Saturday, March 10, 2018

Cuba’s Sonic Attacks, International Adoptions, Getting Lost, Amnesty Int’l Conference, Thwarted Triunfo Library Project, My Article on Honduran Presidential Elections, 2018 Honduras Trip Photos

Cuba's 'sonic attacks' may have been a side-effect of spying
Remember those 'sonic attacks' against the American and Canadian embassies last summer, making staff queasy and raising all kinds of questions as to what happened? There might be an answer. University of Michigan researchers have theorized that the incidents were really the result of ultrasonic signals from poorly functioning surveillance equipment. While individual ultrasonic signals can't harm people outside of extreme circumstances, multiple signals can clash with each other.

As the mother of an adopted son born in Colombia more than 40 years ago and also as a long-time adoption agency board member, I would say that there are now too many restrictions, costs, and requirements imposed on international adoptions, to the detriment of children and their would-be families. See

Just sounding off here about the challenges of having no cell phone and no car. So when assigned an interpretation in a strange neighborhood, I call a number for metro information and am given the detailed route. In 14 years, that system has never failed me. However, the other day, it did fail because although I had given the agent the right address in NE DC, it turned out she gave me directions to get to the same block of the same street in NW DC, an artifact of our unusual street numbering system and source of considerable confusion. (And I gave her the top rating after our call, a 5.} So, I got to the named street via 2 metros and a bus and considerable walking on a chill and windy day and found the right numbered block. Nowhere did the street name say NW. But the house number, for a client with a child with developmental delays, was nowhere to be found. I had a phone number for the therapist, but no phone. Then I spied a man with a cell phone, who agreed to make the call for me. It was then that I realized I was on the right street but in NW, not NE, and my address was some 26 blocks away. So I was not present for that family and not only missed getting paid, but my agency also missed payment, because they take about half of our hourly pay. Likewise, two blocks from my own home in SE, there is the identical address in NE, a source of much confusion.  

Donald Trump seems stuck in another era, trying to revive US manufacturing and coal and steel production, supporting white supremacy and gum culture, and closing borders to immigrants, not realizing that the economy and life in general have moved on. His shrinking core of faithful supporters wearing Make America Great Again caps share his nostalgia for a America that us no more and maybe never was.

Trump’s MAGA folks are also fueled by a sense of envy and resentment, of unfairness, that more educated people, minorities, foreign immigrants, maybe even women? and the coastal elites are doing better than they are, getting more of whatever is valued and Trump plays on those feelings, though unlike his hard core, he is a coastal elite himself and a very wealthy one and hardly an evangelical like so many of his followers.

If Melania should actually decide to divorce Donald Trump, she would probably get a better deal for herself and her son if she did it while Donald was still president. Trump’s supporters are predominantly male and they may actually vicariously enjoy his apparent ability to have affairs without consequences with buxom blond porn stars.

His boasts to the contrary, Trump has not proved himself to be a good negotiator, so someone needs to be at his side when he talks with Kim Jung Un.

Of course, money counts for a lot in politics and candidates do adopt positions advocated by their donors. But now with so many appeals for political donations, I would like to think that money is not everything and that most voters have some common sense and sense of decency and are not just empty vessels subject to the whims of political propaganda.

What about liability insurance for gun owners, in case their gun harms someone? People have car insurance to cover them if their car runs into another vehicle or person, even if they are not the one driving, and if the brake gives out while it’s parked on a hill and goes careening down into a person or property. What about insurance for gun owners in case their guns accidentally harm someone else or even themselves?  Is the tide turning on gun control, led by young high school students? It doesn’t seem right that we in the US, unlike citizens of other developed countries, have to be in fear for our lives.

The day after returning from Honduras, I attended Amnesty International USA’s annual conference held in the DC suburb of Rockville, MD. About 500 people attended. Highlights included celebration of the release from prison in Turkey of Amnesty’s director there, after she had spent 8 months. Turkey under RecepTayyip Erdogan has been moving continually in a dictatorial direction, hardly making the country a candidate for inclusion in the European Union. A prisoner of conscience whose case was highlighted is Leila de Lima, a legislator arrested last year for objecting to Duterte’s indiscriminate drug war killings in the Philippines.

A number of Amnesty members and visitors from other countries attended the conference, including my friend Gabriele Stein, head of AI Germany, who has helped out a lot on Cuba cases, including with a maimed Cuban attack victim and human rights activist now living in the US, Sirley Avila. One of our speakers, the UK’s Philip Alston, revealed that the US has probably the lowest percentage of registered voters and the lowest voter turnout of any developed country, also the highest rate of economic inequality in the developed world. 
 Above, Statue of Liberty welcoming refugees at Amnesty International annual conference in Rockville, MD, Feb. 2018, below refugee panel,

Above, members discuss resolutions at 2018 AI USA conference.

That same evening, I attended a very fancy retirement party for Chip Filson, a pioneer of the credit union movement. 

Here above is Chip,with a friend's hand on his shoulder, while below is a view from the top-floor hotel balcony. 

Just before I left for Honduras, I got some unwelcome news. A friend from childhood, who had visited me during Peace Corps, had won a financial settlement for injuries suffered in an accident at her assisted living compound. She had assured me that she had provided sufficiently in her will for me to be able to get our long-delayed library project for El Triunfo (the “Triumph” in the title of my Peace Corps book) underway. We had estimated that we would need about $10,000 on a one-time basis for furnishings and equipment for the library (2 computers, 2 window A/C units, a photocopier, bookshelves and furniture), with the building provided by the town and volunteer staff organized by Pedro Joaquin Reyes, who had attended a library training with me during Peace Corps and had been holding our book collection for years in cardboard boxes and old refrigerators. We were going to name the library after my friend. However, despite her verbal assurances to me in our frequent phone conversations (she lived in RI), after she died suddenly a few months ago, I was told that she had not actually included me or the library in her will. So I had to tell Pedro Joaquin in person, just now in Honduras in Feb., that we were back to zero on financing the library. However, if anyone reading this has any ideas of where to turn now, I will follow up on any reasonable lead. Does anyone have connections or contacts with any foundations supporting libraries in developing countries? When I was still in Peace Corps, would-be librarian Pedro Joaquin and I submitted a laboriously crafted funding application to an American donor with a foundation set up precisely for promoting rural Honduran libraries, but right after that, the donor switched his financial support to then-presidential candidate Manuel Zelaya, who subsequently was elected and who has continued to be a controversial political figure in Honduras. This donor later expressed public regret over supporting Zelaya, but then nothing was left over for libraries.

For my Honduras trip, I am posting photos with captions to take you all along on the journey. While in Honduras, I got a shocking message from my son Jon, saying that his left index finger, perhaps bitten by an insect or spider 3 months earlier, had been misdiagnosed at the hospital where he had gone for emergency care. They were sorry, but the finger would have to be amputated immediately, which it was.
That news threw a big monkey wrench into my mood during my trip, which was also hampered by continuing, but diminishing, demonstrations protesting the recent Honduran presidential election. 

Here is my article about the recent Honduran presidential election published on-line (in English) by Democracia Participativa

2018 TRIP PHOTOS Please bear with me in posting these photos, which is quite challenging. Photos are not shown necessarily in chronological order during trip and most are self-explanatory. Those who have my (Amazon) Honduras Peace Corps book (Triumph & Hope: Golden Years with the Peace Corps in Honduras) will be familiar with many people and places. Remember, if you feel like donating to lip/palate surgery, do so to Operation Smiles, not to Smile Train, as the latter does not perform actual surgeries. Fortunately, as expectant mothers become better nourished and take folic acid, the incidence of lip/plate problems at birth has diminished, though there is also a hereditary disposition in some families, such as family shown in my Honduras book with three children born with that anomaly.

Below, in Choluteca, in the south, the family of a Honduran doctor named "Loni" in my Honduras book, now living with her American husband and children in the US and working as a nurse practitioner. 

Here is Dona Reina and her daughter Solei, whose baby was born in the US when, with visas, they went on an extended visit there. They now sell pinatas, among other items, in their home store.

Below, Luis, my former colleague in La Esperanza's now closed Peace Corps office.
 Below, Mayan statue in Tegucigalpa airport.
Here I am below in El Triunfo (the "Triumph" of my Honduras book title) with my hired "rapitido" driver in 99 F weather.  

Below, girls playing with small gifts, including wearing plastic necklaces.
Triunfo scenes below, including of kids with "magic towels," tiny balls that open into small towels when soaked in water. Sweeping up and firewood below.

Left and below, El Triunfo health center  where I often worked during Peace Corps.

Above, new Triunfo rehab center with my donated walker and wheechair. 

Below Pedro Joaquin, designated future librarian, playing guitar and fixing an item out in his back yard 

Below, future library books kept in old freezer for safekeeping.

Above, house cracked in earthquake. 

 Above, retired postmistress Maria Elena with grandson holding magic towel. There is no longer mail delivery in El Triunfo. Residents must go to the nearest city post office, in Choluteca, to get their mail.

Above, store, below, typical cook stove in El Triunfo. 

Below, baby with donated native American blanket. Below that, baby crib with mosquito net. I always slept under a mosquito net when I was living in El Triunfo. 

Below, 2 kids at Teguc residential blind school and sign outside the school--photos are not permitted there for fear of people using them to collect money under false pretenses. The kids and staff remembered me from previous years. 
Below, sign outside residential school for the blind

It's hard to take photos on a long-distance bus because people are not eager to have their pictures taken. Youthful bus driver is maybe 
18? Honduras, relatively speaking, has a young population. While kids under 14 are not supposed to work, a bus water seller, about age 10; he gets off the bus at the next stop, then gets on a bus going in the opposite direction, often all day long until his 
bags of water have all been sold.

A girl, age 10 or 11, selling baked goods that her mother made.

In Tegucigalpa, my hosts, who none-the-less had a TV set constantly running, were parsimonious with light, using tiny light bulbs like this one. 

 A big mother-daughter project in Teguc was creating a dance costume for a school event, below.

Above, Operation Smile (Operacion Sonrisa) notice          My name button at the hospital, showing
outside hospital.                                                                   we have done 5,000 surgeries over the                                                                                                     years and never lost a patient.

Do you recognize me at right in hospital garb? 
Each operating room has two surgeries going at the same time. 

OK, folks, that's about it. As for Feb. 2019, as Hondurans would say, I will return, primero Dios, God willing.