DC is Already the HIV/AIDS Capital of the Nation. Do We Really Need to Top Another Category of Deaths?

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Great! More good news!! As it it’s not bad enough that homicide figures for the year thus far have surpassed the total figure for 2006, now we get this:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Washington, D.C., has the highest rate of AIDS in the United States, and more babies are born with the AIDS virus in Washington than in other U.S. cities, according to a report released on Monday.

People living in Washington also are not getting tested for HIV and show up with advanced infections that progress quickly to AIDS, the report by city health officials found.

The report found that Washington, with a population of around 600,000 people, has a rate of 128 AIDS cases per 100,000 people in 2006, compared with a national rate of 14 cases per 100,000. The city accounted for 9 percent of all pediatric AIDS cases in the United States during 2005.

Read the rest of the story here.

Despite such grim statistics, it seems some people can’t wait around for HIV/AIDS to finish Washingtonians off. They’ve revived a long-standing legal dispute surrounding DC’s gun ban in an attempt to lend a helping hand.

Is it Possible That Progressives are Finally Growing a Pair?

I don’t know what I’m more excited about, the fact that I’ve yet again been vindicated or the fact that it appears progressives in the US are finally stepping up to the plate. Back in May, I wrote a post entitled “Conservatism has failed wherever it has been tried,” in which I basically called the right wing out on some of its bullsh*t rhetoric.

Then today, I got a video from a friend of mine who lives out on the West Coast. The video was put out by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank based in Washington, DC. It starts off with a couple of White dudes, one wearing a tag that says “Con” and the other a tag that says “Pro.” The “Pro” guy identifies himself as a progressive and then lists all the great stuff progressive thinkers and movements have accomplished for society. The “Con” guy, identifies himself as conservative concedes that the only thing he’s for is tax cuts for the rich.

Wow! I need to pinch myself. Am I dreaming? Is it possible that, after decades of silence in the face of conservatives’ outrageous claims and acts, the left is finally waking up? Can it be true that progressives, after 30 years of being on the losing side of the culture war, have again found their voice? Dare I hope that liberals will quit trying to remove the differences between themselves and conservatives, and put an end to the ridiculous righward shift in modern American politics?

One can only hope.

In the meantime, enjoy the video.

Not in a Thousand Years: Ian Smith Dies at 88.

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The Guardian reports that

Ian Smith, the former Rhodesian prime minister who unilaterally declared independence from British rule, has died aged 88.

Smith ruled the country for 15 years from 1964 to 1979, in an ultimately futile effort to prolong white minority rule. During that turbulent time he fought a guerilla war against fighters from the majority black population.

. . .

So confident was Smith that white rule would go unchallenged that he famously declared that he did not believe in black majority rule over Rhodesia, “not in a thousand years”.

Here’s the BBC’s take on the same story.

Ian Smith died of old age, with dignity, and in his family’s home in South Africa.

Let us take a moment to remember the countless Africans who died at the hands of White colonialists, and who were denied such a peaceful and luxurious death. Their stories will never be covered by the Guardian and the BBC, and their names, if the were known at all, have faded into nothingness, remembered only by their closest friends and relatives.

Compassion Does Not Recognize State Boundaries.

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You know, sometimes I wonder if this whole war on ignorance business was such a good idea. I mean, most days, it seems like I’m preaching to the choir, like everyone’s on the same page as me. At such times, I consider just hanging up my warrior hat for good, and blogging only about really important stuff. Like Beyonce. Or Kim Kardashian.

But then I get a comment like the one below (in response to my Bangladesh flooding post) and suddenly, my life has meaning again. I know, I know, I really need to just let some things go and not take everything so seriously. Believe me, I did my best to let this one go. But this particular comment so irked me that I had to devote an entire blog post to it.

To the person who posted a comment under the name Maruti Turbo, thank you. Thank you for giving me something to blog about on this slow day.

Maruti Turbo
Why you showing interest in Bangla Desh Suddenly??
What is your hidden agenda?
Dont try and say you always have loved Bangla Desh!
Maruti Turbo,

You can see my response to Maruti Turbo here.

There is so much I can write in response that I don’t even know where to begin. So I’ll begin where I always do, with pseudo-intellectual nerd talk.

Clearly, Maruti Turbo seems unable to comprehend the notion that someone like me could post a compassionate, sensitive post asking readers to donate money to victims of the flooding in Bangladesh. After all, how could a non-Bangladeshi who has dared to openly criticize some some negative aspects of Bangladeshi society—specifically wife beating and domestic violence (which I’ve always maintained are not unique to Bangladesh)—possibly be sincere when writing about the misfortune and suffering of so many Bangladeshis he’s never even met?

The simple answer is that I care when other human beings are suffering and in need of help. They don’t have to have the same skin color, nationality, religion, or culture as me. We don’t have to speak the same language. Their humanity is all the reason I need to feel compassion. It’s the reason I care about domestic violence and violence against women.

In fact, somebody would need to be a pretty despicable person—and I mean on the level of mass murderer, genocideur, or tobacco lobbyist—for me to just turn away in the face of their suffering without trying to do something to help. I mean, if Bangladesh were full of Hitlers, Goerings, Pol Pots, interahamwe, and Phillip Morris executives, then maybe I would feel differently about the flooding. But I don’t have to be from Bangladesh to know that nobody deserves to endure what these people are going through. As human beings, they deserve better. They deserve more than my sympathy and my donations, but it’s all I can give them. Like people in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in the developing world, they deserve better housing, better sanitation, and better flood protection. They deserve better disaster preparedness, and better disaster relief from their government and the international community. But at a minimum, they deserve sympathy. That’s what they got from me in my blog post, and that’s why Maruti Turbo questioned my intentions.

The greater point is that, as human beings, we’re endowed with the largest brain-to-body ratio of any mammal, though comments like Maruti Turbo’s make me question whether this is a universal truth. Notwithstanding the possibility that it isn’t, I believe most people are capable of feeling positive emotions like love and compassion. Even the most emotionally stunted individuals are capable of feeling concern. But if we so readily feel these emotions for our family and our close friends, how can we not feel them when we see other human beings in distress? The fact that these other people are not in our immediate social or familial circles should not be an excuse? Why stop at family and friends? Why not expand the circle of compassion to neighbors and countrymen? Why even stop there? Why not include people in other countries? Our brains are certainly big enough to process the information that produces these positive emotions? Why limit ourselves?

Which brings me back to Maruti Turbo. Why would he/she have such a hard time accepting the sincerity of my post, or my motivation for writing it? Is it because of my non-Bangladeshiness? Maybe it’s because I’m from Sierra Leone? Or is it because I’m part Jewish? Who knows. Who cares. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that people—regardless of who they are or where they’re from—are capable of feeling compassion for others, even if they are geographically distant. That’s something to celebrate, not question.

As the thousands of Bangladeshi peacekeepers demonstrated during their time in Sierra Leone, compassion knows no national boundaries. Nor should it. If Maruti Turbo is Bangladeshi, I urge him/her to follow the example of his/her compatriots.

The planet’s too small for us to only care about people who share our blood, nationality, religion, or language.

Death Toll Rises From Flooding in Bangladesh.

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Cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh on Thursday, generating a six-meter-high tidal wave and causing widespread flooding and massive destruction in coastal communities. The flooding has been declared a national calamity by the government, and relief agencies are reporting that over 3,000 people have lost their lives. Aid workers fear the death toll will continue to rise as they gain access to the more remote areas that have been cut off by floodwaters. Aid groups are also voicing concerns about outbreaks of waterborne and other diseases. The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society is appealing for $5.7 million to cope with the disaster.

The Red Crescent Society predicts that, based on past experience, the death toll from this flood might surpass 10,000. And, according to news reports, relief aid has been slow to arrive because, in some remote areas, there is no government or relief-organization presence on the ground. The Chicago Sun Times reports on one farmer who has not received any aid for himelf or his family because food dropped by military helicopters is immediately carried off by mobs.

I don’t even know what to say. I know this catastrophe has something to do with global climate change, shifting weather patterns, and rising sea levels, but it seems pointless to get into that right now. The most important problem right now is that people are dying.

There’s not much I can do to help victims from here, but I will send money to aid groups that are in a better position to help people in Bangladesh. In the early days of the 2004 Asian Tsumani, donations from individual American donors surpassed the amount pledged by the US government. Individual giving can make a huge difference.

Below is a list of organizations that are raising funds for flood victims. If anyone knows of local Bangladeshi aid groups that are raising money IN Bangladesh, especially in remote rural areas, please give me their names and web addresses so I can add them to this list.

If my community were ever flooded, I’d hope people wouldn’t just shake their heads and turn away. Do unto others . . ..

Drishtipat

Bangladesh Red Crescent Society

Save the Children – US

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

AmeriCares

Oxfam – UK

World Food Program

Also, I found this on the Adhunika blog:

BRAC
BRAC has committed Tk 20 crore towards relief operations. Unfortunately BRAC is not accepting donations online. As most of you know, BRAC has a remarkable track record and is very cognizant of local conditions given that they are engaged in grass-roots activities. Human rights organization, Drishtipat, is collecting online donations for Phiriye Ano Bangladesh and BRAC on their website (see below).
http://www.brac.net/
http://www.brac.net/news_files/news_2007_020.htm

Drishtipat
Drishtipat is collecting donation for the flood victims. It also has put together a list of credible organizations that are engaged in flood relief efforts
http://www.drishtipat.org/flood/

There’s also a Facebook group with an EXTENSIVE LIST of organizations that are accepting donations.

This is Not What the Bicycle Salespeople Meant When they Said, “You’re Going to Love this Bike.”

The BBC reports that a man caught trying to have sex with his bicycle has been sentenced to three years on probation.

Robert Stewart, 51, admitted a sexually aggravated breach of the peace by conducting himself in a disorderly manner and simulating sex.

Sheriff Colin Miller also placed Stewart on the Sex Offenders Register for three years.

Mr Stewart was caught in the act with his bicycle by cleaners in his bedroom at the Aberley House Hostel in Ayr.

Gail Davidson, prosecuting, told Ayr Sheriff Court: “They knocked on the door several times and there was no reply.

“They used a master key to unlock the door and they then observed the accused wearing only a white t-shirt, naked from the waist down.

“The accused was holding the bike and moving his hips back and forth as if to simulate sex.”

Both cleaners, who were “extremely shocked”, told the hostel manager who called police.

Sheriff Colin Miller told Stewart: “In almost four decades in the law I thought I had come across every perversion known to mankind, but this is a new one on me. I have never heard of a ‘cycle-sexualist’.”

Stewart had denied the offence, claiming it was caused by a misunderstanding after he had too much to drink.

The bachelor had been living in the hostel since October 2006 after moving from his council house in Girvan.

He now lives in Ayr.

I can’t even write anything witty or sarcastic about this story. I’m still in shock. Or is it befuddlement? Hard to say.

Materialistic People Have Low Self-Esteem.

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It’s not every day that one of my strongly held beliefs is proven right by science . . . actually, that’s not true. Just yesterday, science explained why curvaceous, voluptuous women are so hot. I never knew why this was but now, science has cleared up that little conundrum for me. Yay science! Now I can move on with my life.

But I digress.

Apparently, researchers have also discovered a link between materialism and self-esteem. That’s right. People who have low self-esteem tend to buy more stuff or, if they’re kids, want more stuff. These researchers studied a bunch of kids and discovered that as their self-esteem declines—usually around the start of adolescence—kids become more materialistic.

By the time children reach early adolescence, and experience a decline in self-esteem, the stage is set for the use of material possessions as a coping strategy for feelings of low self-worth.”

You can read the whole article here.

Eureka! As kids’ self-consciousness and insecurity increases, they become more interested in acquiring material things to help them feel better about themselves. This must explain why so many people are so desperate to have the newest pair of shoes or the trendiest mp3 player or the latest video game system? Personally, I’ve always been suspicious of anyone who always had to have the latest, greatest something or other. But you know, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In about 10 years, these kids will be old enough to no longer need to use material possessions to cope with feelings of low self-worth. Trust me, I speak from experience. I too used to rely on material things—clothes, shoes, cars, my gym membership—to make up for my insecurity. But not anymore. Not since I discovered alcohol. Or “liquid confidence,” as I like to call it.

Speaking of confidence, you know what? Life is SO unfair. Just think about all those kids who don’t need to wear the coolest clothes or have the latest iPod or cell phone. When I think about how these kids are mocked and jeered and taunted in school, it just makes my blood boil! After all, these are the confident kids, the ones who don’t need flashy things to compensate for their insecurities. THEY should be the cool and popular kids, NOT the ones with the latest and trendiest stuff. What kind of society do we live in? To all you nerds who might be reading this blog, next time some cool kid comes along and tries to show off how cool he/she is because he/she just got the new iPod mini or the latest Nikes, here’s what you should do. Tell them that you don’t need any fancy schmancy gadget or expensive footwear to make you feel good about yourself because you’re totally cool and awesome inside, and you know it. You can also tell them they’re adopted and that their parents don’t really love them. That’ll show ’em!

But who cares anyway? I’m just happy that once again, science has vindicated me. For years, I’ve been saying that people who constantly need to buy new stuff are overcompensating for some deep-seated sense of inadequacy. And for years, I was ignored, mocked, or worse. I’ve also been saying lots of other stuff too, but no-one ever listens to me. Thank God for science though. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of my “conspiracy theories” and “crazy ideas” are proven to be true. Soon, we’ll see who’s crazy and who’s just plain stupid. That’s right, guy who sat next to me on the flight to California! You heard me! WHO’S CRAZY NOW??!!

While we’re at it, here are a some of my other “theories” for the scientific community to consider:

  1. The loudness of a motorcycle’s engine is inversely proportional to the size of the motorcyclist’s penis.
  2. Lobbyists are assholes.
  3. There is an inverse relationship between a shopper’s IQ and the amount of money he/she spends on designer shoes.
  4. Guys who drive expensive sports cars are soul-less (also, see point #2).

To the scientific community, I want to say, “There’s no need to thank me for these ideas.” Contributing to the advancement of science is all the thanks I need. And perhaps a motorcycle with a REALLY loud engine.

All in all, though, I have to say that going to the mall will never be the same again. I mean, who wants to spend that much time around a bunch of pathetic, insecure people?

Thanks to a certain someone who shall remain unnamed for passing this story on to me.