’t it? Let’s take a closer look.

PhRMA is a U.S. governmental lobby group representing Big Pharma. Their mission is “to conduct effective advocacy for public policies that encourage discovery of important new medicines for patients by pharmaceutical/biotechnology research companies.”[7] This is the rhetoric employed by Big Pharma to promote its products and its image as being dedicated to the public good.

Big Pharma’s Dirty Little Secret: The Truth about R&D

This rhetoric leads the public to believe that Big Pharma devotes a large portion of profits to innovation, research and development of new drug therapies. However, a deeper look at drug company expenditures illuminates the discrepancy between what pharmaceutical companies espouse and what they practice. The largest expenditure for drug companies is not research and development, as Big Pharma would have us believe, but a somewhat ambiguous category called “marketing and administration”. This category consumes 36% of drug company profits on average, while R&D gets a mere 14%[8]. Marketing and administration costs make up two and a half times more of Big Pharma’s expenditures than research and development.

Let’s look at how many new drugs are actually being produced by drug companies. After all, this is the important thing, right? From 1998 – 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved 415 new drugs, only 133 of which were new molecular entities – truly innovative drugs. The rest were all variations of existing drugs.[9] These variations are Big Pharma’s main business, because testing an already existing drug for a new indication and/or changing the delivery system of the drug (pills to capsules, time-released formulas, suspensions, etc.) is a lot faster and less expensive than the creation of a new molecular entity. For example, Eli Lilly, the manufacturers of Prozac®, recently brought out a “new” drug called Sarafem®. Sarafem is exactly the same drug as Prozac® (Fluoxetine Hydrochloride), but instead of being packaged in green-and-yellow capsules, it is packaged in pretty pink-and-purple capsules, and is indicated for PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), a brand-new category of extreme PMS that was never a recognized disorder until the arrival of Sarafem®. (The sales and marketing rights to Sarafem® was recently purchased by drug company Warner Chilcott for $295 million.[10]) This is the daring innovation drug companies claim are responsible for high prescription drug prices.[11]

Many of these new drugs are indicated for managing – not curing – chronic rather than life-threatening illnesses,[12] because drug companies can’t make ongoing profits from patients who are cured, or who have a low chance of surviving. In fact, there are special tax-breaks in some countries for drug companies that produce so-called “orphan drugs”, drugs that have such a small target market that the cost of producing the drug and bringing it to market could not be recovered through sales of that drug.[13] Similar legislation is not found in Canadian law, but exists in the United States, Japan, Australia, Singapore, and the European Union. Advocacy groups representing Canadians with rare illnesses are pushing for a federal Orphan Drug Policy that would guarantee funding for research into treatment for rare illnesses and grant financial breaks to drug companies who develop these drugs. The worry is that if drug companies don’t have a financial incentive to research and develop new therapies for rare illnesses, they simply won’t.[14] So much for the claim that saving lives is Big Pharma’s main priority. Further, drug companies are not doing all their own research and development work, but rely heavily on publicly-supported research institutions, such as small biomedical technology firms and universities.[15] It is charitable to say that all this evidence shows Big Pharma’s claim that high prices are necessary to support the high costs associated with research and development is misleading.

Drug Regulation and Patent Protection: The Art of the Deal

The politics of the pharmaceutical industry is extremely complex. Major pharmaceutical companies have long arms and deep pockets, and contrary to what advertising campaigns may say, pharmaceutical companies are interested in one thing and one thing only: profits. Pharmaceutical companies are responsible to their shareholders, not to the public to whom they peddle their wares. It is the responsibility of government to protect the public, not that of the pharmaceutical companies, and to that extent, government has levied legislation at Big Pharma that aims to make them comply with standards of public safety.

Governmental regulatory bodies call the shots when it comes to legalizing drugs. Each of these governing bodies has its own set of guidelines and rules, and if drug companies do not comply, drugs are not approved for distribution and marketing. In both the United States and Canada, regulatory bodies require clinical research trials (CRTs) to ensure the safety and efficacy of new drugs, and both countries also allow marketing exclusivity to companies in the form of patents.

Patent law is quite complex when it comes to pharmaceuticals, and Big Pharma is very adept at manoeuvring the laws to their benefit. Patents are usually obtained before clinical testing of a new drug begins in order to maintain confidentiality regarding the drug’s specific chemical makeup[16]. Once a patent for a pharmaceutical is granted, exclusivity is granted to the patent holder for 20 years in both the U.S. and Canada.[17] [18] In the U.S., separate exclusivity is given by the FDA, meaning generic forms of the same drug will not be approved for a period of time varying from five years for new innovative drugs to seven years for orphan drugs and an extra three for changes in drugs that are already approved.[19]

However, clinical testing can take several years, and the drug cannot be sold during this time until it is shown to be safe and effective. The time spent on CRTs eats into a drug’s marketable patent life. After a patent’s 20-year life is up, other companies are permitted to manufacture and market the same product. In the pharmaceutical industry, this means less-expensive generic forms of prescription brand-name drugs start to appear on the market, which drastically reduces Big Pharma’s profits. In response, drug companies employ two different methods to extend the life of their products’ patent: first, they try to speed up CRTs, and second, they try to extend the patent.

Speeding up clinical research trials often means truncating the process to one or two trials instead of doing full trials.[20] Often this process is granted conditionally upon the completion of post-marketing trials, or trials that are ongoing past the release date of the drug. This usually involves patient monitoring by physicians rather than costly random-control studies needed to bring a drug to market. This allows the drug company to discover new uses for drugs, which comes in useful for expanding the drug’s market.[21] This also allows for the discovery of side-effects that were not evident in CRTs, and can result in drugs being pulled from the market (Celebrex® is a recent example).

Extending the patent on a drug is a complicated dance that involves extensive legal manoeuvring and is primarily aimed at excluding generic drug manufacturers from producing cheaper versions of brand-name drugs. Generic drug manufacturers do not need to perform the same extensive clinical trials on medications – they simply have to prove their drug is the same as one that has already been approved.[22] However, in the United States, a generic drug company must give notice to the brand-name company that the patent on a particular drug is no longer relevant. The brand-name drug company then may launch a lawsuit for patent infringement, which prevents the FDA from approving the generic drug for an extra 30 months – almost 3 years![23] This gives Big Pharma plenty of time to sell its drug, market it for new uses, and apply for new patents on minor variations to the drug. Not only do they employ this strategy, but Big Pharma also uses other strategies to extend the life of a drug’s exclusivity, such as staggering patents on a drug, and testing drugs in children (this gives an extra 6 months of FDA exclusivity), which is done for most medications, including those intended to treat adult diseases such as hypertension.[24] In addition, Big Pharma employs its lobby groups, most notably PhRMA, to launch public-awareness campaigns that question the safety of generic drugs.

Big Pharma’s Patents in a Twist Over Canada

Since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the World Trade Organization’s Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), patents are supposed to be honoured between the partners, no matter where the patent originated.[25] [26] However, Canada has not complied with this part of the agreement in regards to pharmaceuticals, and Big Pharma is not pleased. In fact, Canada has been placed on PhRMA’s watch list as a “priority watch country” for approving generic drugs at the end of the life of a patent held in Canada, rather than waiting for the results of the legal shenanigans Big Pharma’s lawyers perform to extend patents in the U.S. So far, Canada has been unrepentant on this topic, and the generic drug business in Canada is flourishing. This has resulted in cross-border drug-shopping on the part of U.S. citizens (primarily seniors), which is illegal in the U.S. but certainly understandable considering the much higher prices on prescription drugs in the U.S.[27] In retaliation, the FDA published a report in 2004 showing that generic drugs in the United States were less expensive than drugs bought in Canada, and going so far as to question the safety of purchasing drugs in Canada by insinuating that drugs produced in Canada are substandard.[28]


The Pharmaceutical industry is a complicated topic, and this paper has presented a lot of information about the pharmaceutical industry. In conclusion, I want to draw the reader’s attention to two main points. First, drug companies spend two and a half times the amount of money on marketing and administration as they do on research and development, despite their claim that high R&D costs are driving high drug prices. Second, drug companies are mainly interested in protecting their profits, and they spend millions of dollars in legal fees to do it while patients struggle to afford expensive medications. This nonsense needs to stop. Allowing generic drug manufacturers to produce good quality drugs at a fraction of the cost to the consumer does not need to mean that cutting-edge research and development of new drugs on the part of Big Pharma would suffer. There is plenty of profit left at the end of the day to pay for marketing, administration, and the exorbitant salaries of CEOs (Charles A. Heimbold, Jr., the former chairman and CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb made $74,890,918 in 2001, not including his $76,095,611 in unexercised stock options.)[29] After all, in 2002, the combined profit for the 10 pharmaceutical companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) was more than the other 490 companies put together ($33.7 billion).[30] The money for R&D is most definitely there. Enabling generic drug manufacturers to compete in the market might actually have the effect of forcing Big Pharma to walk their talk and start coming up with innovative new medications in order to continue to maintain their large profits.


[1] Morgan, Steve, “Commentary: Canadian Prescription Drug Costs Surpass $18 billion”. Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 10 2005; 172(10). Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/172/10/1323>
[2] “Health Insurance Cost”, © 2004 National Coalition of Health Care website. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.nchc.org/facts/cost.shtml>
[3] Where possible, this paper will make a distinction between the industry in Canada and in the United States. However, since most large drug companies are multi-national, it is difficult to make this distinction, and most data available is U.S.-based. In some cases, I found that access to information specifically in a Canadian context is extremely difficult to obtain.
[4] “Chapter 1: Excessive Price Guidelines, Section 6: Excessive Price Tests” Patented Medicine Price Review Board. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.pmprb-cepmb.gc.ca/english/view.asp?x=230&all=true>
[5] Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America website. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.phrma.org/>
[6] Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America website. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.phrma.org/>
[7] Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America website, “About PhRMA”. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.phrma.org/about_phrma/>
[8] Angell, Marcia. 2004. The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive US and What To Do About It. New York: Random House. Pg 10-11
[9] Ibid pg 54-55
[10] Warner Chilcott website, “The Company”. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.warnerchilcott.com/company/index.php>
[11] This is not to say that drug companies are not producing any new drugs that help to treat illnesses and save lives. It’s just that these are few and far between.
[12] Ibid pg 55-56
[13] Ibid pg 50-51
[14] “Towards a Canadian Orphan Drug Policy: Guiding Documents,” prepared by the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.fragile-x.ca/advocacy%20files/Canada’s%20Orphan%20Drug%20Polic%20y%200805.pdf >
[15] Ibid, pg 56-57
[16] Ibid pg 28
[17] United States Patent & Trademark Office website. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/doc/general/index.html>
[18] Department of Justice – Patent Act. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://lois.justice.gc.ca/en/P-4/209129.html#rid-209162>
[19] Ibid, 177-178
[20] Ibid, pg 28
[21] Ibid pg 29
[22] Ibid 179
[23] Ibid pg 179-180
[24] Ibid pg 183
[25] NAFTA Chapter 17, Article 1709. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/nafta-alena/chap17-en.asp?#Article1709>
[26] “Overview: The TRIPS Agreement,” World Trade Organization website. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/intel2_e.htm>
[27] Ibid pg 220
[28] “Study: U.S. Generic Drugs Cost Less Than Canadian Drugs,” 2004, Food and Drug Administration. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2004/404_generic.html>
[29] Ibid pg 12
[30] Ibid pg 11


1. Morgan, Steve, “Commentary: Canadian Prescription Drug Costs Surpass $18 billion”. Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 10 2005; 172(10). Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/172/10/1323>

2. “Health Insurance Cost”, © 2004 National Coalition of Health Care website. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.nchc.org/facts/cost.shtml>

3. “Chapter 1: Excessive Price Guidelines, Section 6: Excessive Price Tests” Patented Medicine Price Review Board. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.pmprb-cepmb.gc.ca/english/view.asp?x=230&all=true>

4. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America website. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.phrma.org/>

5. Angell, Marcia. 2004. The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive US and What To Do About It. New York: Random House.

6. Warner Chilcott website, “The Company”. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.warnerchilcott.com/company/index.php>

7. “Towards a Canadian Orphan Drug Policy: Guiding Documents,” prepared by the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.fragile-x.ca/advocacy%20files/Canada’s%20Orphan%20Drug%20Polic%20y%200805.pdf>

8. United States Patent & Trademark Office website. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/doc/general/index.html>

9. Department of Justice – Patent Act. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://lois.justice.gc.ca/en/P-4/209129.html#rid-209162>

10. NAFTA Chapter 17, Article 1709. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/nafta-alena/chap17-en.asp?#Article1709>

11. “Overview: The TRIPS Agreement,” World Trade Organization website. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/intel2_e.htm>

12. “Study: U.S. Generic Drugs Cost Less Than Canadian Drugs,” 2004, Food and Drug Administration. Accessed March 6, 2006 at http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2004/404_generic.html>

*please note: this paper may not be used in full or in part in any form without the express permission of the author*

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I had a busy, but unproductive, weekend. A few days ago, my friend's father passed away. I attended a lovely service in his memory yesterday morning, and spent much of the afternoon and evening with her and her family. Her mom said to me, It's so nice to have everyone here with us, but soon it will all be over, and then it will be silent. The way she said it, I knew just what she meant. All the well-wishers will move on with their lives, while the family are the ones who will miss him everyday, whose lives will not be quite the same ever again. My friend said, "What am I going to do without my dad?" My heart broke for her. He was a special man.I went to brunch with an old friend today, I haven't seen her in more than a year despite living in the same city. We caught up and reconnected, and it was really nice. I'm glad we got together.

The weather was so nice today, I went for a walk for a little more than an hour. I used to walk all the time last spring and summer and fall, but not so much in the cold weather. I missed the fresh air, and the feeling of blood rushing to keep up with my muscles.

I watched a couple movies this weekend on DVD.

  • Pride and Prejudice: I've seen this story told a thousand different ways, but I never really tire of it. This was the most recent adaptation, with Keira Knightly and Matthew McFadyen. I loved it! It was beautifully shot, and there was just so much passion there – it was really believable how much they loved each other. What a great story. And I did think that Keira did a great job. She's a good little actress for being so young.
  • Jarhead: I wanted to see this movie when it came out, but I didn't. I love little Jake Gyllenhaal. My best friend thinks I'm crazy, but I don't care. I love him anyway. This movie was alright, I thought it was nicely filmed – the look of Desert Storm is officially all bleached out – and it looked cool. It was interesting to see what happened from an inside perspective – the book was a memoir written by the movie's main character.
  • Red Eye: I love Rachel McAdams. She is just the cutest, prettiest young actress around I think. I really wish they had replaced Jennifer Garner with Rachel McAdams to be the new Alias. She kinda looks like her a bit, and I think she could do some ass-kicking with proper training. And, she changes her hairstyle so often it's kinda like Sydney's wigs. Anyway, the movie was suspenseful and whatnot. The bad guy was mean and creepy looking.

so, that was my weekend. It wasn't very productive work-wise, but that's alright. I was glad to be out of the house, and I was glad to be able to be there for my friend. That's what's the most important thing. Tomorrow I will have to buckle down and get some real work done.How was your weekend?

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Happy International Women's Week! International Women's Day was Wednesday March 8, so today I am writing on the international women's rights movement.International women's issues are often forgotten as Western feminists work for our own advancement. What I think is truly important is to think globally in regards to feminism and women's rights.

The work of feminism is not done, as many Western women believe, resting back on their laurels of "having it all": career, family, marriage, home, political freedom, independence. In Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, women are sold by their own parents into sexual slavery, kidnapped and taken far from their homes to strange cities when they believe they will work in factories in order to send money home to their families. The sex tourism industry is a mutli-billion dollar business that caters primarily to Western men. Is this a by-product of the relative freedom of Western women – male frustration that leads to the sexual oppression of women in developing countries? True, prostitution exists the world over and is certainly not exclusive to the developing world, and young boys are often sold into prostitution as well, but the extent of female child sexual slavery in the developing world is excruciating. These child-women-prostitutes are sold into slavery while they are still virgins, and virgins command such a high price that Western men demand younger and younger girls in order to ensure they are getting what they pay for. Little do they know thatsome of these young children, after being sold into being raped by a man double to triple her size and brutalized to the point of vaginal bruising and tearing, are taken and sewn back up so that they can be raped again for another high "virgin" price. Women are too old for sex tourism prostitution when they are in their early twenties, and then usually go to work at a brothel or escape to the outskirts of cities where they can make a meagre living doing other women's work. The cost of sexual favours is terribly low, and the girls often have to "pay off their debts" – the cost that the pimp paid for her and the cost to house, clothe and feed her! It can take years before a young girl can make any money for herself, and then she must send money back home to support her younger siblings and her aging parents who sold her. Some of these girls are chained to beds in filthy basements where men pay to rape them for 10 minutes at a time. These girls never see the light of day. Mostly, the women are not permitted to use condoms to protect their health, although sometimes they are if the customer is unwilling to pay the extra $2-5 for unprotected sex. Why a man would want to have unprotected sex with a prostitute is beyond my scope of imagination, but that is beside the point. In some circumstances, the young women are given weekly health checks, to literally SEE if they have any visible signs of STDs. They are rarely given blood tests. If they do contract STDs, or HIV, they are sold until they are physically unwell and it is obvious to their customers that they are sick. After that, they are turned out and abandoned to die. You would think that protecting the young women's health would be seen as an investment on the part of their pimps. They would rather get more money for unprotected sex from their customers and have to reinvest in a new girl when the time comes. These young girls are disposable.

One of the most devestating international problems for women is genocidal rape. In countries torn by war, genocide is a growing movement. Wiping out the enemy is the chief goal of many wars in this age. From WWII, to the Croatian-Serbian conflict, to Rwanda, and now the Congo, genocidal war movements have killed millions of people and displaced millions more. War is always a time of terror for the people involved, but for women, the terror is two-fold. Not only are women killed alongside men, but increasingly women are kept alive and brutalized through rape. Male soldiers rape women in order to breed the unwanted race of people off the face of the earth; the children who are products of these acts of genocide are not seen as half-unwanted-race, but are considered to be a new race of people. In areas where it is not possible to terminate a pregnancy that is the result of rape, women are made into vessels for achieving the goals of their enemies and torturers. They are raped in front of their husbands, children, and families, often multiple times in the hopes of ensuring impregnation. If they become pregnant, not only must they carry the fetuses and give birth to the babies, they must then raise the children who are reminders of the brutality they experienced, reminders of the life they once had before their families scorned and abandoned them, penniless and pregnant with the enemy's children. These women often contract HIV, which is often passed onto the fetus, and both die young. If medical help is available to the women, it is concentrated on preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to fetus, and the woman's own health is abandoned once the enemy's child is born.

How can we claim to have achieved gender equality in a world such as this? The west turns a blind eye to its own perpetration of oppression and sexual atrocity onto third-world women and says we are all free. These acts of crime and demoralization happen to women BECAUSE they are women. Because these things happen to women in the world for the sole reason that they are women and are powerless to prevent it, women in general are devalued, and women everywhere suffer. Western men who go on sex tourism vacations come back home. They treat their wives, their coworkers, their families, their neighbours, with the attitude of male dominance that comes with their shameful secret of male power over third-world child prostitutes and young women. Western men make decisions about whether or not to intervene in genocidal wars in which women are brutalized by genocidal rape. Women's rights are not complete until there is protection in place for these women victims of male sexual dominance – and until the men (and women, although far less) in power actually decide to uphold those protections and step in to stop the abuse of women globally. And western feminists must remember that as far as we have come, the rest of the world's women are still struggling, and that comes back to us, and so if not for the women of the developing world, for ourselves, with every bit of voice we have, we must try to help.

Audre Lorde expresses my sentiment best: "I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own." (Lorde, 1984. "The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism", in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. Berkeley: Crossing Press. pp 132-133)

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well, the 78th annual Academy Awards aired last night. It was all pretty predictable this year. The support for Reese Witherspoon won out for Best Actress over Felicity Huffman's male to female transsexual. Phillip Seymour Hoffman got his award for Capote. Rachel Weisz got hers for her supporting role in The Constant Gardener, and George Clooney was honoured for his supporting work in Syriana (although I really kinda think he was honoured with an award more for his wonderful work on Good Night and Good Luck; other contenders in the categories that movie was nominated for were stronger, so George won for his acting rather than his wirintg and directing). Ang Lee won Best Director for his beautiful movie Brokeback Mountain. No surprises here so far.And then the big one comes. Best Picture. Jack Nicholson gets up to present, reads off the list of nominees, and then opens the little envelope. He looked and sounded as shocked as I was. The name of the movie he read was Crash. Pretty much everyone thought Brokeback Mountain would win, and it really should have, because it was a much better movie. Hell, all the other movies nominated – and I saw them all – were better than Crash. But, people like a story about race relations. Now, don't get me wrong, I really liked Crash. But as Best Picture? Not a chance… not with all the other choices. Ah well – every year there's got to be one surprise. I had hoped this year's surprise would be the Best Original Song, It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp from Hustle and Flow.

And my TV boyfriend? How did he fare? Well, it seems Hollywood didn't quite understand Jon Stewart's homour. Pointing out hypocrisy while being self-deprecating isn't something that Hollywood stars really do on a regular basis – they prefer to isolate themselves from the rest of the world and go about their very serious and important lives. (whatever.) The best laugh of the night came from Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin's hilarious free-flowing banter during their joint presentation of thise year's Honorary Oscar to director Robert Altman. Another bright moment: my favourite chica, Jennifer Garner, reappeared from maternity-land, looking lovely as always. She tripped a little bit on her gown coming up to the podium, recovered, made a little curtsey, and laughed at herself, saying "Thank you. I do my own stunts." Very cute.

All in all, I liked the show. I love Jon Stewart, and I laughed a lot at his jokes. I like seeing some of my favourite stars win for great performances. And I like seeing the stars all dressed up in their finest gowns. And, bottom line is – I love movies. I love them. I love everything about them. I know it's ahuge waste of money that could be better spent on humanitarian efforts, feeding starving kids in Kenya, bringing economic stability to African nations. I know. But in spite of myself, I can't help loving movies for making us think, making us laugh, and making us feel something more than our everyday stuff. Movies can do that, and that's why I love them.

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Sunday morning is my favourite time of the week. I like to sleep until it feels natural to get up, and then I like to clean and make breakfast. This morning, I decided to make breakfast first. Good thing.My breakfast consisted of some 12 grain bread with cherry jam and a cup of peppermint tea. I read the paper – two articles of interest: the World Food Program is running out of food for 3.5 million Kenyans because they only received 1/10 of their required budget this year, and Bush visited India for the first time this week presumably to seal the US-India military coalition (which must give some pause to China) – and had a talk with my father about how best to house and help the homeless (we think it might be a good idea for those on welfare to have to do community service of some sort, but we hadn't worked out the details). Then I practiced piano for a little while and had a couple good ideas about that, and decided to get cracking on my work for the day after checking my email and whatnot.

What did I discover my precious baby-girl had been up to while I was ignoring her? Well, she had eaten four flowers off my houseplant and thrown them up on my yoga mat. Also, she had used her litter box, but had trouble with her bum, and had scooted her bum along the ground in order to get the rest of the poop out, which means I found poop smears all over my floor, my jute floor mat, and my yoga mat! And there she was, sitting pretty waiting for me to discover all of this.

So it's a good thing I waited to clean my floors until after breakfast.

my kitty is bad. so bad. just when I was starting to think her snoring was cute.

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This week, I want to talk about a group of women I admire greatly. I hesitate to use the term "group," because the women I am writing about today are not a homogenous group, but have rich and varied backgrounds and experiences. The women I am writing about today are the women of Africa.

Africa is often called "the dark continent", in part because of the skin colour of its inhabitants, and in part because there is a mystery about Africa, something intangible but mystical. Like no other place, people who visit Africa say that the continent gets into their blood, and they fall in love with its spirit, its beauty, and its people. Despite this, Africa is still the pooreset of the poor. Frought with war and governmental corruption, African countries are for the most part poverty-ridden. People starve every day – as the infamous "Make Poverty History" campaign made clear to us through all those TV ads which must have cost a fortune and could have fed several African villages for a year, every three seconds a child dies in Africa due to extreme poverty. Poverty means illness and disease, because medical care is so expensive. Poverty means poor education, because malnourishment leads to poor concentration. Poverty means low economic productivity, because people who are starving and sick have little energy. Poverty means war, because people become so unhappy to see their loved ones sick and starving, and take action to revolt against corrupt governments. All of this perpetuates the cycle – poverty breeds poverty.HIV is a huge problem in Africa. The UNAIDS website states: "Sub-Saharan Africa has just over 10% of the world’s population, but is home to more than 60% of all people living with HIV—25.8 million. In 2005, an estimated 3.2 million people in the region became newly infected, while 2.4 million adults and children died of AIDS." The SWAA (Society for Women and AIDS in Africa) website says that 58% of those infected with HIV in Africa are women. One of the greatest health problems of our time is a pandemic in Africa, and the best efforts to prevent the spread of HIV lies with women – educating women, especially sex trade workers, about condom use is the single most important step in preventing HIV from spreading even further. (By the way, Bush's President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which committed 15 billion dollars to help relieve HIV in the developing world, focusses on abstinence and refuses to work with sex trade workers, and plays a big part in supporting the pharmaceutical industry in the US by insisting on brand name prescription drugs for HIV treatment.)

The Western world has looked with horror on a rite of passage many girls undergo in Africa (and other parts of the world, although this is often overlooked). This ritual involves cutting the girls' genitals, usually the clitoris to varying extents, and sometimes sewing up the girls' vaginas, leaving only a small cavity for urinating and menstruating. This ritual is often called Female Circumcision or Female Genital Mutliation, but there has been a movement to calling it Female Gential Cutting instead, which I think is warranted, since sometimes the ritual is not as extensive as a full clitoridectomy and is more like a symbolic nicking of the clitoris. In any case, this ritual has raised the hackles of most feminists and other westerners for decades. The purpose of this ritual, from a western standpoint, is to create a situation in which women do not enjoy sex, so that their husbands can expect wives to remain faithful (since penile penetration is so painful), and so that sex is mainly used to procreate, although that is entirely up to the discretion of the husband (many African husbands use prostitutes for sexual enjoyment, and wives for providing children). Usually, women are sewn up again after giving birth. It is nothing short of a heinous act of sexual abuse in order to dominate and subvert women. The ritual is almost exclusively performed by an elder woman in the community in African countries, and not always in a sterile way, so risk of infection is high. In fact, some women who have been sewn too tightly experience sepsis and become toxic and die because their openings are too small to allow mentrual blood to pass through. It is a ritual that holds great meaning for women; FGC is seen as a passage into womanhood and a bonding experience with other girls the same age who become best friends and allies for the rest of their lives. FGC is a dreadfully oppressive practice, and it is no surprise that it has been conflated with feminine standards and ideals for African women, as well as conflated with friendship and a sense of community.

African women, despite these two major obstacles, are finding ways to fight back – by becoming enterpreneurs, by becoming activists, by becoming mothers, by becoming educated, by becoming community leaders, by becoming presidents. African women have been sold, brutalized, raped, abused, victims of genocide, murdered. But African women are indomitable. For example, African women are finding ways to overcome FGC, by refusing to subject their daughters to the practice – sometimes by seeking refugee status in the west to save their daughters from undergoing the ritual. In Kenya, women have found ways to retain the rite of passage without the physical ritual, and they perform ceremonies instead to represent the ritual called circumcision through words. The movement is growing, and more and more women are becoming educated about the health risks involved with the practice and refusing to subject their daughters to FGC.

African women are irrepressible. The spirit of the women of Africa is one of the most moving things I can think of. Whenever I see these women, on TV or documentaries, I am astonished at their stories of brutality, but I am more astonished by the joy that radiates through them, the sheer gratitude at still being here. I find great strength from these stories. If these women can find joy in situations that are so difficult, surely I can get over whatever minor obstacle I am experiencing on any given day. Women of Africa, I salute you!

Image #1: "Carnival Beads"; Image #2: "Samburu in Beaded Earrings", both by Augusta Asberry.

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