Monday, December 13, 2004

The New York Times
Dec. 13, 2004


A front-page article on July 1, 2000, about an increase in H.I.V. infections among gay men in San Francisco misstated the given name of the of the city's public health director. He is Dr. Mitchell H. Katz, not Michael. (A reader noted the error recently in an e-mail message.)


Subj: Re: Error in July 1, 2000, NYT story
Date: 12/3/2004 8:07:38 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: David Corcoran
To: (by way of NYT News )

holy guacamole. you'd think there'd be a statute of limitations. however,
if we got it wrong we're obliged to correct it, even at this ridiculously
late date. let me know. thanx dc


Subj: Fwd: Re: Error in July 1, 2000, NYT story
Date: 12/3/2004 8:09:41 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: David Corcoran

Dear Mr. Petrelis:

I inadvertently sent you the e-mail I intended to send our reporter. My
apologies. As I said to him, if we got this wrong we'll correct it. May I
ask how you picked up an error in a four-year-old article?


David Corcoran

>At 12:34 AM 12/1/2004, you wrote:
>>Corrections Editor
>>The New York Times
>>New York, NY
>>Dear Editor:
>>In your July 1, 2000, article about HIV rates in San Francisco by
>>Lawrence K. Altman, the first name of the health chief here is reported
>>The story, which is at
>>mistakenly reported the following:
>>"Dr. Michael H. Katz, the director of the San Francisco Department of
>>Public Health, said his was the first city to make such a link directly."
>>Dr. Katz's first name is Mitchell.
>>You can verify this fact by calling the public affairs office of the San
>>Francisco Department of Public Health at 415-554-2507.
>>I look forward to reading a correction in the next few days about Dr.
>>Katz's correct name in the New York Times.
>>Michael Petrelis
>>San Francisco, CA
>>Ph: 415-621-6267
>David Corcoran
>Assistant Science Editor
>New York Times
>(212) 556-1826


Mr. Corcoran:

Ever since that article appeared on July 1, 2000, full of factual and statistical errors, in my opinion, related to HIV infections in San Francisco, I've tried to persuade the New York Times to run corrections about the story.

Alas, despite mounting evidence over the years that the San Francisco Department of Public Health manipulated HIV numbers, and predictions of skyrocketing transmissions, simply not borne out in the intervening years in the department's HIV data, no correction about mistruths in the Times piece made it into print.

For years, whenever new data emerged from our health department proving the Times' claims wrong, I sent the studies and surveillance reports to Lawrence K. Altman and his superiors, and never heard back from the paper.

In early November, the latest annual HIV epidemiology report for San Francisco was posted to the web, detailing a flat infection rate since 1999. Again, I sent off a letter about the new report, along with a link to it, to the Times and didn't get a reply.

As December 1, World AIDS Day, grew closer I decided it was time to ask the paper to correct its mistake about our health director's first name in the 2000 article. It's Mitchell, not Michael.

And it appears from your emails, that a correction may soon appear in the Times.

Now, if you'll only assign a reporter to revisit the story and its message of alarm and doom, that would be a welcome development in my campaign to have the Times finally report this fact: HIV in San Francisco is stable and has been for years.

Here are links to the latest HIV data for San Francisco:,

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

December 1, 2004

Marin Independent Journal
Marin, CA

Dear Editor:

I applaud your Dec. 1 story about an AIDS patient battling to stay healthy and alive in Marin and current HIV and AIDS statistics.

Of particular interest to me were the following statements from a San Francisco health official, Randy Allgaier.

He said, "The number of people being diagnosed with HIV and AIDS in San Francisco and Marin has decreased over recent years . . . [b]ut increases in sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis, cast an ominous shadow over the future . . . [t]hat is because such increases usually coincide with increases in HIV infection."

The 2003 HIV epidemiology report from San Francisco not only clearly backs up Allgaier on the decreases, it spells out a stable rate: "New data suggest HIV incidence has leveled off in the past few years. Application of the Serological Testing Algorithm for Recent HIV Seroconversion (STARHS) to specimens collected at the anonymous and the STD clinic testing sites finds that recent infection peaked in 1999. From 1999 to 2003, HIV incidence has stabilized." (Source: DPH HIV report, Page 11.)

However, Allgaier's contention that rising syphilis rates equals surging HIV infections is not borne out by a large-scale study on this supposed connection between the infections.

A study published in August 2004 in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that in two epicenters of the AIDS crisis in the United States, San Francisco and Los Angeles, there was no increase in HIV incidence at several testing sites, over a four-year period.

"Despite the high HIV incidence in men with P&S [primary and secondary] syphilis, HIV incidence rates among MSM [men who have sex with men] tested at large public sites in San Francisco and Los Angeles did not increase during 1999-2002." (Source: JAMA HIV Syphilis Study.)

Let's hope the stable HIV transmission rate in San Francisco and Marin remains steady and soon decreases, while doing everything to promote safer sex practices to bring about declines.

Michael Petrelis
2215-R Market Street, #413
San Francisco, CA 94114
Ph: 415-621-6267

Marin Independent Journal

Dec. 1, 2004

The fight goes on for survivors

Improved drugs help San Rafael woman outlive prognosis

By Richard Halstead, IJ reporter

Three times a day, Julie Dowling swallows about a dozen pills that keep her alive.
The San Rafael resident is one of 603 Marin residents living with AIDS or an HIV diagnosis. Many of them will march in a candlelight vigil through San Rafael's Canal Area tonight to commemorate World AIDS Day.

They're the lucky ones - of the 1,018 Marin residents who have contracted AIDS over the years, 649 are dead, county health officials say.

Improved medicines have allowed Dowling and thousands like her to cheat death so far. Dowling worries that the general public may assume the war has been won and forget how tenuous the lifeline is for AIDS survivors. Federal and state funding for AIDS programs in Marin decreased this year.

Dowling, 41, subsists on government disability payments. She doesn't feel well enough to work. She has learned to live with the constant pain in her feet, caused by her medicine, the protease inhibitors.

"It's better than the alternative," Dowling said.

She stopped taking the drugs recently to give her body a rest. She lost weight immediately. She often has flu-like symptoms, feeling nauseous and tired. Due to a condition brought on by AIDS she will never bear children.

Nonetheless, Dowling smiles as she tells her story. She wants people to know that AIDS is no one's fault. Anyone can catch it. That includes middle-class people, who aren't gay and don't use intravenous drugs - people like her.

Dowling was working as a public health nurse in San Diego when she was diagnosed in 1991. She was tested after she accidentally stuck herself with a needle while drawing blood from a patient. The test revealed that she already had advanced AIDS. She would later learn that a former lover slept with men without telling her. He has since died of AIDS.

"I was 28 years old," Dowling said. "Most people were starting their lives. I was ending mine."

Treatments for AIDS then were far less effective. Her doctors told Dowling she could expect to live another four years.

The first few years, Dowling was plagued by opportunistic viruses and bacteria to which her depressed immune system left her vulnerable. She contracted cytomegalovirus, which usually causes blindness and death. It disappeared without treatment.

"That's the grace of God," Dowling said. "I believe I was healed by a miracle."

The AIDS remained, however. She returned to San Rafael, where her parents live, in 1994. Soon after, she moved into a residential home in Santa Rosa, which she shared with five gay men.

"They told me I was Snow White and they were the dwarfs," Dowling said.

During the more than two years she lived there, dozens of men died and were replaced by other AIDS sufferers. Dowling nursed them the best she could, even though she herself was wasting away.

"It was like a dress rehearsal for me," Dowling said. "I'm watching these people die - when is it going to be my turn?"

Then in 1997, Dowling began taking protease inhibitors.

"Within days -it was like this cloud had lifted," Dowling said.

Dowling has been taking the protease inhibitors for eight years now. She lives with the knowledge that her body could develop a tolerance to the drug at any time.

"When is it going to stop working?" she asks herself. "How much longer do I have?"

For Dowling and others like her, nonprofits, such as the Marin AIDS Project and Community Action Marin, are nearly as essential as her medicine.

The Marin AIDS Project advises Dowling on how to apply for government assistance and serves as her advocate. It has also matched her with a volunteer, who gives her emotional support. Community Action Marin operates the HIV Pantry, which supplies food to people living with HIV and AIDS.

Government funding for such services in Marin declined this year. The amount of federal money was cut 15 percent to about $1 million, said Sparkie Spaeth, a manager in the county's Health and Human Services Department. State funding for AIDS prevention was reduced by about 33,000 to $131,645.

The legislation that authorized federal outlays to care for AIDS sufferers is up for renewal next year, said Randy Allgaier, a San Francisco official in charge of allocating Marin its share of the funds. There is concern that Congress will alter the Ryan White CARE Act so that federal money can no longer be spent on ancillary services such as case management, mental health and transportation, Allgaier said.

The number of people being diagnosed with HIV and AIDS in San Francisco and Marin has decreased over recent years, Allgaier said. But increases in sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis, cast a ominous shadow over the future, Allgaier said. That is because such increases usually coincide with increases in HIV infection, he said.

And the while the numbers are encouraging in Marin, the disease continues to rage throughout the rest of the world.

According to the United Nations, there were 35.7 million adults and 2.1 million children living with HIV at the end of 2003. During 2003, 4.8 million new people became infected with the virus. By the end of October, AIDS had killed 78,000 Californians.

Contact Richard Halstead via e-mail at RHalstead@MarinIJ .com

Monday, November 22, 2004

The 2003 HIV/AIDS epidemiology report from the San Francisco Department of Public Health was recently released, showing a dramatic leveling of new HIV infections, and once and for all proving a July 1, 2000, front-page story in the New York Times about HIV rates here was wrong.

The executive summary of the new report states the "HIV/AIDS epidemic has taken another turn in San Francisco. Previously, we reported that HIV transmission was resurgent among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the late 1990s. Our conclusion was based on rising trends in sexual risk behavior, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and, in several studies, HIV incidence itself. We now detect a more complex pattern in the HIV epidemic.

"New data suggest HIV incidence has leveled off in the past few years. Application of the Serological Testing Algorithm for Recent HIV Seroconversion (STARHS) to specimens collected at the anonymous and the STD clinic testing sites finds that recent infection peaked in 1999. From 1999 to 2003, HIV incidence has stabilized."

Here's what the Times' chief medical correspondent, Lawrence K. Altman, reported back in 2000.

"A small but sharp rise in new infections with the virus that causes AIDS has been detected among gay men in San Francisco over the last three years, San Francisco health officials said yesterday . . . [and that the] rise is deeply troubling because it was seen in San Francisco, one of the principal centers of the AIDS epidemic that was first detected in 1981. Thus, the rise could signal a new wave of infections there and elsewhere, San Francisco health officials said."

To drive a scary point home, Altman noted that "Dr. Ronald O. Valdiserri, an AIDS expert at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said his agency had not reviewed the San Francisco findings. But, if confirmed, the findings 'are very serious and important,' Dr. Valdiserri said in an interview."

But, if the findings are not confirmed four years later, will the Times do the journalistically honorable thing and revisit and update the story, reflecting new data?

One of the reasons why HIV has stabilized among gay men in San Francisco, according to the new report, is because the "widespread use of [anti-AIDS drug cocktails] may also dampen HIV incidence as lower viral loads translate into lower risk of transmission."

So the drugs many of us AIDS patients are taking not only help keep us alive, prevent opportunistic infections, boost T-cell counts, reduce HIV viral loads, but they also appear to play a significant role in stopping new HIV transmissions. This is good news that simply has not been reported in the Times, other mainstream media and the gay and AIDS press.

This new HIV data comes at a time when the San Francisco health department has been waging social marketing campaigns about supposed increases in other STDs for gay men.

First, the 2003 report says the "data on male gonococcal proctitis suggest some of the increase in reported male rectal gonorrhea may be due to increased screening." In other words, more tests for STDs is probably a strong factor in why there are more cases being detected.

Second, even with a climb in the STD infection rates, it is not equaling an increase in HIV infections.

In my opinion, it says much about what is wrong with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, HIV prevention groups here, and the press.

When flimsy evidence was produced in 2000 to herald an alleged skyrocketing of HIV infections, those entities seized upon the questionable evidence for more government funding and bogus, alarming news accounts.

Now, new research is released documenting a stable HIV transmission rate, and public health officials along with their counterparts in the private sector, remain silent, while reporters ignore the latest findings.

Do yourself a favor and read the 2003 HIV report for San Francisco. It's at You might also read check out Altman's July 1, 2000, article at

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Out of simple curiosity, and owning a single share of stock in the New York Times Company, I checked out the paper's Neediest Cases IRS 990 tax return. I want to know about every publicly available document related to the corporation that owns the nation's most influential publication.

One of the most laudable aspects of the Neediest Cases Fund is that all of the administrative costs are borne by the New York Times. None of the money donated to it goes to overhead, salaries, capacity building or other expenses. All contributions are passed along to other social welfare charities in the New York City area.

The FY 2003 IRS 990 return for the Neediest Cases Fund revealed startling information about the salaries of the top six executive officers of the company, who also comprise the board of directors of the fund. The return clearly explains the compensation listed is for service to the company, not the charity.

My hunch is that in the newspaper world, these pay levels are not out of line, but I will leave it to other media watchdogs to compare the New York Times' executives' compensation with other daily publications.

But I find it enormously ironic that I learned of the compensation by reading the tax return for the paper's Neediest Cases Fund (emphasis mine).

Here's the link to the most current IRS 990 for the fund, along with the salary information:

Russell T. Lewis, President

Solomon B. Watson IV, VP

Stuart P. Stoller, VP

James Lessersohn, Sr. VP

Rhonda L. Brauer, Secretary

R. Anthony Benten, Treasurer

Kind of odd that publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr is not a member of the fund's board, considering his father served in that capacity up until his retirement in 1997.

The IRS 990 return for the fund for that year shows what Arthur "Punch" Sulzberger took home in pay for his last year as publisher.

Here's the link and information:

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Chairman of the Board

By the way, my last dividend check from the New York Times was for a whopping $0.16! Good thing I purchased the stock for political, not monetary, reasons.

The oddest thing about the money trail I followed for President Bush's Attorney General nominee, Alberto R. Gonzales, was that he apparently made a donation to a Democrat, former Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen. I couldn't find any record at showing a donation to Bentsen, but $25 was returned to Gonzeles from Bentsen's campaign.

No surprise Gonzales contributed to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-TX, back in 1993. His $500 donation to her is no reason for her to recuse herself from voting to confirm him to be the new Attorney General, according to Kenyon Brown of the Senate Ethics Committee who spoke with me on the phone about the donation yesterday.

This link,, should take you directly to Gonzales' filings as a candidate for and justice on the Texas Supreme Court. If that link does not work, go to and look for the contributions search function.

You can find which individuals and corporations gave Gonzales money, and how he spent the money raised at the Texas ethics commission web site.

2/16/1993 $500.00
VINSON & ELKINS -[Contribution]
[Senate Image Not Available from FEC]

7/11/1994 $200.00
VINSON & ELKINS -[Contribution]

2/26/1993 -$25.00
-[contribution refunded to individual]
[Senate Image Not Available from FEC]

10/23/1991 $200.00
VINSON & ELKINS -[Contribution]

7/7/1992 $200.00
VINSON & ELKINS -[Contribution]

10/5/1992 $200.00
VINSON & ELKINS -[Contribution]

Monday, November 15, 2004

Knut Royce, of Newsday's Washington bureau, wrote yesterday that heads are rolling at the Central Intelligence Agency for political reasons.

>"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."<

( Source:,0,4055608,print.story?coll=ny-top-headlines)

Checking the Federal Election Commission records available at, using the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA as the search terms, I discovered six CIA employees made contributions to Bush/Cheney or the RNC, and gave a total of $6,701.

On the other hand, only four CIA employees donated to Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign. Their contributions came to $1,750.

Donations to either Bush/Cheney or the RNC:

4/1/2004 $1,000.00

4/28/2004 $1,000.00

Albrecht, Paula S Ms.
6/24/2004 $1,000.00
Herndon, VA 20170
Central Intelligence Agency/Analyst -[Contribution]

Albrecht, Paula S Ms.
8/23/2004 $500.00
Herndon, VA 20170
Central Intelligence Agency/Analyst -[Contribution]

Bates, Daniel B Mr.
2/6/2004 $201.00
Falls Church, VA 22043
C.I.A./Programmer -[Contribution]

Gunther, Richard M Mr.
2/19/2004 $250.00
Reston, VA 20195
C.I.A./Analyst -[Contribution]

Mungle, Henry Mr.
3/26/2003 $500.00
Alexandria, VA 22315
C.I.A./Polygraph Examiner/Security -[Contribution]

11/5/2003 $500.00
C.I.A./ENGINEER -[Contribution]

3/31/2004 $1,500.00
C.I.A./ENGINEER -[Contribution]

Payne, David P Mr.
7/28/2004 $250.00
Warrenton, VA 20186
C.I.A./Special Agent -[Contribution]

Donations to Kerry:

Byrne, Catherine
6/28/2004 $500.00
Arlington, VA 22204
CIA/ANALYST -[Contribution]

Loftus, Robert
3/4/2004 $250.00
Alexandria, VA 22305
CIA/analyst -[Contribution]

Soderholm, Randy
7/25/2004 $250.00
Reston, VA 20191
CIA/ENGINEER -[Contribution]

Voss, Lyn A Ms
7/21/2004 $250.00
Falls Church, VA 22046
cia/analyst -[Contribution]

Voss, Lyn A Ms
6/4/2004 $250.00
Falls Church, VA 22046
cia/analyst -[Contribution]

Voss, Lyn A Ms
6/30/2004 $250.00
Falls Church, VA 22046
cia/analyst -[Contribution]

Needless to say, it will be interesting to see if the purge of CIA employees deemed disloyal to Bush and his agenda includes the four people listed above who sent checks to Kerry.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Unlike other media outlets that are blatantly commercial and profit-driven, National Public Radio is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit. As such, NPR must annually file an IRS 990 report, which is available on the web at

The latest IRS 990 for NPR for FY 2003 shows it had $120,017,283 in revenue, of which only $204,508 was in the form of government grants.

One of the most fascinating things about any nonprofit's IRS 990 return is the information provided for pay levels of the top employees and directors.

Here are the highest salaries listed for journalists at NPR:

Robert Siegel, Senior Host
Compensation: $259,777
Benefits: $22,971
Total: $282,748

Robert Edwards, Senior Host
Compensation: $256,942
Benefits: $31,150
Total: $288,092

Scott Simon, Senior Host
Compensation: $214,950
Benefits: $25,947
Total: $240,897

Michele Norris, Host
Compensation: $199,039
Benefits: $3,207
Total: $202,246

Steve Inskeep, Correspondent
Compensation: $175,551
Benefits: $26,827
Total: $202,378

These are the figures listed for the NPR executives and officers:

Kevin Klose, CEO
Compensation: $309,080
Benefits: $62,962
Expenses: $5,957
Total: $377,999

Kenneth Stern, Executive VP
Compensation: $195,395
Benefits: $58,722
Total: $254,117

Bruce Drake, VP
Compensation: $162,011
Benefits: $30,347
Total: $192,358

Jeffrey Dvorkin, Ombudsman
Compensation: $148,837
Benefits: $25,611
Total: $174,448

This is the direct link to the latest IRS 990 return for National Public Radio:

Frankly, I don't think there's anything wrong with these salary and benefit levels, but I do think NPR should inform its audience, especially on its web site, that it is a nonprofit and their IRS 990 return is posted at the GuideStar site.