World AIDS Day 2011

Education, Empowerment, Prevention

Our generation has seen the global eradication of one devastating disease, Smallpox, and the emergence of another, Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV has been uniquely merciless in its reaping of the young and the healthy in their prime, in its mutations and transformations into a thousand awful ways to die. It was almost two decades into the pandemic before there was a glimmer of hope, with the synthesizing of effective antiviral medications.

After so many lost and so much deepening despair, there is some bright news. The same treatments that save lives reduce the risk of transmission. Although we do not yet have medications that eradicate the virus, we have medications that reduce the viral load. These medications, when used correctly, not only save the lives of those infected, but reduce the incidence of infection between partners and from mother to baby.

This development makes the ambitious goal of ‘getting to zero’ more than a wish.

“Getting to Zero”: UNAIDS Milestones For 2015

Zero vertical transmission and a 50% reduction in AIDS-related maternal death
A 50% reduction in the sexual transmission of HIV
No new HIV infections among drug users
Universal access to antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV
who are eligible for treatment
A 50% reduction in deaths caused by tuberculosis for people living with HIV
Improved national social protection strategies and access to essential care and support for people with HIV and households affected by HIV
A 50% reduction in the number of countries that have punitive laws and practices around HIV transmission, sex work, drug use or homosexuality that block effective responses
A 50% reduction in the number of countries with HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence
The HIV-specific needs of women and girls are addressed in at least half of all national HIV responses
Zero tolerance for gender-based violence

Social justice is integral to fighting an epidemic on this scale. Prevention is vital. The growing list of effective medications does not change the fact that HIV is a terrible disease that currently has no cure. All the ‘safer sex’, education, vigilant infection control in medical care still stands. In fact, it matters even more, now that we have a hope that this pandemic may finally be defeated.

AIDS Project RI is offering free rapid HIV testing today.

The rapid HIV test is done with a mouth swab with results on the same visit, another small piece of good news. No blood draw, no waiting weeks to find out.

More information may be found at, by calling 401-831-5522, or emailing

Urban Legends and Knowing What to Do in a Crisis

Your Kmareka correspondent is one of the few with the courage to say it out loud. I hate Christmas. I would gladly skip the whole thing for adults. Children should not be cheated out of their presents and Christmas joy of course, but let’s buy them some toys and the rest of us have cocktail parties and eat samosas. There, I’ve said it.

But as Scroogy as I am, I don’t totally buy into the flip side of American Christmas –bemoaning our greed and materialism. Although this story is true, I sense a touch of the Urban Legend…

Family and friends were stunned by the loss of a West Virginia man who died while shopping on Black Friday as fellow bargain hunters reportedly walked around — and even over — the man’s body.

Family members told WSAZ-TV that 61-year-old Walter Vance of Logan County, W. Va., had become ill and collapsed while shopping for Christmas decorations inside Target in South Charleston. He later died after being taken to the hospital, family said.

Witnesses told the NBC News affiliate in Charleston, W. Wa., that shoppers walked around and even over Vance’s body.

It’s a fact of human nature, and cause for much anguish after the fact, that we tend not to understand or deal well with the unexpected. I have witnessed people collapsing in public, only to be surrounded by concerned bystanders within seconds. The crucial requirement is that the bystanders recognize a crisis and have a script for how to respond. Mr. Vance had the misfortune to have an emergency out of context. I think that most of the crowd of deranged Christmas shoppers simply did not recognize what they were seeing. But Mr. Vance was helped by some people who knew what to do…

An E.R. nurse who also happened to be shopping at the store tried to administer CPR. She and an off-duty paramedic tried to help Vance while he was on the floor.

I’ll be the first to say, ‘Bah, humbug’ to Black Friday. But I think the tragic demise of Walter Vance was more a stroke of fate than an American morality tale.

Buy Nothing Day

And now, a public service announcement from friend, Phil–

If you have a coat to give, please drop it off.
If you need a coat, please pick one up.
State House lawn (directly across from Providence Place mall)

rain/snow site: Cathedral of St. John, 275 N. Main St. Providence.
Pawtucket Visitors Center, 175 Main St. Pawtucket
On November 25th 2011 – the busiest day in the American retail calendar and the unofficial start of the international Christmas-shopping season – thousands of activists and concerned citizens in 65 countries will take a 24-hour consumer detox as part of the annual Buy Nothing Day, a global phenomenon that originated in Vancouver, Canada. Some see it as an escape from the marketing mind games and the frantic consumer binge that has come to characterize the holiday season, and our culture in general. Others use it to expose the environmental and ethical consequences of over-consumption. In Providence as part of International Buy Nothing Day, we hold a winter coat exchange on the lawn of the State House directly across from Providence Place mall. In Pawtucket the transfer of coats takes place at the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center with . There are many partners for this event: community organizations, places of worship, civic, and environmental groups. Volunteers are needed to help with this life-affirming event.
Contact information: Providence – Greg Gerritt: 331-0529
Phil Edmonds: 461-3683

Pawtucket: Blackstone Valley Visitors Center, 175 Main St.

Arthur Pitt 369-1918;

Newport – St Paul’s Church 12 West Marlborough St. Maggie Bulmer 849-3537.

Wakefield –St. Francis Church, 114 High Street, 10AM to noon Tom Abbott 364-0778

Barrington Bayside YMCA 70 West St Connie Ganley (508) 837-0467

Locations in Wakefield, Pawtucket, and Barrington will be accepting coats all week during business hours.

Buy Nothing Day

Buy Nothing Day began in 1992 by Adbusters Media Foundation in Vancouver, Canada as a way to resist the advertising industry that abets over-consumption by causing people to feel unfulfilled with what they have. Since then, Buy Nothing Day has evolved into a global phenomenon creating awareness of how entangled we are in the web of consumerism.

Most Americans would not consider themselves “wealthy” compared to the upper class in the United States. True, there is an enormous inequality in the U.S.A. But that doesn’t change the fact that the average American consumer spends twenty times more on products – with many products coming from overseas – than the average person living in South America, Asia, or Africa.

Overconsumption might be a recipe for ecological disaster, but until it shows up as red ink on corporations’ balance sheets, it’s full steam ahead. Everything we buy has an impact on the environment, Buy Nothing Day highlights the environmental and ethical consequences of consumerism. The United States, with only 5% of the world’s population, consumes about one-third of the world’s natural resources that are used, produces half of the world’s non-organic waste, and generates nearly 30% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Go ahead and blame the corporations, Wall St., and the system of profit, if you like. But our dollars are the oil that keeps this hurtful, wastefuly economy running.

These are heavy facts to digest and can leave one despondent, but, there are signs that our consumer habits could be changing. With the current recession, some people have no choice but to cut spending, and now, are slowly beginning to question this consumer-globalized economics way of life realizing we are not as happy as we thought we were, and as a result, are thinking about ways of living that might lead to more genuine satisfaction.

While critics of the day charge that Buy Nothing Day simply causes participants to buy the next day, Adbusters states that it “isn’t just about changing your habits for one day” but “about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste.

What we choose to buy, where we choose to shop, even whether we choose to be part of campaigns…all this is not a homage to some weighty obligation; it’s a celebration of the world we want…My choices as a consumer used to feel so small, but now I’m convinced they have real power. Together we are a sleeping giant and, awakened, we can really stir things up. -Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe, Hope’s Edge

The focus of Buy Nothing Day is to “stir things up” – with a clear message that we no longer will be duped by the endless advertisments telling us the way to happiness.

Come join us on the State House lawn on November 25h in a celebratory spirit of sharing and re-affirm our commitment to curb out spending habits so that the generations to come may have a liveable planet. Or attend any of the other four Buy Nothing Day Coat Exchange sites around Rhode Island.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving all, and don’t do anything that’s not fun.

Occupy Providence Day 38, 11/22/11

At the General Assembly

November 22, 1963, is for those of us old enough to remember a dividing line– the day our country was robbed by the bullet of a leader we had won by the ballot. Ask, ‘where were you?’ and you’ll hear a story. I was in third grade the day President Kennedy was shot, and my teen years were marked by the terrible series of political assassinations that followed. The attempted murder of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six citizens who came to hear her speak is only the most recent undoing of democracy.

Reverend Martin Luther King, also taken away from us by assassination, was such a powerful nonviolent leader that his image today is shorthand for the peaceful exercise of free speech. The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice was an Occupation not universally popular, or uncontroversial in its time, no matter how we love to quote, ‘I have a dream.’ The general support of the Occupy movement today exceeds the support in the 1960’s for Civil Rights, though today most like to believe they would have been on the right side of history.

If you say that ‘Jobs and Justice’ are at the core of the Occupation, you will not be wrong. Fifty years on we are still striving for a more just and equal society.

I got out of work and walked downtown to Burnside Park, where a plywood Info Booth has sprung up. The tents are moved together into rows. General Assembly was in progress– about 15 people were meeting at the statue of General Burnside. The topic was planning actions to draw attention to the issues of homelessness and foreclosures, and collaboration with other community groups. I stood on the fringe and listened, and thought about all the people I’ve talked to who support the Occupation.

There’s many ways to support the cause of greater economic justice, and the recent action by the Mayor, I believe, was expedited by the political energy of the people committed enough to stay in tents to maintain a center of organization.

From the park to Kennedy Plaza I waited a long time for the #42, and when the bus pulled up it was #1– the driver was having a meltdown and the sign was stuck. Just then explosions vibrated off the buildings and fireworks lit up the sky.

“Crowds, creatures dancing around, the dancing cop, fireworks–it’s the 375th Anniversary! Happy Birthday, Providence!”

She steered around the congestion and slowly we got on our way.

That night I dreamed that I was on a train to New York City, surrounded by people in distress. I felt the spirit of 9/11, in the first days, when we all felt an urgency to come to the aid of our country. That spirit of common humanity has burned low since the days of Roger Williams, through American centuries, following the arc of history, which bends toward justice because it must. People will always strive for what is right. That spirit illuminates the Occupation today.

There’s 49 Other States

From Think Progress
, a year ago this guy would have gotten a ticket, not tossed in the slammer…

Alabama’s economy is suffering because of HB 56, the state’s draconian immigration law, as workers flee out of fear. State Sen. Scott Beason (R), who sponsored the anti-immigrant bill in the Alabama legislature, once called it a “jobs bill,” but the state’s immigration law is leaving entire industries without enough workers instead.

And the extreme law, which legislators are now reconsidering, could seriously damage the state’s reputation as well after police arrested a German Mercedes-Benz executive last week under the immigration law. Mercedes opened its first American manufacturing plant in Vance, Alabama in 1993, spurring a trend of foreign car makers and suppliers opening factories in the state. They may be rethinking that decision, however, after one of their German executives was arrested for simply not having his passport with him.

Read the rest here.

Think Progress links to a story in Associated Press

[Alabama Governor, Robert]Bentley, a Republican who signed the illegal immigration law earlier this year, called the state’s homeland security director, Spencer Collier, after hearing of the arrest to get details about had happened, Collier said in an interview.

“Initially I didn’t have them, so I called Chief Anderson to find out what happened,” Collier said. “It sounds like the officer followed the statute correctly.”

Collier said he didn’t know how Bentley found out about the arrest, and Bentley press secretary Jennifer Ardis referred all questions to Collier.

Collier said he has made at least a dozen similar calls to law enforcement agencies that made arrests under the law to see how it is being handled, and he said his call to Anderson wasn’t prompted by the fact a Mercedes executive was arrested.

“It’s just to make sure they’re using best practices and following the law,” he said.

If I were cynical, I’d take a perverse pleasure in the fact that the un-named Mercedes exec probably didn’t ‘look illegal’.

Bloomberg Business at msnbc has a detailed article about Why Americans Won’t do Dirty Jobs.

The short version is that these jobs are so difficult, dangerous and poorly paid that in an American economy workers lose money doing them. The only way to make it work is to send the American dollars to a poorer country where the value is greater. Bloomberg describes workers toiling 13 hours for $60. And this bears further investigation– an American worker trying to make a job in the fields..

In a neighboring field, Cedric Rayford is working a row. The 28-year-old came up with two friends from Gadsden, Ala., after hearing on the radio that farmers were hiring. The work is halfway complete when one member of their crew decides to quit. Rayford and crewmate Marvin Turner try to persuade their friend to stay and finish the job. Otherwise, no one will get paid. Turner even offers $20 out of his own pocket as a sweetener to no effect. “When a man’s mind is made up, there’s about nothing you can do,” he says.

NO ONE WILL GET PAID??? I’ll bet this is some ‘independent contractor’ deal where the workers get no hourly wage, no social security, no workers comp. insurance. This bears further investigation.

Alabama and other states that erode workers rights, health and safety are left with an economy that depends on jobs that do not pay a living wage. Governor Bentley has just dug deeper into the pit. Scapegoating immigrants won’t solve Alabama’s problems. Supporting workers rights is essential, but won’t offer any short-term political gain, and is not in sync with the Republican Party.

Mercedes, y’all can come up here. We could use some good jobs and we don’t arrest people for forgetting their driver’s license.

Harassment in the Workplace

Just a random post on the one week anniversary of Katie Roiphe’s NYT essay on sexual harassment. Thank you, Katie, I got more hits refuting you than on any single thing I’ve ever written. Send me more.

I want to take a stand in defense of good humor and fun at work. It’s great to be part of a crew when you’re all pulling in the same direction. Letting bullies pick on a few people who are low on the totem pole is divisive and not fun.

A friend told me about her office and what they did to a guy I’ll call Bob. When Bob went on vacation, his co-workers taped down his stapler and everything else on his desk with double-stick, even the pens. The next time Bob went on vacation they made little paper rings, so all his office supplies appeared to be levitating.

This is creative. If you must harass, avoid cliches and think up something original.