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October 24, 2008 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-10-24

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4A - Friday, October 24, 2008

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

l e Iicl30ig n wily

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

I really wanted to give you some good
head this morning and I didn't know
how to ask you to let me do it."
- Christine Beatty, in a text message to former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The text messages
were released yesterday after an appeals court rejected a motion Wednesday to keep them sealed.




Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Risky business
As private donations grow, so do conflicts of interest
ndependent research is the centerpiece of academia.
Because of protections like the tenure system and, in some
cases, autonomy from state governments, universities allow
their professors to conduct research free from outside influences
and fear of the repercussions of their work. But as many univer-
sities shift from dependence on state funding to reliance on pri-
vate donations, a new layer of complexity is added to universities'
relationship to private industry and donors - one that calls for
more transparency and accountability, including here at the Uni-
versity of Michigan.



T HE DC SUITS W q'T a.. o w


Seeds of change

The latest example of this delicate situ-
ation came earlier this month in a report
by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about
University of Michigan Prof. Martin Phil-
bert and his connections with private
donor Charles Gelman. Philbert is the
director and co-founder of the University's
Risk Science Center. He is also chairman
of a Food and Drug Administration advi-
sory panel expected to release a much-an-
ticipated study soon about the risks of the
controversial chemical bisphenol A, which
is used to make numerous plastic prod-
ucts, including baby bottles.
This summer, Charles Gelman, who has
publicly stated he believes BPA is perfectly
safe and whose firm, Gelman Instrument
Company, was embroiled in an expensive
chemical cleanup during the 1980's, donat-
ed $5 million to the Risk Science Center.
Philbert didn't disclose the donation to
the FDA, though he argues he didn't have
to because it was a gift to the University,
not to him. Further complicating the mat-
ter, Gelman told the Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel he talked with Philbert several
times about BPA- conversations that, to
his credit, Philbert says he scrupulously
avoided once they came up.
As it stands, the situation boils down
to a he-said-she-said, and the FDA is now
getting involved to investigate the extent
of the relationship. That explicitly doesn't
mean Philbert did anything wrong. But
the concerns raised in this complicated
case point to the consequences of univer-
sities' new funding model.

In essence, the University is now a pri-
vately financed public university. While
state appropriations supported about75per-
cent of the general fund 40 years ago, today
they account for less than 20 percent. And
when the state was footing most of the bill,
the University was protected by its consti-
tutional autonomy (as itstill is) from serving
the narrow interests of state government.
But now that private donors have
replaced taxpayers, the rules are changing.
Private donors have always placed a role
in funding the University. But the unique
situation now is the volume of those dona-
tions, and the increased complexity of
the relationships that may underlie them.
Philbert's potential conflict of interest
with Gelman exemplifies this complex-
ity perfectly: Where exactly is the ethi-
cal line drawn when the University is a
potential intermediary between donor and
researcher if the researcher's interests or
organizations stand to benefit?
The first layer of the solution is for state
government to renew their commitment
to their universities, especially here in
Michigan. But absent that, the University,
like other universities across the coun-
try, should nip these problems in the bud.
They should be aggressive in preserving
the integrity of their research and the
perception of it. That means setting clear
boundaries, policing them and even turn-
ing away some donors if needed.
If universities don't, they risk compro-
mising their greatest strength: their inde-
pendent research. .

The Middle East is the apex of
global crude oil extraction, yet
a country with no petroleum
deposits - Israel
- is emerging as
the region's leader
in alternative fuel
research and pro-
How, you ask?
Neither a mind-
altering substanceA
nor a household
cleaning prod- PARRITZ
uct, Jatropha is an
African perennial
plant with seeds that contain up to 35
percent vegetable oil. Why have we
never heard of it? The oil extraction
method is secret. And the firm with
the coveted extraction patent, Galten
Global Alternative Energy Co., is
based in Israel.
To compare the Jatropha plant to
other sources of biofuel, Galten's web-
site asserts that only one ton of biofuel
can be extracted from 2.5 acres of edi-
ble crops like corn or soybeans - as
opposed to three tons of biofuel from
the same amount of Jatropha..
Since 2006, Galten has become an
integral member of Israel's diverse
and brilliant arena of green technol-
ogy companies. Galten joins industry
leaders OrganiTECH, now manufac-
turing self-operating greenhouses
that produce pesticide-free green leaf
vegetables; Project Better Place,
currently designing and building a
charging grid for electric cars; and
Mekorot, Israel's leading water tech-
nology company.
To be successful, however, these
companies rely heavily on exporting
their products and producing abroad.
Because Israel inhabits only a tiny
fraction of land in the Middle East
- and its agricultural regions are
already densely populated - Galten
chose to develop its technologies in a
foreign country with two important
advantages: 1) more expendable land
area and 2) a native supply of Jatro-
pha. Galten selected Ghana as its

nursery for Jatropha production, and
has already leased more than a half-
million acres of land in the country.
Though the political climate in
Ghana is relatively stable, Galten's
project is not without its obstacles.
According to Doron Levi, the chief
operating officer of Galten, "We are
working according to plan growing
the Jatropha plants. We've built a
nursery, but it's not easy in Africa."
Levi explained that the poisonous
bush snake also enjoys the benefits of
the Jatropha plant, through shade and
cover from the harsh African sun.
Snakes scare the bejeezus out of
me, so I sympathize with Galten's
engineers on the ground, but I'm con-
fident that Galten can solve its snake
problems to focus on its ultimate
goal: eliminating Israel's dependence
on Arab oil.
On Oct. 22, crude oilprices dropped
below $65 per barrel. Though OPEC is
now scrambling for a solution, Israel
is silently smiling - for good reason.
Many years of cultivating alternative
fuel technology, it seems, are begin-
ning to pay extraordinary dividends.
In an Israeli news op-ed earlier
this year titled "Beyond the Oil Age,"
Sarah Kass, the director of strategy
and evaluation at the Avi Chai Foun-
dation, noted that the most impor-
tant geopolitical event in the region
60 years ago was not the creation of
the State of Israel. Rather, "It was the
discovery and cultivation, then, and
the commercialization, since then, of
the hot ocean of oil beneath the sands
of Arabia." Post WWII, according to
Kass, "Mideast oil began to dominate
the world strategic landscape."
Today, the vast majority of Arab-
world GDP stems from oil exports.
Though each Arab country spends
its oil revenues differently, only one
spending strategy truly benefits Arab
citizens: domestic reinvestment of oil
revenuesintohuman capitalandinfra-
structure. The United Arab Emirates
employs this strategy widely, especial-
ly in Dubai, yet most other Arab states
are content to hoard oil revenues for
the wealthiest ruling class - or to

invest them in terrorist organizations,
nuclear projects or weapons imports.
Enter Iran.
Though Iran is not an Arab state,
it plays an important role as a major
power in the Mideast oil hegemony.
Its influence reaches everystate inthe
region, and -its oil revenues sponsor
internationally recognized terrorists
groups Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.
Fortunately, plunging oil prices have
shocked and disrupted Iran's foreign
"aid" network, because Iran's budget
is balanced around a crude oil price of
$95 per barrel.
According to the International
Monetary Fund, Iran's budget is now
"unsustainable." And this could seri-
ously alter the balance of power, in
both energy production and terrorism
finance in the Mideast.
In a region of oil,
Israel leads the way
in green energy.
Galten, then, is quite literally plant-
ingseeds to change the regionalhege-
mony in the Middle East. Oil prices,
left in the dust of the United States'
financial collapse and the slow-
ing growth in the developing world,
will inevitably skyrocket once more.
Once they do, Israel can-and will be
the pinnacle of non-crude oil driven
economies in the Middle East. With
venture~ capital funds pouring into
Israel's green technology industry,
the days of OPEC's central command
over the Middle East's energy pro-
duction - and its regional economy
- may soon end.
At the end of the oil horizon, the
Middle East will rely on Israel for
alternative fuel. At least we should
hope so.
Ari Parritz can be reached
at aparritz@umich.edu.


Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, Elise Baun, Harun Buljina, Ben Caleca, Satyajeet Deshmukh,
Brian Flaherty, Matthew Green, Emmarie Huetteman, Emma Jeszke, Shannon Kellman,
Edward McPhee, Emily Michels, Kate Peabody, Matthew Shutler, Robert Soave, Eileen Stahl,
Jennifer Sussex, Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Van Gilder, Margaret Young
Find your voice

Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor. Letters should be less than 300 words and must
include the writer's full name and University affiliation. All submissions become property of the Daily.
We do not print anonymous letters. Send letters to tothedaily@umich.edu.

I was talking to one of my good friends in
my room the other day when politics came up.
I immediately went off on a rant about voter
turnout and the dismal state of our democracy.
As I wound down, my friend informed me qui-
etly but matter-of-factly that he wasn't going
to vote.
My jaw dropped. I had no idea that he was
part of the roughly 50 percent of eligible Amer-
icans who won't bother to drag themselves
away from work, school or bed to participate in
our democracy on Election Day. As we talked
about it for a while, I noticed a kind of attitude
that I've seen in others before. It wasn't apathy
or laziness. It was more dangerous. He truly
believed that he would make absolutely no dif-
ference if he voted. Through this conversation
I also realized that many people who don't vote
believe that no matter what they do, they have
no say in the government or in the way our
country is run.
First of all, this belief is patently false. I
worked in a local campaign office this summer,
and in one of the primary elections the candi-
date I worked for lost by eight votes. I repeat:
Eight votes. You and eight of your friends could
have reversed this election's results. If the can-
didate had spent two more hours knocking on
doors and convincing voters to get to the polls,
she might have won. .
That was just a local election. The same
phenomenon can occur on a larger scale. We
all remember the 2000 presidential election,
where the final outcome was decided by about
500 votes in Florida. If that doesn't make you
believe that every single vote counts, I don't
know what will.
But there is a reason for voting that goes
above and beyond the statistics. The reason is
not the candidates, the issues or the fact that a
single vote may make a difference. The reason is
that voting is what defines us asa democracy.
The vast majority of people in the United
States, myself included, believe in democracy
as a theory and an ideal. We cry out against
dictatorships, we cry out for freedom all across
the world. And yet half of the entire popula-

tion doesn't even realize what their belief in
democracy means. The precise reason we have
a democracy is because it gives every citizen a
way to be heard in our society. In refusing to
vote, half of us forfeit our only direct way of
having a voice in government.
Ifwe hold these beliefs and make these claims
about the power of democracy, and yet do not
participate in our own democratic government,
then we are a nation of hypocrites, fighting for
free elections all over the world and then not
participating in our own back home. We are a
nation of whiners, perpetually complaining
about current conditions and the state of our
lives, but making no move to change them. We
are a nation of the uninterested, more worried
about what happens today than decisions that
could affect us years in the future.
However, I also believe that we are also a
nation of the consistent, firm enough in our
beliefs that we can hold them strong. That we
are a nation of doers, knowing when to take
action to change something wrong in the world.
That we are a nation of the concerned, speak-
ing out loud about things that will affect both
our children and us. I believe in that nation, the
nation where every citizen uses his or her own
voice to bring up what they believe in. I believe
in the nation where people participate because
they know it is their way to apply their beliefs
to the issues that affect them directly. I believe
in the nation where we all vote.
Vote on Nov. 4. Make sure you bring your
MCard and some kind of proof of residency
(leasing statement, anything received from the
university, etc.) tothe polls, and that you refrain
from wearing any paraphernalia that endorses
a certain candidate (you will be turned away at
the door or asked to remove the gear).
Idon'tcareifyoubelieve thatyourvote makes
a difference or not. Vote because even when
you feel like you don't have a voice in this coun-
try, you still do. You just need to learn to use it.
Seth Buchsbaum is anS LSA sophomore. He
is a representative on the Michigan Student
Assembly's Voice Your Vote commission.



Outlawing a primitive practice

Whether you like it or not, it is impossible to ignore the
fact that Michigan is a hunter's state. Each fall, the deer
hunting industry alone generates more than $500 million
dollars for our feeble state economy. In addition, hunting
advocates argue they are providing a civil-service to the
state by helping keep the deer population under control
and deer-related auto accidents down to a manageable
figure each year.
Yet, in spite of these economic and, perhaps, ecological,
advantages, it appears that this season the deer hunting
craze is finally slowing down to what will one day hope-
fully be a complete halt to this primitive practice.
This fall, the so-called sport of deer hunting is finding
itself with fewer players than usual - in terms of people
that is. This is primarily because the Department of Natu-
ral Resources has banned deer baiting in the Michigan's
Lower Peninsula, thereby discouraging many hunters.
Deer baiting is the practice of putting out food like apples,
carrots and sugary beets to bait deer into stopping and
eating at food piles. Once the deer congregate, nearby
hunters - primarily bowhunters who need to be in close
range - can kill the deer with great ease and efficiency.
The DNR has banned deer baiting this particular sea-
son because recently one small doe was found infected
with chronic wasting disease, a highly contagious and
fatal disease that can spread quickly when deer are in
close contact with one another - like when they are feed-
ing together.
The theory behind this ban is that the state wants to
preserve the deer population now, so that hunters can kill
them in future hunting seasons later. This is, of course, an
argument made in economic terms.
Naturally, this ban has infuriated the huge population
of Michiganders who hunt recreationally and the farm-
ers who depend on the bait crop sales. While the farmers'
concerns are legitimate, the minor irritation to hunt-

ers who simply can't bait is a minor consequence hardly
worth considering right now.
After all, hunting for meat is no longer imperative to
survival. This practice exists primarily for the sake of
recreation and tradition - reasons that just don't validate
a practice that promotes the massacre of creatures with
which we share this earth. Moreover, population control
is a poor rationalization for deer hunting. While the deer
population may get out of control and aggravate us in the
short run, nature will likely force its populationilevel back
into balance in the long run without us having to step in
violently. It isn't logical to continue killing for the sake of
killing anymore.
Now, it is certainly naive to believe the state can imme-
diately drop this practice given our current economic
despair and our history with this industry. Still, it is
optimistic to see that the state has been taking steps to
facilitate a transition for bait-crop farmers this season.
Primarily, the DNR and the state have been helping farm-
ers seek out alternative markets for their unsold crops. If it
is too late into this season to find different markets and the
crops are certain to go to waste, I hope these farmers will
at least look into donation venues for their surplus food.
Once the farmers are fully rehabilitated we will be
another step closer to banning hunting. The only thing we
really need now is for the state to revitalize its economy
enough that it can completely let go of the revenue asso-
ciated with hunting. For the hunters, this is good news
because it doesn't look like Michigan will be achieving
that goal in the immediate future. For the rest of us, we
can at least be happy that the deer-baiting ban is pre-
venting a potential deer pandemic and deterring a small
population of people from hunting, and that, for now, is
Radhika Upadhyaya is a Business junior.


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