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NEWS -- 2008.12.01.Monday -- World AIDS Day

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  • James Martin
    1) Pridelets for December 1 2) Movie comment -- MILK 3) Sean Penn goes gay - dying for another Oscar? 4) Milk exposes paradox for screen s leading men 5)
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2008
      1) Pridelets for December 1

      2) Movie comment -- MILK
      3) Sean Penn goes gay - dying for another Oscar?

      4) 'Milk' exposes paradox for screen's leading men
      5) Growing research suggests being gay is not 'a choice'
      6) S.F. AIDS Ward 86 - 25 years of saving lives

      7) 9 most important AIDS stories of 2008

      8) Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC -- Before Its Debut, Cathedral Organ Has a Sound Check
      9) Awash in New Light, Angels Are Revealed

      from Thomas Allen Heald, Esquire tomalhe@...
      Pridelets for December 1
      On this day in 2005, South Africa's highest court recognizes a
      lesbian marriage December 1, and gives the country's parliament a year
      to extend legal marital rights to all same-sex couples.

      BIRTHGAYS (and the occasional straights)
      * 1869 - Poet George Sterling
      * 1886 - Nero Wolf creator, mystery writer Rex Stout
      * 1945 - Gay icon, The Divine Ms. M: Bette Midler
      * 1976 - Student Matthew Wayne Shepard


      Movie comment --
      I saw MILK today.
      It is an absolute must see.
      This movie is just as important as Brokeback Mountain. Actually more important. Much more important.

      As a friend said, "In addition to being a biographical piece, it is also a historical piece providing context for the modern gay/civil rights movement: where we've been and where we need to go."

      Sean Penn should receive "Best Actor" for his portrayal of Harvey Milk. As another friend said, "Sean
      Penn is the first heterosexual actor I've ever seen who really seemed like an out gay man."


      Sean Penn goes gay - dying for another Oscar?


      Los Angeles Times
      Saturday, November 29, 2009
      Gold Derby blog

      Sean Penn goes gay - dying for another Oscar?

      Good news for Sean Penn fans: At the end of "Milk" - SPOILER ALERT - you get to watch your hero get blown away by gunfire.

      Sorry, but that seems to be the price Penn must pay if he wants to win another Oscar to match the chunk of academy gold he nabbed for 2003's "Mystic River." That's because gay roles that win Academy Awards for actors almost always must suffer ghastly deaths.

      No star has ever won an Oscar for portraying a gay person who lives happily ever after. The character of Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) gets to live, yes, at the end of "Capote," but we know that he'll end up croaking from booze and pills someday while stumbling around Joanne Carson's house in Beverly Hills.

      The five other roles that paid off with Oscars have horrible ends on screen: Tom Hanks dies of AIDS in "Philadelphia," Hilary Swank gets beaten to death in "Boys Don't Cry," Nicole Kidman commits suicide in "The Hours," Charlize Theron is executed in "Monster," and William Hurt gets shot - much like Sean Penn - in "Kiss of the Spider Woman."

      If you don't count roles that just hint at a character's homosexuality (Paul Newman in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" or Tom Courtenay in "The Dresser") or the transsexual characters played by Felicity Huffman ("Transamerica") and John Lithgow ("The World According to Garp"), I've counted up 26 gay roles that have been nominated for Oscars. (Have I missed any? If so, click the comments link below.)

      Ten get killed off. Some snuff themselves: Kathy Bates uses a pistol in "Primary Colors," Ian McKellen drowns himself in "Gods and Monsters," Ed Harris jumps out a window in "The Hours." Some die of AIDS: Javier Bardem in "Before Night Falls" and Bruce Davison in "Longtime Companion."

      The fact that Sean Penn is heterosexual in real life hikes his Oscar hopes significantly. No gay person has ever won an Academy Award for playing gay, and only two openly homosexual actors have been nominated for portraying someone with a lavender lilt: James Coco and Ian McKellen. Coco wasn't officially and fully "out" of the closet, but he was candid about his private life to friends and colleagues and frequently flaunted a flamboyant nature in public.


      (X = Winner)

      Estelle Parsons ("Rachel, Rachel") (1968)

      Peter Finch, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (1971)

      Al Pacino, "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975)

      Chris Sarandon, "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975)

      Marcello Mastroianni, "A Special Day" (1977)

      James Coco, "Only When I Laugh" (1981)

      Robert Preston, "Victor, Victoria" (1982)

      Cher, "Silkwood" (1983)

      X - William Hurt, "Kiss of the Spider Woman" (1985)

      Bruce Davison, "Longtime Companion" (1990)

      Tommy Lee Jones, "JFK" (1991)

      Jaye Davidson, "The Crying Game" (1992)

      X - Tom Hanks, "Philadelphia" (1993)

      Greg Kinnear, "As Good as It Gets" (1997)

      Ian McKellen, "Gods and Monsters" (1998)

      Kathy Bates, "Primary Colors" (1998)

      X - Hilary Swank, "Boys Don't Cry" (1999)

      Javier Bardem, "Before Night Falls" (2000)

      Ed Harris, "The Hours" (2002)

      X - Nicole Kidman, "The Hours" (2002)

      Julianne Moore, "The Hours" (2002)

      X - Charlize Theron, "Monster" (2003)

      X - Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote" (2005)

      Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain" (2005)

      Jake Gyllenhaal, "Brokeback Mountain" (2005)

      Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal" (2006)



      Chicago Tribune
      Sunday, November 23, 2008

      'Milk' exposes paradox for screen's leading men

      By Mark Caro
      Tribune reporter

      Gus Van Sant's "Milk" isn't just a mainstream-minded Oscar candidate; it's also a rallying cry.

      With Sean Penn starring as Harvey Milk, the openly gay San Francisco supervisor who was gunned down in 1978, the movie (which opens Wednesday) makes its message clear: Gay people must be "out" to be counted.

      It's a timely theme given California's passage of anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 this month, but there's also a certain irony:

      Here's a broadly targeted movie with marquee actors (James Franco, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch co-star), yet not only is none of the featured players openly gay, there isn't one openly gay leading man in all of Hollywood. Even as gay people have become far more prominent and comfortable in culture and everyday life in the 30 years since Milk's death, not a single current A-list movie actor is "out."

      Could it be that big movie stars simply don't swing that way? That lead actors defy all percentages and likelihood to remain a strictly heterosexual crowd?

      Or is the more logical explanation that while Hollywood preaches openness, it is fearful to practice it?

      "It's the last frontier, and it will remain the last frontier for quite some time," said Bruce Bibby, who as Ted Casablanca writes the popular gossip column "The Awful Truth" for E! Online. "Some of our biggest moneymakers right now are absolute boy-on-boy kind of boys. It's America's dirty little secret. If they only knew."

      We won't play the who-is-and-who-isn't game here.

      But it's worth noting that at a time when everyone seems to know everything about everyone, and careers move on in spite of arrests, sex tapes, addiction-rehab cycles, affairs and babies out of wedlock, public acknowledgment of homosexuality remains a formidable taboo among top movie talent.

      The most cited reason is money.

      Van Sant, who is openly gay, laughingly called this an issue of "merchandising," noting that over the last decade leading men have become "industries within themselves."

      "They're almost like industrial conglomerates," Van Sant said.

      "Hollywood does not like anything that's going to threaten its bottom line," said Michael Jensen, editor of afterelton.com, a Web site devoted to gay and bisexual men in entertainment. "The idea of a gay leading man in a movie that's going to have a budget around $100 million-getting a studio to be the first one to take that chance is a challenging thing to do."

      As for the actors, Jensen continued, "there are already so many reasons for a casting director to turn a person down, and being an openly gay actor trying to get a romantic lead role, you're just giving them another reason."

      The absence of gay lead actors-and, yes, we are talking primarily of men-stands in stark contrast to the progress activists say has been made in other areas. "The images in the media 30 years ago and the images today are vastly, vastly different," said Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). "You had 'Three's Company,' an over-the-top caricature of a gay man, and the other characters ridiculed him. Today a show like that would not be aired. We have 'Brothers & Sisters,' we have 'Desperate Housewives,' 'Ugly Betty.' Those are real portrayals."

      A gay character on a TV show is no longer news, though GLAAD has tabulated that just 16 of 663 prime-time characters, or 2.6 percent, are gay. Openly gay celebrities in themselves also are no longer such an anomaly.

      Singers Clay Aiken and Lance Bass have come out, as did comedian Wanda Sykes just last week. Elton John remains a huge concert draw and classic-rock fixture, and Ellen DeGeneres is welcomed into millions of American homes on her daytime talk show, just as Rosie O'Donnell was on "The View" and her own show.

      "People who watch and adore Ellen DeGeneres don't care one iota that she is gay, and they've known she is for a long time," said Mark Urman, distribution president for Summit Entertainment. "That is a very mainstream audience."

      Then again, DeGeneres and O'Donnell have done little acting since they opened up about their sexuality. People accept them for themselves, but it's unclear whether they'd accept them as anyone else.

      This leads to a dynamic in which heterosexual actors such as Penn or Tom Hanks (in "Philadelphia") have no problems being believed as gay men-or murderers or mentally challenged characters-yet there's much doubt that an openly gay actor could be convincing carrying a romance with the opposite sex.

      There also may be different standards for women and men. Although Jodie Foster does not discuss her personal life, while accepting an award late last year she thanked "my beautiful Cydney" in reference to the woman widely acknowledged to be her partner. Cynthia Nixon's revelation that she is a lesbian had no effect on her participation in this year's smash "Sex and the City" movie, and if anything, Lindsay Lohan has received more sympathetic press since she began dating DJ Samantha Ronson (and stopped acting so erratically).

      Back on the male side, Ian McKellen is probably the most prominent "out" movie actor, having co-starred in the lucrative "Lord of the Rings" and "X-Men" franchises. But at 69, McKellen is well beyond the typical leading-man age, and he's British, which comes with a different set of cultural associations. The dashing Rupert Everett also is British, and his career never took off after he opened up about his sexuality.

      The greatest male success story may be TV's Neil Patrick Harris, who is openly gay yet plays an enjoyably obnoxious straight man on "How I Met Your Mother." T.R. Knight also continues to fare well on "Grey's Anatomy" despite having essentially been outed by reports of former co-star Isaiah Washington's directing an anti-gay slur at him on set.

      But neither star is being asked to sell millions of multiplex tickets. Nor are those actors who have come out well after the peaks of their careers, such as Richard Chamberlain. Rock Hudson acknowledged his homosexuality only after he was terminally ill with AIDS in 1985.

      Bibby has written a number of much-speculated-about blind items about a closeted actor dubbed Toothy Tile, who he reported was close to going public with his sexuality until his agents and publicists persuaded him not to-a situation far from unique.

      "Toothy Tile is a big star, but Toothy Tile wants to remain a big star, and that's the problem," said Bibby, who is gay himself. "Hollywood is a very creative community, and the creative arts have always been totally homo filled. But it's first and foremost a business. We've got to sell the product out to the masses in the rest of the country where it's not so gay filled."

      The question is whether the industry's and actors' fears are justified or whether a megastar's coming out might not be such a big deal after all.

      Giuliano hopes his own experience could serve as an example. He'd been the mayor of Tempe, Ariz., for two years when he came out, and he was re-elected four times to serve eight more years.

      "I had a very misplaced understanding and a very misplaced fear of what life would be like if I was more authentic and more honest and more out," the GLAAD leader said.

      Urman said that at this point, "I don't think that anything to do with anybody's sexual orientation would or could harm somebody's career."

      Bibby isn't so optimistic. "My opinion is it would be painful at first because America has shown it has such a fear of gay people," he said. "It would be very rough going for an actor to find that out, and I don't blame them for not wanting to find that out. They're not politicians. They're performers. They don't want to be held accountable for America's discomfort about homosexuality."



      Growing research suggests being gay is not 'a choice'
      By Mike Swift

      San Jose Mercury News

      Posted: 11/29/2008 07:13:00 PM PST


      Compared with straight men, gay men are more likely to be left-handed, to be the younger siblings of older brothers, and to have hair that whorls in a counterclockwise direction.

      Researchers are finding common biological traits among gay men, feeding a growing consensus that sexual orientation is an inborn combination of genetic and environmental factors that largely decide a person's sexual attractions before they are born.

      Such findings - including a highly anticipated study this winter - would further inform the debate over whether homosexuality is innate or a choice, an undercurrent of the recent Proposition 8 campaign in which television commercials warned that "schools would begin teaching second-graders that boys could marry boys," suggesting homosexuality would then spread.

      Some scientists say the political and moral debate over same-sex marriage frequently strayed from established scientific evidence, including comments by vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin that homosexuality is "a choice" and "a decision."

      Until 2007, CNN polls had found that a majority of Americans believed gay people could change their sexual orientation if they chose to; it was only last year that a majority for the first time said homosexuality was an inborn trait. Christian groups such as Exodus International argue "that homosexuals who desire to change can do so." One prominent psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Spitzer of Columbia University, found controversial evidence that therapy can cause some gay people to change to a heterosexual orientation, although the study concluded that a "complete change" was uncommon.

      While sexual behavior may be chosen, the preponderance of researchers say attraction is dictated by biology, with no demonstrated contribution from social factors such as parenting or other factors after birth.

      A host of studies since the mid-1990s have found common biological traits between gay men, including left-handedness and the direction of hair whorls. The likelihood that if one identical twin is gay, the other will also be gay is much higher than the "concordance" of homosexuality between fraternal twins, indicating that genes play a role in sexual orientation, but are not the entire cause.

      "In the past decade, I think the pendulum has swung more toward biological theory and biological causes," said Richard Lippa, a psychology professor at California State University-Fullerton, who has studied hair patterns and other biological traits in gay men."

      Sven Bocklandt, a geneticist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, is bewildered by the argument that people choose their sexual attraction. He said that virtually every animal species that has been studied - from sheep to fruit flies - has a small minority of individuals who demonstrate homosexual activity.

      "I really believe the reason most humans are straight is the same reason that most crocodiles are straight, and the same reason most whales are straight," Bocklandt said. "Nature would not leave something so important for reproduction, for the survival of the species, to coincidence."

      Less understood is the degree to which sexual orientation is determined by genes or environmental factors, such as hormones or immunological factors that may act on a fetus. What scientists call "the fraternal birth order effect," the fact that each successive boy born to the same mother has a greater chance of being gay, may be due to an increasing immunological response by a mother's body to each male fetus in her womb.

      Long discredited are theories that parenting - one mid-20th century theory held that boys raised by a domineering mother with a distant father were more likely to be gay - has anything to do with sexual orientation.

      Evidence of that, said Michael Bailey, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, comes from studies of genetically male infants born with malformed or ambiguous genitals. In many such cases, surgeons would construct a vagina, and instruct parents to raise the child as a girl, with no knowledge of his medical history.

      As adults, those prenatally male/postnatally female people were virtually all attracted to women, Bailey said.

      "If you can't make a male attracted to other males by cutting off his penis, castrating him and rearing him as a girl, then how likely is any social explanation of male homosexuality?" he said.

      Researchers are eagerly awaiting a DNA study of male siblings with at least one gay brother by Bailey and other scientists at Northwestern University due in early 2009, because it may shed light on the role genetics plays in sexual attraction. By researching 800 sets of brothers, by far the largest study of its type, the Northwestern study is searching for the specific genes that influence some brothers to be gay and others to be heterosexual.

      Women may have more fluidity of sexual expression than men, but that doesn't mean they don't have a specific sexual orientation, said Lisa Diamond, a professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah who studies female sexual orientation.

      One explanation is that women's sexual behavior is driven more by relationships.

      For some women, "your sexual orientation does not provide the last word on the sorts of behaviors and identities you might experience in your lifetime," Diamond said. "Some lesbian women are predominantly attracted to women, but some of them have found themselves becoming incredibly close to their best male friends, sometimes having sex with them. It does not make them straight. It's not, since you had a one-night stand with your male friend, that you can choose to become straight."

      Contact Mike Swift at (408) 271-3648 or at mswift@....


      S.F. AIDS Ward 86 - 25 years of saving lives

      San Francisco Chronicle

      S.F. AIDS Ward 86 - 25 years of saving lives

      By Elizabeth Fernandez,
      Chronicle Staff Writer
      Monday, December 1, 2008

      In the corridors of Ward 86, he's known as Patient Zero - the man willing to subject himself to any new medical trial that might help solve the riddle of HIV.

      Richard Apodaca has doused his feet in the fiery oils of habanero chiles; he's held pungent antiseptic in his mouth for long stretches; he even volunteered for an eyeball biopsy - the grateful doctor gave him a few McDonald's gift certificates as thanks.

      Apodaca was at death's threshold many times, suffering nearly every major illness associated with AIDS. He's had thrush and fungus, his weight has dropped to 112 pounds, his skin sheds like a snake's; most years, he had bronchitis from October to March. During one particularly painful period, he told his doctors he would abandon all medications and "join my friends in heaven."

      But now, a quarter century after being diagnosed as HIV-positive, Apodaca, 65, is essentially a well man, running marathons and volunteering for AIDS causes around the globe.

      The credit, he says, goes to San Francisco General Hospital's Ward 86.

      Today, on World AIDS Day, the clinic is commemorating its 25th anniversary. It's the oldest HIV/AIDS outpatient clinic in the world. Founded by AIDS pioneers Drs. Paul Volberding, Donald Abrams and Constance Wofsy, the clinic sees 3,000 patients annually, ranging in age from 18 to 82.

      Now it's planning to launch a special program that would have been unheard of even a decade ago - a mini-geriatric clinic.

      "It used to be that the average life expectancy was 18 months," said Dr. C. Bradley Hare, medical director of the clinic, known as the Positive Health Program. "But HIV is not a disease of 18 months anymore. We never thought we would need a geriatric program, but now our patients have some of the diseases of old age - osteoporosis, heart disease, kidney disease."

      Ward 86 clinicians have watched a profound transformation of the disease during the last quarter century - once a fatal enigma, HIV has become for many a manageable condition. According to the most recent data from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.1 million Americans live with HIV.

      Still, the disease remains a significant health threat, disproportionately affecting gay and bisexual men and some minority groups. While the number of new infections has stabilized since the late 1990s, amounting to about 56,000 known infections annually, many Americans are unaware that they are infected, despite years of prevention outreach.

      In San Francisco, the first cases of HIV in San Francisco surfaced at General Hospital in 1981.

      Ward 86 opened two years later, followed six months later by Ward 5B, an inpatient unit.

      Dr. Diane Havlir was a young physician when she joined San Francisco General for her residency in 1984. The AIDS clinic changed her life - she wound up devoting her medical career to the disease.

      "I had seen some suffering in patients, but not to the extent that I saw with patients here - the emaciation, the disfiguring diseases," said Havlir, a professor of medicine at UCSF and chief of the HIV/AIDS program at General Hospital. "Here were young men in their 20s having impairments that we would usually see in nursing homes.

      "This was an epidemic that came out of nowhere. There was a lot of fear. But not only did San Francisco General Hospital keep its doors open to these patients, it welcomed them."

      The death toll mounted - reaching a peak of 2,400 AIDS deaths annually in San Francisco in the early 1990s.

      HIV is a particularly agile virus, said Havlir, but a medical watershed occurred in 1996 with the introduction of combination anti-retroviral therapy, which began to significantly reduce AIDS morbidity. Havlir was among the first to evaluate combination regimens to treat HIV.

      "Once we put three drugs together, it was a game-changer," she said.

      Now the biggest challenges, she said, are developing a vaccine, treating people with multiple diseases and delivering HIV medications globally.

      Along with providing primary care, the Positive Health Program conducts clinical research and educational training - Ward 86 clinicians regularly travel to Africa to help train health care providers.

      The clinic recently underwent some renovations including new flooring and upgrades to the phlebotomy lab and the social work room. The waiting room is also being redone - in coming weeks, it will feature a flat-screen TV and a computer station for patient education.

      For an old-timer like Richard Apodaca, the panoply of changes around the disease is simply breathtaking.

      "The early days were so scary," he said. "It wasn't unusual to go to two or three funerals a week. Things are so completely different now. I used to have to take dozens of pills for AIDS, now I just take six. I remember once, years ago, I left the clinic thinking I was going home to die. I never thought I'd see my 50s. Now I worry about my blood pressure and cholesterol.

      "By the grace of Ward 86, I'm alive. They refused to give up on me."

      World AIDS Day events

      San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center

      What: An open house and a speakers' program to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its HIV/AIDS program.

      Open house: 12:30 to 2 p.m., Ward 86, 995 Potrero Ave. by 22nd Street, Building 80, 6th Floor.

      Speakers' program: 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Carr Auditorium, 22nd Street and San Bruno Avenue.

      Topics: "Is a Cure in Sight?" and "Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies."

      For more information: (415) 476-4082 ext. 126

      The National AIDS Memorial Grove

      What: An observance from noon to 1 p.m. focusing on the theme "Coming of Age with AIDS."

      Where: The memorial is located in Golden Gate Park at the corner of Bowling Green Drive and Middle Drive East.

      For information: (415) 765-0497 or visit www.aidsmemorial.org

      The San Francisco AIDS Foundation

      What: Public awareness campaign, 7 to 9 a.m.

      Purpose: To raise public awareness among commuters about HIV and AIDS.

      Where: 10 transit spots around the Bay Area, including the Civic Center BART Station and the Castro Street Muni Station in San Francisco, the MacArthur BART Station in Oakland and the Downtown Berkeley BART Station.

      For more information: Debra Holtz at (415) 487-3071.

      E-mail Elizabeth Fernandez at efernandez@...


      9 most important AIDS stories of 2008



      9 most important AIDS stories of 2008

      By Allison Steinberg,
      Special to 365gay.com
      12.01.2008 8:20am EST

      Today, Dec. 1, is the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day, an international day of reflection around the epidemic, which is still uncured.

      About 33 million worldwide have HIV - thousands remain unaware that they have the virus.

      Worldwide, World AIDS Day is marked by conferences, sporting events, galas, and grassroots and government-sponsored outreach programs - we remember it with our annual list of the most important HIV/AIDS stories of the year.

      As the World AIDS Campaign announced, "whilst we have come a long ways since 1988, there is still much more to be done."

      1. International AIDS Conference in Mexico City

      The 17th annual International AIDS conference convened in Mexico City this past August.

      More than 23,000 prominent figures in the plight towards AIDS research, treatment, education, and awareness gathered in Mexico City in August to share their findings from the past year.

      The attendees addressed worldwide issues from women and children with AIDS, to HIV and transgender persons, prisoners, and refugees.

      AIDS 2008 International Chair and IAS President Dr. Pedro Cahn declared in his closing speech that, "this conference has given out a message of hope for all people living with HIV and AIDS."

      2. CDC reports AIDS spreading faster than anticipated

      Also in August, a special HIV/AIDS issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association published its findings on estimates for new HIV infections in the United States.

      The latest report, which compiled data from 2002-2006, showed that prior estimates of new infections were low.

      The rate by which new viruses are spreading is actually 40 percent higher than previously believed, representing about 56,000 new cases of HIV in 2006.

      The article noted that people in their 30s accounted for the most new infections and that 73 percent were men. The report also found that men who have sex with men represented 53 percent of all new cases.

      3. Part of the U.S. HIV travel ban lifted

      Congress voted in July to expand PEPFAR, the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, to provide an additional $48 billion dollars for the fight against AIDS, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.

      Perhaps even more poignantly, the bill also repealed the part of the travel ban preventing the free movement of HIV-positive people into the U.S. for 20 years.

      In a radio address on July 26, President Bush spoke to the nation about the new legislation, declaring that, "fighting disease is one part of America's larger commitment to help struggling nations build more hopeful futures of freedom."

      4. Call for a national AIDS strategy

      More than 100 organizations from around the country have banded together to press President-elect Barack Obama to formulate a comprehensive national policy to address the AIDS crisis.

      Krishna Stone, spokeswoman for the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), believes that this coming together of forces is due to a growing "let's look at what's going on in our own backyard" mentality, instead of focusing all strategy on Africa.

      The U.S. to date has no national strategy for fighting AIDS here at home.

      5. Bono joins Starbucks to help AIDS victims

      U2 star Bono made a surprise visit to a Starbucks managerial meeting this past October - surprising even his band members - as part of his continued efforts to raise money for The Global Fund, which provides support to help fight AIDS and other illnesses.

      Starting in January 2009, the peppermint mocha twist, gingersnap latte, and espresso truffle will all be "red" beverages, with some of the profits allocated to help purchase anti-retroviral drugs and other necessities for those lacking the means to access proper HIV treatment.

      6. Rapid HIV testing in an ER boosts diagnoses, screening

      The Emergency Department at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit conducted a study with alarming results.

      They found that one in 50 people screened with new rapid-test HIV equipment were positive.

      Researchers hope to inspire others to do HIV screening in their emergency departments, saying that this method, which is not widely practiced, will expose cases that would otherwise remain unknown.

      Indira Brar, M.D., lead author of the study, reported, "we know that people are more likely to modify risk behaviors and less likely to transmit or acquire infection if they know whether they are HIV positive or not. By offering more testing resources, as our study reflected, we can boost ways to diagnose infections and accelerate progress in reducing the HIV epidemic."

      7. Nobel Prize for Medicine awarded to discoverers of HIV

      Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier were awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in medicine this October for discovering the HIV virus.

      The two French scientists uncovered the virus in 1981 by studying lymph nodes from patients with similar symptoms. They were able to isolate viral cells by 1984. AIDS now affects an estimated 1% of the global population.

      The award was shared with Harald zur Hausen, who discovered HPV.

      8. Internet-based "living" AIDS quilt launched in New Orleans

      A virtual, interactive "living quilt" was launched on the web recently in an attempt to increase awareness around the spread of AIDS among women, particularly minorities, in the South.

      Two New Orleans-based groups - the Southern AIDS Coalition and the National Minority Quality Forum's Test for Life campaign - headed up this effort to "empower, encourage, and educate."

      The quilt has different images of different women, including patients, doctors, assistants, and related others from the community. Visitors to the site can click on each image to read more about the person and watch a video about her individual story.

      9. Doctors say marrow transplant may have cured AIDS

      A 42-year old man living with AIDS underwent a bone marrow transplant normally used to treat cancer that may have rendered his HIV positive status negative.

      The patient, an American taking up residence in Berlin, had been living with the disease for 10 years when he agreed to try this aggressive treatment option. He stopped taking his normal medications and was subject to intense radiation to kill infected cells in his bone marrow- a procedure that kills 20-30% of patients- after which they replaced his virus-ridden bone marrow with the 1 in 62 marrow that has tested HIV-resistant.

      It's not certain whether the virus will come back, but he's tested negative for 20 months now and doctors are hopeful that he will remain virus-free.


      Comment --
      The Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City has long supported civil rights for all.
      The damage from the devastating fire of 2001 has been repaired, rebuild, restored. This Cathedral too is a must see next time you are in New York. I saw it two years ago when only 1/3 of it was open. The restoration is incredible.

      New York Times
      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/26/nyregion/26organ.html (picture at URL)

      November 26, 2008
      Before Its Debut, Cathedral Organ Has a Sound Check
      Bruce Neswick slid onto the organ bench, loosened his tie and started improvising - first some chords, then a couple of runs, then something meditative that sounded very much like a prelude for a Sunday morning worship service.

      But it was not Sunday morning, it was Tuesday afternoon. And Mr. Neswick's improvisations were the first music played on the organ at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine since a fire in December 2001.

      The impromptu recital by Mr. Neswick, the director of cathedral music at St. John the Divine, was another milestone in the cathedral's $41 million comeback from the fire. It was also brief preparation for a rededication service on Sunday that will include a piece by Ralph Vaughan Williams that was first performed at the cathedral 67 years ago.

      The Sunday service will include a first performance of its own: One of the hymns to be sung is brand new. It was written by the Rev. Canon Victoria R. Sirota, the cathedral's canon pastor and vicar. Her husband, Robert Sirota, the president of the Manhattan School of Music, composed the music.

      Mr. Neswick will play the last two hymns in the rededication service and the postlude, "Fanfare" by Alec Wyton, who was the organist and master of the choristers from 1954 to 1974. Timothy Brumfield, the cathedral's associate organist and choirmaster, will play the prelude and the opening hymns.

      The organ's 8,500 pipes have been making sounds for the last few weeks as the instrument has gone through what Douglass Hunt, the cathedral's organ curator and the project consultant on the restoration, called the three T's - "tuning, testing and troubleshooting."

      The tuning went on before and after Mr. Neswick's 20 minutes at the console, with a tuner named Joe Nielsen playing note after note on cue from Eric Johnson, an organ voicer who was standing amid the pipes, in a chamber on the opposite side of the cathedral.

      They were tuning flutelike stops at fairly low volume when Mr. Neswick arrived. As they worked their way up the scale, the pitches became higher and higher. It was hard to listen for more than a moment without thinking of the sounds in a hearing test, or of a tea kettle that has been on the stove a little too long.

      The 98-year-old organ was designed by Ernest M. Skinner, who also built the organ at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, among many others. This one was enlarged in the 1950s by G. Donald Harrison.

      As part of the current restoration, all 8,500 organ pipes were taken out and shipped to Missouri in 2005. They were cleaned by Quimby Pipe Organs, which builds and restores instruments of a scale approaching this one.

      They were brought back this summer, and the organ console was moved into place above the choir loft last month.

      The mechanical controls inside the organ console are brand new. The old mechanical relays that controlled the pipes are gone, replaced by a new system with microprocessors.

      Mr. Neswick said a goal of the restoration had been to introduce "just the right amount of modern technology without interfering with the artistry of the instrument."

      The rebuilding was necessitated by the 2001 fire, a five-alarm blaze that apparently started in the gift shop. It gutted the north transept; smoke dirtied much of the 601-foot-long sanctuary. Two 17th-century Italian tapestries from a set of 12 depicting the life of Christ were also damaged.

      The work on the organ was delayed briefly around Labor Day, when a drainage pipe that was being replaced in the cathedral spilled dirty water into the newly refurbished organ chambers.

      Michael Quimby, the president of the company that rebuilt the organ, said the accident increased the pressure on the team installing the instrument as the Sunday rededication drew near. "Where we thought we'd have plenty of time to put the organ through its paces," he said, "it's really down to the wire because of that situation."

      Mr. Neswick played for a while before letting Mr. Nielsen and Mr. Johnson go back to tuning. Mr. Neswick did not try what Mr. Hunt called "the most famous organ stop anywhere," the organ's state trumpet stop. It plays the horizontal pipes at the west end of the cathedral, more than 500 feet from the console and the rest of the pipes.

      The state trumpet stop was designed to be loud - so loud that organists who are practicing sometimes call the visitors' center to warn people. They still jump at the first note.

      "The idea was the state trumpet stop would only be used on state occasions, to announce the bishop on Easter Sunday, when he knocks at the great bronze doors," Mr. Hunt said. "But it has become a voice of the place."


      New York Times
      Monday 01 December 2008

      Awash in New Light, Angels Are Revealed
      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/01/nyregion/01cathedral.html (picture at URL)

      December 1, 2008
      Awash in New Light, Angels Are Revealed
      The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, and one of the city's premier architectural monuments, was rededicated on Sunday, seven years after a smoky fire blackened its vast interior and decommissioned its 8,500-pipe organ.

      Church leaders and public officials, including New York's two senators, hailed the occasion with sermons and speeches during a three-hour service filled with pageantry, dance and the visceral, booming chords of the church's restored great organ, heard publicly for the first time since the fire.

      But among the several thousand people who packed the cathedral on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on Sunday, few could be more thankful than regular congregation members who endured the seven-year cleanup with a mix of patience and exasperation. Year after year, their worship services had been shoehorned behind partitions in different sections and corners of the church to accommodate the work in progress.

      "In the beginning, the prayer books smelled of smoke and you'd sometimes sit there and a piece of soot would just float down from the ceiling," said Sandra Schubert, a longtime member of the congregation of about 400 people.

      Some with asthma stayed away.

      But most attended services in whichever part of the cathedral the folding chairs had been set up. "If you belong to a church, that is your church," said Marsha Ra, a retired librarian who was an usher at Sunday's service. "It's a community."

      Sunday's service marked the first time since the fire that most had seen the entire 200-yard-long interior of the cathedral unobstructed by scaffolding or partition walls.

      More than that, it was the first time many had ever seen details of the original workmanship of the church. Erected piecemeal between the turn of the century and 1941, the building interior, even before the fire, had acquired a sooty coating of urban plaque.

      In that sense, the restoration was like a revelation.

      "There is so much light!" said Sylvia Bellusci, a retired social worker who, until the fire, used to give guided tours of the cathedral. "The angels in the columns up there, you couldn't see that before," she said, pointing toward the bas-relief on the column capitals about 200 feet up. "The proportions of everything, it just seems so much more clear."

      Longtime churchgoers said the scrubbing of the stone walls lightened them by so many shades that the light now entering the cathedral through its stained-glass windows seemed to be multiplied many times. The stone of the main pulpit, for instance, once a murky gray, now appeared as white as the robes of the children in the choir.

      Carved details in the statuary, engravings in the stone corners of chapels - shades of meaning everywhere one looked, they said - had come to life as if for the first time.

      Bishop Mark S. Sisk seemed to refer to the phenomenon when he said during his invocation, "Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light."

      The general sense of amazement at just how nice the place looked inspired more than one parishioner to cite the wisdom of an old saying - "What does not kill me, makes me stronger" - a phrase, whether they knew it or not, credited to Friedrich Nietzsche, the famously non-churchgoing atheistic thinker.

      In fact, for two years after the fire, there was some question about how thoroughly the church would be cleaned.

      The cathedral's administrators haggled with an insurance company over how much cleaning was the responsibility of the company, said Jonathan Korzen, communications director for St. John. "It was the usual haggling: 'Does the church have to clean up every single speck of dust, especially if some of that dust was just there from 80 years of accumulated New York soot?' " Mr. Korzen said, describing the insurance company's position.

      "Our position was, 'This is an exciting opportunity to restore the cathedral to its original beauty.' " At $41 million, most of it paid by insurance, the rest by private donors, the church apparently realized the full potential of its opportunity.

      Robert Holzmaier, chief of the New York Fire Department's 11th Battalion, which helped to put out the six-alarm fire that erupted in the wiring of the cathedral's gift shop on Dec. 18, 2001, two months after the 9/11 attacks, led a contingent of firefighters invited to participate in Sunday's ceremony.

      Most of the damage was caused by smoke, he said, and while efforts were made to limit harm to the cathedral's stained-glass windows and great carved doors, the inch-deep water throughout the 123,000 square feet of floor space, and the soot covering tapestries and every inch of the stone interior, made the aftermath "a real bad mess."

      "You do not ever want a fire in your house," Chief Holzmaier said.

      The Very Rev. Dr. James A. Kowalski, dean of the cathedral, made the lengthy and painstaking restoration of that house the theme of his sermon, urging his listeners to bring faith and stamina to the many challenges facing the city, the nation and the world.

      "Engagement," he said - in the struggle for peace and social justice - "is the only expression of faith that honors God."

      St. John the Divine has long been positioned within the liberal wing of the Episcopal Church, which has been divided in recent years, along with the worldwide Anglican Communion, over the ordination of gay clergy and the celebration of same-sex unions.

      The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to be the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, gave a brief address, though neither she nor Reverend Kowalski referred in their remarks to the disputes roiling their denomination.

      Sunday, it seemed, was for the celebration of a singular achievement of restoration.

      At the beginning and the end of the service, a procession of clergy and acolytes made the circuit of the church interior, the minister in front swinging an incense pot, filling air that had once been choked by fiery smoke with a sweeter scent.

      Along the way, they passed tapestries, statues, stained-glass windows, iron gates, stone walls - every spot of which had been cleaned by someone who found it covered in soot.

      Tourists and others who did not have seats, or who had wandered in while passing by on Amsterdam Avenue, between 111th and 112th Streets, craned to take video and pictures of the procession as it passed the front doors, 601 feet straight back from the crucifix in the sanctuary.

      Security guards kept them against the wall, cautioning them against using flashes.

      Steven Moore, a pharmacy technician and jazz musician who was among the latecomers, waited until the service concluded and the cathedral was emptying before he found a seat about midway down on the center aisle.

      He sat there, in his rain-drenched parka, and fixed his gaze on the stained-glass window high up in the apse. He said he was not a member of the church.

      "I just come here because it's my favorite building in New York," he said. "The scale of this place. The way the sound travels. The light. It makes you aware of what's important."


      other columns on the Cathedral --


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