Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Foie Gras now banned in Chicago

I saw on the news today that this delicacy is now banned from production and sale in Chicago, IL. The City Council was the one who passed this law. Their reason is that the process of making foie gras is inhumane to the geese and ducks.

Animal rights activists are thrilled. Many in the public are not.

When I went to Quebec 3 weeks ago, my friends and I visited a duck farm that produces and sells foie gras. We were given a private tour and the owner spent nearly 30 minutes explaing the history of this French delicacy, and how it is made. It was an eye-opening experience. And one that made me resolve never to eat it again in the future. I agree with the animal rights activists and the Chicago City Council that the process by which foie gras is made is inhumane. It is downright cruel.

Do I agree with the ban on the production and sale of this food on the basis that its production methods are inhumane? NO. If this were so, then shouldn't the KFC chicken be banned as well?

I think this is where personal preference comes in. If Joe Schmoe thinks that foie gras tastes good enough that he can ignore the suffering that the ducks and geese are subjected to, let Mr. Schmoe enjoy his food. Who am I to tell Mr. Schmoe how he should act on his conscience? To each his own, I say!

Unlike some psychos who torture and kill pets for pleasure, foie gras is a food that tastes delicious. To make it is a labour-intensive process. It was refined by the French and has become a part of French culture.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Trying to Understand the Roadblocks to Providing Generic Antiretroviral Drugs

I just read this article on the CBC website (click title above) to try and understand the complex issues surrounding the push to export cheap generic antiretroviral drugs to poor African countries that are in dire need of them.

This is how I understand it. The roadblocks include:
a) a clause in the law that the Cdn. gov't passed that says Canada can only export a drug to a country if the country makes a request. African countries are reluctant to do this becuase they are afraid of offending the major pharmaceutical companies, the ones who are on the front line inventing and testing for new and better drugs. That's an understandable concern.

b) In order for any Cdn. drug company to export generic antiretroviral drugs, they must first get licensing permission from the major pharmaceutical company that invented that drug, and who owns the patents for that drug. To do this means that the Cdn. drug company must negotiate with the major drug company. This is easier said than done, and it takes a lot of time and resources. Apotex is reluctanct to devote itself to this process, and that is understandable. It is merely a company that manufactures drugs. It's not a politician.

c) Doctors Without Borders is pursuing these negotiations with fervor, but unfortunately the clause in the Cdn. law says that it must be a country that makes the request for the drugs, not an NGO (non-governmental organization). The article says: "The initial WTO ground rules, which Canada followed, included: Brand-name patent holders must first be invited to negotiate voluntary licensing agreements with generic manufacturers before they could be compelled to hand over their patents for humanitarian use. If there was to be compulsory licensing, this had to be on a one-shot contract with an identifiable country as purchaser (royalties were to be based on a specific country's ability to pay, among other criteria). As a result, the deal couldn't be made through an NGO."

So, in essence, Canada wrote a legislation based on the guidelines set by the WTO, and that very law includes a lot of brickwalls that prevents Cdns. from accomplishing what the law originally set out to accomplish. What a shame!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Saint James Resto-Bistro - Review

1110, rue Saint-Jean
Qu├ębec, QC G1R 4H8
1 800 463-6283
(418) 692-1030, poste 7002

Our first night in old Quebec City, we went looking for a restaurant. Many of them were full and had patrons waiting in line at the front door. We entered a few and asked for a table for 5, and they all told us it would be a 20-30 minute wait. One said it would be an hour long wait; of course we by-passed this one. Finally, we came to the Saint-James Resto-Bistro, located underneath the Hotel Manoir Victoria. The menu looked different from what the 5 of us were accustomed to, so we were very interested.

J. asked for a table and he was told we were 5th in line after 4 other parties (small and medium sized). We figured that would be about 20-40 minutes, just like all the other restaurants. So we decided to stay and wait. Thirty minutes later, we were still waiting, except that by this point, not only were the four parties ahead of us seated, but 2 other parties behind us were also seated and served. Granted, they were only parties of 2.

The maitre d' came out a few times, and this time found someone in line behind us whom she recognized. They were a group of 6 and they went inside no problem. We had to wait another 15 minutes and watch another part of four move ahead of us to a table inside. When there was no one else waiting behind us, that's when they gave us a table. To our horror, we were not seated at a table for five. We got a booth table and a bar stool was added at the end. This meant that T. had to sit in the aisle.

We sat there for 10 minutes before the waiter came to ask if we wanted any drinks. When he came back later to take our orders, he asked us: "How are you doing with the menu? Do you have any questions? Shall I give you a few more minutes?" He asked all three questions without pausing in between to give us a chance to reply. This made me wonder, DID HE REALLY WANT TO SERVE US AT ALL? 'Cause it sure as hell didn't sound like it.

The food was very good. This was some of the best pasta I've ever had. I couldn't finish it all, as much as I wanted to. The iced tea was so sour, I wonder if they made it that way on purpose just to spite us for reasons I do not know.

This has to rank as one of the worst restaurant experiences I've ever had. Next time a similar occurrence arises, I will bitch and insist we go elsewhere. Why should I let someone treat me like that?

I give this restaurant ** out of five for the food. But, I'm compelled to take away these ** because of the horrible way we were treated.

Home Sweet Home

Returned from Quebec last night after an 11 hour drive stuck in traffic a lot of the time. Still very tired.

Got this in the mail from Grace: http://www.paulsadowski.com/birthday.asp Try it, it's fun.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Updates and Comments

I've started reading Jane Austen's classic. I really disliked Emma at the beginning. I thought she was selfish and snobby. Now, after reading the first volume, I find her a compassionate person who has a very good understanding of human nature and nurture.

Fidel Castro & Cuba
Anyone who knows me knows what I think about communist governments. However, anyone who knows me also knows what I think of American Imperialism. Yesterday, I read an article on CNN that contained quotes by George W. Bush Jr. Basically, he said that it's now time for the Cuban people to be liberated. It's time to bring democracy to Cuba.

What a foolish mindset. Who is Bush to decide that the Cuban people need liberation in the first place?