Letters

PENETRATING INSIGHT

Re Duncan Osborne's "The State of Oral Sex" [February 19-25]:

The biggest argument for oral sex not being a major route of HIV transmission is epidemiology. If, as some people claim, it carried a significant risk of HIV transmission, then many, many more people, particularly gay men, would be infected.

I would also treat claims by people that they have become infected with HIV by only having oral sex with great skepticism. People tend to "forget" the large amounts of unprotected anal sex they've been having, partly because health promotion campaigns made this such a taboo activity. And given that (in the U.K. at least) rates of HIV among gay men have remained stable for the past few years despite evidence of an increase in unprotected anal sex, I think it shows how difficult it is to transmit HIV via penetrative sex, let alone oral sex.

Michael Carter
London, England


BRUDNOY'S COMPLAINT

Re Duncan Osborne's "The State of Oral Sex":

"We can rationally conclude that unprotected oral sex is significantly less risky than unprotected anal sex. If more gay and bisexual men substituted acts of oral sex for anal sex, this would greatly help to reduce HIV transmission among such groups."

But I think that unprotected oral sex does pose some type of risk and that more than a marginal number of people have been infected by oral sex.

Take Boston's talk radio host Dr. David Brudnoy, an openly gay, openly HIV-positive libertarian-conservative. In Life Is Not a Rehearsal: A Memoir, Brudnoy graphically describes his sexual history. He had one act of anal sex in his life—when he was around 20 years old in 1960. He didn't enjoy that experience and never repeated it, only having oral sex (and he had many, many acts of oral sex with multiple partners). Unless he received HIV during that one act in 1960, he must have received HIV via oral sex.

Jonathan Rowe
Yardley, Pennsylvania


BALLPARK FIGURE

With reference to the idea that "Charles 'Old Roman' Comiskey must be spinning in his grave" at the renaming of Comiskey Park [J.Y. Yeh, "Those Annoying Telemarketers," Jockbeat, February 12-18], realize two things:

1. Comiskey was a notorious cheapskate who'd have traded naming rights for bus fare if he were alive today.

2. Sox fans don't care what that plastic shitbox is called.

It was a bad park named for a bad guy, and we were resigned to it; now it's a bad park that may get better (cosmetically) thanks to U.S. Cellular.

Big deal? No, not so much.

Andy Behrens
Chicago, Illinois


LEGAL LIMIT

Re "Our Designated Killers" by Nat Hentoff [February 19-25]:

I believe Hentoff is searching for outrage where none is called for. Kamal Derwish, a U.S. citizen killed by CIA "remote control," raises serious concerns, but given his association with al-Harethia, an enemy combatant of the U.S., it simply does not rise to the level of outrage.

As he is an enemy combatant, there is absolutely no legal requirement whatsoever to "arrest" him, and to suggest such is simply silly. Killing enemy combatants in a war is by no means unconstitutional or unusual. As for 20-year-old soldiers doing what they are ordered to do regardless of its "legality"—what is Hentoff suggesting is the problem? Are these soldiers supposed to decide what orders they will and will not follow in a given situation? Let's reserve our outrage for occasions when it's due, lest it lose its relevance to the debate.

Robert Wright
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Nat Hentoff replies: The Constitution is still in effect and requires that no American citizen can be executed or assassinated at any time by the government without a chance to prove his or her innocence. Derwish did not even know he was designated as an "enemy combatant"—a term that is still dangerously ambiguous.


TALKING TURKEY

Re Raffi Khatchadourian's "Code of the Kalashnikov" [February 19-25]:

We read with interest as Khatchadourian outlined the hard situation of the Turkish southeast provinces. We had the opportunity to visit that region two years ago with a group of Italian observers focused on the human rights question, observing as people there are stricken by a policy of threat and deprivation of many basic rights.

The Turkish state, still dominated by a strong military power, is openly trying to provoke the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) to a new desperate armed response where it could be easily criminalized as terrorist. It's the shortest and easiest way for an authoritarian state to confront human rights issues related to the Kurds, and the admission of responsibility for the genocide perpetrated against them.

Maria Setzu and Rosa Maggio
Cagliari, Italy

Raffi Khatchadourian replies: I probably should have given the PKK’s history and current behavior greater context. As you point out, the history here is long and complex. While the PKK once acted brutally—earning its title as a terrorist organization for killing schoolteachers and kidnapping foreigners, among other acts of violence against civilians—it has since renounced that kind of behavior, and more or less taken on a new name, KADEK, to reflect the shift (however convincing).

At what point does an organization stop being a terrorist group? That is a difficult question to answer. Armed PKK guerillas still hold out in the mountains of eastern Turkey and in northern Iraq. They appear to be an ebbing force, though, and as far as I can tell, recent skirmishes with the Turkish armed forces have been just that—strictly military affairs, without the indiscriminate attacks on noncombatants that were more common in the past.


WALLOW VICTORY

Re Ian Urbina's "The Empire Strikes Back!" [January 29-February 4]:

Urbina has misled the public and misrepresented the events and issues surrounding the 2002 Carabao Wallow. His misrepresentations begin when he states that the Wallow is a "secretive tribal rite." I wonder how a gathering of "more than a thousand" at a hotel in downtown Washington can be secretive? It is not advertised because it is not commercial. The press is not welcomed with open arms (only a guess here) because some have the same willingness as Urbina to toss ethical considerations to the wind for a juicy storyline.

Urbina continues with his description of the Carabao Wallow as being an event "which celebrates the bloody conquest of the nascent Philippine Republic a century ago." In truth, the Wallow is an evening of camaraderie throughout which the military members of the order poke fun at one another and satirize current events. There is no explicit celebration of anything other than the common bonds that grow among people who routinely put their lives on the line for the very freedoms that allow Urbina to print untruths such as this.

It is unfortunate that, when so many issues of real substance are facing our country, you would choose to print such a misinformed article. In an effort to steer his readers into seeing the current situation with Iraq as just another act of American "imperialism," Urbina seeks to use the annual Carabao Wallow as an excuse to paint the military in broad brush strokes as hawkish, imperialistic, and closed-minded. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Karl J. Jackson
Washington, D.C.


CORRECTION

The photograph on last week's Voice Choices cover should have been credited to Kevin Irby.

In Joy Press's story "Bards Not Bombs in NYC" [February 19-25], poet Sara Nelson was misidentified as Sara Wallace.

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