Bush fiddles while AIDS burns

The United Nations opens its 15th World AIDS Conference in Bangkok July 11, just days after a grim UN report that 5 million more people have become infected with the deadly virus in the past two years. That is the fastest rate of new infections since the epidemic was recognized two decades ago.

Asia and Eastern Europe could suffer an AIDS epidemic equal to that of Africa, where some nations report rates of 20 percent, the report warned. So far, 20 million people have died from AIDS, 2.3 million in 2003 alone.

Kathleen Cravero, an official of UNAIDS, says that a small “window of opportunity” is still open to reverse the pandemic. “If we miss it, it will slam shut forever.” The UN has less than half the $15 billion needed for treatment and prevention.

George W. Bush has spent $160 billion for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to grab Middle East oil and expand the global reach of his corporate cronies. By contrast, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) fought a bare-knuckle battle to force the GOP-controlled Congress to approve just $4 billion annually to fight the AIDS epidemic, which she calls the “other war.”

In the final week of June, Bush issued regulations stipulating that any group receiving funds to combat AIDS must inform recipients that condoms are “ineffective” and “abstinence” is the only protection.

The UN warns that campaigns based on “abstinence” are proven not to work while condoms are a proven measure for curbing AIDS. Bush’s right-wing prudery is a menace to human life. The disease is now the number-one killer of African American women ages 18 to 35 and AIDS is spreading in the U.S., while Bush squanders trillions in tax dollars on his crazed schemes of global domination. It will take a “regime change” in Washington to end the deceitful “war on terrorism” and launch a real war on AIDS.

Media wars

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia recently rejected Bush administration ploys to revise media ownership rules. The Federal Communications Commission, headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell’s son, Michael Powell, had proposed changes that would have allowed a single company to own as many as three television stations, eight radio stations and the monopoly newspaper in a given market, giving the green light to further monopolizing an already highly monopolized industry.

Despite increasing availability of Internet access, control of the media is still equivalent to the control of information.

While the court’s April 25 ruling is being hailed as a victory for diversity, it did not reverse the FCC’s allowance of a company to own both television stations and newspapers in the same city.

Corporate conglomerates controlling the public’s access to information is a huge problem. Many people come out of “Fahrenheit 9/11” asking, “How come we never saw these clips before?” The New York Times was forced to give a half-hearted apology May 26 for its one-sided coverage leading up to the Iraq war. Corporate ownership threatens the very existence of the “fourth estate” and by so doing threatens democracy.

Media conglomerates are already preparing for battle, but so are grassroots groups. One of the two Democratic FCC commissioners, Michael J. Copps, said the decision gives the FCC an opportunity to do the right thing. “This time we must include the American people in the process instead of shutting them out,” Copps said.

The American people must not be shut out of decisions on media ownership. As Michael Moore’s recent movie shows, the independent media – independent from corporate and right-wing control – is also critical for democracy in the information age.

Deregulation – whether in airlines, energy or the media – only serves the monopoly corporate interests, not the vast majority. The Bush administration, famous for attacking court rulings it doesn’t agree with, has to be made to respect this court’s decision.