Monthly Archives: November, 2010

Stephanie Chafee, RN

This looks good for Rhode Island. Our new first lady, Stephanie Chafee, has been involved in public health for her whole career…

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Stephanie Chafee was Rhode Island’s first AIDS research nurse and co-founded the state’s only clinic providing free health services to the needy. Now, the multimillionaire wife of former U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee is taking on a new role: Rhode Island first lady.

We don’t elect candidate’s spouses, but having a first lady with so much experience in health and public service is a good deal for our state.

Even My Insurance is Progressive

I signed up for it years ago because it was affordable (and insurance is mandatory). They’re not hard to deal with when I’ve had to call them. I can’t say I’ll ever love an insurance company, but I like the ad they put up on Pam’s House Blend.

Pam is in the hospital recovering from surgery. She has many well-wishers in the blogosphere and in corporeal space. She says she came though fine. Get well soon, Pam, and best regards to your wife.

Another Brothel Raid

And unlike ‘Club Osaka’ in 1990, the police did not throw the women in jail and let the customers go. ProJo has the story here.

This use of the new law criminalizing indoor prostitution is not the usual routine of arresting prostitutes until they’re bailed out by their pimp. This kind of operation takes investigation and enlists multiple agencies including Day One. It is a targeted action against human trafficking.

I think that all our work and lobbying was not in vain. From the beginning there were those who wanted to ‘close the loophole’ and thought that was all that needed to be done. We helped get a strong anti-trafficking law passed in 2007, and also helped ensure that the ‘criminalization’ would allow the police and courts to recognize victims trapped in this life.

The two women accused of prostitution were interviewed by the state police and an advocate from Day One, a Providence resource center whose mission is to reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence. Demers said they were trying to determine whether the women were victims of human trafficking.
Despite the high volume of customers and little pay, the women “admitted no one was forcing them to do this,” Demers said. “It appeared they were doing this under their own free will.”

I don’t aspire to be Carrie Nation, axing a bar to save drinkers from demon rum, and I think there are some people who have options and choose prostitution. But not these women. Shipped from out of state, fifty to a hundred men a day. I hope someone can persuade them to testify.

Some of the people arrested, including the ringleaders, were here illegally, and will be dealing with ICE. Some of the customers will pay way more than the $30 they were expecting as they were wanted for deportation. The rest are outed– names and addresses in the Journal. Raids like this may work as a deterrent to people who used to break the law with impunity.

But to really make our state a place that traffickers will avoid, we will have to keep investing money and will in good police work and victim advocacy. If word gets around that victims can call on the law for justice, people will testify. Nearby states, none of which had a ‘loophole’ and all of which have prostitution, will have to coordinate investigations.

This isn’t about morality, or ‘cleaning up our city’. Our city will continue to be an immoral mess no matter what. This is about prosecuting a crime– one of the worst. Anyone who holds another person in bondage belongs in jail. We had a war about that, and it’s not over yet.

Disaster in Cambodia

Our sympathies to all the people who have lost family and friends in the crowd stampede disaster in Phnom Penh.

(CNN) — A stampede that occurred during a festival near Cambodia’s royal palace in Phnom Penh has killed 339 people, Cambodia’s minister of information, Khieu Kanharith, said Monday.
More than 4 million people were attending the Water Festival when the stampede occurred, said Visalsok Nou, a Cambodian Embassy official in Washington.

According to the article, the stampede was triggered by police who used a water cannon to drive people off a bridge. Senseless.

Meg, at Planning the Day, has some photos from Cambodia taken last week, giving a sense of the people and the place.

A little piece of Cambodia makes up the fabric of Providence. Our sympathies to our neighbors who are hearing sad news from home.

Providence has a deep connection with Cambodia, in the lives and work of many who have connections in both countries, and in the ministry of the late Mahaghosananda, a monk and spiritual leader who made his home in South Elmwood and founded Buddhist temples there.

The suffering of Cambodia has been deep.

From this suffering comes great Compassion.

Great Compassion makes a Peaceful Heart.

A peaceful Heart makes a Peaceful Person.

A Peaceful Person makes a Peaceful Community.

A Peaceful Community makes a Peaceful Nation.

And a Peaceful Nation makes a Peaceful World.

May all beings live in Happiness and Peace.

Pope Considers Harm Reduction

The Pope’s remarks about condom use are a striking example of the reasoning behind harm reduction.

MANILA, Philippines—Some church members in Southeast Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation praised Pope Benedict XVI for saying condom use might be justified in some cases, though Filipino bishops stressed Sunday the church leader still opposes contraceptives.
Speaking to a German journalist whose book was excerpted in a Vatican newspaper Saturday, the pontiff reiterated that condoms are not a moral solution for stopping AIDS. But he added that in some cases, such as for male prostitutes, their use could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility “in the intention of reducing the risk of infection.”

‘A first step’. I don’t think the Pope intends it that way, but this is a breach in the wall of absolutism.

Harm reduction strategies, such as clean needle distribution for injecting drug addicts and condom distribution were created as a response to a deadly epidemic, and are intended to prevent people at risk from getting infected and infecting others. Needle exchange sites distribute information on drug treatment and make referrals to treatment centers– unfortunately the referral is usually to a waiting list. But the ethics of harm reduction is to buy time for people who will one day find a way out of the self destructive behaviours they engage in. There’s always the risk of becoming an enabler. Programs of harm reduction have to be carefully constructed and monitored.

Zero tolerance, imprisonment and ex-communication are other ongoing strategies that can’t claim more success. I think that life is messy, and purity has killed more people and ruined more lives than sin. We’re only human. When we aim for perfection we more often land on arrogance.

Defining condom use as a sin, and then saying that this rule can be broken to prevent a worse harm– HIV infection, is a humane answer to the imperfection of our circumstances, and our human limitations when debating right and wrong.

The Pope made it clear that Catholics are still forbidden to use condoms for contraception.

When the Catholic Church is ready to consider the real lives of women, then theologians will find their way to an ethics that respects the moral agency of women and men in deciding when to take on the awesome responsibility of parenthood. Using a condom or other method of birth control is an act of love for yourself and your family, and an acknowledgement of our power as rational and technologically blessed human beings and the responsibility that comes with it. Teaching young men to respect their power as potential fathers would do more good than teaching them to disrespect women.

Anyway, it doesn’t take Kmareka precognitive powers to see that the Vatican will soon be ‘clarifying’ this perfectly clear, and reasonable statement by the Pope. But there’s a whole suffering world of dis-empowered people behind the wall of dogma, and the Pope allowed a breach. It’s going to take a boatload of theological double talk to patch it over.

No Profit in Gossip?

Via Wonkette, news that that National Enquirer is going bankrupt.

Maybe it’s my fault. I stopped buying tabloids when they put Jon Benet Ramsey on the cover. Using that poor dead kid’s story as if it was just another celebrity divorce was too much for me. However, I do read it in the checkout line, and then cruelly refuse to buy it.

I’ll make sure not to do that with The Nation.

American Media also owns The Star and runs the marketing operations for Playboy. Are readers losing interest in scandal? What is our culture coming to?

Throw it Away

That’s what the FDA says to do if you have Darvon, Darvocet or generic equivalents. I’ve never seen the FDA pull a drug that way. It’s usually ‘ask your doctor’ and it’s months before patients get the message.

Darvon causes heart rhythm disturbances at therapeutic levels. Here’s the news report. I see it prescribed for the elderly. Not all that often, but it’s not a terribly unusual pain med. An old person having a heart attack doesn’t seem suspicious. It takes epidemiological studies over time to see a pattern.

Dr. Sidney Wolfe, who is to big pharma as Ralph Nader was to the auto industry, faults the FDA for taking so long. Link here for why. It’s quite convincing, and if I had any propoxyphene pain med in my house I’d take their advice and stop taking it. Ask your pharmacist if they offer safe disposal of unwanted drugs.

Stop the Presses!

The blindingly obvious is validated when researchers pull out some statistics…

One study by a sociologist at Albany, Kate W. Strully, found that people who lose their jobs are 83 percent more likely to develop stress-induced conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, or depression. Another paper by an economist at Columbia University, Till von Wachter, looked at mortality and income records of workers in Pennsylvania during the recession of the early 1980s. Wachter found that death rates increased astronomically for the unemployed in the year they lose their jobs, up to 100 percent.

Hey, four months of underemployment got me ten extra pounds– and I have more options in the job market than most. It’s clear that a rational view of public health would take into account social circumstances– especially large scale ones like a recession. Does that patient need Prozac, or a job?

Rhode Islanders will be cheered to see that our unemployment rate has gone down slightly, and we can hope that’s a trend.

Massachusetts, with its health program and gay marriage and Democrat governor has 3% less unemployment than our state. This despite the leadership of brilliant business magnate Donald Carcieri, who has been vigorously cutting services to the people most in need while giving tax cuts to the richest. I hope prosperity will trickle down on us some day. Otherwise we’re going to have to pressure the new governor to do something drastic, like help hundreds of small businesses instead of giving a huge tax break to one big risky venture.

Close Call

I was biking down Blackstone Blvd yesterday, enjoying the fine weather and thinking I might see Mike Bryce with his canvasses out painting. Mike paints outdoors and has a radiant sense of color– this is his season.

I had the bike lane, but knowing Rhode Island drivers stayed further right in the breakdown lane, on a straight stetch in the clear, dry, sunny day. I heard brakes screech behind me. I was looking at a bumper five feet from my unprotected self.

There was no reason for that car to be there. No right turn there. I shouted at the driver–‘this is the bike lane!’ She drove off without rolling down her window and turned into Swan Point Cemetery.

I didn’t get the license, and anyway had no cell phone to report an impaired driver. I chased into the cemetary but she had disappeared into the maze. Whether she was indifferent to the fact that she had swerved out of her lane and almost run me down, or whether she was afraid of me, I’ll never know.

I think I’ve helped some people to work through the process of recognizing that they are no longer safe to drive. I’ve given support to some relatives who knew it was time to disconnect some battery cables. That woman who nearly ran me down was probably not drunk but must have been impaired. She didn’t see me, didn’t see the lines on the road, or could no longer process what she was seeing.

I’ve had other close calls with elderly drivers, but never one where I was so vulnerable and the driver seemed so unconcerned.

When a person starts to need help with transportation, there is little to offer them. The RIDE van is good but only meets part of the need. City buses are cut and people in wheelchairs wait by the road a little longer to get to work or school. Cabs are expensive. The network of home care providers doesn’t consistently offer transportation, which is often the first thing a new client wil ask for. There are legal obstacles that could be removed if there was enough will. I understand why people hang onto cars they can no longer afford and shouldn’t drive. It’s worse in the ‘burbs where an aging population is isolated from services.

I hope the new governor and the new mayor will consider changes that will protect nurses aides from liability when they drive a client to a doctor’s appointment, and make a committment to public transportation. Winter’s coming.

Insecure About Privacy

Before I went back to school for nursing I worked in photofinishing. I sat in a curtained booth scrolling through rolls of negatives viewing the positive images– this was done for color correction. I saw enough weddings– and cake smushings, to be glad I eloped.

People would tell me that no one looks at your pictures– it’s all done on machines. Au contraire. The minimum-wage workers running the machines would line their booths with prints of anything interesting that came through. The job was monotonous and it didn’t take much. Cute dogs, cute babies, scenic landscapes, and anything naked would end up on the wall.

I can’t blame people for being worried about airport body scans…

The government has reassured the flying public time and time again that any naked images of them at airport checkpoints would be destroyed immediately.
But now new attention is being focused on another agency of the federal government — the U.S. Marshals Service — that in at least one case has been keeping thousands of similar naked images recorded by its body scanners.

Technology marches on, so it’s certain that images will become clearer and scanners cheaper. People worry that their image will end up on the internet.

Not to slander TSA workers, who seem nice enough and very hard working when I go through security, but there’s always a few bad apples. Click here for a bizarre story about a worker who was driven to assault a fellow worker who would not shut up about what he saw on the body scan.

I am not happy about the radiation. For myself, okay, but if I had an infant I wouldn’t want him scanned. The health effects might show up decades later.

I don’t have the answer, but I’ve seen enough to ask a couple of questions.

How much trust can you put in assurances that–‘it’s totally risk free’ and ‘it’s totally confidential’?

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