Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hurricane Karen Hughes
Hits Central America 12/4

Dear Friends in Central America,

Prepare yourselves for Hurricane Karen and her onslaught of bogus American propaganda from the Bush/Cheney administration. The Karen Hughes democracy tour that's already played in the Middle East and Central Asia, and wasn't such a great hit, is about to play your region and you should prepare accordingly. I'll be monitoring the State Department web site to see how they promote the Hughes road show, and most keenly, the transcripts of her talks with government officials, newspaper reporters and average folks. Here's hoping Hurricane Karen, and the remaining three-plus years of Dubya pass quickly and with as little harm as humanely possible.


Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 30, 2005

Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes to Lead a Delegation to Central America

Under Secretary Karen Hughes will lead a delegation of distinguished private sector business leaders to Central America from December 4-6 to encourage private sector assistance to relief and reconstruction efforts in the area following a series of natural disasters that impacted the economies and quality of life in the region. The delegation includes: Steve Reinemund, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo, Inc.; Bob Lane, Chairman and CEO, Deere & Company; and Maria Lagomasino, CEO for Asset Management Advisors LLC, Affiliate of SunTrust.

The Under Secretary will also be accompanied by Thomas A. Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. The delegation will visit Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

The CEOs’ mandate from the President includes seeing U.S. assistance efforts already underway. The delegation will have high-level bilateral meetings with government officials, and will receive briefings from representatives of the U.S. embassies, the U.S. Southern Command, the public adjuster committee, and non-governmental organizations.
Time Warner Chief's FEC File

To: Jack Shafer

Hey Shafer,

I've just read your column on Time Warner chairman Richard Parson's gag order he tried to impose on reporters covering a recent interview with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, conducted by Time's editor in chief, Norman Pearlstine, and have some information you might be interested in.

You point out, "Lost in the dust-up was a discussion about why Parsons would impose any conditions, well-conceived or otherwise, on the invited audience."

One reason why could be Parson's political donations at the national level, which is quite substantial.

His Federal Election Commission records, on file at, shows he's given a total of $119,750 to GOP candidates, only $12,000 to Democrats, and $73,000 to special interests committees. Overall, since 1988 when he donated money to George Herbert Walker Bush for president, and before and during his tenure at Time Warner chief, Parsons has doled out $204,750 to politicians and causes.

Maybe his GOP leanings were a motivating factor behind his effort to gag the audience at the Scalia talk?

Any man or woman in the press business who can write a check for $25,000 to the Republican National Committee, like Parsons did, on top of the $4,000 he contributed to Dubya; $2,000 in 2000 and again in 2004, has a political agenda.

And, I, for one, think Parsons is not always transparent about his agenda and how he uses his perch at Time Warner to aid in implement his GOP agenda.

Also, has posted an article on Parsons' donations today and is worth reading.
1 Of 5 San Francisco Stations Carries Bush "Victory" Speech

The San Francisco Bay Area in the mornings has five channels that broadcast the news from 7:00 to 9:00 o'clock, and you'd think they'd all carry the president's speech today about a so-called National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.

Well, guess what? Only KPIX, the CBS affiliate, aired the speech as Bush made it in Annapolis. The NBC, ABC and Fox affiliates, along with the independent station KRON, broadcast their regular morning news shows. These four channels referenced the speech in their news crawls at the bottom of the screen.

Could it be the four stations that didn't carry Bush's supposed new strategy for Iraq knew it was, in the words of reporters at Think Progress, a "public relations document" and not worth covering?

From Think Progress
: "After two-and-a-half years and 2,110 U.S. fatalities, the Bush administration finally released a 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq' (NSVI). The problem is, it’s not a new strategy for success in Iraq, it’s a public relations document. The strategy describes what has transpired in Iraq to date as a resounding success and stubbornly refuses to establish any standards for accountability. It dismisses serious problems such as the dramatic increase in bombings as 'metrics that the terrorists and insurgents want the world to use.' Americans understand it’s time for a new course in Iraq. Unfortunately, this document is little more than an extended justification for a President 'determined to stay his course.'"

Is the mainstream media, at least in one major market, no longer willing to slavishly cover Bush when he talks b.s. about our war in Iraq? Are reporters and news editors waking up to Bush's manipulation about his lack of a real strategy to bring the troops home and provide something akin to "victory" in his war?


Home Ownership in San Francisco

Looking for San Francisco, CA, homes for sale? Buying a home FSBO can save you lots of money and time. San Francisco has a hot real estate market and is only getting more competitive.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

National Archives: 336 Alito-related Pages Set for Release

Oh, boy-a, oh, FOIA! Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, the National Archives will not only release 336 pages related to Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, the documents will be available on the web, for anyone to look at, starting on November 30.

Let's be happy the National Archives is not following the terrible example of the Department of Justice, which yesterday made 470 pages of Alito-related files available for 180 minutes for reporters only. Please join me tomorrow and pore over the Alito pages when they're posted on the web.


Press Release
November 29, 200

National Archives to Release Online Materials Relating to Samuel Alito

WHAT: The National Archives at College Park will release 31 documents totaling 336 pages from Record Group 60, Records of the Department of Justice, Files of Charles Cooper and Files of the Attorney General, Edwin Meese III.

These records, consisting of memoranda and other documents, were located in various folders in the files of Mr. Cooper and Mr. Meese during the processing of FOIA requests by the National Archives.

WHERE: The records will be posted on the National Archives web site at:

WHEN: 11:00 A.M. (EST) on Wednesday, November 30, 2005.

# # #

For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-501-5526.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Justice Dept: 470 Pages of Alito Files for 180 Minutes of Examination

How nice of the Justice Department, thanks to a FOIA request, to make legal documents related to Judge Alito available, on a very limited basis today.

Only reporters were granted 180 minutes to peruse 470 pages of information, and my estimation, it would take about 39 seconds to quickly read each page and figure out if the information was newsworthy or worth pursuing further. Not a lot of time to carefully examine documents from our next possible Supreme Court justice.

It's pretty disturbing, as an open records/FOIA advocate, to see the Justice Department release fail to mention anything about making copies of the 470 pages or how members of the general public and advocacy groups can look at the documents.

I'm hoping whoever filed the original FOIA request for the Alito records is appealing the decision to make the records available in such a restricted fashion.


To: Assignment Desk, Daybook Editor
Contact: Justice Department, 202-514-2007
News Advisory:

The Justice Department will make available approximately 470 pages of Office of Legal Counsel documents released pursuant to a FOIA request related to Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., today, Nov. 28, 2005 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST.

WHAT: Approximately 470 pages of Office of Legal Counsel documents released pursuant to a FOIA request regarding Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.

WHEN: Today, November 28, 2005 at 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST

WHERE: Department of Justice (Room 1101), 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20530

NOTE: ALL media MUST PRESENT GOVERNMENT-ISSUED PHOTO ID (such as driver's license) as well as VALID MEDIA CREDENTIALS. Media interested in attending should enter through the Visitor Center at the Constitution Avenue entrance, between Ninth and Tenth Streets. All press inquiries regarding logistics should be directed to the Office of Public Affairs at 202-616-2777.
December 4-10 is Report Antigay Rights Abuses to U.S. State Dept Week

November 28, 2005
For Immediate Release
Contact: Michael Petrelis
Phone: 415-621-6267

Gays Declare December 4-10 Report Antigay Rights Abuses to U.S. State Dept Week

(San Francisco, CA) -- Gays Against Executions today announced the first annual Report Antigay Rights Abuses to the U.S. State Department Week, which is from December 4-10, and will focus on sending documentation of abuses of gay people around the world to be considered for inclusion in the 2006 report on human rights. The deadline for submitting documentation is the end of December, so gays and their allies are asked not to wait until the then to submit reports to the U.S. State Department.

By submitting evidence of the abuse of gay human rights worldwide, people will help improve the U.S. State Department's monitoring of such abuses, and expand a data base that can be used by human rights campaigners pressing for an end to homophobia. The data will also be helpful to corroborate the claims of gay people fleeing persecution and seeking asylum.

The annual human rights report is a comprehensive collection of country summaries and their respect for and adherence to international standards of human rights, and the U.S. State Department is required to present the report to Congress. Since 1990, when only one country's report, Denmark's, mentioned gay rights, the annual report has grown to include summaries of more than four-dozen countries' records, generally abysmal, on gay human rights, in the most recent report for 2005.

"It is an urgent priority for the U.S. State Department to update and expand its documentation of global human rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The massive scale of homophobic persecution worldwide is grossly under-documented in all official human rights reports. OutRage! will be submitting evidence to the U.S. State Department, based on our firsthand evidence from LGBT refugees," said longtime gay campaigned Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, a London-based LGBT organization.

Speaking on behalf of Gays Against Execution, a San Francisco-based committee dedicated to ending capital punishment as an integral gay issue, Michael Petrelis said, "All of our documents, in several languages, about abuses like Iran's executions of gay teenagers and Poland's hostility towards gays attempting to peaceably assemble in the streets, will be shared with the U.S. State Department."

All gays are asked to share copies of key reports about violations of human rights principles and protections that extend to gays, during December 4-10. This week was chosen, in part, because it ends on Saturday, December 10, which is the United Nations' yearly Human Rights Day.

Please note that it is within the U.S. State Department's discretion whether to report an abuse within the annual country reports on human rights practices. It is not feasible to report every abuse that occurs on this or any subject. The department looks for a few key examples to help readers understand the status of human rights in each country.

Sending reports via e-mail is actually better than sending things by postal mail because all mail to the U.S. State Department is irradiated.

Email submissions should be sent to: .

Postal mail goes to:

LeRoy Potts
U.S. Department of State
Office of Country Reports and Asylum Affairs
Room H242
2401 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037

Organizers of the Report Antigay Rights Abuses to the U.S. State Department Week hope materials from gays and our allies around the globe are shared with Mr. Potts and his colleagues, making next year's annual human rights report the most gay-specific inclusive one yet.
U.S. State Dept Condemns Gay Arrests in UAE

Kudos to the U.S. State Department for rather quickly deploring the arrest of gays last week in the United Arab Emirates and remarks from the Interior Ministry about forced medical treatment for the men arrested.

To read the Associated Press story about the arrests last week, click here.


Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 28, 2005

Forced Medical Treatment of UAE Homosexuals

The United States condemns the arrest of a dozen same-sex couples in the United Arab Emirates and a statement by the Interior Ministry spokesman that they will be subjected to government-ordered hormone and psychological treatment.

The arrest of these individuals is part of a string of recent group arrests of homosexuals in the UAE. We call on the government of the United Arab Emirates to immediately stop any ordered hormone and psychological treatment and to comply with the standards of international law.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Gay Muslims Sort Of Against Capital Punishment

With new reports coming out of Iran claiming more homosexuals have been publicly executed, and the gay Muslim group Al-Fatiha issuing a press release about the executions, I've wondered if this group has a position on the death penalty, and, if so, does Al-Fatiha oppose state sanctioned killings.

I've noticed that in two releases since the July hangings of two gay teenagers in Iran, Al-Fatiha references many executions, without saying a word about their own stand on capital punishment.

Their most recent release said: "Reports indicate that Iran's new hard-line government has thus far executed 92 individuals for various crimes deemed punishable by death, since the new hard-line government was elected less than six months ago."

Notice the group is mum about possibly opposing executions, even with 92 recorded in Iran just this year, and that number may be a seriously undercounted figure.

I emailed the founder and leader of Al-Fatiha, Faisal Alam, and asked him to clearly spell out his group's position on capital punishment.

Alam replied, "Al-Fatiha's board of directors approved a stance against the death
penalty about two years ago, but we have not released a public statement in this regard as of yet. One is still being formulated however and will be released by the end of the year."

A follow-up message from Alam provided more details about why it's taking his groups so long to formulate and distribute a stand against the death penalty.

"When folks have asked, such as yourself about Al-Fatiha's position on the death penalty, we have told them that we voted against it, but are still formulating a statement that is inclusive of human rights and theological concerns as queer Muslims," he wrote.

Jeez, is there something wrong with opposing the death penalty, as queer Muslims? And why would the group only tell people about their opposition, if asked? Please don't tell me they're embarrassed by their stand.

It strikes an odd chord, for me, that an organization founded eight years ago to argue for equality and understanding as gay Muslims, has been so shy about advocating for abolition of capital punishment, everywhere in the world, but especially in the Muslim nations that subjects homosexuals to the death penalty.

According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association, ILGA, the following Muslim countries will kill you for being gay: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan and Mauritania.

But these facts in and of themselves have not been enough to persuade Al-Fatiha to publicly, in writing, formally condemn the death penalty.

And even though Al-Fatiha performs a fan dance about the executions, that has not stopped Alam from lecturing other gays, with a special focus on U.S. gays, on the death penalty.

In his August essay about the hanging of the two gay Iranian teenagers and worldwide demonstrations and outrage about the deaths, Alam had plenty to say about capital punishment, without once mentioning if he and his group oppose executions. Let's go over parts of his column and reply to his assertions.

>While we seek to condemn the executions of gay teens in Iran, we must remember that our own country (the United States) is one of only five in the entire world that executes juvenile offenders.

Yes, and some U.S. gays want this practice to immediately end.

>In fact it was only in March 2005 that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the death penalty could not be applied to juveniles who committed crimes when they were under the age of 18. Since 2000, countries that have been known to have executed juvenile offenders include China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Pakistan and the United States.

And despite those awful facts, Al-Fatiha won't officially call for a halt to executions of everyone and in every nation.

>13 of these 21 executions of young people have occurred in the United States. While other governments in the Western world continue to move toward a consensus that the death penalty is an inhumane form of punishment - no matter what the crime - the United States refuses to outlaw capital punishment.

Okay, I understand the stats and have no problem with Alam bashing the U.S. on this matter, heck, I do so myself, but I'd give more credence to his America-bashing and death penalty criticism, if his group was without shame against capital punishment.

>In 2004, China, Iran, the United States, and Vietnam accounted for 97% of the executions recorded by Amnesty International.

One more alarming stat, and I wish he would use the stat to convince the board of Al-Fatiha to get on the stick about working with other human rights, gay and human rights groups and advocates to end executions, starting with a written statement against capital punishment.

>While activists in the United States are quick to condemn the executions of people in the Islamic world, we refuse to look at the issue of capital punishment as it applies to all people - regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

One could also say that while gay Muslim activists in the United States are quick to condemn the executions in American states, they refuse to look at their own group's silence on capital punishment as it applies to all people - regardless of the sexual orientation, gender identity or other factors that may place them on death row.

Additionally, I think Alam is wrong when he uses the collective "we" in denouncing how some gay human rights advocates, say the Human Rights Campaign, aren't committed to seeing capital punishment as integrally linked to the gay struggle. There are plenty of U.S. gays who see the death penalty as it applies to all people.

>The outlawing of capital punishment is not a "gay" issue - but it is a matter of social justice and human rights.

Thanks for repeating this sentiment, Alam, which has previously been stated by lots of other anti-capital punishment advocates of all beliefs and sexual orientations. But these words ring hollow in my ears since you and your own group may soon put forth a written policy opposing executions.

At the same time, I must disagree and say that capital punishment is indeed a very gay specific issue, in Western and Muslim nations.

Googling for Al-Fatiha's capital punishment stand returned this Alexander Cockburn column that ran in The Nation in May 2001:

>But on the issue of the death penalty Al-Fatiha's founder and director, Faisal Alam, wrote earlier this year to Bill Dobbs of Queer Watch (the gay justice group that opposes the death penalty and hate-crimes laws) in mealy-mouthed terms, to the effect that "Al-Fatiha continues to maintain a level of discretion when it comes to dealing with what we perceive as 'political matters'. Al-Fatiha maintains itself as a 'religious organization' So this means that we have actively taken a stance NOT to directly get involved with such situations."

What this 2001 article reveals to me is that Al-Fatiha has long been asked by other queers to proclaim official opposition to the death penalty, and still, at the end of 2005, is not on record standing against executions.

How many gays, women, teenagers and men have to be execution before the group finally condemns hangings, stonings and killings by the state?
CDC: New U.S. AIDS Death Stats Released

The CDC's latest chart on U.S. AIDS deaths was published on Thanksgiving in the Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report, but because of the holiday, has thus far not received the proper attention the news stats deserve from the media and AIDS groups.

CDC says:

Mortality attributable to HIV infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) increased rapidly for both men and women during the late 1980s and early 1990s, reaching a peak in the mid-1990s. The rate then decreased sharply until 1997 before leveling off. From 1999 to 2003, men experienced a modest but steady decrease in HIV/AIDS mortality; the death rate for women was unchanged.

Check out the graph accompanying the explanation.

Friday, November 25, 2005

NY Review: The End of News? (MSM v. Bloggers, Et Al.)

An essay in the New York Review of Books by Michael Massing, a contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, analyzing the current abysmal state of American media and ways to improve journalism, is the best look at reporting these days that I've read in many a moon.

Actually, the excerpts below, which address core issues dear to my heart, are from Massing's first part of a two-part series and I've read only the initial essay. Click here for part one, and here for the second installment.


But it is a third, technological innovation that, along with the rise of talk radio and cable news, has made the conservative attack on the press particularly damaging: blogs. [...]

At The Truth Laid Bear, a Web site that ranks political blogs according to their number of links with other sites, eight of the top ten blogs are conservative. The conservative sites include InstaPundit (University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds), Power Line (three lawyers), (a syndicated columnist whose recent book defends the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II), Free Republic (conservative activists), Captain's Quarters (run by a call-center manager), the Volokh Conspiracy (a UCLA law professor), and Little Green Footballs (commentary on foreign policy with a strong pro-Israel slant). Complementing them are a host of "milblogs," written by active-duty military personnel promoting vigorous pursuit of the GWOT (Global War on Terror). (By far the most-visited political blog is the left-of-center Daily Kos; its popularity is owing in part to its community-style approach, which allows registered readers to post their own comments as well as comment on the posts of others.)

In addition to being linked to one another, these blogs are regularly featured on more established right-of-center Web sites such as the Drudge Report (three billion visits a year), WorldNetDaily (which appeals to the Christian right), and Dow Jones's OpinionJournal, which features James Taranto's widely read "Best of the Web Today." These sites, in turn, are regularly trolled by commentators like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, who then publicize many of their messages over TV, radio, and their own Web sites. NationalReviewOnline seeks out new conservative blogs and launches them with great fanfare. And the Bush administration actively supports these efforts. Last December, for instance, Lynne Cheney observed on the MSNBC program Hardball that she regularly reads Instapundit and Power Line—a powerful recruiting tool for those sites. [...]

Liberal bloggers have had some successes of their own. Partly as a result of their commentaries, for instance, the press has paid more attention to the so-called Downing Street memo of July 2002, in which Tony Blair and his advisers discussed the Bush administration's plans for war in Iraq. In addition to Daily Kos, prominent left-leaning blogs include Talking Points Memo, Eschaton, and, for commentary on Iraq, Informed Comment. While these sites are critical of the national press, their main fire is directed at the Bush administration. What's more, these sites are not supported by an interconnected system of talk radio programs and cable television commentary, and their influence therefore tends to be much more limited. [...]

Thursday, November 24, 2005

E&P: Are Media Using FOIA Enough for DoD Info?

Very nice pick up by Editor & Publisher today on the FOIA logs I pried loose from the Pentagon and the story by John Byrne at Read it when you can.
Zzzzzz. NYT's Calame's New Blog Posting on Hockey

A short while back, I was praising the New York Times' public editor, Barney Calame, for using his web journal and occasional column in the paper to address concerns of readers, especially on the Judy Miller mess.

But now I'm over Calame and his growing laziness in addressing readers' complaints and questions.

The last time Calame posted anything on his web journal was two weeks ago, and the topic was identifying Alzheimer's patients. Calame wrote a brief introduction for a short exchange between a reader and the reporter of the story.

Calame on November 23 shared a posting, this time about a reader's complaint about the Times' coverage of Islander hockey games. The bulk of Calame's posting is a response to the reader from the sports editor. Yawn.

Sure do I wish knew why Calame's output on his web journal is so infrequent and rather inconsequential. Is he afraid of weighing in, and on more substantive matters, too often on the Times' site and being a more productive public editor?

This Times reader and shareholder wants the paper's readers' representative, and his assistant, to swallow a few pep pills and increase their output on the web.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

RawStory: Pentagon's FOIA Logs Released to Activist Blogger

If I do say so myself, John Byrne over at has written an excellent story about how I obtained FOIA logs from the Pentagon and what's contained in the logs.

Here are excerpts from Byrne's story:

>A listing of all requests made of the Pentagon under the Freedom of Information Act since 2000, acquired by RAW STORY, provides new insight into the aggressiveness of American news agencies.

>Under the Freedom of Information Act, the public can request records of government agencies. Records seen as jeopardizing national security or individual rights are typically exempted. All requests are public.

>The request for a list of all who made inquiries of the Pentagon was filed by Michael Petrelis (, a San Francisco-based activist and blogger. He provided a copy to RAW STORY, which will be released in full next week.[...]

>The Pentagon’s records reveal that the law is broadly used—more than 10,000 requests have been made since 2000. But they also illuminate a seeming dearth of curiosity by news organizations about the internal files of the U.S. military establishment.

>This lack of curiosity appears particularly evident among the nation’s three largest newspapers.

>In total, the three papers with daily circulations greater than one million--USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times -- made just 36 requests of the Pentagon between 2000 and February 2005. USA Today made nine; the Journal, six; and the Times, 21.

>The Associated Press, the nation’s most widely used wire service, made 73 requests. Two other AP reporters made a handful of requests not identified by their employer.

>Leading print newspapers was the Los Angeles Times, with 42 inquiries. The Times recently ditched its national edition and announced last week it would lay off 85 newsroom staffers. Following the LA Times was the Washington Post, with 34—just shy of the total requests made by the three largest U.S. newspapers combined.[...]

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Gay Muslims: Silence from U.S. Gays Needed on Iran's Killings

Al Fatiha, a gay Muslim group, last week issued a press release about Iran's latest public executions of homosexuals and they requested the following:

"Individuals and organizations in the United States are asked to not contact the Iranian government directly or to hold protests to condemn the Iranian government. Given the hostile relationship between the United States and Iran such actions may have a negative backlash against marginalized communities in Iran."

I've never been one to stand silently by while a government anywhere uses the death penalty, especially against homosexuals, so I'm not in agreement whatsoever with Al Fatiha's calls to be mute and inactive over Iran's killings of gays.

What if those individuals who wanted to hit the streets or complain directly to Iranian government officials were Iranian expats living in the U.S.? Would Al Fatiha's request for sitting back apply then? They seem to be assuming that only crusaders for regime change by bombs will complain. Al Fatiha is also trying to force U.S. advocates, of all political and sexual persuasions, to meet their political litmus tests before we can publicly condemn Iran.

You may recall that back in September, Paula Ettelbrick, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, faced criticism for her group's lack of participation in street actions about Iran's gay executions and her behind-the-scenes approach.

Veteran journalist and gay human rights advocate Doug Ireland replied to her arguments in a terrific column in New York's Gay City News. Ireland rebutted her thinking with these important words, which I believe also apply to Al Fatiha's call for silence and inaction:

"A strategy of keeping silent about oppression, for fear of riling the oppressors, has never worked at any time in human history. Ettelbrick’s position reminds me of that of certain Jewish elites here just before and during World War II, who said that no public attention should be called to Hitler’s lethal depredations aimed at German Jews, because to do so would only increase Americans’ anti-Semitism. Such a strategy failed miserably then, and it will not succeed now."

And Ireland, I'm pleased to report, has not been the only writer of conscience taking Al Fatiha's and IGLHRC's convoluted reasoning, deconstructing it and then hitting the reject button.

Sean Bugg, editor of Washington, DC's Metro Weekly newspaper wrote a point-by-point response on his publication's blog to Faisil Alam, leader and founder of Al Fatih, and his essay in August questioning anyone in the U.S. raising their voice against the killing of two gay teenagers in Iran in July.

Among Bugg's numerous excellent points was this gem:

"I happen to think the death penalty in the U.S. is a grievous misuse of government power that should be abolished -- so why shouldn't I have an opinion on Iran's misuse of the same gruesome and immoral punishment?"

As far as I know, Alam didn't reply to Bugg.

I'm a proud graduate of the old ACT UP street activist school of social change and still believe the following is true, perhaps more than ever.

Silence = Death.
Three More Homosexuals Publicly Hanged in Iran

Friends in OutRage! UK have informed me that new reports out of Iran indicate three more possible homosexual men were publicly hanged this week.

How many such cases must we read about before U.S. gay groups, especially those with the words "human rights" in their names, deplore the killings in Iran and elsewhere, and take concrete action to stop the executions?


Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Nov. 21 – Three men were hanged to death in the city of Kermanshah, western Iran, a state-run daily reported on Monday.

The men, identified only by their first names, Youness, Hossein, and Ruhollah, were hanged at dawn in Diesel-Abad Prison on Friday, according to the daily Iran Newspaper.

The men were accused of kidnapping and raping a 19-year-old man.
Iran Has Executed Two More Gays

The New York-based Human Rights Watch reports today that Iran has executed two men for engaging in homosexual behavior. Interesting that Human Rights Watch doesn't mention the public hanging of two gay teenage boys in July in Mashad, in its announcement.

OutRage! UK called attention to the latest executions on November 14. Here is an excerpt from their release, along with the email address of Iran's president, to whom letters of protest should be sent:

>Two more young men were hanged in a public square in Iran after being found guilty of “lavat” (a homosexual relationship), according to reports in the semi-official daily newspaper, Kayhan, on 13 November.

>The two men, identified only as Mokhtar N. and Ali A., were aged respectively 24 and 25 years old.

>They were hanged in public in Shahid Bahonar Square in the northern city of Gorgan.

>The newspaper said the “criminal past” of the two young men included kidnapping and rape, but the press report made it clear that the “crime” for which they were hanged was “lavat”, which means sex between men or sodomy.

>Human rights groups point out that Iran often pins false charges of rape, kidnapping, spying, alcoholism and adultery on people it executes, in order to minimise public sympathy for the victims and discourage public protests.

>The UK LGBT human rights group OutRage! is urging people to email protests to the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:


The following is excerpted from the Human Rights Watch release:

>Iran’s execution of two men last week for homosexual conduct highlights a pattern of persecution of gay men that stands in stark violation of the rights to life and privacy, Human Rights Watch said today.

>On Sunday, November 13, the semi-official Tehran daily Kayhan reported that the Iranian government publicly hung two men, Mokhtar N. (24 years old) and Ali A. (25 years old), in the Shahid Bahonar Square of the northern town of Gorgan.

>The government reportedly executed the two men for the crime of "lavat." Iran’s shari`a-based penal code defines lavat as penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts between men. Iranian law punishes all penetrative sexual acts between adult men with the death penalty. Non-penetrative sexual acts between men are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are punished with death. Sexual acts between women, which are defined differently, are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are also punished with death. [...]

Monday, November 21, 2005

Rep. Mean Jean: Relative in Iraq?; Breaks "No Namecalling" Pledge

This is the question I've been trying to answer: Does Rep. "Mean" Jean Schmidt have any relatives, or friends even, who are serving in the U.S. armed forces in Iraq?

She makes no references to loved ones in the war zone on her official House site.

The listing for her at Wikipedia had no information about any soldier relatives, but it enlightened me to her maiden talk delivered way back on September 6, 2005, after being sworn in into office:

>I stand here today in the same shoes, though with a slightly higher heel, as thousands of Members who have taken the same oath before me. [...]

>I pledge to walk in the shoes of my colleagues and refrain from name-calling or the questioning of character. It is easy to quickly sink to the lowest form of political debate. Harsh words often lead to headlines, but walking this path is not a victimless crime. This great House pays the price. [...]

>We have much work to do. In that spirit, I pledge to each of you that any disagreements we may have are just that and no more. Walking in each other's shoes takes effort and pause; however, it is my sincere hope that I never lose the patience to view each of you as human beings first, God's creatures, and foremost. [...]

What a load of lies that quickly came back to snap her in the butt. In light of her scathing remarks and toxic dump of personal vitriol on the House floor last week, targeting former Marine Rep. John Murtha, I'd say her promises of September showed her word is worthless.

Schmidt can also trade in her high heel for some combat boot any time she wants. I bet Murtha has a pair to give her.

You should give Wikipedia's entry on Mean Jean a read, if only to cast your eyes on the accompanying photo of her official family photo, with her heterosexual hubby standing behind her, and their teenage daughter at her side. Mother and daughter both hold one of the family dogs--fluffy white poodles with red ribbons on their heads, which would be loud clues about sexual orientation if we were discussing Michael Scanlon.

But we're not. We're talking about Schmidt, her dogged snarling at Murtha and her family's canines. She would be well advised to add a Doberman to her brood, to better reflect her true political nature. Mean Jean just ain't no poodle.

Anyone know if she's got relatives in Iraq?
American Prospect: He's Done. (Fork Stuck in Bush's Behind)

Time to tickle the political funny bone. Have a look at the cover of the latest issue of the American Prospect, then read Laura Rozen's insightful article on the end of the 9/11 presidency.
WH Transcript: Journos' Chopper Lifts in Iraq on Election Day

If freedom and democracy are truly taking hold in Iraq, why is it two and a half years after military operations began over there, reporters can't safely travel around the country?

In his November 18 "Ask the White House" online chat, David Satterfield, the deputy U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, announced an effort to transport journalists around Iraq on election day in December.

I have to wonder who will decide where reporters will be allowed to go that day. Will the coalition forces get reporters to areas they want to visit, or, will the military determine their destinations


Bob, from Irvine, California writes:

What is being done to get us more information on the progress being made in Iraq? Much of the news reports do not include the positive accomplishments being made in the country.

David Satterfield:

In Baghdad both the Embassy and Coalition Military Forces have a number of full-time public affairs operations, at various echelons, that conduct media briefings, respond to media queries, and organize media trips to see projects on the ground. Through them, we are doing a great deal to get out the news of our many accomplishments in Iraq, not just to American journalists, but also to international media outlets and to Iraq's own media. Of course, we face some challenges, such as security.

Except when they are "embedded" and travelling with Coalition Forces, security concerns do restrict the mobility of Western journalists. For the elections, to help overcome this handicap, we plan to organize helicopter lifts to take the media to various polling places around Iraq to see the voting up close. We will then bring them back to Baghdad promptly so that they can file.

All that being said, we don't control what the news organizations cover or ultimately provide to the viewer/reader. There are a number of embassy and military websites that post news of accomplishments.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Is Michael Scanlon Gay? NYT Skirts Question

I got around this afternoon to reading Anne E. Kornblut's profile of Michael Scanlon in Saturday's New York Times and felt she used much code to raise the possibility, to my queer mind, that Scanlon, who's been charged with conspiracy because of his work with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, may also be gay.

From the opening sentence, my gaydar was picking up clues.

>Even among the ambitious Republican aides driving the Clinton impeachment case in 1998, Michael Scanlon stood out.

Out. Such a loaded word for gays and he might have stood out to many gay men on Capitol Hill.

>He was 28, preppy, athletic.

Nothing wrong with any of that, and lots of straight men are preppy and engage in sports. Still, I am reminded of online gay personal ads.

>Hired as a spokesman for Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, Mr. Scanlon charmed reporters with his easy manner and willingness to trade gossip.

Preppy, athletic and likes to trade gossip? Interesting.

>But in private, Mr. Scanlon was ruthless.

Hmmm, the Times is delving into his private political life, and so high up in the story too, that it's odd other parts of his private life, like, does he have _any_ romantic entanglements or is he married, are not broached.

>Except for one silent appearance before the Senate in 2004 - during which Republican members excoriated him for his treatment of Indian tribes and his refusal to testify - Mr. Scanlon has all but vanished from public view over the last year, retreating to Rehoboth Beach, Del., a summer resort several hours from here.

Yes, it's accurate to describe the famous gay beach resort in terms of how far it is from Washington, but it doesn't begin to convey what really makes Rehoboth unique--it's a relaxing and accepting gathering spot for the gay tribe. And what's with this vanishing from public view phrasing? Sounds a bit like he went back into a closet.

> Documents, e-mail messages and interviews with his former colleagues suggest that Mr. Scanlon had an appeal similar to the title character in the film "The Talented Mr. Ripley" who drew people to his money-making schemes.

The gorgeous and hunk-o-lious Matt Damon, who's both openly heterosexual and supportive of gay rights, played Mr. Ripley as he was written: gay, but not exactly out and proudly waving the rainbow flag.

> Mr. Scanlon, more than Mr. Abramoff, was flamboyant with his earnings.

Maybe I'm showing my age here, but I remember when the Times wouldn't use the word gay when writing about homosexual males, who were often referenced as either flamboyant or avowed, so just seeing the word flamboyant used by the Times in what I believe is a story "inning" Scanlon, vividly registers on my gaydar. Did he perform fan dances with his millions? Of course, in my circle, flamboyant = fab-u-lous!

> A friend in Rehoboth was drawn into the Abramoff-Scanlon lobbying effort. David Grosh, a former lifeguard, was paid $2,500 to head a supposed research organization in Rehoboth and funneled large sums from Indian tribes back to Mr. Abramoff and his law firm.

Sure, on the surface there's nothing wrong with a surfer dude, whose sexual orientation is not publicly known, becoming ensnared in one of Scanlon's scams, but he's not just any lifeguard. He was the Lifeguard of the Year for 1997!

Looking at web photos of Scanlon and Grosh, my gaydar detects attractive younger men who could easily pass for gay in San Francisco and each man gives off vibes of overt metrosexuality.

Kornblut's profile of Scanlon in the Times, if only in a sentence or two, should have said something about his sexual orientation or romantic inclinations, regardless of whether he's gay or straight or swings both ways.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Blade Editor's Nondisclosure on Greens, in Zeese Story

I've been a registered Green Party voter and activist for a quite some time, and always try to support fellow Greens, so I hope what I have to say about Ken Sain, news editor of the Washington Blade, is not seen as an attack on him.

Sain is big Green Party advocate, something I didn't know until last weekend when I attended the National G/L Task Force's Creating Change conference in Oakland and picked up a copy of the Green Pages, our national newspaper.

It ran excerpts from Sain's blogging of the national party's annual meeting in Tulsa
, and this led me to his blog, where he proudly declares his commitment to the Greens and says he's the news editor at the Blade.

But what concerns me, as a media transparency advocate, is that Sain today writes a positive posting for the Blade blog on Friday about a Green, Kevin Zeese, who's launching an independent run for U.S. Senate from Maryland, and the Blade editor doesn't disclose his affiliation with the Green Party.

Some disclosure of my own. I've worked with Zeese on medical marijuana, DC statehood and Ralph Nader campaigns, and am very happy he's tossing his hemp hat into the Maryland senatorial ring.

The Blade should provide some transparency about Sain's link to Greens, especially when he writes about our party and its members. That not asking too much now, is it?
SF Chron: Bob Woodward's Plame Source is Jeff Gannon!

Ready to have your funny bone tickled?


This is from yesterday and needed to be moved up.

IRS Files: Bob Woodward's Foundation

Bob Woodward was interviewed in July 1996 for a PBS "Frontline" show on why America hates the press, and he was asked about "buckraking," which is described as a journalist becoming famous because of TV appearance, then hitting the lecture circuit for substantial fees.

Woodward replied: "I give lectures for money, but my wife and I have a foundation and all of the money goes into the foundation and all of the money from the foundation goes to charity. So, I make no money from it."

I didn't know he and his wife, Elsa Walsh, a writer for the New Yorker magazine, had a 501(c)3 foundation and to learn more about it, I checked out the IRS 990 forms for the Woodward Walsh Foundation.

The current tax filing, for 2004, shows the foundation had $143,170 in revenue, spent $1,228 for operating and administrative costs, and doled out only $20,000 to charities.

This is the breakdown of groups that received grants and the amounts:

Sidwell Friends School: $10,000

Uganda Children's Charity: $500

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance: $1,750

Little Folks School: $500

Intown Playgroup: $250

Martha's Table: $1,000

Literacy Partners: $1,000

Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia: $5,000

The Woodward Walsh Foundation claims no relationship with the Miller Center, which is not the case. Bob Woodward is a member of the governing council of the center.

I'll leave it media ethicists to determine if being an assistant managing editor of the Washington Post and serving as a top advisor to a major university is a conflict of interest or questionable.

The 2003 IRS 990 filing for Woodward's charity reveals $80,000 in revenue, $1,150 for operating costs, and $21,000 in grants.

Who received a grant that year?

College of Veterinary Medicine: $2,000

Center for the Study of Responsive Law: $2,000

Sidwell Friends School: $15,000

Washington Humane Society: $2,000

And for 2002, the Woodward Walsh Foundation reported $52,733 in revenue, $1,200 for administrative expenses, and a paltry $7,750 given to charities.

The contributions breakdown:

Little Folks School: $1,000

Central Asia Institute: $250

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance: $500

Washington Humane Society: $1,000

Sidwell Friends School: $5,000

You can verify these numbers by checking out the IRS 990 forms for the Woodward Walsh Foundation, as posted on

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Woodward Paid $25K for Nov. Talk to Resort Developers

The Washington Post just isn't paying poor Bob Woodward enough money these days for his services. The poor man has taken to shaking his begging bowl with the Speakers Platform agency of San Francisco.

Woodward collects anywhere from $20,000 to $25,000, maybe more given his celebrity status, when anyone hires him through the agency.

Why, nearly two weeks ago he addressed the fall conference of the American Resort Development Association in Washington.

The ARDA web site had this to say about his talk
: "Bob Woodward, Assistant Managing Editor of the Washington Post and the national best selling author of non-fiction with nine number-one best sellers, effectively used words to paint a portrait of the events facing the U.S. and how the decisions being made in the White House today will set the future course for our nation and other nation’s [sic] around the world."

Is it really necessary for an assistant managing editor of the Washington Post to hire himself out to address resort developers and their lobbyists, in order to survive?

Be sure read the Post's article today on the headaches Woodward is causing the paper these days.
FOIAed: US Army White Phosphorus Use in Fallujah

Department of the Army
Freedom of Information and Privacy Office
7701 Telegraph Road, Suite 144
Alexandria, VA 22315-3905

By Email To:

Dear Sir or Madam:

Pursuant to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting copies of, or access to, the following records:

For the period July 1, 2004, through the date of this request, any and all memos, files, email exchanges, paper correspondence, digital photographs, videotapes and films, audio tapes, print photographs and munitions logs containing the words white phosphorus, chemical weapons, napalm and poisonous gas related to the U.S. Army's assault on Fallujah, Iraq, dating from October 1, 2004, through November 14, 2005.

Furthermore, as a news blogger journalist working on news stories that are of pressing public interest and request that this FOIA request be handled as quickly as possible, per the expedited provisions of FOIA.

Expedited treatment is based on my knowledge that the U.S. Army, as evidenced by William Arkin's blog posting on the Washington Post's web site, may have used chemical weapons in Fallujah, Iraq, and the public deserves to know what's in your archive on this important national security matter.

Therefore, I hope you will conclude that this request is entitled to expeditious handling that is allowed by law.

If you have any questions or need any additional information, you may reach by telephone at 415-621-6267.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and attention.

Michael Petrelis

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Karen Hughes Hosts "Ask The White House"

MSNBC's Tucker Carlson is complaining today on his blog about Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes, who is also a super mom from Texas.

Carlson writes: "There aren't yet any detailed reports of what Hughes has said while in Pakistan, so it's hard at this point to criticize her trip. But if her appearances in the region last month are any guide, she's certain to embarrass America."

He's sort of wrong about lack of reports about her trip to Pakistan.

She held a press conference over there on November 14 with Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz; Pfizer Chairman and CEO Hank McKinnell; Xerox Chairman and CEO Anne Mulcahy; UPS Former Chairman and CEO Jim Kelly.

You can find the transcript of her press conference on her State Department page.

Also, she will be the guest tomorrow on the Ask the White House interactive program.

From the White House web site: "Karen Hughes, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, will discuss South Asia Earthquake Relief, her recent trip to the region and other public diplomacy issues Wednesday at 2pm ET."

I'm going to submit a question and ask that you do the same.
SF AIDS Cases Drop in 3Q Report, CDC to Release New HIV Stats

The latest AIDS surveillance report from the San Francisco Department of Public Health revealing full-blown cases for the third-quarter of 2005 fell slightly from last year, has been released and posted on the web. How do the latest third-quarter AIDS diagnoses compare with previous years? Favorably, because the number of new AIDS cases continues to fall. Here are third-quarter stats over the past seven years:

SF quarterly AIDS surveillance reports
January through September
Table 5








As with so many positive developments regarding controlling HIV and AIDS in San Francisco, the health department and AIDS organizations are silent about the new AIDS stats. Falling numbers make it so much harder for the city to shake its begging bowl when asking the federal government for increases in funding for care and treatment. On the other hand, San Francisco still doesn't know how to use the declining HIV and AIDS rates to lobby for more federal funds for prevention programs. Success is not something AIDS experts here like to talk about.

Also, a good friend sent me this alert from the CDC. I hope to participate in the telephone press conference and look forward to scrutinizing new HIV stats from the CDC.


Contact: NCHSTP Office of Communications, (404) 639-8895


CDC to Announce New HIV Data for 33 U.S. States - Findings Provide
More Representative Picture of Magnitude of U.S. Epidemic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will hold a
telephone press briefing to announce new HIV surveillance data. Data
will be presented on HIV diagnoses from 2001 to 2004 in the 33 states
that have conducted confidential, name-based HIV case reporting for
at least four years. For the first time, the analysis will include
data from New York State, which accounted for approximately one-fifth
of all new diagnoses reported during the study period. The inclusion
of the large number of cases from New York State will provide a more
representative sample of U.S. diagnoses than prior analyses.

CDC officials will discuss the latest trends in diagnoses overall, as
well as the continued impact of HIV among African Americans and men
who have sex with men.

Thursday, November 17 at 12:00 PM (Noon) Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Ronald O. Valdiserri, MD, MPH, Acting Director of CDC's National
Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention
Lisa M. Lee, PhD, senior epidemiologist in CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS

These data are embargoed until Thursday, November 17 at 12:00 PM (Noon) EST

To register for the briefing and receive the toll-free dial-in
number, please call (212) 584-5007


Monday, November 14, 2005

S.F. DPH: Straight Women's STD Up 61%, 34% for Str8 Men

The San Francisco health department recently released the latest monthly sexually transmitted disease report, and despite an alarming jump in gonorrhea cases, the report has received no media attention and health officials have not put out a news release about the surge in gonorrhea.

The reason for this lack of media coverage may be due to the fact that the skyrocketing gonorrhea rates are not for gay and bisexual men, but for heterosexual women and men, and the press may just not be all that concerned with straight people's sex lives.

Let's go over the editorial note in the September STD surveillance report.

>Reported cases of gonorrhea among heterosexuals were stable or decreasing in San Francisco from 2000 to 2004. However, in the first nine months of 2005 we observed a 61% increase in gonorrhea cases in women compared to the same time period in 2004 (160 to 257 cases).

A sixty-one percent jump in any STD among women in a major American city and it's not news, front page or in the local section? Compare this dearth of stories with the dozens of articles that appear when syphilis or gonorrhea climbs even two or three percentage points among gay men, frequently demonizing gay sexuality and public gay sex venues. I'm not saying that women and their sex lives should be demonized like gay men's, but it is odd, to say the least, that there has been a huge increase of gonorrhea among heterosexual women and no media outlet is paying attention to the surge.

>Among women aged 15-19 years, gonorrhea increased 73% (49 to 85 cases).

Here we have an more frightening number for younger heterosexual women, and again, no news stories or press conferences from SF DPH about the scary increase. My gut says that if young gay men were experiencing such a dramatic surge of gonorrhea, we'd see articles about it on the front page of many mainstream newspapers.

>Among known heterosexual men, gonorrhea cases increases 34% (115 to 154 cases), compared to only a 9% increase (861 to 940 cases) among known men who have sex with men (MSM).

Another big increase, this time for straight men, and nothing has been reported on it, but, that 9% climb among "known" gay men has made the papers. I find the use of the word "known" interesting. Why doesn't SF DPH just say heterosexual men? Also, why is it homosexual men are not identified as such, instead we are branded MSM? If gays are to be labeled men who have sex with men, then SF DPH should identify known heterosexual women as women who have sex with men, WSM. Same logic should apply to known heterosexual men, who should be described as men who have sex with women, MSW.

>In 2005, 23% (411, 1,786) of gonorrhea has occurred in women and known heterosexual men. Fifty percent (205/411) of cases in heterosexuals occurred among African-Americans.

More alarming statistics are the figures for black people in San Francisco, who don't comprise 50% of the population, yet they make up half of all known heterosexual gonorrhea cases. According to recent population statistics, blacks make up 8-9% of San Francisco's residents. We haven't read about the scary increase of black cases in the papers or seen it on the TV news.

>While substantially fewer gonorrhea cases are among heterosexuals than MSM in San Francisco, we have seen a marked increase among heterosexuals, particularly in adolescents and young adults.

Even with the "marked increase," SF DPH has not seen fit to alert the press to this awful development, but rest assured, if a similar surge were noticed among gay and bisexual men, loud alarms from the health department would be ringing, ringing, ringing.

>In response to this increase, SF STD Control and Prevention Services is focusing intervention efforts on young heterosexuals, particularly African Americans. Current recommendations to control the continued transmission of gonorrhea include timely treatment for patients and all sex partners within the past 60 days and re-screening of all gonorrhea case-patients at 3 months.

Let's hope SF DPH recommendations don't include the ones proposed in 2001 when HIV infections among gay and bisexual men in San Francisco was supposedly increasing. These are some of the ideas that were debated in 2001, as reported in the November 2001 Washington Monthly magazine:

[...]Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, director of Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention and Control Services in San Francisco, has suggested a number of measures, some coercive,which he thinks would slow the increase of new HIV infections among gay men. Among them: closing sex clubs and adult bookstores; enforcing no-sex ordinances in bars and clubs; enforcing no-drug policies in bars and clubs; and Internet-based outreach and education, particularly in chat rooms where many gay men meet new sexual partners.

Putting aside political realities when brainstorming on this subject, Klausner also raised the possibility of quarantining those who cannot control their infectivity---e.g., those barebackers who've infected 20 different people and still refuse to use condoms. Many of these measures would probably be infeasible in the current political climate. Still, this doesn't mean they shouldn't be discussed. After all, in an environment where there are no consequences for actions that threaten the public health, it may be necessary to create some. [...]

Finally, the September STD report doesn't mention HIV once in the summary on heterosexual increases of gonorrhea.

Yet whenever there is a surge of syphilis or gonorrhea among men who have sex with men, the SF DPH and other health officials are quick to say it may portend increases in HIV also.

Why is it no such corresponding claim is made when discussing skyrocketing gonorrhea among known heterosexuals? Are San Francisco heterosexuals, female and male, immune to HIV?

Surely the human immunodeficiency virus doesn't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or other categories.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Times, UK: Doctors Baffled as HIV Man 'Cures' Himself

Needless to say, remarkable news, if Stimpson has indeed cured himself. Let's see what else comes out this week about his condition and any other tests he subjects himself to, to see if he is free of the virus.

The Sunday Times
November 13, 2005

Doctors baffled as HIV man ‘cures’ himself
By Sophie Kirkham

A MAN who tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes Aids, has subsequently shown up negative for the disease in a case that has mystified doctors.

It was claimed last night that Andrew Stimpson, 25, may have shaken off the virus with his own immune system after contracting HIV in 2002.

If proved, the NHS has said the case would be “medically remarkable”. It could provide vital information to researchers looking into treatments for HIV and Aids, which has killed about 3,800 people in Britain since the 1980s.

The worldwide annual death toll is more than 3m.

The Chelsea and Westminster Healthcare NHS trust, which treated Stimpson, has said he needs to undergo more tests before it can be established how he apparently conquered HIV.

“These tests were accurate and they were his, but what we don’t know at the moment is why that has happened, and we want him to come back in for more tests,” said a spokeswoman. “It is potentially a fantastic thing.”


Friday, November 11, 2005

Slate: Photo of Limp-Wristed Pansy Sulzberger

That Jack Shafer, he's such an ardent and honest critic of the Gay, er, Gray Lady and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.!

I love when Shafer sharpens his skewer on the Times, like in his latest biting column rating Sulzberger's appearance and spin on Charlie Rose.

And check out this enlarged version of the incredibly queeny, limp-wristed photo of Pinch, pansified. Mare-eee!
NYT's Lawrence K. Altman = CDC Stenographer

The long, boring career of Lawrence K. Altman as the Centers for Disease Control's stenographer shows no signs of coming to an end any time soon. His latest act of anilingus for the CDC in the pages of the New York Times was on the coming flu season.

I don't know why Altman's editor, David Corcoran at the science desk, didn't just run the actual CDC transcript of yesterday's phone press conference with CDC honcho Julie Gerberding.

Altman, who once worked for the CDC, quoted Gerberding thirteen times. Other voices? In an Altman story about anything to do with the federal agency that once was his boss? Puh-leeze.

The Times really should put an end to this sort of stenography by Altman. His approach to any CDC story he writes can be summed up in two words: CDC says.

In her "let's honestly look at and trash Judy Miller" column, Maureen Dowd spoke truth to power: "But investigative reporting is not stenography."

Try telling that to Altman and his editor.


November 11, 2005

Top Official Is Assuring on Flu Vaccine
By Lawrence K. Altman


"The good news is that this year's flu season is not off to an aggressive start," said the official, Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Gerberding noted that "we have less flu in the country this year than at the same time last year," when the shortage of influenza vaccine was more severe.

Outbreaks of influenza have been spotty, and "that is a good thing because it gives us more time to get the vaccine out there," Dr. Gerberding told reporters in a telephone news conference. "More vaccine is coming," she added.

Among those affected by the delay is Dr. Gerberding's mother, Bette Gerberding, of Brookings, S.D., who asked her daughter if she should go to a neighboring state to get a flu shot, Dr. Gerberding said.

Because there is no influenza outbreak in Brookings, and Mrs. Gerberding's doctor expects a shipment by the end of the month, Dr. Gerberding said she advised her mother, "Just wait and make your appointment so that you can get it when it's available."

While health officials suspect that more people want the vaccine this year, the disease control agency has no data to support that impression, Dr. Gerberding said.


About 81 million doses, just short of the record 83 million, will be distributed by the end of this month, Dr. Gerberding said.


Public health agencies and private vaccine manufacturers cooperate to provide influenza immunizations, and collaboration has been very good this year, Dr. Gerberding said.

A precise map of the shortages will not be available until her agency collects more information, Dr. Gerberding said.


One problem is that Chiron is not making as much vaccine as it expected and does not know how much it will produce, Dr. Gerberding said.

President Bush's proposal to spend $7.1 billion for a possible influenza pandemic will help manufacturers expand capacity and prevent shortages for regular influenza in the long run, Dr. Gerberding said.
Where's Sulzberger's Blog; Keller Promises Online Forums. When?

Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
The New York Times

Dear Mr. Sulzberger:

I watched your chat with Charlie Rose last night and was glad you made reference to Al Siegel's report in May to Bill Keller--Preserving Our Readers' Trust. You claimed that many recommendations from Siegel and his committee have been implemented, but a few recommendations of keen interest to me have not been turned into reality.

Siegel wrote:

"III. should conduct frequent Q & A forums with department heads and other senior editors and should set up mechanisms to give readers greater access to key source documents, interview transcripts and databases used in stories and graphics. The Web should also explore the possibility of creating a Times blog that promotes a give-and-take with readers while satisfying the standards of our journalism."

First, the online forums would be an excellent new method of communication between the Times and its audience, but the idea has not made it past the drawing board. Why is it taking so long for the Times to hold online chats with readers? In my opinion, you could easily follow the example of the Washington Post and its web forums with editors and reporters, which include live chats.

Next, the issue of interview transcripts needs to be addressed, and quickly. Right now, the transcript of an editorial board meeting on September 12 with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is not available on the Times site, either for free or behind the TimesSelect wall.

However, the State Department posts its transcript of the meeting, for no cost, on the web. It's at State's site.

What's your reaction to the fact that the Times is not sharing a transcript of Rice's September 12 meeting, but the U.S. government is?

On the matter of a Times blog, it is odd, given the paper's deep and expanding interests in blogs (you yourself mentioned the blogosphere last night and its role in shaping current political discourse), that the Times has not yet created

Is the idea of a Times blog, maybe even a blog for you, dead and going nowhere?

I also wish to inquire about a promise executive editor Bill Keller made on June 23 in his response to the Siegel committee's recommendations.

Keller promised that, "On a regular basis -- every other week -- senior editors of The Times will be available to the public for Q & A forums on our website. (These will not be live, raw chat sessions, but thoughtful answers to serious questions.) 'Senior' means department heads on up to the executive editor, who herewith volunteers to take the first turn. We will announce these sessions in the paper and on the Website. We will designate someone at the Website to handle logistics, and someone in the newsroom to play choreographer."

Four months ago Keller promised he would start the forums, serving as the pioneer, and so far, he hasn't kept his promise.

Did Keller mean that the forums would start next year? By the time of midterm elections in 2006? When, exactly, did Keller expect to catch up with the Washington Post and hold online chats and forums with readers?

As always, a prompt reply is requested and appreciated.

Michael Petrelis
NYTCo Stockholder
Judy Miller's New Editor Looks Great in Drag

America's most controversial reporter, Judy Miller, as we all know, left her job at the New York Times this week.

She's got a web site now and a new editor, Aaron Selverston, working to help her get her message out to the world.

I don't know much about Selverston, but there is one thing I like about him--he looks great in drag. Selverston sure knows how to wear a purple wig and matching outfit!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

POZ: Petrelis vs. SF DPH, AIDS Inc, Big Media on HIV Stats

My friends at POZ magazine have posted my new column on their site. Read it at

It's all about my long campaign to publicly examine the San Francisco's health department's HIV stats, and my objections to the hysteria stirred up by local media and AIDS Inc that demonized gay men and people living with AIDS.

And if you can lay your hands on a hard copy of POZ, look at the fantastic illustration accompanying my opinion piece because it more than sums up what was happening to me over the years when I addressed HIV stats in gay Mecca.

The illustration shows seven male figures ascending an escalator going up, their arms pointing in all directions; at each other, toward the sky or downward.

In front of them is a lone figure on a descending escalator. He's holding a chart with a solid red line heading south.

The perfect picture for my POZ column.
National Journal: NYT's Calame's "Pseudo-Blog"

Barney Calame
Public Editor
The New York Times

Dear Mr. Calame:

In case you don't read the National Journal's Blogometer on a regular basis and missed today's round-up, I'm sending an item related to your job at the Times:

>Michael Petrelis asks why New York Times public editor Byron Calame ran nothing on his pseudo-blog for 2 weeks, then posted an insubstantial reader e-mail about Alzheimer's and art therapy: "Surely there are other readers bringing issues of concern to Calame's attention, issues he could address either in his print column or through his web journal. Why the minimal output, Barney?"

Interesting that the Blogometer labels your web journal a pseudo-blog. They must also notice how infrequently you post to your page on the Times' site.

Any chance you can become more active with your web journal, maybe even posting something once or twice a day, instead of once every two weeks?

Michael Petrelis

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Pundits Bruce Cain, Larry Sabato Donated to Dems

Another election day has passed and two of the most frequently quoted pundits, Bruce Cain of the University of California at Berkeley and Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, are all over the news, giving their supposedly unbiased opinions.

A quick search of Federal Election Commission records at reveals that Cain gave Sen. John Kerry $300 last year and Sabato donated $500 in 1999 to Utah Democrat James Matheson's winning run for a seat in the House.

Yet, good luck locating a single news story that quotes either man and references the political donations they've made.

Sabato's official site, the Crystal Ball, evaluates Rep. Matheson's race in 2006, and he doesn't mention his contribution to Matheson. I guess Sabato doesn't believe in full disclosure and transparency.

These are their FEC listings:

Cain, Bruce
San Rafael, CA 94901
UC Berkeley/Professor

House (UT 02)
NYT's Calame's New Web Posting; Minimal Output

At times, I forget about Barney Calame, the New York Times' public editor, because he weighs in on important matters so infrequently, especially on his web journal.

It's been nearly two weeks since he last posted to his journal and yesterday, what he posted wasn't all that meaty. Calame shared a letter from a reader who wrote to him about a story on Alzheimer's patients and a response from the Times reporter who penned the article.

Surely there are other readers bringing issues of concern to Calame's attention, issues he could address either in his print column or through his web journal. Why the minimal output, Barney?


bcalame - 5:38 PM ET November 8, 2005 (#21 of 21)

Alzheimer’s Patients and Privacy

An Oct. 30 article about Alzheimer’s patients and art therapy prompted Randy Alfred of San Francisco to raise some interesting questions about the intersection of journalism and privacy. Here is Mr. Alfred’s e-mail message to the public editor and the response of the reporter, Randy Kennedy, which indicates to me that the article was approached with appropriate care and thoughtfulness.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Blade: GOP Mehlman's Closet

Today's blog posting by Washington Blade editor Chris Crain on what's wrong with the Human Rights Campaign (plenty!), contains this throwaway line:

"But to read HRC's response to my editorial, you would think Ken Mehlman had finally come out and switched teams."

So the Blade is now calling attention to GOP chair Mehlman's closet. Good!

As a pro-outing activist who once was regularly attacked by the Blade for outing closet cases, who also recalls the paper's criticism of other outing activists in the past two years, it is very interesting to see the Blade now engaging in outing. Nice to see a gay paper's position on outing evolve over the years.

For more information about Mehlman's sexual orientation, go here.

Monday, November 07, 2005

NYT's Labaton's Reply on Tomlinson, BBG Audit

Dear Mr. Labaton:

Thanks for your reply. Had a feeling you were well aware of that audit and that you may include its findings in a future story. Any chance you can also find out what the minutes show from the "closed session" meetings of the BBG? Frankly, I couldn't find a single BBG announcement about their meetings in the Federal Register where the meetings were open to the public. No doubt the BBG would likely provide you with the minutes and transcripts, if you were to file a Freedom of Information Act request.

Michael Petrelis

In a message dated 11/7/2005 8:25:54 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Dear Mr. Petrelis:

Thank you for passing on your research about the BBG. I had seen the FY 2004 Performance and Accountability Report and it certainly appears to fit into a broader pattern of financial irregularities. I've asked whether investigators see connections between the audit problems identified in the report and the inquiry into Mr. Tomlinson and have yet to get a straight answer. (It would be hard to believe there wouldn't be some connection) I will keep it in mind as I write more articles about the agency.
Thanks again for writing.


Stephen Labaton
CDC: Latest Flu Weekly Report & U.S. Map

Like many people living with AIDS and fewer than 300 t-cells, my doctor gives me a flu shot as soon as they arrive at the clinic. This year, I had my flu shot in early October and hope this coming winter will be flu-free for me.

Out of curiosity, lately I've been poking around the Centers for Disease Control's web page for flu information, just to monitor the federal government's prevention and surveillance of the flu.

One of the most interesting parts of the CDC's flu page and weekly updates is the map of the U.S., showing flu activity in shades of different colors, worthy of style queen.

Back in early October, there basically was no flu activity in any state, except Idaho, which was shaded in light purple, meaning there had been local cases reported to health authorities.

Now, fourteen states are shaded pastel green, indicating there's been sporadic flu activity.

I fear that as the flu season progresses, many more states will be colored dark red, signifying widespread flu cases.

Let's hope the CDC flu experts bring the weekly updated reports and U.S. map to the attention of policymakers in Washington. I'd hate to think this information is not closely monitored by the White House and Congress.
SF Chron French Riots Story Plagiarizes NYT?

It appears as though the San Francisco Chronicle today plagiarized from the New York Times' article about the riots in France. The first passage is from the NY Times, while the second is from the SF Chronicle's pick up of an LA Times story, with additional reporting from the Associated Press.

>"This is just the beginning," said Moussa Diallo, 22, a tall, unemployed French-African man in Clichy-sous-Bois, the working-class Parisian suburb where the violence started Oct. 27. "It's not going to end until there are two policemen dead." He did not say whether he had taken part in the vandalism.

>"This is just the beginning," said Moussa Diallo, 22, a tall, unemployed French African man in Clichy-sous-Bois. "It's not going to end until there are two policemen dead." Diallo did not admit to taking part in the vandalism himself.

I've checked the original LA Times article and the AP wire for the quote from Diallo and neither media outlet ran anything quoting him.

Maybe the SF Chronicle lifted the quote from the NY Times and simply forgot to credit the Gray Lady?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

50 Cent: "Being Gay Isn't Cool [...] Some Rappers Are Fruity"

This homophobe is more than entitled to use his First Amendment rights to express his views on gays and rap music, just as I'm free to not buy his records or not see his new movie.
From an interview with 50 Cent, rapper and movie star:

>50 CENT insists there's no place for gay men in rap because the genre is too aggressive for homosexuals.

Sounds like he buys into the stereotypical sissy limp-wristed fag. Has 50 Cent been living on Mars and missed all the butch gays parading around? I'd like to know if 50 Cent has scientific proof that homosexual males are immune from aggressive behavior, or if he's just incredibly ignorant.

>The rap superstar has nothing against gay men, but he can't foresee a time when a homosexual hip-hop star will make it big.

Sure, and some of his best friends are probably gay men, right?

>He says, "Being gay isn't cool - it's not what the music is based on. There's always been conflict at the centre of hip-hop, because it's all about which guy has the competitive edge, and you can't be that aggressive if you're gay.[...]

Hey, 50 Cent, you know what's not cool? Saying or believing gay isn't cool. Get with reality, dude.

>"I mean, some rappers are fruity, but they don't say they're gay out in the open."

And some rappers are nutty, intolerant and worthy of boycotting.
2004 Audit of Tomlinson, BBG; No Minutes of BBG Meetings

Stephen Labaton
The New York Times

Dear Mr. Labaton:

I was thoroughly fascinated by your front page article in today's New York Times about the inquiry by the State Department's Inspector General into accusations of improper use of federal funds and other possible misdeeds by Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

After reading your story, I searched the BBG's web site, looking for minutes of all the public meetings held by the board. To my dismay, no minutes or transcripts of these meetings were available.

This lack of minutes led me to search the web for any Federal Register announcements from the BBG about their public meetings. I found lots of announcements, but every single one stated the BBG meetings would be held in closed session.

"The members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) will meet in closed session to review and discuss a number of issues relating to U.S. Government-funded non-military international broadcasting. The will address internal procedural, budgetary, and personnel issues, as well as sensitive foreign policy issues relating to potential options in the U.S. international broadcasting field. This meeting is closed because if open it likely would either disclose matters that would be properly classified to be kept secret in the interest of foreign policy under the appropriate executive order (5 U.S.C. 552b. (c)(1)) or would disclose information the premature disclosure of which would be likely to significantly frustrate implementation of a proposed agency action.

Here are eleven listings for BBG meetings, stretching back to 2002, where the public was kept out: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven.

Last and certainly not least, I'm sure you're aware of the most recent independent audit of the Broadcasting Board of Governors for FY 2004.

Among the audit's major findings, these were of particular interest to me:

- Inadequacies in internal control;

- Instances of noncompliance with selected provisions of applicable laws and regulations involving BBG's financial management system;

- BBG's internal control over its finances and accounting system was inadequate;

- Certain elements of the financial statements, principally property, plant and equipment, are developed from sources other than the general ledger;

- The use of sources other than the general ledger to generate elements of the financial statements increases the potential for omission of significant transactions;

- BBG has not codified its financial management operating procedures;

- Overall, BBG did not comply with a number of laws and regulations, including the Budget and Accounting Procedures Act of 1950, which requires an accounting system to provide full disclosure of the results of financial operations;

- BBG financial systems did not issue interim financial reports that could be used for effective management operations. (Audit link, pages 39 - 48.)

These troubling findings from a year ago, fit into the larger context of what you reported in the Times:

"Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the head of the federal agency that oversees most government broadcasts to foreign countries, including the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, is the subject of an inquiry into accusations of misuse of federal money and the use of phantom or unqualified employees, officials involved in that examination said on Friday."

Having examined the 2004 audit of Tomlinson's fiscal leadership of the BBG, I do wonder if the investigation you wrote about is part of what may be a longstanding problem with his accounting and spending programs.

You might want to look at the audit and lack of publicly available minutes from BBG meetings, and include some the information in a story for the Times.

Michael Petrelis

Friday, November 04, 2005

State Dept: Iraqi Rule of Law Programs "Fragile"

On October 26, the Inspector General of the State Department, Howard J. Krongard, very quietly issued a rather depressing report about U.S. taxpayer funded rule of law programs. Haven't been able to find any MSM stories, blogger postings or references in the alternative media after a few Google searches, which is why I'm calling attention to the report's findings.

The IG said nearly $400 million is being spent by several federal agencies for rule of law efforts in Iraq, on top of $1 billion more for police training. Out of the $4 million, $300 million went to constructing the country's physical infrastructure for justice, and the remaining $1 million was for assorted capacity-building programs

"Rule of law includes the entire legal complex of a modern state, from a constitution and legislation to courts, judges, police, prisons, a commercial code, and anticorruption mechanisms. To successfully implement an emerging rule of law, these activities must proceed somewhat sequentially and not randomly," the report stated.

Here are the major findings:

- "Most of the money for rule of law programs appears to have been well spent."

- "A fully integrated approach to rule of law programs in Iraq is essential and does not exist at present."

- "A new phase is beginning, in which the defining characteristics must be the successful transition from a U.S.-funded and directed program to a sustainable Iraqi-directed program."

- "There is less than optimal coordination within Washington, among U.S. elements in Iraq, and between Washington and Iraq."

- "There is also a need for a coordinator in Iraq to liaise with Washington and with U.S. organizations within Iraq."

- "Basic to the success of democracy and good governance is an effective anticorruption regime. Iraq's institutional framework for anticorruption activities is in place. However, the framework is fragile and untested and needs continued support."

- "Security requirements and logistics must be heavily factored into the current costs of activities in Iraq because these security issues detract from the efficiency and productivity of a project."

So, the State Department's IG starts off with just the appearance of the money being wisely used. That use of the word "appears" in the first finding is troubling.

But more unsettling is the lack of a fully functioning coordination in Washington. Hello, Bush administration? Why is this? There's no excuse for the GOP policymakers in DC on this matter. I could somewhat understand if that were said about the leadership in Iraq, after all, those over there face graver dangers just trying to get through every day, with a growing insurgency, so coordination there easily could be less than optimal. If we can't have optimal coordination from the crew that got us into this mess, one that has cost more than 2,000 American lives, then we need new leadership to deliver the coordination.

Finally, to learn that a framework for anticorruption is somewhat functioning and is "fragile and untested" gives me even more reason to be concerned about corporations like Halliburton and other friends of Veep Cheney. I wouldn't trust Dick's pals with anything fragile and untested.