Monday, July 28, 2008

(From Reuters) Dozens die in Iraq bombings

July 28 (FROM REUTERS)- Many more have been wounded in the wave of attacks in Baghdad and another explosion in Kirkuk.

At least 28 people have been killed and more than 90 wounded in Baghdad as three female suicide bombers targeted Shi'ite pilgrims in the city for a major religious event.

Another explosion in the northern city of Kirkuk has claimed the lives of at least ten people and wounded over 50 more as demonstrators gathered for a protest march.

Paul Chapman reports.

Friday, July 25, 2008

We Must Figure out How to Make Peace


The afternoon sun had begun to fade, but the Bryant park trees twinkled, offering a sense of shelter, comfort, peace, away from the bustle of sidewalks, the glaring of glass high in the sky towering over the beating nucleus ,Midtown Manhattan.

A conversation carries on by phone, the New Yorker, questions, listens and learns about a friend's trip up north to a city many miles away.

"It went well," said the friend, on assignment in New England, where he'd given a speech, seeking to explain a campaign of tolerance to a younger generation.

"Great" came the response from Midtown from under the trees that twinkled, as he propped his feet on his bicycle, after a job interview, before beginning the journey down 5th Avenue to his soon to be former home in New York's east village.

After saying goodbye, he walked his bike to 42nd street, hopped on, thinking about the chat, passed the public library, then pedaled down the hill on 5th avenue.

Up ahead, a man with no legs, his back muscles pronounced, triceps bulging, pioneered ahead of the cyclist in a wheelchair.

The cyclists wondered, how or where the man's legs went missing, what had happened. At the same time, he felt worry, a ping of sad, but still, admiring the man's athletic defiance, his resilience, a wonder to behold, whizzing past cars, faster than the cyclist, much like the city where he now rode, a place where despite constant obstacles, the strong survive, endure and persevere, here too, the strong may shine.

But, after losing sight of the legless man, after passing the tourists with their sensible shorts and striped shirts making their way to the architectural majesty that is the Empire State Building, the cyclist came upon a familiar site, a church he'd passed many times.

In fact, it was at this spot, on the last Sunday in June, members of the Congregation, passed out cups of water, to participants in a parade, that some would rather avoid.

But on this day, there was no parade, no congregants with water, and for whatever reason, he noticed the ribbons.

They hang on the iron gating surrounding the old church, the Church of the collegiate, a building erected in 1854, a congregation chartered in 1696 by William III, king of England as the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, now called the Marble Collegiate Church.

The ribbons, golds, blues, and greens represented something, unclear at first, perhaps a memorial, perhaps another symbol of war a testament of death, perhaps renewal, perhaps all, but it turned out, they represented prayers.

Gold, the more common color, represents prayers for the families and friends of the thousands of Americans lost in the Iraq war.

Blue for those Iraqis scores killed in the violence that devastated a nation.

Green, were for prayers of peace.

While observing, a family of three, what appeared to be tourists, all wearing baseball caps, the father nokia around his kneck, the mom with a digital, both took photos of the site, as the New Yorkers glided by. On the sidewalks, some glanced, others pausing briefly, all the while, cars, cabs and cyclists whizzed by, perhaps on their way to dinner, drinks, maybe even coming from a job interview, perhaps in a conversation about tolerance, love, joy, sadness or perhaps too, tragedy.

Among the family of three, a small boy, no more than ten, touched, held and appeared to read some of the ribbons.

Captain Mark Pane, age 32.

Lance Corporal Bradely L Parker, age 19.

Sgt Pamela G. Osborne, age 38 and hundreds perhaps thousands more.

In addition to a green baseball cap, the small boy wore a bright orange T-Shirt with the dove's foot peace symbol occupying the shirt's face, a simple request, never a simple answer.

From afar, the child tourist's face at least appeared in this moment, to offer pause, maybe hope, hope that someday, ribbons will only be used for things good, like apple pies, rose competitions, or a giant pumpkin.

It brings tears when ribbons hanging from an old iron fence just blocks from the Empire State building represent prayers for precious souls, souls taken so unfairly, so early. It's not fair that they can no longer participate in conversations about tolerance while sitting under trees amidst buildings that touch the sky. Those ribbons remind everyone that there are millions of broken hearts across the world thanks to the horror that the un-necessary human behavior war is.

On a small, plaque, in front of the increasingly weathered blues, golds and greens, a message from Marble Collegiate's Senior Minister, Arthur Calandro.

In it, he recalled attending a Quaker meeting after the first Gulf War in Iraq.

He said that of all the comments he heard that day, the one he remembered came from a man around his own age.

"I know how to protest war, but I don't know how to make peace," the Quaker said.

The message says that it seems that man at the Quaker meeting speaks for most of the world. The message went on to say we "continue to pray daily- we pray for the wounded-we pray for the day war is no longer an option.

Later, as observations of this fading New York afternoon on Fifth Avenue continued, a gentleman approached, and offered, "you know they (the church) have a website."

It turned out, the man was a New York City teacher, a man probably in his late 30's, soft spoken, kind, his knowledge of New York history obviously grand.

He shared an interesting fact, that this, the Marble Collegiate Church, is in fact, oldest place of worship of the Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of the City of New York

"That explains the New Netherland enshrined on the stone," noted the cyclist.

"Yes," he confirmed.

He then shared that on Staten Island, there was a place called Richmond Town, a place that was full of history, a time capsule dating back to the 1600's where on some buildings one could still see holes from the bullets from the days of its founding, holes from the Revolutionary war.

But, perhaps, here on Fifth Avenue, as passers by, protected from the outside not by trees but by IPODS, Blackberries, the shelters of cabs, the indiscriminate bustling to and fro on our ways to places, drinks, dinners, new jobs, new lives, on our collective way to a new era in our nation's journey through time, despite those holes on Staten Island, despite the painful hole inside our own impressive skyline, there are holes even greater, and there are reminders everywhere, no matter where we are, that those are the holes in the hearts of those who lost someone, a Mother, A Father, daughter, son, lover and those are the holes that are all the more greater than anything history has to offer.

It is our pain and we are sharing it.

We human beings must someday figure out how to make peace.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

CBS NEWS: Lining Up for free Dental Care (The Other America series)

Comment-Cody Lyon: Once again, CBS News holds up a mirror to the often cruel injustices that result from the way our nation's health care system operates. Albeit a dreadful experience for most, for millions, a trip to the dentist is out of reach, thanks to the fact that around one hundred million have no Dental insurance at all. Many have not seen a tooth doctor in years, among them, millions of children.

But, at the same time, CBS shows us as they did with the REMOTE AREA MEDICAL report, that America is also home to angels, like Bruce Bergstrom of AMERICA'S DENTISTS CARE. As reporter Seth Doane reveals, America's Dentists Care sets up free dental clinics across the nation for those lacking dental insurance. In the CBS report, we see a line of families already wrapped around a building at 5 a.m.

. Here is a link to CBS Evening News July 23 report, part of the network's "The Other America" series:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Remembering the Super Bug of 2005

On February 5, 2005, the New York City Department of Health in conjunction with the Aaron Diamond Aids Research Center called a press conference and issued an urgent health alert to the public. The event was especially targeted towards men who have sex with men. According to health officials, one individual had been infected with what appeared to be a never before seen particularly potent and apparently mutated strain of HIV that had rapidly progressed to full blown AIDS.

Doctors treating the patient said the man was resistant to three out of four classes of drugs available used to treat HIV/AIDS, a condition clinically called 3-DCR-HIV.

At the press conference, New York City Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden, warned “virtually no one is immune” saying the new super strain virus could quickly progress into full-blown AIDS, perhaps in as little as two to twenty months, a process that normally takes up to ten years.

Health officials described the patient as a man in his mid-forties, who had binged on the drug crystal methamphetamine and had un-protected sex with numerous partners, a number the Department said was 'possibly hundreds.'

The DOHMH said the encounters had occurred at sex parties or individually, arranged through “hook-up” sites on the Internet.

A firestorm of controversy, debate and media sensationalism followed the press conference.

Fault lines erupted both inside and outside the gay community as fingers were pointed at recreational drugs and "reckless" lifestyles. Fear laced with words of caution competed with skepticism over the accuracy of the reported science from Aaron Diamond Institute and the Health Department.

But many condemned the New York City Health Department for issuing a health alert that some called hasty and shrill.

Central to the skepticism were questions and worries about how gay men would react if the science proved false or inconclusive. Further, were worries that the public's perception of gay men would be tainted by reports of reckless behaviors in the age of AIDS. And, if the diagnosis of a new "super-bug" proved false, would the understanding and attitudes surrounding what HIV/AIDS is, a disease littered with a history of misinformation, rumors, prejudice and conspiracy theories become even more misunderstood and misinformed?

Overall immediate public reaction to the press conference and subsequent news reports was grim and flavored with what some saw as patronizing condemnation of the affected community, gay men.

Newspaper headlines were announcing that a new “super virus” had made an appearance in New York. The New York "Daily News" screamed “Super Bug Scary: World’s First Case of Drug Resistant Strain Found Here,” while another Daily News headline read “Super HIV Man Had Sex Binge with 100.” Meanwhile, the “New York Post” warned of a “Super Bug Nightmare Strain” and the “The "New York Times"” said Gays had “Grown Complacent” about HIV, which contributed to reckless behavior.

Within the Gay Community some began to directly link crystal meth use to the “new strain” issuing wholesale condemnations of the highly addictive drug. In the mainstream press, a number of columnists and editorial writers began to scold the reportedly promiscuous behavior and its alleged impacts.

For example, Former “"Newsday"” reporter Laurie Garret wrote “Those who use methamphetamine and prowl for sex need the wake-up call” and "Washington Post" columnist Richard Cohen wrote that when gays “are victims of discrimination they need to be defended, but when they are victims of their own behavior, they need to be condemned.”

But, in the background of the ensuing coverage, doctors and experts began raising skeptical concerns about the timing and tone of the alert.

“In its haste to issue a health alert, the Department of Health and Aaron Diamond failed to consider the impact of such frantic media coverage” said Dr. Michael Saag, Director of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

“The average reader will focus on the behavior of gay men” said Dr. Saag.

He noted that news of the New York Department of Health press conference was the lead story in the next day’s "Birmingham News".

“It is not a helpful message in an era when we are trying to communicate that HIV is a sexually transmitted disease that effects anyone who is sexually active, not just gay men” said Dr. Saag from Birmingham, Ala.

Amid the shrill headlines, controversy and fear, questions were raised about a more probable theory regarding the patient's condition, a theory that appeared to contradict the Health Department's conclusion in the health alert.

“The intersection of the patient’s drug resistance and rapid progression made this man’s condition unique” said Jessica Frickey, a spokesperson at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HIV is a highly variable disease. It is usually the 'host virus interaction' that determines the characteristics of a case, not the virus itself. In fact, there are individuals who may be more genetically susceptible to a quicker progression to full-blown AIDS. That condition has been called rapid progression.

Was this patient’s condition an unfortunate intersection of two deadly factors, rapid progression and anti-viral drug resistence?

Apparently, that would have indicated that the individual who played host to the virus was genetically pre-disposed to a rapid-fire progression to full blown AIDS.

Futher, could the man’s drug resistance have been a result of being infected by an individual who was infected with a mutated version of the HIV virus, a disturbing but potential cause of his anti-viral reisistence? Doctors say that HIV drug resistance can develop in a patient after taking drugs over an extended period.

Like other viruses or bacteria, HIV strains begin to mutate and show resistance over time, in essence, outsmarting some drugs or drug combinations, similar to anti-biotic resistance. When this happens, doctors usually manipulate, switch or re-evaluate the patient's cocktail of medicine until an effective anti-viral regimen is found.

But the reporting in the "super-virus" case implied that the patient had been infected a new “strain” as if the bug itself had mutated into a newly emerged form of the virus meaning that AIDS, already deadly, had grown into an even more dire threat.

Some supporters of the initial health alert press conference to say that the use of the term new "strain" was incorrect.

“There would need to be evidence of significant biological difference to warrant the designation of a new strain” admitted Dr. Jay Dobkin, Director of the AIDS Center at Columbia University.

Some advocates of full and forthcoming medical information, as well as a few medical experts began to openly and loudly question whether the health alert had indeed been based on inconclusive science. There were rumblings that that the alert was being used as an overly cautious and condescending tactic to try and change what some argue were increasing risky behaviors within the Gay male community?

Martin Delaney, co-founder of the San Francisco based organization “Project Inform” argued that the health alert was meant to scare people into changing behavior.

Delaney also questioned whether the science behind the alert was solid.

“None of the science was sound” and “no matter what Aaron Diamond and The Department of Health think they knew at the time of the press conference, they could not possibly have had any useful information about how widely this “new strain” had spread, or what its clinical consequences would be.”

Some doctors concurred with Delaney's assertion noting that in fact, the reportedly "new" strain was actually nothing new.

“This particular strain has been seen before thus is not new” said University of Alabama Birmingham’s Dr. Michael Saag of the new “super-strain”.

Dr. Harold Jaffe is the former director of the National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since leaving CDC, Dr. Jaffe has been a fellow and Professor of Public Health at Oxford University in London.

Jaffe said the Health Department’s alert was probably a well intentioned but overly cautious approach that used fear to try and curb what most experts charge are risky behaviors.

At the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections Conference in Boston, two weeks after the Health Alert was issued, Dr. Jaffe argued that fear might motivate behavior changes in the short term, but it ultimately leads people to not trust messages of prevention.

Later, during a phone conversation from London, Jaffee further explained his reluctance to support the decision to issue a health alert.

Still, he cautioned that far to many gay men have become more careless, in part because of the false sense of security provided by new HIV drugs.

“A number of factors are probably contributing to increasingly risky behavior among men who have sex with men (or msm), and “lack of fear is probably a factor, but I personally don’t believe the New York case should be used to scare gay men into safer behavior” said Dr. Jaffe.

Still, one of the world's groundbreaking pioneers in HIV/AIDS research defended his institution’s decision to issue the alert.

“We felt it was appropriate to bring such an extreme case to the attention of public health authorities” said Dr. David Ho, Executive Director of The Aaron Diamond Institute.

“ADRAC stands by its decisions involving this case,” said Dr. Ho.

Columbia University's Dr. Jay Dobkin suggested that the decision to issue the alert and the ensuing media coverage linking Crystal Meth use to increasing risk of HIV infection, may have in fact, been constructive by helping to discourage what many see as reckless behaviors.

Still, some question Dr. Dobkin and Ho’s seemingly clinical rhetoric.

Martin Delaney argues that many health officials see the world through academic lenses that is out of touch with the reality “on the ground.”

“People do not engage in unsafe behaviors because they have considered issues of treatment” noting that drug use and unsafe behavior are not “reasoned choices,” said Delaney.

Reasoned or not, according to a one survey by The Center for HIV/AIDS Education Studies or CHEST at New York University, men who used Crystal, were three times more likely to contract HIV through receptive anal intercourse than those who did not use meth. Among gay men who admit to recreational drug use, 62 percent admit to at least having tried crystal.

Debate over how best to affect sexual practices or change behaviors range from harm reduction tactics to zero tolerance approaches. Harm reduction encourages those who do use recreational drugs, to do so responsibly, and be armed with knowledge on how best to protect oneself from increased risk of HIV infection.

Some worry that zero tolerance approaches about certain behaviors, or fear tactics, simply encourage denial and drive behaviors further underground often leading to destructive collective side effects such as increasing rates of HIV.

Over the past 5 years, HIV infection rates have risen among gay men under the age of 30 in New York City according to the City's Department of Health. At the same time, HIV infection rates have fallen by around 22 percent among older gay men.

While some say the complacency over un-safe sexual activity among many gay men may have been temporarily shaken by the super-bug reports, some express worries that collective distrust of medical officials and authorities was the end result.

“If it turns out the ‘super-bug” is really an isolated case, the gay community may feel they were being manipulated” said Dr. Harold Jaffe.

As of 2008, the 2005 “super-strain” was an isolated case.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

REUTERS-ul 18 -Drug bust in Mexico submarine

Jul 18 - The Mexican military, working with information from U.S. intelligence services, recovered nearly six tons of cocaine in a makeshift submarine seized this week off the Pacific coast.

It was one of Mexico's largest maritime drug seizures and the first time the country has seen drug smugglers using a submarine, the navy said.

Pavithra George REUTERS reports.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"The New Yorker" Cartoon: The Jokes on the People


It looks as if some Americans have finally found a cartoon they can get really upset about.

Last week's "New Yorker" cover cartoon featuring presumed Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama and wife Michelle, both in outrageous garb that included the Senator in a turbin, sandals and robe, with Michelle sporting an Angela `Davisesque' 70's afro, a gun, both fist-bumping all the while an American flag burned, has drawn condemnation and charges of "offensive and tasteless" from campaign spokespeople and supporters.

Tuesday evening, Senator Obama told CNN's Larry King that the cartoon "probably fueled misconceptions about me."


Was the cartoon offensive?

Of course it was.

Did it fuel misconceptions about the Senator and his wife?

Probably not......that's already been done.

In fact, the increasingly famous "New Yorker" cover held up a mirror to the campaign, the media and more importantly to America itself. The cartoon revealed some offensive truths about how this campaign has been conducted and covered, but also, about America in general and how out of touch with reality so many of us truly are.

First and foremost, this was the "New Yorker" being ironic, not some tabloid or sensationalistic media spook machine that was seeking to raise questions about the Senator of his wife's commitment to the nation's well being. The "New Yorker" is in fact, one the few bastions of intelligent and measured writing where analysis and good story telling pair up with meticulous investigative journalism. It is one of the few places that those with the patience, to actually read an article longer than four or five pages long,find articles that reveal facts, figures and truths about our Democracy, better yet, our world.

What might be considered offensive is the fact that so many Americans don't take the time to actually pick up the magazine and read those stories beyond that offensive cover.

But, even more offensive is the deeper truth pointed out by the cover and the seemingly insecure and condescending reaction that some Obama supporters and even some Republicans have claimed to have.

The "New Yorker" cover page makes fun of the sad fact that vast swaths of voters actually believe that the Obama's depicted in the cartoon are real. But, it also shines a light on the units of the media machine that have inadvertently helped perpetuate the rumors and innuendo that have led to misperceptions about the Obama's patriotism.

Now that's offensive.

The inability of Obama supporters to appreciate that sort of irony is offensive as well, since they know all to well, the cartoon, in its outrageousness and non-PC style, does exactly that.

But, by raising such a fuss about a cartoon in the "New Yorker", by going public with worries that it will affect voter's perception, those supporters, spokespersons, even the candidate are in essence participating in the wildfire of paranoia and condescension so common in American politics today?

If anything, "The New Yorker" that bastion of elitism was pointing out that America, despite being a place of instant information gratification is a place where vast portions of the public are ill informed, a public that shows increasing signs of collective ADD, always looking for the next shrill topic, the next scandal and not real truths that might inform them to make wise decisions in voting booths that might truly impact their communities, their nation their lives, truths often found in magazines like "The New Yorker".

It's really a shame that so many are up in arms about this cartoon. The only positive might be that more people may actually buy the magazine and read it.

This was clever satire and the jokes on `the people', not the Obamas.

Monday, July 14, 2008

(New York Times) Bank Stocks Are Battered as Unease Grows

Bank Stocks Are Battered as Unease Grows
By LOUISE STORY and ERIC DASH "New York Times"
Published: July 15, 2008
Investors continued to beat down bank stocks on Monday, fearing that the government’s aid to help Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would not hold back the rising tide of bad loans.
Link to full story at NYT

Sunday, July 13, 2008

From "The Raw Story"; Alabama US Attorney denies any involvement in university editor's termination

The abrupt dismissal of a veteran University of Alabama employee who blogged about the firing of seven US Attorneys has added a bizarre new twist to allegations that the state's US Attorneys targeted political opponents for prosecution.
"Raw Story's' Lindsay Beyerstein has a closer look at the firing of Roger Shuler from UAB

From "New York Times":A New Fashion Catches On in Paris: Cheap Bicycle Rentals

A New Fashion Catches On in Paris: Cheap Bicycle Rentals
Published: July 13, 2008
A year after the introduction of the sturdy gray bicycles known as VĂ©lib’s, other major cities, including American ones, are exploring similar projects.
Link to full Story at NYT

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

(REUTERS VIDEO) Hebron settlers accused of beating

Jul 8 - An Israeli -Palestinian rights group has released video of a Palestinian man tied to a phone pole claiming it shows the man being beaten up by Jewish settlers.

The video was recorded by activists belonging to Ta'ayush, an Israeli-Palestinian human rights group.

The group claims it shows a bound Palestinian man being kicked by Jewish settlers while Israeli soldiers stand by. The man, a 30-year-old Palestinian teacher, was eventually freed and taken to hospital.

He later told Reuters the settlers had falsely accused him of setting fire to one of their fields before beating him. Israeli police say two settlers were arrested on suspicion of assault.

A settler leader in Hebron says the video wrongly portrays the settlers as aggressors when, in reality, they're defending themselves.

Susan Flory (REUTERS) reports.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Downtown Gotham Laments Closure of a Meatpacking District Eatery



The paint on the window told the whole story.

"Serving 24 hours until the bitter "sweet" end on June 29," it read.

After 23 years of serving countless steak frites, muscles and Boudin Noire in an area more known for beef racks, leather daddy’s, transgender prostitutes, club kids and Hogs and Heffers, the modern landmark 24 hour French diner that served the fashionable alongside the "freaky" has closed its doors. News reports account Morellet signed a lease for $6,000 in 1995. The landlord reportedly sought to increase the rent to around $700,000 per year-or $58,000 per month-this past year. And Morellet was left with little choice but to close shop after a period of unsuccessful negotiation.