I would like to congratulate Mark Schoofs and The Village Voice for a remarkable series of articles on AIDS. Schoofs brilliantly covers the impact of HIV/AIDS on individuals, but he does less well in analyzing the overall impact of the epidemic. In part, I feel, this is because the HIV prevalence figures quoted are too low to give a true sense of the extent of the epidemic. UNAIDS is the official source of the statistics. Where do they get their figures (and how much do they spend on the exercise)? The figures are patently wrong.
UNAIDS currently estimates the number of people infected globally at about 33 million. The combined population of Nigeria, Congo, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, and South Africa is about 270 million. If only 10 percent of their populace is HIV-positive (and it is probably more like 15 percent), then they account for most of the UNAIDS estimate. But these are just a few of the countries in Africa. What about the rest of the world? Has the infection rate in India hit 3.3 percent yet? That would be another 33 million positives. In short, the simplest arithmetic shows that the current "official" estimates are so wrong as to be useless.
Dr. Michael L.B. Becker
Hamilton, New Zealand
Mark Schoofs replies: There has long been a debate over estimates for diseasesnot just AIDSin developing countries. While hardly perfect, the UNAIDS data is the best available. But at some point, statistics cease to matter. An adult infection rate of just 5 percentwhich is approximately what Nigeria estimates it is sufferingis a catastrophe. Twenty percent, which is what at least four countries in southern Africa appear to have, is almost beyond comprehension. Numbers alone cannot convey the toll, which is why the series discussed the trauma of millions of orphans, the damage to the economy, and the overflow in hospitals and morgues.
Thank you for publishing "Washington 451" [February 1] by Russ Kick. Americans need to know about S.R. 486 and to understand that its language and legal ramifications are not limited, as its title, "The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act," suggests.
As cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug/substance in the U.S., the intent of the bill is clearly to quell the rising tide of dissent against marijuana prohibition made possible by the first truly democratic mass medium: the Internet. The ruling elite controls almost all the newspapers, radio, and TV stations and thereby manipulates the national consciousness. Thus, almost all dissent against the "War on Drugs" is effectively squelched.
Now, however, all an ordinary citizen needs is access to a computer. Finally, there is hope for true freedom of speech.
Laurel Not Hardy?
Re Toni Schlesinger's February 1 Money column: As a working filmmaker and adjunct professor at two New York City film schools, I find it difficult to sympathize with Laurel Jay Carpenter, the artist who complains that living in New York City is too expensive.
Ms. Carpenter, who pays $475 a month rent, has the nerve to complainand then brag about buying $60 eye shadow? She is lucky enough to go to MacDowell art colony, but then gripes about the job that is still waiting for her when she returns? Please get a grip! Nobody likes to return from vacation, dear.
The fact that she is an installation artist (combined with her desire to get into an A-list M.F.A. program) is also illuminating. Perhaps Ms. Carpenter is now realizing that by buying into the academic establishment's late-'80s art-school doctrine of "installation first," she deprived herself of the opportunity of learning a more marketable craft. I have nothing against installation art, and I'm sure Ms. Carpenter is a fine human being, artist, and teacher. Her sense of entitlement, however, is nauseating.
Anyone seeking to eke out a life in New York City on a sub-six-figure salary must feel the pain of Laurel Jay Carpenter. There seems to be little recourse for those of us who just get by, and no sympathy from the credit-card-crunching, chain-store-loving clones who've overtaken the city. It's simply not worth the price, financially and morally, to stay. New York has become overrated as a bastion of bohemianism. I've found more freedom and inspiration in the small town my family has relocated toand that's where I'm headed. I'll miss New York City. Sure I will.
John C. Tripp
In response to the column about Laurel Jay Carpenter: As an art administrator, proper compensation for artists is one of the biggest challenges I face. The culture of the starving artist makes it easy to overlook them when allocating budgets, and we have to break that cycle. With the professionalization of nonprofits, managers and funders must put artists in the forefront of their thoughts; otherwise we will become market-driven and the culture will suffer. But artists also have to make an effort to understand the challenges of management and funding. The road that leads to an important place for the arts and culture in contemporary society is a two-way street.
Re Nat Hentoff's "The Scorned Law Professor" [February 1]: I have no doubt that both Professor Rod Smolla and Hentoff are wholehearted supporters of the First Amendment, but their support of holding Paladin Press, publisher of the book Hit Man, liable for aiding and abetting murder is troubling. Granted that a how-to manual for murder is objectionable, but what if the same instructions were part of a novel, which an assassin admitted to using in his trade? For that matter, what if a novel included detailed instructions that Hentoff's hypothetical homicidal pedophile followed in the commission of an unspeakable act? Judge Michael Luttig's decision seemed to hinge on intent, but although the motives attributed to Paladin were despicable, it may well set a dangerous precedent. In litigation (and even in a criminal trial), a jury would have to weigh what an author's intent was. Dangerous grounds.
Nat Hentoff replies: Hit Man is not a work of fiction. The owner and publisher of Paladin Press admitted during his deposition in the lawsuit that he deliberately wanted his book to be read by criminalsincluding murderers and potential murderers. The intent of the publisher was clear. The author was not sued. Hit Man was published as a technical manual to kill peopleand that was the motivation of the publisher who was sued. The First Amendment does not come into play.
As a native Virginian living in New York City, I feel that I must respond to Tom Tomorrow's depiction of the South in This Modern World [February 1]. I agree that state governments should not fly the Confederate flag, as it is offensive to many people. But can we not go beyond the stereotypes of white-trash, Civil War-obsessed Southerners depicted in Tomorrow's cartoon?
I think it's time we recognize the South as one of the most culturally vibrant and racially mixed areas in the country. It's funny how the irony seems to be lost on those who still choose to view most Southerners as bigots.
How has this form of prejudice remained politically correct?
A Proud Southern Lesbian
Richard Goldstein's "We Got Game" [February 1] was excellent in terms of its exploration of the psychological and gender issues behind the latest cultural fetish over sports. However, I wonder if there isn't a need to also address what to me seems to be the most damning cultural effect of the sports craze: namely, the inordinate and asinine difference in economic valuation between the whole sports apparatus and, say, the public education system.
Why is it that professional athletes get paid 100 times the average salary of a teacher? Who performs the greater service to the future of a democratic society? Will there ever be a movement to give adequate compensation to the real heroes, or does everybody just bow down to the power of entertainment capitalism?
James H. Pobst
Congratulations on Judith Coburn's high-minded review of Valerie Solanas's play Up Your Ass, premiering here 35 years after it was written in Berkeley and New York [ Solanas Lost and Found," January 18]. No critic in this town had the chops or the labia to contextualize the play; most of them dismissed Solanas as a footnote. The relative critical savvy of Big Apple critics gives your town an edge over San Francisco. Even when we witness a theatrical event of this magnitude, they can't bring it into focus for us.
San Francisco, California
The Shadow Knows
Re Jason Vest's "Shadow in Doubt: Bradley, Gore Court D.C.'s Non-Voting 'Senator' ": Thank God for The Village Voice. As a resident of Washington, D.C., it's clear to me that we don't have any representation. But rarely does anyone write about it. Senator Paul Strauss makes a good point when he says that New Yorkers would never stand for this treatment.
I must say I was shocked to find that I agreed with almost all of the points made by D.C. "shadow senator" Paul Strauss. I am a Virginia resident, and I commute into the District every day. Are not all Americans equal before the law? Apparently not. As a superdelegate to the Democratic Convention, Strauss is right to withhold his support from either Bradley or Gore until he has a firm commitment in regard to statehood for the Districthopefully from both of them!
Andrew R. Gelfman
Apparently, mayoral hopeful Peter Vallone is funded by landlords, some of whom are probably very sleazy and heartless [ Towers & Tenements, J.A. Lobbia, February 1]. Guess who else takes a lot of money from landlords? The Village Voice.
Looking at your ad rates for real estate and extrapolating an estimated eight pages of real estate ads in last week's issue, the Voice also takes in a lot of money from landlords. How does the Voice, a publication that constantly whines about the housing crisis in New York City, justify the paradoxical fact that it is also profiting from it? Can you state your policy and thoughts on this matter?
Adam M. Goldstein
J.A. Lobbia replies: Unlike Peter Vallone or any other politician who takes money from landlords or real estate interests, Towers & Tenements is not in any way beholden to Voice advertisers, landlords included. On the contrary, the column and other editorial pages of the paper are often filled with stories that are critical of the various real estate interests who do choose to buy space in the paper.
CORRECTION The Web site listed for the Osprey Trading Co. in Savage Love (February 1) was incorrect. The correct site is www.plpower.com/~osprey.
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