NEWS - December, 2006

Farewell, Charlotte

The Peace Corps community lost an important member with the passing of Charlotte Utting of Seattle on October 7, 2006. Charlotte touched the lives of many people around the world, and was a tenacious fighter for peace and justice everywhere.

Born in Germany, Charlotte moved to China in 1934, where her father worked as an economic advisor. With the outbreak of war in the Pacific in 1941, Charlotte moved to Victoria, BC, with her mother and sister. There she met her husband, and the couple relocated to Seattle, where she graduated from the University of Washington, and raised 2 sons. When the youngest turned 18, Charlotte applied to the Peace Corps, and was sent to Senegal in 1980, where she worked in health care and community-based agriculture projects. After stints in graduate school, and as an advisor in the English department of the UW, she joined the Peace Corps again, serving in Cameroon from 1989-90 as a maternal-child health specialist. Upon her return to Seattle, she worked as a Peace Corps recruiter for 5 years. She was a driving force behind programs to host and support international students at the UW and also assisted students she knew in Senegal to complete their education.

Charlotte was an active member of WSPCA and its predecessor group RAVN (Returned Action Volunteers in the NW, the original name), holding various leadership roles over the years. She was also a major supporter of the National Peace Corps Association and a member of its Director's Circle. When health problems forced Charlotte to retire, she retained her keen interest in world affairs and was an outspoken participant in peace and global justice campaigns.

Many people gathered to remember Charlotte at a memorial service in Seattle, including a large contingent of RPCVs. Charlotte is survived by a sister, her sons and their families. Memorials in her name may be sent to Doctors Without Borders, 333 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10001.

More information about Charlotte and her life's work:

Obituary in the Seattle Times: Charlotte Utting, 74, "born to be involved" http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003319855_utting24m.html

Charlotte Utting - For This Peace Corps Volunteer, Once Was Not Enough
http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/467/2953.html

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"Save Darfur" Program at Seattle University

On Sunday, November 19, Pigott Auditorium on the Seattle University campus was host to John Prendergast, an African affairs specialist and human rights activist, who has been traveling across the US to bring home the urgent message that U.S. intervention in the region of Darfur is imperative. Since 2004, Prendergast, who serves as a Senior Adviser for the International Crisis Group, has been traveling to the troubled region in western Sudan which he described as "Rwanda in slow motion". He has also been an adviser to the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. State Department.

The evening began with a lively performance by the Zumbuko Marimba Ensemble and an introduction by the event's organizer, Deborah Jones. Prendergast minced no words in addressing the audience, describing how Darfur was in the throes of genocide. He shared that even President Bush had recognized that reality in 2004, marking the first time that the word was used by a head of state to describe a government campaign. He was also adamant that the Sudanese government, not ethnic or religious tensions, was the cause of the crisis, and that it would never halt the massacre until the international community exerted political and economic pressure. He advocated the imposition of sanctions on Sudan's growing oil industry and the prosecution of Sudanese officials in the International Criminal Court - a prosecution that could be greatly advanced by current American intelligence on Darfur. While Prendergast still considered military intervention a "Plan B," he encouraged his audience to consider this route, especially in view of the potential for even greater disaster in the region. At present, over 2.25 million Sudanese are living in marginal refugee camps, relatively safe from the marauding militias called the janjaweed. But if the militias began attacking refugee camps, the ensuing devastation would be unimaginable.

Prendergast ended his message with an appeal for a response by average Americans. He urged the audience to write to their elected officials demanding a response to Darfur, and to contact media companies of all types, requesting that they present more frequent reports on the region. He ended by recounting a story of a young man whose school notebooks were found in the charred remains of a village, and whom his team tracked down years later in a refugee camp. The youth, now 17, told the team that he refused to join the rebels as so many young men had; he continues to go to school, and aspires to become a politician who would bring peace to his country. Listening to this story of courage, we felt we could not simply forget this genocide. We walked out of the room burdened with the knowledge of Darfur, but challenged to act upon it.

The evening with John Prendergast was organized by SaveDarfurWashingtonState, a Seattle-based non-profit and by numerous individuals, local schools and fatih communities. WSPCA was present at a table in the main lobby of the auditorium and showed its support through an ad campaign to its membership. We were pleased to see several RPCVs, WSPCA members and non-members alike, in the audience Sunday evening.

More information can be found in the Washington Post Article, So How Come We Haven't Stopped It? and at the Save Darfur website.

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RPCV Mentoring Program Launched

Through a cooperative agreement with Peace Corps, the National Peace Corps Association is coordinating a pilot mentoring program to connect RPCVs with volunteers who have recently completed Peace Corps service and are transitioning back to life in the U.S. We are pleased to announce that Portland, Oregon is one of the pilot regions for this program.

This pilot program will provide a unique opportunity for newly returned volunteers to connect with others who have gone through the same experience of "reverse culture shock" following Peace Corps service. Mentors will assist mentees in making the transition to new jobs or educational programs, and introduce them to the local RPCV community. An initial orientation meeting will provide mentors with valuable training and resources, including a Mentor Toolkit with tools and strategies for effective mentoring. From January through June 2007, mentors and mentees will meet face-to-face and communicate regularly by phone and e-mail, and will offer feedback to NPCA about their experiences.

In each region, we are seeking 15 RPCV mentors, as well as 15 recently returned volunteers to be matched with mentors. For full details, eligibility requirements, and to apply to be a mentor or a mentee, please visit http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/mentoring. The deadline for submitting applications is December 15.

We welcome your involvement as we build this mentoring program. If you have any questions or suggestions, please direct them to mentor@rpcv.org.

Anne Baker
Vice President
National Peace Corps Association

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Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines

Recent commemorations on November 14, the 5th anniversary of the Doha Declaration, and December 1, World Aids Day, have served as somber reminders of the critical unsolved issue of access to essential medicines for poor people around the world. A legal case currently under way in India may hold the key to whether generic forms of essential medicines will be available to low-income patients in that country and worldwide, now and in the future.

Brief background: The Doha Declaration on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights ( TRIPS) and Public Health was a Ministerial agreement signed by Member States of the WTO or World Trade Organization. It stipulated that the intellectual property (IP) rules in the TRIPS Agreement not prevent the utilization and enforcement of TRIPS safeguards deemed necessary to protect the public health of a country. It also directed members to facilitate access to generic medicines in poor countries with little or no manufacturing capability, i.e., to allow export and/or import of these drugs. To date, however, little progress has been made in increasing access to affordable essential medicines in developing countries. Instead, the wealthy countries, especially the US, have undermined the Doha Declaration by pressuring poor nations to enact IP rules that are even more restrictive than the TRIPS obligations, by means of bilateral and regional free trade agreements. Multinational pharmaceutical companies have been key players in these efforts, focusing on protecting patents for certain brand-name, expensive drugs as well as trying to challenge the patent laws in effect in specific countries.

The present case in India involves the Swiss pharma Novartis, which has filed two cases: one challenging India's denial of a patent to the cancer drug Glivec, and the other challenging the Indian law itself that determines which medicines are patentable. These cases have serious implications both in India and worldwide, as many generic medicines sold in developing countries are manufactured in India. If Novartis is successful in its challenges, this source of remedies for all types of diseases affecting people worldwide, and especially in poor countries, is in danger of being cut off. Although the need for cancer drugs has not been given much publicity, some of the newest and most effective cancer drugs are outrageously expensive even in wealthy countries, and cancer is a rapidly-growing public health problem worldwide. It is estimated that by 2020, 60% of new cases of cancer will be in the developing world, and there is no known means to prevent blood cancers like leukemia, whose rates are increasing. Effective and affordable medicines are urgently needed to treat all diseases, not only HIV/AIDS, across the globe.

Glivec is a drug originally approved to treat certain forms of leukemia and stomach cancer. While it has been hailed as a new treatment in handy pill form to control (but not cure) these diseases, it also made headlines when Novartis announced at its launch in 2001 that it would be sold at a global price, i.e, at the same price worldwide, regardless of the economic situation of any individual country. Currently the basic minimum dose of Glivec (spelled Gleevec in North America) is $27,000 US per year. Patients are thought to need to take the drug for the rest of their lives. Generic versions which had been made in India cost one-tenth that price. Novartis contends that its donation program for Glivec makes the drug accessible to all those who need it, despite widely reported limits and difficulties with that program.

Julien Reinhard, the director of an awareness and action campaign being spearheaded by Berne Declaration, a Swiss NGO that monitors the activities of multinational corporations based in Switzerland, shared the following in the group's Open Letter to Novartis:

We are shocked that five years after the end of the trial brought by Novartis and other pharmaceutical companies against the South African government, Novartis is trying again to restrict the flexibility given to a country to adapt the TRIPS Agreement to its public health needs.

This matter needs our urgent attention, as unfortunately it has not received much coverage in the US.

Here's how you can help:

The NGOs Oxfam International and Berne Declaration have launched an international campaign to get Novartis to drop the lawsuits it has filed in India. Individuals and organizations are being asked to send a letter to Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella making that request. This can be done either via an electronic form on the Oxfam website, or with a personal letter. The two organizations, as well as Doctors Without Borders, have created educational websites on the campaign, which explain the matter and its grave implications for global health.

Here are links to campaign websites and related information:

Oxfam's Make Trade Fair Campaign (includes e-mail letter to send to Novartis)

Questions and Answers on Novartis and the Glivec Patent Case in India

Berne Declaration's pages on the Novartis Glivec campaign
Open letter to Novartis
Novartis challenges the Indian Patent Law

Doctors Without Borders press release
As Novartis Challenges India's Patent Law, MSF Warns Access to Medicines Is Under Threat

New York Times articles on Glivec donation program.
Company's Vow to Donate Cancer Drug Falls Short
Questions on Choice of Foundation for Drug Program

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Book Drive Update: WSPCA Makes a Difference

12/4/06
Dear Ms. Jennifer Nichols,
Slidell Pathways is a special ed school in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. Our school, along with 4 other public and one parochial school, was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. While we continue our recovery, many needs still exist. One of the people who has helped for the last year and one half with donations and words of encouragement is Ms. Joanne Dufour. She informed me that you and the organization, Peace Corps, have been instrumental in helping Slidell Pathways receive many donated goods. She also indicated that you discuss the situation in the newsletter and for all of these acts of kindness, please accept my sincere appreciation.
Ms. Temma Pistrang, treasurer donated the carbon paper. Believe it or not the staff uses it daily. We are unable to get many forms on NCR paper until we revise them so the carbon paper is helpful. Please thank her for the donation and know that we are an appreciative group.
The Peace Corps and so many individuals have helped this region. Without that help no one would be recovering. I am always amazed at the kindness shown since August 2005.
Please accept my wishes for a peaceful holiday season.
Always, Jackie Landry, Principal

12/5/06
Dear Jennifer,
Your note is most appreciated. As I watched people recovering from the 9/11 attacks I wondered how they dealt with the shock and trauma. So often we heard it was the help of others and, that you simply put one foot in front of the other. A friend of mine who lost her son said she got through it by putting on her lipstick every time she felt like giving up. Of all things, those helped as we looked around us!
Most of all the kindness of others has kept us moving forward and making life better than ever. It has really occurred to many that materials things amount to nothing compared to a helping hand.
Please know that your support and encouragement goes further than any other event that could occur.
You have my respect, Jackie

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Best of the Web

Best of the Web is a feature of our newsletter and website listing resources for learning more about events, news, discussion, and organizations that share the international and multicultural interests of SEAPAX. We invite you to submit your favorites to share here. This month's listing highlights two sites that provide ready information about countries and states and about health and healthcare.

We continue to welcome submissions to our listserv (as per Submissions Guidelines) , but there is so much going on in the Puget Sound area, that we can't possibility list everything nor in a timely manner. Thus, we want to alert you to good resources where you can find out more on your own. As this list grows, entries will be organized into ready reference categories. Please send your submissions to: wspcaeditor@yahoo.com

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