Sunday, November 30, 2014

AIDS Health Fdtn Recruiting SF Patient via Postcards


Let's look at the snail-mail postcard campaign that hit many LGBT and straight mailboxes this weekend from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The image above is the front of the postcard Mike and I received in Saturday's postal mail delivery.


The back of the postcard features info about services offered along with the days and times the health center is open.

How huge was the revenue figure raked in last year by Michael Weinstein's behemoth AHF? It was $514,000,000 according to their latest IRS 990 filing. They have an incentive to sign up new clients for their various offerings of medical care to keep insurance and other dollars flowing to the organization, is the cynical take.

However, the upside of a new healthcare facility in the Castro is that for the expanded number of area LGBT residents who aren't in care now, they have another option to receive medical services and maintain sexual-health wellness.

I think it's been a full decade since Weinstein and his Los Angeles based nonprofit decided to penetrate the San Francisco AIDS community and lucrative HIV medical delivery market, opening thrift stores with testing on-site, then direct medical care and patient advocacy services and ruffling plenty of feathers of local longtime peacock groups.

For all the years they've had operations in the city, AHF simply hasn't developed good relations with establish groups or grassroots advocates particularly prevention workers and HIV negative dudes taking Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis. Will the new facility and outreach effort improve AHF's relationship with locals?

Neither Mike nor I can recall ever receiving a postal mail pitch like this regarding HIV testing and primary care services. Let us know if another nonprofit has ever used postcards to drum up AIDS business in San Francisco.
53% of City-Funded Nonprofits Failing Accounting Standards

Two weeks ago, I blogged about the City Controller's Office replying to my query about the last time HIV service groups receiving public dollars were last audited and it was back in 2007-2008 when the books were combed over by the City.

The City Controller also made me aware of the FY13-14 Annual Report of the Citywide Nonprofit Monitoring and Capacity Building Program, which was issued in October, and while it's not specific to AIDS organizations, it's still of interest to me.


This chart shows the nonprofits with the most "outstanding findings", which is bureaucratese for failure to comply with accounting standards. The report says, "In addition to repeated findings, having a large number of total findings can also illustrate potential instability."

Yes, and just one or two findings of noncompliance could be about major faults at a City-funded nonprofit that should be of concern to the Controller and taxpayers.


This is quite an alarming statistic: "62 contractors (53%) had one or more findings (i.e., did not meet a standard in some area)." More than half of the nonprofits receiving City dollars weren't in compliance with all mandated accounting standards.

In my view, we need a full and public discussion about this October report to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors. I don't recall any attention given to its release and findings, but if there were hearings or coverage of the report, please let me know about where or when if was scrutinized at City Hall or in the community.

Friday, November 28, 2014

SF Chronicle Outs Sens. McConnell & Graham as Gay?

(Click to enlarge.)

What are we to make of today's "Bad Reporter" comic strip by Don Asmussen in the San Francisco Chronicle satirizing suspected GOP, as in Gay Old Party, closet cases Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham?

The first panel shows the South Carolina politician's mug superimposed on a woman preparing a turkey for cooking under the words, "CNN: Your Aunt at Thanksgiving is Not Sen. Lindsey Graham".

The incoming U.S. Senate Majority Leader is shown in the third panel wearing a wig and necklace over a black shirt. The text reads, "Your Grammy at Thanksgiving is Not Mitch McConnell".

In the center panel U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama are featured and neither is feminized like the senators.

Has the Chronicle outed Graham and McConnell? To my queer mind, the answer is yes.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Mike+Mike & Grand-Niece Malina Wish You Happy T-Day

It's a beautifully sunny late November day in San Francisco, as Mike and I enjoy our quiet time at home together this Thanksgiving Day.

We have much to be thankful for on this holiday, including each other and being in good health, fine spirits and knowing we are loved by friends and family near and far.

Speaking of loved ones far from us, here are two photos of my grand-niece Malina all bundled up in girly pink winter clothes enjoying the snow that fell this week in New Jersey.

We wish you all a safe and healthy Thanksgiving holiday.



Since I'm not back East in the chill and looking at snow, I can say I'm glad there is enough snow on the ground for my niece Alexis and her husband Kevin to build a snowman for their beautiful daughter Malina.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

AG Kamala Harris Lacks a Central FOIA Log


There isn't one elected official's office I've dealt with over the years who doesn't have a person designated and paid to process public records requests. That person is responsible for keeping track of requests, complying with sunshine laws and keeping a log of all requests. But for California's Attorney General Kamala Harris that is not the case.

I've requested her log for records requests covering the period from Jan. 1, 2012, through early November, and her office replied that they need to check with field offices to gather responsive files. The office has invoked an extension so they can contact those offices, indicating there is no central requests log maintained.

This is the first instance of such an office needing more search time because they lack a central log. Let's see what the AG produces for me in early December. Here's their letter received on Monday:

We are in receipt of your below email submitted and received on November 13, 2014 by the California Department of Justice/Attorney General's Office (DOJ), in which you sought records pursuant to the Public Records Act (PRA).  

For the reasons set forth below, this office is extending the date for responding to your request to December 8, 2014.

Agencies are permitted to extend the date for responding to a public records request for fourteen days beyond the original 10-day deadline for responding under specified circumstances.  As your request was received by this office on November 13, 2014, the time established for the original response is November 24, 2014.  Fourteen days beyond this date is December 8, 2014. 

Agencies may invoke the extension for several reasons, which may be summarized as follows:

1. The need to search for and collect records from field offices or other facilities that are separate from the office processing the request.

2. The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are demanded in a single request.

3. The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having a substantial interest in the determination of the request or among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein. 

In this instance, an extension is needed to collect and examine responsive documents to your request.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

SFPD Traffic Safety Survey Omits Bad Biker Question


As someone whose main mode of transportation is a bicycle and who spends much time walking on sidewalks, I know just how dangerous our streets and sidewalks can be because of rogue bicyclists.

I've had dozens of near-collisions with bicyclists running red lights, passing me on Valencia Street on the right when I'm hugging parked cars as a slow biker or barreling at me on a crowded sidewalk.

The San Francisco Police Department is conducting a traffic safety survey and their question four, pictured, omits bad biker behavior. The survey asks: "In your opinion, what are the biggest issues impacting pedestrian safety in San Francisco?"

The choices are "Speed/Aggressive Driving", "Drivers Disobeying Traffic Signs/Signals", "Distracted Drivers", "Distracted Pedestrians" or "Road Conditions".

Nothing about aggressive bicyclists or bikers disobeying traffic laws.

That this SFPD survey was designed without addressing the behavior of bicyclists behaving badly means the results won't accurately reflect all the factors that make our urban streets and sidewalk a hazard to many people.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gilead Spent How Much on DC Lobbyists for Hep C Drug?

(Use of this AIDS Healthcare Foundation ad is not an endorsement of their abysmal transparency policies and opposition to use of Truvada to prevent HIV transmission.)

Reporter Paul Demko knows his way around both nonprofits and the healthcare industry, and before he began writing for Modern Healthcare he plied his trade at the Chronicle of Philanthropy. We became acquainted with each other during that stint.

In early October, Demko penned an extensive look at overall healthcare lobbying in Washington with a particular focus on Gilead Sciences. One thing I learned was that a former HIV adviser to Dubya has become a lobbyist who was hired by Gilead.

Another thing was how Gilead did the soft sell in Washington about Sovaldi via a forum for Congressional staffers, showing me that such forums about Gilead's products aren't limited solely to HIV organizations.

I salute Demko and Modern Healthcare for an excellent job of following the money: 

About the same time Gilead acquired Pharmasset (manufacturer of the hepatitis C drug Sovaldi), it hired Joseph Grogan to lead its lobbying. That was the first sign that the company planned to pump up its lobbying in Washington. Grogan had held a similar post with biotechnology giant Amgen, which had a track record of influencing government policy.

Grogan joined Amgen after serving as a senior policy adviser to Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, who was FDA commissioner during the George W. Bush administration. He also had served as executive director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS, whose advisory council members included Gilead CEO John Martin.

Grogan's initial task was to ensure the experimental drug [Sovaldi] passed all its regulatory hurdles. [...] Gilead also hired some of the most influential lobbying firms in Washington.

In 2011 and 2012, the company spent just under $3 million on lobbying, according to reports. Last year, that figure increased to just over $4 million, a jump of more than 40%. And through the first two quarters of 2014, the company spent $2.6 million on lobbying, putting it on track to top $5 million for the year. [...]

But the job was far from over [after Sovaldi received FDA approval]. The $1,000-per-pill price tag on Sovaldi stirred a backlash on Capitol Hill. The company's newly acquired lobbying army swung into action. [...]

“Although Sovaldi has the potential to help people with HCV, at $1,000 per pill, its pricing has raised serious questions about the extent to which the market for this drug is operating efficiently and rationally,” the letter from [U.S. Senators] Wyden and Grassley read. [...]

[In September], Gilead hosted a forum, “Curing hepatitis C—the patient's perspective,” for legislative staffers at the Rayburn House Office Building. The event featured a hepatitis C patient; Dr. Natarajan Ravendhran, a liver disease specialist and chief of gastroenterology at St. Agnes Hospital, Baltimore; and a Gilead vice president. Ravendhran earned over $20,000 in 2013 in fees and other benefits from Gilead, according to the CMS Open Payments database.

The word went out across Capitol Hill. Roughly two-dozen individuals attended the event. “It was a relatively soft sell,” said one attendee. There was no discussion of congressional inquiries into the cost of Sovaldi or acknowledgement that there was anything controversial about the drug.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Do SF People With AIDS Need NYC's ACRIA?

(ACRIA consultants Cesar Angel, left, and Hanna Tessema, held a forum in San Francisco on Nov. 14. Photo credit: Rick Gerharter.)

There are a few questions in need of answers regarding the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America, why they recently sent two consultants to San Francisco and how to locate their body of research and findings on the web. This note was sent to ACRIA folks today and when I hear back from them, I'll write a new post:

Hello Hanna and Cesar,

I was unable to make your visit forum at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, so I'm following up with written questions about it and ACRIA's purpose in coming here.

You should check out Matthew Bajko's article in the BAR, http://ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=70186 , because it's really all I know about your forum.

1. Why did ACRIA fly you and Cesar Angel to San Francisco to chat with longterm AIDS survivors? Maybe you were invited by leaders of the Let's Kiss ASS group, and if so, lemme know.

2. How much did ACRIA spend for travel, hotel, renting a room at the center, the catered lunch and all other expenses to have you two come here?

3. Who are ACRIA's primary funders, how much have you received in the past four years from Gilead and did any drug company pay for this trip in part or whole?

4. What exactly is involved with these trainings you're putting on around the country and how will they potentially benefit a longterm PWA such as myself?

5. Why do we supposedly need ACRIA coming from NYC to host such a forum and take an interest in alleged non-cooperation between AIDS and aging groups?

6. What agreement was made between ACRIA and Let's Kick ASS for forum, what other ways are they partnered with each other and how can I obtain the written MOU between the groups?

7. At the BAR site, this comment was made by Mike Wonders:
"We have a New York based group coming out here to tell help us figure out what to do. It's all about funding the professional AIDS machine. We have endless focus groups, surveys, research, meetings, consultants, seminars, paid travel to national conferences etc"

How do you respond to his thinking, which I've heard other SF PWAs express about both ACRIA and leaders of Let's Kick Ass.

8. Your page about aging PWAs and depression, http://www.acria.org/depression-research , contains no links to any of the research or findings, even though it all began in 2007. Can you provide me any links to the actual research or findings? The page also says you're in the process of publishing results. Please inform of which scientific journal will soon publish these results and when.

9. There are no links to any of the results of ACRIA drug research in the past year posted at this page: http://www.acria.org/research-results . Please provide me with links to all of the results and also consider linking to the results at that page.

10. Your only study on your site is the ROAH Report, https://www.dropbox.com/s/2mhuk7xcynqurhd/ROAH%20Report%20Final.pdf , and it's from 2006. Why is this old study the only one on ACRIA's site? Also, financial disclosure about any funding from drug companies or other outside sources that underwrote the study, along with disclosure on the part of the researchers were omitted. Why the omissions?

11. Finally, are you or Cesar either HIV poz or over 50 or both? It's important to ask these questions to give me a better and fuller understanding of your backgrounds.

Please give me your answers in the coming days. Thanks.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Syringe Box Nailed to Larkin Street Tree


The control and prevention of HIV, hepatitis and other nasty bugs through needle distribution on the streets of San Francisco is laudable for many public health reasons.

Earlier this week, after eating a delicious vegetarian meal at Ananda Fuara at the corner of Market and Larkin Streets, I saw a syringe box nailed to a tree with a informational flyers attached.

Since the box was so high, there was no chance children or dogs would accidentally get stuck by one of the needles. Basically, I support this sort of street level effort to properly dispose of used syringes.

However, I believe it's better to have a sealed box and not one like what's shown in the photo with a removable top. Do you agree?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Which SF Sup. Had the Most Meetings With Uber Lobbyists in 2014?

In addition to following the money, good watchdogging also demands paying close attention to the professional lobbyists hired by corporations to influence politicians and legislation at San Francisco's City Hall.

(Click the images to enlarge.)

Public records at the Ethics Commission reveal that Supervisor Scott Wiener and his aide Andres Power received the most visits from Uber's lobbyists this year. There were five meetings with Boe Hayward, who began his lobbying career about five minutes after he stopped working for Sup. Bevan Dufty in 2011, and one meeting with Patty-Jo Rutland.


All five of Hayward's meetings with Wiener's aide were about opposing rideshare regulations.


Uber paid the Goodyear Peter Hayward and Associates firm $30,000 so far this year, and Rutland and her consulting company received $32,500, bringing Uber's total lobbying fees for City Hall purposes to $62,000.

Sure would be great to know what was discussed at all of these meetings Uber held with our elected officials.
City Hall Workgroup Looking at Selling SF Municipal Air Rights

When I attended the October 23 fire commission meeting I learned that the City is evaluating selling air rights over municipal buildings, which was news to me. I received information from John Updike, the head of the Department of Real Estate, that more than a million square feet of air rights above the Veterans Building are in the process of being sold.

Thanks to a public records request, I've received transcripts from that meeting which provide greater transparency about where the City is in terms of potentially selling off air rights over public properties. If the Board of Supervisors would pressure the fire department, whose current budget is $86 million, to air the commission meetings on SF GovTV, it wouldn't take public records requests to fully learn all that is discussed at the meetings.

First, let me explain that fire commission member Ken Cleaveland is the vice president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco and their primary purpose is "advancing the commercial real estate industry through advocacy, professional development and information exchange."

It's no surprise that Cleaveland is urging movement on selling air rights, after all, it would be a financial boon to his association and its members. At the July 10 commission meeting, he made an initial inquiry:

Commissioner Cleaveland asked if the Department has ever looked at the value of any air rights they may have above fire stations and suggested deputizing someone to look into this possibility. Chief Hayes-White thought that would be a good idea and explained air right proposals were looked at in 2008, specifically to Station 13 on Sansome Street.

(Click to enlarge. Page 1 of excerpted transcripts.)

Here are excerpts of the October 23 transcripts that were provided to me by the commission's secretary:

COMMISSIONER CLEVELAND: And know what the status is of all of our -- of all of our properties, if you will. And the other thing was had we made any progress on determining if we have any transferable developmental rights, air rights above any of our fire stations? Have we done anything to determine or quantify or monetize that value? We might be able to sell. It's a very hot real estate market in order to get more money for the department.

(Page 2.)

MARK CORSO, Chief Financial Officer for SFFD, bolding added: Specifically we looked at it when it was first brought up with the Commission a few months ago, I believe. That comes up every now and then, and we discussed it with the Department of Real Estate and we are not the only department to discuss it with them. So there is a workgroup city wide looking at that. They've hired some consultants with regard utilities pricing and inventory. I believe there is a demand for, or there's actually a large want amongst many city departments to sell it so there is an issue of over saturating the market with those real estate options. And so that's one of the things with regards to timing that the Department of Real Estate is looking at. So they are working on it in conjunction with capital planning, the city's capital planning department.

(Page 3.)

COMMISSIONER COVINGTON: Thank you, Mr. President. Every time my fellow Commissioner Cleveland talks about air rights I want to bring up the fact that I would like to have us to continue to investigate the ability to build workforce housing for firefighters, police officers, and teachers.

Since developers are running out of land to build on and they can't very well construct new properties in the San Francisco Bay, it makes sense that they would look to purchase air rights for future projects. At the same time, can you blame the City for considering how to sell those air rights and produce more revenue for municipal coffers?

Now is a good time for historic building preservationists, affordable housing advocates, progressive social and urban planners, to demand more transparency from the City's workgroup looking air rights.

Since there's a workgroup and consultants have been hired, selling air rights is far enough in development to demand greater public scrutiny.
Vid: Reporters Chase German Politician into Men's Room Stall



As far as I know, German prosecutors have not brought privacy violation charges against the various journalists and persons wielding cameras who videotaped and snapped photos of a politician in a men's room while attempting to flee their questions.

Should we call those with cameras pee-parazzi? (Sorry, I couldn't resist some humor.)

Here's the story from The Local, a German news site in English, explaining what led to the bathroom incident which has been dubbed Toiletgate:

The Left (Die Linke) party chief Gregor Gysi took refuge in a toilet after two activist journalists chased him down alleging that he called them anti-Semitic.The incident was recorded and posted onto YouTube on Tuesday. 

"When I have a hit on my life, are you going to take responsibility for that?" asks Canadian-Israeli activist David Sheen as he follows Gysi down the corridor housing the Left party's parliamentary offices on the video. "Are you going to take responsibility for the threats on my life?" 

Gysi then locks himself into the bathroom, yelling "Out! Get out of here!", as Sheen continues to shout after him. The confrontation stemmed from a talk that Sheen was supposed to give with American author Max Blumenthal, a sharp critic of the Israeli state's conduct in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, at Berlin's Volksb├╝hne on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, November 9. 

Gysi had also sought to prevent the pair from speaking to MPs in the Linke conference room at the parliament.

Let's be grateful the German prosecutors aren't like San Francisco's vindictive Supervisor Scott Wiener. He abused the power of his office to have Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the police department and District Attorney George Gascon investigate and prosecute me, to the tune of $26,000 in taxpayer dollars, for an impromptu photo I snapped of Wiener at a sink in a men's room at City Hall in October 2012.

I'd like to think Gysi is one politician who does not go charge-shopping against political adversaries.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

HIV Panel to Post Agendas in 2015, Minutes Require FOIL 

(Public domain photo.)

The New York State Department of Health's AIDS Advisory Council is a ludicrous mess from top to bottom. I complained yesterday about the lack of agendas on the web in advance of their November 20 meeting and that no minutes are posted on their site.

However, my chief concern was the removal of corrupt AIDS bureaucrat Gail Barouh for her misspending $179,000 in government funds as documented by a New York State Comptroller's audit. All of this was outlined in an email to the council.

My friends back East reminded me that the chair of the council is Marjorie Hill, pictured, a former executive director of the Gay Men's Health Crisis who was fired in September 2013 for numerous failures. For a refresher check out this Gay City News article about what led the GMHC board to can her.

This council isn't fully transparent and contains two members who've abused their powers as executive directors of HIV services agencies, showing just how bad things are in the Empire State in terms of AIDS accountability.

It pleases me to know my concerns have been heard and will be included in the council's minutes, but those are small potatoes compared to the large problems of corrupt bureaucrats Hill and Barouh and their ilk who run too many AIDS Inc groups and advisory panels.

This is the note Hill sent me this afternoon:

Your email was shared with me as Chair of the NYS AIDS Advisory Council. Thank you for your comments. 

Beginning in 2015, the Council’s meeting agendas will be posted on the NYS Department of Health website as an attachment to the meeting notice. I have attached the agenda for the November 20, 2014 meeting to this email. 

Meeting minutes from previous meetings are available for public inspection upon written request to the NYS Department of Health Records Access Office in accordance with Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). 

Please note that the Council does not have the authority to appoint or remove members. Members of the Council are appointed as indicated by Public Health Law Article 27-E, Section 2778. 

I have [included] the link to the statutory authority which explains this process. Your comments will be included in the public record for the November 20, 2014 meeting.
When Did SF Last Audit Local AIDS Groups?


During my DIY Democracy campaign for District 8 Supervisor, a key plank in my platform called for audits of all nonprofits receiving City dollars especially HIV groups and the AIDS programs of the Department of Public Health.

According to a story by Seth Hemmelgarn in the Bay Area Reporter, the City appropriated about $12 million for HIV services for the current fiscal year.

I asked the Controller's Office for info about when they last conducted audits of HIV programs and the last round of them for City-funded agencies was in 2007, and for groups receiving federal AIDS dollars it was back in 2008.

Six years is a long time to go without looking at the books of HIV nonprofits and there must be a push to have the Controller audit these groups again in 2015. Here's the reply from the Controller with links to the audits performed in the aughts:

"In response to your email inquiry, the Controller’s City Services Auditor (CSA) has completed the following reports related to HIV/AIDS nonprofit organizations and DPH grantees: Fiscal and Compliance Audits of DPH Contractors/Grantees:


"Review of Single Audit Reports of Nonprofit Organizations Receiving Pass-Through, Federal Funds from DPH:

SFPD Update on Investigation of Feather Lynn's Death



Just over three months ago, a member of the Radical Faerie tribe named Feather Lynn, nee Bryan Higgins, pictured, was involved in an altercation early on August 10 on Church Street near Duboce. He passed away from injuries on August 13 and the San Francisco Police Department opened an investigation into the matter.

This is the statement the SFPD released to me today:

"The individual whose image has been released in both a short video and still photographs has not been identified. The distortion present in both forms of  [video and screengrab] media has made this task challenging. No arrests have been made in the death of Mr. Higgins. This is still an open and ongoing investigation. The San Francisco Police Department has received multiple leads and is actively investigating them. The SFPD strongly encourages anyone who may have any information into the death of Mr. Higgins to come forward."

The department has still not explained why they took more than a week to release an image of the suspect, while the case and leads grew cold. What they released today is generic and really provides no specifics, but at least the cops know there is continuing interest in this case.

Seth Hemmelgarn of the Bay Area Reporter has provided extensive coverage about Feather Lynn's demise and spoke with a witness a few after the altercation took place.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, in whose district the incident occurred and in which Feather lived, was quick to seize upon the episode to show his law-and-order agenda:

"[W]e need to stay the course in growing our depleted and under-staffed police department back to full staffing. [...] In 2011, in my first year in office, we worked to fund the first academy class in years, and we are now funding 3 classes every year. [...] But, until we re-grow the department, we need to make do with what we have, and that means smart use of resources to nip in the bud criminal behavior before it escalates like this."

As Hemmelgarn reported, friends of Feather including his neighbor Brian Busta said Feather had serious mental health problems that weren't being addressed leading many in the gay and Castro community to say this was not an episode showing a need for expanding the police department, but more resources were required for mental health programs.

Brian Busta and I spoke on the phone today and he asked that I mention he and other friends of Feather are still grieving over his death. They are hoping the police soon provide answers about altercation, apprehend and question a suspect, and solve this crime.
Ponti's 'Human Voice' Opens SF's New Italian Cinema Series

(San Francisco Film Society courtesy photo.)

It's always a highlight of my cinematic year catching up with the latest films from Italy, thanks to the programmers at the San Francisco Film Society.

This year's edition of New Italian Cinema opens with two shorts by Edoardo Ponti. The first is a new interpretation of "The Human Voice", a play by Jean Cocteau previously filmed by Roberto Rossellini featuring Anna Magnani. Ponti's version stars his mother beautiful mother, the legendary Sophia Loren, pictured.

The second Ponti featurette is the "The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars" and Natassja Kinski. Ponti will be present tonight for a Q and A with the audience. Only rush tickets are available for this program tonight, so get to the Vogue Theatre early if you hope to get a ticket this show. Let's hope both shorts play again soon in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Film Society reports the following filmmakers are expected to appear at the mini-festival: Rossella De Venuto, director of  "Controra - House of Shadows", Paolo Genovese, director "Blame Freud", and co-writer of "Remember Me", Alessandro Lunardelli, director of  "Up to the World", and Antonio Morabito, director of "The Medicine Seller".

A total of twelve films round out the rest of the series and it continues to November 23. Click here for program notes on each of them, along with information about showtimes and to purchase tickets.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Corrupt AIDS Executive Must Be Removed from State Panel


A tipster alerted me to the fact that the corrupt and wildly excessively-compensated Gail Barouh, pictured, whom I blogged about last week, is a member of an important oversight and advisory panel for the Empire State. With her sitting on the panel, it's impossible to believe it can provide a decent amount of necessary oversight.

The following letter was sent today to various elected officials, friends who are poz and negative, reporters across the state and healthcare watchdogs. It's my hope that others will also call for the removal of Barouh from this panel and quickly too.

Tomica Collado-Robinson
New York State Department of Health
AIDS Advisory Council
Secretary of the Council

Dear Ms. Collada-Robinson,

There are several crucial HIV-related matters I wish to bring to your attention and request that they be immediately addressed, in order to adequately allow the general public to fully engage with the department in crafting beneficial policies.

First, I see that the AIDS Advisory Council will be meeting on November 20 and must protest the lack of a published agenda on the AAC's web site.
 
Why is there no agenda available? An agenda is necessary to assist the public and HIV activists and persons living with AIDS decide if they should attend Thursday's meeting from 10:30 am to 1 pm. 

Furthermore, I cannot locate minutes from any previous AAC meetings. Where on the department's site are minutes available for public inspection?

Second, I wish to know what steps, if any, will be taken at the November 20 meeting to potentially remove AAC member Ms. Gail Barouh, the executive director of the Long Island Association for AIDS Care. 

As you know, on September 30, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a damning audit of LIAAC and found that Ms. Barouh was responsible for questionable spending totaling $179,000 from state government HIV contracts. 

Third, since the AAC takes many positions on state government spending impacting health services for HIV poz persons and those at-risk of contracting the virus, and provides oversight of that spending, it is unethical to retain Ms. Barouh on the AAC in any capacity.

Since I am unable to attend the November 20 meeting, I request that you enter this letter into the public record and provide a copy to the person taking minutes.

Please confirm by 12 noon on November 19 that you have received this letter and will present a copy at the AAC meeting and make sure the minutes include my concerns.

Regards,
Michael Petrelis
CDC's NAPWA Audit Released; Ex-ED's New Job at the NMA

(Frank Oldham. Courtesy photo.)

Long before the National Association of People With AIDS declared bankruptcy in February 2013 and ceased to exist, it lost its focus on individuals living with HIV/AIDS and was in no way a genuine community-based organization.

The CDC, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request I made shortly after the group's collapse, has released a 500-plus page audit of NAPWA and it's not a pretty picture. I've posted the audit here for all to read.

By the way, the last NAPWA executive director, Frank Oldham, now works at the National Medical Association in Silver Spring, MD. The nonprofit is dedicated to the health needs of African-Americans. I reached him on the phone last week to get his thoughts about the audit and he promised he'd get back to me by the end of the week, after speaking with his lawyer. Unfortunately, Oldham didn't call or email me.

Reporter Duncan Osborne is a longtime watchdog of AIDS nonprofits for Gay City News and friend who I asked to review the audit and here are his observations:


Osborne: See page 131, pictured, for the minutes of an April 20, 2009 meeting of the executive committee of the board. They approved a cut in the NAPWA budget of at least $300,000 so the agency was already in trouble then. 

Go to pages 304 to 308 to see documentation on the lack of progress for this capacity building contract. They appear to be falling short on many substantive measures due to lack of staffing among other reasons. 

On 309, they're late reporting results by about two months. On 317, they are promising to correct flaws in their earlier reporting.


Osborne: See page 433, pictured. Half of NAPWA's cash was coming from the feds in 2008. That is up from 43 percent in 2007. This reliance on federal dollars means the minute the feds cut you, you're in trouble. Fed contracts were down to 42 percent in 2009. And down to 41 percent in 2010. These percentages weren't declining because NAPWA was replacing that money with private cash. They were declining because the feds were cutting the contracts and the agency WASN'T replacing those dollars. 

MP: These lines are evidence of how the group was not first and foremost committed to representing people with AIDS: "NAPWA is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to halting the spread of HIV through serving people impacted by the disease and the community-based organizations which assist them. NAPWA provides a wide-range of HIV/AIDS services which include development of effective and far-reaching HIV prevention education messages."

What the hell NAPWA doing making prevention its number one priority when the PWA part of its name were already infected with HIV? The answer is keeping the CDC prevention dollars flowing and in the final years of its existence receiving grants from the Ora-Sure to promote HIV testing. Their constituency was supposed to be poz folks, not negative people in need of prevention of services.


Osborne: See page 479, pictured, as well. NAPWA refinanced its bank debt in 2010. They were losing money and borrowing on their line of credit, I presume, to pay expenses and payroll. Page 479 has a discussion of their "sustainability plan." Page 481 suggests they were having trouble paying payroll taxes. The last 20 pages or so suggest was NAPWA being monitored, but had not done anything sneaky. It looks like they weren't paying their bills and I suspect that includes payroll taxes. You should check for state and fed tax liens. This looks like a classic mistake -- too much reliance on government dollars leading to failure when those government bucks get cut.

MP: I am waiting to hear back from the Silver Spring and Maryland state attorneys general offices about their investigation into the demise of NAPWA. Stay tuned for updates.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hope for Cinema: Roxie's Sold-Out French Noir Series

This may sound strange to folks who aren't cineastes, but I'm glad there wasn't a ticket I could purchase for Friday night's Henri-Georges Clouzot's flicks at the Roxie as the theatre began a French noir festival.

Actually, I couldn't buy a ticket for any of the screenings on Saturday either because the Roxie was sold-out. I'd like to believe other cineastes understand why I'm fine about not being able to see the majority of these film noir classics from the country that gave us the term.



Check out my video from November 14 and see the beautiful long line of luck ticket-holders, as dozens of disappointed folks are turned away from the box office or looking for their friends who have tickets.

Knowing that so many film fans were showing up for this series pleases me no end because it shows more hope for cinema and the communal viewing of movies on a big screen.

I've played it very safe for tonight's last two films in the series and bought an advance ticket, and have printed it out. Who knew the Roxie finally joined an online ticket service?



Just a reminder that the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley earlier this year saw a similar crowd when their Satyajit Ray retrospective opened and was sold-out on the first night. My video show the line of folks hoping there are cancellations for reserved seats and a young movie buff loudly announcing he wants a ticket.

Cinema is alive and well in the Bay Area!
Which Supervisor Got $15,700 Worth of Free SF Opera Tix?

(Sup. Eric Mar at the podium speaking at a July presser. Credit: Paul Chinn, SF Chronicle.)

The current compensation package for each member of the Board of Supervisors comes to $154,719, giving them enough money to purchase tickets to cultural programs at any of the houses that comprise the City-owned War Memorial & Performing Arts Center.

Public disclosure records show that several Supervisors have received thousands of dollars in comp tickets to the City Arts and Lectures, SF Ballet, SFJazz, the SF Opera and the SF Symphony programs taking place at these City-funded institutions.

(Public document shows Mar and Campos received SF Opera tickets valued at either $296 or $306 in September.)

Here's the list of Supervisors who took advantage of the comps available to them, from 2012 through September 30, 2014, and total amount of comps they received:

Eric Mar:
$15,707

David Campos:
$3,192

Scott Wiener:
$1,335

Malia Cohen:
$530

Mark Farrell:
$256

David Chiu:
$144

The combined amount of freebies for these six Supervisors since 2012 is $21,164. The disclosure forms state the reasons for the comps include gaining awareness of the institutions or building appreciation for them.

We must ask the Supervisors to fully and voluntarily disclose all perks available them, eg: SF Giants tickets, Muni passes, free parking, on their official City-funded web sites and to explain which perks they've used and when.

Given their six-figure salaries, I believe they can well afford to purchase tickets to the cultural events and avoid the appearance of entitlement as elected officials, feeding at the public trough in all ways possible.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

AIDS Orgs Must Disclose All Gilead Grants on Their Sites
(Originally posted at my Facebook campaign site on November 3.)

Recent hearings held by the Board of Supervisors have focused on access to Gilead's HIV drug Truvada for use as a PrEP regimen, but the politicians haven't addressed the price of this drug and Gilead's other HIV and hepatitis medicines.

At the same time, there's been tremendous cheerleading from AIDS service and advocacy organization pushing Truvada as PrEP, and I don't have a problem with that. What I do object to is how AIDS Inc has by and large not demanded lower pricing, and groups receiving Gilead donations have not disclosed financial support from the firm.

It's time to call on our HIV community organizations to create and regularly update transparency pages on their web sites fully disclosing all grants or in-kind gifts from Big Pharma and medical supply companies, and from all corporations. We need to see the amounts given, when they were made and for what purpose they will be used.

In our backyard, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation has received at least $600,000 from Gilead in recent years and their spokesman James Loduca worked for the firm handling public affairs for their HIV drugs (http://tinyurl.com/SFAF-Gilead-Loduca), while IRS 990 filings from Project Inform reveal they've accepted $417,000 from the company (http://tinyurl.com/PI-IRS990-2012 and also http://tinyurl.com/PI-IRS990-FY2013).

These two groups have collaborated to create a social marketing campaign promoting Truvada as PrEP, and like their home web sites, the campaign's site omits mention of robust grants from Gilead (http://tinyurl.com/SFAF-PI-PrEP).

SFAF publishes the BETA newsletter about HIV drug developments and a recent report in it looked at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation's ad campaign opposing Truvada for prevention. Nowhere does BETA disclose SFAF received money from Gilead (http://tinyurl.com/BETA-PrEP-AHF).

In New York City, the Gay Men's Health Crisis has accepted at least $400,000 from Gilead in the past two years and GMHC's Treatment Issues newsletter has also covered Truvada and like BETA failed to disclose the Gilead grants (http://tinyurl.com/GMHC-PrEP). GMHC has also organized PrEP rallies and as far as I can determine, at them doesn't make the Gilead grants transparent to participants.

Back in 2011, SFAF, PI and GMHC signed on to an open letter (http://tinyurl.com/Truvada-Letter-2011), addressed to the FDA and Gilead urging prompt review of regulations that would approve Truvada for PrEP and they weren't the only AIDS organizations that had received Gilead money to add their group's name to the letter. Other groups include:

AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (http://tinyurl.com/AAC-Gilead-lunch);
AIDS Foundation of Chicago (http://tinyurl.com/AFC-Gilead-grants);
AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta (http://tinyurl.com/ARCA-Gilead);
AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (http://tinyurl.com/AVAC-Gilead);
Black AIDS Institute (http://tinyurl.com/BlackAIDS-Gilead);
Fenway Health.

And these aren't the only HIV nonprofits raking in Gilead money. According to the Gilead Foundation's IRS 990 filings from 2010 through 2012 (http://tinyurl.com/Gilead-990s-GuideStar), and 2013 (http://tinyurl.com/Gilead-IRS990-2013), the following groups received robust six-figure grants:

AIDS Atlanta, $200,000;
AIDS United, $200,000;
Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, $200,000;
Howard Brown Health Center, $400,000;
International AIDS Vaccine Coalition, $200,000;
LA Gay & Lesbian Community Center, $200,000;
Metro Teen AIDS DC, $400,000;
Whitman Walker Clinic, $500,000.

There are dozens of other groups that also accepted Gilead dollars, but in lesser amounts and regardless of the amount, all AIDS nonprofits must become transparent on their sites about the Gilead and all Big Pharma grants.

All medical journals now require financial and conflict of interest disclosures from authors and researchers, which accompanies all articles. We need the same transparency standard from AIDS groups.

If you're pissed off, #VotePetrelis!
NYT Neediest Cases Site Now Links to IRS 990s

(What the site said at the start of last week.)

My request a few days ago to the New York Times to provide transparency on its Neediest Cases Fund site has produced a step forward and I'm pleased, even though it's not the fullest voluntary transparency possible.

I wanted the Times to provide at least three years' of IRS 990 filings and annual financial reports on the fund's homepage and here's what the paper's spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said about their transparency:

Thank you for your email. Our Forms 990 are available online on the website www.guidestar.org., a website which gathers and displays Forms 990 for most not-for-profit organizations. Registration on Guidestar is free and so anyone can see our Forms 990 online if they wish. As you note, we now provide a link directly to that site. We are satisfied with this level of transparency.

(At the end of the week, a link was added.)

Sure wish I knew what the reasons are for not simply posting the tax filings, instead of making folks register at GuideStar to view them, and requiring a written request for copies of the annuals financial reports.

So, polite applause for the link to GuideStar but no standing ovation since the filings and reports are still omitted from the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund's site.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

SF Faerie House For Sale in January: No More Orgies?

(Composite image of a few sections of the colorful interiors and front exterior of this legendary house. Courtesy photo.) 

The tremendous positive queer benefits, especially the spiritual and sexual healing, that occurred at the Faerie House in San Francisco cannot be over-stated. Owner Marty Kahn is an unsung homo hero for allowing so much pleasure to flow from the bodies and minds of queers at his home. Thanks, Marty!

This house welcomed all men, and women too at the pansexual orgies, regardless of age, body shape, economic status, cock size, being HIV poz or negative, skin color and our communal culture was allowed to flourish and be fabulous and justly celebrated.

All this happened without the Nanny State monitors of AIDS Inc groups or the Department of Public Health. There is so little queer space not colonized by commercial interests or intrusive busybodies on the government payroll or receiving state grants, making this house extraordinarily necessary for the natural evolution and development of our communal norms and sexual healing arts.

Mike and I went there countless times over the years, especially for the Tuesday Sucks events, and so many times we enjoyed the company and bodies of other dudes we otherwise would not have engaged with.

One of my favorite memories from the Faerie House was the memorial orgy honoring our friend and sex icon Scott O'Hara. It was a medium sized crowd and everyone was on a good vibe and pulling out all the stops to laugh, love and remember Scott's enormous endowment and sweetness. I learned two new sexual positions that night!

Members of the Bay Area Faerie Circle have created a Facebook page, explaining the upcoming sale of the property and an effort to keep it in queer hands. We wish them all the best with this project. From the faeries press release:

The 14th Street House (known as the Faerie House by some) is going on the market in January 2015. For over 25 years, this house has been a residence, a safe space for sex-positive gatherings, and a nexus for radical sexuo-spiritual community. 

In 1988, it was purchased as a place for gay men to gather and build individual and communal intimacy at a time when bathhouses and other spaces were closing due to the AIDS epidemic. Since then, this refuge has taken on a multifaceted meaning. 

Various leather, kink, sex-positive, yoga and pan-spiritual groups have hosted and participated in events that touched - even transformed - the lives of many people in San Francisco and the wider world. 

The 14th Street House Project is working with the San Francisco Community Land Trust to create a housing cooperative (6-8 low/moderate-income tenants) to steward and maintain the house in a sustainable model, keeping it accessible to its various communities and a safe space for future generations. 

The Project’s goal is to raise $900k in pledges and donations by the end of 2014 to fund this joint purchase of the 14th Street House. Interested donors should contact us at: 14thstreethouseproject@gmail.com.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fire Chief & Wiener Got How Many $600 Comp Tix?

(Click to enlarge.)

San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White is the City's second highest paid public employee according to public records, taking home a robust pay and benefits package totaling $422,353 last year for her services and expertise. She's not hurting for money with that kind of compensation.

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, like all members of the Board of Supervisors, received a compensation package of $154,719 in 2013. He's hardly scrapping by to pay the rent, as far as I know.

(Click to enlarge.)

Why are these public officials receiving free tickets to the three-days of Outside Lands concerts through Recreation and Parks Department, when they clearly can afford to purchase them with their own funds?

Wiener received three $595 tickets totaling $1,785 and Hayes-White two tickets costing $1,190. The concerts were held in Golden Gate Park from August 8 through August 10.

For Wiener, who holds sway over the Recreation and Parks Department's annual budget, I believe it's not ethical to accept any freebies from the department.

In Hayes-White's case, she has no power over the department with a yearly paycheck well over $400,000, she should buy her own tickets.

The alleged public purpose of the comps is explained as "increasing public exposure to, and awareness of. the recreation, cultural and educational facilities available to the public in the City" and "gathering public input on City facilities and spaces".

Translation? Our public leaders like to enjoy their entitlement and privilege on the taxpayer's dime and both Hayes-White and Wiener took advantage of the perks available to them, feeding themselves at the trough.



Last night, Thursday, November 13, I attended the San Francisco fire commission's meeting to again demand the $86 million fire department immediately begin meeting at City Hall and airing their meetings on SF GovTV.

The July 10 commission minutes reveal lame excuses from Hayes-White about the expense of installing television equipment in the auditorium at the department's headquarters on Second Street and that's it's easier for her commanders to meet there instead of City Hall, taxpayers be damned. I used the minutes to argue for respecting taxpayers and putting the meeting on City media platforms.

The fire chief and her department needs lot more watchdogging and it may take action from the Board of Supervisors to bring this commission into the modern tech age and taking full advantage of TV and web streaming and video-on-demand, to better serve the general public.