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Tereza Coraggio

Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.

We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.

We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.

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Past Shows


AIDS and Interview with Ruthann Richter

January 11, 2010

3P-055 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Welcome to the 55th episode of Third Paradigm. This week, we'll be taking a closer look at AIDS. We'll start by talking about a photography book called Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa, facetoface (36K) and our interview with the author, Ruthann Richter. Then we'll comment on a film called Angels in the Dust, which I watched with my daughters. It's about a South African couple who took their life savings and opened an orphanage that practices compassion with tough humor. When my daughters also brought home Rent from the video store, I knew that there was no avoiding an episode on AIDS – it was clearly in my path. But I didn't know why. It's not my kind of issue – there's no villain, no political intrigue, no closet full of sordid details. So I started to do some research. And soon, my Google searches led me to the question of whether AIDS was developed as a biological weapon. After we look at the heroic ways in which people are rising to meet the challenge of AIDS, we'll examine the evidence for whether that challenge was man-made, not an act of God or nature.

Some people may call this is a soup to nuts approach, going from care and compassion to conspiracy theories. I'm not certain myself what I believe. But I find that I learn a lot from watching someone or something's detractors. There's a formula for how to discredit someone while skirting the substance of their argument. First you attack the person's credentials or lack thereof. Then you set them up to "debate" an expert, whose rebuttal consists of things like, "I just can't believe that anyone would do that." They don't engage on any of the specific points, and they shift the discussion to personalities rather than research. When I saw this pattern emerging with an interview of Dr. Boyd Graves, I wanted to look at the facts myself.

Another area where I recommend a deep-dive into the facts is in charitable giving, with AIDS or anything else. I have a friend who asked my recommendations for his end-of-year contributions. I named three that I work with closely, and that my student group has raised funds for – the Quixote Center, Rights Action, and Grassroots International. My friend responded that Charity Navigator had given them a mere 2, 3, and 4, respectively, out of 10 stars. So I took a look at how Charity Navigator does their calculations.

Their first measures are the amounts spent on programs vs. administration and fundraising, based on the charity's own tax reporting. If they call 10% or less of their expenses administration, they get a 10, even if 100% of their overseas aid ends up in the pockets of US employees or corporations. Then, if their fundraising brings in 10 dollars for every dollar spent, they get another 10. Commissioned telemarketers are good for this, or the trick of putting a nickel, a packet of seeds, an angel medallion, or a stamped return envelope in direct mail solicitations. They know how hard it is for us to throw out something useful rather than sending it back with a donation. Thirdly, there's what they call "capacity" – if an organization keeps over $250 million or one year's operating expenses in the bank, they get another automatic 10. They write:

Givers should know that other independent evaluators of charities tend not to measure a charity's capacity. Indeed, charities that maintain large reserves of assets or working capital are occasionally penalized by other evaluators. In our view, a charity's capacity is just as important as its efficiency. By showing growth and stability, charities demonstrate greater fiscal responsibility, not less, for those are the charities that will continue pursuing change in the future and will generate both short- and long-term results for every dollar they receive from givers. source

Then, their final measure is growth. To quote:

For charities, growth means first, increasing their primary revenue, which includes contributions from corporations, foundations, individuals, and government grants; program service revenue, contracts and fees; and revenue from membership dues and fees. Second, growth means growing their programs and services. Organizations that demonstrate consistent annual growth in both primary revenue and program expenses are able to outpace inflation and thus sustain their programs year to year. source

So charities have to continually bring in more money year to year in order to get a good rating. No wonder the charities I support don't rank. They'd be mortified to have a year's operating expenses sitting idle when it could make the difference for people resisting a military coup. My advocacy groups live hand to mouth. But Charity Navigator doesn't rate salaries, perks, and bonuses. They don't look at how much overseas aid actually stays in the US. Transportation costs aren't factored in, or amounts that come from and end up in the hands of corporations. After looking at how they determine their rating system, I think I might take the inverse of it as a good sign.

There's something else that the charities I support do exceptionally well: they listen. They listen to local organizers, to local farmers, to the families of the disappeared, to the victims and to the patients. Let's hear three poems about listening. These are "Finding What You Didn't Lose" by John Fox, "Waiting In Line" by Nick Penna, and "The Winter of Listening" by David Whyte.

Finding What You Didn't Lose

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you've had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.
When someone deeply listens to you,
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind's eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!
When someone deeply listens to you,
your bare feet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.

~ John Fox ~
From Finding What You Didn't Lose

* * * * * * * *

Waiting in Line

When you listen you reach
into dark corners and
pull out your wonders.
When you listen your
ideas come in and out
like they were waiting in line.
Your ears don't always listen.
It can be your brain, your
fingers, your toes.
You can listen anywhere.
Your mind might not want to go.
If you can listen you can find
answers to questions you didn't know.
If you have listened, truly
listened, you don't find your
self alone.

~ Nick Penna, fifth grade ~
From In Poetic Medicine by John Fox

* * * * * * * *

The Winter of Listening

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,

what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.
All those years
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.

All those years
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
Silence and winter
has led me to that

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

~ David Whyte ~
From The House of Belonging
That was "Finding What You Didn't Lose" by John Fox, "Waiting In Line" by Nick Penna, and "The Winter of Listening" by David Whyte, to the music of "Song of the Stars" by Dead Can Dance. Someone who has done her share of listening is Ruthann Richter, the author of Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa. With photographer Karen Ande, she traveled throughout Africa gathering stories of how families and communities are coping with the generation of children orphaned by AIDS. I can't describe in words how exquisite these photographs are: the vivid colors, the warm, dark skin and bright eyes of these inquisitive kids. It's hard to imagine their faces not being captured by Karen's camera and preserved in all their innocence and laughter, tumbled together in their blue school uniforms against the orange-red dirt.

The statistics, however, give a sharp contrast to the lighthearted photos.12 million children in sub-Sahara Africa are the survivors of their parents' deaths from AIDS. Two-thirds of the world's HIV population, or 22 million people, live in sub-Saharan Africa with only a fraction having access to anti-retrovirals. By this year, 2010, the number of children without parents will swell to 20 million – more than the entire continent of Australia.

The issue of AIDS orphans first engaged Karen in 2002 when she traveled to Nairobi's notorious slum, Kibera, to photograph youngsters. She visited a makeshift children's shelter in what had been a schoolroom. Children had been abandoned by parents no longer able to care for them. They mugged for the camera, but went to bed hungry because the shelter had run out of rice. When she came back and looked at the faces emerging in her developing tray, she knew she had to do something.

She began mounting exhibits of her photographs, speaking to schools, religious and community groups, and raising funds for grassroots organizations in Africa. On her own, she collected $70,000. But she didn't stop there. She turned to her graduate school roommate from Stanford, Ruthann Richter. As a medical writer, Ruthann had covered AIDS before it had a name, in the 1980's. She would visit with patients at Ward 86, the clinic at San Francisco's General Hospital and ground zero for the epidemic. Before we return to Africa, I'd like to take a moment to remember what it was like not so long ago. Antiretrovirals have brought AIDS into being a manageable disease, but it seems like yesterday that it was a death sentence - sometimes appealed but ineligible for parole.

To honor the strength and community that was born in our society out of the tragedy of AIDS, I'd like to play a song from Rent that I found moving. This is called "Will I?" from the original Broadway production.

That was a song called "Will I?" from the Broadway musical Rent. In Ruthann Richter and Karen Ande's book Face to Face, Africa is still measuring time in moments of love, even under mountains of neglect. Ruthann and Karen visited hospitals filled two to three to a bed with dying patients and nothing for the doctors to give them. They saw 13 yr-old girls caring for their dying mothers and younger siblings. They met children crippled by malnutrition and trauma. But they also witnessed the transformation of these children when they fell into good hands – those of Jill Simpson, a retired nurse and children's advocate, Monica Ngumi, a community organizer and irresistible force of nature, Father Daniel Kiriti, a priest turned AIDS activist, and grannies pressed back into service. The photographs of these grandmothers are some of the most amazing.

For Ruthann Richter and Karen Ande's favorite African charities, including the excellent one in Santa Cruz, go to Ande Photos – Take Action

Another grandmother pressed into service is Marion Cloete from the Dream Out Loud documentary called Angels in the Dust. Marion was a successful Johannesburg therapist who raised three children. When they were grown, she and her husband decide to liquidate their savings and build Boikarabelo, a village and school that serves 550 children impacted by AIDS. As a therapist, Marion is no shrinking violet. She confronts parents and bullies them into sending their kids to school rather than keeping them home to work. At one point she graphs out a flow chart of one man as a weapon of mass destruction, tracing the partners that he infected and moved on from when they died. The village runs active grieving sessions and talks frankly about death, in a way very similar to the Rent life support group, which is the scene in which they sing "Will I?" Sometimes they're talking about the deaths of their parents and sometimes they're facing their own.

The most compelling character is a little girl who looks to be about ten but talks like an unusually mature adult. Marion encourages her to tell her story. She explains to the audience how a man, a so-called "friend" of the family, rapes her when they're alone in the hut. Her mother refuses to believe it. The girl calmly tells the audience about the superstition that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS, and how it's created an epidemic of rape for young girls. Later in the show, she decides that she's emotionally ready to find out if she's HIV-positive. But to have the test, she needs her mother's permission. In a heated scene, Marion is unable to convince the mother.

[Dream 0ut Loud – Angels in the Dust]

The film also follows a different type of orphan. The government practice in South African national parks is to kill adult elephants to control the herd size. This is called "culling." But elephants have a complex social culture not unlike the close-knit African village before it was violently disrupted by colonialism. And so orphaned elephants grow up with gang characteristics – attacking and goring rhinos or attempting to mate with them. Elder elephants have been brought from elsewhere into the herds of adolescents in an experiment that seems to be working.

Now let's ask the question of whether AIDS was a deliberate technique of human culling. If true, we would be going from angels to the most craven form of evil – bioterrorism against homosexuals and non-whites to reduce their populations. In 1946, when Time magazine still did journalism, they ran an article called, "Science: Better than the Bomb." It reported a routine House debate on naval appropriations, in which the Navy was trying to one-up the army for the atomic bomb. One Congressman said, "We have something far more deadly than the atomic bomb. We have it today–not tomorrow–and furthermore, it's in usable shape." Another chimed in, ""This nation is in possession of scientific factors which place it in an enviable position. The scientific factors at hand would result in devastation equal to, if not greater than, the atomic bomb. Remember, there are different kinds of devastation."

In another 1969 House Appropriations hearing, the DoD's Biological Warfare division requested funds to develop through gene-splicing a new disease that would both resist and break down a victim's immune system. It was approved. In 1972, the World Health Organization published in their bulletin, "An attempt should be made to ascertain whether viruses can in fact exert selective effects on immune function, e.g., by ...affecting T cell function as opposed to B cell functions. The possibility should also be looked into that the immune response to the virus itself may be impaired if the infecting virus damages more or less selectively the cells responding to the viral antigens." Then, in the mid-70's, the WHO conducted a smallpox vaccination in Africa, including 14.000 Haitians on UN assignment to Central Africa. According to the London Times in 1987, the timing and locations of the first AIDS infections coincide exactly with this smallpox vaccine. I also read years ago about whole villages wiped out by AIDS because they'd been paid to give blood that was taken with dirty needles. At the time, this was seen as mere accident.

AIDS is ethno-selective, with twice the rate of infection for Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans as whites, and death coming two to three times as swiftly. 80% of children with AIDS and 90% of infants are non-whites. In 1978 a Hepatitis B vaccine study called for only non-monogamous males. It gave homosexuals a different serum from heterosexuals. By 1981, 25-50% of the first reported AIDS cases in New York had received the '78 vaccine. By 1984, 64% of recipients had AIDS, before the Department of Justice sealed the study. The same year, the New Delhi Patriot newspaper published detailed charges about AIDS as a weapon. Soon after, the chemical leak of Bhopal Union Carbide distracted their attention.

In 1999 a flowchart was found for a federal program called The Special Virus of the United States of America (1962-1978). Funded with $500 million, this is exactly what the Pentagon acknowledged to Congress that they were making - a synthetic biological agent for which no natural immunity could be acquired, designed to deplete the human immune system. In 2002, Chief of Staff Anthony Traficanti from Ohio called for an investigation. It never happened. For the past 15 years, Dr. Boyd Graves has called on the Supreme Court, Congress, the UN, and NGO's around the world to investigate, and now he plans to call on Obama. Based on Obama's past actions, I'm not holding my breath.

This has been Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm. Thank you to Dr. Boyd Graves and to Waves Forrest for the article, "Designer Diseases: AIDS as Biological & Psychological Warfare" published on Thank you to Mike Sirocco for web production and thanks to Skidmark Bob for sound and for finding our closing song. Bob is a searchable jukebox – throw out any topic from Judas to AIDS and he's got a reference. This one's called AIDS is a Four-Letter Word by the TVTV$. As a broadcast advisory, it's not the only four-letter word. And as a disclaimer, I don't agree with them about shooting a politician. It wouldn't do any good. Let's hit them where it really hurts – aim for the off-shore tax havens.

Thanks for listening.

Ruthann Richter Interview

Ruthann Richter has been writing about medical issues, including HIV/AIDS, since the early 1980's. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Stanford University and has received awards from the American Cancer Society, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. In addition to her Africa projects, she is the director of media relations at Stanford University School of Medicine, where she works with media from around the world and covers HIV/AIDS issues. source

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Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

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