Wednesday, May 31, 2006

(Gays bashed in Moscow? No reason for Rice to speak out.)

Rice, State Dept Still Silent on Violence at Moscow Gay March

Last weekend gays and lesbian Russians, along with friends from around the globe, attempted to stage a peaceful march for gay rights in Moscow and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The demonstrators were met by hostile cops, antigay thugs and many gays were arrested. Reports from Moscow about the aborted march and aggressive politicians who denied permits to the marchers appeared on several gay blogs and news web sites, and stories appeared in mainstream newspapers and on the wires.

While all the noise and reporting from Moscow was of prime concern to human rights advocates and politicians beyond Russia's borders, President George Bush and the White House made no public condemnations about the violence perpetrated on the pro-gay marchers.

Of course, because we're talking about a human rights problem in a foreign country, it would be our State Department that should issue a condemnation or statement about the situation in Moscow over the weekend.

As a matter of fact, just three short months ago, the State Department released its latest annual survey of global human rights practices, and the section on Russia singled out the mistreatment of gays:

Although homosexuality is not illegal, many male homosexuals continued to suffer discrimination from all levels of society. Medical practitioners continued to limit or refuse their access to health services due to intolerance and prejudice. According to recent studies, male homosexuals were often refused work due to their sexuality. Openly gay men were targets for skinhead aggression, which was often met with law enforcement indifference.

That last sentence could easily apply to what happened just a few short days ago but even though the State Department made mention of gays in the annual report, which surely didn't please Vladimir Putin or other Russian leaders, the department did and said absolutely nothing about the attacks on gays. I guess Secretary Rice and her public affairs officers were too busy tending to holiday barbeques and sales at department stores.

No releases about the antigay attacks posted here. Not a word from Rice about the flare up of hatred of homosexuals in Russia, despite this promise on the web page for all of her public comments:

Secretary Rice recognizes that in its fight for freedom, the U.S. must increase exchanges with the rest of the world--confronting hate, dispelling dangerous myths, and getting out the truth.

And Rice's spokesman, at the first daily press briefing after the attacks, said nothing and none of the reporters at the briefings asked a single question regarding the homo-hatred on display in Moscow.

What possible reason could justify the American government's great silence about the bashing of gays in Moscow on May 27? Are the human rights practices of Russia towards its gay citizens of importance just when the State Department issues its annual report? Our government owes us all a frank and forceful statement deploring the antigay abuses that occurred in Moscow.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Allen Schindler, Gay Sailor, is Remembered

It's Memorial Day and I'm remembering all the brave men and women who've served to keep America free, and that includes not just those who were in the armed forces, but also all the people who have worked to end wars, contain the military industry complex and redirect war funding to instead meet the health and housing needs of Americans.

And on this day of remembrance, let's recall the many gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders who joined the military and served the country with honor and distinction, and, in particular, those gays who died serving America or were killed by homophobic policies and other soldiers or sailors.

One such individual, of course, was US Navy radioman Allen Schindler, who was murdered by another sailor in a brutal stomping death in a public toilet in Sasebo, Japan, in late October 1992.

During the two years leading up to the time he was murdered, Schindler had accepted his gayness and was subjected to constant, vicious antigay threats by other sailors on his ship the Belleau Wood. Those threats were repeatedly ignored by his captain and others in the US Navy and eventually Schindler died a horrific death, some say because of official attitudes designed to make gay sailors treated like less-than-human beings.

Schindler's killer was convicted of his death the week before Memorial Day 1993 and is serving his time in a federal penitentiary.

And Allen Schindler is not forgotten.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Crimson: Bush Gopher, College Dropout, Admitted to Harvard

I guess if you work as Dubya's gopher and you once dated one of his daughters, you're very entitled to special admission privileges from Harvard. All the other poor suckers who lack such connections and applied to this elite school, but weren't accepted, are probably steaming mad about this story:

A 26-year-old college dropout who carries President Bush’s breath mints and makes him peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches will follow in his boss’s footsteps this fall when he enrolls at Harvard Business School (HBS).

Though it is rare for HBS—or any other professional or graduate school—to admit a student who does not have an undergraduate degree, admissions officers made an exception for Blake Gottesman, who for four years has served as special assistant and personal aide to Bush.

Membership in the ruling class certainly has its privileges for this 26-year-old. Maybe Harvard has a special affirmative action program for other young men like Gottesman?

Gottesman, a Texas native who attended Claremont-McKenna College in California for one year, has long had ties to the Bush family. He dated the president’s daughter, Jenna Bush, nearly ten years ago when he attended St. Andrew’s Episcopal School of Austin.

After completing his freshman year at Claremont in 1999, he left to join the Bush presidential campaign and later served as a junior aide to former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. In February 2002, he became the president’s personal assistant.

In his current role, Gottesman performs a wide range of duties, from dog-sitting the president’s Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley, to carrying the president’s speeches and giving him the “two-minute warning” before a speech begins.

Sounds like qualifications for admission to an Ivy League school, wouldn't you say? Wonder if he'll get gentleman's C's like his boss.

Gottesman has declined all requests for comment on his business school admission, but White House staffers have described him as loyal, warm, and fun-loving.

Oh, c'mon Blade. Don't be shy and give reporters the silent treatment. Tell journalists and the American public what it feels like to move to the head of the admissions line because of connections to the Bush family.

“He is a friend and adviser to every employee of the White House, from career maintenance workers to cabinet secretaries,” Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin told The Myrtle Beach Sun News. “He is consistently kind and warm and generous with his time and provides extraordinarily good advice.”

And that's apparently more than enough to get you into Harvard these days.

Gottesman has likened his role at the White House to that of Charlie Young on the NBC television program “The West Wing.” When asked about his similarity to Young in an interactive question-and-answer session on the White House’s Web site, Gottesman wrote, “Charlie seems to be smarter, funnier, and better-looking. But, from what I remember—our jobs are probably pretty similar.”

HBS spokesman James E. Aisner ’68 explained the decision to accept Gottesman, even though he is not a college graduate, by telling The Economist that “extraordinary circumstances will sometimes compel it to drop [its] rule” of only admitting students who hold bachelor's degrees.

All applicants to Harvard should have similar circumstances help them get in to the school.

He refused to comment specifically on Gottesman, citing Harvard’s policy of not commenting on the admission of any individual student.

Aisner also pointed out to The Economist that Harvard would surely admit applicants like Bill Gates and Michael Dell, both of whom are college dropouts.

But the often-snarky British weekly noted: “Needless to say, holding the president’s hand-sanitizer is a far cry from heading a Fortune 500 company.”

Thanks, writers at The Economist, for speaking some truth to (the abuse) of power!

No PWAs Speaking at SF's 25th AIDS Commemoration

File this as an "only in San Francisco" kind of AIDS story.

The following message was posted today on a Yahoo group, Thrive!, for people with AIDS in San Francisco and it's shocking to see not one publicly identified person with AIDS is listed as a participant in next week's commemoration. With thousands of people with AIDS living here, and many long-term survivors among us, I'd expect the politicians and bureaucrats would be able to locate at least one, perhaps even two or three, PWAs to be among the honored speakers. That is, if pols like Pelosi and Newsom could put aside their enormous egos for once.

But no, the organizers seem more concerned with promoting politicians, as if any of the pols on the agenda ever have a hard time finding a platform.Please note that four pols are going to speak! Really, one would be plenty. Give the platform to people with the disease and let PWAs give voice to our concerns. Guess the stage isn't large enough to share with PWAs.

Why the organizers go out of their way to cite long-term survivors in this announcement, but didn't bother to find an actual living long-term AIDS survivor, says a lot about the (mis) treatment of PWAs in San Francisco, the country's AIDS model city.

Mark my words: This is a prime example of how PWAs will be treated, and excluded from events marking the 25th anniversary since the CDC first reported on the disease, and is a shameful mark on San Francisco and its leaders.



Twenty-five years ago this week, the first cases of what would become known as AIDS were reported. Please join us as San Francisco remembers that key milestone announcement by honoring long-time survivors whose courage and resolve have helped define compassion, determination and hope for us all. We also honor the unwavering spirit of volunteerism. San Francisco's response to HIV/AIDS has always depended on the generosity of spirit that the women, men and youth of this great City have continually provided to those in need.

Please Join:

Mayor Gavin Newsom and Representative Nancy Pelosi, Supervisor Tom Ammiano & Supervisor Bevan Dufty

and invited guests:

Bishop Yvette Flunder, Jimmy Loyce [Director of SF DPH's AIDS Office], San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus

Thursday June 1, 2006
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

The Herbst Theater
401 Van Ness Avenue

For further information please contact:
Rachelle McManus, 415-554-6986
Steven Tierney, 415-487-3034

Friday, May 19, 2006

Polish Ex-Prez Questioned on Gays at SF Talk

The president of Poland from 1995 to 2005, Aleksander Kwasniewski, on May 17 came to San Francisco's Jewish Community Center to participate in a lecture and forum on reconciliation between Poles and Jews.

Three gay men, John Silverman, Ken Hodnett, and myself, attended the event, hoping Kwasniewski would address homophobia in Poland and the myriad hostilities faced by Polish gays today.

Kwasniewski's lecture was very honest in recognizing the historical conflicts between not only Poles and Jews, but also the centuries of warfare between his country and the Russians, the Germans and other Europeans. He didn't play the "victim card" and went out of his way to acknowledge Poland's attacks on the Ukraine.

During the formal Q&A part of the evening, the moderators did not ask him about his views on recent violence perpetrated against Polish gays, even though I had written and submitted two gay-specific questions to the moderators.

After Kwasniewski's talk, he milled about the auditorium and accepted best wishes from many in the audience.

I nudged myself close to him and presented him with two articles with large color photos, written by veteran progressive writer and gay advocate Doug Ireland for New York's Gay City News. Ireland's articles detailed the brutal treatment of Polish gays in the past few months, and you can read them here and here. Kwasniewski glanced at the stories and photos, then quickly handed them to an aide.

With my tape recorder inches from his mouth, we had the following exchange:

Q: What about gay people? Gay people are being bashed in Poland.

KWASNIEWSKI: Not during my presidency. This is a problem of my successor.

Q: But will support equal rights for gays? Polish gays just want equal rights.

KWASNIEWSKI: I know the gays. And, and the problems of your problems. It's not my problem.

Q: Polish gays just don't want to be beaten up on the streets.

KWASNIEWSKI: On the gays, the gays, the gays. This we have in the constitution, the sentence which I accepted because before my presidency I was chairman of constitutional committee. Commission said to me, no discriminations. Nothing. And I, I hope and I'm sure the Polish authorities will respect this article of the constitution.

Q: Thank you.

KWASNIEWSKI: No discriminations. Never.

Q: They just don't want to be beat up.

If he hadn't moved away from me, I would have informed Kwasniewski that gays did face repression when he was president and despite his belief that there have never been "discriminations" against gays, as he put it, Polish gays have certainly endured discrimination and suffered too many bashings.

The former president, of course, is right about the general anti-discrimination article being in the Polish constitution, but was rather slick and avoided acknowledging and addressing the blatant intolerance and hatred directed at Polish gays and lesbians, as they try to peaceably assemble and organize for full equality.

This what the International Gay and Lesbian Association web site reports on the constitution and gays:

In April 1995 the Constitutional Committee of the Polish Parliament proposed that the anti-discrimination clause of the constitution include protection from discrimination on the grounds sexual orientation. However this proposal met strong opposition, particularly from the Roman Catholic Church. The constitution as finally approved by Parliament in March 1997 dropped the list of protected categories of people, the revised anti-discrimination article reading as follows: "Nobody can be discriminated based on any ground in political, social or economical life".(art. 32 part 2). The constitution also included an Article restricting marriage to heterosexual couples. (Slawek Starosta, ILGA Euro-Letter No. 52 - August 1997)

I contacted Tomek Szypula, a Polish gay activist and leader with the advocacy group Kampania Przeciw Homofobii, to get his opinion about Kwasniewski and his relations with gays. Here is Tomek Szypula's response:

Hi Michael

Mr. Kwasniewski has good intentions but he didn't do anything to support gays and lesbians during his 10-years presidency.

Last year in June when the Mayor of Warsaw Lech Kaczynski (now the new President) banned the Pride, President Kwasniewski and the Prime minister from SLD (Left Democratic Alliance) didn't do ANYTHING.

We sent some appeals and letters asking for interventions but there was no answer at all.

Kwasniewski is an opportunist. He wants to be popular and he knows that 90 per cent of Poles are Catholic. Officially he is liberal but he tries to avoid any
controversial actions.

I don't know any of his official statements during his presidency which were in favour gay and lesbian rights. Kwasniewski was the President until Dec 2005. Our problems started in Spring 2004 (for the first time the pride was banned).

I hope I answered to your questions.

Yes, Tomek, you did answer my questions, and on behalf of the three of us San Francisco gay men who attended Kwasniewski's lecture and challenged him on gay matters, we're proud to have helped Polish gays and lesbians in some small way. We stand with the Polish gay community as they organize for acceptance and equality. And when Kwasnieski speaks again in San Francisco, we promise to be there and ask him once more to question him on gay issues.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

SF Chron: 440 Tested HIV Poz Last Year (Stats keep changing!)

New Englanders like to say if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. It will change. The same can be said at times about the HIV testing rate and number of people receiving positive test results in San Francisco.

From today's SF Chronicle:

Last year, 20,000 people were tested for HIV in San Francisco, and 440 of them tested positive, Klausner said.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

AP: 240 People in SF Tested HIV Poz in '05 (New Lower Infection Rate?)

Okay, all you folks out there who know math and do your best to follow San Francisco's ever-fluctuating rate for new HIV infection, I need your help.

Back in March of this year the city health department lowered its estimate of infection, as duly reported first in the Bay Area Reporter, then in the Chronicle.

This is what the BAR said:

Now the city is estimating the number of new HIV cases will drop to 976, with gay men accounting for 772 of those cases each year.

And the Chronicle went with the same number for projected new HIV cases:

The new estimate is 976 -- 87 percent of them gay men.

So, for all intents and purposes, HIV epidemiologists here believe their best guess for new infections is near the one-thousand mark, right?

Well, an Associated Press story out tonight claims the actual number new positives is much, much lower than what the BAR and Chronicle reported just two months ago:
Last year, 240 people tested positive out of the 6,000 tested in San Francisco.

How is it the same health department can make such wildly differing claims about the HIV rate, in year 25 of the AIDS epidemic, in the one city in America that is really supposed to have its act together about EVERYTHING to do with HIV, including accurate epidemiology?

Reading the numbers, which, of course, come from the same source, SF DPH, I think we can safely say it's not reporters getting the figures wrong -- it's the health officials here doing their Keystone Kops routine in presenting HIV estimates.

By the way, looking at the stats from the AP wire, 240 out of 6,000 comes to 4 percent.

And this is my question for you: Are the 240 people tested figure and 4 percent rate a further drop in the HIV infection rate than earlier predicted by SF DPH?
Al-Jazeera: Iraqi Ayatollah Wants Gays Killed, Burned

This awful hateful news was reported today on the Middle East Media Research Institute's web site:

The following is excerpted from speeches and interviews with Iraqi Ayatollah Ahmad Husseini Al-Baghdadi, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on May 5, 2006, on Syrian TV on May 3, 2006, and on ANB TV on April 14, 2006.

"Whoever Marries Someone of the Same Sex Must Be Killed"

Ayatollah Ahmad Husseini Al-Baghdadi: "The second clause says no law may contradict the principles of democracy. Can you imagine millions demonstrating in Iraq, calling for same-sex marriage, like in Sweden, America, and Britain? Same-sex marriages means a marriage of a man with a man, or a woman with a woman. This is a terrible catastrophe, totally forbidden by Islam. Whoever marries someone of the same sex must be killed. Both must be killed as soon as possible and must be burned as well."

(Hat tip: Judith Klinghoffer)
(Retired Maj. General Arnold Punaro)

S&S: Equipment Shortalls Hurting US Troops in Iraq

The Bush administration and its base of right-wing supporters continually harp on how the supposed liberal media is always looking for negative stories to report about the war in Iraq. These Bushies simply don't want any critical news coverage about the war or the Pentagon's efforts miserable record of supplying our troops with adequate equipment and supplies to do their jobs properly.

I wonder how the Bushies will respond to this story in today's edition of the Stars & Stripes, the qausi-independent military newspaper, which, in my opinion, is doing an excellent job of getting out stories from and about Iraq.

Will the Bushies accuse the retired general speaking his truth to power of undermining our troops? Maybe some right-wingers will label the Stars & Stripes a liberal publication out to demoralize the troops and our campaign of spreading democracy in the Middle East?

Or perhaps they'll just ignore what the general has to say and what the Stars & Stripes is reporting.

From the Stars & Stripes:

Guard and Reserve units returning from war zones are facing such serious shortfalls of basic equipment that the issue is becoming an “an Achilles heel” for the Pentagon, according to a retired general asked to assess the situation.

“You can have all the greatest people in the world and the greatest leaders, but if you don’t have the equipment, it doesn’t work,” Arnold Punaro, chairman of the Congressionally chartered Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, said Tuesday.

“That’s an Achilles heel the [Defense] Department is going to have work very closely with Congress and the units on,” said Punaro, a retired major general in the Marine Corps.

Punaro said he has been surprised too at the number of high-ranking officers, not only from the reserve components, but from the active Army and Marine Corps, who have gone public, “beating the drums in warning about basic stuff, like trucks and communications gear.”

Shortfalls are also occurring in unit inventories of trucks, Humvees, helicopters, engineering and bridging equipment, radios, and communications gear — “just basic nuts-and-bolts equipment” — Punaro said.

“One of our governors told us his Guard brigade just got back [from Iraq] and he will not have any equipment for four years,” Punaro said. [...]

They are supposed to deliver a final report to Congress in March 2007 that identifies significant problems areas and recommends changes in laws and policies to help fix them. [...]

“If you talk to people in the Pentagon, they’ll say ‘no sweat, [the reserves] can do it in a cakewalk, in their sleep’. And you look at the results of the units that have served in Afghanistan [for example] and come back and served at home, and they’ve certainly done exceedingly well.”

But some business owners are telling commissioners that they cannot continue to employ constantly deployed reservists, Punaro said.

Meanwhile, “a gazillion pay categories” and other bureaucratic snafus and outdated regulations make bringing people on and off active duty “an absolute nightmare,” he said.

“My personal instinct is that [the situation with the reserves] is not as rosy as people suggest,” Punaro said.

So far, it seems as though Punaro's assessments have not been reported by any mainstream news outlets. Why are American reporters and editors, except for the Stars & Stripes, failing to write about what Punaro is saying about our ill-equiped troops?

Monday, May 15, 2006

(BAR publisher Tom Horn, on the left, wearing glasses)

BAR Endorsement of Angelides Omits Owner's Donation

By and large, the Bay Area Reporter adheres to standard journalistic practices in reporting news for the gay community and at election time, making endorsements.

But an integral rule of good journalism, disclosing to readers when the publisher has made a donation to a candidate, one that the paper strongly supports, is an ethical rule the BAR ignores.

An editorial in the current BAR asks Democratic voters to cast their ballots for California governor for Phil Angelides and the paper argues in favor of him in the June primary, and also says he's the man who can beat Gov. Schwarzenegger in November. Read the editorial here.

A quick search of the Secretary of State's campaign finance disclosure web page reveals BAR publisher, Thomas E. Horn, on March 7 donated $3,000 to Angelides' campaign, but this fact is not reported anywhere in Horn's paper.

In my view, Horn can donate to as many federal, state and local politicians as he wants to and there's certainly nothing illegal or unethical about such giving. Heck, looking at all of Horn's political giving over the years at every level of government, it's clear he has quite a bit of cash to spread around.

However, on the other hand, it's also incumbent on the BAR to be up front with readers about Horn's political largesse.

While we're on the topic of Horn and the BAR, I didn't know he was rather cheap about paying one of his star gossip columnists, who no longer writes for the paper.

From the very informative and fabulous online publication, the San Francisco Sentinel:

Read it here first, graybeards... Political junkies of the more mature generation remember Page Nine as a must-read every week for politico majesty and dirt... That would be Page Nine of the Bay Area Reporter (BAR) where Wayne Friday bold-faced every name that mattered and those who still striving...

Comes now Sentinel scooplet on just why Friday walked away from Page Nine...

With publisher Bob Ross gone to his reward - and white gloved Tom Horn squat purse-lipped in publisher's rocker - Horn and Friday thought otherwise on Friday's value to the BAR...

This weekend Friday described founding publisher Bob Ross as brilliant, rude, and an expletive deleted ("can't you see we're eating," Ross withered the overly helpful)...

Still, the two men often moved as one as they grew the early Tavern Guild and forged a fledgling communications medium called The BAR within the only publicly permitted LGBT gathering spots of that era... Friday took a weekly paycheck of $100.00 all those years...

Then came Horn and an assessment of Friday's value.

"I'll stay but I want $150.00 a week," Friday told new publisher Horn.

"You can have $125.00 but don't bring it up again," millionaire Horn edicted.

"I won't ever bring it up again," Friday pledged, departing Page Nine and the BAR...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

SF Chron: Navy SEALS in Training (Gay Eye Candy)

Here are some of the pix that appeared in the paper today, accompanying a story about Navy SEALs and their rigorous training exercises.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

SF Women & AIDS Mural Defaced, Painted Over by City

It was great while it lasted, but the beautiful San Francisco mural about women and AIDS on Scott Street near Haight is gone. I used to frequently see the mural on my way to my chiropractor and two weeks ago, when I noticed the ugly gray paint job, I asked around the neighborhood about what led up to the mural's destruction.

The mural was recently heavily tagged with graffiti and the city's strong anti-graffiti task force, after it couldn't locate the original women artists and get them to repaint the mural back to its original beauty, simply painted over the lower six feet of it with dull gray paint.

Business owners near the mural told me they would have preferred to restore the art work, and maintain an educational and prevention message targeting women at risk of contracting HIV or living with AIDS, but the graffiti task force was set on simply covering up the tagging.

By the way, this is not the first time the mural has been defaced. It was vandalized back in 2001, according to this SF Examiner story, and the women and AIDS mural was painted over with a graffiti-proof cover, one that apparently didn't work.

I find it odd that so far, no women's or arts or AIDS groups have said anything about the vandalism and the city's reaction. Given the strong voices of the women's, arts and AIDS communities in San Francisco, I would expect someone from those communities would try and save the mural, and its message.

Maybe the mural and its survival should be of concern to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who represents the neighborhood on the Board of Supervisors.

All I know is, people in power should raise their voices about the defacement and attempt to restore the AIDS mural. And let's not forget about the daily needs of women living AIDS.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Blade Omits Hard Gay Syphilis Numbers

Call me old-fashioned, but I'm the kind of activist who likes hard numbers behind scary stories in the gay press that raise concerns about alleged increases in any sexually transmitted disease among gay men. An alarming story in today's Washington Blade is rather lazy about answering a few questions, like, what are the actual numbers behind the percentages and did increased testing or surveillance play a role in the rising infection rate of syphilis for gays?

From the Blade:

A dramatic rise in the number of documented syphilis cases among gay men is prompting federal health officials to revamp national prevention programs to specifically target the demographic.

And what might that actual number be? The Blade doesn't say, but it does provide these percentages:

But from 1999 to 2004, the overall rate of documented syphilis cases in men who have sex with men (MSM) had increased by 68 percent. A separate study indicated that MSM made up 64 percent of all cases of the disease in the United States in 2004, up from only 5 percent in 1999.

Well, does that 68 percent increase mean there were 100 new cases? Maybe there were 1,000 or 100,000 new infections? The Blade is so coy about giving readers an actual number behind any of the percentages mentioned, which, in my opinion, is very shoddy reporting.

Go to this link at the CDC's STD Conference site to see two graphs about syphilis. You'll see that there does indeed appear to be a marginal rise, but the over all rate is not anywhere near the high peaks of 1990. Also, the CDC link does not provide hard numbers.

I'm not saying there hasn't been an increased in gay syphilis, but I sure would like hard, actual figures and not just the alarming percentages. Actually, at least the Blade reports percentages for gay syphilis, which is more than the paper does at the end of the story when it writes about LGV:

Other research presented at the conference highlighted the growing threat of lesser-known sexually transmitted diseases, which are appearing more frequently among sexually active people of all sexual orientations within the U.S.

Lymphogranuloma venereum, long found outside the U.S., has emerged as a new STD threat. Caused by a particular strain of Chlamydia bacteria, LGV cases in the U.S.—still relatively few—are most often found in men who have participated in receptive anal intercourse.

Why bother with any percentages or hard numbers when reporting on a growing threat? The important thing is raise readers' fears about the emerging infection, right? Sure, LGV may be spreading in the gay community, and that should be reason enough for the Blade to report some numbers on how many cases of this infection have been documented.

Finally, I raise the possibility of increased testing for syphilis as a factor that may be contributing to the reported rise in cases, because here in San Francisco, the health department in the December 2005 monthly STD report noted how more testing for gay rectal infections were probably due to more infections being detected:

Between 2004 and 2005, reported rectal infections increased 9% for rectal chlamydia and 11% for rectal gonorrhea. These increases might be the result of increased rectal screening at Magnet, the gay men's health center.

Of course, we should always be concerned about STDs, whether they're up, down or stable. However, it's also important that health officials and newspapers give as much statistical information as possible when sounding an alarm about alleged increases.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

(TAG's Mark Harrington)

NIH HIV Panelist Harrington's Disclosue Failure

Dr. Alice Pau
Executive Secretary
Panel on Clinical Practices for Treatment of HIV Infection
National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases
Bethesda, MD

Dear Dr. Pau:

Last week the panel released its latest treatment guidelines for people living with HIV and one panel member, Mark Harrington, the executive director of the Treatment Action Group, again failed to disclose his conflict of interest relationships.

On page 119 of the report, Harrington makes no disclosures. (Source: NIH recommendations)

However, the current annual report for his organization TAG reveals they've received substantial financial contributions from the following pharmaceutical companies: Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boehringer Ingelheim, Gilead and GlaxoSmithKline. (Source: TAG's 2004 annual report, page 7)

Additionally, TAG has also accepted funding from the National Institutes of Health's Office of AIDS Research, a fact not disclosed by Harrington in the new guidelines. (Source: TAG'S 2003 annual report, page 7)

To be honest, in my opinion, there is nothing inherently wrong or unethical with panel members taking grant dollars from either private drug corporations or the publicly funded NIH, but I find it troubling, to say the least, when all panel members don't properly disclose receiving those grant dollars.

I ask that you and the panel immediately amend the conflict of interest disclosure information for Harrington in the current guidelines. It should take no more than 10 or 15 minutes to update the PDF of the guidelines and include full disclosure about Harrington and TAG's relationships with the drug manufacturers and the NIH.

A prompt reply is requested and appreciated.

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

299 Iraqi Detainees Released After 3-Minute Hearings

This doesn't seem like such a good way to spread American-style democracy and rule of law principles.

Hold Iraqi detainees in U.S.-operated jails, then when the authorities consider what to do with the detainees, a review board meets in a secret location, the public is not permitted to observe, the accused men are not there and neither are defense attorneys.

From the May 9 edition of Stars & Stripes:

Nearly 300 prisoners were released from U.S.-run internment facilities in Iraq over the weekend, military officials said Monday. [...]

The reviews were conducted by the Combined Review and Release Board, an American-Iraqi panel that includes government officials from the ministries of Human Rights, Justice and Interior, as well as officers from the U.S. military command. [...]

The board reviews are held in a secret location, with no spectators allowed. The accused is not present and the cases are presented without defense lawyers.

The majority of the prisoners were released “with a guarantor” — a sheik or other official, vouching for them. In the other cases, the board voted, by a simple majority, that the detainee remained an imminent threat to the security of Iraq and should remain detained. [...]

Their workload, along with that of the 10 U.S. military lawyers who present the facts, evidence and intelligence in detainees’ files to the board — with an interpreter’s help — is intense.

Some 375 cases, divided among three boards, are heard each of three days the boards sit. That translates to an average of 20 cases heard per hour, officials said earlier this year.

I've heard of speed-dating, and this sounds very much like speed-adjudicating. The review boards average twenty cases per one hour, huh? That comes to about 3, yes three, minutes for each person's case.

Guess if they allowed defense lawyers to represent detainees we might see that time period stretch out to perhaps six minutes?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

(Spc. Paul Saylor)

Stars & Stripes: Review Of Embalming Procedure in Iraq

I really can't fathom what it must be like for the families of our U.S. service men and women to lose their loved ones in Iraq, then have to deal with the bodies returned home and classified as "non-viewable." With all the billions of dollars being spent on everything associated with the Iraq war, I would expect our military fully capable of properly embalming dead soldiers, but that doesn't appear to be happening.

According to a story in today's Stars & Stripes, the Senate passed a measure forcing the Pentagon to review how it embalms soldiers killed in war zones:

Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson of Georgia said they were compelled to act after hearing one family’s story about their son, 21-year-old Georgia Guardsman Spc. Paul Saylor, who drowned Aug. 15, 2005, when his Humvee ran off a road and toppled into a canal.

Although Saylor’s body was flown from Iraq to Dover Air Force Base, Del., embalmed there, and then flown home to Bremen in just three days, his body was so decomposed that the Army deemed him “non-viewable.”

Bill Hightower, a funeral director and a family friend, said there was only one way to recognize the child he had watched grow into a man.

“I recognized his nose,” Hightower told. “Just his nose.” [...]

But when Paul’s casket arrived at the airport, the family learned that the Army had deemed him “non-viewable.”

“They said he had a head injury,” Patti said.

“At no time did they mention” his true condition, she said.

Patti said she still hoped that she could see her child one last time, even if the casket would have to be closed during his funeral. [...]

Hightower did not detail what he saw except to say, “if they embalmed him, they used dishwater.”

“I was disgusted,” he said. “Angry, and totally disgusted. I was unable to do anything for this family.” [...]

In Iraq, servicemembers who die are placed in body bags, covered with ice-filled plastic bags and moved as quickly as possible from their bases, usually by helicopter, to one of about a dozen or so small “collection points,” each of which is staffed with a half-dozen Army mortuary affairs soldiers, according to the Army Quartermaster’s professional bulletin from winter 2004.

Of the more than 2,400 servicemembers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 584 have been listed as “non-viewable” for a variety of reasons, Dover spokeswoman, Air Force Lt. Col. Cheryl Law said.

But even with the intense summer heat in both countries, subsequent decomposition is relatively rare: About 39 servicemembers who have died in the Middle East, “or about 2 percent,” have been listed as decomposed, he said.

For Patti Saylor, “the point is, one’s too many.”

“We had mortuaries in the ’70s in Vietnam,” Saylor said. “This is 2006. There’s no excuse they can give me that they can’t do a better job.”

It’s not the soldiers “on the line” who are at fault, she said repeatedly. “We know the soldiers over there did all they could for Paul. They just didn’t have the equipment.” [...]

At the end of April, another story about Paul Saylor's death appeared in the Gwinnett Daily Post, providing more details about this tragic situation:

Even though her son died in a canal, his body wasn’t washed until it arrived at Dover Air Force Base.

While the family members of two soldiers who died alongside Paul Saylor were able to view their loved one’s body, Saylor’s body couldn’t even be put into a uniform.

“You’ll always wonder, is it really him?” Patti Saylor said. “It would have meant a lot. We hugged the casket. That’s all we had.”

My heart goes out to the Saylor family of Georgia over the loss of their son Paul.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Deleted! NYT's Removes "Gay Bowel Syndrome" Entry

In a message dated 5/4/2006 9:47:57 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Dear Michael,

Thank you for alerting me to this blog entry. In fact the article you refer to was originally posted in 2005 and removed immediately it was deemed inappropriate - as a result of your email. You may have seen that the blog entry on the site acted as the link to the original article. This should have been removed from the site at the same time the article was deleted. I have tracked the entry and deleted it and it disappear completely from the site in the next few hours.

In your recent blog you suggest an apology is appropriate. I have absolutely no difficulty in offering this apology. It was certainly never my intention to provoke a negative reaction over what I believed at the time to be the commonly used terminology for a particular set of symptoms. I also believe that, over time, several other health sites have also removed references to 'gay bowel syndrome' from their sites as the message has become more widely understood.

I hope you will accept that this was not a malicious entry. I have, I believe, a genuine and sincere interest in all aspects of men's health. My approach has been to provide an eclectic health resource for all men and to provide useful tips and guidance. You have quite rightly engaged with me over this particular issue, for which I have apologised previously, and again now.

Best Wishes



Hey Jerry,

Thanks so much for your understanding about this matter. I am very appreciative of the fact that you wrote back, quickly removed the offending entry on "gay bowel syndrome," offer up a genuine apology and very importantly, have deleted the entry from I think you must know, after having heard from me a few times about this, just how outraged it makes me when this fictitious syndrome is given credence. Again, thank you for doing the right thing.


- has deleted the offensive entry:
(CA insurance commissioner John Garamendi, Democrat.)

CA Dem Garamendi Lies About Sodomy Votes?

I've never been one to give Democrats a pass simply because they're the lesser-of-two-evils when it comes to gay and HIV issues, a stance that drives many of Democratic Party friends crazy.

In my view, one of the biggest dilemmas facing American democracy is the corrupt two-party system, a system controlled by Democrats and the GOP to keep out Greens, Libertarians, Socialists, other third parties and independents from full participation in the political process. For all the lip-service Democrats and Republican pay to competition in general, and in endorsing a strong marketplace of ideas, both major parties are all too content to maintain their duopoly.

As a registered Green Party voter, I can't hold my nose and vote for a lousy Democrat, like Nancy Pelosi or Gray Davis, and I always get the feeling from Democrats, when they screw over gays, that they take the gay voter for granted and don't expect the community to hold them accountable. After all, too many Democratic leaders believe, the gays won't leave the party to join the openly antigay GOP or vote for their candidates, so there's little incentive for Democrats to always and consistently defend gay rights.

Today's Bay Area Reporter newspaper features a page-one story about one such Democrat -- John Garamendi. He currently serves as California's insurance commissioner and wants to be elected in November as the state's lieutenant governor. Seems as though Garamendi did not side with us gays in the 1970s when sodomy repeal was pending in the legislature:

From the BAR:

Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, now running in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, did not vote for the repeal of sodomy laws 30 years ago when he served in the state Assembly, despite a Los Angeles gay Democrat's claim to the contrary in a letter sent to LGBT political clubs that were considering candidate endorsements.

Eric Bauman, chair of the Los Angeles Democratic County Central Committee and a top aide to Garamendi in the Department of Insurance, sent out a letter on February 11 in which he implies that Garamendi voted for Assembly Bill 489 and "stood up for a group of people who had few champions ..." in 1975 when the bill, which decriminalized state sodomy laws, was up for a vote.

In fact, then-Assemblyman Garamendi, who represented a conservative area outside of Sacramento, voted against the bill authored by then-Assembly Speaker Willie Brown not once, but twice, according to the Assembly Journal.

AB489 ultimately passed the legislature and was signed into law by then-Governor Jerry Brown. It decriminalized sodomy and adultery between consenting adults. [...]

But Robert Oakes, a member of the Stonewall Democratic Club in Sacramento, told the B.A.R. that he is still waiting for the retraction regarding the misinformation about AB489 contained in Bauman's letter. [...]

At an earlier club meeting in February, Garamendi was present, Oakes said, adding that he was asked about the February 11 Bauman letter.

"He took a duck," Oakes said, adding that Garamendi said he could not remember every vote he had cast while in the legislature.

"We were told by his campaign that it would issue a retraction. That has yet to happen," Oakes said Tuesday. [...]

Former San Francisco Supervisor Leslie Katz, now chair of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, was one of several local LGBT leaders who signed a February 21 letter to "LGBT community leaders" alerting them to the issue.

"Recently, at a Sacramento Stonewall Democratic Club meeting, Insurance Commissioner Garamendi, candidate for lieutenant governor, took credit for taking a risk in his district by casting a tie-breaking vote ...," Katz's letter began. It then went on to state that Garamendi voted against the Brown "consenting adults" bill.

Katz told the B.A.R. that she and others, including Oakes, sent the letter because they felt the community was being misled. [...]

Imagine that. Democrats misleading gay voters, and a Democrat in the most liberal of states, California! Our gay community, as a whole, and individuals, should support alternatives to the two major parties, like voting Green, and in the process, forcing the Democrats to actively compete for our votes and stop treating us as battered spouses or domestic partners, too fearful of leaving an abusive relationship.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

(Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.)

NYT's Lies: "Gay Bowel Syndrome"

It never ceases to amaze me how otherwise intelligent people, including well-educated medical professionals and New York Times Company employees, still think there's a disease called "gay bowel syndrome."

One of the latest general information web sites to buy into the false premise about this alleged syndrome is none other than the New York Times' site.

Dr. Jerry Kennard, a British psychologist who serves as the guide for the men's health section of, posts this b.s. entry about "gay bowel syndrome":

Gay bowel syndrome is a condition that most frequently affects gay men who practice fisting. Read more about gay bowel syndrome.

Sure, that's a very short entry, but it can have a big (negative) impact on people searching the web for accurate information on gay men and gay health issues, and the folks at the New York Times and should immediately remove this offensive and incorrect entry.

You may recall that last November, I found a different "gay bowel syndrome" listing on and the New York Times quickly removed it, but for some reason, another entry has made it on to the site.

The New York Times, and Dr. Kennard are in bed on this non-existent disease with none other than the long-discredited psychologist Paul Cameron, a rabid homo-hater. Cameron recently was the subject of an article on that noted this bit of information:

Cameron took his act to the national stage in the mid-'80s against the backdrop of the escalating AIDS panic. In 1986, he co-authored the book "Special Report: AIDS," which advocated establishing concentration camps immediately for "sexually active homosexuals," theorized that HIV is transmissible by casual contact and popularized a fictional medical condition labeled "Gay Bowel Syndrome."

What it is going to take to finally and conclusively persuade all health care professionals and every editor at information portals that "gay bowel syndrome" is just one more way of spreading lies and ignorance about gay men?

The New York Times, and Dr. Kennard owe the gay community an apology, after they remove the entry from their site.