of the Day
- November 27, 2009
some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood
activist across the country
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local
newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage
of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood
activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible
issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular
point of view ...
We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
From LA Times
Roman Polanski's release from jail imminent, Swiss officials say
November 26, 2009 | 7:01 am
Roman Polanski could be released from a Zurich jail any time now after Swiss justice officials said they would immediately comply with a court's ruling granting the famed director bail.
"Polanski will be released from custody as soon as bail has been transferred, ID and travel documents have been lodged and the electronic monitoring system has been installed and tested," said the Federal Office of Justice in a statement provided to Agence France-Presse.
Polanski is expected to stay at his Alpine chalet, under electronic monitoring.
Legal experts say the bail probably will lengthen the battle over whether Polanski should be extradited to Los Angeles to face sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old more than three decades ago. The decision also raises other questions, given that Polanski fled from the United States just before his sentencing in 1978. Swiss justice officials repeatedly have denied his bail requests, saying he is a flight risk.
Under the terms of the bail, Polanski, 76, would be restricted to his chalet in Gstaad, a ski resort with mountain views. The village of 2,500 has long been known as a celebrity hangout, having been home to Elizabeth Taylor, Roger Moore and David Niven, among others.
The Swiss court decided to grant bail based on Polanski's pledge of $4.5-million bail along with what the court called supporting measures, including electronic monitoring, which would alert the authorities if he tried leave home or remove a monitoring bracelet.
"It is very rare to get bail in an extradition case and especially in cases where the person's fled," said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and Loyola law professor. "This is a little like giving bail to O.J. after the Bronco chase."
Levenson said she believed the bail could slow the extradition process, because Polanski would have less of an incentive to resolve the issue if he was out of jail. "A Swiss chalet is a lot nicer than a jail here," she said.
Irish Catholic Church covered up abuse, report finds
A three-year government inquiry into the church and state's handling of abuse cases in Dublin from 1975 to 2004 reveals a policy of cover-up. Officials even took out insurance to pay future claims.
by Janet Stobart
November 27, 2009
Reporting from London
Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Dublin engaged in a widespread cover-up of abuses by clergy members for decades, a "scandal on an astonishing scale" that even saw officials taking out insurance policies to protect dioceses against future claims by the victims, a commission reported Thursday after a three-year investigation.
The commission, which investigated how the church and state agencies handled three decades of endemic child abuse by priests in the Irish capital, also criticized police and social and health authorities who, with a few exceptions, it said, ignored complaints or simply referred allegations back to the church hierarchy.
Presenting the government-commissioned report at a news conference in Dublin, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern spoke of his "revulsion" on reading the findings and called them a "scandal on an astonishing scale."
Ahern promised legislation on child-protection systems in institutions by the end of the year.
"These dreadful crimes no matter when they were committed will be pursued," he said. "There will be no hiding place."
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who took office in 2004, presented an abject apology on behalf of the church for the inaction of his predecessors. The report, which covers the period from 1975 to 2004, focuses on 46 priests in particular and 102 in general, all working in the archdiocese of Dublin.
"I offer each and every survivor my apology, my sorrow and my shame," Martin said.
At another news conference, victims of abuse said the devastating report was not enough.
"This is not meant to be the full picture . . . 102 priests is the number that they settled on even though there are allegations against 172 . . . this is only a representative sample," said Andrew Madden, a member of One in Four, a nonprofit group for sexual abuse victims that campaigned for the inquiry. "There appears to be no appetite to ascertain the full extent of this problem within the Catholic Church in this country."
It's taken so long, Madden said, because there was no interest by successive governments in investigating the Catholic Church.
The report, written by a four-member commission led by Judge Yvonne Murphy, reveals a policy of systemic clerical cover-up:
"Some priests were aware that particular instances of abuse had occurred," the report states. "A few were courageous and brought complaints to the attention of their superiors. The vast majority simply chose to turn a blind eye. The cases show that several instances of suspicion were never acted upon until inquiries were made. Some priest witnesses admitted to the commission that they had heard various reports on the grapevine."
In 1987, for instance, the report states, Dublin clergy took financial precautions that show they were aware of the problem. "All archbishops of Dublin in the period covered by the commission were aware of some complaints. This is true of many of the auxiliary bishops also.
"At the time the Archdiocese took out insurance in 1987, Archbishop Kevin McNamara, Archbishop Dermot Ryan and Archbishop John Charles McQuaid had had, between them, available information on complaints against at least 17 priests operating under the aegis of the Dublin Archdiocese.
"The taking out of insurance was an act proving knowledge of child sexual abuse as a potential major cost to the Archdiocese and is inconsistent with the view that Archdiocesan officials were still 'on a learning curve.' "
The prevailing attitude, the report says, was, to use an American phrase, one of "don't ask, don't tell," despite knowledge of abuse.
"The church authorities failed to implement most of their own canon law rules on dealing with clerical child sexual abuse," the report says, even though many of them were qualified lawyers.
Further apologies came from Police Commissioner Fachtna Murphy, who said the report made "for difficult and disturbing reading, detailing . . . the failure on the part of both Church and State authorities to protect victims."
He said that most of the abuses had taken place at a time when a "misguided or undue deference" was often shown to religious institutions.
The report also talks of a lack of police vetting procedures for clerics working with children within the Catholic Church until 2002, when lobbying began.
South Korea panel acknowledges mass executions in 1950
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission says South Korean authorities massacred at least 4,934 civilians suspected of being North Korean sympathizers.
by John M. Glionna
November 27, 2009
Reporting from Seoul
Shedding new light on a long-suppressed chapter of the Korean War, a government commission acknowledged Thursday that South Korean soldiers and police executed about 5,000 suspected North Korean sympathizers during the early months of the conflict.
In the first acknowledgment of the death toll, the so-called Truth and Reconciliation Commission said South Korean authorities rounded up and massacred at least 4,934 civilians during the summer of 1950.
Evidence of the atrocities was hidden for decades under the military-backed authoritarian regimes that ruled South Korea until the nation embraced democracy in the 1980s.
The commission in 2005 began investigating the civilian executions, interviewing several people who took part in the killings during the first phase of the 1950-53 war. It also reviewed photographs of mass, makeshift graves.
News of the commission's finding was treated almost nonchalantly in South Korea, carried as an inside story by several of the nation's major newspapers.
"The country should have paid attention to this case consistently, but so far it has not," said Kim Jeong-ho, 62, whose father was among the victims.
Still, historians here said they believed the findings would have a cathartic effect on the nation.
"One hidden piece of our tragic history in the 1950s was revealed. We should not repeat this miserable history, and this case will do good for the unity and integrity of the society," said Park Sun-joo, a history professor at Chungbuk National University who heads the excavation project of the commission.
He said he hopes the government will build a memorial to the victims.
Many victims were reportedly associated with the National Guidance League, created by the South Korean government to re-educate suspected communist sympathizers.
To meet strictly enforced membership quotas, officials often pressured apolitical farmers into joining the group, using promises of rice rations or other benefits, the commission said.
The panel also found that the executions were carried out based on "decisions and orders" from the "highest level" of government.
Kim said that family members of the victims faced discrimination for decades after the war.
"It is beyond description -- the social prejudice and mental anguish that we have been through," he said.
Commissioners also included several recommendations, including that the government offer an official apology as well as pass legislation to compensate victims' families.
Park, the historian, said the government should also pursue prosecutions.
"A high court has said the statute of limitations on this killing case has passed," he said.
"But personally, I don't think the judiciary should view this case that way: It is a crime against humanity."
But Kim disagreed.
"Even if there are some offenders still alive, I simply do not want to see them punished," he said.
"Not only is it legally tough to prosecute them, but it is more appropriate that families of victims and offenders meet . . . and reconcile with each other.
"For the sake of social unity, it is right to make a reconciliation."
Report isn't accurate gauge of hunger in America, some experts say
A federal survey of households says 'food insecurity' was up in 2008, but that's not the same thing as the plight of malnutrition and a persistent lack of food, some experts say.
by Joe Markman
November 27, 2009
Reporting from Washington
A recent federal report found that more Americans are going hungry -- or did it?
"As American families prepare to gather for Thanksgiving, we received an unsettling report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that found that hunger rose significantly last year," President Obama said last week. He cited a Department of Agriculture survey showing that 17 million American households (nearly 15%) were "food insecure" in 2008, compared with 13 million (about 11%) in 2007.
But experts say being "food insecure" is not the same as being hungry.
"I don't think many people would claim that food insecurity equates to hunger," said James C. Ohls, senior fellow for food and nutrition policy at Mathematica Policy Research Inc., who has led several investigative studies of Americans seeking emergency food relief. "You can get to that by questions like whether you had enough money to buy food. That's probably not 'hungry' by most people's standards."
"Hunger," experts say, better describes the plight of a persistent lack of food and malnutrition every day. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said there is little evidence of that among households in the United States.
"This is not malnourishment in the sense of people dying from hunger," Vilsack told reporters Tuesday, "but it is a circumstance where youngsters are not able to perform up to their potential."
The report avoids the word "hunger." It defines households as "food insecure" if sometime during the year they "had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources."
Homeless Americans are not addressed in the report, which was a survey of households.
Questions posed to the 44,000 survey respondents included whether they worried their food would run out before they could get money to buy more and whether they could afford to eat balanced meals.
"The focus was on, did you find yourself in a circumstance that you had to make some very unsavory choices to get your family through," said Mark Edwards, a professor of sociology at Oregon State University and an expert on food insecurity.
Edwards said Obama's statement was "not technically true" because "food insecure" is different from "hunger." There were no survey questions about hunger pains, for instance.
But Beth Daponte, a social and political studies professor at Yale University, warned some American households could be going hungry.
"Am I going to say that people aren't going hungry from [reading] this report? No, I am not going to say that," she said.
Edwards didn't rule it out either.
"It is hard for many people in America to believe it happens because we are a land that produces so much food, and there's plenty of it scattered all over the place," he said. "These problems are actually hidden right under our noses."
From the Daily News
Getting people off the streets and into homes
Updated: 11/26/2009 01:26:30 PM PST
Like thousands of people living with mental illness in our communities, for years Mildred Littlejohn found herself bouncing between city streets and hospitals.
She had served in the Air Force as a custodial supervisor for six years, but following the onset of her schizophrenia, she became unable to care for herself and eventually became homeless. Over the next 12 years, she lived on the streets of Connecticut and California.
Frequently hospitalized and then discharged with no place to go, Littlejohn might still call the streets her home had something not changed five years ago.
Because voters approved Proposition 63, also known as the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) in November 2004, Mildred Littlejohn and thousands of people just like her have received the care they need to transition back to independence, jobs, school, and family life. Thousands of lives transformed and the dollars saved by diverting thousands from jails, hospitals, and homelessness show the landmark initiative has kept its promise to voters.
The transformation in Mildred's Littlejohn's life came when the staff of Turning Point Community Programs offered to help her find housing and provide the support she needed to bring some stability to her life. Having responded well to medication to treat her mental illness, Turning Point gave Littlejohn the support and life skills she needed to break the destructive cycle of institutionalization and homelessness that had marked her life for more than a decade. "If Turning Point hadn't helped me, I would probably still be bouncing from hospital to the street, to jail, and back to the street," she says.
Now, at age 50, Littlejohn has her own apartment and says the quality of her life has improved tremendously. "I pretty much handle my own affairs," she says proudly of her transition to independence.
Before Prop. 63, decades of underfunding meant people living with mental illness and serious emotional disorders had few alternatives to hospitals, jails and juvenile halls. In approving the MHSA, voters recognized that treating people with dignity and allowing them to live independently would enable them to live healthier and to be more productive in their communities, while saving taxpayer dollars.
Mental health care providers have served more than 370,000 additional people with mental illness and reached more of the estimated 60 percent of Californians living with disabling mental illness who were not served or not adequately served before MHSA. And by focusing on prevention and early intervention, MHSA has enabled many more to receive services before they reach the crisis point. In California, it costs an average of about $47,000 to incarcerate an individual per year and up to $175,000 a year in a state hospital so sparing our overcrowded hospitals and prisons additional burdens is especially important during these times of budgetary crisis.
Sadly, even with the progress made under the MHSA, severe state budget cuts and the poor economy have put an unprecedented strain on counties' front-line mental health services for people in need. This means tens of thousands of people just like Mildred aren't able to receive the care they need to live full, productive lives.
Despite budget challenges, California counties and community-based agencies have responded to the voters' demands for a mental health system that treats people living with mental illness and their families with dignity, that promotes their independence, and that delivers on the promise of cost-conscious services that will save taxpayer dollars over the long-run. Prop. 63's smart investments have improved lives while keeping the initiative's promise to the taxpayers.
Returning to Mexico makes sense sometimes
Updated: 11/26/2009 01:45:05 PM PST
In the past, I've advised undocumented immigrants from Mexico to learn English, become legal, value education, refuse handouts, resist entitlement, and culturally assimilate. Now, given a disturbing trend tied to the wobbly U.S. economy - one that turns the immigration equation upside down - I have one more piece of advice: Consider going home.
Let me explain. It's not because they shouldn't be here in the first place. That's a given. Regular readers know that I don't support illegal immigration. In fact, I support speedy deportations, workplace raids and tighter borders. I also support comprehensive immigration reform that gives illegal immigrants already here a pathway to earned legal status. There's no contradiction. You can't have conditional reform without enforcement. How would you handle those who didn't meet the conditions?
But don't expect me to sign on to the idealistic rhetoric from immigration restrictionists who think that all people in the country illegally should voluntarily return to where they came from because it's the right thing to do. Why should they? They have accomplices after all - they came here because employers were willing to hire them. I would never be so naive as to make the argument that illegal immigrants should self-deport for moral reasons - anymore than I would suggest employers turn themselves in to get right with the law.
Yet, given recent events, I am willing to contemplate a completely different argument - that illegal immigrants should self-deport because of family reasons or, more precisely, because of family responsibility. They should leave not to please Americans but to alleviate some of the pressure that has come to weigh on relatives back home. After all, in large part, Mexican migration is an expression of family values. The main reason that most Mexicans are here in the first place isn't for freedom or a fresh start, but simply to make enough money to send home to their relatives so that their lives in Mexico might be a little easier.
And guess what's happening now? According to The New York Times, there's a kind of reverse remittance going on where, instead of illegal immigrants sending money to Mexico, more and more poor people in Mexico are scraping together whatever they can to send funds to unemployed sons and daughters in the United States. Reporters interviewed Mexican government officials, bankers, money-transfer operators, immigration experts, and Mexicans with out-of-work relatives in the United States. What they found was that, more and more often, these binational transfers of wealth are headed north instead of south.
This trend sounds counterintuitive but it makes perfect sense in human terms. The parents quoted in the article want to do what most parents do when their kids are struggling financially - send money, at least enough for them to get a bite to eat. It doesn't matter whether those kids are under the same roof or 1,000 miles to the north.
But, as the article points out, the trouble is that most Mexicans are not in a position to be anyone's fairy godmother. Poised to lose as 735,000 jobs this year and with an economy that could decline as much as 7.5 percent, Mexico could be one of the countries hardest hit by the global recession. Remittances from relatives in the United States, while still a leading source of foreign revenue, have also suffered a steep decline.
If the immigrants who are in the United States can't afford to live here, then remaining is a luxury they also can't afford. They might not be better off at home. But their families might be. If so, time to go.
Our intolerant cruelty
Updated: 11/26/2009 12:41:46 PM PST
AMERICA of the last year has seemed to devolve into a dysfunctional family of millions who can't seem to get along with each other, whose arguments are getting nastier and more divisive, and we seem headed for an irreparably damaged relationship.
The professional hatemongers are only feeding the dysfunction. There are those who hate the president. Others who hate Sarah Palin. Liberals hate conservatives, and conservatives hate them right back. And everyone seems to hate the parents of the Balloon Boy.
This crisis was starkly illustrated by two news events in recent days. First, a report found that while hate crimes in Los Angeles County decreased slightly in 2008 from the year before, by 4 percent, those related to sexual lifestyles and religion surged.
As well, 2008 had the second-highest number of hate crimes reported in the county since 2002.
Perhaps its not a surprise considering the dark times of 2008 that included the implosion of the economy, the heated campaign for Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, and a presidential race that spurred ugly rhetoric from all sides.
The second incident was even more unsettling for its senselessness. A 12-year-old boy was attacked Friday at A.E. Wright Middle School in Calabasas by as many as 14 of his classmates, police said. Why? Apparently he was targeted for the color of his hair - red.
Police say the attack may have stemmed from a Facebook group that wanted to observe "Kick a Ginger Day." A handful of other redhead students were reportedly attacked as well. Ginger is an old-fashioned term for a redhead, and "Kick a Ginger Day" was a spoof created by the dark and sardonic world of the Comedy Central animated show "South Park."
The 12-year-old didn't receive a severe beating and his body will recover. But his psyche - and the state of our own - won't heal that easily.
At this point, authorities say this doesn't rise to the level of a hate crime. Perhaps not in the legal sense, but it was a crime of intolerance, which is the seed that makes hate grow. Worse still, it was manufactured intolerance.
When we can make up entirely new reasons to victimize each other, we learn that no matter how far we have come, it never seems to be far enough.
From the Washington Times
Shaq pays for murdered girl's funeral
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) | Basketball star Shaquille O'Neal paid for the funeral of a 5-year-old North Carolina girl after being moved by national news coverage of the case of Shaniya Davis, who police say was kidnapped and killed.
The Cleveland Cavaliers player was touched by the stories that he saw and got in touch with the family to see what he could do to help, a spokeswoman for Mr. O'Neal said Thursday.
More than 2,000 people attended the girl's funeral Sunday. Her body was found Nov. 16 beside a rural road.
Her mother, Antionette Davis, who had reported the child missing six days earlier, is charged with human trafficking and child abuse involving prostitution. Mario McNeill is charged with murder, rape and kidnapping in the case.
The two are incarcerated in state prison facilities in Raleigh until their scheduled court dates - Ms. Davis on Dec. 3; Mr. McNeill on Dec. 9.
"I was sitting at home watching it on the news and the story brought a tear to my eye," Mr. O'Neal told the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. "Being a law enforcement guy that investigates crimes against children, I wanted to be able to help in some way."
Mr. O'Neal completed reserve officer's training when he lived in Los Angeles and Miami.
The Plain Dealer reported that this is not the first such gesture from Mr. O'Neal. He covered funeral costs in 2005 for George Mikan, the legendary 1950s center of the Minneapolis Lakers.
Corey Breece, of Rogers and Breece Funeral Home, which handled the service, declined to tell the Fayetteville Observer newspaper how much it cost but added that a child's funeral "averages around $4,500."
A man who answered the phone at the funeral home Thursday told the Associated Press that only the owner could comment and that he was away.
Shaniya Davis' father, Bradley Lockhart, and his family had set up a trust fund in memory of Shaniya to help raise money to pay for the funeral. Mr. Lockhart was not available to talk Thursday, said a man who answered the phone at his home.
Mr. O'Neal is recovering from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him for six straight games since getting hurt Nov. 12 against Miami.
Drug lords finding safe haven in Bolivia
by Martin Arostegui
SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia | Narco-trafficking cartels are migrating to the Andes region in Bolivia, where a diminished U.S. presence has allowed a boom in cocaine production and the opening of new drug routes, regional anti-drug officials say.
Recent studies by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime show a steep rise in cocaine production in Bolivia and a smaller increase in Peru. They also show a drop in Colombian cocaine output, which is subject to increased anti-drug efforts by the U.S. and Colombian governments.
Potentially more significant is Bolivia's emergence as a major hub for jungle laboratories that turn coca paste, which can be imported from anywhere in the Andean region, into refined cocaine.
"Like never before we have discovered these types of factories around the country," said Col. Oscar Nina, chief of Bolivia's police anti-drug unit. He added that his unit has destroyed more than 20 cocaine laboratories so far this year.
In addition, he recently warned of the increasing presence of powerful Mexican crime organizations that control drug movements.
Other law enforcement officials say Colombians connected with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a leftist guerrilla group known by its Spanish acronym as FARC, are also shifting some operations to Bolivia because of recent military pressures on rebel-held areas.
"They come directly in small airplanes and install themselves rapidly," said a district attorney in Santa Cruz, the main province of eastern Bolivia, where much of the nation's new drug production is thought to be concentrated.
The official, who asked not to be named because of the threat of retaliation from drug traffickers, also said the Colombians are introducing the latest technologies for refining cocaine into the finished product.
Colombia is likely to remain the world's top cocaine producer for years to come. Despite a 33 percent drop in Colombian cocaine production since 2005, it still produces four times the 113,000 kilograms of Bolivia for 2008, according to the latest U.N. report.
Peruvian anti-drug officials say much of Peru's coca paste is now going to Bolivia, because refining facilities there are more numerous and secure and have easier access to chemicals needed to refine the white powder.
"There exists a great refining capacity across the border in the Bolivian jungle," said Gen. Miguel Hidalgo, the chief of Peru's anti-drug agency.
He said his conclusions are based on interrogations of drug pilots caught flying Peru's raw product to Bolivia for processing. From there, officials say it is shipped to other nations, such as Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
The U.N. report sites these and other nations of Latin America as the world's fastest-growing market for cocaine as consumption levels off or declines in North America and Europe.
Production in Bolivia is also said to benefit from last year's expulsion of U.S. anti-drug agencies by leftist President Evo Morales.
Bolivia's deputy minister for social defense, Felix Caceres, called reports of increased drug trafficking in his nation exaggerated. He recently told reporters that Bolivia is strengthening its anti-drug efforts through bilateral agreements with Brazil and Argentina.
Mr. Caceres has also said he is conducting "sensitive" negotiations with the U.S. State Department to work out a "new strategic approximation on anti-narcotics cooperation."
Mr. Morales has turned to Russia and China for anti-drug assistance. Last month, Bolivia purchased six Chinese K-8 fighter jets to intercept drug flights.
The Bolivian president was elected in late 2005 on pledges to legalize farming of coca leaves - the main ingredient for cocaine and a traditional cash crop for Indian peasants, who use the leaves as a mild stimulant.
According to Brazilian intelligence reports quoted in the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, drug trafficking has increased sharply since the Drug Enforcement Administration left the country last year.
Brazil has recently deployed troops along its borders with Bolivia and Peru in an operation dubbed "Padlock."
Brazilian authorities said high-powered weapons, including 30 mm machine guns used by drug gangs against police helicopters, have been smuggled from Bolivia.
Argentina has upgraded controls along its border, installing radars to track drug flights, which have been making cocaine drops.
The newspaper La Nacion reported that Mexican drug bosses, operating with Russian crime organizations, have established major new routes from Argentina to Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
A British warship recently intercepted a drug cargo off Argentine waters with an estimated street value of $500 million - one of the largest seizures on record.
Chile's security services have reported a 183 percent rise in cocaine smuggling from Bolivia, usually through human carriers known as "mules."
Bolivian opposition congressman Carlos Klinsky said most of the cocaine goes to Venezuela, which has been singled out by the United States as a "major drug-transit country." According to Mr. Klinsky, bails of drugs are loaded onto hundreds of Venezuelan military flights as they land at various points in Bolivia.
"There are no checks or controls on these flights" said Mr. Klinsky, who also blames the increased drug flow for a skyrocketing crime wave in Bolivian cities, where wars among competing drug gangs are becoming increasingly common.
U.S. brings hope to AIDS patients
by Ben Stocking ASSOCIATED PRESS
TINH BIEN, Vietnam
When her husband fell ill with AIDS, doctors at the hospital turned him away, fearing they would catch the virus.
"They told him, 'There's nothing we can do for you. Just go home and wait to die,'" said Do Thi Phuong. So when she, too, got AIDS, she didn't seek help, fearing that she would also be shunned. Instead, like her husband, she went home to die.
Then she heard about a little AIDS clinic in the Mekong Delta, in a place where the Americans used to train South Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War.
Now, on a regimen of AIDS drugs provided by the U.S., she is getting her strength back.
The clinic at Tinh Bien is one of 55 across Vietnam funded by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR, the initiative that President George W. Bush made a centerpiece of his administration.
As memories of the eight-year war fade, the America that older Vietnamese remember - of bombers, guns and Agent Orange - is now represented to many by places such as Tinh Bien, where 340 HIV patients are getting treatment.
The U.S. has spent more than $300 million fighting AIDS in Vietnam and is now providing AIDS drugs to more than two-thirds of the 32,000 Vietnamese receiving treatment. At $85 million this year alone, PEPFAR accounts for 80 percent of U.S. humanitarian spending in the country.
The funding pays for treatment, support for patients' families and prevention programs and for dispelling the AIDS stigma, which is entrenched in Vietnam.
Just how entrenched was demonstrated recently when a group of HIV-positive schoolchildren living at a PEPFAR-supported compound near Ho Chi Minh City were enrolled at a neighborhood school. They were expelled the next day because parents of other students objected.
"The other kids refused to play with me," said Huyen, 13, who wouldn't give her last name. "They pointed at me and said, 'She has AIDS.' "
Mrs. Phuong feared the stigma, too. She said that for a long time, she didn't dare tell anyone she had HIV.
"In the countryside, the only thing people know about AIDS is that it's the 'disease of the century.' They're afraid they'll get infected, so they shun you," she said.
Then she saw a report on TV that life-extending AIDS drugs were available in Vietnam. But the doctors she asked didn't know where to find them.
Finally, outreach workers learned from a friend of hers that she was ill and invited her to the Tinh Bien clinic.
"The doctors and staff here treat me like I'm just another patient," said Mrs. Phuong, 30.
At the Mai Hoa Center, home to the children who were turned away from school, a memorial display at the center holds rows of urns with remains of former residents.
Until the U.S. began providing AIDS drugs, "We used to have one or two funerals a day. Now we only have one a month," said Tran Van Nhan, a center volunteer.
PEPFAR has been criticized for its paperwork, which is regarded as onerous, and for the U.S. ban on spending the money to dispense clean needles and syringes, on the grounds that they might foster drug abuse. But infected needles are the main transmitter of HIV nationally in Vietnam.
Under the Obama administration, PEPFAR is reconsidering this approach, said Steve Mills, who directs the Vietnam operations of Family Health International. The North Carolina-based nonprofit organization runs the Tinh Bien clinic and other programs in Vietnam and Cambodia, funded through USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Some question why Vietnam, whose 0.51 percent AIDS prevalence falls short of a generalized epidemic, was chosen. Most of the 15 PEPFAR countries are in Africa, and Vietnam is the only Asian one.
But for Mr. Mills, working in Vietnam is special.
"I'm continually amazed that the places we are working in used to be battlegrounds," he said.
Mr. Mills has lived in Hanoi for five years and has adopted a Vietnamese boy.
"As an American who remembers the war, I'm awed that Vietnamese are so welcoming of us, and I'm happy we're back now supporting the development of their health system," he said.
Tinh Bien is in An Giang, a poor province where some women supplement their income as prostitutes in the casinos and brothels just across the frontier in Cambodia. That makes commercial sex, rather than needles, the main transmitter of AIDS in the province.
"These drugs are making a very big difference," said Mai Hoang Anh, the top AIDS official in An Giang province.
"They allow people to stay active for many years, just like Magic Johnson," the American basketball ace who announced 18 years ago that he had HIV and is still looking healthy at age 50.
On a recent day, Chau Thi Anh Loan, 23, sat on a bench outside the clinic, holding a 1-month-old baby bundled in a green blanket. She caught the virus from her husband, a heroin user who shared needles with friends and is now dead.
Staffers at Tinh Bien make sure she takes her medicine on schedule and feeds her baby with formula milk.
"This will prevent me from passing HIV to my son," said Mrs. Loan, who received medicine that helps prevent mother-to-child transmission. "The doctors tell me he's healthy."
From the New York Post
Last Updated: 3:25 AM, November 27, 2009
Punch a terrorist -- head for the brig.
Welcome to America's thoroughly modern military.
The notion beggars the imagination, but three Navy SEALs who helped capture one of the most notorious terrorists in Iraq now face courts-martial -- because the terrorist acquired a bloody lip after the takedown.
Ahmed Hashim Abed organized the brutal 2004 attack on four US civilian contractors working as security guards in Fallujah. After murdering the guards, terrorists dragged their bodies through the city, burning and hanging two of them over the Euphrates Bridge.
Fast forward to this past summer: Navy Petty Officers Matthew McCabe, Jonathan Keefe and Julio Huertas were part of a SEAL team that captured Abed.
Abed complained that he was punched on Sept. 1 during his initial detention. A fat, bloody lip was offered up as proof.
Now McCabe is charged with assault, dereliction of duty and making a false statement; Keefe is charged with dereliction of duty and making a false statement; Huertas has the same charges as Keefe, plus one of impeding an investigation.
It's not hard to figure out what happened here: One SEAL slugged Abed -- no doubt for good reason -- and the other two wouldn't rat out their buddy to investigators who would've been better employed slugging Abed themselves.
And so the SEALs will be arraigned on Dec. 7 -- another reason for the date to live in infamy.
Ironically, if the three had treated Abed like Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq has routinely treated American soldiers it captures, his bloody, mutilated corpse would've turned up floating in a river.
(For the record, the number of US combat troops captured in Iraq and Afghanistan who have been recovered alive is approximately zero.)
What is especially ironic, to say nothing of infuriating, about the SEALs' inquisition is that it underscores the utter lack of curiosity exhibited by the Pentagon in the matter of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army shrink and Islamist.
Hasan was allowed to remain in contact with troops despite a distressingly long record of incendiary public rhetoric -- and copious e-mail traffic with an associate of Osama bin Laden.
The FBI and Army were on to him, but lacked the courage to confront him.
The result: 13 Americans dead, and 29 wounded, at Fort Hood.
The truth, of course, is that falling afoul of the diversity police is a quick way to end an otherwise promising career -- and the Pentagon and FBI know it.
SEALs, on the other hand, are fair game. What a scandal.
Meanwhile, we wonder.
What happens the next time America needs SEALs -- and there aren't any?
Or, at least, there aren't any who meet traditional SEAL standards -- the warriors having been chased away by the pettifoggers.
Don't bet money on it.
From the Wall Street Journal
What's on Jim Fallon's Mind? A Family Secret That Has Been Murder to Figure Out
Nature Plays a Prank on a Scientist Looking for Traits of a Killer in His Clan
by GAUTAM NAIK
IRVINE, Calif. -- Jim Fallon recently made a disquieting discovery: A member of his family has some of the biological traits of a psychopathic killer.
"These results will cause some problems at the next family party," he said, reviewing the data on his laptop in his backyard. Meanwhile, his wife, Diane, stood in the kitchen, using a knife to slice through a blood-red pepper.
Dr. Fallon, 62 years old, is a neuroscientist who studies the biological basis of human behavior at the University of California's campus here. He has analyzed the brains of more than 70 murderers on behalf of psychiatric clinics or criminal defense lawyers. It's a young science. Because jailed killers rarely are permitted to take part in research trials, data linking genes and brain damage to violent crime are tentative and often disputed.
"In terms of early factors, we know nothing about who becomes an adult psychopath," says Adrian Raine of the University of Pennsylvania, who applies neuroscience techniques to study the causes and cures of crime.
Three years ago, as part of a personal project to assess his family's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, Dr. Fallon collected brain scans and DNA samples from himself and seven relatives. At a barbecue soon thereafter, Dr. Fallon's mother casually mentioned something he had been unaware of: His late father's lineage was drenched in blood.
An early ancestor, Thomas Cornell, was hanged in 1673 for murdering his mother. That was one of the first recorded acts of matricide in the Colonies. Seven other possible killers later emerged in the family tree. The most notorious was distant cousin Lizzie Borden of Fall River, Mass. In 1892, she was accused and then controversially acquitted of killing her father and stepmother with an ax.
As a lark intended to enliven family get-togethers, Dr. Fallon decided to analyze the data from the Alzheimer's project to see whether anyone in his family matched the profiles of killers he had studied. His initial subjects included himself, his three brothers, his wife, and the couple's two daughters and son.
A scientist who studies the brains of serial killers discovers he has the biological hallmarks of one. Jim Fallon, a neuroscientist at the University of California, discusses his research on his family and the biology of violent offenders. WSJ's Gautam Naik reports.
The idea was to correlate findings from his family's brain scans with a parallel analysis of genes thought to be associated with aggression and violence. Changing activity in certain parts of the brain relates to aggression, emotion and the inhibition of impulsiveness. Dr. Fallon's previous research on murderers had suggested that many killers show distinctive patterns in these brain areas.
"There's gonna be bad news, but I don't know where it will pop up," Dr. Fallon said in September, before he had seen the family data.
The idea of the "born criminal" has a long history and is deeply controversial. Drawing conclusions about the biology of psychopathic murderers is especially hard because data are scarce. Those in jail rarely agree to a genetic or brain analysis. As a result, scientists rely a good deal on inference. While many people can be aggressive, violent and impulsive, only a tiny fraction become psychopathic killers, capable of committing bone-chilling crimes without empathy, remorse or a sense of right and wrong. Dr. Fallon says his research and other findings suggest that psychopathic killers often have lower intelligence than most people, which can be the result of brain damage.
Dr. Fallon and other scientists increasingly believe that violent offenders emerge when three factors are combined: several "violent" genes; damage to certain brain areas; and exposure to extreme trauma and poor parental bonding in childhood. In other words, nature and nurture.
The immediate Fallon family hasn't produced a Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic serial killer in the novels of Thomas Harris. But several of Dr. Fallon's findings are intriguing, even for a parlor game.
Family members attest that Dr. Fallon's wife and three children have mellow and benevolent personalities, which the data support. Dr. Fallon's brother John, 67, an employee of the New York State education department, affirms that he got into lots of fistfights as a youth. "I avoid confrontation but react quickly to danger. When it comes to fight or flight, I immediately go into the attack." Neither his gene analysis nor brain scans suggested someone with a particularly impulsive or violent personality.
Dr. Fallon's 58-year-old brother Pete, who owns a pharmacy in Albany, N.Y., is described as a risk-taker by the family. While Pete's biological tests indicated that he could be impulsive -- he says he likes to dive off 100-foot cliffs -- they indicated that he has no taste for violence.
Dr. Fallon looked at about 20 genetic markers linked directly or indirectly to aggression, including compulsive behavior and mood. One marker, which has become a big target for research, is MAOA, or the "warrior gene." Because of the way a high-risk variant of the gene gets inherited, more males than females have it.
MAOA regulates the hormone serotonin, which affects mood. In the womb, the high-risk version of MAOA can lead to a buildup of serotonin in the brain. In later life, says Dr. Fallon, this makes the brain less responsive to the normally calming effects of serotonin. Research has suggested that people who inherit the high-risk gene and are raised in abusive environments may be more prone to violent behavior when they get older.
A paper in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry earlier this year found that not only are boys who inherit a mutated MAOA variant more likely to be in a gang than those without the mutation, they are also more likely to be some of the most violent members. And according to a report in the journal Nature, an Italian court earlier this year reduced a convicted killer's sentence by one year because his psychiatric profile indicated he had abnormalities in brain scans and in five genes linked to violent behavior, including MAOA.
To his surprise, Dr. Fallon found that the analysis of his own brain showed he had inherited certain high-risk forms of MAOA and other various aggression-and violence-related genes.
"I'm the one who looks most like a serial killer," he says. "It's disturbing."
Dr. Fallon was only half-joking. Stories of his impetuous, risk-taking behavior are family lore. In 1990, he took a hike to the out-of-the-way Kenyan cave where some believe the deadly Marburg virus causing hemorrhagic fever may have originated. The same year, he took his then-16-year-old son, James, trout-fishing in Kenya near a sign that said "Beware of Lions." The rest of the family stayed in the car.
Dr. Fallon's brain scans are revealing, too. The orbital cortex of the brain, which lies just above the eye sockets, is involved in social adjustment, aggression and impulsivity. It talks to the anterior temporal lobe, which is involved in the processing and memory of emotional reactions. In most people, when they're making certain decisions, both areas are switched on and are roughly in balance. When Dr. Fallon was tested and his brain was scanned, both areas were turned off.
"I'm still in balance, but I seem to have low emotional engagement," says Dr. Fallon, noting that the brains of many cold-blooded murderers reveal a similar picture.
Dr. Fallon thinks that one vital factor may have prevented him from becoming a killer. "I had a charmed childhood," he says. "But if I'd been mistreated as a child, who knows what might have happened?"
Professor Who Works to Free Innocent Finds Himself Accused
by JOE BARRETT
EVANSTON, Ill. -- David Protess says his life changed on the day in 1991 when David Dowaliby walked free.
"That's when I really found my life's calling," says the Northwestern University journalism professor, whose students' digging helped overturn Mr. Dowaliby's conviction for the murder of his 7-year-old stepdaughter.
Mr. Protess also found a career that has made him a media star, with a string of book and movie deals. He and his future students would go on to free 10 more convicted murderers and inspire former Illinois Gov. George Ryan to halt the death penalty in the state.
Now, state prosecutors in Chicago are trying to turn the legal and ethical tables on Mr. Protess and his students. Prosecutors have alleged the students paid informants and were acting as private investigators rather than journalists -- in a bid to strip them of protections under an Illinois shield law for reporters. At risk are the fates both of Mr. Protess's class and of Anthony McKinney, who was convicted of the 1978 murder of a security guard.
Mr. Protess, an alternately charming and pugnacious 63-year-old with a hint of a Brooklyn accent, said he has had good relations with prosecutors in the past. This time around, he said, they are engaged in a "smear campaign" motivated by "payback for previous embarrassments and pay-forward for cases my students are still investigating."
Cook County state's attorney Anita Alvarez, whose office has subpoenaed unpublished interviews, student grades and emails, says she just wants to get to the truth. "This is not writing for the newspaper, it's not writing a term paper," she says. "It's creating evidence for a criminal court."
Mr. Protess earned a doctorate in public policy from the University of Chicago in 1974, but he says he soon grew bored with pure academia.
"When I received my doctorate, the action was in journalism because of Watergate," he says. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose reporting led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, "were my heroes."
Mr. Protess gravitated toward investigative reporting, eventually writing for Chicago Lawyer magazine and other publications, while teaching at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.
A turning point came in 1990, when he and a team of students took on Mr. Dowaliby's case. The group's work led a key government witness to admit he couldn't be sure Mr. Dowaliby was the man he had seen near a Dumpster where the girl's body was found. A subsequent book by Mr. Protess and journalist Rob Warden was turned into a made-for-TV movie starring Shannen Doherty.
The case set a pattern in which Mr. Protess trained his investigative-journalism students and sent them off on real-life assignments.
Mr. Protess says he has received 15,000 requests for help from convicts since he set up the Medill Innocence Project in 1999. His students have investigated about 50 of them.
"There has to be some compelling doubt," he says. Grades aren't influenced by the outcome, just the quality of the work, he added.
Diana Samuels, now a 23-year-old reporter for the Palo Alto, Calif., Daily News, found evidence of guilt, not innocence, when she was poring over the phone records of a man convicted of armed robbery and murder in the case she investigated in 2008. A call placed to a rental-car company led her to a car spotted at the crime scene.
"He was a good actor," she says of the convict, who confessed he had been lying to the students, but "we tried to keep an open mind." She says she received an A in the class.
Mr. Protess says the students also kept an open mind in the case of Anthony McKinney, 49, who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1978 murder of Donald Lundahl.
With no physical evidence linking Mr. McKinney to the murder, the students used the television log for a boxing match to prove that two witnesses who said they watched the fight couldn't also have been at the scene of the crime when it was committed.
And they tracked down seven people who said a convicted murderer, Tony Drake, had confessed to the crime. They also taped Mr. Drake saying he was at the scene and Mr. McKinney wasn't.
Mr. Protess blogged about the case and turned over the students' work to Northwestern lawyers, who filed a petition in Cook County Circuit Court last year, seeking to vacate Mr. McKinney's conviction or obtain a new trial.
In a filing two weeks ago, prosecutors said Mr. Drake had recanted his statement. They also said Mr. Drake alleged that he received $40 in cash from a cab driver who had been given $60 by a private investigator working with the students.
Evan Benn, now a 27-year-old reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, says he, not the investigator, paid the driver $60 based on where Mr. Drake said he wanted to go. Mr. Benn says he told the driver, " 'Don't let him out early. Don't give him any of the money. No funny business.' "
Mr. Protess vows to press the case even if it lands him in jail for refusing to turn over the records. "This is not a fight I picked, but it's one I've come to embrace," he says.
Mental State Cited in 9/11 Case
by JESS BRAVIN
WASHINGTON -- When five defendants are brought before a New York federal judge to face charges for the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the first question may be whether some of them are competent to stand trial at all.
Military lawyers for Ramzi Binalshibh, an accused organizer of the 9/11 plot, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi, the conspiracy's alleged paymaster, say their clients have mental disorders that make them unfit for trial, likely caused or exacerbated by years of harsh confinement in Central Intelligence Agency custody.
The issue already has arisen in military-commission proceedings at the military's detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to an August ruling by a military judge, prosecutors have made an "apparent concession" that Mr. Binalshibh "suffers from a delusional disorder-persecutory type" disorder. Mr. Binalshibh has been prescribed "a variety of psychotropic medications used to treat schizophrenia and/or bipolar disorder, including Haldol, Abilify, risperidone and Ativan," according to commission records.
In October 2008, a military medical board reported Mr. Binalshibh may suffer from "severe mental disease" that could "impair his ability to conduct or cooperate intelligently in his defense."
A military attorney for Mr. Hawsawi, Lt. Cmdr. Gretchen Sosbee, said the military judge ordered a mental evaluation of her client, but its results haven't yet been entered into the record.
It long has been unconstitutional to prosecute people who are unable to understand proceedings against them or assist in their defense, whether in federal court, court-martial or military commission.
However, Cmdr. Suzanne Lachelier, a lawyer for Mr. Binalshibh, said a military judge has refused to allow a full examination into her client's condition, in particular by denying access to any information regarding his treatment in CIA custody between 2002 and 2006. An order by the judge, Col. Stephen Henley, said that information was "not relevant" to Mr. Binalshibh's condition.
In court papers, Cmdr. Lachelier cited Bush administration memorandums endorsing the use of sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and other harsh techniques intended to induce a prisoner's cooperation.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is not the only accused terrorist set to go on trial in New York. But WSJ's Jess Bravin says two of KSM's co-accused have mental competency issues that may jeopardize a trial.
Military records cited by the defense say Mr. Binalshibh "was seen 'acting out' in various manners, including breaking cameras placed in his cell" and covering cameras "with toilet paper...and with feces." At a June 2008 hearing, Mr. Binalshibh said "we're still in the black site" -- the term for CIA secret prisons. Mr. Binalshibh said he couldn't sleep because, among other reasons, his bunk is "always shaking automatically."
Much remains unknown about the prisoners' mental state, and prosecutors may have evidence to demonstrate their fitness that isn't currently public.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment specifically on the mental-capacity issue but said the government expects "a host of motions" to be filed. "It's the job of prosecutors to anticipate these challenges and plan their cases accordingly, and that is certainly being done in this case," he said.
A strong defense case for mental unfitness may force prosecutors to choose between unappealing options. They could sever Messrs. Binalshibh and Hawsawi from the joint conspiracy trial, allowing the case against the defendants whose capacity isn't at issue to proceed.
That would deprive prosecutors of a favored tool in conspiracy cases, because a joint trial allows the alleged guilt of one defendant to be imputed to the others. In this case, where the notoriety of alleged 9/11 organizer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed far exceeds that of his co-defendants, the separation could be beneficial to Messrs. Binalshibh or Hawsawi should they contest the charges.
If federal prosecutors decide to pursue a joint trial, proceedings will have to wait until each defendant's fitness is established.
In determining competence, "the key issue is the capacity to assist counsel," said Norman Poythress, a University of South Florida specialist in mental-health law.
Last year, the Supreme Court established a two-tier system of mental capacity, allowing judges to find defendants able to stand trial yet unfit to represent themselves. Mr. Mohammed and two co-defendants -- Walid bin Attash and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali -- have been acting as their own attorneys before the military commission. Mr. Binalshibh asked to do so, but was denied until his mental competence has been determined.