On Monday, the White House hosted its annual Easter Egg Hunt. (Click here for full coverage of that story.) Many officials in attendance were reportedly curious why Vice President Dick Cheney was not present. It turns out the VP was in Washington…State, having ostensibly been dispatched there on Air Force Two (a.k.a. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) by the President to attend to matters of great national importance. However, a reliable imaginary source within the West Wing (not Martin Sheen) is suggesting a different scenario entirely. Reportedly, when Cheney was initially told that there would be a Hunt at the White House, he let out a war whoop and then ran to his office to get his shotgun. Before he got there, though, he was intercepted by Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who brusquely informed the VP that there was not going to be any shooting at the White House this week and that the Presidentâ€™s tenuous approval ratings would not likely withstand such a public relations nightmare. Chastened, Cheney went to his office to sulk. In the interest of public safety, he was shortly thereafter sent to the Pacific Northwest to stump for the Grand Old Party. But the story does not end there. When new White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten caught wind of what had happened (Cheney having tattled), he reportedly took exception to McClellanâ€™s handling of the affair and demanded his resignation, which was promptly tendered. And so the smooth operation of the White House continues…
Fictional scenarios aside, Dick Cheney was in Washington State on Monday and was stumping for GOP candidates thereâ€”all at significant taxpayer expense, as reported by Joel Connelly, a columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
When Vice President Dick Cheney shuttled across the state Monday on Air Force Two, raising as much as $500,000 for the Republican Party and its candidates, taxpayers footed most of the bill. The campaigns of GOP Senate candidate Mike McGavick and House hopeful Doug Roulstone will reimburse only a tiny fraction of what it cost to fly Cheney to Washington, drive him around in motorcades, put him up for the night, pay the salaries of traveling staff and provide Secret Service protection.
Subsidized campaign junkets by the president and vice president are likely to add up quickly in this year’s crucial battle for Congress. “Assuming that the president and vice president engage in political travel in 2006 comparable to their political travel in 2002, the projected cost to the taxpayer of their political flights in 2006 is $7.2 million,” said a report last month by minority staff of the House Committee on Government Reform. “Adjusting this figure to account for estimated reimbursements, the projected net cost to the taxpayer in 2006 is $7 million,” the report added.
The Cheney trip this week is a textbook case of how to charge the public purse for a political trip. An oft-used gambit is a brief “official” stopover at a military base between fund-raisers. The troops may have been sent to Iraq without adequate protective gear and armor, but Cheney and President Bush have not hesitated to deploy soldiers, sailors and airmen as stage props. Cheney spoke for 17 minutes Monday afternoon to about 500 service members at Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane. The stop at Fairchild allowed Cheney to save Republicans thousands of dollars they would have to reimburse the government if the political event had been the only item on his Lilac City itinerary.
Bush used a similar gambit in 2004 when he came to Spokane to boost the Senate campaign of then-Rep. George Nethercutt. He included an official event in the form of a speech on “new threats to the nation’s security” at Fort Lewis. The real business lies elsewhere. Bush spoke to a $1,000-a-plate dinner for Nethercutt.
Cheney’s real destination in Spokane was the Marie Antoinette Room of the Hotel Davenport. A $500-a-person reception for McGavick drew about 200 people. Rich Republicans paid $2,100 apiece to get their pictures taken backstage with Cheney, in Spokane and at his earlier Everett stop. A chosen few participated in a small “round-table discussion” with Cheney.
Travel by the president and vice president does not come cheaply. Flight operating costs total $56,518 an hour on Air Force One and $14,552 an hour on Air Force Two, according to last month’s House report. The figures are based on per-hour costs listed by the General Accounting Office for 2000, and adjusted for inflation.
Bush and Cheney have hit the road to secure and hold on to Republican control of the House and Senate. During the last off-year election, in 2002, Bush went on at least 46 trips to 82 destinations to do political fund raising and rallies. Air Force One covered 45,000 miles on these trips at an estimated flight cost of $4.1 million. The estimated cost of accompanying cargo planes came to $615,000. Cheney took at least 37 trips to 86 destinations on 2002 political missions. He covered more than 66,000 miles at an estimated flight cost of $1.8 million.
What did the political beneficiaries pay? “The total estimated reimbursement recovered by the federal government for presidential and vice presidential political flights in 2002 was $198,000, and the total net cost to the taxpayer was $6.3 million,” the House report said. “The taxpayer thus paid an estimated 97 percent of the flight expenses.” more…
Perhaps we would have been better off if the Vice President had stayed at home and gone hunting instead. I guess the yolk’s on us.
Perhaps I have been somewhat distracted by the growing militarism of this nation, the growing threats to civil liberties, and the growing incompetence of our public officials, but I have completely neglected to ponder the vital issue of lawn care. Thatâ€™s right, lawn care. Now, before you scroll down or click your way outta here, just hear me out for a minute. The information I am about to relate is not as trivial as you might think. Amazingly, lawn care is both a public health and an environmental issue of some significance. With regard to the former, news of a study documenting the number of injuries caused by lawn mowers was just released, as reported on the EARTHtimes website:
Accidents and injuries involving lawn mowers are on the rise in the United States, a study by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health researchers has found. The study, published in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine, added that the most affected by such mishaps are children and senior citizensâ€¦.Between 1996 and 2004, over 663,000 Americans were admitted to emergency rooms for lawn mower related injuries, with over 80,000 visiting a hospital for such mishaps in 2004. The most common injury that led to hospitalization was foot fractures. Among the greatest causes of lawnmower-related accidents is flying debris like rocks and branches that are ejected at high speed from the blades of the mowerâ€¦.In many cases, the injuries are quite severe and even cause amputations and burns. [full text]
So homeowners beware! But, before you start suiting up in high-tech body armor to mow the lawn, perhaps you might give some thought to either forgoing lawn care altogether or modifying your approach to such. There are many good reasons and ways to do so, as detailed by the folks at Project Wildlife:
Transforming a Lawn into a Landscape
Lawns fill the American landscape. They are where we play, relax, and enjoy a personal piece of nature. But there’s a price tag on the traditional carpet of grass. Lawns reduce the habitat available to wildlife. Their upkeep requires constant watering (30 to 60 percent of U.S. urban water soaks lawns) and the use of herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides (each year U.S. lawns are dosed with 67 million pounds of synthetic pesticides). A gas-powered lawn mower pollutes as much in one hour as does a car in 350 miles of driving.
Rethinking the Lawn
You can get more from the land around your home than just the “industrial lawn” – the one with nary a weed, wildflower, or pest. With some forethought and creativity (or possibly by doing nothing at all), you can transform your lawn into a landscape. The first step is to think about what you want from your lawn. Then think about what you would be comfortable changing. Do you want to keep the same amount of lawn but change to management practices that are ecologically friendly? Or would you like to reduce the lawn area or replace it entirely with other vegetation and landscape materials? Either way, you can reduce the negative environmental impacts of the industrial lawn.
The simplest change you can make is to naturalize your yard – let native plants take over as you withdraw chemicals and water. You can plant hardy grass species suited to your climate or combine grass with nongrass species such as clover and low-growing, broad-leaved plants. Grass clippings left on the lawn work as effective, organic fertilizer. If you need more fertilization, choose an organic brand.
From Lawn to Landscape
When you choose to transform part or all of your lawn, you open up a wealth of creative avenues to benefiting the ecosystem, wildlife, and your own physical and psychological well-being. Take a good look at your yard. Some areas will lend themselves easily to something other than grass. Very shady areas, well-worn paths, steep slopes, corners, and unused patches are all good places to start. They can be replaced with raised flower beds or a cutting garden, an herb area, vegetable gardens, a gravel path, a brick patio, or a wooden terrace. Plant trees, shrubs, and ground cover that are adapted to your climate; these species will thrive with the least amount of help from you. Moss is an easy and attractive alternative to grass in areas like the Pacific Northwest. You can create a meadow or prairie of native grasses and wildflowers. How about a pond for wildlife?
A New Meaning
What you do to your personal property does not occur within a void. A lawn that attracts and nurtures life may encourage your children and your neighbors’ children to take a greater interest in observing nature. When your neighbors see your property flourish without chemicals, they may loosen their grip on the pesticide bottle and fertilizer bag. And by opening your space to nature in the form of native plants and grasses, perhaps even wildlife, you can demonstrate that it might be preferable to coexist with nature rather than dominate it.
I would not have thought it possible, but today, as President Bush stood in the White House rose garden answering thorny questions from reporters, he publicly acknowledged experiencing symptoms of psychosis, telling a stunned press corps, â€œI hear the voices.â€? In addition, he suggested that he might suffer from ADHD, noting that his attention span is such that he can only â€œread the front pageâ€? of the newspaper. (But, hey, at least the man can read, right? The fact that he might mouth the words as he does so is immaterial.) The President also announced that he will henceforth be known as â€œThe Decider,â€? a nickname that was chosen over such worthy monikers as The Cipher, The Derider, and The Homicider. Here is an excerpt of the Presidentâ€™s remarks:
THE PRESIDENT: I say, I listen to all voices, but mine is the final decision. And Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job. He’s not only transforming the military, he’s fighting a war on terror. He’s helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld. I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I’m the decider, and I decide what is best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the Secretary of Defense.
Several highly capable and decorated military leaders beg to differ, Mr. President (as humorously reported here by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show). But, hey, what do they know? Itâ€™s not like theyâ€™ve endured the harrowing experiences that you have: the frat parties at Yale, the alcohol-induced blackouts, the ruinous management of several oil companies, the hunting trips with Dick Cheney, et al. You know best, Mr. President. You are, after all, The Decider. How wrong can the voices be?
â€œA conservative government is an organized hypocrisy.â€? This statement was made by the 19th century British statesman, Benjamin Disraeli, and it bears repeating. The conservative leadershipâ€”and I use that term looselyâ€”that is presently governing these United States is replete with hypocrisy, particularly in the realm of foreign policy. Though the powers-that-be may rightfully decry the abuses and injustices of certain foreign regimes, they fail to uniformly do so. Who is friend and who is foe appears suspiciously subordinate to political expedience and economic self-interest. Thus, Iranian President Ahmadinejad is a despot, while Equatorial Guinea President Obiang is a â€œgood friend.â€? Though neither man should be clearing space on his mantel for a Nobel Peace Prize anytime soon, it is only the latter who recently enjoyed a visit to the U.S. and a photo-op with the Secretary of State. Al Kamen of the Washington Post ably provides coverage today:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will do whatever it takes to smack the nuke-happy Iranians around.
Last week, reporters were told there would be no remarksâ€”thus no reason to stake outâ€”a meeting she was having Wednesday with Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
Obiang, a somewhat unsavory and corrupt character who seized power in a 1979 coup, runs a regime regularly condemned by the State Department for human rights violations, including torture, beatings, abuse and deaths of prisoners and suspects. He’s gotten as much as 97 percent of the vote in recent elections, he told CBS’s â€œ60 Minutesâ€? a while back, but that was because â€œthere is no one left in the opposition.â€?
Human rights groups and, we hear, folks inside the State Department, were beside themselves that Rice would meet with what one advocate called â€œone of the most brutal, most corrupt and unreconstructed dictators in the world.â€? (We would opt for the lunatic Kim Jong Il, but letâ€™s not quibble.)
Well, at least the meeting wouldnâ€™t attract all that much press attention, given that there was only to be a photo-op.
But then Iran announced it had begun enriching uranium and Rice needed a forumâ€”though perhaps not one specifically arranged to make the United States appear to be scramblingâ€”to respond.
So reporters were alerted to stand by at the Obiang meeting. Rice appeared with our pal Obiang, even called him â€œa good friend,â€? then said she would take â€œone questionâ€? from reporters. Of course that question would be about Iran, giving Rice the opening to take a whack at Tehran.
And Obiang certainly went home happy.
The American people should not be happy, though. We should be enraged at the hypocrisy of Secretary Rice, whose poor taste in friends is apparently only exceeded by her moral vacuity. It is unacceptable. For further commentary, I refer you to a post in the blog Liberal Oasis on â€œCondiâ€™s Good Friend.â€?
We just got back from what I’m calling our pseudo-European vacation: first we visited family in Canada, where everyone pretends to be British/French, and then we visited more family in Frankenmuth, Michigan, a tourist destination that tries to create the ambience of a Bavarian village with “Willkommen” signs and German cheese shops, restaurants, and pubs. Their MacDonald’s even has a “Play Platz.”
We had a lot of fun, even though we were in the car with our 7-month-old and 6-year-old for record periods of time. The best part of the trip for our 6-year-old was the day pass to Splash Village, pictured above.
So why can’t we build an indoor water park in Rhode Island? This has been done in several locations in the midwest, and there is also a big one in Erie, Pennsylvania called Splash Lagoon. I believe there is one planned for New Jersey, but there is not one in all of New England. Hyannis has a “wave pool” at the Cape Codder Resort, but this is not in the same league. And of course we have outdoor water slides, but no indoor water parks.
I tried to bring this idea up about a year ago to some business development bigwigs in the state. Most people seemed mildly amused, but not seriously interested in the idea. This probably had a lot to do with the fact that little old me, an unknown social worker, was suggesting it, instead of Aram Garabedian or Steve Laffey or some other deep-pocketed politically-connected person. But here’s my opinion and rationale, for what it’s worth: building an indoor water park is much better than building another casino. It is family-friendly, helps enhance pro-social, pro-active-lifestyle behavior, and can make money for a community. Yes, it costs money to build, but the investment seems to pay off, as witnessed by the Wisconsin Dells, which can’t seem to build enough of them.
One potential problem, though: water supply. I know this has been an issue in some communities in Rhode Island, and is a growing problem in the US in general. A feasibility study would need to encompass studying the water supply of any potential development spot for an indoor water park in Rhode Island.
Oliver Willis’ post on this WaPo article was entitled “Go Laffey!” and one of his commenters urged the Democratic party in Rhode Island to get out the vote for Laffey in order to set the stage for a Democratic victory. Another commenter confessed his/her squeamishness about “gambling” on a set-up of Laffey. It’s an interesting discussion thread to read, since many of those commenting appear to be non-Rhode Islanders. Here’s the article:
A Republican on the Edge
Chafee’s Defections Loom Large in Senate Race
By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 14, 2006; A01
EXETER, R.I. — Lincoln Chafee was cleaning a horse stall on his well-manicured farm one recent early morning, describing his latest encounter with hostile home-state Republicans.
The GOP senator had appeared the previous night before the Scituate Republican Town Committee to seek the endorsement of the small but influential group. In his halting, soft-spoken way, Chafee defended his opposition to the war in Iraq, domestic wiretapping and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. as the principled positions of an old-school conservative.
Chafee, 53, once could count on voters in Rhode Island to tolerate his maverick ways, but this time the response was blank stares. “Nobody listened to my reasoning,” Chafee recounted as he piled hay into a wheelbarrow. “They support the president on everything.”
Few paths to victory are more convoluted than the one Chafee must travel to win election to a second term this year in this strongly Democratic state. Chafee will face Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, a conservative, in the Sept. 12 GOP primary, and he must convince voters that he is “Republican enough,” despite his numerous defections from the party and President Bush. If he survives the primary, Chafee then must hope that he can hold the Republican vote while wooing moderate Democrats and independents to stave off what is sure to be a strong Democratic challenge.
“I’m running for opposite constituencies,” Chafee said. “It’s impossible.”
There are 15 Republican-held Senate seats up for election this fall, and Chafee’s is one of seven that Democrats believe are vulnerable. The GOP holds 55 of the 100 seats, which means Democrats would have to win practically all of the competitive seats without losing any of their own seats in order to take back control of the Senate. Political analysts describe that as an unlikely scenario absent some cataclysmic political shake-up.
A recent Brown University survey showed Chafee narrowly leading both his prospective Democratic opponents — former state attorney general Sheldon Whitehouse and Secretary of State Matt Brown — while Laffey trailed both Whitehouse and Brown by significant margins. But the Chafee-Laffey contest is difficult to gauge. That’s because there are so few Republicans in the state — only about 25,000 vote in GOP primaries — and because unaffiliated voters, who make up about half the electorate, can show up and vote on primary day.
“This isn’t your grandmother’s Republican primary,” said Jennifer Duffy, who tracks Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report and who grew up in Rhode Island. “It’s hard to figure who’s even going to vote in it.”
Tiny Rhode Island is one of the most Democratic states in the country. It provided overwhelming three-fifths majorities to Democrats Al Gore and Sen. John F. Kerry in the past two presidential elections. Voters here like local politicians who are scrappy and colorful, but they prefer that their senators be more dignified. That pantheon of senators includes Democrats Claiborne Pell, who created the Pell college grant program, and John O. Pastore, who played an important role in passing civil rights legislation.
Another revered figure is Chafee’s father, Sen. John Chafee, a moderate Republican who died in 1999 near the end of his fourth term, and whom Lincoln Chafee replaced by appointment until he was elected to a full six-year term in 2000.
The son has one of the oddest rÃ©sumÃ©s in Congress. Born to one of the “five families” that originally settled Rhode Island, Chafee majored in classics at Brown University and then headed west to learn horseshoeing in Montana. He spent seven years working at racetracks in the United States and Canada and then returned to Rhode Island and worked in manufacturing. In 1986 he was elected to the Warwick City Council, and in 1992 he became mayor of that city, the state’s second largest, after Providence.
In 1999, a day after his father announced he would retire from the Senate after four terms, Chafee announced he wanted to replace him. When his father died in October, Chafee was named by Gov. Lincoln Almond to complete the term. The appointment provided a critical boost. Chafee had admitted a few months earlier that he once used cocaine. He was known as an affable fellow, but some worried that he lacked his father’s gravitas.
Once he arrived in Washington, the new senator kept a low profile, sometimes darting through hallways and speaking in a diffident, even cryptic style. His colleagues and reporters found him difficult to read. For instance, on the Medicare prescription drug bill, Chafee voted in November 2003 for and against different versions of the bill. He opposed the new benefit on final passage but now is getting hammered by both Laffey and his Democratic opponents for having no clear stance on the issue.
But Chafee also can be strong-willed and immovable once he makes up his mind. He shrugged off pressure from the GOP and voted against tax cuts and an energy bill packed with oil industry incentives. He was the only Senate Republican to oppose the Iraq war resolution. His greatest act of blasphemy was voting against Bush in the 2004 election. Instead, Chafee wrote in the president’s father, former president George H.W. Bush.
Despite his political transgressions, the GOP establishment is backing Chafee as the party’s best bet of holding the seat. “Bush and his crowd, they’re all working for him,” said Whitehouse. “He can’t have it both ways.”
Many in Rhode Island assume Chafee is motivated by the legacy of his father, but another influence that the senator cites is the “Independent Man,” the 11-foot-tall gilded figure that stands atop the State House dome in Providence, representing Rhode Island’s founding principles of political and religious freedom.
“Average voters here don’t want an extreme,” said James Hagan, retired president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. Hagan is helping to put together Business Leaders for Chafee, part of the hybrid get-out-the-vote effort that is also mobilizing women’s groups, environmentalists and community leaders. “At least he wrestles and considers,” says Jonathan K. Farnum, president of Wardwell Braiding Machine Co., a Republican who is helping Hagan form the business leaders group.
Laffey, 43, energetic and ebullient, is Chafee’s political opposite. Although he became wealthy working for a Memphis-based financial services company, he grew up as a lower-middle-class Cranston kid. The Chafee family drives two Toyota Prius hybrid cars, but Laffey bought a huge RV so he can tool around the state campaigning with his five children. He and a platoon of campaign volunteers, many of them friends from childhood, blitz through neighborhoods and coffee shops and wave signs for commuters at the crack of dawn.
Although Laffey raised taxes as Cranston mayor — a heretical act for a conservative Republican in Washington — he is admired for having turned around a troubled city, including by bucking powerful unions and even a platoon of highly paid school crossing guards. State and national Republican leaders strongly urged him to run for lieutenant governor, but Laffey believes his financial management skills can be put to better use in Washington. “I’m not into that,” Laffey said of the intraparty pressure. “I’m an outsider. I’m running against what’s going on down there.”
At least some Rhode Island Republicans agree: the Scituate Republican Town Committee. The group decided to back Laffey the morning after Chafee’s appearance.
Todayâ€™s New York Times has an interesting article by Edward Wongâ€”entitled â€œChuckling Darkly in Iraqâ€?â€”on the explosion, per se, of political cartooning in that strife-ridden nation. It is heartening to see some Iraqis managing to so uniquely occupy themselves while their country is occupied. Certainly, they have no shortage of material to draw on. Here is an excerpt:
In Iraq today, there is a new corps of combatants who show no mercy.
Their targets are venal politicians, heavy-handed American soldiers and the dreaded suicide bombers. Armed with pen and sketchpad, they are the vanguard of Iraqi political cartoonists, taking aim at the state of the country three years after Saddam Hussein fell. With few restrictions on speech now, dozens of newspapers have blossomed in Iraq, and all the major ones seem to run one or two cartoons a day.
Under Mr. Hussein, political cartoons appeared, but they amounted to little more than state propaganda.
Mr. Hussein and his aides were, of course, immune from being satirized.
Now, no one is spared. Freedom of speech may be one of the few clear successes of the American-led invasion, but it has a price: the cartoonists refuse to buy into any narrative of a golden dawn for Iraq. A deep cynicismâ€”about politicians in general, and policies that have turned Iraq into a sectarian bloodbathâ€”emerges in virtually every cartoon.
Even top Bush administration officials have taken notice. On a visit to Baghdad this month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pointed to recent Iraqi cartoons as a sign of the ordinary people’s restlessness over endless negotiations to form a new government. [full text]
Last month, on his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill Oâ€™Reillyâ€”bastion of restraint and rationality that he isâ€”opined that, â€œin a sane world, every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the earth.â€? I would argue that, in a sane world, the vitriolic Mr. Oâ€™Reilly would be fortunate to obtain part-time employment with Roto-Rooter. Be that as it may, the saber-rattling against Iran appears to be in full swing, as the Bush administrationâ€”apparently not content to wage war just in Iraq and Afganistanâ€”is hootinâ€™ and hollerinâ€™ about the tyrannical Tehranis fixinâ€™ to git some nukes. Deja vu, huh? Anyhow, before the xenophobia reaches a fever pitch and the carpet bombing begins, I thought it might be helpful to pass along the following news story by Hannah Allam of Knight Ridder, which casts Iran in a rather different light:
TEHRAN, Iran – It took 30 meetings just to create a slim AIDS-awareness handbook for Iran’s conservative high schools. A drawing of a condom disappeared early on; a photo of a syringe survived. A mention of sexual transmission was approved, but only with a reminder that sex before marriage is forbidden.
Even after the government’s wordsmiths were satisfied, AIDS workers in Tehran had to take the book south to the holy city of Qom, the spiritual center of Iran’s all-powerful clergy. To everyone’s surprise, the clerics endorsed it.
Iran’s fight against the spread of HIV hinges on a delicate give-and-take between activists who talk frankly about sex and drugs and the ruling ayatollahs, who fiercely protect the Islamic Republic’s puritan image. The combination has made Iran the Middle East leader in preventing HIV and AIDS.
The country’s program, which melds deep-rooted religious values with cutting-edge research, is being exported to Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Pakistan and other Muslim nations.
“I told my colleagues in the United Arab Emirates, `You’re not more rigid than us. We’re the only country in the world where it’s the law to wear a head scarf, where it’s a pure Islamic government, where you can’t drink,’” said Dr. Arash Alaei, one of Iran’s most respected AIDS researchers. “`If we have a prevention program, why don’t you?’”
In a region where other Muslim governments ignore the epidemic, quarantine HIV-infected people or preach abstinence as the only solution, Iran’s approach is especially remarkable.
It still doles out floggings to Iranians caught with alcohol, but it gives clean syringes and methadone treatment to heroin addicts. Health workers pass out condoms to prostitutes. Government clinics in every region offer free HIV testing, counseling and treatment. A state-backed magazine just began a monthly column that profiles HIV-positive Iranians, and last year the postal service unveiled a stamp emblazoned with a red ribbon for AIDS awareness. This year the government will devote an estimated $30 million to the program.
One of Iran’s most acclaimed advances comes from its notoriously secretive network of prisons, where hundreds of drug-addicted inmates sometimes share the same makeshift syringe to inject heroin smuggled in by guards or visiting relatives. In a startling acknowledgment of sex and drugs even in its most closely guarded quarters, the Tehran administration has made condoms and needles available in detention centers across the country.
“Iran now has one of the best prison programs for HIV in not just the region, but in the world,” said Dr. Hamid Setayesh, the coordinator for the U.N. AIDS office in Tehran. “They’re passing out condoms and syringes in prisons. This is unbelievable. In the whole world, there aren’t more than six or seven countries doing that.” [full text]