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Europe: German States Want Heroin Maintenance for Addicts

German state governments are pressing the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel to open the way to providing free heroin for hard-core addicts throughout the country. A bill adopted in the Bundesrat and supported by 13 of the 16 state governments would transform what is now officially a heroin maintenance pilot program where hundreds of addicts in seven cities are provided free heroin into a national program paid for by health insurers.

Established in 2001 in an effort to help hard-core addicts get off the drug, reduce their levels of criminality, and reduce overdose deaths and disease, the the pilot program was deemed a success by the German government in May 2006. Plans were announced to expand it from 750 to as many as 1,500 people, but those apparently never materialized.

A federal drug official who supports broadening the program, Sabine Bätzing, told Deutsche Presse Agentur, said some 3,500 addicts would benefit from the program if it were available across the country. As with the pilot program, only those addicts who had failed on substitutes such as methadone would be eligible for the expanded program.

Birgit Schnieber-Jastram, social-welfare minister in Hamburg, told the news agency that pilot programs in her state had reduced drug consumption and helped break the link between addicts and illicit drug markets.

But the bill to expand the heroin maintenance program faces the opposition of Merkel's dominant Christian Democratic Union, which objects to the burden it says it would impose on insurers and is instead suggesting more pilot projects on an as needed basis. The CDU also argues that the aim of German heroin policy should be to wean addicts from heroin, not maintain them.

John Edwards Supports Needle Exchange

As part his new proposed plan to combat AIDS, democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards is speaking out in favor of needle exchange:
"And I think we also ought to promote programs that prevent harm and specifically needle exchange, which I support. We ought to get rid of the federal ban on needle exchange." [NPR]

Drug war absolutists have long opposed needle exchange, despite overwhelming evidence that it prevents AIDS and saves lives. It is just amazing that the people in charge of protecting Americans from drugs support policies that spread AIDS and kill people.

Edwards deserves credit for calling out one of our nation's most ill-conceived drug policies. It's a no-brainer for sure, but at least he got it right.

And in the process, John, you may have stumbled upon a nifty device for drafting a superb drug policy platform for your campaign: simply check what the federal policy is on any drug issue and advocate the opposite. You will be correct every time.

Update: At the risk of further emboldening the hysterical Obama fans who freaked out over my last post, and irrationally implied that he's good on drug policy, it's only fair to add that Barack Obama has also spoken in favor of needle exchange. Hillary Clinton, who's otherwise sounded good on drug policy (for a front-runner, anyway) wants to see more proof that it works, which, at this point, is like demanding proof that the sun will rise tomorrow.

(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)
Location: 
United States

The New Orleans International Drug Policy Reform Conference is the Biggest Harm Reduction Event of 2007

HRC at DPA 2007 Astor Crowne Plaza New Orleans, LA December 5-8, 2007 www.regonline.com/Checkin.asp?EventId=121856 The New Orleans International Drug Policy Reform Conference is the biggest Harm Reduction event of 2007. Town Hall Meeting - Evening Session What's up and what's on with our community right now and where are we going? Allan Clear, Bernie Lieving, Wyndi Anderson, Rona Taylor, Hilary McQuie, Luciano Colonna, Daniel Raymond, Donald Davis, Corey Davis, Sharon Stancliff, Phillip Fiuty, Andy Ko, Caitlin Padgett, Terri Hurst, Dimitri Mobengo Mugianis, Patrick Kroupa, Roseanne Scotti, Paula Santiago, and Tyler Fisher will be sifting publicly through the wreckage of our lives. Fed Ban Teach-In The Fed Ban has got to go! This year the DC ban was lifted. What can we do around the Dems, Labor HHS, Obey, full committee, Hill visits, and in-district meetings? Confused? Come to the teach-in to get informed and mobilized. Hilary McQuie & Daniel Raymond Workshops Buprenorphine: Thinking Outside the Box - Bup has been abysmally marketed in the US. It's a great medication but are your exchangers getting access to it? Sharon Stancliff Hepatitis C Integration - Eliminate blood borne HCV and HIV will also be eliminated. Yet we spend our time educating injectors about HIV whilst paying lip service to HCV. Learn how to fully integrate the message. Donald Davis & Narelle Ellendon Opiate Overdose - Too many preventable deaths happen among our opiate users. Many needle exchange programs are helping to save lives by distributing narcan and teaching rescue breathing. Learn how to save lives too. Caroline Rath & Lauren Enteen Law Enforcement - Police harassment of drug injectors isn't going away. We have to work with law enforcement for the sake of our programs and our participants. Get the skinny. Corey Davis & Basha Closic Other harm reduction panel topics and invited speakers at the conference: Hidden Histories of Harm Reduction - Caroline Acker, Sheigla Murphy, Allan Clear Integration of Harm Reduction into Government - Roseanne Scotti, Daliah Heller, Bernie Lieving, Kasia Malinowska Juvenille Justice and Harm Reduction Ibogaine - Howard Lotsof, Dimitri Mobengo Mugianis, Dana Beal, Patrick Kroupa Drinking Age of Youth and Harm Reduction Drug Cultures in Post-Katrina New Orleans - Implications for Harm Reduction Youth Engagement training - Caitlin Padgett Beyond Zero Tolerance - Chuck Ries For more information contact Rona Taylor @ [email protected]
Location: 
New Orleans, LA
United States

United to Move Forward: Harm Reduction Approaches to Tough Social Problems

The fabric of Hawai‘i is threatened by a host of interrelated social problems including mental health, drug misuse, communicable diseases, poverty, homelessness, and the over-reliance on incarceration. Youth, women, Native Hawaiians, and sexual minorities are impacted in unique ways. To address these tough social issues, a collaboration of service providers, community organizations, and concerned citizens will convene to discuss ways of developing more holistic and effective interventions. Pūpūkahi I Holomua ("United to Move Forward"), a two-day interactive conference, will be held to discuss best practices, evidence-based programs, and cutting edge ideas to tackle these issues in culturally-appropriate and more effective ways. The program will tap into the expertise of practitioners in Hawai‘i, the mainland and from abroad who cultivate a non-judgmental, inclusive and incrementalist approach. Harm Reduction is a philosophy and set of strategies for working with individuals engaged in potentially harmful behaviors. The main objective is to reduce the potential dangers and health risks associated with such behaviors, even for those who are not willing or able to completely stop. Harm reduction used a non-judgmental, holistic and individualized approach to support incremental change and increase the health and well-being of individuals and communities. Conference content areas include: Criminal Justice/ Corrections Housing/Homelessness Communicable Diseases Mental and Physical Health Harm Reduction Policy and Practice Substance Use Cultural Competency For details and registration information, see http://home.hawaii.rr.com/pupukahi/.
Date: 
Thu, 11/08/2007 - 8:30am - Fri, 11/09/2007 - 5:30pm
Location: 
2500 Kūhiō Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
United States

Harm Reduction: Pennsylvania Moves to End Prescription Requirement for Buying Needles

Pennsylvania is one of the few states remaining that still require a prescription to buy a needle, but that could change soon. The Pennsylvania Pharmacy Board has submitted for public comment a proposed rule that would eliminate the prescription requirement.

The move is generally supported by Keystone State harm reduction organizations, who view it as a move that will help reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases among injection drug users.

The proposed rule would limit the number of needles one could purchase without a prescription to 30 at a time. Most other states have no limit on the number of needles that can be purchased. Syringes would remain stored in the prescription area of drug stores. People who wish to obtain a prescription to purchase needles (for insurance purposes) would still be able to do so.

The period for public comment will end September 25, after which the board will decide whether or not to move forward on the proposed rule.

Press Release: A Turning Point for Needle Exchange in D.C., With New Leadership and Influx of Public Funding PreventionWorks Prepares for Growth, Expansion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 4, 2007 CONTACT: Ken Vail at 202-588-5580, www.PreventionWorksDC.org A Turning Point for Needle Exchange in D.C. With New Leadership and Influx of Public Funding PreventionWorks Prepares for Growth, Expansion Nine years after its founding in 1998, PreventionWorks, Washington D.C.'s only needle exchange program, has announced the departure of its long-time and respected Executive Director, Paola Barahona, the first and only person to hold the position. In her nine years of service, Barahona has raised more than $3.5 million in private funding to support and sustain the work of PreventionWorks which, until this year, was prohibited by an act of Congress from receiving or utilizing public funding for its needle exchange services. PreventionWorks provides access to sterile syringes, offers tools and information for leading healthier lives, and provides access and referrals to drug treatment, medical and social services. Its services are client-focused, culturally appropriate, and community supported. All services are provided without judgment. James Millner, a nationally known healthcare communications consultant who served on the board of directors of PreventionWorks, including a term as board president, says, The coinciding departures of both Paola and me truly mark the beginning of a new era for PreventionWorks. We leave behind a respected organization with a solid and stable foundation from which it can grow and expand to meet the significant challenges ahead. But we cannot move forward without properly acknowledging the tireless efforts of Paola Barahona, without whom PreventionWorks and needle exchange entirely would likely not exist in our nations capital. She deserves the thanks and appreciation of this entire city. Under the leadership of PreventionWorks President, Beth Beck, a Regional Director for the American Cancer Society, the board of directors has established a Transition Committee to oversee a national search for a new Executive Director. Chaired by PreventionWorks board of directors member Naomi Long (Director of the Washington Metro office for the Drug Policy Alliance), the Committee includes Barbara Chinn of Whitman-Walker Clinic, Channing Wickham of the Washington AIDS Partnership, James Millner (Past President, PreventionWorks board of directors), Patsy Fleming (Whitman Walker Clinics National AIDS Policy Director) and Scott Sanders of High Noon Communications. The board of directors is working with Transition Guides, a consulting firm dedicated to sustaining and strengthening nonprofits through better managed leadership transitions, to ensure the stability of the unique services provided by PreventionWorks during and after the leadership transition. Mr. Kenneth Vail, MPH, MA, has been hired as Interim Executive Director to manage PreventionWorks during its search for permanent staff leadership. Mr. Vail has 17 years of experience establishing and leading syringe access programs in Santa Cruz, California, Cleveland, Ohio, San Francisco, California, and Staten Island, New York, and has worked in HIV outreach, prevention and education in Boston, Massachusetts, San Jose, California, and Temirtau, Kazakhstan. For nearly a decade, PreventionWorks has grown and strengthened into an organization that is today a critical part of the District of Columbias HIV prevention strategy. No longer a stop-gap or temporary solution to provide clean needles to drug users, PreventionWorks is transitioning into a full service HIV prevention and health advocacy group for drug users, their families, friends and partners. For further information about the transition or PreventionWorks, please contact Ken Vail at 202-588-5580.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Harm Reduction Project: News, Information, & Opinion - August 13, 2007

News & Opinion 1. What Really Happened To Diane Linkletter? 2. San Francisco Says Meth Use Is At 'High Plateau' (Despite Data Suggesting That Methamphetamine Use Is Falling) 3. Cologne And Antiseptic: Russia's Killer Drinks 4. Speeding HIV's Deadly Spread (Multiple, Concurrent Partners Drive Disease in Southern Africa) 5. [US] Air Force Charges Victim in Her Own Rape 6. The Political Junkets of Bush's Drug Czar A. To Our Contributors B. Upcoming Conferences C. Listings Of Blogs & Sites We've Been Visiting Lately D. Quotes E. Know Someone Who Might Enjoy Receiving This Newsletter? How To Help ~ About HRP ~Subscription Information -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I. What Really Happened To Diane Linkletter? Written by Doug DeLong Published July 27, 2007 The beautiful young woman who jumped out of her sixth-floor apartment window at 9 am on October 4, 1969 had no way of knowing that her death was destined to become a focal point of the anti-drug movement in America. Diane Linkletter was the 20-year-old daughter of Art Linkletter, the prominent radio and TV personality. Before an autopsy had even been performed, her famous father claimed to the media that she had taken LSD the night before her death. (Linkletter had not talked to his daughter before her death, but maintains that she had told her brother Robert that she had taken the acid.) He was quoted as saying, "It isn't suicide because she wasn't herself. She was murdered. She was murdered by the people who manufacture and sell LSD." When the autopsy showed no signs of drugs in her system, he changed his story to claim that she was suffering an LSD flashback from months earlier and that had caused her to jump out the window. The media, of course, ran with the story, and used Art Linkletter's claims to create the narrative, without doing much investigating of their own. By the time the dust had settled, the story had been transformed in most people's minds to reflect an old urban legend about a girl, high on LSD, who jumped out her window because she thought she could fly. A much more accurate picture of what happened can be gleaned by examining the testimony of Diane's boyfriend, Edward Durston, who was present when she died. Diane had summoned him to her apartment at 3 am and had spent the final six hours of her life with him. He told investigators that she was a desperately unhappy and despondent young woman who was determined to end her life. He had no reason to believe, and she had not indicated, that drugs were a factor in her death. Art Linkletter, understandably devastated, became one of the most vocal critics of the counterculture, speaking out against drugs at every opportunity, while telling the tale of his daughter's LSD death. Dr. Timothy Leary, the LSD guru who had urged young people to "turn on, tune in, drop out," became his archenemy. In this fascinating video from 1980, Leary is surprised on an interview show with a call from Linkletter. Listening to him scream at Leary that he "wishes he had died, or been hung" was a little disconcerting coming from someone whose public persona was that of the kindly father. [Please click link the following link to view video] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kT31oB2vspw Did Art Linkletter truly believe that his daughter's death was caused by LSD or was it easier for him to view it through that prism? Did it make his burden easier to bear, believing that an outside force of some kind was responsible, and not any negligence on his part? One thing is for certain. The story lodged itself in the public's consciousness and helped to fuel the anti-drug sentiments that led Richard Nixon to declare a War on Drugs in 1971, a seemingly unending battle that has strained our prison system and drained the nation of valuable resources. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2. City Says Meth Use Is At 'High Plateau' by Matthew S. Bajko 08/09/2007 Bay Area Reporter Despite some data suggesting that methamphetamine use among gay men has declined in recent years, a city panel tasked with addressing what health officials consider "the other epidemic" after HIV maintains that usage remains at a "high plateau." The Mayor's Task Force on Crystal Methamphetamine came to the conclusion in an April consensus report. Little noticed at the time it was issued, the report concluded that 13 percent of the city's estimated 54,000 gay and bisexual male residents use meth. Out of 5,524 gay and bi men who inject drugs, the task force concluded that 54 percent are speed users. Taken together, the numbers suggest that 10,003 gay men in San Francisco are meth users. Overall, the task force estimated that 46,000 residents use meth. The task force came to its decision after reviewing data from a dozen studies, and usage could range anywhere from once a day to once in the past year. "With most drugs you are looking at single digit percentages, not 13 percent," said task force member Michael Siever, Ph.D., manager of the Stonewall Project, a meth-focused substance use program that recently merged with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. "Crystal has been and continues to be a major issue in San Francisco's gay community. It still remains high, no matter how you slice the numbers." The task force estimated that only 3 percent of gay meth users use the drug on a daily basis, while 73 percent use it once a month or less. Seventeen percent of gay and bi who inject meth do so at least once a day, while 21 percent inject meth once a month or less, concluded the task force. "The conclusion of the consensus meeting was that we are at a high plateau and have been for a while. There are some fluctuations but there is still a very high rate of use even with whatever recent dips there have been," said Siever. "A high plateau means to me meth use has been very significant among gay men and has been for some time." Siever noted though that even if roughly 20 percent of the city's men who have sex with men use meth, 80 percent do not. "The reality is the vast majority of folks don't do drugs, period," said Siever. The task force's conclusion is 3 percentage points higher than data collected by the Stop AIDS Project suggested two years ago. Only 10 percent of the 809 men the agency surveyed in 2005 reported using crystal in the last six months, down from 18 percent of the 1,305 men asked in 2003 as part of the agency's street surveys. A study using Stop AIDS Project data through June 2006, published last month in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence , reported that overall, the use of methamphetamine was lower in early 2006 compared to late 2003. Usage among HIV-negative MSM dropped from 14.7 to 9 percent, while usage among HIV positive men fell to 19.9 percent last year from 28 percent in late 2003. Even more encouraging is that usage of the drug during sex also declined, said the study. The study's authors, who included Stop AIDS education manager Jennifer Hecht and health department epidemiologists H. Fisher Raymond and Willi McFarland, noted that speed use has been found to be associated with HIV seroconversion and is thought to account for a "large proportion" of infections in San Francisco. The city estimates it will record 800 to 1,000 new HIV infections this year. The number of negative men using speed during sex fell from 11.8 percent in 2003 to 6.6 percent in early 2006. Among positive men, the number fell from 24.8 percent in 2003 to 17.4 percent in early 2006. The study authors also reviewed drug-related visits to San Francisco General Hospital's emergency room. While visits for marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, and ecstasy use all increased, meth-related visits showed a "slight decrease" from the first half of 2004 to early 2006. The numbers dropped from 371 to 299. "The downward trend of methamphetamine use among HIV-negative MSM is particularly noteworthy given the attention that has focused on this issue over the last few years," states the study. The Stonewall Project launched in 1998 and in 2002 its http://www.tweaker.org Web site debuted. In 2005 Stop AIDS launched its own "Crystal Clear" campaign, and in April that year Mayor Gavin Newsom formed his crystal task force at the urging of Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who held several hearings at City Hall on the drug's impact. "While our data do not prove that the intensified prevention efforts are causing a decrease in methamphetamine use, they are encouraging and merit confirmation in other data," conclude the study's authors. The authors are currently crunching data collected over the last 12 months to see if meth use has continued to decline. According to the health department's July monthly STD report, meth-related hospital visits for men through June of 2007 numbered 213, down from 245 during the same period last year. Steven Tierney, a co-chair of the task force and deputy director of programs at SFAF, said despite the consensus report's conclusions, he remains optimistic about the course of the city's meth epidemic. "The news is good. Meth use appears to be continuing to go down," said Tierney, who said more data is needed though to confirm the trend. "Before people get all excited about meth, we need to do a little more investigation of what we are discovering." Studies have found that cocaine use among gay men is on the rise in San Francisco, suggesting that meth has lost some of its cachet as a fun party drug. According to McFarland, cocaine was slightly up, but statistically level from the second half of 2003 through the first half of 2006. Usage went from 13.6 percent in 2003 to 14.5 percent last year. While cocaine use has not been tied to unsafe sex and HIV infections, as has speed, Tierney said he is still concerned that cocaine may impair people's judgment. "The impact of cocaine on sexual risk would be in the same school as alcohol. If a person has a safety plan for himself around sexual behavior, sometimes you are not in the same capacity to stick to your plan. So that is the situation," he said. City urges resistance to meth The city's latest effort to reduce crystal use is an ad campaign and Web site urging gay men to "Resist Meth." An outgrowth of the task force's recommendations, the campaign uses stark black, red and white imagery recalling Soviet-era poster realism. The message is intended to reach not only meth users struggling to quit the drug, but also those gay men who have never tried it but may find themselves in a situation where they are offered the drug. Since its unveiling in June, more than 5,355 people have visited http://www.resistmeth.org and 75 people have "joined the resistance" at the online site. The health department is spending $195,000 on the campaign, which also includes the translation of tweaker.org into Spanish. "Meth has actually created a little bit of a front for a lot of us to come together and join forces. It was saying going back to the concept of community. We the people come together and want you to join us to resist this thing," said Antonio Aquilar, a gay Latino man who was a member of the campaign's community advisory group. Aquilar, 40, has spent the last two years working with gay Latino meth users through a project sponsored by the Cesar Chavez Institute at San Francisco State University. He said the advisory group members all had various points of view on the need for another meth campaign. "My hope was just start the dialogue. With gay Latino men there is no language to talk about it. So much stigma, fear, and misinformation," said Aquilar. "The sign doesn't say anything stigmatizing about anyone or anything. It leaves it open so people can read into it whatever they want." In addition to the ads and posters, 40,000 pamphlets called a "methifesto" and duplicating the Web site's message have been distributed. Under the heading "Resistance is not futile," the campaign proclaims that "Meth doesn't have to be part of being gay. It doesn't have to be a rite of passage." At the same time the campaign acknowledges that some gay men "can use meth occasionally without it becoming a problem." It includes advice for meth users on how to protect themselves from STDs and HIV - one suggestion for men who bottom tells them to insert a female condom in their rectum prior to getting high on the drug. It also advises HIV-positive men to be honest about their meth use with their doctors because crystal can cause negative interactions with HIV medications. The site also debunks myths that meth increases T-cells or boosts users' immune systems. Tracey Packer, the city's interim HIV prevention director, said the campaign purposefully tries not to sound preachy so it will not be dismissed. "We need to be realistic about people's behaviors and give them the information they need to reduce their risk," she said. "If you don't speak to people within the reality they live in they won't listen." She also said the campaign is not meant to compete with other efforts already being undertaken in the city. "The most effective messages are delivered in lots of different ways," she said. "It is not meant to compete but to complement." Packer said the Resist Meth message seems to be resonating with people. "I think that meth in the community can be very stressful. Just the effect it can have on individuals in a community creates a level of tension," said Packer. "The responses are suggesting relief. People are saying let's take some power over a drug that could be harming us." Siever gave high marks to the campaign's design, but he questioned if it was producing any real dialogue on meth use among gay men. Most people he has spoken to about the campaign said by trying to reach various target audiences, the campaign's messaging is muddled. "By its very nature the slogan sounds a little like Nancy Reagan's 'Just Say No' with cooler graphics and coolers words, maybe," said Siever. "What I found most interesting is I don't get the sense from folks I talked to that it prompted much discussion. I don?t know if people are oversaturated with crystal meth messages or what." Others have said the campaign strikes a chord. One recovering meth addict wrote in an e-mail that the Web site gives him encouragement to stay clean. "Meth seduced me then left me all alone ill and broken, but somehow my will to live was stronger than meth. I promised myself first and foremost that I'd never touch it again. Somehow, I've kept that promise for 2 years now, but am always looking for reinforcement. Thank you for CARING enough to build this site," wrote the San Francisco resident. Another person wrote, "Other campaigns can seem patronizing and unrealistic. This campaign with its political art, sexy style, and strongly directed message, appeals to our humanity to resist something that we know is killing so many of us." Back in February the city paid $15,000 for a billboard in the Castro to gather input on what kind of meth campaign gay men wanted to see. According to John Leonard, senior vice president of Better World Advertising, which created the campaign, more than 110 people responded to the billboard. Replies included suggestions and ideas for the ads as well as personal stories, artwork, and songs. "We got a huge range of responses to the billboard from people who said you should lock up users and dealers and throw away the key to people who said legalize it and forget about it," he said. "By and large if there was any common theme it was that the community needs to come together to deal with this." Leonard said the ad shop's task was to create "something positive that could help mobilize the community and avoid stigmatizing users. That posed a real challenge, but I feel the campaign is succeeding in speaking to all these different audiences with a strong message and just the right tone." Better World drew on the revolutionary and wartime mobilization posters of the 20th century as inspiration for the campaign, said Leonard. "The image is meant to be sort of iconic and to evoke and appeal to a community ethic but people also look at this guy's face and see various things. Some think he is using meth and struggling with it; others see him as someone who is in recovery and moved past meth," said Leonard. "I think because the campaign is so stark and simple it allows for people to interpret in it a lot of different ways, which I think is a strength." Dufty, who had criticized the expenditure on the billboard, complimented the final outcome, though he did express discontent with the more guerilla-type aspects of the campaign, such as chalk drawings that appeared in the Castro. The sidewalk images will disappear over time if not washed away first. "I am a fan of the Resist Meth campaign. I have had a number of people who wrote to me saying how striking the graphic images are and the brochure is good," said Dufty. "I struggle with this sometimes. I understand an edgy marketing approach reaches a younger audience. Certainly, that is a group we want to engage with on meth use." -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Cologne And antiseptic: Russia's Killer Drinks Sarah Boseley ~ Luke Harding in Moscow The Guardian ~ June 15, 2007 Almost half of working-age men in Russia who die are killed by alcohol abuse, according to a new medical study which says the country's males die in excessive numbers not just because they drink lots of vodka but because they also consume products containing alcohol, such as eau de cologne, antiseptics and medicinal tinctures. Some products contain 95% alcohol by volume, equating to 200 proof. An international group of scientists looked at a single city in the Urals to establish the effects of the drinking in Russia. Izhevsk was chosen for being a typical industrial city where life is much the same as elsewhere and where death rates match the Russian average. Underlying the work was the question of why life expectancy in Russia is so low: in 2004 it was 59 years for men and 72 for women. Due to the low life expectancy and birthrate, the population in Russia is falling by 700,000 a year. Alcohol has always been an important factor in death and disease in Russia, borne out by fluctuations in the death rates linked to changes in lifestyle and politics, says a report on the study, in the Lancet medical journal. "President Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign in the mid-1980s was associated with an immediate rise in life expectancy, whereas increased alcohol consumption has been linked to rising mortality in the early 1990s during the transition from communism. Deaths related to alcohol, such as acute alcohol poisoning and liver cirrhosis, showed the greatest fluctuations, with similar trends for other causes plausibly linked to alcohol consumption." A study published last year found that Russians, and inhabitants of other former parts of the Soviet Union, drank more than anybody else in the world - an estimated 15.2 litres of pure alcohol per capita each year for over-15s. They also drank more dangerously and were prone to binges, known as zapoi, meaning two or more days of continuous drunkenness. David Leon, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues examined records and interviewed the families of 1,750 men who had died in Izhevsk from 2003-05. The men were compared with 1,750 who were still alive. They found that problem drinkers and those who drank alcohol not intended for consumption were six times more likely to have died young than those who did not have a drinking problem. The chances of an early death were particularly high for those who got their alcohol from eau de cologne and other unorthodox sources - they were nine times more likely to die. The authors say that men impoverished after losing a job through drinking may be forced to resort to drinking household products containing pure alcohol. Among those who were still alive, 47% who drank such products were jobless compared with 13% who stuck to vodka and beer. Overall, 43% of deaths of men aged 25 to 54 were caused by alcohol, a figure that could be extrapolated to all of Russia because of the typical nature of Izhevsk. An estimate in 2002 put the death toll at 27%. The authors say their higher figures could be due to taking into account drinking of household products with very high levels of alcohol, as well as binges. "Almost half of all deaths in working-age men in a typical Russian city may be accounted for by hazardous drinking," they write. "Our analyses provide indirect support for the contention that the sharp fluctuations seen in Russian mortality in the early 1990s could be related to hazardous drinking as indicated by consumption of non-beverage alcohol." A separate commentary points out that people who get their alcohol from household products often live in poor housing and have bad diets, which could contribute to their chances of an early demise. It adds that illegally produced alcoholic beverages are also widely consumed. The Kremlin is acutely aware of the epic scale of alcoholism. Ministers call it a "national tragedy". Although President Vladimir Putin has presided over a period of spectacular economic growth since 2000, he has so far not persuaded Russians to drink less. The government has recently cracked down on rogue distillers. Yesterday the federal tax service suspended the licence of several factories producing "alcohol and ethyl alcohol products", saying they had not complied with a law requiring data on how much alcohol each bottle holds. Russian alcoholics - drinking perfume, aftershave and cheap local alcohol - face great dangers. In winter, newspapers are invariably full of stories of drunks who have died after falling through icy ponds or collapsing in the snow. According to 2005 figures, Russia has about 2,348,567 registered alcoholics, and alcohol is being linked to 72% of murders and 42% of suicides. The World Health Organisation rates the country as one of the most alcoholic in the world. 'Ultimately it's a disease of the soul' Case study: Saviley Vlasov, 35, was a heavy drinker after leaving the army in his mid-20s. Now recovering, he works as a courier in Moscow I started drinking when I was 14. I was a shy teenager, but after a night of drinking I became sociable. I got a new nickname, new friends and even a girlfriend. I started drinking heavily when I left the Russian army at the age of 25. It was 1992. Every time I touched a drop of alcohol I couldn't stop drinking. I was helpless. I had just one purpose: to find alcohol. It was my only goal. I would drink until I could no longer stand up. My relatives gave me money. I would normally drink for two or three days continuously. After that I'd collapse. Then I'd lie down for a week. Then I'd start drinking again. This went on for several years. I'd look for money, steal it, borrow it, or get it from other drinkers. I mostly drank very cheap vodka. It's easily available in Russia, it tastes like industrial spirit. On one occasion I set myself alight. I almost died. I woke up, and I didn't know where I was or how I got there. On another occasion I nearly fell out of the window of my Moscow flat. I didn't have a girlfriend. I just drank alone at home and watched TV. My relatives thought I was a madman. They were waiting for me to go mad and put me in a hospital. My entire universe became distorted. I started to measure someone only by alcohol - whether they were someone I could share 50g of vodka with. At my father's suggestion I went to Alcoholics Anonymous. But only once. Afterwards I carried on drinking, for two years. Eventually I ran out of drinking companions and stopped. I've now been dry for eight years. I'm not sure why alcoholism is such a big problem here in Russia. It happens elsewhere too. But ultimately it's a disease of the soul. Men and women drink in Russia because they don't have any spiritual goals. They have nothing to live for. During my darkest moments, the whole meaning of my existence was to get alcohol. That was it. It was an unending struggle. Those years are still a blur to me. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4. Speeding HIV's Deadly Spread Multiple, Concurrent Partners Drive Disease in Southern Africa By Craig Timberg Washington Post Foreign Service Friday, March 2, 2007 FRANCISTOWN, Botswana -- The young and hip at ground zero of the AIDS epidemic meet, drink and pair off under the knowing gaze of bartender Brian Khumalo. Sometimes they first buy a three-pack of condoms from the box he keeps by the liquor, sometimes not. Night after night they return for the carefree, beery vibe, with the same partners or new ones, creating a web of sexual interaction. A growing number of studies single out such behavior -- in which men and women maintain two or more ongoing relationships -- as the most powerful force propelling a killer disease through a vulnerable continent. This new understanding of how the AIDS virus attacks individuals and their societies helps explain why the disease has devastated southern Africa while sparing other places. It also suggests how the region's AIDS programs, which have struggled to prevent new infections even as treatment for the disease has become more widely available, might save far more lives: by discouraging sexual networks. "The problem of multiple partners who do not practice safe sex is obviously the biggest driver of HIV in the world," said Ndwapi Ndwapi, a top government AIDS official in Botswana, speaking in Gaborone, the capital. "What I need to know from the scientific community is, what do you do? . . . How do you change that for a society that happens to have higher rates of multiple sexual partners?" Khumalo, 25, tall and lanky with a crooked-toothed smile, described the problem succinctly as he pointed to a spiky-haired woman in a corner booth of the bar. "She's new around here, so every guy is going to talk to her," he said. "She will be with me today. Tomorrow she will be with my best friend. And I will be with somebody else." Khumalo moved from Gaborone to Francistown last March, finding a city of 85,000 with a red-brick downtown, modest concrete homes and an accommodating sexual culture. The first night, he slept with a woman he had just met, he said. He did the same the second night, the third, the fourth. Though he used condoms each time, he said, an alarmed friend soon drove him to the white, low-slung buildings of Francistown's biggest AIDS clinic. "I saw thousands of beautiful women going to get pills," Khumalo recalled. It scared him, but not enough. By the end of the year, Khumalo had slept with more than 100 women, he said. But the number of sexual partners is not the only factor that increases the risk of AIDS. The most potentially dangerous relationships, researchers say, involve men and women who maintain more than one regular partner for months or years. In these relationships, more intimate, trusting and long-lasting than casual sex, most couples eventually stop using condoms, studies show, allowing easy infiltration by HIV. Researchers increasingly agree that curbing such behavior is key to slowing the spread of AIDS in Africa. In a July report, southern African AIDS experts and officials listed "reducing multiple and concurrent partnerships" as their first priority for preventing the spread of HIV in a region where nearly 15 million people are estimated to carry the virus -- 38 percent of the world's total. But for many Batswana, as citizens of this landlocked desert country of 1.6 million call themselves, it is a strategy that has rarely been taught. "There has never been equal emphasis on 'Don't have many partners,' " said Serara Selelo-Mogwe, a public health expert and retired nursing professor at the University of Botswana, who recalled stepping past broken bottles and used condoms as she arrived on campus each Monday morning. "If you just say, 'Use the condom' . . . we will never see the daylight of the virus leaving us." A Lethal Mix of Causes International experts long regarded Botswana as a case study in how to combat AIDS. It had few of the intractable social problems thought to predispose a country to the disease, such as conflict, abject poverty and poor medical care. And for the past decade, the country has rigorously followed strategies that Western experts said would slow AIDS. With its diamond wealth and the largess of international donors, Botswana aggressively promoted condom use while building Africa's best network of HIV testing centers and its most extensive system for distributing the antiretroviral drugs that dramatically prolong and improve the lives of those with AIDS. But even though the relentless pace of funerals began to ease in recent years, the disease was far from under control. The national death rate fell from the highest in the world, but only to second-highest, behind AIDS-ravaged Swaziland. Men and women in Botswana continued to contract HIV faster than almost anywhere else on Earth. Twenty-five percent of Batswana adults carry the virus, according to a 2004 national study, and among women in their early 30s living in Francistown, the rate is 69 percent. Researchers increasingly attribute the resilience of HIV in Botswana -- and in southern Africa generally -- to the high incidence of multiple sexual relationships. Europeans and Americans often have more partners over their lives, studies show, but sub-Saharan Africans average more at the same time. Nearly one in three sexually active men in Botswana reported having multiple, concurrent sex partners, as did 14 percent of women, in a 2003 survey paid for by the U.S. government. Among men younger than 25, the rate was 44 percent. The distinction between having several partners in a year and several in a month is crucial because those newly infected with HIV experience an initial surge in viral loads that makes them far more contagious than they will be for years. During the three-week spike -- which ends before standard tests can even detect HIV -- the virus explodes through networks of unprotected sex. This insight explained what studies were documenting: Africans with multiple, concurrent sex partners were more likely to contract HIV, and countries where such partnerships were common had wider and more lethal epidemics. A model of multiple sexual relationships presented at a Princeton University conference in May showed that a small increase in the average number of concurrent sexual partners -- from 1.68 to 1.86 -- had profound effects, connecting sexual networks into a single, massive tangle that, when plotted out, resembles the transportation system of a major city. A second key factor helping the virus spread through southern Africa is low rates of circumcision. Before European colonialists arrived, most tribes in the region removed the foreskins of teenage boys during manhood rituals. Those rites, which were discouraged by missionaries and other Westerners who regarded them as primitive, have gradually declined as the region rapidly modernized. Dozens of studies, including three experimental trials conducted in Africa in recent years, show that circumcised men are much less likely to contract HIV because the most easily infected cells have been removed. These factors, researchers say, explain how North Africa, where Muslim societies require circumcision and strongly discourage sex outside monogamous and polygamous marriages, has largely avoided AIDS. They also explain why the epidemic is far more severe south of the Sahara, where webs of multiple sex partners are more common, researchers say. West Africa has been partially protected by its high rates of circumcision, but in southern and eastern Africa -- which have both low rates of circumcision and high rates of multiple sex partners -- the AIDS epidemic became the most deadly in the world. "That's the lethal cocktail," said Harvard University epidemiologist Daniel Halperin, a former AIDS prevention adviser in Africa for the U.S. government, speaking from suburban Boston. "There's no place in the world where you have very high HIV and you don't have those two factors." No Word for 'Fidelity' From under the broad thatched roof of Francistown's Customary Court, which handles minor crimes and misconduct, Chief Judge Ludo Margaret Mosojane had long suspected that the city's torrent of AIDS deaths flowed from its sexual culture. Each year brought more cases resulting from elaborate, overlapping relationships, she said. "It explains why Africa is hardest hit" by AIDS, Mosojane said. "The way we contract for sex is different from how others do it." Polygamy once was common in the region, and in some parts still is; Swaziland's king has 13 wives. In generations past, even Batswana with just one spouse rarely expected monogamy. Husbands spent months herding cattle while their wives, staying elsewhere, tended crops, Mosojane said. On his return, a husband was not to be quizzed about his activities while he was away. He also was supposed to spend his first night back in an uncle's house, giving his wife time to send off boyfriends. In Setswana, the national language, "the word 'fidelity' does not even exist," Mosojane said. The few checks that traditional villages had on sexual behavior dwindled during the development frenzy after 1967, when diamonds were discovered. Batswana increasingly moved to cities for school or work. Plentiful television sets delivered a flood of Western images, including racy soap operas and music videos featuring lightly clad women vying for the attention of wealthy, bejeweled men. Francistown, with nearby mines, military camps and border posts overflowing with desperate refugees, changed faster than most cities. Amid the bustling malls, there was soon an unsettling concentration of young adults because so many people ages 35 to 50 had already died of AIDS complications, residents say. Faruk Maunge, 36, a high school counselor whose dreadlocks, goatee and rectangular glasses give him a cosmopolitan air, noticed the changes when he returned from stays abroad. "They are just a lost bunch," he said. "They are very, very reckless." Maunge said that rent, clothing, even cellphone airtime became part of implicit sexual exchanges. Men and women maintained two, three, even four regular partners. The toll was clear from the snapshots he kept in a green plastic first-aid box. "This one is gone," Maunge said, pointing to a faded picture of a woman in a red top who was nibbling her fingernails. Moving deeper into the pile, he continued: "This one is gone, Mooketsi. And this one is gone, Themba. This one is gone, too, this one on the far left. This one is positive." With a hint of frustration, Maunge said of one man, "He's sleeping around again." Maunge also grew irritated at a picture showing a friend with AIDS who seemed to father a child -- he was awaiting his fourth -- with every girlfriend. Maunge said he once was reckless, too, having sex with three women in a week, sometimes without condoms. But after watching the disease kill more than 20 of his friends, he settled down with a new girlfriend and stayed faithful, he said. "Praise God, I've been lucky," Maunge said. "It's like you have 10 bullets going through you and none hits you." The Missing Message On a hospital wall here, not far from the AIDS clinic that Khumalo visited with his friend, the painted image of a condom shimmers like a comic-book superhero. Giant, colorful block letters declare, "CONDOMISE AND STAY ALIVE!!" In cramped black script below, it adds, "Abstain first." Yet rarely seen among Botswana's AIDS prevention messages is one that has worked in other African countries: Multiple sex partners kill. Dubbed "Zero Grazing" by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, this approach dominated in East Africa, where several countries curbed HIV rates. Fidelity campaigns never caught on in Botswana. Instead, the country focused on remedies favored by Western AIDS experts schooled in the epidemics of America's gay community or Thailand's brothels, where condom use became so routine it slowed the spread of HIV. These experts brought not just ideas but money, and soon billboards in Botswana touted condoms. Schoolchildren sang about them. Cadres of young women demonstrated how to roll them on. The anti-AIDS partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and drugmaker Merck budgeted $13.5 million for condom promotion -- 25 times the amount dedicated to curbing dangerous sexual behavior. But soaring rates of condom use have not brought down high HIV rates. Instead, they rose together, until both were among the highest in Africa. The focus on condoms endured even after the arrival of internationally heralded "ABC" programs, named for their prescription of "Abstain, Be Faithful and Condomize." The middle concept -- fidelity -- often got lost. The few posters advocating it in Francistown are old and torn; ads for condoms and abstinence are far more prominent. A 2004 government study measured the result: Three-quarters of Batswana surveyed knew that condoms could stop the spread of HIV. Half knew that abstinence would. Yet only one in five knew that fidelity to a single, uninfected partner prevented spreading the disease. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5. Air Force Charges Victim in Her Own Rape This post, written by Cara, originally appeared on Feministing on August 8, 2007 This news item made my stomach turn: Cassandra Hernandez, a female Air Force airman was raped, reported her attack and then subsequently became a court-martial defendant, herself. The story goes down like this: Hernandez was at a party, where she was drinking. She says that three male airman raped her. She went to the hospital and filed a report accusing her attackers. Due to stress and harsh interrogation tactics by the Air Force, she eventually refused to testify against the airmen. The Air Force then charged her with underage drinking (of which she admits to being guilty, but that's hardly the point, now is it?) and, along with her three attackers, "indecent acts." I had a hell of a lot of trouble finding an official definition for "indecent acts," and the best one I came up with is a "form of immorality relating to sexual impurity which is not only grossly vulgar, obscene, and repugnant to common propriety, but tends to excite lust and deprave the morals with respect to sexual relations." Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but the basic translation seems to be "a sexual act, particularly one that is not generally accepted in society, such as sex with multiple partners." So. The woman was raped. By three men. She reported her rape. She was harassed by her superiors, to the point where she became too afraid to testify. The Air Force took this as meaning that the sex was therefore consensual (which isn't what it means at all), and charged her in the case of her own rape. If she loses her case, she could be publicly registered as a sex offender. Sounds like it couldn't get any worse, right? But it does. How? The three alleged attackers were offered sexual assault immunity to testify against Hernandez on the indecent acts charge. Having at least half a brain cell among them, they accepted. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6. The Political Junkets of Bush's Drug Czar Flying High? By Bill Piper and Anthony Papa ~ July 20, 2007 ~ CounterPunch In a startling discovery of what appears to reek of the stench of collusion, a Congressional committee has discovered evidence that the nation's drug czar and his deputies traveled to almost two dozen events with vulnerable Republican members of Congress in the months prior to the 2006 elections. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, alleged that the taxpayer-financed trips were orchestrated by President Bush's political advisors and often combined with the announcement of federal grants or actions that benefited the districts of the Republican members. A November 20, 2006 memo from Sara Taylor, the former White House director of political affairs, summarized the travel Drug Czar John Walters took at her request. Of the almost 20 events, all were with Republicans in close races. An agency e-mail sent the following day describes how Karl Rove commended his agency (and three cabinet departments--Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture) for "going above and beyond the call of duty" in making "surrogate appearances" at locations the e-mail described as "the god-awful places we sent them." That e-mail, as well as e-mails that followed, show that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) officials were proud of the commendation they received from Rove and the political travel they took using taxpayer dollars. According to ONDCP's liaison to the White House, Douglas Simon, "our hard workin preparing the Director and Deputies for their trips and events" allowed them to travel "thousands of miles to attend numerous events all across the country." The ONDCP by law is obliged to be non-partisan and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is expected to have hearings on the matter later this month. The accusation that Drug Czar John Walters and President Bush were scratching each other's backs for financial and political gain was shocking, even in current cesspool of Washington, D.C. politics. Walters used taxpayer money to campaign for Republicans; while President Bush ignored the agency's failures and increased funding for programs his own analysts determined were ineffective. One hand washes the other. Numerous government-funded studies have found that the government's anti-marijuana ad campaign and student drug testing program are ineffective, yet the Bush Administration continues to request funding increases for those programs. The recently released memos and e-mails are only the latest evidence that ONDCP uses taxpayer money to influence voters. During 2000 federal lawsuit evidence surfaced showing that ONDCP's billion dollar anti-marijuana TV ad campaign was created to influence voters to reject state medical marijuana ballot measures. The Drug Czar and his staff are also routinely accused of using taxpayer money to travel to states in order to convince voters and legislators to reject drug policy reform. During the 2002 election, ONDCP's campaigning on a Nevada ballot initiative was so intense that the state's attorney general complained in a letter to the Nevada secretary of state that, "it is unfortunate that a representative of the federal government substantially intervened in a matter that was clearly a State of Nevada issue. The excessive federal intervention that was exhibited in this instance is particularly disturbing because it sought to influence the outcome of a Nevada election." More recently, ONDCP bureaucrats traveled to New Mexico at least four times in 12 months--at taxpayer expense--to lobby state legislators to oppose medical marijuana legislation. Fortunately, the legislators ignored them and seriously ill people in New Mexico finally have access to legal medical marijuana. The president continues to blatantly compromise the integrity of his administration for political gain, legality and ethics be damned. Two questions should be asked. How long will the drug czar and other public servants continue to use taxpayer money to influence voters on behalf of the Republican party before Congress takes action to stop this clearly unethical and illegal action? President Bush: how long will you fund costly, ineffective and harmful policies as a quid pro quo to secure a few votes? Bill Piper is National Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Anthony Papa is the author of15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist forDrug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at:[email protected] Papa's artwork can be viewed at: www.15yearstolife.com/art1.htm -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A. To Our Contributors Please submit articles, essays, reviews, research, etc., with good citations. We will include your name as the source of the piece only if requested. Due to space and editorial concerns not everything gets published. Send contributions to [email protected] Thanks so much for all the great submissions. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- B. Upcoming Conferences Second National Harm Reduction Therapy Conference Harm Reduction Therapy in the Real World November 2-4, 2007 Philadelphia Drug Policy Alliance's International Drug Policy Reform Conference is the world's principal gathering of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. No better opportunity exists to learn about drug policy and to strategize and mobilize for reform. December 5-8, 2007 New Orleans -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- C. A Listing Of The Blogs & Sites We've Been Visiting Lately (updated) Whiskey Bar The Center For Responsive Politics STATS Working Families Vote 2008 Falafel Sex, and Other Things Best Left Unsaid Elayne Riggs Eschaton Fact-esque Farai Chideya Feministe Feministing Frameshop Death Penalty Infomation Center Cocaine Importing Agency Calitics Common Dreams Cursor OpEd News Raw Story Smirking Chimp Truthdig TruthOut Working for Change Trish Wilson War and Piece Waveflux What She Said! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- D. Quotes There are lies, damned lies and statistics. -Mark Twain Lies are sufficient to breed opinion, and opinion brings on substance. -Francis Bacon No one lies so boldly as the man who is indignant. -Friedrich Nietzsche As far as I'm concerned, love means fighting, big fat lies, and a couple of slaps across the face. -Edith Piaf -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- E. Do You Know Someone Who Might Enjoy Receiving This Newsletter? We will send an invitaion to the name(s) of anyone you wish. Just send us their name(s) and addess(ess ). We'll send them a sample newsletter and invitation to subscribe. Please send your request to [email protected] Please include your name! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- How To Help The Harm Reduction Project is able to provide services through the suport of individuals such as yourself. Please help us make a difference and pledge your support today. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE or call 801-355-0234 ext 4# for more information.
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Feature: Yellow Journalism -- San Francisco Exchange Programs Scored Over Dirty Needles

A series of sensationalistic articles in the San Francisco Chronicle over the past two weeks highlighted the problem of discarded needles near one of the city's needle exchange programs. The series appears -- on the surface -- to have prodded city officials to act on the problem. More accurately, it informed the public of planning that had been going on behind the scenes, though without informing readers of that. While the articles posed as muckraking, civic-minded journalism, they smeared needle exchange workers -- they failed, most importantly, to ask the most basic questions needed to actually determine the programs' impact on needle discarding -- and unnecessarily contributed to public fears about the programs.

The Chronicle series began Sunday July 29 with "The Situation at Golden Gate Park; Sunday in the Park -- With Needles," where the paper reported that the park was "littered" with discarded syringes. The reporting made it seem as if the discarded syringes were the fault of needle exchange programs:

"They tell us he was steaming, but San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom shouldn't have been too surprised when The Chronicle reported that Golden Gate Park was littered with used drug syringes.

"After all, his own Public Health Department spent $800,000 last year to help hand out some 2 million syringes to drug users under the city's needle exchange program -- sometimes 20 at a time.

"Although Health Department officials say 2 million needles were returned, the fact is they don't count them and can only estimate how many are coming back.

"And from the looks of things, a lot of them aren't."

That same article was also shocked to report that drug users can actually buy needles without a prescription:

"Under legislation passed in 2005 by the same Board of Supervisors whose members now decry the needle problem, anyone over 18 can walk into a Walgreens or Rite Aid and buy as many as 10 needles -- no questions asked."

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syringes
Like needle exchanges, non-prescription syringe access is a harm reduction measure designed to save lives and improve the public health by reducing the spread of disease through making needle access easier. Its beneficial impact, however, is blunted by a California statute defining syringe possession as a violation of the paraphernalia law. Hence, users anxious to avoid trouble with law enforcement may be rendered more anxious to get rid of their needles once done with them, and less likely to save them long enough to take them back to a program.

In that article and a same-day companion piece, "Golden Gate Park sweep -- can city make it stick? 'March of junkies': Haight's residents fume over needles," the Chronicle described finding needles in Golden Gate Park and interviewed neighbors upset with finding discarded syringes in the area. It made for compelling reading, but left several critical questions unanswered:

  • How many needles were being discarded in the park before there were needle exchange programs?
  • How many of the needles found by the authors of the neighborhood residents they quoted came from the needle exchange program?
  • What is the risk of HIV or Hep C infection from being pricked with a discarded needle? What was it before there were needle exchange programs?
  • How many needles not returned to the program are actually being unsafely discarded?
  • Overall, how significant is the threat to public safety from discarded syringes, and how does it compare with the threat from pre-needle exchange days?

If advocates and researchers are right, the answers to those questions don't support the premise of the Chronicle stories. "Nobody wants dirty syringes lying around," said Hilary McQuie, Oakland-based Western Director for the Harm Reduction Coalition. "But there were syringes everywhere in San Francisco before we started needle exchanges here in 1988. There is no recognition [in the Chronicle story] that there was a problem with discarded syringes before needle exchange came around, or that needle exchanges help reduce the problem."

The Chronicle also seemed to go out of its way to paint one program, the Homeless Youth Alliance, and its director, Mary Howe, in an unflattering light:

"Finding the needle exchange in the Haight isn't easy. Walk west on Haight Street, take a right at Cole, and turn in the first doorway. There's no identification, just a blue sign that says, 'entrance.'

"Walk up the hall, which smells of urine, and then knock on the scratched and battered wooden door. After two or three tries, someone might open the door a crack to see what you want.

"Welcome to a city drug needle exchange and HIV prevention facility.

"When then-Mayor Frank Jordan signed legislation endorsing needle exchanges in 1992, it was a high-minded, civically progressive program to slow the spread of HIV and hepatitis C. Drug users would get a needle, use it, then return it for a clean one. That's still the idea -- and it is a good one -- but somewhere along the line the concept went low-rent.

"Today the Haight facility looks more like a hole in the wall. The neighbors, many of whom say they have never been told what's going on up the street, find syringes in their gardens. And the original idea -- a one-for-one exchange -- is largely ignored.

"The exchange is run by the Homeless Youth Alliance, which gets a yearly budget of $275,000 from the city Department of Public Health. As the alliance's program director, Mary Howe, admits, they make no more than a rough count of the incoming needles. If someone says he returned 40, they hand over 40 new ones. And, if he doesn't have any, they give him 20 as a startup stash.

"'The point for a needle exchange is not to get every needle back,' says Howe. 'The majority of users dispose of needles in a respectful manner.'

"And those who don't?

"'That's not my responsibility,' Howe said. 'I can't hold everyone's hand and make everyone put them in a bio bucket. If someone has a liquor store, and they sell liquor to someone who gets into an accident, is it the store's fault?'"

"The Chronicle totally attacked Mary Howe," McQuie complained. "She's one of the few people who has a good relationship with the homeless users in Golden Gate Park, and the Chronicle didn't mention that her staff does regular clean-ups [collections of discarded syringes] there."

"That's right, said Peter Davidson, board chairman for the Homeless Youth Alliance. "We go out there monthly and clean up dirty needles," he said. "It's a large park, though, and I have to wonder why we are blamed for every needle in it. Picking on a small, poorly-funded needle exchange program doesn't seem particularly productive," he said.

"We're a little bit frustrated with the Chronicle coverage," said Davidson, "but we hope this whole kerfluffle will cause some movement."

Of course, no one wants people getting stuck with discarded needles, but some research can help to put that problem in perspective too. Infections from needle sticks are quite rare outside medical facilities, according to Dr. Robert Heimer, a professor in the Division of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at Yale University and an expert on HIV survival in syringes. "While HIV will survive for weeks inside a syringe, needle sticks are not likely to transmit the virus since virus on the surface of the needle, which would be introduced into the body of the person being pricked, loses viability quickly upon drying. Supporting this are the data from hospital needle stick transmission, which were strongly associated with fresh blood," he said.

A 1998 review of the literature on needle stick infections agreed. It found no HIV infections contracted via needle sticks among garbage disposal workers in one study reviewed. Other studies found low numbers (less than 15) cases of hepatitis infections contracted through needle sticks.

In the third article (so far) in the series, "Needles talk of town; SF officials promise system of drop boxes," the Chronicle patted itself on the back for prompting the city to act with its "exposé" of the dirty needle problem:

"City officials and nonprofit agency leaders, responding to an outcry over used syringes littering parks, promise to reform San Francisco's needle-exchange program -- including locked, 24-hour syringe drop boxes and technologically advanced syringes."

Indeed, both city officials and needle exchange program heads were quoted as saying they would be acting soon to install drop boxes where dirty needles could be dropped off. San Francisco currently doesn't have any, which probably goes a long way toward explaining why the city's return rate is only around 70% instead of the 90% reported in some cities that do have drop boxes. But it is not that the city and the exchanges suddenly woke up because of the Chronicle's reporting. According to insiders, planning for drop boxes has been ongoing, and the first ones will appear shortly. What the Chronicle's reporting really did was goose city hall and the exchanges to let the public know what was already underway.

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popular needle exchange logo
"Mary has been meeting with the public health department, the AIDS Foundation, and the police on disposal boxes for the last year and a half," said Davidson. "Everyone agrees it's a good idea. She's been shopping a written proposal around, but when it came to needles in Golden Gate Park, Parks and Recreation didn't want to get involved."

"We've been talking with the city public health department for awhile about disposal boxes, and I think this series and all the uproar it has aroused will make it happen," said McQuie. "That would be a good public relations move, but people don't want to carry their syringes around because of our paraphernalia law here in California." In the face of the assault on the NEPs in San Francisco, McQuie went on the offensive. "What we really need is to change the needle law so people don't feel like they have to get rid of them. We need syringe exchange machines like soda machines, where you put one in and take one out. And we need safe injection sites," she said.

Heimer also had some observations and suggestions about reducing the number of dirty needles strewn about in public. "Our studies comparing Springfield, Massachusetts, where there is no legal access to syringes, to New Haven and Hartford, where there is, found far more unsafe discarding in Springfield (44%) than in Connecticut cities (13.5%)," he pointed out. His unspoken conclusion was obvious: remove restrictions to needle access if you want to lower rates of unsafe discarding.

"We need publicly accessible drop boxes," Heimer suggested, "along with training injectors to use proper containers, training police to not harass people who carry syringes (then people won't have to chuck their rigs when approached by police), and expanding syringe exchange hours and, counter-intuitively, liberalizing exchange policies," he said. "We found that syringe return rates in three US cities -- Oakland, Chicago, and Hartford -- were highest (nearly 90%) in the city with the most liberal policy (Chicago) and lowest (only 50%) in the city with the most restrictive policy (Hartford).

But such fine points apparently did not interest the self-styled crusaders at the Chronicle. While the newspaper may have done a public service by reporting on the discarded needle problem, the way it did so was a disservice to the hard-working, dedicated people who run these programs for the public health. One would think the citizens of San Francisco deserve better than shabby, sensationalized reporting when it comes to critical public health issues. We only hope that the Chronicle's botched job leads to advances, not setbacks, for harm reduction and needle access in California.

Harm Reduction Project: News, Information, & Opinion - August 6, 2007

1. Statement On The Arrest Of Dr Kian Tajbakhsh 2. Iran Uses Activists For Propaganda 3. Media Marijuana Mania Part Duh 4. Why Africa Fears Western Medicine 5. The Taliban's Opium War 6. Hillary Clinton On Needle Exchange 7. Coverage of Susan Kingston's Crystal Meth Uncensored: What the DEA and Gay Media Won't Tell You A. To Our Contributors B. Upcoming Conferences C. A Listing Of Blogs & Sites We've Been Visiting Lately D. Quotes E. Ask An Associate If She Or He Would Like To Receive This Newsletter How To Help ~ About HRP ~ Subscription Information -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I. Statement On The Arrest Of Dr Kian Tajbakhsh Payvand's Iran News ~ 7/17/07 Imperial College London Statement Respected academic Dr Kian Tajbakhsh, an Imperial College alumnus, was arrested in Iran in May 2007 and has been held without charge ever since. Imperial joins the international community in calling on the Iranian government to allow Dr Tajbakhsh legal representation and to provide evidence of the accusations against him. Dr Kian Tajbakhsh Dr Tajbakhsh graduated with a BSc (Eng) in civil engineering from Imperial in 1983, and went on to complete an MSc in urban planning at University College London. He has built a reputation as a leading expert in local government reform, urban planning and social policy, consulting for Iranian government organizations and international non-governmental organizations such as the World Bank and the Netherlands Association of Municipalities. He holds dual citizenship of the United States and Iran, and has taught at universities in both countries. Information on the campaign to raise awareness of Dr Tajbakhsh's plight is at www.freekian.org -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2. Iran Uses Activists For Propaganda By Scott Peterson for The Christian Science Monitor July 30, 2007 Using methods that hark back to the years following Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian state-run television on Wednesday night broadcast what it called "confessions" of two Iranian-American academics accused of undermining the regime. Called "In the name of Democracy," the 50-minute film deftly spliced images of "velvet" revolutions in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan with segments of interviews with the two dual citizens. The film sought to portray the detained activists' work for American think tanks and civil-society groups as a tool for a US policy of regime change in Iran. The documentary comes amid one of the most comprehensive crackdowns on political activism since the revolution. Confronted with $75 million worth of pro-democracy funding set aside by the US Congress - and frequent rhetoric about regime change - Tehran is taking a page from its old playbook to fight what it sees as a mounting threat to political stability. "The impetus comes from die-hard people around [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, the former Revolutionary Guards, people who now dominate the intelligence services," says Ervand Abrahamian, an Iran expert at the City University of New York. "They practiced this under Khomeini, so they are really going back to the old methods [that] did work." In the film, Haleh Esfandiari, head of Middle East programs at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, spoke of facilitating scholarly exchanges, networks of Iran experts, and meetings at international conferences. Ms. Esfandiari, looking pale and drawn, sat on a couch in a black head scarf and robe beside a plant - not in her cell at Tehran's Evin prison, where she has been held in solitary confinement since May 8. "What was my role here?" she was heard to ask while describing her work identifying experts. "In the course of these years, when you put these number of meetings back to back, you would come to the conclusion that, willingly or not, a network of connections would be formed," said Esfandiari. Other segments showed Kian Tajbakhsh, a US-educated urban planner, speaking with notes about his work in Tehran with the Soros Foundation. Mr. Tajbakhsh sat in what appeared to be a wood-paneled office instead of his prison cell. He spoke of an "overt" Soros program, and then other "dimensions" that included creating nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and bringing Iranian contacts to Europe. A third academic, Canadian-Iranian Ramin Jahanbegloo, who was held for four months last year and released, said the Wilson Center "receives most of its money ... from the US Congress," and spoke of conferences where he met Americans and some Israelis "who were mostly intelligence agents." The activists' arrests coincide with a broader crackdown launched this spring on any form of dissent in Iran - from labor and student leaders to women's groups and young people defying strict Islamic dress rules. Meanwhile, President Ahmadinejad has served up combative anti-US rhetoric to counter accusations from the US that it is pursuing nuclear weapons and meddling in Iraq. Colleagues and family members decried the interviews with the two prisoners - who have not been able to meet lawyers in more than 10 weeks - as "coerced" and the film to be "propaganda." A second episode is due to be broadcast Thursday night. "They didn't say anything that would amount to a confession," says an Iranian analyst in Tehran who asked not to be named. "However, when put together with the [velvet revolution] documentary, very, very professionally, with the comments of [all] the individuals, it did give you a feeling: 'Ah, these guys were working together in a network, that is so extensive and [well established] that it would be able to topple the regime.' " Still, the film's persuasive power didn't impress everyone in the audience. "They haven't made any serious confession," said Nilufar, a Tehran housewife, who was contacted by a reporter in Tehran and asked that her full name not be used. "I see the whole thing as being stupid. Anybody that has been deprived of sleep and tortured would say anything they want." The Bush administration has spoken frequently of regime change, and includes Iran as part of an "axis of evil." The vitriol has prompted fears among security forces in Iran of an East European-style "velvet revolution." In the film, Mr. Bush is seen during a speech saying "the untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world." The movie also shows President Vladimir Putin of Russia - which has clamped down on NGOs over concerns of similar, Western-sponsored unrest - complaining about such pro-democracy efforts. After showing scenes of street violence abroad, and then in Iran, the narrator asks, "How are velvet revolutions led? Which country is next?" The purpose is to "reinforce the concern in the Iranian public that there is an American plot against Iran [and that it is] an imminent threat," says Mr. Abrahamian. "The theater [of the film] adds to that," says Abrahamian. "It also tells Iranians to beware of anyone from abroad who is talking about human rights. So even if you are not involved in regime change ... you would be tarred with the same brush." On Tuesday, a group of six women Nobel laureates - including Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who represents Esfandiari - said charges of "actions against national security" were "entirely without foundation." The academic, Ms. Ebadi said, was a "tireless promoter of and believer in dialogue between Iran and the international community." "This reprehensive pattern of activity by interrogators in Iran has occurred before: jailing innocent people, confining them, and then producing a framed or cobbled statement or confession," says Lee Hamilton, the head of the Wilson Center. In the film, Esfandiari described how her center was a "highway" for Iranian speakers to come to the US, to find fellowships, and provide analysis. The US government would also provide some money for research. The aim, she said, was "to create a little change in decisionmaking bodies inside Iran, a sort of change from within." After the broadcast, state radio said in a commentary that the "wide reaction by Western media and governments" to the case "indicates a calculated conspiracy to topple the [Islamic] system in Iran." Such political theater before television cameras is not new and was used extensively against political suspects in the early years of the revolution. People from across the political spectrum were "brought in front of the cameras to make confessions," says Abrahamian, author of the 1999 book, "Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran." "It was a routine thing: you made a video. It [was so common] it became a joke." Esfandiari's daughter, Washington lawyer Haleh Bakhash, wrote that her mother "sounded wooden - unnatural and coerced." "When the television program ended, I felt contempt for my mother's jailers and interrogators," Ms. Bakhash wrote in The Washington Post Thursday. "But I was filled with admiration for my mother [who] preserved her dignity, held her head high, and did not lie." -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Media Marijuana Mania Part Duh Posted July 31, 2007 By Maia Szalavitz on Huffingtonpost.com Ok, this is getting really tiresome. Earlier this week, I debunked media coverage that claimed that marijuana increases risk of schizophrenia by 40% -- but none of the media bothered to mention that despite massive increases in marijuana use, schizophrenia rates have not increased. - claiming that one joint is as bad for your lungs as five cigarettes. Comes now another flood of " reporting " that fails, once again, to raise and answer the question readers are most likely to consider when they read the story. Leave aside for a moment the fact that the vast majority of marijuana smokers don't even use one whole joint daily-- compared to an average 20-40 a day for cigarette smokers. Leave aside the fact that even most daily smokers of marijuana tend to do this for a few years-- not the 20-40 years seen with cigarette smokers. Could the reporters at least mention that research looking explicitly for a conclusive link between marijuana and lung cancer HAS REPEATEDLY FAILED TO FIND ONE ??? And that studies looking for an impact on mortality related to marijuana use also do not find that? Every time researchers have done studies using various forms of methodology looking for connections between tobacco smoking and lung cancer and tobacco smoking and death, the link has been there and been strong. The studies on this question on marijuana-- when it is smoked without tobacco-- do not find a positive correlation. In fact, one found a slight negative one -- suggesting that marijuana users could actually be *less likely* than non-users to get lung cancer. Is it really too much to ask that reporters use PubMed-- or even Google, for goodness sake-- to look at the literature before they write their drug scare stories? Is it really too much to ask them to think-- hmm, what is this study reminding me of, but not mentioning that might be worth noting? Oh yeah, people think of "lung cancer" when they think of smoking-- wonder whether pot causes that. Might be a good idea to look it up. Nah, too busy. Let me read another press release from the government. And people wonder why there is so much mistrust of the media!!!! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4. Why Africa Fears Western Medicine Africa Science Blog Spot By Harriet A. Washington July 31, 2007 Wouter Basson To Westerners, the repatriation of five nurses and a doctor to Bulgaria last week after more than eight years' imprisonment meant the end of an unsettling ordeal. The medical workers, who in May 2004 were sentenced to death on charges of intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, have been freed, and another international incident is averted. But to many Africans, the accusations, which have been validated by a guilty verdict and a promise to reimburse the families of the infected children with a $426 million payout, seem perfectly plausible. The medical workers' release appears to be the latest episode in a health care nightmare in which white and Western-trained doctors and nurses have harmed Africans - and have gone unpunished. The evidence against the Bulgarian medical team, like HIV-contaminated vials discovered in their apartments, has seemed to Westerners preposterous. But to dismiss the Libyan accusations of medical malfeasance out of hand means losing an opportunity to understand why a dangerous suspicion of medicine is so widespread in Africa. Africa has harbored a number of high-profile Western medical miscreants who have intentionally administered deadly agents under the guise of providing health care or conducting research. In March 2000, Werner Bezwoda, a cancer researcher at South Africa's Witwatersrand University, was fired after conducting medical experiments involving very high doses of chemotherapy on black breast-cancer patients, possibly without their knowledge or consent. In Zimbabwe, in 1995, Richard McGown, a Scottish anesthesiologist, was accused of five murders and convicted in the deaths of two infant patients whom he injected with lethal doses of morphine. And Dr. Michael Swango, ultimately convicted of murder after pleading guilty to killing three American patients with lethal injections of potassium, is suspected of causing the deaths of 60 other people, many of them in Zimbabwe and Zambia during the 1980s and '90s. (Swango was never tried on the African charges.) These medical killers are well known throughout Africa, but the most notorious is Wouter Basson, a former head of Project Coast, South Africa's chemical and biological weapons unit under apartheid. Basson was charged with killing hundreds of blacks in South Africa and Namibia, from 1979 to 1987, many via injected poisons. He was never convicted in South African courts, even though his lieutenants testified in detail and with consistency about the medical crimes they conducted against blacks. Such well-publicized events have spread a fear of medicine throughout Africa, even in countries where Western doctors have not practiced in significant numbers. It is a fear the continent can ill afford when medical care is already hard to come by. Only 1.3 percent of the world's health workers practice in sub-Saharan Africa, although the region harbors fully 25 percent of the world's disease. A minimum of 2.5 health workers is needed for every 1,000 people, according to standards set by the United Nations, but only six African countries have this many. The distrust of Western medical workers has had direct consequences. Since 2003, for example, polio has been on the rise in Nigeria, Chad and Burkina Faso because many people avoid vaccinations, believing that the vaccines are contaminated with HIV or are actually sterilization agents in disguise. This would sound incredible were it not that scientists working for Basson's Project Coast reported that one of their chief goals was to find ways to selectively and secretly sterilize Africans. Such tragedies highlight the challenges facing even the most idealistic medical workers, who can find themselves working under unhygienic conditions that threaten patients' welfare. Well-meaning Western caregivers must sometimes use incompletely cleaned or unsterilized needles, simply because nothing else is available. These needles can and do spread infectious agents like HIV - proving that Western medical practices need not be intentional to be deadly. Although the World Health Organization maintains that the reuse of syringes without sterilization accounts for only 2.5 percent of new HIV infections in Africa, a 2003 study in The International Journal of STD and AIDS found that as many as 40 percent of HIV infections in Africa are caused by contaminated needles during medical treatment. Even the conservative WHO estimate translates to tens of thousands of cases. Several esteemed science journals, including Nature, have suggested that the Libyan children were infected in just this manner, through the reuse of incompletely cleaned medical instruments, long before the Bulgarian nurses arrived in Libya. If this is the case, then the Libyan accusations of iatrogenic, or healer-transmitted, infection are true. The acts may not have been intentional, but given the history of Western medicine in Africa, accusations that they were done consciously are far from paranoid. Certainly, the vast majority of beneficent Western medical workers in Africa are to be thanked, not censured. But the canon of "silence equals death" applies here: We are ignoring a responsibility to defend the mass of innocent Western doctors against the belief that they are not treating disease, but intentionally spreading it. We should approach Africans' suspicions with respect, realizing that they are born of the acts of a few monsters and of the deadly constraints on medical care in difficult conditions. By continuing to dismiss their reasonable fears, we raise the risk of even more needless illness and death. Harriet A. Washington is the author of "Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to the Present." -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5. The Taliban's Opium War The difficulties and dangers of the eradication program. by Jon Lee Anderson The New Yorker July 9, 2007 issue In the main square in Tirin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan Province, in central Afghanistan, a large billboard shows a human skeleton being hanged. The rope is not a normal gallows rope but the stem of an opium poppy. Aside from this jarring image, Tirin Kot is a bucolic-seeming place, a market town of flat-topped adobe houses and little shops on a low bluff on the eastern shore of the Tirinrud River, in a long valley bounded by open desert and jagged, treeless mountains. About ten thousand people live in the town. The men are bearded and wear traditional robes and tunics and cover their heads with turbans or sequinned skullcaps. There are virtually no women in sight, and when they do appear they wear all-concealing burkas. A few paved streets join at a traffic circle in the center of town, but within a few blocks they peter out to dirt tracks. Almost everything around Tirin Kot is some shade of brown. The river is a khaki-colored wash of silt and snowmelt that flows out of the mountain range to the north, past mud-walled family compounds. On either side of the river, however, running down the valley, there is a narrow strip of wheat fields and poppy fields, and for several weeks in the spring the poppies bloom: lovely, open-petalled white, pink, red, and magenta blossoms, the darker colors indicating the ones with the most opium. One afternoon this spring, at the height of the harvest, I drove through the area with Douglas Wankel, a former Drug Enforcement Administration official who was hired by the United States government in 2003 to organize its counter-narcotics effort here. Wankel, who is sixty-one and has piercing blue eyes, was stationed in Kabul as a young D.E.A. official in 1978 and 1979, during the bloody unrest that led up to the Soviet invasion. "I left on a flight to New Delhi a couple of hours before the Soviets rolled in," he said. "People thought it was because I knew it was coming. I didn't; I just happened to be leaving on a trip. But the Soviets branded me a C.I.A. agent, and so I couldn't come back-until now, that is." Working first with the D.E.A. and then with the State Department, Wankel helped create the Afghan Eradication Force, with troops of the Afghan National Police drawn from the Ministry of the Interior. Last year, an estimated four hundred thousand acres of opium poppies were planted in Afghanistan, a fifty-nine-per-cent increase over the previous year. Afghanistan now supplies more than ninety-two per cent of the world's opium, the raw ingredient of heroin. More than half the country's annual G.D.P., some $3.1 billion, is believed to come from the drug trade, and narcotics officials believe that part of the money is funding the Taliban insurgency. Wankel was in Uruzgan to oversee a poppy-eradication campaign-the first major effort to disrupt the harvest in the province. He had brought with him a two-hundred-and-fifty-man A.E.F. contingent, including forty-odd contractors supplied by DynCorp, a Virginia-based private military company, which has a number of large U.S. government contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world. In Colombia, DynCorp helps implement the multibillion-dollar Plan Colombia, to eradicate coca. The A.E.F.'s armed convoy had taken three days to drive from Kabul, and had set up a base on a plateau above a deep wadi. With open land all around, it was a good spot to ward off attacks. Much of Uruzgan is classified by the United Nations as "Extreme Risk / Hostile Environment." The Taliban effectively controls four-fifths of the province, which, like the movement, is primarily Pashtun. Mullah Omar, the fugitive Taliban leader, was born and raised here, as were three other founders of the movement. The Taliban's seizure of Tirin Kot, in the mid-nineties, was a key stepping stone in their march to Kabul, and their loss of the town in 2001 was a decisive moment in their fall. The Taliban have made a concerted comeback in the past two years; they are the de-facto authority in much of the Pashtun south and east, and have recently spread their violence to parts of the north as well. The debilitating and corrupting effects of the opium trade on the government of President Hamid Karzai is a significant factor in the Taliban's revival. The Taliban instituted a strict Islamist policy against the opium trade during the final years of their regime, and by the time of their overthrow they had virtually eliminated it. But now, Lieutenant General Mohammad Daud-Daud, Afghanistan's deputy minister of the interior for counter-narcotics, told me, "there has been a coalition between the Taliban and the opium smugglers. This year, they have set up a commission to tax the harvest." In return, he said, the Taliban had offered opium farmers protection from the government's eradication efforts. The switch in strategy has an obvious logic: it provides opium money for the Taliban to sustain itself and helps it to win over the farming communities. Wankel had flown in from Kabul five days earlier to meet with the governor of Uruzgan, Abdul Hakim Munib, about the eradication operation, only to discover that Munib had left for Kabul the day before. Wankel was told that a sister of the governor had died or fallen ill-there were several versions-but nobody believed this was the real reason for his absence. Munib, a former Taliban deputy minister, was suspected of retaining ties to the movement. And, Wankel noted, there were poppy fields within sight of Munib's palace. "We're not able to destroy all the poppy-that's not the point. What we're trying to do is lend an element of threat and risk to the farmers' calculations, so they won't plant next year," Wankel said later. "It's like robbing a bank. If people see there's more to be had by robbing a bank than by working in one, they're going to rob it, until they learn there's a price to pay." Click here to continue reading -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6. Hillary On Needle Exchange: "As much spine as we possibly can" The Politico.com July 31, 2007 Read More: Hillary Clinton There are few differences between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on details of domestic policy, but previously unreported exchanges at recent New York meetings revealed one. Obama favors federal funding for needle exchange programs; Clinton doesn't, according to their comments at the video-taped events, which included a tense, revealing exchange between Clinton and a veteran AIDS activist, Charles King. When King reminded Clinton, cuttingly, that she'd called for a president with "spine," Clinton promised to show "as much spine as we possibly can" in response to the political sensitivities around AIDS funding. King, the director of the AIDS housing group Housing Works, posed similar questions to Clinton and Obama during their private appearances sponsored by the Community Service Society of New York and the big building service workers' local, 32BJ, of the Service Employees International Union. Obama was quick to say at his July appearance he supports lifting the ban on federal funding for needle exchange. Clinton, by contrast, performed what King called "an interesting waffle" at her April 23 event. The differences in their answers reflect their different relationships to a hot-button issue of the 1990s, which has since cooled and faded from the public debate. Clinton linked herself to her husband's 1998 compromise between public health activists and anti-drug crusaders, while Obama sided solidly with the advocates of what are seen as "preventive" services. In the unusual 1998 compromise, Clinton Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala announced that the administration's scientific review had found needle exchanges safe and effective -- but that the administration would nonetheless maintain a federal ban on funding them. Clinton responded to King's question (1:10:40 in the video above), after some prodding, by saying, "I want to look at the evidence on it" to see whether needle exchange would prevent the spread of HIV without increasing drug abuse. Shalala, King responded, had "certified" the safety and effectiveness of the programs. "And then she refused to order it, as you remember," Clinton said. King replied that that had been her husband's decision. "Well, because we knew we couldn't maintain it politically," Clinton said, and went on to discuss the trade-offs in that dispute with Congress. "I wish life and politics were easier," she said. King then referred back to Clinton's opening remarks. "You made a great comment earlier about how our next president needs to have some spine," he said. "We'll have as much spine as we possibly can, under the circumstances," Clinton responded. Needle exchange seems unlikely to emerge as a decisive issue in the Democratic primary, though the group AIDSVote has ending the needle exchange funding ban an element of its platform. But the gap between the candidates', and Clinton's response to King's questions, offer a glimpse at a rare difference between the Democratic frontrunners, and at the ways Clinton is informed and bound by her husband's administration. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 7. Most Gay Men Don't Use Drugs Windy City Times by Charlsie Dewey 2007-07-04 Susan Kingston, a meth expert from the King County Department of Public Health in Seattle, Wash., brought a fresh approach to how the gay and general communities should begin to treat crystal meth addiction and, more importantly, the individuals using the drug during her presentation, "Crystal Meth Uncensored: What the DEA and Gay Media Won't Tell You." Kingston's presentation was part of a day-long event presented by the Chicago AIDS Foundation and the Center on Halsted entitled "Preventing HIV: Ethics, Activism and Promising New Strategies," which took place June 27-National HIV Testing Day-at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted. Kingston began by discussing the myths that she believes the media has perpetuated, including that crystal meth is the most addictive drug; meth users fail treatments and that the addiction is impossible to treat; and that it is the worst drug to hit the gay community. As far as treatment results, Kingston believes it is the treatment programs failing the drug user, not the other way around, and that the worst drug to hit the gay and straight communities is alcohol. She also pointed out that poppers are far more abused in the gay community than meth and are just as frequently associated with unprotected sex: "Ten percent of guys have used meth in the past year. It's two to four times that much for poppers, but we seem to be kind of okay with that. Is that really okay?" Yet, according to Kingston, the media never reports the good news, which is that most gay men don't use crystal meth and that, in actuality, there is not a meth crisis in the gay community. Kingston added that the message that needs to be out there is one of wellness within the gay community. "Before we answer the question what are we supposed to do about this meth thing, we really have to think about who do we think gay men are?," she said. "If you think gay men are pools of deficits, then crystal makes complete sense. On the other hand, if you think that gay men need to keep a squeaky-clean image, then anybody who picks up a meth pipe starts to be the deviant who's making the rest of us look bad, and we need to shove him back into his hole. That's what's happening. "I would be so excited if I heard a prevention program where I heard a gay newspaper say most gay men don't use drugs [ and ] most gay men don't have HIV; they take care of themselves sexually; they're not reckless; they're not irresponsible; they go to work; they shop for groceries; [ and ] they value love just like anybody else." -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A. To Our Contributors Please submit articles, essays, reviews, research, etc., with good citations. We will include your name as the source of the piece only if requested. Due to space and editorial concerns not everything gets published. Send contributions to [email protected] Thanks so much for all the great submissions. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- B. Upcoming Conference The Drug Policy Alliance's International Drug Policy Reform Conference is the world's principal gathering of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. No better opportunity exists to learn about drug policy and to strategize and mobilize for reform. December 5-8, 2007 New Orleans, LA ~ USA -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- C. A Listing Of The Blogs & Sites We've Been Visiting Lately The Center For Responsive Politics STATS The Nation Pew Research Center Alternet Brave New Films AlterNet The Blog Report Death Penalty Infomation Center Cocaine Importing Agency BuzzFlash California Progress Report Calitics Common Dreams Cursor In These Times OpEd News Raw Story Smirking Chimp Truthdig TruthOut Working for Change -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- D. Quotes How one can live without being able to judge oneself, criticize what one has accomplished, and still enjoy what one does, is unimaginable to me. -Anna Freud Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering. -Carl Jung We are all in a post-hypnotic trance induced in early infancy. -R. D. Laing It is always consoling to think of suicide: in that way one gets through many a bad night. -Friedrich Nietzsche -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- E. Would You Like An Associate To Receive This Newsletter? We will send an invitaion to the name(s) of anyone you wish. Just send us their name(s) and addess(ess ). We'll send them a sample newsletter and invitation to subscribe. Please send your request to [email protected] Please include your name! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- How To Help The Harm Reduction Project is able to provide services through the suport of individuals such as yourself. Please help us make a difference and pledge your support today! PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE or call 801-355-0234 ext 4# for more information. --- About HRP Providing support and resourses to the marginalized and their providers. HARM REDUCTION PROJECT SALT LAKE CITY | DENVER | WASHINGTON D.C. TEL 1.801.355.0234 FAX 1.801.355.0291 www.harmredux.org
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Important Exchange Re: Clinton & Obama on Needle Exchange

Ben Smith's blog on The Politico web site today discussed an important exchange of comments between Hillary Clinton and Charles King, the executive director of Housing Works, at a private appearance earlier this month, as well as comments by Barack Obama at a different meeting in the same series. King had asked Clinton if she would lift the ban on use of federal AIDS funds to support needle exchange programs, an issue that previously came to a boil in 1998 during her husband's second term. (Some activists believe that Bill Clinton would have lifted the ban if Donna Shalala rather than Barry McCaffrey had boarded a certain Air Force One flight.) According to Smith:
Clinton responded to King's question, after some prodding, by saying, "I want to look at the evidence on it" to see whether needle exchange would prevent the spread of HIV without increasing drug abuse. Shalala, King responded, had "certified" the safety and effectiveness of the programs. "And then she refused to order it, as you remember," Clinton said. King replied that that had been her husband's decision. "Well, because we knew we couldn't maintain it politically," Clinton said, and went on to discuss the trade-offs in that dispute with Congress. "I wish life and politics were easier," she said. King then referred back to Clinton's opening remarks. "You made a great comment earlier about how our next president needs to have some spine," he said. "We’ll have as much spine as we possibly can, under the circumstances," Clinton responded.

Obama, by contrast, had responded that he supports lifting the ban. Click here to read Smith's full post, which includes the video footage. A little background: Housing Works has for years been a stalwart in the harm reduction movement. (Harm reduction is the idea that people who use drugs should be helped in reducing the harm they do, to themselves or others, whether they are about to stop using drugs or not.) The organization is very well known in New York City, which successfully beat back a late 1990s attempt by then Mayor Rudy Giuliani to bankrupt them. In 2000, activists from Housing Works stormed the Ashcroft confirmation hearings to denounce his record on needle exchange. King's co-founder and co-executive director of Housing Works for years, the late Keith Cylar, was a member of DRCNet's board of directors (and a friend).

(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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