Friday, April 21, 2017

Easter, Milestones, Cuba, Trump on the Warpath and Just Being Trumpian, SOS to Sessions: Hawaii Is a State!

 Stephen from Nigeria, Easter Sunday, 2017, Cathedral Shrine, Catholic University, Washington, DC

                                 Redbud in our front yard finally blooming, April 2017

 ¿ ñ íóúá üé ¡
Easter, Milestones, Cuba, Trump on the Warpath and Just Being Trumpian, SOS to Sessions: Hawaii Is a State!

[Redbud flowers—spring has finally sprung--Easter]

Stephen, one of my 2 Nigerian GAO visitors, and I attended 10:30 am Easter Sunday Mass at the cathedral at Catholic University. We went by metro. It was a very warm day, lots of flowers and flowering trees, and crowds of people going into the cathedral. We entered first at the lower level and I showed him what is called the underground church. Then, we took an elevator up to the main or upper church. A woman with two little girls got on the elevator with us and, to my surprise, Stephen began speaking to them in an unfamiliar language and the woman answered him back. He told me later, though he had never seen her before, that he knew by intuition that she was from his native village and that they shared a language. He said as soon as he saw her, he had a feeling of kinship with her—he just knew she was from there! What are the odds of that happening by chance in an elevator in Washington, DC?

There was standing room only inside the upper cathedral with its valued ceiling and many alcoves and statues. I did find a seat on a bench in one of the side chapels, where I could still hear, but not see the main service. Stephen chose to stay standing up in front. DC’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl presided. I don’t know why, but those of us in our side cubicle never had the collection basket passed to us. The cathedral must have lost hundreds of dollars or more by neglecting us. The organ music and choir were magnificent, especially one or more sopranos who performed solos, their voices echoing off and traveling throughout that huge vaulted chamber.  Later, Stephen and I went back downstairs because he wanted to buy a rosary. The ones for sales, some made of precious stones, were too expensive. But at the information desk, we were each given a free plastic one and I gave mine to Stephen for his wife.

When we came back from the cathedral, we walked again past the Eastern Market outdoor vendors, then stopped for a while outside Java Café to hear a trio playing music, not for tips, just for fun. They had brought an upright piano, which a middle-aged man wearing shorts played with vigor, accompanied by two other men playing a trumpet and a trombone. Stephen filmed and recorded them with his Samsung phone. So Easter turned out to be a fun day.

My childhood friend Anna, living in another state, after being run over by a vehicle belonging to her assisted living facility some 2½ years ago, then spending 2 years in the hospital and losing a leg, finally got a pretty fair settlement in a jury trial. I’ve mentioned her here before. The other side kept stalling, probably hoping she would die first. She was someone who had visited me in the Peace Corps in Honduras. With grit and the help of medical experts, she survived. However, now new health problems have arisen. I fault (bad) luck, God, and, more especially, the facility that maimed her for stalling on compensation, so that she will probably have a reduced time left to enjoy her settlement. As Jimmy Carter said, life is unfair.  (We already knew that.)

Another long-time friend living in DC, Velma (“Vee”) whom I had known almost since moving here  in 1969, died at age 95 after a fall in her own home, where she was still living alone, but with help coming in. She had lived a good, productive life and is survived by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She was not ill for long, so she might be said to have had a good death. We held a remembrance party at her home in her honor, something of which I think she would have approved, although she definitely did not want an actual funeral and having people standing around weeping.  As we get older and closer to death ourselves, we start having more friends and contemporaries becoming ill and dying, which is only to be expected, but most deaths come as a surprise and certainly as a loss. I remember that my mother, who died at age 92, kept going to more frequent funerals until, finally, it was her turn. My own most profound personal losses, obviously, have been of younger family members, those who left before their time, namely my son Andrew at age 27, my own life’s worst calamity, and my Cuban foster son Alex at age 31.

Speaking of the loss of young people, has MS 13 now brought its lethal ways to the United States? Its threats and now actual murders need to be nipped in the bud.  (I’m referring to the four young men murdered gang-style in New York State.) 

Cuba will open up to a U.N. human rights expert for first time in a decade

We already knew about this at Amnesty Int’l, 588 Cubans allowed residency in Mexico, not their first choice, but still OK, they get to be in a Spanish-speaking country with more freedom and opportunities than in Cuba, (However, I understand that Cubans arriving at the southern border have been sent back to Cuba.)

Moving on to Africa, where I am less familiar, only having been to Morocco, Kenya, and South Sudan, the nation of Zimbabwe, though troubled, is not high on anyone’s radar screen. However, the Zimbabwe country specialist for Amnesty Int’l USA, a volunteer like I am for the Caribbean, spoke to our local Amnesty Group 211. She said presidential elections are scheduled for July 2018 and octogenarian Robert Mugabe is planning to run, if he survives until then, as he is now in fragile health. She said there are many other aspiring candidates, none very inspiring. Zimbabwe is in terrible financial trouble, with rampant inflation—and no longer using US dollars—and it is an authoritarian state despite nominal elections. But it is not in as bad shape in terms of violence as some other African countries, so gets little attention.  We sent notes of moral support to be given to women human rights advocates, but just signing our first names and not putting a return address. The idea was to let them know they are not forgotten.

We don’t know if Trump had a strategy mapped out for following up on his order to make an airstrike in Syria—probably not. But for once, it seemed to be an action that might be considered presidential in the traditional sense. It also has helped divert attention away from his Russia ties and Russian interference in his election. Some cynical Democrats think that was the main impetus behind his Syria action. While some Republican voters and lawmakers may have heralded Trump’s decisiveness on Syria, they should remember how the same Republicans hampered Obama’s ability to act on Syria and in many other spheres. Trump’s meeting with China’s president also has seemed presidential, so maybe he’s finally starting to get the hang of the office and starting to do more of what’s usually expected of a president after his rocky and disorganized start and his many lies and ridiculous statements and tweets. (But he may be losing some of the hard core who love those outrageous tweets.) Probably the successful placing of Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, whatever one thinks of Gorsuch, was also a big plus for Trump.  

The apparent downgrading of Bannon is also positive—and maybe we have young Jared to thank for that? However, Bannon may have too much dirt on Trump for him to get rid of him entirely—at least that’s the rumor (or maybe just another instance of fake news? These days, it’s hard to tell.) Now can Trump, who was so concerned about Syrian babies, wrap his flighty mind around the prospect of granting of refugee status to fleeing and already heavily vetted Syrians with babies that would be progress.  Meanwhile, he seems to be enjoying a bit too much the feeling of power coming from ordering military strikes, so there needs to be some curb or forethought there, preferably from a Congress that becomes more than a rubber stamp. Trump vs. Kim, 2 crazies facing off, a dangerous situation.
Perhaps someone on Kim’s team was executed for the recent failed nuclear display?

Nor should we feel secure with Trump’s finger on our nuclear trigger, though it has begun dawning on him that we need allies in Asia. Or, at least, it has dawned on Mike Pence. Trump has learned a few things on the job—i.e. health care is complicated, who knew?  But as a self-inflating 70-year-old man who has bluffed and bullied his way through life so far, we cannot expect Donald Trump to make a major transformation. After the election, I’d hoped against hope that he might begin to modify, since his positions have seemed pretty changeable. But, so far, he and his chosen acolytes have shown themselves to mostly be mean-spirited (trying to take away poor kids’ school lunches!), willing to wreak havoc, and lie outright. Also, his continued  braggadocio is unattractive in a leader or in anyone. He has gone out of his way to praise his own capacities (“I’m very smart”), tout the luxury of his DC hotel and, at the White House Easter egg roll, he loudly praised Melania’s role there, saying more or less, “Look what a good job she did!” regarding one of the few public events at which she has appeared (where was their son?). In bad taste and something that only highlights how few public appearances Melania has actually made. Can you imagine Barack Obama publicly praising Michelle for participating in an Easter egg roll? You have to feel sorry for a guy so clueless and socially awkward. No wonder he has to grab women, because he would seem so wildly unattractive to most women. But his base is still clinging to him and Republican lawmakers, whatever their private misgivings, are mostly hanging tight so far. If voters turn against them, then they might begin to see the light. The US now has become a bad example to the rest of the world, which often looks to us for moral guidance and leadership. Indeed, the retrograde elements of other nations now seem emboldened by the Trump phenomenon.

To some extent, though we must continue to fight against the odds, we just have to suck it up to some extent and keep on going, as with any of life’s major calamities and hurdles. When Trump is gone, then we can try to do major damage control and remediation. I’ve been depressed ever since election night. Trump has turned out to be just as terrible as I’d feared on that fateful night.

As someone who has been advocating on social media and in person that Trump release his tax returns, I wish I had known, as Trump loudly claims, that we are all being paid for making our demands. I’d like my cut!  Since Trump is such a shameless liar and Republicans are not daring to call him out, our tactic must be, even against unfair odds, to undermine his credibility with voters and topple some of the lawmakers who have been supporting him, even when they know better.

Rich old overweight white guys like Trump, O’Reilly, and Roger Ailes with negative sex appeal, all married, of course, apparently like to feel “macho” by bullying women into going to bed with them. At least, that’s my perspective. They are really physically repulsive as far as I can see and certainly falling back on threats and coercion would not enhance their attractiveness. Why do some men, especially, seem to identify with them? Because they vicariously enjoy their domination of women? I don’t get it, but maybe men do. That all three have gotten as far as they have before being taken down is a sad commentary. Trump is still left to go.

Hello Mr. Sessions, Hawaii is a state, just like the one you come from.

Kellyanne Conway, who apparently coined the term “alternative facts,” got a laugh here in DC at a recent speech at the Newseum (a news museum) when she complained about negative press and opined that “people literally say things that just aren't true.” Imagine that? She, Sean Spicer, and her big boss, Donald Trump, would find themselves getting a little more favorable press coverage if they actually were more truthful and more credible.  

Meanwhile, despite some fall-off in NYC, Ivanka's biz prospers as politics mixes with business

As for Arkansas’s spate of pending executions—whether or not all eight are actually carried out (as of this writing, one has actually gone forward)—they do seem to have brought some negative publicity to that state. Would you want to live in a state known for executing more inmates than ever before in a single month? Or maybe that’s just my perception as someone who would like to see the death penalty abolished. Not that those men are likely to be innocent, though that’s always a possibility judging by the success of the Innocence Project. Although rare, I don’t doubt that some innocent prisoners have been executed. No, that’s not my main objection; I just don’t think the death penalty is much of a deterrent (some murderers actually seem to crave martyrdom) or that the government should be in the business of executing people. I don’t like the idea of government—at whatever level—executing people in your and my name and with our tax dollars. That’s something done by Saudi Arabia, China, and North Korea, but our country should move away from such retribution. At the same time, I have little sympathy for the Norwegian mass murder who constantly complains about his cushy incarceration. According to polls, a slight majority of Americans still favor the death penalty for capital crimes, though that majority has been shrinking. The death penalty is especially favored by Republican voters.

Vehicles seem to be the new attack weapon of choice being used by terrorists against unsuspecting civilians. Cars, trucks, we do need them to transport people and goods, but how can civilians be better protected from being directly targeted by malevolent drivers? Having ridden in my brother’s self-driving Tesla, I can also envision a self-driving vehicle being programmed to ram into a crowd with no driver actually inside.

Finally, after an absence—I attended a recent meeting of Compassionate Friends, a support group for bereaved parents. For a while, I was leading a Spanish-speaking group at Providence Hospital, but a Colombian nun working with me there became very ill and we had to give up the effort. I cannot say that belonging to a parental support group takes away the grief, but it does make the parent who has lost a child feel less alone. It's hard enough to lose a child, but worse when others shun you or say stupid things like, "I know how you must feel because my son was very sick once and we feared we'd lose him, though he's just fine now." There's a big difference in the latter case--your son is still alive; mine is not. When I attend meetings now, it is mainly to help newly bereaved parents who are often in a state of shock.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Another Birthday, Nigerian Visitors, Peace Corps on Trump’s Chopping Block? Sen. Kaine’s Letter, Obamacare’s Half-Life, Cuba, Jamaica, South Sudan

                                              My birthday--I won't say which one.


Two visitors from Nigeria are staying with me temporarily while attending a GAO course here, perhaps their last chance to do so during the Trump administration. Although, back home, they do not cook, wash clothes, iron, or clean up, since both have wives and also servants, now they are gamely trying their best, with some messiness in the kitchen, but that’s improving. One man was going to put his woolen suit jacket into the washing machine, but I stopped him in time! He also burned a pot of rice, sending smoke throughout the house. I hope he won’t start that. I once had a young woman from Italy staying with me who regularly burned rice at least once a week. It’s kind of scary to have the house fill up with smoke.

While the future of the Peace Corps is threatened by the proposed slashing of the foreign aid budget, here is part of a letter Va. Senator Tim Kaine wrote to a former volunteer asking about the corps’ future. (The cost of supporting and protecting the Trump family seems to exceed the cost of the entire Peace Corps.)

I understand the value of serving abroad to help people in need.  When I was in law school, I decided to take a year off from my studies to work with Jesuit missionaries in El Progreso, Honduras, where I taught young students carpentry and welding skills.  This experience taught me the importance of skills-based training-both abroad and at home-and inspired me to pursue the issue of expanding career and technical education in the U.S. Senate.  In February 2015, I had the pleasure of returning to El Progreso and seeing the success and expansion of the campus where I taught.
In March 2015, I wrote a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, urging full support for the President’s 2016 budget request of $410 million for the Peace Corps.  I am glad that this budget request was included in a bipartisan agreement by the House and Senate to fund operations of government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2016.  In March 2016, I joined 29 of my colleagues in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, reiterating the need to continue strong investments in the Peace Corps for Fiscal Year 2017.  As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I will continue to support a strong diplomatic corps, including the Peace Corps.

#ProtectPeaceCorps just got a big boost as well. In a powerful show of support for the Peace Corps from Congress, a record 175 House Members signed the Peace Corps Funding Dear Colleague Letter in support of level funding for the agency for FY18. 

A New York Times’ editorial questions the wisdom of slashing any part of foreign aid:

Donald Trump and the Republican leadership have found out how hard it is to take away an entitlement once it is in place. Trump’s boasts of his deal making prowess notwithstanding, he could not make the healthcare deal, at least not yet. He didn’t even really try—did no apparent homework—just found health care surprisingly complicated! How about that? Basically, his main operational method is bluster and threat, not the careful working out of details and the lining up of support. (Lyndon Johnson was the champion of persuasive arm-twisting.) And since Trump has a notoriously short attention span, he wasn’t willing (or able?) to put in the required effort. He wanted to move on to something easier where he could tout success. Americans also want easier health coverage, as well as less costly, and a number of them voted for Trump based on his promises in that regard; it’s so much easier to promise on the campaign trail than to deliver. Trump should realize that he is a minority president, that most Americans did not vote for him (and many find him repugnant), and that he needs to win them/us over, not just keep playing to his shrinking base. If he fails to keep his promises, he will lose even more support among the diehard faithful. It was instructive that a grumpy Donald Trump decided he was not going to sign some pending executive orders because he just didn’t feel like it. Sounds like being president is not as much fun as he had imagined.

As far as health care, the number of conceivable medical interventions is practically infinite and none can deter decline and death forever. However, there are certain basic interventions that Americans may or may not agree are necessary in any health system. Of course, we now have a firm bloc of Republican lawmakers who don’t think government has any role in health care (patient, health thyself!) and even some who think that government itself (including them?) is unnecessary and evil. So moving forward on any future health plan looks murky. There are bipartisan fixes that could be made to Obamacare, but is anyone willing to stick out his/her neck to try to make them happen?

For one thing, there needs to be a moratorium on increases in compensation for US healthcare workers, from physicians on up, since one reason our system is so costly is that payment here is far above what the same professionals earn in other developed countries. I remember when I worked at the American Occupational Therapy Association that Canadian therapists flocked here because of the much higher salaries. This problem could be better controlled under a single-payer, government-sponsored system, which, no doubt, the health professions would lobby against. However, the compensation problem, especially incentives for highly paid surgeons to provide costly interventions, while important, is secondary to the current threat to Obamacare and to government support of our hybrid health delivery system. Would Republicans have us go back to just using home remedies and paying doctors with chickens?  

At the same time, Trump is so quirky and unpredictable that he might get behind some actual fixes to Obamacare with the help of moderate Republicans and some Democrats, making it more operational and effective and getting us closer to universal coverage. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but I’d like to hope that having Ivanka in the White House might offer a moderating influence and maybe Jared as well, a young man who is in way over his head but may also be more moderate than Trump himself and his other advisers, except perhaps on the question of Israel? That Bannon is off the National Security Council and that Kellyanne has not been seen lately are positive developments.

Russian intervention may or may not have been the final straw that made the catastrophic accident of the Trump presidency possible. Trump’s margin was so thin in key Electoral College states, it probably did make a difference, but we don’t live in that alternative universe. FBI chief Comey’s gratuitous announcement of a further investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails just days before the election, based on the seizure of Anthony Weiner’s laptop, also bears blame. Whatever factors contributed to the unfortunate outcome, we are now stuck for the duration, however long that might be. Still, we do need to combat further Russian interference and find out—even in the face of Republican obstructionism--whether Putin holds a blackmail card against Trump for supposedly cavorting with Russian prostitutes in 2013 (“I don’t even know Putin,” The Donald has said since). That remains to be seen—or maybe will never be seen. Trump’s evangelical supporters would not like to find out about something like that, though Trump himself would dismiss it is as “fake news.” No doubt, Vladimir Putin is rubbing his hands gleefully at the success of his plot, well beyond his wildest dreams. US decline is in full swing.

Here is a scathing editorial about Trump and his presidency in the LA Times. It hits the nail on the head (though he would certainly dismiss it as a media conspiracy and “fake news.” )

Here is a NY drug case involving a former Honduran president and possibly the current one, running for reelection under controversial terms because a second consecutive term has not been allowed before in Honduras.

Mexico is offering to consider asylum for 500 Cubans stuck at the border since President Obama announced the end of “wet-foot/dry-foot.”

Sirley Avila, the Cuban woman whose hand was severed and who suffered other serious injuries in May 2015 after objecting to a local school closing, is now in a shelter near Miami, trying to get assistance to move out. As stated on this blog, I just saw her in March. After 6 months in rehab, she had returned to Cuba, only to be harassed by State Security (with lights and sirens) and threatened by her former attacker, roaming free. Now, with documents that she says prove government complicity, she is asking the Cuban government to recognize the crime against her and provide compensation. As a result, her son, who has remained in Cuba caring for her elderly mother and is also the father of two children, has been threatened by an unknown individual if Sirley does not withdraw her demand. Sirley says she is worried sick that her son will be killed, but she doesn’t think she should withdraw her just demand under threat. As a mother who has lost a son and a foster son, I told her to think carefully about going forward, as we both know that as long as the current Cuban government is in power, it is not going to recognize the crime against her, its own complicity, or pay any compensation. If her son is killed, she may have a further cause to pursue, just as is being done by family of the late Dama de Blanco Laura Pollan after her suspicious death and by Oswaldo Paya’s daughter, Rosa Maria, after he was killed. But whatever justice may eventually prevail in those cases (not any time soon), that will be cold comfort, as those lost will not return and I can attest to the difficulty of living after the death of a child—of any age—regardless of subsequent successes.

Re Jamaica, a country within my Amnesty International Caribbean volunteer orbit, see:
Together we are stronger By Shackelia Jackson, sister of Nakiea, killed by the Jamaican police in 2014

Amnesty International has issued a new Urgent Action (UA) on behalf of Dr. Eduardo Cardet in Cuba following a national’s court decision to sentence him to three years’ imprisonment for criticizing former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Dr. Cardet is a prisoner of conscience imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and we are therefore demanding his immediate and unconditional release.

Here’s another Cuba UA: Four family members in prison since Fidel’s death, three on a hunger strike.
However, the three sibling hunger strikers were recently released conditionally to the hospital and their mother remains under house arrest, so the matter is not resolved:

I attended a presentation at the EU Delegation’s DC headquarters by Professor Martin Palous, on Cuba-Czech ties, including details of a meeting between the late Cuban democracy advocate Oswaldo Paya and Vaclav Havel, which included a film of a performance by Porno Para Ricardo (including reference to piglet artist El Sexto) and appearances by Paya’s daughter Rosa Maria. As per my Confessions book, I met Paya early on, met his daughter after his death, and also describe the irreverent group Porno Para Ricardo, which makes fun of the Castro brothers. Afterward, I gave a copy of my book, plus some material on Sirley Avila, to Dr. Palous, since he teaches a diplomacy class at Florida International University and his students would be interested and also might be able to help Sirley.

As for South Sudan, those of us who have visited and been involved with that beleaguered country, were thrilled by the overwhelming independence vote that in 2011 led to the birth of a new nation. (I spent almost a month in South Sudan in 2006.) But the (divided) leadership simply could not jettison its warlike rebel and tribal mode of thinking, with each leader always seeking to win exclusive advantages for his own side/tribe. That sort of mindset is typical of all governing systems to an extent—our own included—but in South Sudan, already ravished by years of war with the north, it has proved catastrophic.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Adding Miami and Albuquerque

Dear Friends, Not being IT savvy, I find posting photos on this blog, even with a bare minimum of narrative to be quite challenging, so thanks for your understanding. Let's see if I can finish this today.

Above, Homestead shelter where injured Cuban dissident Sirley Avila has been staying for 3 months , after lost paperwork and other problems. Below, Sirley can now walk short distances with a cane. I wrote about her:

                          Below, I invited Sirley and our mutual friend John to lunch.

Below, with another friend, Gerardo, at his home and he and his wife with their pet parakeet. She is from Argentina; he is Cuban.

At lunch below with another Cuban, Dr. Federico, a retired academic and physician, a versatile gentleman who also writes and sings romantic songs in Spanish--and plays the guitar to accompany himself.

Below with Silvia L (Cuban), Carlos (Bolivian), and Karen (USA) 

For some reason, I have no photos of my TV interviewer (in Spanish), nor links to either of my TV appearances, but most readers of this blog don't know Spanish anyway. Regrettably, I also don't have photos of Armando and his family (from my Cuba book), whom I also saw in Florida. 

Below is my brother Bob and his girlfriend Jean next to his new Tesla, a self-driving car that gets free electricity, so no gas, no noise. 

First photo below of flowering tree when I cam back from Honduras and Florida, followed by photo of surprise snow storm that wilted all the flowers.

Below with my new Jamaica assistant Sarah at Amnesty International's 2017 conference in Albuquerque. 

Sarah and Nick below

                                                  AI candle logo at conference hotel

                                                 Below, pro-immigration display

                                       Amnesty leaders from other countries speak in solidarity

                                                Entertainment by local musicians


                                Cathedral from 1700's refurbished below and cathedral gardens below that

                                  Albuquerque is a city of murals and friendly, interesting, quirky people

Catching Up, Finally--Honduras Trip Posting, Florida Stopover, Amnesty Int’l Annual Conference

First, apologies for odd spacing on last blog—I tried to correct it several times without success. The blog format has a mind of its own.
The Trump administration seems to be winging it, throwing out different options without a coherent though-out plan, seeing what garners support. Of course, Steve Bannon may have a plan, but in Trump, he has an undependable partner. Why is Trump always scowling in photos? Is he not having fun? 

I wonder if Barack Obama is writing another book out there on his island hideaway?”

Nicholas Kristof’s column in the NY Times challenges Paul Ryan’s Christian credentials:

More than 500 US cities have now declared themselves to be sanctuary cities, with perhaps slightly different meanings in each, but opposition to cooperation with the Trump administrations is clear. Trump has certainly given ISIS and Al-Qaeda a great gift with his proposed travel ban, making it a big recruiting tool for those groups and causing US-based Muslims to feel anxious and under attack.

Why the Trump administration started out with replacing Obamacare, potentially hurting some of Trump’s most ardent supporters, is beyond understanding, as the brunt, if it passes, is likely to be felt before the mid-term elections, defeating many Republicans. Trump would have done better to start with infrastructure repair or tax relief, which would have been popular, though adding to the deficit. Unfortunately, neither Trump nor his supporters understand much about economics.

However, Ivanka, despite boycotts of some of her products, is apparently not doing too badly after all. Perhaps some buyers support her precisely because they support her father, while others like what she has to offer and don’t hold her father against her.

Having children leads to slightly longer average life expectancy, according to a Swedish study. If so, it may be that children look after aging parents. My friend in rural area lives next door to her 102-year-old mother, who, no doubt, would not do well without her daughter’s daily visits.

A Wall St. Journal article “Cuba Kills Another Dissident (March 6, 2017)” reports the death in prison of 45-year-old afro-Cuban dissident Hamell Santiago Mas Hernandez of a purported heart attack. Such prison deaths of dissidents are often reported as “heart attacks.” 

Now on to the Feb. trip to Honduras, then a brief stopover in Miami, where on Feb. 26, I appeared on a half-hour interview in Spanish on PBS Channel 17. That interview was about Peace Corps, my Amnesty International volunteer work, and Cuba. After I got back to DC, was also interviewed by a local Univision TV station, mostly about my volunteer work in Honduras, so I'm becoming a known quantity on the Spanish-language TV circuit. 

Will show Honduras trip in photos, not necessarily in chronological order. Perhaps because simply of the ravages of time, I found this trip more tiring than previous ones. 

 Donations above, at bus station in Comayaguela, before taking them to their various destinations. I got them that far, so the final step in the distribution was next. Below, health center where suitcase of medical donations went. Doctor there is washing his own instruments; note below paper files at the health center. 

 Below, I am there in broiling El Triunfo riding a rapitido. Then shown with this year's wheelchair recipient, a village woman in her 60's with acute arthritis. Later, I bought food for her family, as they were short on food. The walker recipient, in another village, was 102 years old, with no teeth, so the granddaughter with whom he lived fed him a sort of gruel made mostly of corn from their own fields. Both recipients' families had 4 children, no electricity,no plumbing, and lived in remote areas. 

I was scheduled to see this child below at the Triunfo health center. His mother
brought him, but became frightened that I might take him away, so she left.

Above, Triunfo health center, dengue sign and director Dra. Jeanette. Below once and future Triunfo librarian Pedro Joaquin and family.

Above, Neris and her children, El Triunfo

Below, Castro family and Lesly's father, Choluteca

Below, Judge Gustavo at his Choluteca home with wife, me (below), and thier maid with her brother.

Below, new blind school sign and blind kids with song leader, Tegucigalpa

Below, adult blind center in Sta. Lucia, announcing massage demonstration in the park, my old pal (in Honduras book) Timoteo, blind braille instructor

Left and below, evangelical female pastors, La Esperanza, and Esperanza Catholic church


Above, deaf bus beggar, below underwear display, un-refrigerated eggs--not pre-washed

Shoe repair, left in La Esperanza, a mail slot far
below (even though snail mail is rare), and my former 2-time leg surgery patient Sandra, now age 16, displaying tumor-free leg. With her are her mother and older brother Elvir, whom I put through 2 years of what I thought was nursing school. Now he says it was only to become a nurse's aide and he wants to study the full nursing course. (I am not a bottomless pit!) 

Above and below, Rivera family and teacher-wife Tonia's public school.  

Sorry, it takes a while to move things around.  
Now, if am lucky, Operation Smile. Below Brazilan surgeon and nurse

Below, San Felipe Hospital outpatient occupational therapy--man who fell in therapy session with daughter and brother

Below, sign to Jesus de Otoro, about 20 miles out of La Esperanza, where I visit annually and give a donation to the single mother of 2 sons with spina bifida. The older one has a recurrent pressure sore, but did go to the hospital in Teguc last June to treat it. However, as he says, it always comes back. The little girl sitting on the floor is a neighbor also with spina bifida, whose mother deposited her there and left her while I was observing the cat on top of the refrigerator. The boys' mother said the girl has no wheelchair so her mother carries her. A ride had come to pick me up, so I didn't get particulars on the girl, but I'd like to get her a child-sized wheelchair by next Feb.  

Armed guard at Teguc pharmancy and copy of Mayan statue, Teguc

Friends that's all for today; will post Miami and Albuquerque photos in next posting.