Friday, September 27, 2019

Summer Lingers On, UN, Statehood, Immigration Decline, Colt Steps Forward, Africa, Goodbye Bolton, Storm Impacts, South Sudan, Cuba, Central America, Express, 9/11, Dreams

                 In late September, though fall has officially arrived, summer seems never                      to  have left DC, with temperatures again soaring past 90 F. Summer                           flowers are still blooming. [Please excuse all quirky spacing--cannot                             correct it.]


The UN General Assembly has been meeting in NYC 17-30 September 2019. Climate change was a major focus, but Donald Trump only stuck his head in at that meeting. He gave a speech urging every nation to go its own independent way, then, taking a different tone, he asked for other countries to join in on his pressure on Iran. I happened to tune into his rambling, boastful press conference on Sept. 25, after his UN meetings, seemingly not scripted, where he expressed grievances at not getting credit for all his wonderful accomplishments, bemoaning relentless attacks by Democrats and the mainstream “fake-news” press. Why is he always under attack? Is it because others are envious of his unprecedented success? 

Incidentally, Republicans like to slyly refer to the “Democrat” Party, so I think Democrats should start referring to the Republic Party.

Finally, a Democratic House held a hearing on DC statehood HR 51, which would make the District of Columbia the 51st state in the nation! The Oversight + Reform Committee hearing on the Washington DC Admission Act H.R. 51 Sept. 19

Because fewer immigrants and refugees are being allowed into our country, our largest cities, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, are experiencing modest population decline for the first time in history, just one of many Trump administration policies having adverse effects. Many jobs are in agriculture, construction, and elder and child care are also going unfilled.

One reason that California has so many homeless, as the Trump administration has so gleefully pointed out, is because of its year-round mild climate.

Bravo to Colt for suspending civilian manufacture of AR-15 assault rifles. May other gun manufacturers follow suit. The problem with guns is not only that can kill or main, fulfilling their main purpose, but that they are so subject to accident or impulse. How many kids have been killed accidentally? How many people have killed themselves in a moment of despair? What about the woman who entered the wrong apartment and killed a man inside his own? If she had not had a gun, might she have asked, “What are you doing here?” and found she was in the wrong place?

Congress is now discovering what I said years ago in my Honduras book, that Americans pay more for the same drugs being sold for less in other countries. Drug manufacturers charge what they think the market will bear.

The US is missing a bet as China and now Russia, invest heavily in Africa, the emerging continent. The US has always given massive aid to Israel and, to an extent, to Egypt, and that continues under Trump. But his administration has largely within drawn from what he calls “shit-hole” countries. Nonetheless, in an act of independence or defiance, Melania made an Africa visit.

I am not sorry to see John Bolton gone, but his replacement is not likely to be better. Also, I do agree with Bolton that inviting the Taliban to Camp David was inappropriate. This administration and others imitating it around the world show once again that “progress” can regress rather quickly. It’s not enough to fight the good flight to finally achieve something, then celebrate and simply rest on our laurels. Efforts must continue to keep the forward momentum going, whether those efforts involve attention to a marriage and raising children, or to protecting hard-won benefits like Obamacare and DACA, or to keeping international commitments on climate change and nuclear weapons.

American voters and policymakers had let down their guard, many feeling lukewarm toward Hillary Clinton and not appreciating the threat posed by Donald Trump, imagining that he was simply too ridiculous to win the presidency (very nearly the case). That’s why next time, voters must support his Democratic opponent, no matter who. I’m not crazy about Joe Biden, but if he is the candidate opposing Trump, I will certainly vote for him and so should you. Oddly, Trump and his main opponents--Biden, Sanders, and Warren--are all in their 70’s, a victory of sorts against ageism. Unfortunately, we here in DC have little say in choosing the eventual Democratic candidate.

Hardcore Trump supporters, like members of a cult, will remain loyal, though a few have been peeling off. New loyalists don’t seem to be joining Trump’s camp. Meanwhile, he continues to make himself the center of the news cycle, for which the media are grateful. After denials, now fearing release of the transcript of his phone call, he admits talking to Ukraine’s president about investigating Biden’s son Hunter. And to deflect attention, he is speculating on winning the Nobel Peace Prize (why not?) and attacking teenage climate activist Greta, a far more articulate speaker than he will ever be. Now, with impeachment looming, will he decide to quit and then embark on a paid lecture series to tap the dedication of his hard core? (Or might he simply keel over and leave this mortal coil?)

In a radio interview, an author of a book about VP Mike Pence described him as a more conventional politician than Trump, albeit with rightwing views. He was described as being in the mold of George W. Bush, though a bit more conservative. His wife certainly seems uncomfortable being allied with Trump. Reportedly, Ivanka and Jerod would like to get Pence off the 2020 ticket because Trump already has evangelical support locked in, so they might prefer a woman to reach out to a demographic Trump lacks.

As communities struggle in the aftermath of fierce hurricanes and storms that have decimated electricity and other resources, I cannot help thinking about rural villages I’ve been in, in Mexico, Central and South America, and South Sudan, where there never is any electricity, running water, or utilities of any kind. Folks live there without light bulbs, TV, or internet, but may take advantage of passing fuel-powered vehicles to hitch a ride to bigger towns to sell crops and firewood and buy oil for their homemade lamps, like those used in days of old. They may also buy bottled drinking water. However, if a hurricane swept through their village, though it might damage crops planted laboriously by hand and tumble makeshift dwellings, its effects would not be felt as acutely as in a more “developed” location. These remote villages, in hidden pockets all over the world, are often protected from the inroads of “civilization” by mountains or jungles. Their inhabitants have already adapted to living without amenities. Their carbon footprint is negligible.

Below are several brief descriptions with links to more information.

I continue to follow the fortunes of South Sudan after my humanitarian visit there in 2006, before independence. Hope this time the peace agreement between the president and vice president holds.

South Sudan launches mobile money to boost recovery from war,             AP

On Sept. 26, I attended a talk given by Vicente Morin Aguado, a Cuban independent journalist who lives with his family in Havana. He came to the US to attend a journalism conference and, until now, has not been very outspoken. But in his talk, he was frank about the repression against journalists in Cuba and the surveillance of the population as whole. The next day, he gave congressional testimony on Cuba. He came to US to attend a journalism conference and does not know what awaits him on his return to Cuba early next year. The highlight of his talk was about Obama’s visit to Havana, which, for the first time, gave the Cuban people hope. Obama’s speech, which was broadcast live only once and never rendered in print—also denounced by Fidel—made a strong and lasting impression, giving Cubans new hope, a hope that has been replaced by despair. 

Here is an article about the arrest of one of 6 new Cuban prisoners of conscience named by Amnesty International, where I serve as volunteer USA coordinator for the Caribbean: Rights groups denounce Cuba's arrest of independent journalist, [Roberto Quiñones] activists denounce harassment, Reuters, 9/14/2019

We at Amnesty International have issued an Urgent Action for Roberto Quiñones
And here is the action for five other newly named prisoners of conscience.

For years now, Cuban rafters landing on Honduran shores have sought asylum there; I have seen and heard about some of them. U.S. seeking to make Cubans seek asylum in Honduras: minister TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) Honduran Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales said on Tuesday that negotiations with the United States could make Cuban migrants passing through the Central American country seek refuge there.

Cuba becomes the latest country to use bitcoin to subvert US sanctions

U.S. expels two members of Cuba's U.N. delegation, citing 'influence operations' (9-19-2019)

Honduras, Cuba to sign deal on deporting some Cuban migrants: Honduran president (Reuters)

Apparently, the Trump administration considers Honduras, as well as El Salvador and Guatemala, “safe” countries for asylum seekers when people are fleeing from those countries for their safety.
Honduras to accept more asylum seekers under latest US immigration deal, Reuters

Hondurans feel fate of their unpopular president lies in US, Sept. 9, 2019

                Clashes in Honduras on Independence Day While I am certainly no fan of the current Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, neither do I support Manuel Zelaya, an opposition legislator and his fierce opponent, who apparently organized the riots against him. A pox on both their houses!

Another family drowns in the Rio Grande (actually called Rio Bravo in Spanish). Drowning of U.S.-bound Honduran mother and son underscores plight of migrants

I did get malaria when I was in the Peace Corps in Honduras, but fortunately never dengue, of which there is more than one strain. Both are mosquito-transmitted. These days, I travel to Honduras only in the dry season, when mosquitos are fewer. Central America's dengue epidemic deadly in Honduras

[Nicaragua has been of special interest since my visits there, starting in the 1980’s.] Nicaragua guilty of 'gross' rights violations: UN

Nicaragua bans 7 OAS officials from entering country, Associated Press MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) 9-14-2019— Nicaragua's government has banned seven officials from the Organization of American States who were scheduled to arrive in the capital of Managua, opposition leaders said Saturday.

Pistol-packing senators confront Haiti's angry opposition

When I used to do phone interpretation, sometimes I had to convey very technical remedial blackout information to experts in Latin America to get their systems up and running again. Blackout hits 4 nations in Central America, affects millions. AP [mainly Honduras]

I do miss reading the free Washington Post Express, especially while on the metro. It’s nice to hold a physical newspaper in your hand instead of reading it on line, especially someone like me who has no cell phone. To get a different perspective, I also pick up the right-leaning Washington Examiner, which has floated the warning that Trump might lose reelection. Some of its cartoons are clever, but mainly I find it, like others in the Republican camp, snide, sarcastic, and pseudo-intellectual.

On September 11, 2001, I was at the Peace Corps office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, having joined the corps as a health volunteer in May 2000. Like many folks stateside, we were watching CNN live news in the office lounge when we saw the first plane hjt one of the twin towers, indicating it might have been an accident. Then another plane crashed into the other tower clearly no accident. Our director ordered us not to travel, to remain in place. Hondurans were shocked, believing the US to be invulnerable. When I made a holiday visit to Washington, DC, later that year, I saw the wreckage at the Pentagon. It seemed surreal then and still does.

To the extent we are able to recall our dreams (usually right after waking), they are an amazing and ever shifting kaleidoscope of past and imaginary experiences, of real people and composites undergoing a series of adventures that often even surprise the dreamer. I would imagine that the dreams of a child or young person might be less complex than those of an older person like me, who has undergone so many varied experiences all over the world.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Hurricane Dorian, Downturn Looming? Waffling on Gun Control, Central America, South Sudan, Cuba, Me-too in Transition, Late-Term Abortion, Random Calls, Household Laments, Late Son Andrew’s Birthday

Mr. Trump said he needed to stay in the US because of Hurricane Dorian, so he sent Mike Pence to Poland instead, while he stayed home and played golf all weekend. Trump probably was glad for the excuse and with Pence, the Poles got a more coherent visitor. So much for my friend living in Nassau in the Bahamas sent me a message that where he lives did not take a direct hit, though it had lots of wind, rain, and heavy flooding.

Discussions of a possible future economic downturn may help make that prognostication to actually come true. However, if it has to happen soon anyway, let’s hope it happens before the next election, as Donald Trump and company would have no plan to deal with it, except to increase the already humongous federal budget deficit, just as they have no real plan for anything else beyond the immediate horizon, only for mouthing off empty slogans.

Trump’s most significant economic threat to our nation and to the world is the trade war that he launched without consulting with allies, but if it brings about a world recession, everyone will be affected.  

Xi has the upper hand in the trade war that the Donald started because Xi doesn’t face election soon or ever. Furthermore, Trump’s negotiating style, marked by frequent changes of position, lacks the trust that a final “deal” requires. A “win-win” solution is not something Trump can ever imagine. Instead, he thinks he needs to vanquish trading partners to show that he is top dog.

After Trump’s attacks on Rep. Omar, it was amazing to hear a radio interview with some of her constituents, Somali refugees in Minnesota, some of whom had first learned English at ages 10, 12, or later, and are so much more coherent and articulate than the president who has dissed them.

Should Justice Ginsberg be flattered when Trump wishes her a speedy recovery when he would love nothing better than to replace her with another conservative on the Supreme Court, giving him something to brag about later? And calling Democratic Jews “disloyal” is not the greatest way to turn them into Republicans. Nor is cancelling his trip to Denmark because that nation won’t sell him Greenland likely to win him European allies. It’s like one of the temper tantrums he might have thrown when trying to bully his way into a real estate deal. No wonder Melania seems to have given up her anti-bullying campaign since the irony simply has become too great. Trump is just a big fat baby in an old man’s form, but not as cute, affectionate, or lovable.

Yet Trump himself yields to bullying from the right sources. A single warning call from NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre was enough for Trump to back off his promise of universal background checks, at least for assault weapons, and to reverse his initial agreement about red-flag laws, falling back instead on the tired “mental health” excuse for gun violence. If every shooter is labeled “mentally ill” after-the-fact, then that’s a handy retroactive excuse. It’s true that few guns go off by themselves, except when a child drops one, as happened to my son at age 11, injured in the foot, an injury that still plagues him, though he thankfully survived. However, even pulling a trigger intending to kill would not occur so often if there were fewer guns in circulation, as the experience of other countries with stricter gun laws and fewer guns has shown overwhelmingly. Your right to bear arms should not supersede my right to life.

Then again, Trump may support background checks after all. It’s uncertain. as he has waffled on this and many other issues, probably driving his staff crazy. He also has a very short attention span. The man is getting more erratic. Would he be labeled “mentally ill”? His Greenland caper and “King of Israel” remarks are just some of the latest. He does manage to make himself the center of attention during every news cycle. Trending now: Denmark Offered to Buy the Senate from the NRA.

Meanwhile, a second mass shooting occurred in August in Texas (an open-carry state). Where again was the NRA’s “good guy with a gun” taking down the shooter? Not only are people being killed at random, but many others are being injured for life. I know a young man here in DC who was shot at age 17 and has been quadriplegic ever since, needing constant help with feeding, bathing, dressing, and other routine activities. We are all at risk.

A woman who got out on the wrong floor of an apartment building and killed a man she thought was in her apartment, when he was really in his own, shows the folly of having a gun always at the ready. How many road rage killings, accidents, mistaken shootings of family members sneaking into a house a night, impulsive suicides, and children’s accidents are due to the instant ease of pulling a trigger?  

While Mr. Trump continues to have his fervid supporters among both ordinary people and Republican operatives, it’s hard to imagine a human being so devoid of the qualities that most people in our country and around the world would associate with leadership. He is physically unattractive, impolite, arrogant, mentally challenged, inarticulate, mean, greedy, a compulsive liar, and a sexual predator. Did an unfortunate combination of nature and nurture end up producing him? If he weren’t so widely destructive, it would not matter so much.  

Now, under Trump, we Americans get an idea of what it feels like to be governed, thwarted, harassed, bullied, embarrassed, exploited for personal gain, and deliberately attacked by the leader of our own government, much as happens to people living under dictatorships around the world. Mr. Trump bad-mouths other countries, then wonders why they pay him no respect. He has aroused the heads of once-friendly nations to turn against him and our country, and has attacked US states, the media, and Democrats, acting affronted whenever they oppose or criticize him. He seems offended when allies try to stick with the original Iran deal. He’s super sensitive to criticism, reacting defensively, doubling down on his offensive behavior. The Alabama hurricane Sharpie-gate caper is a case in point, where others rushed in to take the rap. 

The “capitalism with a human face” being advocated by some enterprises is a refreshing notion that challenges Trump and company’s “us-first” and maximum greed scenario. Let’s hope there is a public opinion shift toward more equitable sharing of the wealth that we all help produce. Some companies are aiming for a combination of shareholder, employee, and social benefit As someone taking IRA distributions from stock market investments, I’m willing to receive reduced benefits if I know that is benefiting others. We are all in this life together.

I especially like presidential candidate Andrew Young’s guaranteed income proposal. As Mr. Young points, a guaranteed income doesn’t seem to have sapped the energy and drive of red-state Alaskans. It’s not outright socialism or communism to combine capitalist production with a more equitable distribution of the wealth that we all create together. Some European countries are already doing that successfully. The uber rich cannot even spend or account for their all money.

Thanks to Trump’s lack of world leadership, the American dollar is starting to lose credibility, because a currency has value based only on trust and that is ebbing in the age of Trump. (Low interest rates now may be a warning sign.) For one thing, the Trump administration has allowed the US to accumulate too much debt. This may spur movement into digital or crypto currencies and lead to the dollar’s decline as the world’s currency. China, whose leaders have a longer-term vision, are launching a crypto currency. However, crypto currency may also be subject to manipulation, sabotage, and invasion of privacy.

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - A Honduran court convicted the wife of former President Porfirio Lobo on graft charges, including siphoning funds from programs designed to help poor children, a judicial official said on Tuesday.

Here she is reported convicted and sentenced. She was first lady during my volunteer trips to Honduras. I recall hearing her on the radio.

Nicaragua is another country dlose to my heart, where I’ve visited often and where still have friends. Nicaragua guilty of 'gross' rights violations: UN

Here’s a warning to first-world do-gooders to make sure their interventions in developing countries do more good than harm. Beware of unintended consequences! Such a warning should also be applied to the Peace Corps, where, at least, volunteers are not salaried, spend 2+ years actually living in a country at a very modest level, and regard their stay as a 2-way exchange, not first-world largess.

Haiti is another country where I’ve gone to try to make a differenceHaitian president [Jovenel Moise] pledges to outlast troubles

I’ve also been following the fate of Sudan’s former strongman Omar al-Bashir ever since I was in South Sudan in 2006, before it became an independent nation, back when he was a boogeyman for everyone in the south. There must some satisfaction in the south that he is gone now, even as South Sudan struggles with its own political divisions. Here is the article I wrote about my south Sudan visit: file:///C:/Users/melan/OneDrive/Desktop/Barbara%20Backup/Downloads/Sudan%20article.pdf
We who championed South Sudan’s independence from the north in 2011 have been sorely disappointed regarding the many human rights violations occurring in the south and the continued friction between the country’s president and vice president and their tribal followers. However, I would like to highlight one Amnesty International (AI) case, that of 17-year-old Magal Matioy Ngong, who is scheduled for execution om South Sudan.
When on 19 April 2018, Miguel Díaz Canel became the new president of Cuba, the change of leadership was seen as an opportunity to promote human rights changes in the country. Unfortunately, the first year of the Díaz Canel administration has not confirmed such expectations, as still today, in Cuba, freely expressing opinions and beliefs can put one’s freedom at risk. Freedom of assembly and expression has not improved much since my regular visits to Cuba, chronicled in my book Confessions of a Secret Latina: How I fell Out of Love with Castro & In Love with the Cuban People.
As of mid-2019, Cuban Prisoners Defenders, a coalition of dissident political activists, claim that at least 87 people are being detained on politically motivated grounds. Having reviewed a selection of those cases at AI, where I serve as volunteer Caribbean Coordinator, we have been able to name five new prisoners of conscience (POCs). This list of prisoners of conscience includes members of political and pro-democracy groups not recognized by the state, all of whom have been imprisoned for crimes that are either inconsistent with international law or used for decades in Cuba to silence critical voices. It is incredibly hard for us to verify information without being able to go to Cuba. As per my book, I am now persona non grata there.
[From a Canadian newspaper]
[Same from Yahoo News]
Here below is an introduction to the Cuban Amnesty prisoners in both English and Spanish.
More Cuba news below.
How Cuba Taught Venezuela How to Quash Military Dissent

More Cubans seek asylum in Mexico amid clampdown on legal path to US. The Guardian, Sept. 3. 2019

As has been mentioned before, the Me-Too era has left some men of a certain age, including politicians, retroactively being held accountable for what was considered acceptable behavior in the past. And the rules of flirting, the delicate back-and-forth of romance, still are evolving, but unless there is some acceptable and generally accepted method of getting to know each other, romantic partners will never get together.

An article in the Aug, 14 edition of the Economist discusses the US abortion issue at length. Reportedly, American abortion laws are the least restrictive on the planet. Many countries do not allow abortions at all and most completely restrict 3rd trimester abortions, which are approved by only 13% of Americans as well and make up only a little more than 1% of all US abortions. Before extraction, the late-term fetus is euthanized with an injection, so feels no pain thereafter. I had been concerned about pain at that late stage of development. Certainly, in the 3rd trimester, the expectant mother feels the movements of the unborn and knows that an independent “someone” is in there, as I can attest.  

Without a cell phone and with an unlisted landline number, I still get my share of random-dialed calls warning me that my social security number or bank account have been compromised, but if I ask for identification of either, that is not forthcoming. However, I was recently non-plussed when a woman identifying herself as a real estate consultant, addressed me very familiarly as “Barbara.” How did she know to connect my private number to my first name?  Probably nothing is private in the digital age. In all cases, when I realize the nature of a call I never asked for, I simply say, “No thanks” and hang up.

[Many apologies for erratic spacing hereafter, but cannot correct it.]
         Household troubles afflict us all, especially in a 124-year-old house. I                 found the first-floor half-bath toilet running, the same toilet that was                 there when we moved into the house 50 years ago. Then a courtesy call             came in from the water company about excessive water usage. While                 trying to stop the flow, I noticed the tank had cracked around the handle           
         and a piece was dangling. 

         Had I somehow banged the handle or the tank? I did manage to stop most of 
          the flow with a combination of foil, rubber, and a stone. My repairman said he                thought we should replace the entire toilet and he had a spare toilet that he had            been saving for just such an occasion. But loading it onto his truck, his helper                dropped the toilet and it broke. Talk about adding insult to injury! So, a brand-              new toilet had to be purchased. Meanwhile, further calamity on top of calamity,            hundreds of dollars’ worth of tools were taken from my workman’s open pickup.            Here is the new toilet after his all-day work: 


             When the toilet problem first surfaced, a woman from Eritrea had                       come to my place for a temporary stay. I’d vowed to host no more                     visitors, but this young lady was highly recommended by a former                     housemate. In the kitchen, she immediately smelled gas. It was not so               noticeable to me, as perhaps I’d gotten used to it. When she pointed it               out, I did smell it, but only faintly. I called the gas company, which                     promised to send someone out. However, we somehow missed                           connections and he ended up disconnecting the gas into the whole                     house. It took 4 days over the long weekend for another gas company               rep to come back and turn it on and find the leak. But then he turned 
             it off again, until I could get the pipe fixed on my own. Meanwhile, no                 gas stove, cold showers, and no gas clothes dryer. Finally, someone                   came to turn the gas back on and re-light all the pilots, but we missed               the oven pilot the first time around. Finally, all that has been fixed.                   One of the agents also changed out my old gas meter, which seemed                 to be giving us very low gas bills.

             September 4 was the birthday of my dearly departed son Andrew, who              would have been 52. We still miss him, but no longer with our initial raw grief.            Still, his death was a reminder that that the problems of robberies, gas leaks, and broken toilets can be fixed. 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Gun Violence, ICE Raids, Central America, Pelosi, Biden, Cuba, China/Hong Kong, Israel, Sister Helen, Internet

                                          August flowers

Trump and his henchmen tried to link the Ohio shooter to the Democratic Party, but the shooter was hardly a hardcore Democrat. He attended a KKK rally, for one thing. And can Democrats be accused of goading supporters to attack others? There is no moral equivalency. Republicans just make themselves look foolish. Trump claimed that local people in Dayton and El Paso “loved” him, so what’s the complaint? Republican office holders and spokespersons seem to be running scared and acting overly defensive. While many Trumpers still remain in love with him, his support had never reached a majority level. If the economy starts slowing down, in part because of Trump’s trade war with China, can the guy survive that? 

It looks like mass shootings may finally have turned more voters against the NRA. And certainly Trump and his wall and his constant talk about an invasion from south of the border conveniently forgets that much of Texas and the southwest was once Mexican territory. Who invaded whom? 

“Mental illness” now seems the scapegoat favored by Republicans for mass shootings. Guns don’t kill people, mental illness does. If mass shooters are being defined as mentally ill, then, of course, mental illness is the culprit—anything to avoid blaming gun proliferation. And what is the remedy? Mental illness treatment is not being expanded and is not necessarily effective. Is a white supremacist going to submit to mental health treatment and become less dangerous as a result? But if you curb his (or her) access to firearms, it may have a practical effect. Was the recent killing of motorists after an accident on a Texas highway a case of “mental Illness” or the result of the killer becoming upset and having an assault rifle at his disposal? The NRA and gun advocates fear the “slippery slope” of allowing even completely obvious common-sense firearms restrictions. You’d better believe it; those of us who want to see fewer guns in circulation will keep pressing on, especially until, empirically, gun deaths are reduced. And as for Trump’s idea of bringing back insane asylums, again, his thinking is mired in the 1960’s and ‘70’s when he was launching his casino, hotel, and golf course empire.

Those who facilitate gun violence short of pulling the trigger also need to be held responsible for not reporting the danger. The Ohio shooter’s friend, who had obtained high powered weapons and body armor for him so his parents wouldn’t notice, has culpability. And now those parents have lost two of their children (the shooter and his sister) in a crime that might have been prevented.

Trump’s teleprompter words about “white supremacy” having no place in our country were counteracted by the most massive immigration raid ever conducted. The ICE raids in Mississippi have devastated communities and made some Trump supporters there rethink their allegiance. The governor has declared that people should always enter the country “legally,” but I can say from long experience that none of those picked up in that raid would ever have been granted a US visa. “Legal” is a flexible concept, dependent on citizen consensus. Laws can be changed; they are not the Ten Commandments handed down from on high, as I have argued in my books. Unfortunately, as much as he can by presidential fiat, bypassing Congress, Trump and his staff are attacking immigrants, even legal ones. Non-citizen parents or even foreign-born citizens may hesitate to seek legally authorized benefits for themselves and their citizen children because of the administration’s stance. When immigrants first arrive, they may need help temporarily until they get on their feet.  

Nancy Pelosi led a Congressional delegation to the Central American triangle countries.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Honduras (Aug. 10, 2019

Pelosi is trying to keep Democrats on track while presidential wannabes vie for public attention, banking that a majority of voters will support any Democrat over Trump. But front-runner Joe Biden, who might appeal to independents and middle-of-the-roaders, has been screwing up, making Trump-like gaffes. Is he up to the task? But Democrats are worried about choosing a female candidate after Hillary’s failure and fear of turning off white male voters.

The Washington Post on-line for Sunday, Aug. 11, showed a graphic, changing display of photos of Guatemalan deportees before, during, and after their flight “home.” Guatemala is hardly a safe country for these deportees or for other asylum seekers, but is the US a safe country either?

How many times have I seen similarly dejected deportees disembarking from such flights at the airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, though not last Feb. as I was told that such flights now arrive at San Pedro Sula, to the north. I always chat with Honduran taxi drivers and find that most have enjoyed a few years working in the US until they were deported, some still nostalgic about those years until it all came to an abrupt end. And many American born children were deported with their parents.

Amnesty International issues travel warning for U.S. visitors over “high levels of gun violence,” On 7 August 2019, AI issued a global travel warning for the USA because of rampant gun violence. This announcement comes on the heels of a series of deadly mass shootings in several parts of the USA. Over one hundred people die every day in the USA because of gun violence, and the situation has amounted to a human rights crisis. Check AI websites for the travel advisory, sample press releases and tweets. A report by AI, In the Line of Fire: Human Rights and the U.S. Gun Violence Crisis examined how all aspects of American life have been compromised in some way by the unfettered access to guns, with no attempts at meaningful national regulation. Last month, AI published a report examining how survivors of gun violence in the United States suffer years of trauma and pain due to a destructive combination of government policies which ignore their needs.

Trump has threatened unspecified retaliation against nations and organizations that have issued travel advisories against the US because of gun violence.  

In Cuba, Granma, the official newspaper, has chided comics for making fun of public servants.

Meanwhile, the trade war with China unleashed by Mr. Trump is threatening to devastate the national and world economy. The stock market has been jumping up and down, according to Trump’s whims. Will Trump, the self-described great deal-maker, try to make a deal in time? Any final agreement will be touted by him as “a great deal.” Or is China’s leadership simply waiting for Trump to be gone from office? (Iran maybe doing the same.)

Hong Kong citizens have been fighting valiantly for their political life, because they know what’s at stake. But it’s hard to see how they can prevail against overwhelming Chinese government might. Their only weapon is world public opinion and the Chinese government’s desire not to threaten the economic engine of Hong Kong. But now China seems to be getting tired of the protests and the example they are setting for the mainland, so is bringing on the heavy equipment in echoes of Tiananmen. Why did Britain ever agree to return the territory to China? The Trump administration seems more than ready to challenge China’s growing economic power, but has few comments about its encroachments on land and sea beyond its traditional borders and no comment at all on its human rights record toward its citizens, including those in Hong Kong.

It looks like Trump’s intervention into Israeli affairs has blown up in his face and that of his pal Netanyahu as well. At least, that’s how I see it. Both look weak attacking Muslim American Congresswomen. Of course, Netanyahu dare not go against the advice of his big supporter and great financial benefactor Donald Trump, who is also playing to his evangelical base which supports Israel, right or wrong. The formation of Israel grew out of understandable sympathy for the terrible horrors of the Holocaust and in support of Zionists who had been pressing for a mid-east Jewish homeland for several decades before World War II. While anti-Semitism still exists, many, if not most, Jews now to choose to live outside Israel. Israel, enjoying unusually high economic and political support from the US, now finds itself in a paradoxical situation as a self-declared democracy that also appears to discriminate against non-Jews, especially Palestinians, who are still aggrieved over being ejected from their ancestral lands. Is it anti-Semitic to advocate for Palestinians and to urge a boycott of Israel? Trump and Netanyahu make that case. Will the Israeli action against the Congresswomen reduce the boycott pressures or increase them?

On NPR, I just heard an interview with Sister Helen Prejean, a woman about my age, whom I met in 1993 when her book Dead Man Walking came out. I have a signed copy somewhere in my vast library. She told me to simply call her “Helen.” Since then, after all the revelations of child sex abuse by priests, I have cooled on the Catholic church and certainly agree with Helen that women need a stronger voice there.

As a young girl, I had considered becoming a nun myself, but my desire to be a mother was stronger. Motherhood won out in spades. Not only have I been a mother and foster mother, but have hosted and mentored many young people in my home, in Honduras, through Amnesty International and other organizations, and via my interpretation work. So, I’m glad to have chosen that path, just as Sister Helen is satisfied with the path she has chosen.  However, right now, I am feeling a bout of compassion fatigue, so am taking a time out on hosting and mentoring, though still continuing with interpretation, human rights volunteer work, and plans for Honduras next Feb. Some neighbors have expressed concern that I am living “alone.” Would they be as concerned if I were younger or a man?

Mr. Trump is an accidental president, a cruel, impulsive liar, in office only due to the freak alignment of rare forces, as per chaos theory. Let’s make sure that the same accident doesn’t happen again. The plethora of Democratic wannabes surfacing now is a little disconcerting. While it allows an airing of policy options, it also risks sharpening divisions and possibly allowing another minority win for Trump. Whoever his opponent may be, Democrats and independents must vote for that person and not opt for a third candidate or sit out the vote as some did in 2016 because they did particularly like Hillary. Do they like Trump any better? Our election system offers only a binary choice. Trump is a real-life Forrest Gump, but lacking the film character’s charm and humility.

For his part, if he loses reelection, Trump can always blame “fake news” and the deep state. He could still hold rallies when his ego needs stoking. I feel sorry for a guy so lacking in self-awareness, likability, intelligence, and basic humanity, but he seems unable to change, so may he live out his life where he can do minimal damage, no longer in the American presidency. And if he loses, may the Republican Party see the light and return to sanity. Won’t it be nice when we don’t have to worry about what that man will do next? If his plan for the US to buy Greenland should pan out, maybe he anticipates building a hotel there?

I do have a personal issue that Mr. Trump might correctly be inclined to cite as a case of regulation overreach. Any adult working in DC schools, including interpreters like me, must have a current TB test and fingerprint clearance, fair enough. Usually fingerprints take 10 days to clear. I had mine taken on July 11, more than a month ago, but they were blurry, so needed additional vetting. Some teachers in daily contact with kids were given extra time to renew their clearances, so I asked for the same consideration, especially since I am usually working with Spanish-speaking parents, not directly with their kids. No other duly vetted interpreter was available recently. But my agency and I did not want to give the service if we would not get paid. Finally, after much pressure, I was re-approved.

Congressman King is probably right that millennia ago, our ancient ancestors produced some offspring via rape and incest, even as some still do today. It’s possible to imagine a caveman dragging a woman off by her hair before assaulting her, not to mention ancient peoples killing each other with clubs and rocks, even as today, they use bombs and guns. Some living people may have snips of DNA passed down from cave people, but does that mean they still have to act like cave people? Apart from inheritance, there is also evolution, socialization, and change.

The world has not yet adjusted to the internet, its promise and its perils, a technological revolution that’s still evolving.