11/21/18 Michael Considine

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Michael Considine

Michael Considine of N American Syringe Exchange, Iqbal Sunderani Pres of BTNX, Nora Hannah of Until There Is A Cure & Sarah Hashmall of AidsUnited.org

Audio file


NOVEMBER 21, 2018


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Hi folks, this is Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Got some great news to share, we've picked up two new broadcast affiliates this week. We are now aligned with WBOK out of New Orleans, Louisiana, and KBLK out of Shreveport. Welcome aboard the Drug Truth Network!

So, I tried calling a couple of, I want to call them major guests, trying to get them aligned for this Thanksgiving show, and nobody answered, and I figured what the hell, I've still got a lot left from the New Orleans harm reduction conference, and some public service announcements that really need to be heard again by those in positions of power, so let's go back to New Orleans for a bit.

MICHAEL CONSIDINE: Hello, my name is Michael Considine.

DEAN BECKER: Michael, you're here, the banner above your booth says One Use Harm Reduction Products. Please, tell us what that's about.

MICHAEL CONSIDINE: Yeah. We're a company based in Ireland who specialize in providing specialist products to needle exchange services and harm reduction programs all over the world

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, that's, you know, honorable, I've got to say. We have to do something about the epidemic of death and destruction that's going on out there, that's circled around use of these drugs which can be very problematic, right?

MICHAEL CONSIDINE: Yeah, it's a problem we see all over the world. I mean, this is my first time at a harm reduction conference in the US, but the level of problems and information -- and commentary on the situation here is very similar to what I hear in Canada, in Europe, in Australia, and the problem is pervasive and it's not going away, unfortunately.

DEAN BECKER: Now, it's steeped in ignorance, though, I think is a large part of it, ignorance of politicians who do not truly understand it, who pretend to understand it, and set up obstacles rather than assistance, for the most part. Your thought there, please.

MICHAEL CONSIDINE: No, I would agree with that. I live in Ireland. We have a very -- a huge problem with homeless in Ireland at the moment, and it's become such an issue that, for the very first time, it's come to the very top of the government's priorities, which is highly unusual, because they're afraid that it's got to such a level now that it's actually going to impact on their ability to get reelected.

And unfortunately, unfortunately that's what it takes for a problem to get solved, and the drug problem in most countries doesn't get attention. It's not -- it's not sexy, it's not a vote getter for the politicians, and therefore it doesn't get looked after, which is really sad.

DEAN BECKER: Right. We have here in the US, Trump's now touting the great success of his tax cuts and how wealthy everyone is becoming, but that's really for the fat cats, the top percenters, that are really doing better, and what he doesn't say and what doesn't get the respect or the focus it deserves is that the continuing rise of the number of homeless camps and people living in desperate situations, without running water, without any means to be sanitary and to take care of their health. Your thought there, please.

MICHAEL CONSIDINE: Yeah, well, the ironic thing about all this is that governments who spend money on harm reduction have a healthier population of people, which, if you look at it from a hard financial perspective will actually save the economy an awful lot of money in health care.

When you neglect any population of people, the problem escalates. You know, and it costs, in Ireland, it costs somewhere between fifty thousand and eighty thousand euros to cure hepatitis C. If they spent ten dollars on some of our products for one person for one year, you know, okeh, they don't stop taking the drugs, but at least they're safe and they don't get infected.

You know, so, from a purely financial perspective, you know, it makes complete sense to fund harm reduction programs. But, unfortunately, a lot of people don't see it that way.

DEAN BECKER: No. No, well, we have this old Puritan mindset, I guess it is, that, here in the US in particular, the Christians, and in my opinion the supposed Christians, have taken over a lot of government function through their compassion, they call it. Your thought there, please.

MICHAEL CONSIDINE: Well, I guess, the US is quite different, I guess, from other countries in that respect. You know, you don't have a publicly funded healthcare system, you know, like all the programs that we provide our products to are generally publicly funded.

And with that comes a whole network of supports, not just in terms of needle exchange, but, you know, somebody has bacterial abscesses, or needs to be looked after, at least there are support systems there to help them.

And it seems to me from what I've heard from people at this great conference all week is that, you know, people are handing out materials, but that's it. Because they literally don't have the funds or the network to provide the extra supports that people who are addicted need to try to get back on, you know, a level playing field again.

DEAN BECKER: We don't have the medical services, we, we're way, way overpriced and unavailable to just the average Joe or Jolene out there. It's just not there.

MICHAEL CONSIDINE: Yeah. And, Dean, we've had calls over the summer in particular from hospital groups, on the east coast of the US, who've contacted us to inquire about our products, to understand how to use, because they're being inundated with so many people coming in uninsured, and when they provide care to people with problems such as endocarditis, which is a heart valve infection, it's costing the hospital between one hundred and two hundred thousand dollars per year to cure, to sort out.

And they don't have, and one particular group told me they lost twelve million dollars last year on uninsured people that they looked after. Now, pardon me for talking a lot about the finances of all of this.

DEAN BECKER: That's fine.

MICHAEL CONSIDINE: But ultimately, you know, things do get measured in dollars and cents, but if people are looked after properly from the beginning, then these other, more vast complications and implications for both the patient, the addicted person, and the system subsequently, are much less. So --

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, it's a penny in advance or a pound if you wait.

MICHAEL CONSIDINE: There you go. Yeah. Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: Well -- your name again, I'm sorry.


DEAN BECKER: Michael, I do appreciate you taking time. Is there a closing thought you'd like to share, maybe a website?

MICHAEL CONSIDINE: Yeah, look, we provide our products in the US through the National -- the North American Syringe Exchange Network. They've been very supportive of us, and they like our products. We have more information available on www.ONE-USE.com.

And, we've really enjoyed being here this week. We've learned an awful lot and engaged with so many wonderful people here, and we'll be coming back. And we hope to help more people here.

DEAN BECKER: This week, more stories of Mexican kingpins crushed. Scores of innocents slaughtered. Tons and tons of drugs discovered. ODs by the dozen. And ignorant kids dying. I'm outraged, I'm astonished. I can't believe this is happening.

No, really, I'm almost bored, except the continuing horror prevents that. How many times, years, decades, and now a century, how many times will we be surprised by these stories of barbarism, corruption.

The drug war has no connection with reality. It's a fairy tale from a long ago, put forward by zealots and bigots to accrue power and money from ignorant farmers and store clerks.

Summary? Quote: "Adult humans in these United States are too ignorant to decide what they should put into their own bodies. Therefore, henceforward, they must purchase a prescription from their doctor proving their infirmity before they can procure their pills from a pharmacist," end quote.

That's from the Harrison Narcotics Act. Franklin, Jefferson, and crew would have picked up their muskets and gone to war again over this abomination, and yet modern Americans are so soft and scared and ever ready to give Big Brother a big wet kiss for his promises of protection.

Now comes those ignorant drug war addicts whose proclivities toward alcohol, pills, and potions frightens them so bad that they want to lock up generations of our children so they can better protect themselves from themselves. Pure frickin' madness.

All right, if you will, introduce yourself, if your name is spelled weird please give me the spelling.

Yeah, yes, it is weird. My name is Iqbal Sunderani, and it's spelled Iqbal, and the last name is Sunderani, and I'm the CEO of BTNX.

DEAN BECKER: And tell us about BTNX, what is it you guys do?

IQBAL SUNDERANI: So, BTNX is a point of care, rapid test manufacturer. And primarily we service the physician market with their point of care testing. And, our fentanyl test that we've produced for harm reduction follows the same kind of technology.

DEAN BECKER: But, again, then, that's not necessarily, or, probably not much for doctors, but for the users out there on the street, wanting to see if their product will kill them.

IQBAL SUNDERANI: That is correct. That's what harm reduction professionals have done some studies, particularly the Johns Hopkins University, associated with Bloomberg Health, if you go to their website, has done an extensive study just looking at the usefulness, the efficacy of this test, in checking substances.

DEAN BECKER: Now, looking at it here, this banner you have here at the harm reduction conference is talking about it, the analogue list for it is carfentanyl, fluorofentanyl, a couple of others I probably shouldn't try to pronounce, but a lot of different fentanyl or chemical analogues of fentanyl. Tell us about the process, I mean, how much product does it take to test, and what could be the results.

IQBAL SUNDERANI: Yes. The tests are actually extremely sensitive, so for heroin users, basically the residue that's left in the cooker is sufficient enough a sample. They just pour some water in the cooker, and swirl it around, and put the test in. And it's a very quick test, within a minute you can start seeing results.

DEAN BECKER: Now, I imagine it's not so complex as to give you a percentage of fentanyl, but, just indicative of presence?

IQBAL SUNDERANI: Correct, yeah. Just like a pregnancy test tells you whether you're positive or negative.

DEAN BECKER: All right.

IQBAL SUNDERANI: And it works like a pregnancy test, except it's reverse, so two lines is a negative, and one line is a positive.

DEAN BECKER: This is so necessary in this day and age. We had last year alone I hear it was 72,000 people died of drug overdoses. I'm sure a large portion of those were for opioid users, and what has happened to the market is these cartels and the gangs have learned to buy this cheap fentanyl, or carfentanyl, out of China.

IQBAL SUNDERANI: Synthetic, and, yeah.

DEAN BECKER: And then to mix it with some white powder and claim it to be heroin. Now, your thought there, please.

IQBAL SUNDERANI: Well, because we're -- we're not on the street level, for us to make that comment would not be, I mean, we don't know those facts, but that's exactly what we're hearing as well, from what you're saying, and as you know, this interview is at the harm reduction conference, so we've had a lot of people come our way, at our booth, and are really, they're really thankful that we have this test, and they're saying that it's really working and it's really saving lives.

And actually, there was another gentleman that came to our booth, and he's just produced another study. I can email you that information. And what he's saying is that when they do do the test, and it's positive, they are five times more likely to change their habit in how they're using it.

And even when it's negative, they're twice as likely to change their habit, so, that is the real kind of statistics to base your information on.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. Right, to just realize that there is that potential, that danger, brings focus to bear.

IQBAL SUNDERANI: That is correct, yeah. Yeah, by changing habits on how they use it, again, is an education. It gives them more information. More information is always helpful.

DEAN BECKER: Iqbal, I do appreciate your thoughts, your perspective, sharing it with us. Is there a closing thought you might want to share with the audience, a website perhaps?

IQBAL SUNDERANI: Yes, we do have a website, it's BTNX.com.

JEFFERSON BEAUREGARD SESSIONS III: Marijuana may not cause the overdose deaths like heroin, but it's just as dangerous.

DEAN BECKER: For thousands of years, marijuana has been known as an appetite stimulant, and for its ability to prevent nausea.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Chest pain, dark yellow or brown urine, shortness of breath, skin rash, unusual tiredness or fatigue, headache, diarrhea or constipation, flatulence, nausea, and vomiting. Time's up! The answer: Nexium. The little purple pill. Another FDA approved product.

For nearly five hundred years, colonialist powers like England, Spain, and later the US, made it their business to impose their will on lesser countries, to force new religions and morals on all the heathen cultures of this earth.

In the process, they vilified and demonized the use of such drugs as marijuana, coca, and opium, which previously had been a recognized part of many religions, many cultures, for thousands of years.

In the early twentieth century, corporate heads foresaw gleaming profits in prohibiting the use of certain plants. They claimed that Chinamen on opium were a threat to a decent society, that Mexicans and blacks would rape white women after smoking marijuana, that prison or death were too good for users, and that the religious underpinnings of these drugs were sacrilegious and evil.

These men of influence and wealth had the contacts to force through laws based on nothing more than rumors circulated through newspapers controlled by these same interests.

The American people were fooled into believing they were saved and that the control and distribution of these herbs and their extracts should be prohibited. This prohibited drug commerce now exceeds four hundred billion dollars a year.

Today the US through its drug convention treaties forces its ideas of Judeo-Christianity and all the attendant drug laws and morals on the whole world. US media now ignores the ongoing drug reform in England, France, Spain, Portugal, Canada, and much of the rest of the world.

Research, experience, and common sense have shown these enlightened countries that the medieval drug laws are simply a mechanism that if left unchecked would someday devour the meaning, the very fabric of liberty.

NORA HANNA: Nora Hanna.

DEAN BECKER: Nora, I'm here at your booth at the harm reduction conference. There's a sign up there that's saying Until There's A Cure Foundation. Please tell me about that foundation.

NORA HANNA: We were started in 1993 by two moms in California. We were the first organization of any kind to use a bracelet to raise funds and awareness for a disease, and we've been raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS since then, and we've reinvested over 23 million dollars.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. That's admirable. I think you guys are, you know, don't know how to say it, just at the point of the spear, doing the best you can to help in this situation. My little bit of understanding tells me that the spread of HIV and AIDS has diminished, but it's still ongoing, and that there are ways to circumvent, or at least try to prevent, contracting those diseases.

NORA HANNA: That is true, however, there are pockets in the United States where the disease is on the rise. If you look at the south, you look at women of color, that is where the disease has now gone.

It is definitely a racial, economic issue. If you look at mass incarceration, you look homelessness, you look at drug use, you look at stigma within certain communities, we're not done yet. And yes, there is prep that you can take to help stop the spread of HIV, but it's not available to all, especially women of color.

DEAN BECKER: It's my understanding that, you know, it's not just through sex, but through use of certain drugs, or means of using drugs, people can acquire these diseases. Correct?

NORA HANNA: Absolutely. And we are all for safe injection sites. We believe that everyone should be treated with dignity, and who are we to tell you what to do with your body, what to do with your life, that we are here to get a vaccine for HIV, that is a goal, and that through that, we can stop the spread through drug use, through sex, through mass incarceration, through health education, and, you know, just make it a better world.

DEAN BECKER: I notice you mentioned mass incarceration, and, fill me in there. I guess I could see where less sanitary conditions, overcrowding, could lead to that sharing of germs, so to speak.

NORA HANNA: Well, when you have mass incarceration, when you get out of jail, it's harder to get a job, it's harder to get a home. You're living on the streets, you're self-medicating, you're sharing needles, you're sharing needles within the prison system, and not all prisons provide condoms.

So, that becomes an issue. So, mass incarceration, coupled with mental health issues and mass incarceration, really do put people at risk for HIV.

DEAN BECKER: What have we wrought in this country, we just -- just make things worse, we just make things worse with every, I don't know, solution we bring forward. It's so crazy. Well, once again, we've been speaking with Nora Hanna with Until There's A Cure Foundation. Hanna, closing -- Hanna, any closing thoughts, a website you might want to share?

NORA HANNA: Yes. Please visit us at Until.org, and visit our sister site at HIVLife.org, which is How I Value Life, which looks at HIV and social injustices and the intersection thereof.

DEAN BECKER: [MUSIC] How can you stop drug users from using?
How do you keep the sun from growing weed?
How can you end drug prohibition? It makes the world go round?

SARAH HASHMALL: Hi, my name is Sarah Hashmall.

DEAN BECKER: Sarah, where are you from?

SARAH HASHMALL: I'm from Washington, DC, at AIDS United.

DEAN BECKER: Right, the AIDS United. Tell me about the organization, what is it y'all do?

SARAH HASHMALL: Sure. AIDS United is a national nonprofit. Our mission is to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic here in the United States. We do that through strategic grant making, capacity building, and policy and advocacy.

DEAN BECKER: Now, that sounds great, but give us some details. What's involved in doing those processes.

SARAH HASHMALL: Great. Good question. So, regarding grant making, we have a number of different grants, where we support organization across the country in doing direct services as well as syringe service programs. We can pay for those actual syringes through the Syringe Access Fund, and then also, leadership development and building that leadership pipeline through our programs like People Organizing Positively and the Transgender Leadership Initiative.

DEAN BECKER: Now, do you occasionally, are you afforded the use of some government funds to do some of this work?

SARAH HASHMALL: Yes, definitely. So, we get money through the CDC and also HRSA for more of our HIV focused programs. The Syringe Access Fund is the largest private group of dollars. I can't tell you the exact funders off the top of my head, but we have it online at AIDSUnited.org.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Now, it's my understanding that my state of Texas hates Obamacare and hates, I don't know, health so much that they have foregone the use of billions of dollars that could have gone to our state, and they have this aversion to needle exchange, that one of the largest states does not have a legal needle exchange.

What difference does that make to a community, if they have needle exchange?

SARAH HASHMALL: Oh my gosh, it makes such a large difference. Let me look on my table here, I have some exact numbers.

Now, this number's from 2014, so it's been updated a bit, but, in 2014, between 2,635 and 3,852 new diagnoses of HIV were from infected needles. So, not -- and, you know, the numbers are even higher for hepatitis C, so, needle exchanges save lives, they prevent infections, and they also link people to care. So, and have been shown to reduce drug use, if that's something that a community is concerned about.

And then on top of that, you're talking about Medicaid expansion, and that is just such an important tool to link people to care, and the number, I don't have it exactly off the top of my head, but a large percentage of people living with HIV get their health insurance through Medicaid, when Medicaid was expanded, and they no longer had to wait until they were really sick with AIDS or -- and poor to receive health insurance, which is just so dehumanizing and really inappropriate.

So it's been a real lifesaver for folks.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, we're here at this harm reduction conference. We are amongst a lot of people whose efforts are trying to stop the misery, so to speak, of so many people caught up either through, you know, medical problems, or just being subjugated, so to speak, because of who they are, their lifestyle.

Some closing thoughts, please, in regards to what we're doing here at this harm reduction conference.

SARAH HASHMALL: Oh my gosh. This has been such a wonderful conference to attend. I think being able to come together and say as a group that people who use drugs, people who engage in sex work, people who do things that maybe other, the general society thinks is inappropriate, are not bad people, and deserve health and rights and the ability to live their life as they choose is just very powerful.

DEAN BECKER: Is there a website you might recommend where folks could learn more.

SARAH HASHMALL: Yes. Please visit AIDSUnited.org. I wanted to let you all know that the Syringe Access Fund is supported by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, H. Van Amergen Foundation, Irene Diamond Fund, Levi Strauss Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and AIDS United.

DEAN BECKER: This is the abolitionist's moment. Today, I want to read a quote from retired judge Dennis Challeen about sending the addicted to prison:

We want them to have self-worth, so we destroy their self-worth.
We want them to be responsible, so we take away all responsibility.
We want them to be positive and constructive, so we degrade them and make them useless.
We want them to be trustworthy, so we put them where there is no trust.
We want them to be non-violent. so we put them where there is violence all around them.
We want them to be kind and loving people, so we subject them to hatred and cruelty.
We want them to quit being the tough guy, so we put them where the tough guy is respected.
We want them to stop hanging around losers, so we put all the losers in the state under one roof.
We want them to quit exploiting us, so we put them where they exploit each other.
We want them to take control of their lives own problems and quit being a parasite on society, so we make them totally dependent on us.

On many of the Drug Truth Network stations following Cultural Baggage will be Century of Lies, hosted by Doug McVay. Doug, what do you have for us this week?

DOUG MCVAY: Thanks, Dean. This week on Century, we're going to have audio from an event called Beyond 2019: The Future of Drug Policies and the Lessons Learned, with audio from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

CRAIG MOKHIBER: The so-called war on drugs and all of its cousins, various approaches based upon prohibition, have been an unmitigated catastrophe for human rights all around the planet. This has been called one of those situations where the cure is far more deadly than the disease, and I think that's been proven to be true.

DOUG MCVAY: And the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. All that and more, coming up on Century of Lies.

DEAN BECKER: All right, as we wrap up this Thanksgiving show, I want to thank our new affiliates, I want to thank our old affiliates, I want to thank all of you for listening, and I want to remind you, once again, that because of this damn drug war you don't know what's in that bag. I want to urge you to please, be careful. We're going to close with I'm A Dope Fiend [sic: Dope Fiend Blues] from Allen Ginsberg.

ALLEN GINSBERG: Yes I'm a dope fiend, I don't believe your laws
Hey Mr. Policeman I'm a dope fiend, take that joint out of your jaws
I'm a dopefiend and I'm getting out of jail because, because, because

I'm a dopefiend sitting in my bedroom high
I didn't even light up no muggles, don't know why
I'm just naturally a dopefiend under the empty sky

Yes I'm a dopefiend I don't sniff cocaine
I hear the walls ringing my nose is still in pain