September 1, 2008


I hope you have been having a safe and great Labor Day weekend! It has been a low key weekend for me since I decided to stay in town and it has been raining every day. But that has made for some great sleeping weather plus my pets hate it when I go out of town. I am glad I took the opportunity to rest up since I have a very busy week with appointments and meetings.

For a lot of people, Labor Day means two things: a day off and the end of summer. But why is it called Labor Day? Labor Day is a day set aside to pay tribute to working men and women. It has been celebrated as a national holiday in the United States and Canada since 1894. ­­Labor unions themselves celebrated the first labor days in the United States, although there's some speculation as to exactly who came up with the idea. Most historians credit Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, with the original idea of a day for workers to show their solidarity. Others credit Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J. The first Labor Day parade occurred Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City. The workers' unions chose the first Monday in September because it was halfway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving. The idea spread across the country, and some states designated Labor Day as a holiday before the federal holiday was created. So now you know that bit of trivia for playing Trivial Pursuit.

The big news here is Hurricanes Gustav and Hannah. Hurricane Gustav slammed into the heart of Louisiana's fishing and oil industry with 110 mph winds Monday, delivering only a glancing blow to New Orleans that raised hopes the city would escape the kind of catastrophic flooding brought by Katrina three years ago. That did not mean the state survived the storm without damage. A levee in the southeast part of the state was on the verge of collapse, and officials scrambled to fortify it. Roofs were torn from homes, trees toppled and roads flooded. More than 1 million homes were without power. But the biggest fear that the levees surrounding the saucer shaped city of New Orleans would break and flood all over again hadn't been realized. Wind driven water sloshed over the top of the Industrial Canal's floodwall, but city officials and the Army Corps of Engineers said they expected the levees, still only partially rebuilt after Katrina, would hold. In the Upper Ninth Ward, about half the streets closest to the canal were flooded with ankle- to knee-deep water as the road dipped and rose. Of more immediate concern to authorities were two small vessels that broke loose from their moorings in the canal and were resting against the Florida Street wharf. By mid afternoon Monday, the rain had stopped in the French Quarter, the highest point in the city. The wind was breezy but not fierce, and some of the approximately 10,000 people who chose to defy warnings and stay behind began to emerge. But knowing that the levees surrounding the city could still be pressured by rising waters, no one was celebrating. But all in all, New Orleans was very lucky the hurricane weakened and was not a direct hit. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Gustav hit around 9:30 a.m. near Cocodrie, a low-lying community in Louisiana's Cajun country 72 miles southwest of New Orleans, as a Category 2 storm. The storm weakened to a Category 1 later in the afternoon. In Mississippi, officials said a 15-foot storm surge flooded homes and inundated the only highways to coastal towns devastated by Katrina. Officials said at least three people near the Jordan River had to be rescued from the floodwaters. Elsewhere in the state, an abandoned building in Gulfport collapsed and a few homes in Biloxi were flooded. Gustav was the seventh named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. The eighth grew into Hurricane Hanna today, followed quickly by the formation of Tropical Storm Ike a few hours later. Forecasters said it could come ashore somewhere between north Florida and the Carolinas late in the week. I will keep you updated about Hannah as more details become available in the next few days.

There is some upsetting news coming out of New York City. At least 50 HIV positive New York renters during the past several months have complained to city housing organizations after being forced out of their homes or evicted due to foreclosures according to The New York Times. Due to high rental rates, insufficient anti-discrimination laws and inadequate public benefits, HIV positive renters are often left with few housing options and a housing search that may last as long as one year. According to the Times, the City Council amended the city’s housing code in March, which made it illegal for landlords to discriminate against recipients of federal, state or local housing benefits, such as Section 8 or the city’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA). However, the amendment only applies to buildings with six units or more, not private homes, and does not penalize those who violate it. “There are no consequences, no monetary fines,” said case manager Hannah Thorne of Housing Works, a New York City-based AIDS service organization that provides housing assistance. “We look for apartments with clients, and the landlords say, ‘No programs, no programs, no programs.’” So for those of you who wondered why I work so hard to prevent discrimination against HIV positive people, this is just one of many examples happening across the country.

But there is some good news to go with the bad. Eight months after Congress lifted a decade-long ban on using funds from the District of Columbia to support syringe-exchange programs in Washington, DC, local tax dollars are beginning to reach such initiatives, The Washington Times reports. In DC, one in 20 people is living with HIV, making it the city hardest hit by HIV/AIDS with an infection rate that rivals those of some developing countries. According to a report released last year by the city’s HIV/AIDS administration, intravenous drug use is the second most common mode of transmission in DC following unprotected sex. Officials are optimistic that providing clean syringes to drug users will help reduce their risk of infection, but they admit that it is just part of a multi-pronged approach to fighting the city’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. Several other countries have been doing needle exchange programs for years. Now some of you may not agree with needle exchange programs on a moral grounds so let's look at it in economic terms. By supplying $1 for a needle you prevent having to fund up to $2000 a month to provide life saving HIV medications. You decide.

If you are headed back to work tomorrow, I wish you a great rest of the week. I know I have a busy one myself.

Wishing you health, hope and happiness.

Big bear hug,

Daddy Dab