Curtain Raiser

Speaking of Known Evils, Colltalers

The two brutal events that have seized worldwide headlines this past week – the newest flareup in the age-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the downing of the Malaysian commercial airline over Ukraine – have visited their victims with the prospect of a lifetime of grief and regret.
To everyone else not directly involved, however, even a qualified analysis of these tragedies can become a minefield of self-important punditry and rancorous radicalism. To navigate such a path with a minimal sense of justice and impartiality is simply no longer an option.
The magnitude of these events have also the ability of covering up, even if only for the duration of a 24h news cycle, all other tragic, ongoing miseries festering around the world, from the street trenches of Aleppo, to raging firefights in Kabul, to the Central American refugee children crisis in the U.S., to widespread hunger, poverty, and environmental woes that won’t fail to exact their grim tolls, just because we aren’t looking.
After all, it is all too human to prioritize our attention, and set sights on a few targets at a time. That doesn’t exempt or redeem anyone from the objectionable crime of dozing off or zooming out of the catastrophes all around us, so to get some sleep, literally or figuratively.
But even invoking the word human seems out of place, when you think about the ferocious shelling of Gaza, incited or provoked as it may have been by the Hamas or the Israeli extreme right, or to count among the victims of Flight MH17, dozens of children and important AIDS activists.
That’s when tragedy crushes our tenuous grip on reality and reaches out to a realm of pure, unjustifiable and hopelessly irredeemable terror, and any attempt to make sense out of ruthless fate or shameless political motivation is not just utterly naive, but also absolutely abhorrent.
We can’t avoid rushing to judgement based on the emotional jolt we all felt upon learning that some 300 travelers may have been blown out of the sky by mistake, at the very least, or because of some downright evil calculation. Nor can we stop ourselves from jumping at possibly the wrong conclusions when picturing people running for shelter in Tel Aviv, or trapped in Gaza, with no way to hide from the raining bombs.
Taken apart, however, these two sources of incredible heartache gracing our thoughts today have little in common, beside their complexity and deep roots. And, obviously, the apparent lack of any short term solution in the horizon, which signals to their long lasting endurance.
To avoid jumping at rushed conclusions about Israel and the Palestinians, one needs to look farther back into the past. It’s hard to pick a breaking point, though, Continue reading

Birth (Out of) Control

Dangerous Recalls, Wi-Fi
Risks & Blasting Testicles

What’s going on in the world of contraceptives? Hell broke lose, that’s what. Within a week, packets of birth control pills in the U.S. and condoms in South Africa have been recalled.
Research also showed that laptops linked to the Internet via Wi-Fi may kill sperm, and ultrasonic pulses can actually reduce it. Well, that’s good news really, since it can act as a contraceptive. Still.
It’s curious that a cluster of contraception news would come with the decision by the Susan B. Komen foundation to suspend funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides screening for breast cancer.
Komen, the cancer foundation known for its pink ribbons and races in support of research, had already come under fire for dismissing scientifically proven links between the disease and the chemical bisphenol A (BPA).
But alas, you won’t need us to keep you er abreast of further developments of this saga, for it’s received enormous coverage as it is. Plus, in the wake of the news, Planned Parenthood‘s reportedly recouped almost all of the funds withdrawn by Komen, in only 24 hours of online donations.
Instead, let’s talk about those much more interrelated issues concerning the two recalls and the two research studies. Although it’s clear that there’s a new push to bully Congress into reversing laws concerning women’s health and reproductive rights, we don’t really believe they’ll ultimately succeed.
It all seems an expensive waste of time, and a sign of desperation in this presidential election year, from the part of an intolerant minority, Continue reading

Vis-à-Virus

Advocates Speak Up About
Straight Message of HIV Ads

Once again, a New York City public awareness campaign clashes with activists and community groups whose cause it is supposed to support. This out-of-step ritual was on display recently over the amount of salt and sugar New Yorkers should be consuming (much less) and whether smoking is a public issue or a freewill lifestyle decision (it’s both).
And it’s all been played out in graphic advertisements shown mostly on YouTube and other straight-to-consumer media Continue reading

Fading HIV

Good News May Point
to World Without Aids

The Obama administration’s formulation of a new Aids/HIV policy in the past weeks coincided with a cluster of good news that may be pointing to another turning point in the fight to control and eradicate this epidemic worldwide. At the same time, social factors continue to represent the most serious obstacle to achieve such lofty goals.

With about 37 million people living with the infection in the world today, one million of them in the U.S., plus the over 24 million who already died of the disease since 1981, including half-million Americans, Aids has definitely not gone away, despite the appearances that the worst is over. Continue reading