Sunday, March 22, 2009

USAID accused of human rights abuse for burying Harvard prof’s abstinence research

USAID accused of human rights abuse for burying Harvard prof’s abstinence research
Posted on Feb 15, 2005 by Erin Curry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The U.S. Agency for International Development has dismissed a report by a Harvard professor which says abstinence is the method that has worked best in dramatically reducing the AIDS epidemic in Uganda, according to Focus on the Family's Citizen magazine. USAID instead tapped a nationally known condom advocate to conduct another study that shed a more favorable light on the role of condoms in Uganda's success.For the first of a two-part series on the American government's discrimination against abstinence and faith-based programs in distributing AIDS prevention funds overseas, Citizen interviewed Edward C. Green, an anthropologist at Harvard University and the lead author of a study financed by USAID that found abstinence to be more effective than condoms in reducing the spread of AIDS in Uganda.At issue is a strategy pushed by President Bush called "ABC" -- an acronym for Abstinence, Being faithful in marriage and Condoms only for high-risk populations. Bush allotted $15 billion in taxpayer funds to promote the strategy as a way of preventing AIDS in Third World countries.Green's study found that faithfulness and abstinence campaigns, in that order, played the most significant role in the dramatic reduction of AIDS in Uganda, Citizen said in its March issue. Green discovered that by 1995, 95 percent of Ugandans ages 15 to 49 were practicing abstinence or monogamy while just 6 percent of the population was using condoms."It's a very indicting statement about the effectiveness of condoms," Green told Citizen. "You cannot show that more condoms have led to less AIDS in Africa."But when Green submitted his study to USAID in early 2003, the government agency refused to publish his findings and instead hired Douglas Kirby, a senior researcher for one of the nation's largest condom-promoting sex education groups, to conduct another study on AIDS prevention in Uganda, Citizen said. Kirby turned in his report in late 2004, saying condoms played a greater role in Uganda's AIDS decline than faithfulness or abstinence."Why does it matter whether an ABC supporter or a condom advocate writes USAID's report?" Citizen asked. "Because USAID studies affect which type of AIDS prevention efforts receive American funding."In the past, condom promoters have received the largest portion of American taxpayer dollars in curbing AIDS overseas while abstinence promoters have received little funding. If USAID ignores studies that indicate more money should be spent on abstinence campaigns, the trend likely will remain the same. Citizen, along with Green, contends that moral messages could save millions of lives in the battle against AIDS if only USAID would comply.And lest anyone write off Green as previously biased toward abstinence before he conducted the study, he pointed out to Citizen that he is a second-generation population control liberal. He doesn't attend church and considers himself a secularist, but he strives to be an objective researcher who will support whatever conclusion his studies produce."I look at the data and I see that what might be called a more liberal response to AIDS -- more and more millions or billions of condoms -- has simply not worked, especially in parts of the world with the highest infection rate, Africa and the Caribbean," Green told Citizen. "I went where the evidence led me and the evidence led me to ABC, with strong emphasis on A and B for the general population."Citizen laid out further examples of USAID's tendency to show favor to obvious condom advocates, including the hiring of one of the nation's leading condom distributors to execute AIDS study contracts.Fear of a right-wing political agenda creeping into AIDS prevention keeps USAID and other organizations from fairly assessing the importance of abstinence, one expert told Citizen."A lot of people in the field think this whole ABC thing is some sort of smokescreen for the religious right that's just trying to stop them from handing out condoms," said Norman Hearst, a medical doctor and University of California professor who studied AIDS in San Francisco.But Rand Stoneburner, an epidemiologist who has studied the pattern of AIDS during the past 20 years for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Citizen that millions of lives are at stake while USAID squabbles over whether a religious agenda is being pushed."Data that could save lives is being ignored -- at the cost of millions of lives," he said. "That's a great abuse of human rights because you would have saved 3 to 5 million lives if the ABC data was recognized and used years earlier."

Harvard Researcher agrees with Pope on condoms in Africa

CNA (2009). Harvard Researcher agrees with Pope on condoms in Africa. Catholic News Agency. Retrieved March 22, 2009 from:

Cambridge, Mass., Mar 21, 2009 / 10:11 am (CNA).- Pope Benedict’s recent brief remark against condoms has caused an uproar in the press, but several prominent scientists dedicated to preventing AIDS are defending the Pope, saying he was correct in his analysis. In an interview with CNA, Dr. Edward Green explained that although condoms should work, in theory, they may be “exacerbating the problem” in Africa.

Benedict XVI’s Tuesday comments on condoms were made as part of his explanation of the Church’s two prong approach to fighting AIDS. At one point in his response the Pontiff stressed that AIDS cannot be overcome by advertising slogans and distributing condoms and argued that they “worsen the problem.” The media responded with an avalanche of over 4,000 articles on the subject, calling Benedict a “threat to public health,” and saying that the Catholic Church should “enter the 21st century.”

Senior Harvard Research Scientist for AIDS Prevention, Dr. Edward Green, who is the author of five books, including “Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning from Successes in Developing Countries” discussed his support for Pope Benedict XVI’s comments with CNA.
According to Dr. Green, science is finding that the media is actually on the wrong side of the issue. In fact, Green says that not only do condoms not work, but that they may be “exacerbating the problem” in Africa.

“Theoretically, condoms ought to work,” he explained to CNA, “and theoretically, some condom use ought to be better than no condom use, but that’s theoretically.”

Condom proponents often cite the lack of condom education as the main culprit for higher AIDS rates in Africa but Green disagrees.

After spending 25 years promoting condoms for family planning purposes in Africa, he insists that he’s quite familiar with condom promotion. Yet, he claims that “anyone who worked in family planning knew that if you needed to prevent a pregnancy, say the woman will die, you don’t recommend a condom.”

Green recalls that when the AIDS epidemic hit Africa, the “Industry” began using AIDS as a “dual purpose” marketing strategy to get more funding for condom distribution. This, he claims, effectively took “something that was a 2nd or 3rd grade device for avoiding unwanted pregnancies” and turned it into the “best weapon we [had] against AIDS.”

The accepted wisdom in the scientific community, explained Green, is that condoms lower the HIV infection rate, but after numerous studies, researchers have found the opposite to be true. “We just cannot find an association between more condom use and lower HIV reduction rates” in Africa.

Dr. Green found that part of the elusive reason is a phenomenon known as risk compensation or behavioral disinhibition.

“[Risk compensation] is the idea that if somebody is using a certain technology to reduce risk, a phenomenon actually occurs where people are willing to take on greater risk.” The idea can be related to someone that puts on sun block and is willing to stay out in the sun longer because they have added protection. In this case, however, the greater risk is sexual. Because people are willing take on more risk, they may “disproportionally erase” the benefits of condom use, Green said.

Another factor that contributes to ineffective condom use in Africa, is the phenomenon where condoms may be effective on an “individual level,” but not on a “population level.” Green’s research found that “condoms have been effective” in HIV concentrated areas where high risk activities are already being conducted, such as brothels in countries like Thailand.
Claiming to be a liberal himself, Green asserts that promoting Western “liberal ideology” where, “most Africans are conservative when it comes to sexual behavior,” is quite offensive to them. Citing his new book, “Indigenous Theories and Contagious Disease,” Green described Africans as “very religious by global standards” who are offended by “trucks going around where people are dancing to ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’, tossing out condoms to teenagers and the children of the village.”
Green also noted that there is an ideology called “harm reduction” that is being pushed by many organizations trying to prevent AIDS. The ideology believes that “you can’t change the underlying behavior, that you can’t get people to be faithful, especially Africans,” the HIV specialist explained.

One country, Uganda, recognized these issues and said, “Listen, if you have multiple sex partners, you are going to get AIDS.” What worked in Uganda, a country that has seen a decline by as much as 2/3 in AIDS infections, was that officials realized that even aside from religious and cultural reasons, “no one likes condoms.” Instead of waiting for “American and European advisors to arrive,” Ugandan officials reacted and developed a program that fit their culture; their main message being “stick to one partner or love faithfully.”

However, in 2004, Uganda’s AIDS infection rates began to increase once again, due to an influx of condoms and Western “advice”, Green recalled. Western donors also came to Uganda and said behavioral change doesn’t work and that, “most infections nowadays are among married people.” Green said these claims are “misleading,” pointing out that “married people always have lower HIV infection rates than single or divorced people of the same age group.”

Green’s new book, “AIDS and Ideology,” to be completed in the next few months, will describe the industry in Africa that is “drawing billions of dollars a year promoting condoms, testing, drugs, and treatment of AIDS” and is clearly resistant to the idea that behavioral change is the solution.

Yet the two countries that have the highest infection rate of AIDS in the world, Botswana and Swaziland, have recently launched campaigns to promote fidelity and monogamy, the Harvard researcher said. These countries “have learned the hard way” about the failure of condoms in preventing AIDS, he said, noting that “Botswana has probably had more condom promotion” than any other county on a per capita basis. Green said he had no problem “having condoms as a backup to fidelity-based programs.”

According to Green, the Catholic Church should continue to “do what it is already doing,” avoid “arguing about the diameter of viruses” and cite scientific evidence in connection with scripture and moral theology.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Swiss Women Abandoning the Pill Due to Adverse Health Effects

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

PARIS, February 26, 2009 ( - The use of the contraceptive pill is plummeting among younger women, in response to growing awareness of its destructive health effects, reports a French bioethics site.According to the site "Genetique," the use of "the pill" among women aged 15 to 24 years old dropped from 43% in 2003 to 26% in 2007. The rate of childbirth among the same group increased at the same time. "The principal reason for this decrease is the attention paid by women to their health," says Genetique. "It is now proven that the pill suppresses libido and causes weight gain. The fear of cancer and sterility are equally responsible."According to numerous studies on the effects of the contraceptive pill, its use is also linked to increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.Related LifeSiteNews coverage:

New Study Shows Contraceptive Pill Increases Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke

Massive Study Finds the Pill Significantly Increases Cancer Risk if Used more than Eight Years

Birth Control Pill Linked to Hardening of the Arteries

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fast For Obama For Life

Fast For Obama For Life

Mission Statement (from their webpage):

The Mission of

I am a pro-life woman who refuses to accept that Barack Obama, the most inspiring American leader of my lifetime, will not extend his promise of hope and change to the most fundamental civil rights issue of our time: the protection of life before birth.

It's hard to believe that a devoted father, Harvard-educated scholar, and civil-rights activist could ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence that abortion ends a human life. Hard to believe that his position would not, at least, show some nuance...and thus, some hope for protecting the right to life of the most vulnerable among us.

Yet President Obama's own campaign promises place him squarely as the most pro-abortion president in our history. Yes, pro-abortion, not just pro-choice. Although a majority of Americans consistently favor some limits on the taking of unborn human life, Obama has stated his support for abolishing virtually all such protections, even those prohibiting procedures that amount to infanticide.

It just doesn't square with the brilliant and compassionate man we elected President last November. I believe that Barack Obama, can be moved to realize that women deserve better than abortion...that enhanced access to health care, day care, and support services (including adoption) is a better "choice" than a life-destroying procedure, in almost every case...and that the unborn are indisputably members of our human family and heirs to our American dream. How can this happen?

Prayer and fasting.

Yes, it's old-school. No protest signs, PACs, or petitions. But hey, although my pro-life convictions are more ethical than religious, I'm also a Catholic...and it's Lent...and every time I feel like eating beyond my self-imposed limits, I plan to beseech my God to move the heart of our President.

I invite you to join me. Click on the guestbook below. You will not be enrolled in any pro-life movement stuff; you don't even have to leave your e-mail address. And you are welcome regardless of your gender, politics, sexual orientation, age, race, or religion (or lack of it). I'd just love to know I'm not alone in hope, prayer, and, um, some hunger.

President Obama, we speak on behalf of those with no voice. Please work to recognize and protect the rights of women and the unborn; most urgently, please reconsider your support for the "Freedom of Choice Act" and its radical pro-abortion agenda. Inspire us by opening your heart and mind. Please listen to, and join, America's ongoing conversation about human rights at the most crucial juncture of all: the beginning of life itself.

And forgive us if we're a little testy; it must be the low blood sugar.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Budget concerns force states to reconsider the death penalty

Grinberg, E. (2 March 2009). Budget concerns force states to reconsider the death penalty. Retrieved 2 March 2009 from:

Brian Sanderholm thinks Justin Thurber deserves to die for raping and killing his 19-year-old daughter.

"I believe in an eye for an eye. If you do the crime, you need to have justice," he said. "In the end, it's up to the jury, but all that matters is that he can't hurt anyone again."

But amid a time of economic turmoil some legislators in Kansas and elsewhere say the price of justice is too high. They have introduced legislation to take the death penalty off the books over financial concerns.

Jodi Sanderholm was last seen alive on January 5, 2007, at dance practice at Cowley College in Arkansas City, Kansas, where she was a student and member of the Cowley College Tigerettes Danceline. Her bruised and battered body was found four days later in a pile of brush, bearing signs of a violent and prolonged death that prosecutors likened to torture.

A jury sentenced Thurber to death on February 18. A Kansas court will decide whether to uphold the jury's verdict in a hearing scheduled for March 20.

If Kansas Senate Bill 208 passes as written, it won't take effect until July 1, so it is unlikely to affect Thurber's sentence. But future savings could be substantial.

"Because of the downturn in the national economy, we are facing one of the largest budget deficits in our history," state Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a Republican, said in an opinion piece posted on Friday. "What is certain is we are all going to have to look at new and creative ways to fund state and community programs and services."

The state would save more than $500,000 per case by not seeking the death penalty, McGinn wrote, money that could be used for "prevention programs, community corrections and other programs to decrease future crimes against society."

Fiscal concerns are just a part of McGinn's argument. She has also cited the disproportionate rate of minorities that are sentenced to death. Kansas reintroduced the death penalty in 1994 but has not executed a condemned inmate since 1965.

Anti-death-penalty groups say longer jury selection, extra expert witnesses, jury consultants and an extended penalty phase tend to make death penalty trials more costly than non-death-penalty cases. Extra safeguards in place to ensure a fair verdict, including additional investigators and defense attorneys certified to handle death cases, who spend more time researching and litigating the case, also drive up costs. See a chart comparing the costs of two murder trials »

A 2008 study by the Urban Institute, an economic and social policy research group based in Maryland, found that an average capital murder trial in the state resulting in a death sentence costs about $3 million, or $1.9 million more than a case where the death penalty is not sought.

A similar 2008 study by the ACLU in Northern California found that a death- penalty trial costs about $1.1 million more than a non-death-penalty trial in California.

McGinn's bill faces opposition from various sides, including victims' rights groups and the state's top prosecutor, who says there are no hard numbers related to the cost of the death penalty.

New Mexico, which also has a bill before the Legislature to abolish the death penalty, has already seen a case where costs dictated the outcome. See which states have bills to get rid of the death penalty »

Last year, the New Mexico attorney general's office agreed to drop the death penalty for two inmates involved in the stabbing death of a guard, Ralph Garcia, during a 1999 riot at the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility.

The change came after the state Legislature failed to provide additional funding for defense attorneys contracted to handle the case by the public defender's office.

In court documents filed at the time, Attorney General Gary King said his office could not "in good faith under these circumstances" pursue the death penalty against Robert Young and Reis Lopez.

Even Garcia's wife lent her voice to the case, writing a letter to then-Assistant Attorney General Michael Fox explaining why she did not support the death penalty.

"I would rather see the death penalty be abolished and reparation be made to the victims, wives or husbands and to their children. I know how hard it is to go look for a job when my job was staying home and taking care of the home and kids and my husband was the breadwinner," Rachel Garcia wrote in a letter dated February 28, 2005.

"My husband would [have] wanted something like this as much as I do because he so much loved his family."

Her sentiments became part a bill to abolish the death penalty that was introduced in 2007 and died on the Senate floor in New Mexico. Its supporters are hopeful it has a better chance this year -- so far, it has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting action in the Senate.

"I think it helps the debate from being less emotional than it has the potential to be," Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey said. "People will say we can't put a price on justice, but in fact, we do put a price on justice when we are not able to give our district attorneys, our police departments, our attorney general the funding they need."

In Colorado, House Bill 1274 proposes to put the anticipated savings from abolishing the death penalty toward the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's cold case homicide team.

The state has about 1,430 unsolved homicides dating back to 1970, according to Howard Morton, founder of the Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons, an advocacy group pushing for the bill.

For Morton, whose son, Guy, disappeared in 1975, the issue goes beyond the misuse of tax dollars. Guy was considered a missing person for 12 years until forensic examination revealed that his remains had been misidentified. His killer was never found.

"As bad as it is to think that our son's killer is still on the streets or in our neighborhoods, there's nothing worse than feeling like he's been forgotten, just another file in a basement," he said. "Once you've had a loved one murdered, there can be no closure, but there can be resolution, the feeling like, oh well, at least justice was done."

Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado, among the states where legislators are seeking to get rid of the death penalty, have carried out few or no executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. On the other hand, Texas, Georgia and Virginia, which consistently lead the nation in executions each year, show no signs of changing course.

Earlier this month, Virginia's House voted to expand capital punishment to include those who assist in a murder, and those who kill an auxiliary police officer or on-duty fire marshal.

A bill to abolish the death penalty is also before the Texas legislature, but Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos intends to proceed with 194 pending death penalty cases she has on the books.

"We will spare no expense. We will go after them. Justice has no price tag," Lykos said. "We want to be as cost-effective as possible without compromising the administration of justice and public safety."

Nonetheless, budget concerns in those states still hamper some efforts to seek the death penalty.

In Georgia, where Gov. Sonny Perdue has ordered all government agencies to trim their budgets by 6 percent, Jamie Ryan Weis, on trial for murder, has been sitting in a jail without a lawyer for more than a year.

The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council appointed two private attorneys in 2006 to represent Weis, who is charged with the murder of Catherine King. They were pulled from the case a year later because of a lack of funds, court documents indicate, and the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council has yet to replace them.

"The state basically says we want to have the death penalty and we don't want to pay for it. It's like the state says it's going to the grocery store to buy the most expensive food and it's not going to pay for it," said attorney Don Samuel, one of three attorneys attempting to obtain a lawyer for Weis.

Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Scott Ballard said he plans to seek the death penalty against Weis, no matter how long it takes or how much it costs.

"I think that if you start deciding it's too expensive to pursue the death penalty, then you're encouraging the defense to make it too expensive, and our duty to the public is too great to succumb to that," Ballard said.

Back in Kansas, Brian Sanderholm says the state has a duty to victims, too. He opposes efforts to abolish the death penalty because he says families should be able to weigh in on an appropriate punishment, and juries should render the final outcome.

In fact, if Thurber had admitted sooner to having killed his daughter, the father says he would have accepted a life sentence for him.

But by the time Thurber decided to admit his role and seek a plea deal with prosecutors, his family had already been through too much, Sanderholm says.

"It was too late," Sanderholm said. "We'd struggled so much, but after struggling for two years, we decided we're just going to go on with it."