Today, I have a follow up to the CIA Torture Report from earlier this week -- some very interesting remarks by the director of the CIA. There’s also a story about the FDA ban on gay men donating blood. And a new study finds why you won’t stay a vegetarian for too long. Plus, another woman comes forward to say Bill Cosby sexually assaulted her and why she didn’t come forward until now.
What do you think of the FDA’s ban against homosexual men donating blood? Discuss this or anything other topic in the comments. Were there any happy news stories this week? I tried so hard, but couldn’t find any.
You can also follow me on Twitter (and please do) @AmandaLauren.
CIA Director Addresses Torture Report
In the last xoNews, I discussed the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report of the CIA torturing prisoners between 2002-2007. If you didn’t read it, here’s a quick summary: Post 9/11, the CIA detained over 100 people who were suspected of terrorism, and tortured them. People were nearly downed, murdered, raped, starved and a whole bunch of other truly disturbing things. As a result, when Obama first came into office, he banned torture.
On Thursday, John Brennan, who is the director of the CIA, addressed this controversy publicly:
As I have already noted, the CIA was unprepared to conduct a detention and interrogation program, and our officers inadequately developed and monitored its initial activities. The agency failed to establish quickly the operational guidelines needed to govern the entire effort. In a limited number of cases, agency officers used interrogation techniques that had not been authorized, were abhorrent and rightly should be repudiated by all. And we fell short when it came to holding some officers accountable for their mistakes.
Despite admitting wrongdoing, Brennan also basically said that people were just doing their jobs.
It is vitally important to recognize, however, that the overwhelming majority of officers involved in the program at CIA carried out their responsibilities faithfully and in accordance with the legal and policy guidance they were provided. They did what they were asked to do in the service of our nation. In fact, some of these officers raised objections and concerns with the program and with its implementation, which is crucial to ensuring that the system works as it should and that we are able to adjust as needed.
But CIA officers’ actions that did comport with the law and policy should neither be criticized nor conflated with the actions of the few who did not follow the guidance issued.
But, Brennan didn’t excuse any of the egregious behavior and inhumane acts.
At the same time, none of these lapses should be excused, downplayed or denied. In some instances, we simply failed to live up to the standards that we set for ourselves, that the American people expect of us.
He also expressed his own frustrations with the findings of the report and admitted he doesn’t know what to believe.
I must tell you that reading this report from the committee raises serious questions about the information that I was given at the time, and the impression that I had at the time. Now I have to determine, based on that information, as well as what CIA says, what the truth is. And at this point ... I do not know what the truth is.
Gay Men Are Still Banned From Donating Blood
If you didn’t know, the FDA has banned gay men from donating blood for over 31 years. This is because in 1982, the disease that is now known as AIDS was called GRID or Gay-related immune deficiency. Scientists believed the disease was exclusive to homosexual men until Haitian immigrants and female hemophiliacs began to display symptoms of the illness. The rule, as it currently stands, says men who have had sexual contact with other men, even just one time after the year 1977, are banned from donating blood for life.
Currently, the risk of contracting HIV from a blood transfusion is approximately one in two million. And if gay men were allowed to donate blood, an additional 1.8 million people would be helped.
On November 13, the Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety, which advises the FDA, voted 16-2 to change the rules, so that gay men who have been celibate for at least one year would be allowed to donate blood.
The American Red Cross, The American Association of Blood Banks and America's Blood Centers oppose the current ban. Furthermore, the American Medical Associations says the current policy is “discriminatory and not based on sound science.”
Last week, the FDA’s Blood Products Advisory Panel met to discuss lifting the ban or at least to consider the Department of Health and Human Service’s nearly unanimous vote, but they decided to keep the status quo. Why? They are afraid if they change the rules, gay men will lie about being celibate. No, you didn’t read that incorrectly. It goes without saying that lying isn’t exclusive to any sexual preference.
What makes this is worse is that under the current policy, straight men that have had sex with HIV positive women can donate blood one year later.
11 Days of Action For Eric Garner
Because Eric Garner tragically uttered “I can’t breathe” eleven times before he died after being choked by a police officer in Staten Island, New York, who was acquitted of all charges -- a large group of organizations have formed a coalition to make 11 demands to reform both the NYPD and the legal process, in his memory.
- Mayor de Blasio should insist on full accountability for all NYPD officers responsible for killing Eric Garner and Akai Gurley and all officers who brutalize New Yorkers.
- Department of Justice should convene grand juries to federally indict officers responsible for the killing of Eric Garner, as well as other NYC cases such as Ramarley Graham.
- Governor Cuomo should issue an executive order directing the Office of the Attorney General to serve as special prosecutor in cases involving civilians killed by police officers.
- Governor Cuomo should veto legislation (S7801/A9853) that would allow New York police unions to make police disciplinary policies subject to contract negotiations.
- New York City should end the NYPD Commissioner’s exclusive authority over disciplinary decisions for officers in cases of abuse, misconduct, excessive and deadly force.
- Mayor de Blasio should end broken windows, and other discriminatory and abusive policing practices. This includes enforcement of low-level offenses, discriminatory arrests for violations (non-criminal offenses) and enforcement of possession of small amounts of marijuana; blanket surveillance of Muslim communities; and political activists.
- Mayor de Blasio should work with the City Council to pass the Right to Know Act to protect New Yorkers’ rights and improve daily interactions between NYPD officers and New Yorkers.
- Court-ordered stop-and-frisk Monitor Zimroth and Mayor de Blasio should give organizations led by and for communities impacted by discriminatory and abusive policing a formal role in NYPD reform.
- The Department of Justice should launch an investigation into broken windows policing and the use of force policies and practices of the NYPD.
- NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure should issue a report on use of deadly and other excessive force, to include review of disciplinary outcomes in these incidents.
- The NYPD should publish quarterly and annual reports of summons and misdemeanor arrests, as well as use of force, based on race, gender, age, precinct, and other demographic data.
These 11 demands coincide with 11 days of action that will end on December 20, which is also International Human Rights Day. During this time, there are numerous protests scheduled throughout New York City by the organization to raise awareness of police brutality and related human rights violations.
· Yet another woman has come out saying she was drugged by Bill Cosby for the purposes of sexual assault, bringing the total to 19. This time, it’s model Beverly Johnson, who went to Cosby’s house in the mid ’80s to audition for his show (FYI -- this not how television auditions usually take place), where she says the comedian gave her a cappuccino and by the second sip, she knew she was drugged. Johnson also said she took so long to come forward because for years, she thought that she was the only one this happened to.
· Researchers in Switzerland who were developing an Ebola vaccine have decided to halt the process due to some worrisome side effects including mild fever and joint pain in the hands and feet of the subjects.
· A new study shows that 53% of vegetarians go back to eating meat within a year. More than 30% go back within only three months. The number one reason why new vegetarians mooved back to meat? Their friends didn’t support their lifestyle.