AIDS/HIV No Longer A Barrier To U.S. Entry; Obama Changes A 22-Year-Old Rule

Blood testing in a medical facility in Ethiopia.
Image via Wikipedia

Today’s New York Times reports the lifting of a 22-year-old rule, barring those testing positive for HIV and AIDS from visiting or immigrating to the U.S.:

“Under the ban, United States health authorities have been required to list H.I.V. infection as a “communicable disease of public health significance.” Under immigration law, most foreigners with such a disease cannot travel to the United States. The ban covered both visiting tourists and foreigners seeking to live in this country.

Once the ban is lifted, foreigners applying to become residents in the United States will no longer be required to take a test for AIDS.

In practice, the ban particularly affected tourists and gay men. Waivers were available, but the procedure for tourists and other short-term visitors who were H.I.V. positive was so complicated that many concluded it was not worth it.

For foreigners hoping to immigrate, waivers were available for people who were in a heterosexual marriage, but not for gay couples. Gay advocates said the ban had led to painful separations in families with H.I.V.-positive members that came to live in this country, and had discouraged adoptions of children with the virus.

Gay advocates said the ban also discouraged travelers and some foreigners already living in the United States from seeking testing and medical care for H.I.V. infection.

“The connection between immigration and H.I.V. has frightened people away from testing and treatment,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, a group that advocates for gay people in immigration matters. She said lifting the ban would bring “a significant public health improvement.”

“Stigma and exclusion are not a sound basis for immigration policy,” Ms. Tiven said.

I moved to the U.S. as a permanent legal resident in 1988 from Canada, and had to have an AIDS test before I was granted my green card. As a heterosexual, non-drug-using woman who had never had a blood transfusion, someone who had been using condoms consistently — having covered AIDS for several newspapers in the 1980s,  I was well-versed in the dangers — this felt creepy, invasive and a little frightening. My then-partner, a medical resident, took my blood in the privacy of his office (“Nice veins!” was one of his oddest compliments) and we awaited the results from the small, local community hospital where he was training. We weren’t especially worried about the results, but in a small, gossipy rural town and his workplace it felt even more invasive to me.

I was clean. I was in. It felt weird that my blood contained the ultimate decisive factor in my carefully considered, life-changing decision to come to the U.S. to work and live.

I’m glad this ban has been lifted.

Tatler Magazine Celebrates Its 300th. Anniversary This Month — Years, Not Issues

The Tatler, British magazine, 1709-1711, edite...
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America hadn’t yet declared its independence, but British magazine Tatler, was already going strong founded in November 1709. Here’s a history of it; founded by Richard Steele, it originally published three times a week, as a newspaper focused on gossip.

British Vogue tells the story:

“There is such an amazing archive, I couldn’t resist delving into it,” goes on [editor Catherine] Ostler. “But there is a bit of everything in there, from old money to new news: the Spencers – the Guinnesses – why Scotts is the best restaurant in London – a hilarious account of 12 Dukes having lunch – Tina Brown discussing how Diana, Princess of Wales saved Tatler in the Eighties – and a fashion shoot of all the things that happened in 1709: the hot air balloon was invented for a start, and the first Union Jack appeared because of the union of Scotland that year (before Ireland was added) – hence our commissioning the designer dresses. It was also the coldest winter in 500 years. It was called “the great frost” – all the fish died in the rivers and birds exploded in the air,” says Ostler, incredulously. “Literally, in the air.”

Those who have followed Tina Brown’s career — now editor and founder of The Daily Beast — know she edited Tatler in the 1980s. The magazine is defiantly aristo, focusing relentlessly on Britain’s upper class, filled with party photos of Sloane Rangers, the lean, leggy blonds who shop in chic Sloane Square in London hoping to snag, snog and marry a Hooray Henry, moving into Mummy’s country estate to raise perfect kids wearing Burberrys, Barbours and Wellies. It’s an acquired taste, but a fun break from the deadly earnestness of many American women’s magazines.

As publications on this side of the pond slash staff every week, here’s a toast to one that’s lasted a little longer.

400,000 High School Football Players Got Concussions This Year: What Exactly Is The Point?

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25:  NFL Commissione...
NFL Commissiomer Roger Goodell;Image by Getty Images via Daylife

There is a photo in today’s New York Times sports section that breaks my heart — former player Brent Boyd, who suffers headaches, squeezing his face between his huge palms. (The photo on the Times’ website is so tightly cropped it only shows an impassive Goodell. Boyd’s huge shoulders don’t make it into the frame.)

The story details why it matters so much that the N.F.L. reconsider how badly it’s willing to injure its players – because a whole new generation of younger athletes, and their coaches, are modeling their behavior accordingly. Coaches routinely tell an injured athlete to “walk it off” and most teams have no ready access to a physician to know when a player needs to get off the field now.

“More than 1.2 million teenagers play high school football every fall, and hundreds are seriously injured by concussions and other brain trauma…About 400,000 concussions occurred in high school athletics during the 2008-9 school year — more in football than in any other sport” says the Times.

Have you or someone you know or love ever suffered a concussion? It’s scary shit. Two summers ago, my sweetie took a fall while riding his bike, falling hard — even wearing a bike helmet and not going that fast — onto the sidewalk. He was able to ride up to meet me, his shorts torn and a weird look on his face. “What day is it?” I asked him.  Right answer, immediately. “What’s your name?” Ditto. Count my fingers. Right.

“What did you make for breakfast an hour ago?” He shook his head. Off we raced to the local hospital. I sat up with him most of that night, as doctors told us to make sure there were no side effects or changes in his behavior or physical condition. It was terrifying and he has not ridden a bike since. I know he will, at some point. But he’s an adult, under no social or financial pressure to throw his body into situations that can, and likely will, hurt him physically, both now and decades from now.

Surely no sport — no ghetto-fleeing, life-changing college scholarship — is worth this cost. Is it?

Nancy Pelosi — Mama Bear, Parish Priest, Pick Your Metaphor

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi makes rem...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Interesting profile of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Politico:

“I’m not big on showing weakness. It’s not my thing…I don’t like to have predictable losses.”

As a control freak myself (does anyone like losses? Of any kind?), I love watching people struggle to define a tough woman who knows what she wants and fights hard to get it. Having interviewed a few female legislators, I know — as every journo does — that the behind-the-scenes story always has nuances that disappear into 15-second sound bites or tired cliches.

Promising Toronto Folksinger Taylor Mitchell, 19 — Killed By Coyotes

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A 19-year-old Toronto singer was attacked and killed by two coyotes while hiking alone this week in a provincial park in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, reports The Globe and Mail.

“This wouldn’t even be considered a yearly event,” said Germaine LeMoine, a spokeswoman for Parks Canada, which oversees the seven-kilometre trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. “It’s extremely rare in the history of the park.”

Taylor Mitchell had just begun her career, already working with some of Canada’s top performers.

“Colin Linden, a veteran Canadian roots performer and producer who works with Nashville artists, was similarly struck after Ms. Mitchell opened for him at an intimate show Sept. 10 at a small venue in Pickering, Ont. It was their first and only meeting.

“She was really talented, she was really smart and she was a really good-hearted person,” Mr. Linden said from Winnipeg. “I thought she was one of those people who was going to be a lifer, a musician for a long, long time.”

Gay Culverhouse Fights For Brain-Damaged Football Players

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25:  Benjamin Watson...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Football players, as any player or spectator knows, hit each other hard, repeatedly. It’s their job. But years of it can result in mild traumatic brain injury — the same trauma now playing into record rates of PTSD and impairment among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, whose brains have been severely jarred by IED explosions. And TBI causes permanent behavioral and cognitive damage.

Gay Culverhouse, former team president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is now testifying before a Congressional committee on behalf of the former players for her team, on behalf of all players still tossing themselves — as their coaches or managers or owners expect them to — into bone-crunching piles.

Her testimony included this:

“Foremost is the fact that players need to be protected; the medical system harbored by the NFL must change. There should be doctors without vested interests and allegiances available to the players at no penalty. There should be medical advocates for the players. There should be an independent neurologist on every sideline. There should be salaries free of performance bonuses so that players are not pushed beyond what is reasonable. There should be mandatory guidelines for concussions specifying the number of weeks a player MUST sit out games. There needs to be a call for common sense to prevail in the National Football League.”

“Recently one of my former players referred to me as a “rebel with a cause”. By breaking ranks with the National Football League, I have become that rebel. My cause is the health and wellbeing of all football players whether they are eight year olds or twenty-two year olds. Safety must come first. Business must come second.”

Culverhouse reserved her strongest scorn for team doctors who shoot up players at halftime or overlook injuries:

“The team doctor is invested in the performance of these players who make the team. He does not want to be seen as lacking in assisting the coach in his selection. The team doctor wants these players to succeed in helping the team win games. The team doctor gets to the point where he will do anything to enhance the performance of these rookies. With very few draft choices, the decisions on whom to draft are critical to a team’s success. Hence, from the beginning, the team doctor is invested with the coach in the success of their choices.”

“This alignment is the crux of the problem for the players on the team. The doctor is not their medical advocate. He’s not even conflicted. He knows who pays his salary; he plays golf with the coach and the owner not the players. He is management; he makes decisions for the management side of operations. He understands the bottom line is business. The team that wins, sells more luxury seats, skyboxes and fills the stadium. Therefore, more parking is sold on game day along with more beer, sodas, and cotton candy. That is the term of success.”

“If a player suffers an injury, the team doctor’s role is to find a way to have that man on the field the following game, if not the same game. The player is shot with cortisone
during the game to see if the pain can be numbed if it is a joint or other such problem. If it is a head injury, he is told to “shake it off”. The players get to the point that they know better than to complain that they have suffered a concussion. They would rather throw up in the huddle away from the fans’ lines of vision and keep themselves in the game. Other players will guide them through the next few plays until their double vision resolves itself.”

Yesterday, one NFL wife, Eleanor M. Perfetto, reports George Vecsey in today’s New York Times, described her husband’s behavior as so changed she had to put him into a facility as was she unable to care for him. She said her husband, former lineman for seven years, Ralph Wenzel, was lucky to have a “pushy broad” of a wife as his advocate.

Thank God for these angry, outspoken women.

At Least No One Can Fire Me

Forbes Building on Fifth Avenue in New York City
A little emptier than last week/ via Wikipedia

The media massacres continue.

The latest bloodbath is at Forbes, where 100 people are said to be let go.

Earlier this month, Conde Nast shuttered Gourmet and three others; in April, they closed down Portfolio.

Freelancers, some of whom lost staff jobs years ago, watch this parade of pink slips with mixed emotions. For some of us, it’s lost income writing for those magazines. Staffers might be personal friends or former colleagues we care about. And, selfishly, many of them will now be competing for freelance work with us as well. One editor snapped at a colleague of mine recently seeking freelance assignments: “I know many editors who are now out of work!” The line for paid assignments lengthens as the list of available gigs shortens.

The only good news, from the living-room-based desk of this self-employed writer — it’s still mine.

Is The Dinner Party Dead? Not At Our House

The Dinner Party, by Henry Sargent, ca. 1821.
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Say it ain’t so! Entertaining remains one of my favorite activities. I’d have people to dinner every week if we could afford it. Last Saturday we had three guests for dinner: oysters (a splurge), home-made curried cauliflower soup, roast chicken, ice cream with fruit. The guests (bless ’em!) brought Champagne and two lovely bars of soap as a hostess gift. They even wrote a thank-you note, on paper, delivered the next day.

We don’t have kids, so entertaining is easy enough and it combines all my favorite things: great food, lively conversation, a leisurely chance to get to know friends better, the chance to set a pretty table and try some new recipes or turn to a trusted stand-by. Lots of candles, fresh flowers, pretty linens. Heaven.

Apparently, not for many others — who have given up entirely, find the whole thing too much work/time/money/intimidating.

Is the dinner party dead? A panel of Guardian foodies weighs in.

Digging In The Thames' Mud, Finding Ancient Treasures

The Frozen Thames, 1677.
The frozen Thames, 1677...Image via Wikipedia

Loved this story in Time, about “mudlarks”, 51 of whom have been officially designated as London’s passionate amateur historians allowed to dig in the low-tide mud on the banks of the Thames:

“Brooker rubs a big blackened thumb over the clod of dirt in his hand, and a coin appears — minted, it turns out, sometime from 1625 to 1649. “That’s a Charles I rose farthing,” he explains, pointing to the vague outline of a royal crest. On the open market, it’s not worth much — maybe $60 — but “to a mudlark, your first Charles I should be priceless.” He tosses it into the bucket with the rest of our haul for the morning, which includes several Tudor hairpins, Victorian clay pipes and a 17th century ferry token.”

As someone crazy about history and ancient artifacts, I can’t imagine many things cooler than bending down and randomly touching something 400 years old. I recently attended a Manhattan antiques fair where I reverently and gratefully (and carefully!) held a 6,000-year-old amulet — $24,000 — and a small pottery dog, of the same vintage, selling for $42,000.

Free and muddy sound good to me.