Valve Corporation was reportedly planning to launch an active school shooter video game, which sounded like a really dumb idea. Now, after protests, it has cancelled the project.
Thursday, May 31, 2018
Life in this Nation’s Capital, More School Shootings, Nicaragua, Ghana’s Schools, Birth in An Abortion Clinic, My Interpretation Work
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Winchester, Speaking Spanish, “Sorry” Is Not Enough, Kim in Control, Reassessing the Rohingya Crisis, Honduras Plane Crash, Panama, Blackness, Baby Bust
While visiting my son Jon in Winchester, Virginia, he and I stayed at a hotel, giving him a break from his all-male residence. Here we are in the hotel hot tub, where, if you look very closely, you will see his missing left index finger, whose shocking amputation was mentioned earlier in these pages.
As for the bride’s much-touted African American heritage, she is hardly “black” in appearance and her mother only partially so, more properly “blackish” rather than black. We have darker-complexioned folks in my own family, like my granddaughter and great-grandson, but they don’t make an issue of it.
Here’s from an article about a private plane crash at the airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, one of the scarier places to land. We passengers always clap after a safe landing. Fortunately, no one was killed in this crash.
Miguel Osorio, a spokesman for the Hospital Escuela Universitario, said that five crew members were being treated for minor injuries and were in stable condition.
The Honduran Civil Aviation Agency said in a statement that the crash took place at 11:15 a.m. It added that everyone aboard was taken for medical attention and said airport operations were temporarily shut down while authorities checked to ensure conditions were safe. Operations resumed at 3:15 p.m.
In 2008, a plane of the former airline TACA crashed in nearly the same spot. Five people died in that crash.
Tegucigalpa's airport has long been notorious as one of the more difficult approaches in the hemisphere, surrounded by mountaintops and residential neighborhoods. The airport's runway is about 6,600 feet long, according to the airport's website.
Authorities asked drivers to avoid the area and said about 50,000 people in the surrounding neighborhood lost power because the plane took down power lines.
To see someone who’s really “black,” go to South Sudan where you see me there with one lady and another whom I met.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Font Quirks, Bhutan Film, DC Schools, Cuban Refugees, Hondurans Lose TPS, Iran Decision, Craziness as Strategy?, Quibbles with the Democratic Party, State’s HR Report
Below is the name of the film we saw and link to a trailer. I asked my young ladies what the English-language title means—they said it can only be understood in the context of their Buddhist religion, which everyone there adheres to. In addition to their own language, kids learn English in school, which is why my visitors are so fluent. There is no embassy here--just a few folks attached to the UN mission in NYC who carry out embassy-like functions.A local friend of my visitors and her young daughter also went with us to see the film. I ate some rice and very spicy chicken with them beforehand in our kitchen. Bhutanese folks eat with their fingers, not utensils, something I also observed in the movie.
Besides abortion, another issue where I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye with the Democratic Party and with Barack Obama, whom I otherwise admire, has been on their unnuanced position on the Castro dictatorship and the excessive coziness with that regime aimed at gaining some measure of trust (maybe this is how Republicans view the nuclear agreement with Iran?). I shared the hurt feelings experienced by genuine pro-democracy activists in being shunned in that effort. So, while I could theoretically support a moderate Republican at the ballot box, I’ve never actually done that nor been able to agree with such a candidate on most issues.
A Critique of the US Department of State 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (from Amnesty International)
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Kilauea On a Rampage, Cartoon Antics, Spanking, Cuban Arts Festival, Iran Deal, Kanye, Universal Health Care, Triunfo Library, National Borders, Former PCV Teacher of the Year Unmuzzled, One or Two Spaces?
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on the Big Island erupted suddenly, sending plumes of lava shooting up into the air, prompting a mandatory evacuation as more lava and steam poured out of cracks in roadways in a residential neighborhood, destroying an estimated 35 houses and several cars. One resident also described the sudden appearance of “a curtain if fire.” The volcano has been spewing lava since 1983, lava constantly flowing down into the ocean, creating a perpetual cloud of steam. Now earthquake activity has disturbed the volcano further. I’ve often hiked over the hardened lava beds around Kilauea to marvel at the steady stream of lava flowing out, especially at night, glowing a brilliant, hot red-orange, a very impressive sight. But never get too close! Will the volcano ever run dry? It seems to spew lava up constantly up from the bowels of the earth, never running out. (I have family in Hawaii and friends living on the Big Island.)
As per my Confessions book, I have always supported cultural exchanges with Cuba and with other countries too. Celebrating Cuban Arts is the name of a current celebration. For two weeks, the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, will present Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World, a festival celebrating the artistic richness that has emerged from this "island archipelago in the sun." This unprecedented gathering of Cuban and Cuban-American artists represents some of the greatest from the island and the Diaspora, May 8-20.
If anyone reading this has the name of someone I might contact to help us with getting underway the long-delayed public library in El Triunfo, my first Honduras Peace Corps site, please let me know. For some time, funding for the library was included in the will of a childhood friend who had visited me in the Peace Corps in Honduras. But perhaps due to outside advice, that provision was apparently removed from her will shortly before her death last year. So, we are back to square one again on the Triunfo Library—we have a collection of books but nowhere to put them or to lend them out.
The Trump administration said that it is ending special immigration protections for about 57,000 Hondurans, adding them to hundreds of thousands of immigrants from other countries battered by violence and natural disasters who are losing permission to be in the United States. Expelling all these well-established people, not only Hondurans but of other nationalities, if it actually happens, will be a big loss to our country culturally, economically, and just about losing so many if our friends. Wouldn’t it be so much more effective to get rid of Donald Trump and his myopic associates instead?
Here’s a case of where Trump tried to silence the message, but it ended up coming through even stronger. Mandy Manning, a former Peace Corps volunteer, (Armenia 1999-2000), this year’s National Teacher of the Year, read a speech on CNN Saturday, which she said President Trump wouldn’t let her give during her award ceremony at the White House. On CNN, Manning’s speech referenced the immigrant and refugee students she teaches, as well as her support for LGBT and other marginalized students. Manning said her purpose was to tell her students “that they are wanted, they are enough, and they matter.” In her appearance on CNN, she listed the names of her students who she said rely on America’s “policy of welcoming immigrants and promoting peace.”
As a woman myself of a certain age, having worked in social work, occupational therapy, overseas medical brigades, and, now, as a healthcare interpreter, I am not particularly surprised when I or my contemporaries experience a sudden health setback. Often, it’s something that has actually been building up for a while, but has just come to light. Yet my agemates, confronting a cancer diagnosis or cardiac surgery, often act surprised and affronted, as if fate has conspired has against them by dealing this unfair and shocking blow. Well, yes, it has—but not in terms of mere random bad luck, rather because aging and death are our universal fate. Of course, they—and our modern medical system—will seek to delay the inevitable. Because I’m well aware of my own potential health risks, I never plan my annual Honduras trip until a few weeks out. Everything is temporary, planet earth, Donald Trump, and we ourselves. And yet, Egyptian-born Wanda, a mother of three and my long-time friend in South Duxbury, Vermont, is now 103 and still living in the house that she and her husband built on their farm so many years ago. She has a very attentive family, one key to her longevity.
Finally, what about the current debate between leaving one or two spaces at the end of a sentence? As a recent article in the NYTimes attests, back when most text was rendered by typewriters, leaving two spaces may have made reading easier. Now, with computer fonts, one space between has become more common. I began leaving only one space back when we decided that for our occupational therapy association magazine, OT Week, it would save space. After getting accustomed to doing so, I’ve used one space in my books and now here, so two spaces actually make my eyes hesitate. But, apparently, two spaces may result in marginally smoother reading for most people, though the jury is still out. I notice that The New Yorker’s print version seems to leave only one space at the end of sentences, likewise, in the on-line versions of the Washington Post and New York Times. Typos are rare in those publications and I only once found what might be considered a typo in The New Yorker—it was the lack of a period at the end of a sentence in a place where it would have been awkward to include it. But I have often found typos and misspellings even in big publishers’ best sellers. I hope there are none in either English or Spanish in my books. I became a typo obsessive after my years proofing OT Week.
Sunday, April 29, 2018
On a drizzly April 25 morning, I joined a crowd outside the Supreme Court protesting the latest version of the travel ban, which tacked on Venezuela and North Korea to give it the cosmetic appearance of not targeting Muslims. Reportedly, Justice Anthony Kennedy is leaning toward joining the conservative majority to uphold the ban this time, despite Trump’s desparaging comments about Muslims making his intent obvious.
(The idea that the Supreme Ct., because of lifetime appointments, is above the fray, free of political influence, has long since been disproved.) The protest crowd was huge, snaking around the block, as curious tourists looked on. Meanwhile, Kennedy, often a swing vote on the court, will be 82 in July, and is being pressured to retire by Republicans who want to give their party still another shot at naming a Supreme Court justice. Let’s hope that Kennedy, despite his unpredictable leanings, hangs on until after the mid-term elections to prevent that from happening.
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Summit of the Americas, Cuba, State’s Human Rights Report, Colombia, Nicaragua, Wheelchairs, More Bhutan Visitors, Traveler’s Circle, Taxes, Midway Island, Purposeful Activity
Neither Donald Trump nor Raul Castro attended the Summit of the Americas
OAS secretary general: 'We cannot allow the Cuban people to continue to be oppressed'
The secretary general of the Organization of American States urged participating governments at the VIII Summit of the Americas to put more pressure on Cuba and “not allow a convenient indifference in the face of a dictatorial situation.” “We cannot allow the Cuban people to continue to be oppressed by an infamous dictatorship, a dictatorship that carries the weight of decades of human rights violations … tortures and executions. We cannot allow that,” Luis Almagro said Thursday during a gathering organized by two organizations, Victims of Communism and CubaDecide. “We have to be faithful to fundamental ethical values.” (Miami Herald, April 13, 2018)
The passing of the Cuban presidency on to Miguel Diaz-Canel represents an historic shift away from the Castros, but probably won’t make much difference, especially as long as Raul Castro is still alive and heading up the overarching Communist Party. Diaz-Canel, even if he wanted to, would not dare stray very far from Communist orthodoxy.
I wrote my Confessions book to make the case, through the example of my own life, not only that unsung people like me and you are integral to the social and political fabric, but that governments and political leaders should be judged by what they do and its impact on others, not by political or partisan labels. Fidel Castro for decades tried to depict his regime as caring about the little guy by ostensibly providing food, health care, and education to all citizens, yet alleging relentless ideological attacks by the mighty USA/ Goliath. Actually, Fidel was the greater ideologue. Barack Obama, for all his many thoughtful policies, did go somewhat overboard in accommodating Havana, as did members of the Democratic Party, who followed in lockstep, posing for photo-ops shaking hands with Raul Castro and shunning Cuba’s genuine democracy and human rights activists. The US Embassy in Havana, which had allowed democracy activists to send secure e-mail via its computers, no longer allowed them access, instead reserving the computers for students selected by the regime. Except for MLKing associate Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the Congressional Black Caucus has shunned afro-Cuban rights’ activists out of a misplaced loyalty to Fidel.
Fully expecting Hillary Clinton to assume the presidency, I wrote my book, hoping to persuade “progressive” folks to hold Raul Castro to the same standard as any other head-of-state. I also wrote a series of Cuba-themed on-line articles in Huffington Post and Democracia Participativa. With a friend who had donated to Hillary’s running mate Tim Kaine’s campaign, I was planning to make my pitch to one of his staff members, whose name my friend had been given. I’d also scheduled a talk on my Cuba/Latin America book for the day after the election at the Chappaqua public library in the very town where Hillary lived. I had hoped to influence someone close to Clinton. Of course, only 8 people showed up to my talk and they were definitely downhearted and understandably not very fired up about Cuba or Latin America. So that plan backfired. We all know that Donald Trump took office instead and that Cuba has subsequently largely faded from the world scene. Contrary to what Fidel so relentlessly invoked and Trump’s own emphasis on personal loyalty only to himself, we should never pledge loyalty to any political leader. A leader needs to earn our trust, not demand it before the fact.
Speaking of loyalty, Trump, the accidental president, is giving James Comey’s book a big boost by trying to trash it. He would have been smarter to have just ignored it or dismissed it with few words. Now that Trump is on the warpath against still another well researched and carefully worded book criticizing him (so far, best sellers by Hillary, Wolff, and now Comey), he is likely to take out his vengeance, as before, by hurting vulnerable people who have a hard time fighting back: immigrants, American Muslims, Medicaid and food stamp recipients, and federal employees. Since Trump himself is illiterate, it would be hard for him to rebut his accusers with his own memoir because the only folks willing to write it for him are discredited political hacks and he would be likely to get himself into even more hot water by lying on the printed page. I’ve been allowing one rightwing website into my in-box, just to see how that thinking goes, but now they, like the Democratic sites, are starting to metastasize, so it may be best to shut them all down. All sides use emergency language and, of course, ask for money, money, money.
Before they married, James Comey’s wife, Patrice, was a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote village in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Comey, visited her there and became very ill with malaria, so she took him to the hospital in the middle of the night, which saved his life.
Facebook seems to have become extra careful now, asking for a password before allowing access.
Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, the State Dept. human rights report this year has many omissions, among them no mention of the DR’s anti-Haitian-descendants’ policy—that is, its policy of considering anyone whose antecedents came to the DR after 1929 to be a non-citizen—something, in fact, applied only to Haitian descendants. This year’s State Dept. Human Rights Report has many critics, including those of us with Amnesty International.
I graduated from high school in Bogotá, Colombia, many years ago and also have an adopted son born in Colombia, so have strong connections to Colombia. Colombia may have celebrated the signing of peace accords between the government and FARC rebels and paramilitary factions, but peace does not yet reign. Two defenders of the post-war rights of civilians caught in the crossfire and still suffering the effect of the civil war are now making a US tour and met with some of us at the Amnesty Int’l USA DC office: Ofelia Castillo of Tierra Patria in Cartagena and Sandra Bermúdez of Bogotá. Many rural Colombians and ethnic minorities have not been afforded justice or allowed to return to their ancestral lands.Finally, with the invaluable help of my friend Dave, who has a car, in two roundtrips, we were able to take the four wheelchairs donated to me with missing footrests to the Salvation Army warehouse in Virginia. The Salvation Army has quite an organized system for drop-off and seems to have an army of volunteers and/or employees taking charge of donations. After I had been given those somewhat vintage wheelchairs, as mentioned previously, finding the right footrests for each proved too daunting and, instead, I just ended up ordering and taking a brand new wheelchair to Honduras last Feb. In Honduras, there would have been even less possibility of replacing the missing footrests, so as long as continue traveling to Honduras, I will take a new wheelchair.
My two Bhutan (female) visitors had two (male) short-term visitors from their office whom felt I could not accommodate, having become less tolerant of confusion in my old age. I insisted they stay at a nearby Air B&B, though they did come over to eat at our house and gave me a jar of Bhutanese honey.
The population of the whole country of Bhutan (a small, isolated traditional Buddhist kingdom) is the same as that of Washington, DC, so here you see a fairly good portion of the Bhutanese population right with me in my living room.
Recently, had the good fortune to reunite with some old buddies from a travel story-telling group called Traveler’s Circle, including with our original organizer Mark, who drove all the way from Vermont. Here are a few Traveler’s Circle friends at our reunion just as the party was getting underway.