by Jonathan Peterson, Los Angeles Times, December 29th, 1991
Back in the Great Depression, in the days when communism was a gleaming red star that beckoned working-class dreamers from across the sea, 24-year-old Rose Kostyuk packed her bags and moved to Russia.
It was an exciting adventure for a spunky young social worker from Philadelphia. Thousands of miles away, the first real socialist state was being hammered together. Idealists everywhere felt a magnetic pull toward this utopian land of Lenin. All the possibilities of a lifetime lay ahead. The year was 1932.
And then came reality. Kostyuk fell in love with a Russian Communist and left her American husband. She married the Russian and had children. But all around, the workers’ paradise was sinking into a world of terror and paranoia. Finally, there was no escape.
America-safe, familiar, rich America-drifted as far away as a childhood memory.
On a warm afternoon in the autumn of 1996, a limousine pulled up at the gates of the Bayer AG plant in Berkeley, California, and a handful of young men piled out of the car, megaphones to the ready. “We are here to take your name away!” they shouted. “I.G. Farben, I.G. Farben, Zyklon B, Zyklon B”-an unsubtle reference to the lethal gas manufactured by the German pharmaceutical house and used to chilling effect in the Holocaust-“four thousand dead, four thousand dead, four thousand dead.” A cameraman recorded the scene, preparing “great source tape” for television stations to air.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, similar “zaps” were regularly launched by AIDS activists against drug companies. Then, the demonstrators were mainly young gay men, members of ACT-UP, protesting the pricing practices of pharmaceutical houses that made AZT and other drugs unaffordable to many people with AIDS. Though the focus of the 1996 protest remained AIDS, the protesters were hemophiliacs, not homosexuals. A few years earlier, they would have praised the drug company for manufacturing Factor VIII, the blood-clotting concentrate that enabled them to lead normal lives, but this lifeline had proved to be the source of HIV contamination. Consequently, more than half of those with severe or moderate hemophilia were infected with the deadly virus; and, since many nations relied on U.S. suppliers for blood-clotting products, similar calamities were reported not just in the United States but across the globe.
A tragic accident, the pharmaceutical houses called it, but to many hemophilia activists these casualties were the inevitable result of decisions driven by corporate greed.
Out of the nightmare of AIDS a new social movement has emerged. Not only in the United States but in scores of nations, people with hemophilia, historically quiescent, became a vocal group with an identity, an animus and a strategy. Their anger has been directed at firms like Bayer, which manufactured Factor VIII, as well as at governments, for their supposed failure to warn of the danger; at their doctors, who, they asserted, misled them; and even at their own organizations, which allegedly minimized the risk of exposure to HIV. This newly energized movement has demanded compensation from drug companies and governments, as well as apologies for wrong-doing and justice in the criminal courts.
In the midst of the AIDS devastation, people with hemophilia have claimed a degree of control over their own lives, and in so doing, they have obliged governments and transnational corporations to take them very seriously. While this is good news, there is also another, less noticed and less happy, tale to be told-about the fissioning of the AIDS-infected universe along the fault line of the deserving and the undeserving, the innocent and the guilty.
by Anna Deavere Smith, Los Angeles Times, April 28th, 2002
Gordon Davidson, artistic director of the Mark Taper Forum, took me out to breakfast in New York City after seeing my play “Fires in the Mirror,” about riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in August 1991. Those riots were the consequence of a buildup of tensions between blacks and Jews, sparked by the death of a young black boy, Gavin Cato, and the murder of a young Hasidic scholar, Yankel Rosenbaum.
Some would call the death of Cato a murder; others would call it an accident. Some would call it a reckless accident. Most people would consent that Rosenbaum was murdered. Some people would call what happened in Crown Heights a riot, others would say it was an occupied territory. There were Jews who called the events a pogrom.
How do you even begin to have a conversation when the terms themselves are a cause for dispute? And so they should be. After all, history is made by the way the stories are told, and particularly by whoever has the power to put the words in print, or some other form of dissemination. Being a student of language, I was intrigued to come to Los Angeles, and to work with Davidson and his theater to create a play about the riots in LA.
“Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” was to be based on interviews, of which I would perform excerpts in a one-woman show. I was already aware that I could not start an interview by using the word “riot.” I would ask first to see how the interviewee labeled the “events.” It was variously called, at the time, a “riot,” “a “rebellion,” an “uprising,” a “revolution.” In political circles, where language tends to be most calculated, it was called the “events of April 29.”
Soon after my arrival, two Korean American graduate students at UCLA contacted me. My heart raced when the conversation began. “We heard what you are doing, and we are afraid you’re going to get it wrong.” Here we go again, I thought to myself.
by David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times—April 22nd, 2012
One of my favorite pieces of writing to emerge from the 1992 LosAngelesriots is a poem by a writer named Nicole Sampogna, called “Another L.A.” In it, the poet traces the odd dislocation of living on the Westside while so much of the city burns. “They send us home early, again,” she begins, “supposedly for curfew sake, / but I know it’s to beat the traffic.” And then: “over there the smoke rises, / horns blare, streets scream, / shoot, loot, / bash windows, bash heads, / lights out / knocked out / by a black & white with a baton. / but, here / will the pizza man deliver after sunset?”
There it is, the dislocation that so often marks LosAngeles, and never more profoundly than when the not-guilty verdicts in the LAPD beating of Rodney King came down 20 years ago. Depending on where you lived or the part of town in which you found yourself, the atmosphere was static or chaotic, suspended or engaged. I remember, on the second afternoon of the conflagration, watching as a Fairfax district neighbor sunned herself on her small front lawn, while in the distance, sirens screamed. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, perhaps in the way it reflects Sampogna’s sense of the city as disoriented, in which we connect (or don’t) “to the other LA with the flip of a switch.” How in such a place do we evoke the larger story? How do we find common ground?
This four-part series went deep inside a Brooklyn shooting gallery to explore addiction and the AIDS epidemic. The reporting is masterful and provides a deeply nuanced account of a very specific moment in history. The pieces were written by journalist Barry Bearak and appeared in the Los Angeles Times during the last week of September, 1992. Bearak won a Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists for the series, in the category of editorial writing. Bearak has also written for The New York Times and The Miami Herald. He won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his accounts of poverty and war in Afghanistan, and currently teaches at the Columbia School of Journalism.
Not only does it serve as an example of extraordinary journalism, but it is also a reminder that newspapers truly are the first draft of history.
Read it for the writing, which is as lyrical as it is evocative. Read it for the narrative, which will draw you in and seize your heart. Read it as an artifact of history, a haunting snapshot of what it was like to be alive and addicted and possibly HIV-positive in 1992. Read it because it is a reminder of what happens when societies don’t act fast enough, and when we willfully ignore the people who live in the dark shadows of our great cities. But mainly you should just read it, because it is important, and it is powerful, and it is true.
This is what happened:
[Georgie Vega] rarely ventured into Manhattan. He seemed a yokel amid the great hum. [Nelson Martinez] sensed this. He began to make fun of Georgie’s rumpled cutoffs. “If we’re going to be dope fiends, let’s at least be clean dope fiends,” he said, steering his pal to a store and treating him to a pair of new jeans.
It was almost 4:30 by then, but Nelson and Georgie set aside a few moments to shoot up their drugs in the men’s room. Georgie removed his shirt so he could use it as a tourniquet. He wrapped it around his left arm, holding one end with his hand, the other with his teeth. He found a plump vein.
“For heroin addicts, the nation’s switch to a war footing had some odd and unintended effects. A drug habit is a brutal taskmaster; addicts look for stable routines. They need reliable ways to get cash and drugs. And they covet dependable spots to inject, sheltered places with a stash of needles, where other addicts are nearby to share a shot or help them “hit” an ornery vein.
Instead, needles have remained a mainstay of the black markets. Georgie Vega, who last summer ran the gallery on Melrose, partially kept up his own dope habit by selling them at $2 apiece. Georgie, 38, was a 25-year veteran of the hustles of heroin addiction. He understood the cat-and-mouse games between junkies and cops-and appreciated the fact that the addicts of Bushwick were harassed but seldom arrested. Their safety was in their own insignificance.”
“[Lips] had a partner at the gallery, Georgie Vega. For use of their place, they charged people $2 or a taste of drugs. It was strictly a business arrangement. Lips did not like Georgie and vice versa, especially with him letting [Lourdes Pabon] hang around there to share in the heroin and cocaine.
Lips was dope sick too. He was taking all the tastes for himself, and it was a few hours before he was willing to share any with Lourdes. Then they sent someone to call 911 on the pay phone at the corner. An ambulance came 90 minutes later, and Lourdes was carried away on a stretcher.”
This is the first of a four-part series of articles that went deep inside a Brooklyn shooting gallery to explore addiction and the AIDS epidemic. The reporting is masterful and provides a deeply nuanced account of a very specific moment in history. The pieces were written by journalist Barry Bearak and appeared in the Los Angeles Times during the last week of September, 1992. Bearak won a Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists for the series, in the category of editorial writing. Bearak has also written for The New York Times and The Miami Herald. He won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his accounts of poverty and war in Afghanistan, and currently teaches at the Columbia School of Journalism.
“America has long had a malign attitude toward its heroin addicts, alarmed by their crimes and intent on their punishments. In the age of AIDS, this sternness bears the heavy weight of self-destruction. The nation has an estimated 1 million injecting drug users, and in recent years they have not only been responsible for 34% of all newly reported AIDS cases, they have also been the main cause of the epidemic’s spread to the heterosexual population.
HIV eventually becomes the full-blown syndrome. The CDC has recorded 24,323 cases of AIDS among adult women. Of those, 71% are considered IDU-related (50% are drug injectors themselves and 21% are women who had sex with IDUs). By the same token, 57% of 3,898 pediatric AIDS cases have been tied to IDUs (40% were children of IDU mothers and 17% were born to women who had drug injectors as sex partners).”
The Plagiarism Hunter: “Former student Tom Matrka has made a hobby of uncovering plagiarism in masters’ theses at Ohio University, and thus far has found thirty examples. The university was slow to act on his discoveries, and a scandal has erupted over the plagiarism.”
Cheating Goes Global As Essay Mills Multiply: ”Everyone knows essaymills exist. What’s surprising is how sophisticated and international they’ve become, not to mention profitable. In a previous era, you might have found an essay mill near a college bookstore, staffed by former students. Now you’ll find them online, and the actual writing is likely to be done by someone in Manila or Mumbai.”
The Shadow Scholar: Looking at essay mills from another angle, or “how an academic ghostwriter for hire produced thousands of pages for undergraduates as well as master’s and doctoral candidates.”