Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

Happy 40th Roe v Wade

January 23, 2013

Some interesting bits from around the web…

Kate Manning on the history of abortion and what happens when desperate women are forced to take matters into their own hands.

PPFA has launched a new effort to move away from labels  and emphasize that every woman’s circumstance differs: Not in her shoes.

Pro-life has moved away from working to reverse Roe v. Wade, because restrictions at the state-level have been much more effective.

135 provisions to restrict access to abortion were enacted since 2011.

Katie J. M. Baker at Jezebel covers the stories of abortion providers who risk their lives every day.

5 things you don’t know about abortion – Interesting piece by Irin Carmon at Salon.


Victory for CA Families – Prop 8 Overturned (for now)

February 7, 2012

This afternoon, a federal appeals court found that Proposition 8 – the 2002 voter-approved ban on same sex marriage in California – is in violation of the U.S. Constitution.  The 2-1 ruling will have  little bearing on the struggle for same-sex equality in other states, however, because the ruling was based on the fact the freedom to marry a same-sex partner was – at one time – granted to Californians. The decision states:

“Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted.”

And further:

Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.” [Em. mine]

It’s been a long road for California on this issue, and no one believes that this ruling is the end of the line. In fact, yet another “stay” is expected to be placed on the ruling – preventing same-sex marriage while a third such ruling is appealed.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) condemns the ruling and doggedly vows to take the matter to the Supreme Court. Interestingly, NOM’s The Threat to Marriage page conatins absolutely no explanation of how same-sex marriage threatens marriage. Go figure.

Op-ed columnist Frank Bruni had a piece in the NY Times yesterday that gives a good perspecitive on this. He points to the policies of forward-thinking companies as an augur of times to come:

…same-sex marriage, enacted in New York last June and now under serious consideration in Maryland, Maine and New Jersey. It’s the future. And the response of corporate behemoths based in the state of Washington reflects that.

In addition to Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon spoke up for same-sex marriage. All have surely taken note of several polls over the last year suggesting — for the first time — that a slight majority of Americans supports it. All have no doubt taken even greater note of a generational divide. In a Gallup poll, 70 percent of people in the 18-to-34 age range favored same-sex marriage…

More so than politicians, corporations play the long game, trying to engender loyalty for decades to come, and they’re famously fixated on consumers in their 20s and 30s.

Further info:

Prop 8 Trial Tracker – a project of the Courage Campaign Institute

Prop 8: The Musical – The 2009 classic. Still funny & compelling.

Lying for the “Cure” – Eskow Points Out Komen’s Hypocrisy

February 4, 2012

Komen’s “this is not politically motivated” assertion was hard to swallow from the start. Especially considering:

  • Its newly appointed anti-abortion VP of Community Relations
  • Its ultra-quiet, but simultaneous decision to sever relationships with any organization funding stem cell research (despite the fact that this research has advanced our knowledge of, provides treatment for and shows promise of providing a CURE for many diseases including CANCER)
  • The oddly stuffy way it handled both the announcement and its backlash. (Mary Elizabeth Williams has an insightful piece on Salon about how a truly non-political decision would have been handled in contrast with the shocked, “why is everyone being mean?” response exhibited by Komen founder Nancy Brinker.)

But, in the inevitable digging that has followed, any ounce of Komen’s remaining credibility on this issue has been entirely shredded. It’s the one question that – at least initially – no one thought to ask:

Of all the organizations that Komen gives money to, the only one under any local, state or federal investigation is Planned Parenthood?

As Richard Eskow reveals, the answer is of course not, not remotely.

A cursory look at Komen’s grantees reveals several under federal investigation, including Harvard, Yale, the University of Texas, Penn State, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

And, although Komen stated no new policies surrounding the legal behavior of its donors, it’s curious to see – when examining even just the super donors of its Million Dollar Council Elite, how many are under federal investigation for such transgressions as faulty auto parts, pension fraud, and mortgage fraud.

So now that that we know we’ve been lied to – and that Komen puts political agenda above saving the lives of cancer victims, what’s next?

Eskow writes:

…I plan to give more money to both Planned Parenthood and another cancer research organization as a result of this incident. I hope others will do the same. This could all turn out for the best, especially if the fall of one organization raises breast cancer awareness and increases support for treatment and research.

Something to think about…

Susan G. Komen & Planned Parenthood: Some thoughts on the backlash

February 1, 2012

As promised, I found a petition site in response Susan G. Komen For The Cure’s announcement yesterday that they will no long provide grants to Planned Parenthood. The petition is managed by Credo Mobile, who, according to the site, is “proud to be the largest corporate sponsor of Planned Parenthood”.

More information has come to light about the new ultra-conservative V.P of Public Policy. Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon writes:

Komen says the move is just about “newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations that are under investigation by local, state or federal authorities.” You know what else is pretty “new” around Komen? Its senior vice president of public policy, Karen Handel. During the Sarah Palin-endorsed, Tea Party favorite’s 2010 campaign for governor of Georgia, Handel declared, “I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood,” making clear that she “strongly supports” laws prohibiting “the use of taxpayer funds for abortions or abortion-related services.” She did, however, emphasize that she “strongly support(s) the noble work of crisis-pregnancy centers.”

There has been an incredible blast of fervor over the past 24 hours. Some of it, in my opinion, unhelpful. (A post on feminsiting takes time to poke fun at the tackiness of some of Komen’s fund raising products, as does – to a lesser degree – the article I quoted above. But Williams does shed light on some head-scratching tid-bits about the charity. Most strikingly,

according to Komen’s own financial records, it spends almost “a million dollars a year in donor funds” aggressively going after other organizations that dare to use the phrase “for the cure” – including small charities like Kites for a Cure, Par for the Cure, Surfing for a Cure, Cupcakes for a Cure, and even a dog-sledding event called Mush for the Cure. Let me just give you that number again. 

This seems childish and rather uncharitable for a charitable for a non-profit, no? Especially considering that only 24% of funds go to research for a cure. It actually pigeon-holes them since awareness and early detection are as much a part of what they accomplish.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about the backlash. Especially the huge numbers of people who have vowed to give more money to PPFA (yay!) and to stop any support of Komen (huh?). I understand the practicality of it. Hitting any organization in the wallet is the swiftest way to provoke change. But the principal of it is completely backward.

If we find fault in the politicization of women’s health – how can we punish an organization that seeks to improve and save women’s lives for political reasons?

It’s the same with anti-abortioners, who steadfastly refuse to acknowledge a single positive thing that Planned Parenthood provides for low-income women. Not even all that they do to prevent unwanted pregnancies in their communities. When they regard PPFA, they need to see only abortion, to the point that they will outright lie to make sensational and baseless claims.

I don’t agree with Komen’s decision. It makes me angry and I’ll raise as much awareness as I can to try to reverse it – or (as seems to be happening) help rile enough economic support from the public that PPFA will not feel a loss of funds at all. But I won’t turn my back on everything Komen does because I don’t like this one thing. If they were misappropriating funds, if donations went to huge salaries and not to research or awareness – I’d cut all support because my money wouldn’t be doing any good.

If I get a chance to do a race for Komen, I’ll take it. If someone tells me about an event, I’ll go. To do anything different would be to walk in the footsteps of pro-lifers who previously pulled the plug on Komen (and any org that gave a dime to PPFA).

Maybe I’m impractical. But if Komen’s ability to effect women’s lives are impacted by this decision the way Planned Parenthood’s may now be – who wins?

Marc Gold – Changing the world, one life at a time…

December 22, 2010

Marc with a child in CambodiaHe’s been called a “Shoestring Philanthropist”, a “Philanthropic Traveler”, and a “Grassroots Philanthropist”. Any way you say it, Gold gives. He gives slowly, simply, changing one life at a time…

Parade did a “season of giving” article on Marc Gold and his organization 100 Friends. It explains the start of Gold’s philanthropy:

In 1989, while touring India, Gold met Thinlay, a Tibetan refugee, who invited him to his home. Thinlay’s wife, Tsering, welcomed him but kept holding her ears—she was suffering from a painful, deadly infection. Gold found her a physician and bought the antibiotic she needed. It cost just $1—and saved Tsering’s life. Then Gold spent $35 on a hearing aid so she could return to work and her son could go to school. “When I pressed the switch to turn on the hearing aid, her burst of joy burned into my brain,” Gold recalls. “I was thunderstruck, realizing I could restore her hearing for a relative pittance. I thought you had to be wealthy to do such things.”

He came home and wrote to 100 people, asking for donations in any amount. Two years later he returned to India with $2,200 to give. In his own words he strives to:

“…put the money to work in the most compassionate, appropriate, culturally compatible, constructive and practical manner possible. You put the donation into my hands and I put the funds directly into the hands of the needy individual or family, or a small trusted grassroots organization helping them.”

To date, 100 Friends has dispensed more than $550,000 throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East. His goal is to give away $1 million, which, a friend jokes, would make him a “reverse millionaire”.

Although Gold usually gives in relatively small, one-time amounts, the impact can be enormous.

  • A school for 30 children in Indonesia whose parents have leprosy. Previously the children spent their days begging in the streets for their families’ survival.
  • Prostheses and physical therapy for a 33 year old women from Hanoi who lost her legs when hit by a truck. She will now operate her own small business selling coffee from a hand cart.
  • A wheelchair for the mother of a little girl who otherwise struggled to push her in a wooden cart.

Although most of the giving is individual, 100 Friends has several initiatives, including:

  • Sister school projects that link students in the U.S. with schools and orphanages in developing countries.
  • 100 Schools Program, which aims to build 100 schools in poor areas. Five have been built so far, including a school in Afghanistan for children who had been learning in tents. About a recent trip to Tibet, Gold writes of

“…one of many students is receiving a $150 scholarship – that’s for one year’s tuition and fees. Without these funds, these students will have to herd sheep (literally!) for the rest of their lives.” [Em mine.]

  • Children’s Medical Program, which has paid for the treatment of burns, accidents, heart conditions and birth defects.
  • Nepali Girls Program – $33 buys a cow or pig for a family in Nepal, whose extreme poverty would otherwise force them to sell one or more daughters – as young as six – into bonded servitude, which is another word for domestic slavery, and through which many girls are forced into prostitution.
  • Sponsored Education – As little as $10 per month can keep a child in school.

Gold pays his travel expenses himself and has little overhead. At least 85% of the donations to 100 Friends goes directly to those in need. As he puts it:

“You give to me and I give to them.”

Marc with a man in KabulFurther reading:

Marc Gold: Grassroots Philanthropist – Article by Mike Lippitt at

100 Friends Newsletters – Lots of info, pictures, stories of changed lives, and ways to give.

Donate – Help Gold change a few lives on his next trip.

“The Forgotton War” – NYT Covers Lisa Shannon in the Congo

February 24, 2010

NYTimes did a video piece on Lisa Shannon and her volunteer work in the DRC.

Five years ago Lisa founded Run for Congo Women, a “grassroots movement benefiting Women for Women International’s Congo program,” which began with a lone 30-mile trail run, that would help change the lives of 80 Congolese women and their hundreds of children. Today she has quit her job and volunteers full time in DRC and Washington . Her book “1000 Sisters: My Journey to the Worst Place on Earth to be a Woman” will be published this July by Seal Press.

Although this war has claimed over 5.4 million lives, and its brutality breaches every code of war (mass rape and mutilation – to even the elderly and small children – is a daily reality), it gets virtually no news coverage. Ironically, the involvement of this young American generates most of the stories you’ll find, especially recently.

Nicholas Kristof, who interviews her on the video, writes about meeting one of the women Lisa has helped:

I found myself stepping with Lisa into a shack here […] Lisa had come to visit a woman she calls her sister, Generose Namburho, a 40-year-old nurse.

Generose’s story is numbingly familiar: extremist Hutu militiamen invaded her home one night, killed her husband and prepared to rape her. Then, because she shouted in an attempt to warn her neighbors, they hacked off her leg above the knee with a machete.

As Generose lay bleeding near her husband’s corpse, the soldiers cut up the amputated leg, cooked the pieces on the kitchen fire, and ordered her children to eat their mother’s flesh. One son, a 12-year-old, refused. “If you kill me, kill me,” he told the soldiers, as his mother remembers it. “But I will not eat a part of my mother.”

So they shot him dead. The murder is one of Generose’s last memories before she blacked out, waking up days later in the hospital where she had worked. [Em. mine]

Yes, this is a lifelong crusade for Lisa Shannon, but if you’ve been moved even partially by anything you heard in that video, or read here: First person stories of Congolese women, or saw here: The Greatest Silence – trailer for Palme D’Or Winner, or here: Lumo – trailer for documentary about one woman’s story… you can help without so much as leaving your chair or inconveniencing your life.

Sponsor a woman through Women for Women International for only $27/month. Money goes to:

Rights Awareness and Leadership Training

designed to help women understand their unique rights: politically, as survivors of war, ethnic and religious conflict and as voices in bringing about stability; economically, in understanding their rights to earn a fair income; legally, in acquiring skills to fight discrimination, domestic violence and other civil wrongs; and personally, with respect to understanding human reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth, nutrition, stress and stress management, and the spread, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Vocational and Technical Skills Training

Local instructors provide vocational skills training in carpentry, leatherwork, bee-keeping, jewelry-making, traditional folk art, shoe repair and other areas so women can find a job or start their own home-based businesses. Technical training in savings, basic bookkeeping and marketing may also be provided.

and Income Generation Support

To help women transform their new skills into financial independence and sustainability, Women for Women International provides microcredit loans and other income generation support. This support helps ensure that women are provided with an option to continue supporting themselves and their families after their participation in the Sponsorship […] programs ends.

I don’t know about you, but I spend more than $27/month at Starbucks. Think what it can do in a war-ravaged country for a woman who has endured atrocities we can barely imagine…

Other info and ways to give:

Raise Hope for Congo

Stop Rape in DRC

TEN REASONS WHY Eastern Congo is the Most Dangerous Place on Earth for Women

Congo’s Rape Epidemic Worsens

Earlier Blackbird Posts:

“Like Rwanda But Worse” Rape As a Weapon of War in the Congo [Part 1: History of the Conflict

Rape As a Weapon of War in the Congo [Part 2: The Savagery]

Rape As a Weapon of War in the Congo [Part 3: The Healing and What You Can Do To Help]

“The Greatest Silence” – DRC Documentary Wins at Sundance

Helping Haiti – Facts & Links…

January 14, 2010

We’re all aware of the devastating earthquake to hit Haiti this week. Here are some quick facts and links to how you can help.


  • The most violent quake of the past two centuries struck the densely-populated epicenter of a country the size of Maryland.
  • Nearly 1/3 of the population (approximaately 3 million) have been severely impacted and are in need of emergency aid.
  • 50,000 are estimated dead.

According to Haiti’s President Préval:

“Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed. There are a lot of schools that have a lot of dead people in them.”

(For a more intimate picture check out the New York Times’ interactive map with audio. Or this slide show.)


Needs include medical supplies, food, shelter, and water tablets to prevent an outbreak of cholera. The high level of destruction has slowed the flow of aid into the country – due to wrecked landing strips and obstructions to traveling over land. The lack of an exisitng emergency management system has further impeded aid.

According to CNN:

Most organizations are asking for monetary donations. They are not seeking material items, like clothes or food, or volunteers at this time.

These agencies have set up phone lines, online donation pages and even texting for individuals to contribute to their relief efforts.

They’ve compiled a great list of agencies working in the relief effort.

More info:

List of organizations from The Nation.

American Red Cross details needs for Haiti. You can even donate a quick $10 by texting “Haiti” to 90999.

Tips for choosing  an organization from GuideStar database of non-profits and info-hub on giving.

Or just Google “Haiti Relief Organizations” and you’ll have more information that you will reasonably need.

Newly Released Documents Show Bishop Egan’s Chilling Disconnect

December 3, 2009


12,000 pages documenting the 2002 investigations into sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic diocese of Bridgeport CT were released last week, after the diocese lost a seven-year legal battle to keep them sealed. The documents include memos, administrative records, and testimony surrounding twenty-three lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by seven of the diocese’s priests. 448 of these pages transcribe the testimony of the diocese’s bishop at the time – Edward Egan.

Egan admitted to shielding accused priests, often relocating, and, at times, promoting them. The lawsuits were settled in 2002 and Egan was subsequently promoted to cardinal and then archbishop of New York.

In 2002, news of the lawsuits broke and, in the wake of the ensuing scandal, then New York Cardinal Egan released a  letter to his current parishioners expressing regret.

”Over the past 15 years, in both Bridgeport and New York, I consistently sought and acted upon the best independent advice available to me from medical experts and behavioral scientists. ‘It is clear today that we have a much better understanding of this problem […] If in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.”

Victims, dubious of his sincerity, regarded the letter as an empty PR maneuver. Paul Mones, attorney for several victims, was especially unimpressed, (as quoted in the New York Times), ”It is getting off easy to say the behavior of the church was a mistake. It was not a negligent, unthinking action; it was a conscious plan to prevent scandal and to protect the interests of the church.” [Em. mine]

In another statement released in 2002  Egan vows, “I will do everything in my power to ensure the safety and security of each child.” Yet, there is no sign Egan has done anything at all to bring truth to light, punishment to criminals, and safety to potential future victims. Justice to past victims seems not even on his radar.

And then there is Egan’s testimony, which was never supposed to come to light, and in which he unflinchingly defends his decision to repeatedly shield and relocate accused priests, neglect to alert authorities, and his disbelieve accusations as a matter of course.

Sound bites include:

Incidentally, these things don’t happen, and we are talking about ifs.”

And when challenged on this,

“These things happen in such small numbers.”

And when questioned about Rev. Raymond Pcolka, who was accused by 12 former parishioners of abuses including forced oral and anal sex and beatings,

“I am not aware of those things. I am aware of the claims of those things, the allegations of those things. I am aware that there are a number of people who know one another, some are related to one another, have the same lawyers and so forth.” [Em. mine]

He seems to regard prevalence of sexual abuse by clergy as minimal at best. The Times article summarizes:

“Bishop Egan, the fact that 19 individuals have come forward and made claims,” [attorney for plantiff] asked about Father Pcolka’s case, “you don’t consider that to be a significant number of individuals?”

The bishop waited while his lawyer quibbled over the number 19, then answered that considering there were 360,911 registered Catholics in the diocese, “I do not consider that a significant segment or factor.”

“Would you agree with me, Bishop Egan,” the lawyer pressed, “that if one person, one individual, has been affected by the sexual abuse of a clergy member, when that person was a child, that that’s far too much to accept in any diocese?”

“It would not be a significant portion of the diocese,” he replied.

He goes further to self-congratulate the diocese for such low rates of abuse

“It’s marvelous, when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have even been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything.” [Em mine]

How can you prove something that is never investigated? Such deeply twisted logic, denial, and chilling disconnect from reality appears to be shared by Egan’s Bridgeport predecessor, Bishop Curtis, who admitted to keeping, then destroying records on accused priests and who asserted his belief that pedophilia isn’t a a disease, but a “more incidental” condition.

So how does Egan reconcile his promise that “Should any priest sexually abuse a child, he will be removed from pastoral ministry,” with his continuing penchant for uniformly turning a cold ear to the pleas of victims and their families and allowing such soul-crushing abuses to continue?

Copious amounts of skewed logic and denial.

The Washington Post did a piece on the videotaped testimony from a 1997 lawsuit against the diocese when a former parishioner,  Frank Martinelli,  testified that Fr. Laurence Brett had sexually assaulted him three times as a teenager in 1962 and 1963, including biting him during oral sex. Brett was transferred.  In his testimony, Egan seeks to absolve himself (Bishop of the CT diocese at the time) by claiming – incredulously – that under the strict hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church

“…diocesan priests were “self-employed” and not the bishop’s responsibility”

In further testimony

Martinelli’s attorney asked Egan if he would suspend any priest who was discovered to have sexually assaulted a minor.

“I would have to know the complete circumstances,” Egan replied.

The lawyer then laid out a hypothetical case with a fact pattern identical to the Martinelli case. (By this time, Egan was aware of church files showing that Brett had admitted assaulting Martinelli.)

What if this priest was a teacher, the lawyer asked, and sexually assaulted a student and bit the student’s penis?

“That would be sufficient cause [for suspension], I’m sure, in many bishops’ minds,” Egan responded.

Would it be sufficient cause in your mind?

“I would have to know all of the details,” Egan replied.

Egan admits that he met with Brett in 1990, knowing that Brett had admitted to sexual abuses. In a memo immediately after that meeting he wrote that Brett “made a good impression on me, he spoke with grace,” and “I’ll be inclined to write [him] a letter encouraging him to go on with his work.”

Eventually the diocese was flooded with so many accusations involving Brett that Egan was forced to remove him from duty. It is not clear how many children were abused in the interim.

On an encouraging note, although pervasive and far-reaching, this inexcusable minimalization  and denial isn’t quite institution-wide. An op-Ed in the Times last week contrasts Egan’s response with that of Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, following the release of a recent report detailing years of abuse and cover-ups in Ireland:

“The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime in canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the report is that while church leaders — bishops and religious superiors — failed, almost every parent who came to the diocese to report abuse clearly understood the awfulness of what was involved.”

Martin speaks to what Egan appears to avoid all thought of – the children, the victims, the now-adults who try to refit the pieces of lives that have been shattered.

Hope, Concern – World AIDS Day 2009

December 1, 2009

December 1st 2009 is the 21st annual World AIDS Day, nearly 28 years following the first diagnosis of the disease in June 1981. Great strides have been made against the disease over the decades. Rates of infection have continued to decline, due in part to medical advances that have reduced the likelihood of transmission through pregnancy, the cumulative effect of global education and prevention programs, and a slow reduction in the stigma of AIDS that encourages earlier and more frequent testing.

Despite this, there is still much to be done. The World Health Organization reports that nearly half of the 9.5 million people who need anti-retroviral treatments (ART) don’t receive it – that’s roughly 5.5 million untreated people. And while rates of infection have slowed, there are still 7400 new infections every day, 1200 of which are children.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé calls for an end to the stigma, discrimination, and criminallization that prevents education, testing, and treatment in many parts of the world. In his 2009 World AIDS Day address:

On this World AIDS Day we are filled with both hope and concern.

Hope because significant progress has been made towards universal access. New HIV infections have dropped. Fewer children are born with HIV. And more than 4 million people are on treatment.

Concern because 28 years into the epidemic the virus continues to make inroads into new populations; stigma and discrimination continue to undermine efforts to turn back the epidemic. The violation of human rights of people living with HIV, women and girls, men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and sex workers must end.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on “all countries to live up to their commitments to enact or enforce legislation outlawing discrimination against people living with HIV and members of vulnerable groups”. On this World AIDS Day, let us work urgently to remove punitive laws and practices and put an end to discrimination against and criminalization of people affected by HIV.

(It’s hard not to think of the proposed Ugandan legislation criminalizing repeated homosexuality with life imprisonment or death by hanging.)

On the home front, when establishing the Office of National AIDS Policy last June, President Obama noted the heavy impact AIDS continues to have even in the US:

“‘When one of our fellow citizen becomes effected every nine and a half minutes, the epidemic effects all Americans.”

It’s heartening that as a country we’ve made such progress as repealing the global gag rule, dropping the HIV travel ban, and Washington D.C.’s hosting the 2012 International AIDS conference for the first time in a decade. Yet, the Obama administration has come under fire from AIDS avocacy groups who criticize the lack of funds allocated to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Health GAP, Africa Action, Treatment Action Group and the Global AIDS Alliance released a report on PREFAR’s 2010 funding:

“Despite repeated public commitments to expand funding for successful global AIDS programs, the first budget request to Congress prepared by President Obama, for FY2010, would for the first time essentially flat-fund U.S. global AIDS investments—it will not even keep pace with global medical inflation, estimated at 4-10% this year.

U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Eric P. Goosby, MD, stated that PREFAR is working to transition from emergency response to long-term sustainability.

“PEPFAR’s five-year strategy will focus on sustainability, and sustainable responses, programs that are country owned and country driven.”

Further Info:

HIV:Reality The UK’s world AIDS Days site. Focuses on stories, videos, photos of people living with HIV/AIDS.

World AIDS Campaign – Lots of up to the minute news.

AIDS Portal – Hub  of 1232 AIDS organizations.

UNAIDS – Founder of World AIDS Day.

Global Commission on Women and AIDS

AIDS 2009 Epidemic Update – Comprehensive Report from UNAIDS (pdf)

”A priest’s collar will protect no criminal,” – Dublin Report Reveals Decades of Abuse

November 30, 2009

Last Thursday a 750-page report was released on the secrecy and coverup of  sexual  abuse by clergy in the Dublin archdiosese. This report comes just six months after the groundbreaking  Ryan Report (spearheaded by Irish high court judge Sean Ryan) released last May. The Ryan report revealed endemic, long-term abuses by nuns and clergy against children in Ireland’s catholic institutions including schools, orphanages, and reformatories. Children were frequently sent to these reforming institutions for such crimes as petty theft, truancy, unwed pregnancy, and dysfunctional family life. Chronic beatings, molestation, rape, and humiliation were the norm for more than six decades. The last of these facilities closed in the 1990’s.

The Ryan report found that when confronted with evidence of such abuse, the sole response of Catholic authorities was to  promptly and discreetly relocate offenders.

“There was evidence that such men took up teaching positions sometimes within days of receiving dispensations because of serious allegations or admissions of sexual abuse. The safety of children in general was not a consideration.”

By providing an evidence-based portrait of the sexual, emotional, and physical damage wrought on thousands of children the Ryan report forced the church to acknowledge the reality of sexual abuse. Survivors formerly silenced for fear of being branded as liars by their catholic community, could tell their stories,  in many cases for the first time,  to investigators.

However, although the Ryan Report shed much needed light upon these crimes, many, including the organization Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA), were angry that no persecutions would result from the findings. In 2004, when news of the investigation surfaced, the Order of Christian Brothers, which was involved in the running of most of the institutions, filed and won a lawsuit that guaranteed all of its members, dead or alive, would remain anonymous in the report.

The latest report, issued this week, focuses specifically on the parish of Dublin – home to four million of Ireland’s Catholics – and the fact that not a single instance of abuse was reported to police until 1995, despite the shocking and long-term pervasiveness of the crimes.  From the NY Times article:

Thursday’s report detailed ”sample” cases of 46 priests who faced 320 documented complaints, although the investigators said they were confident that the priests had abused many more children than that. They cited testimony from one priest who admitted abusing more than 100 children, and another priest who said he abused a child approximately every two weeks for 25 years.

It examines the cover-up and consequential perpetration of these abuses by Catholic authorities, singling out four archbishops in particular: McQuaid, Ryan, McNamara, and Connell, and concludes that each of them sought:

”the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church, and the preservation of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities.”

No apology yet from the Pontiff in Rome, although he was reportedly “visibly upset” upon hearing the findings of the latest report. The lone comment came from Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi who stated, appallingly, that this was “a matter for the local church.”

The Irish government, on the other hand, issued an immediate apology to the public. Justice Minister Dermot Ahern promised that never again would the government treat the Catholic church with deference. “A priest’s collar will protect no criminal,” he said.

My question is this – why haven’t we made a similar pledge in the United States? If this were happening in any other type of institution – school, day care, boy/girl scouts, little league… – there would be no secrets, no privilege of keeping files from the court, no opportunity to dole out punishment “from within.” Is it the political entanglements of those in power that keep them from pulling rank on the Catholic Church?  Why did Speaker Pelosi let a call from the Vatican inform her decisions regarding the new health care bill? Why do most states still have a statue of limitations that uniformly prevents most victims from ever seeking justice (as they would do as an adult who has had years to come to terms with, or even so much as admit, what has been done to them)?

A papal apology is nice, but justice, accountability, and the prevention of further abuse matters so much more.

It’s Veterans Day; Do Something.

November 12, 2009

Veterans: Men and women who have voluntarily curtailed their own freedoms and agreed to give their lives, if  neccessary, in order to protect you and I as citizens of the United States and defend the freedoms and privileges we largely take for granted.

On this Veterans Day, checkout a great post on Huffington –  “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Veterans (And How You Can Support Them)“. It covers  homelessness, PTSD and other types of disability, and issues involving active duty. Lots of links on how you can help.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America do a great job in addressing needs of vets, particularly in an oft-overlooked area: the difficult re-integration into daily civilian life. Checkout their latest outreach PSA:

THIS Ad Was Too “Controversial” to Run During the Superbowl?!

February 2, 2009

The NFL and NBC rejected the following pro-gay marriage ad by the California organization Get to Know Us First. The group planned to target counties that most heavily supported Prop 8 by running their 30-second PSA on the Los Angeles station KNBC, however were prevented from doing so when the spot was rejected by the legal department at the NFL, which asserted that it was banning all advocacy spots for the entire day of programming on Superbowl Sunday. This, however, wasn’t true because yesterday ads for the anti-smoking group and the anti steroids group ran twice each.

When pushed for further explanation, NBC fobbed the question off on the NFL, which failed to provide any concrete reason, vaguely siting “certain restrictions in [their] network television contracts.” The NFL then tried to toss the issue back to NBC, who so far has declined comment.

Earlier this year Los Angeles ABC affiliate KABC rejected ads by Get to Know Us First during the Presidential Inauguration deeming them “too controversial” to run when families were likely to be watching. It can only be assumed – since they won’t explicate – that similar reasoning went behind  the NFL’s/NBC’s decision. (It similarly rejected a pro-life ad, also telling that it was banning all advocacy commercials.)

Let’s go over this again… THIS ad was unsuitable for family viewing:

Yet this ad (Voted a Superbowl 2009 “Winner” from NBC’s L.A. affiliate KNBC) was perfectly suitable for families:

I’m not making a comment on ads targeted to a largely rowdy male, beer swilling, sports loving demographic. I’m making a comment on organizations that block PSAs for certain causes without having the balls to say why.

Didn’t want any “downers”? Wanted humor/sex/sports related ads to fill the entire day? Don’t want to be “political?” Believe that gays shouldn’t have the right to marry?” One way or ther other just say it NBC/NFL, because your excuses are insulting.