Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pending Book Events. Philly Visit, Facebook Invader, Colombia Peace on Hold, Central American Refugees, Abortion, Trump vs. Hillary, Sexual Aggression, Jihad, Haiti, Cuba

If you've missed hearing about my latest book, Confessions of a Secret Latina: How I Fell Out of Love with Castro & In Love with the Cuban People, you'll have 3 chances to get to know more, first at MLKing Library in Washington, DC, Sat. Nov. 5, 10 am -5 pm, along with other local authors, then at 7 pm on Wed. Nov. 9 in Hillary's hometown, at Chappaqua Public Library, 195 Greeley Ave., and finally at 6:30 pm on Fri. Nov. 11 at Barnard College/Columbia U.

On Oct. 8, I attended an Amnesty International regional conference in Philadelphia, which also gave me a chance to see my sister and her family, as per some of these photos. My nephew, Emil Baumann, is an artist whose outdoor mural was commissioned by the city and stands bright as ever after 3 years. My sister Betty is recovering from Bell’s Palsy, hence her crooked smile. A Halloween-themed exhibit is appearing in the family’s local gallery space. 

Another Barbara Joe, much younger and cuter, has invaded my Facebook account and has also popped up on my gmail. I don’t know how to get rid of her. Maybe she is being annoyed by me in turn? Meanwhile, I keep getting notices both on Yahoo and gmail that someone is trying to get into my accounts, but is being blocked.  Maybe it’s this same young woman? Recently, while staying with my sister and her husband during a regional Amnesty International conference in Philly, I noted that they don’t have to worry about accounts being invaded, identities being stolen, and security being compromised, as they are simply not connected to the internet. They are blissfully unaware of such threats, living in an earlier age of phone, snail-mail, and personal interaction.

Colombia’s President Juan Manual Santos was named this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, despite the failure of the Colombian peace accords, principally for his efforts, not the results, and to spur him on to keep on trying. 
Because of my close connection to Honduras and interpretation work with kids and parents from Central America, I’m glad to see AI speaking out on this issue and getting press recognition:

Here’s more:
Now, the first round of Haiti’s long-delayed presidential election has reportedly been set for Nov. 20,

While an article in The Hill states that Americans overwhelmingly support abortion rights, that all depends to an extent on how the question is framed. According to the Federalist, described by Wikipedia as an English language forum “that rejects the assumptions of the media establishment,” 80% of Americans actually support limiting abortion to the first trimester. That’s a position that I would support, except perhaps in exceptional cases of a threat to the mother’s life or a fetus that would not be viable. I do believe that the abortion wars in this country would be largely over if that were the official stated policy.

Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is going to be elected US president, no one else; that's the simple and stark truth. That’s the choice, as it looks like Trump won’t give up. It’s either elect the lesser of evils or end up with the greater of those evils. No one is perfect. But there are degrees of imperfection. Someone who has been in public life as long as long as Hillary will have some baggage and may say things in private that she would not want revealed in public. But, thanks to WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and Vladimir Putin, we now know what has been said behind closed doors by DNC staff. Assange and Putin would like to damage the US and, if Trump is victorious, that's exactly what will happen. Some of the leaked e-mails show Hillary and Democratic operatives to be strategic and thoughtful at times, as well as manipulative. As I've said before, I met Hillary Clinton as First Lady in small face-to-face meetings on gun control and health care when I was reporting for an occupational therapy magazine, OT Week. She seemed bright and approachable then and, for me, the impression has remained largely positive.

Trump may have first entered the presidential race to further his business interests, but now it looks like that effect may be negative.

Avaaz, a worldwide internet based organization seeming to focus on environmental issues has an appeal out to overseas Americans to vote against Trump—here is the Spanish version that I received, showing anti-Trump signs aimed at ex-pats living around the world: 

Trump: Clinton win would mean ‘almost total destruction’ of U.S.In fact, a Trump win would lead to widespread destruction, though perhaps Republicans and Democrats would then team up together to thwart his most egregious efforts.

Macroeconomic Advisers, a St. Louis forecasting firm, recently analyzed the impact of a Donald Trump versus a Hillary Clinton win in November on the overall stock market. There was a stark difference. A Clinton win, the firm says, would produce a 4% rally in the stock market. But a Trump victory would send stocks sliding by a steep 7%.
The market capitalization of the S&P 500 is about $18.6 trillion, so a 7% drop would slash about $1.3 trillion off the value of companies in the index. If you include the 4% gain investors might otherwise book from a Clinton win, the total cost of a Trump win would be more than $2 trillion.
With the revelation of Trump’s 2005 braggart tape about how he gets his way sexually with women, now a number of women are coming forward. As in the case of other long-delayed revelations, such as those against Bill Cosby, his defenders ask: why have these women waited so long? Well, the truth is most women, when they are of a certain (young) age and are not overweight or unattractive, are subject to more-or-less constant low-level sexual harassment by men. It’s probably due to the influence of male testosterone combined with cultural norms. When I was a young woman—and in Honduras, even as an old woman—I experienced much “hitting” on me, nor was I unusual in that. It was better when I was married and had kids, probably because men are more likely to respect another man’s “possession,” as well as to respect women who are mothers, though that’s not totally true. Also, I worked largely in social work, child welfare, and rehabilitation after I married, where most of my colleagues were women. But, with men, except for gay men, you simply are constantly on guard and you develop defensive techniques.  You try to deflect advances and make them into jokes or bantering so they don’t develop any further and no one’s feelings get hurt.

In some cases, it’s really just flirting and the initial stage of courtship, an exploration of whether there is mutual attraction, especially if both parties are single. As women, we often work with men every day. So it isn’t worth making an issue out of every little overture. Even when women have actually been subjected to unwanted overt sexual touching or even outright rape, they are often in denial or just want to leave the whole matter behind. When the man is their boss or a well-known public figure, someone powerful, they expect retaliation, lawsuits, and fear they just won’t be believed. They may feel alone with their secret. It’s easier to simply avoid the guy. However, if the man in question publicly denies his behavior, as Trump has done, and other women have come forward, then a woman who has been subjected to unwanted advances feels less lonely and more emboldened to go public. Especially when the man in question wants to become president, a woman may feel she has a moral duty to do so. So I don’t consider having kept it a secret for years to be disqualifying for such a revelation. Sexual aggression is often hard for victims/survivors to reveal even years later, as we have seen in countless cases of sexual abuse by clergy, coaches, and family members. There is a conspiracy of silence. So, yes, I do believe Trump’s accusers and salute them for coming forward. His blustering defense is not credible. Why would a guy like Trump brag about doing something he never actually did? This whole matter has overshadowed the Wiki-Leaks revelations.

Trump’s focus on Bill Clinton’s sexual dalliances has backfired and Hillary herself is forced to keep quiet about the whole issue. Bill, while he probably did take advantage of Monica because of her youth, mostly seems to have seduced willing women, not forcing his attentions on them. He is also a more intelligent and personable guy than Trump, who may have used force because he is so unattractive to most women (my bias showing?).  While Trump and his supporters seem to be calling for riots and unrest if he loses the “rigged” election, Pence, a voice of moderation, is saying that he and Donald will “absolutely accept” the electoral outcome. However, there is a real risk of serious disruption and civil disobedience if Trump keeps up his accusations now and after the election.

After three serious memory lapses in a row, maybe Gary Johnson has incipient dementia? Certainly, he has not been helping his presidential bid and Jill Stein seems to falling even further behind as well. They just cannot capture public attention when the big Trump-Hillary Clinton drama is unfolding on-stage.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio is to face criminal charges .Prosecutors say they will charge Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio with criminal contempt of court over his immigration patrols.

Those now being attracted to jihad are apparently less religiously devout than the 9/11 bombers and other earlier incarnations. These days, they are more likely to be run-of-the-mill outlaws looking for opportunities to do something dangerous and exciting that makes them feel powerful and beyond the law and offers a license to engage violence—giving them an adrenaline rush and providing instant camaraderie. Often what attracts these guys is what builds up ordinary criminal gangs. An interesting twist has been the action in Germany of fellow Syrian immigrants tying up a would-be jihadist and calling the authorities. While having citizens take matters in their own hands is not recommended in many cases, it can sometimes be justified, as in this case where the suspect was not physically harmed, except for being tied up. (Later, unfortunately, he took his own life.) Citizen vigilantes should not become violent bullies like George Zimmerman, the trigger-happy neighborhood-watch guy who killed Trayvon Martin because he looked suspicious to him and who has gone on to further impulsive and violent acts. Nor do we want a system like the one in Cuba where citizens are praised for snitching to the government on others, in that case for words of simple disagreement, not for any plans whatsoever for violent action. A very legitimate case can be made for non-violent free speech. However, where someone seems to be going beyond words, actually contemplating a violent act, his or her associates, whether fellow Muslims, gang members, family members, or concerned neighbors, seem fully justified in “snitching,” or even trying to physically deter that individual.

Hurricane Michael has devastated Les Cayes, a Haitian city where I was an election observer in 1990, a really charming place back then. Poor Haiti, it keeps having bad luck, whether from bad governance, an earthquake, a cholera epidemic, or now a hurricane—it just never stops and the country never seems able to recover.  No wonder so many Haitians put their faith in spells and magic—what else do they have to try to take control of their lives? Now their long-delayed presidentialo election is set for Nov. 20.

From Freedom House:
Cuba: Political Repression Grows 

In response to a growing number of arbitrary detentions in Cuba and greater intimidation of civil society, Freedom House issued the following statement: 
“We are alarmed by the significant increase of arbitrary detentions, secret police raids, and intimidation targeting a wide cross-section of civil society,” said Carlos Ponce, director for Latin America programs. “The international community should demand protection of the Cuban human rights defenders and prodemocracy movements.”

The Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (CCDHRN) reports that there have been more than 7,800 politically motivated arrests in 2016, in many cases with the use of violence. A new report by Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa (ICLEP) documented freedom of expression and press violations. 

Cuba is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2015.

French multi-nationals are building a hotel in Cuba, Manzana de Gomez. While the average Cuban earns $30 a month, Reuters has reported that the Indian workers are being paid more than $1,500. And they are said to work faster than Cubans; do you blame Cubans for slowing down when they are paid so little?  It’s a form of protest that cannot be proven. Surely, Cubans, if word gets out, must resent the fact that foreign workers are being paid a monthly wage more than their usual annual salary.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Goodbye to a Friend, Colombia, Cuba, Guns, VP Debate, Trump & Clinton, Obama’s Legacy in Cuba and Beyond

Am now mourning the death of a good friend and a pioneer in intercountry and single-parent adoption, Hope Marindin, herself the single mother of three adopted kids. I served on at least two adoption agency boards with her, traveled with her to adoption conferences, including one held in Ottawa, and wrote about her and her family for the Washington Post. When her daughter received a pioneering hand treatment with Botox, I wrote about that for my occupational therapy magazine, OT Week. On her 80th birthday, her friends and family all participated in a big party for her at her assisted living facility. I don’t think it’s a secret that her memory started fading soon after that. Her decline and death represent a real loss.

[When this posting appeared, some lettering was red, not black, and when I tried to correct it, more red appeared, so this is my 3rd last try--red lettering, if it should appear, has no significance and I never put it there.]

It was a big disappointment, frankly, and a shock that the Colombian people narrowly voted “no” on the peace agreement with the FARC rebels, four years in the making and arrived at after 52 years of civil war. The president of the Puerto Rican Senate even proposed that Raul Castro be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation efforts. What’s next for Colombia and the FARC is now uncertain. Voters, such as the British with Brexit or now Colombians rejecting the peace deal with the FARC or even Congressional representatives overriding Obama’s veto of the bill allowing Americans to sue the Saudi government on behalf of 9/11 victims, may all be expressing public support for policies that actually turn out to be net-harmful. While we may favor voting and listening to the “voice of the people,” the electorate sometimes contradicts and confounds polls and seems to work against voters’ own self-interest. That’s why I don’t discount the possibility of a Trump victory in November, however disastrous that might turn out to be. As for rejection of the FARC deal, Colombians may have been influenced by the turmoil in neighboring Venezuela and the apparent sympathy between FARC rebels and Cuba and Venezuela. I guess Raul Castro won’t get his Nobel Peace Prize just yet.  

 A US summer youth program for kids from many countries, in which some Cuban young people recently participated, has created quite a backlash with the Cuban government and provoked officials there to promote public protests against it. The Cuban regime routinely assembles crowds to attack people and policies it opposes. Some participants eagerly join such protests, while others are coerced. Thus, protests have now been featured in editorials and TV clips criticizing the US program, thereby giving it even more publicity, causing, as independent blogger Yoani Sanchez has reported, parents to approach her, asking how to enroll their own child in the program.

 Apparently, the US and Cuban governments and the Smithsonian could not come to agreement on a plan to feature Cuba in the 2017 Folklife Festival. While reasons for the failure of negotiations are not available, it appears that there were problems on both sides. While I do not mince words about the Cuban government’s decades-long record of human rights abuses, I’ve always been a supporter of cultural exchanges, which seem to be able to bring citizens of both countries together in a politically neutral way.

How can people be so careless, so stupid, with firearms? A family lays down a loaded gun near an 18-month-old, who picks it up and fatally shoots himself in the head. If you feel you must have a gun, please don’t leave loaded guns where children can reach them; that’s just common sense. Also, recently, a young man shot and killed a man whose music he considered too loud, apparently avoiding being charged, as he said he felt threatened and had defended himself with Florida’s “stand your ground” law. And Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, another Florida stand-your-ground advocate who managed to escape punishment, has gone on to get into one episode of trouble after another, indicating that he is an angry, impulsive guy who never should have had a firearm in the first place.

With all the recent shootings, some fatal, of suspects by police, it does seem that simply having a gun at hand makes it more likely to be used to hurt or kill someone, even in the hands of police. Some police have acted impulsively or in response to an erroneously perceived threat, but a stun gun or taser could have achieved the same result without inflicting so much harm, much of it due to police mistakes. It’s becoming harder to say that “guns don’t kill people, people do.” Yes, people do shoot guns, but if they didn’t have them, they wouldn’t kill as often. Police in Britain and other countries are unarmed and killings by police are rare. 

The vice presidential debate was more traditional that the presidential one so far. Mike Pence, who once was a radio host, sounded mostly normal and calm, even when Tim Caine was trying to shout him down. I would call their face-off close to a draw. Pence often referred to “the war on coal,” as if that dirty, fossil fuel could ever really make a comeback. At least some laid-off coal miners may vote for his ticket. Pence tried to humanize Trump by calling him a businessman, not a politician, “not polished,” an understatement. But hard-core Trump supporters may be dismayed if he calms down too much.

Adding insult to injury, Trump has not only doubled down on Bill Clinton’s infidelities (while avoiding mention of his own), but now has hinted that Hillary has been unfaithful to Bill. Female infidelity has always been considered more scandalous than male, but Trump’s speculation is only that, an unproven charge —a whole-cloth invention on his part, though he surely must be searching diligently for any conceivable signs of Hillary’s straying. Maybe he will show a photo of her hugging running mate Tim Kaine? If she were actually unfaithful after Bill’s infidelities, would most voters blame her? It’s rather doubtful that she would ever engage in an affair because of her laser-like focus on advancing her political career, well aware of how such a revelation could hurt her. That unfounded accusation is just another dead-end for Trump.

Late-night comics have been having field day with the Donald, but are finding it hard to make him look even more ridiculous than he actually is. He might have entered the presidential race thinking that, at the very least, it would boost his business, but it may end up having the opposite effect. If he should actually enter the Oval Office, he’d have to take a whopping pay cut. Yet some (partisan?) observers are still predicting a Trump win in November, speculating that many voters are planning secretly to vote for Trump, fearful of ridicule for expressing their true intentions. Also, Julian Assange had announced that he would make a shocking revelation about Clinton from the balcony of London’s Ecuadoran Embassy that would devastate her campaign, but then he cancelled that and said he would reveal damaging files slowly all the way up to the election. If ever the Ecuadoran government should change hands, no doubt the embassy would be glad to get rid of their uninvited guest.

If Donald Trump gets so rattled during a debate with Hillary Clinton, how would he do in negotiations with foreign leaders, especially those trying to manipulate him? Already Putin seems to have lured Trump into his camp by flattering him and making him feel important. When Trump’s polls sink and he is criticized, he never blames himself, but, rather, targets unproven shadowy conspiracies all mysteriously arrayed against him. If he is really such a clever, competent, straightforward, and likeable guy, why are so many secret conspiracies being organized to thwart him and why is he unable to counteract them? A man so defenseless in protecting his own reputation can hardly protect our country. Clinton supporters can only hope he keeps on rattling off or tweeting whatever comes into his shallow mind.

As Barack Obama’s presidential tenure comes to an end, I would say he’s done fairly well, good enough, especially given the strong opposition against him, much of it frankly attributable to racism. Obama has never been one of the “good old boys” who seem to still dominate Congress and the Senate. He didn’t ever show a knack for befriending lawmakers of either party, perhaps partly because of his race, partly because of his short tenure in the Senate, and partly, perhaps, because of a sort of cerebral or intellectual temperament that made him shun such efforts. He seemed to think that arguments could made by logic and on the merits. He also must be faulted for not taking a more aggressive and less Soviet-friendly stance on Syria, although I don’t know all of what has been involved and realize that he was trying to prevent bloodshed. But that hasn’t been the result. His gamble, if that was what it was, did not pay off and Putin has double-crossed him and the Syrian people.

In Cuba, while I understand the need to go slow and avoid making the Cuban leadership even more defensive, the US seems now to have totally abandoned democracy advocates there—or, at least, that’s what many of them are experiencing. Obama’s regime-conciliatory tactics may still prove useful in the long run, especially after the Castro brothers’ demise, but, meanwhile, the Cuban people continue to suffer both materially and in terms of liberty—nor is their health care, at least for ordinary people, all it’s cracked up to be. Not only are rights of assembly and expression being severely thwarted, but the Cuban regime is holding tight on controlling the economy, keeping its population hungry and dependent, unlike its mentors in China and Vietnam, two countries that have both welcomed the Peace Corps, as well as the expansion of commerce and entrepreneurship. But maybe it just will take time in Cuba? The raised hopes and continued patience of the Cuban people are being sorely tested and government repression seems on the rise, as least right now. The Cuban dictatorship may feel the need to be especially defensive because of its small size, proximity to the US, and the existence of such a large diaspora—and is now confronting the implosion of its patron, Venezuela. Raul Castro and company are keeping a tight rein, trying to squeeze maximum economic benefit from the US-Cuba accords while making minimum concessions. Still I think Obama’s outreach to the Cuban leadership was a good first step.

Like anything that might be considered progress, there are downsides and unintended consequences, including unpredictability as represented by chaos theory. We like to think that the trajectory of history tends ever toward improvement, always upward and onward, however defined. But there is also backsliding, two steps forward, one backward, that is, if we are lucky, and luck or fortune can always be reversed. Who could have anticipated the rise of Donald Trump? Or, after gay rights blossomed, that AIDS would decimate gay ranks? Other unwelcome surprises have included 9/11, SARS, Ebola, Zika, Boko Haram, and ISIS. Child mortality has been reduced worldwide, people are living longer, but that also has meant a population explosion, more pollution, and a growing cohort of older folks living with mental and physical conditions that are disabling but not fatal. It’s also tempting to link economic prosperity and development to greater freedom, but the tie is not automatic. Costa Rica is a nation of mostly modest earners who enjoy a good deal of personal liberty, while Saudis are wealthy and restricted.

As children and young people, we may expect that everything will become easier for us only when we grow up, finish college, find a job, get married, or buy our own home. Of course, any such respite never lasts for very long. Through experience, we come to recognize “good enough” as a realizable goal in our own personal life and, I believe, the same holds true of collective life. Much of what Bernie Sanders has been advocating is aspirational, a visionary goal to work toward, but, I feel, not totally practical and actually do-able (see his past embrace of Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega). Of course, his supporters would say that such a defeatist attitude and an acceptance of “good enough” are precisely what doom more robust improvement efforts. The vision of Gary Johnson, with no taxes, scant government, and complete personal freedom, I consider utopian as well. Indeed, some of his followers are trying to carve out an actual physical space in New Hampshire to realize their utopian vision, repeating experiments that have begun with much enthusiasm and unbridled hope throughout history, but never lasted very long. Even the Israeli kibbutzim faded despite strong government support. 

In every nation, group, and family, I believe, there must be a balance between individual and common good and between realistic and visionary expectations. Fidel Castro carried matters too far, forcing Cubans to work for an idealized common good as he defined it, using secret police and harsh prison terms to impose his will. Castro advocated a utopian society on a national level, one that was independent, self-sufficient, and with economic and social equality, providing quality universal education and health care for all. Even basic food production and distribution would be equalized. His “new man” would sacrifice himself willingly for the common good. But in the case of Cuba, as elsewhere, the ideal has proved the enemy of the good. And those who have dared to point out the flaws in the Cuban system have suffered—and still suffer—severe punishment.

In our own country, I feel that President Obama has done a “good enough” job and that Hillary Clinton will do the same. However, Trump simply doesn’t have that capacity. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, he is reported to have said about Clinton, "Now, she's got a bad temperament. She could be crazy. She could actually be crazy.”

As for Cuba, I’d like to think that Cuba will eventually emerge from dictatorship, but I’m well aware of how Russia has experienced backsliding and how China and Vietnam, decades after their economic openings, are still one-party states with executions, political prisoners, censorship, curbs on assembly and expression, no free elections, and suppression of religious and ethnic minorities. 

Even on the micro-level of our individual financial survival, occupation, marriage and family life, and health in our own country, the supposed beacon of the world, there is little respite from daily struggle and challenge. Even as ordinary individuals, we experience scant opportunity to rest on our laurels, possessing little time to relax and only sporadic moments of celebration. What I’m saying is self-evident, yet we tend to see—or want to see—our efforts as leading toward future improvements, both personally and collectively, and are often disappointed when our hopes and dreams fall short. Yet, as we observed when I worked at the occupational therapy association, everyone aspires to engage in meaningful activity—subjectively defined—and whenever we reach one goal, we set another. That process continues until death.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cashless Societies, Mexico, South Sudan, Cuba, Clinton & Trump

Bob Arias, Peace Corps volunteer par excellence, received the Peace Corps's J F Kennedy Award on September 23 in Washington, DC. Bob, who began his PC career as a young volunteer in Colombia, later became country director in Argentina and Uruguay, then in his retirement, volunteered for 4 Peace Corps Response assignments, 2 in Panama and one each in Colombia and and Paraguay. Bob is almost my age and still lives in Panama, where I visited him 7 years ago en route to my annual humanitarian visit to Honduras. And Bob may not be through yet, as he is now considering a PC Response assignment in Vietnam, which has just opened up to the Peace Corps. Way to go, Bob!

Modern-day cashless societies will not be exchanging animal skins and beads; rather electronic signals. Sweden and South Korea are moving aggressively toward a cashless society, as, indeed, the whole world is doing. Relying on electronic and banking systems reduces fraud and tax evasion, but leaves financial systems open to hacking.

A report by WOLA, the Washington Office on Latin America, calls out Mexico for overly harsh treatment of Central American migrants trying to cross its southern border:
What the above article does not mention that the US has offered financial assistance to Mexico to deter the migrants. 

A report was issued showing that Venezuelans are suffering more mental health problems under the current government and have been consulting psychiatrists and other counselors. I was reminded of the Venezuelan asylum applicant I assisted at Catholic Charities whose psychiatrist reported that she was suffering from PTSD because police attacks on her for disloyalty to the regime.

Also, in Venezuela, Maduro loyalists have been put in charge of food distribution, a means of control also used by the Castro regime, which has had government-controlled food rationing, pricing, and distribution for decades. When I was visiting Cuba in the 1990’s, getting enough to eat was a constant concern—I would almost call it an obsession— of most Cubans every single day.

More on what Machar’s absence means to the fragile South Sudan civil war peace process (my readers know I was in South Sudan in 2006 and was tempted to stay there to help them build their new country):
Apparently Machar and forces loyal to him are planning armed resistance:

Pres. Obama has formally announced his choice of ambassador to Cuba, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who has been acting ambassador until now.  I did participate with him in a State Dept. meeting before he went to Cuba. He seemed to know much already about Cuba, having served in the Interests Section in Havana previously. Republicans are promising to block his appointment.

Yoani Sanchez, independent blogger, "Scholarships for Cuban Youth to Study in the US Enrage Cuban Government"

Frank interview with Yoani Sanchez in El Diario de Hoy, El Salvador—she is able to be pretty forthcoming outside of Cuba. Of course, there may be a reckoning when she goes back. She’s had her share of beatings and arrests.

Mexico, Brazil, and Uruguay denounce US Cuba embargo at the UN

Jon Lee Anderson, who has often written about Cuba, makes the case for cautious optimism regarding the future of Cuba after the US-Cuba accords in a recent New Yorker piece:

While he has not made his vote public himself, apparently someone else (Robert Kennedy’s daughter) has reported to the press that George HW Bush plans to vote for Hillary Clinton. Hope that her unauthorized revelation won’t cause him to change his mind, as he apparently had wanted his decision to remain private.

In a Facebook post, Robert Reich also makes the case for voting for Hillary.

Of course, I would agree, since, like it or not, the choice now is between Clinton and Trump as neither Sanders nor Johnson nor Stein is going to be elected president. Trump has more personality, if you will, and more charisma than Clinton and he is definitely the “change” candidate even though it’s unclear what sort of change might be in store. Some voters may be in a gambling mood, willing to throw caution to the winds. If he doesn’t keep flying off the handle and sticks to the script, he might yet pull off a win. He seems to be doing a little better under his new campaign manager, but sometimes breaks free of her control. He has great confidence in his own judgment, but doesn’t realize his own ignorance. He has a lot of apparent self-confidence, unaware of how other people see him. That he would attack a former beauty contestant for being “fat” is rather hypocritical since Trump himself is overweight.

If Trump should win the election, then he will probably want to "commute" to DC from his NYC penthouse. Melania is not likely to care to move to Washington and leave her current quiet, private life in NYC. Hillary will try to provoke Trump in the debates, but his handlers, including daughter Ivanka, whom he seems to listen to, must have warned him advance and maybe will even give him a tranquilizer before the next debate. But will he listen to handlers throughout a 4-year presidency? The idea of a Trump presidency is pretty scary. A lot is at stake. If Trump wins, cartoonists will have a field day. If he loses, as I certainly hope and pray happens, he’s unlikely to be a continuing force in Republican politics. He will blame the party and the crooked “rigged” electoral system for his loss. The party will want to jettison him ASAP. We will have a bitterly divided country, whoever wins. It was already divided, hence our election choices, but will be even more so after the election. Whew!

In their first debate, the expectations for Clinton were higher than for Trump and also the public knew less about him, The Apprentice notwithstanding. To me, Trump sounded adolescent, immature, and disorganized. He seemed uncomfortable, perhaps because of his famously short attention span (he prefers tweets) and the debate went on for a full hour and a half. Giuliani has now advised Trump not to participate in any more debates, probably a wise suggestion. Clearly, being one-on-one talking in public without a teleprompter is not his forte. And he doesn’t know when to shut up, as he kept on talking after the debate, digging an even deeper hole criticizing a woman’s weight, when he is not any lightweight himself. He also gratuitously lashed out at the Pope. You almost have to feel sorry for Trump and his supporters, as he and they are so clueless about how he appears to the rest of us—and to the whole wide world. Or maybe they don’t care, so sure they are “right,” them and Donald Trump against the world. He has gotten away so long with bluster, bravado, and trickery that he's using the same tactics in the presidential race with less success. Mainstream Republicans must be tearing their hair, worried about Trump’s effect down-ticket. It will take a while for the Republican Party to recover from Donald Trump—let’s hope the party becomes more open to bipartisan compromise as a result.

During the debate, Clinton sounded relaxed and sure of herself, but not too arrogant—she hit a good balance. But, of course, I may be biased. If I could choose anyone in the world to be our next president, I might not choose her, but I do think she can do a workmanlike job. She certainly has aspired to and prepared for the office for long enough.

At a Campaign Rally in Fort Pierce, Florida, Hillary Clinton announced her plan to create a National Service Reserve and also outlined plans to increase participation in AmeriCorps and Peace Corps.
Peace Corps! @HIllaryClinton speaks to the value of Peace Corps.

As for the Trump Foundation’s expenditures, here’s a commentary:
A few things that the head of a reputable foundation would not do:
·         He wouldn't use foundation money to buy a six-foot-tall portrait of himself to hang in the lobby of one of his resorts.
·         He wouldn't write checks to a committee backing the Florida attorney general who was considering whether or not to investigate his sham "university."
·         And he damn sure wouldn't spend more than a quarter of a million dollars of the foundation's money to settle lawsuits against his businesses.

“President Trump: What would he do?” is a detailed article by frequent contributor Evan Osnos in the New Yorker (Sept. 26, 2016). Among the predictions of scholarly observers is that a Trump victory would (could?) result in a protracted recession within 18 months. If, indeed, Trump should be elected and a recession occurs as the result of his presidential decisions, he would, no doubt, blame others for the failure. Maybe he would be impeached like Richard Nixon? His victory may be unthinkable to many of us, but is not impossible. All it takes is a single vote by many people. (A pundit with a good track record is actually predicting a Trump victory.) Remember, many of us never thought he would get this far. It could happen because of some voters’ aversion to Hillary that propels them to vote for a 3rd party or not vote at all. So then we will be able blame them, even though they will say later “I didn’t vote for Trump.” On late-night talk shows, it’s been speculated that, if elected, Trump will resign, having proved to the world that he could win. Then Pence would become president.

I remember being shocked when GWBush won his second term (I was in Honduras the first time he ran, marked by the hanging chads in Florida). Kerry seemed so much more in tune with what was actually going on in the world after Bush’s disastrous incursion into Iraq. And even Kerry’s daughters were much more articulate than the vapid Bush daughters. Dick Chaney was such a nefarious character working behind the scenes, seeming to manipulate the hapless Bush, who liked to ride his bike and go to bed early. But Bush won anyway, not by an overwhelming margin, yet he still won apparently legitimately that time. So with the antipathy and apathy toward Hillary, could Trump win? Many people seem to feel it doesn’t matter, that our country is in trouble either way, so they are just not voting.

Although the movie “Snowden” apparently makes a pitch for the man’s heroism and even Amnesty Int’l activists are pressing for a presidential pardon, I’m not campaigning for that. I don’t regard Edward Snowden as a hero and consider that his “leaks” have done more harm than good.

While racial and ethnic profiling may do an injustice to many individuals, profiling is not totally arbitrary. And that goes for gender and age profiling as well—most crime, especially violent crime, is perpetrated by men, mostly young men. Is that due to profiling or just a matter of statistical verification? The reasons may be both cultural and hormonal. It’s also true that African American crime rates are disproportionately high, even though most members of that ethnicity are law abiding and police may be unfairly targeting some blacks as suspects. Actions and perceptions both reinforce each other. (Remember, I’m speaking as someone with African American family members.) A 90-year-old white Christian woman would seldom be the suspect in a crime—maybe shoplifting?—though she might conceivably be guilty of murder. (A 78-year-old Caucasian nun actually made headlines recently for petty shoplifting.) 
Likewise, we are not surprised that the attacks in NY, NJ, and Minnesota are all attributable to Muslims. That’s a fact, not a matter of arbitrary racial profiling. Certainly, Trump and his followers will be pointing that out as a reason to bar future Muslim immigrants and refugees. 

More mass shootings in public places, showing that gun-rights often take precedence over the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I also observed that while the Minnesota attacks were carried out by a young man wielding a knife, hence no one was fatally injured as would have been likely if he had had a gun, none-the-less, a bystander carrying a firearm actually stopped his killing spree by killing him. So having an armed person in the right place at the right time can be protective. It’s unfortunate that so many gun owners are not super-careful with their weapons, either handling them carelessly or allowing children and others to have to access them. Apparently, a shrinking number of gun enthusiasts own an ever-growing personal arsenal; an estimated 3% of the population owns half of all guns. Some may have inherited some of them or simply be collectors who keep them locked up. The largest number of gun deaths is attributable to suicide.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sept. 11 Remembrance, Interpretation Observations, Cuban Democracy Advocate Lost & Found, More on Cuba, Honduras, Venezuela, Trump Hotel Opens in DC

Fall flowers

            With all the ceremonies around the 15th anniversary of 9/11, I am reminded that I was in the Peace Corps in Honduras then. I happened to be in the PC office in Teguc, waiting for a medical appointment. In the lounge area, some of us were watching CNN on TV when all of sudden, a newsbreak showed the first plane crashing into one of the twin towers. Then there was another showing the second plane crashing into the second tower, so then we knew it was not just an accident. Our PC director announced over the intercom that we were to remain in the city and in the walled office compound until further notice. The whole incident caused a major shock and horror all over Honduras, as recounted in my book, Triumph & Hope (pp.147-148).

My interpretation work does offer me some interesting variety, giving me glimpses into other lives in other places. I went back recently to the children's specialty hospital where a Central American first-time mother whose baby was born at 2 lbs. was now getting ready to take him home and was a bit apprehensive about being on her own without all the supports she had been offered while staying at the hospital with him, a baby now at 6 1/2 lbs. with no more feeding tube who was going home on his previous due date. The next day, I was at a school meeting with a mother from Mexico who was holding a squirming 2-year-old on her lap, while a bevy teachers and therapists discussed her 7-year-old child and his supposed academic deficiencies and how they were planning to help him overcome them. The mother admitted she knew nothing about math and certainly didn't know English. I think some of the so-called below average scores of a child from such a family who enters an English-speaking school for the first time are to be expected and, with proper help and coaching, that child can catch up. But, it seems the problems are being over-pathologized to some extent, making parents anxious. This boy may need remedial help, but, I suspect, he is a normal kid. In Mexico, nothing unusual would be noticed about his school performance. 

Cuban Democracy Leader Avila Disappears As most of you know, I met Sirley Avila in April in Miami at Amnesty Int'l USA's annual conference, wrote about her in the Huffington Post, talked with her by phone several times since. Now there was fear that Avila may have been arrested upon her return to Cuba as she was not found at the airport. She had left Miami on Sept. 8. The day before, when I wasn’t home, she’d left a farewell message on my answering machine, saying she was going back to Cuba and thanking me for my support. I had hoped her Congressional testimony would protect her, but maybe it had the opposite effect. She is still disabled and has limited mobility. (For those who need a reminder of weho she is, click on to find my Huffington Post Cuba articles--the one about her is called a "A Revolution with Promises to Keep.")
Later, thankfully, Avila was found at her mother’s home, as her own place had been occupied by unauthorized individuals. She reported that her attacker is still free and threatening “to finish the job.”  

In Cuba, there are probably many secret activists opposing the government afraid to be “out,” but if they could feel solidarity and support, they would reveal their true feelings, just as kids do now who come “out” as gay. I know when I was in Cuba, I was always on guard about what to say and where to go. For many Cubans, such habits are almost second nature.

Most people, whether in Cuba, the US, the UK, or elsewhere, are less interested in voting, rights of free speech and assembly, and in humanity's overall wellbeing than in their own family’s immediate needs for food and shelter. However, they need to realize that freedom of expression and assembly and, yes, voting, do impact on their own access to food and shelter. Just look at Venezuela now. Of course, that message has not penetrated here in the USA either, as too many millions of Americans seem ready to sacrifice their own interests and that of the rest of the world by voting for Donald Trump. Hillary, for all her failings, can still carry out the duties of president adequately, but Trump cannot. Do voting and democracy really result in the best system of government?  

Sorry that Hillary fell ill--she has had a punishing schedule. Already, some Republicans are suggesting that she is seriously ill and will drop out (hope that’s not a real prospect). Many of us would agree with her "deplorables" remarks, a characterization that may have hurt her, though, perhaps, only with people already against her, whom many of us would actually put into that “deplorables” category. 

I suspect that Trump does not want to release his tax returns because he may not have made as much money as he claims, may have paid very little in taxes, and probably has barely given anything to charity. Apparently, he has had the habit of collecting charitable donations from others, then funneling them to charities in his own name without putting in any of his own dimes and dollars. Trump Hotel, here in DC, is now open for business.

Perhaps the impulse to vote for The Donald springs from the idea that jumping into the unknown might actually improve our situation, that we can always start over with something new. If “life sucks,” if our existence is dull, dreary, and exhausting, then a blind leap into the unknown probably wouldn’t be worse and might even be better—or so we might hope. That’s often the impulse behind decisions to move to a new city, marry, have a baby, get divorced, change gender, travel, and foment revolution. Surprises and gambles are exciting and change holds out the promise of improvement. As Trump would say, “What have you got to lose?” Of course, once American voters of any stripe take that leap toward Trump, they will find out soon enough what they have to lose.

From Yahoo News, 9-17-2016: While campaigning in South Florida, which has a large Cuban-American population, Trump also said that if he's elected president, he will reverse Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba — unless the country abides by certain "demands." Among those, he said, would be religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of all political prisoners.
Trump says he'll "stand with the Cuban people in their fight against communist oppression."
The comment marks yet another reversal for the GOP candidate, who previously said he supported the idea of normalized relations, but wished the U.S. had negotiated a better deal.

After Venezuelan oil subsidies to Cuba have been reduced, Raul Castro is appealing to Putin to help make up the shortfall.  Algiers has stepped in, volunteering to help Cuba with oil.
Cuba’s internet phone service is reportedly blocking text messages containing the words “democracy,” “hunger strike,” and “human rights.”

Not surprisingly, the Cuban military is kicking so-called “self-employed” licensees out of heavily visited Old Havana to take over the profits generated there by the flood of American tourists. (Still, at the UN, a Cuban government spokesman complained of massive losses from the US embargo—losses from imagined profits if the embargo were completely eliminated. Despite the surge in US tourism and oil from Algiers, the Cuban economy is still reeling from the reduction in Venezuelan oil. It is not a productive and self-sustaining economy and is surviving now mainly thanks to American tourism and remittances, but the government likes to bite the hand that feeds it and tell its people and the world—still—that the big bad USA is at fault for everything that goes wrong. )

Raul Castro is moving to assure continuity by means of a family dynasty in control of military power.  First, he named his son head of the army, then he named his son-in-law head of the Cuban military arm which now controls 80% of the Cuban economy, and his latest move was to name his eldest grandson head of the Cuban equivalent of the Secret Service in charge of all bodyguard duties.  

Switching geography, a friend has told me about an apparently successful volunteer program working with youth in Progreso, Honduras called OYE (the name means “Listen” in Spanish). Volunteers can participate for a week or more.  After the Peace Corps and other established organizations have left Honduras, it’s good to see new ones springing up.

Venezuelans banging pots and pans from front doors and balconies as a form of protest for not having enough to eat is an action to register similar complaints in Cuba, where food scarcity goes back more than 60 years to when Fidel Castro first came to power and tried to collectivize agriculture despite its failure elsewhere around the world.                                           

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Late Son's Birthday, Hawaii Visit, Mother Teresa, Hillary & Trump, Weiner, Cuba, Assorted News

 Son Andrew days before his death
Below Hawaii photos

Wild roosters kept me up all night, trying to sleep at Jon's apartment in a far rural side of Oahu.

Dragon dance punctuated Miss Chinatown pageant at Windward Mall.


                                                 Below, my talk at U. Of Hawaii

                                                         U. of Hawaii campus

                                   With year-old grandson Kingston and his mother, below

Above, daughter Stephanie's pet tortoise, Moses

                                         Stephanie and husband Paul at dinner

                                       Above, Stephanie's orchids and mangoes on back yard tree

                                           Typical Hawaiian wild flowers and tree

Tomorrow would be my late son Andrew’s 49th birthday.  It’s been more than 20 years since we lost him, but, of course, we still miss him. Of course, to me, he will always be 27, the age he died. 

While I was in Honolulu visiting family, as per photos above, I also gave a talk about Peace Corps and my other overseas service to inspire other older folks at the U. of Hawaii’s Life Long Learning Institute to undertake similar endeavors. The title of my talk was “New Paths, New Passages” with quite a few people attending on short notice, but none seemed particularly eager to follow in my footsteps. My daughter Stephanie created a slide show on a thumb drive, using photos I took from my blog, particularly those about my medical brigade participation last January.

Stephanie and her husband put solar panels on their house and now their monthly electric bill is a flat $18 per month for lights, TV, radio, fans, water heater, and stove (no need for A/C or heat).

Hawaiian place names are heavy on vowels, light on consonants. 'Olelo Hawai'i (the Hawaiian language) belongs to a family of languages from central and eastern Polynesia, which includes Hawaiian, Tahitian, Tumotuan, Rarotongan and Maori. The Hawaiian language consists of just 12 letters found in the English alphabet and the 'okina, (a symbol that looks like a backwards apostrophe). The alphabet consists of the vowels a, e, i, o and u, and the consonants h, k, l, m, n, p and w. Classes in the Hawaiian language are popular now, especially for native children.

When we were at Windward Mall near Jon’s home in Kaneohe, he met another couple he knew with 7 kids ages 4 and under. How did they do that? The oldest was a girl, age 4, next came apparently identical triplet girls age 3, followed by 3 boys, the youngest just a few months old. The parents seemed very proud of their healthy looking kids. It was quite production moving the family from place to place. The 4 girls rode together in a grocery cart.

A recent Spanish interpretation client at a specialty children’s hospital was a young woman from Central America with her first baby, born as a 2 lb. premie after an emergency C-section when he had stopped moving in the womb. Now, at 6 lbs., he was almost ready to go home, taking in feedings by bottle, breast, and a nasal feeding tube. His reflexes, vision, and hearing had tested normal so far. Meeting with a group of specialists evaluating her baby, the mother thanked them and said that in her country, her child would never have survived. She never left his side, even sleeping in the hospital ever since his birth. Some of that fierce level of early maternal devotion, which I have experienced myself. is probably hormonal.
The EpiPen price hike is a calculated exploitation of the health insurance system, passing on the cost to (and reaping associated profits from) taxpayers and insurance subscribers, while offering discounts to the relatively few without coverage. I’ve long noted how American manufactured drugs are cheaper in Honduras than in the US, so I often pay less there than even with my co-payment here. And, usually, no doctor’s prescription is needed.

Now that Mother Teresa has been declared a saint, I recall greeting her at a jungle religious shrine in Nicaragua in 1990, a greeting she did not return. My Nicaraguan friend had driven me there, expecting to find it empty, as it was very hidden and remote. But instead, we were surprised to see Mother Teresa there, praying with a male escort near her side. They appeared equally surprised. I waved at her, but she did not even nod her head in reply, rather, looking a bit bothered or flustered. She and her companion hastily went to their vehicle and drove away.

Good news from Honduras, for a change, namely that a US-financed program may be having some positive effect:

So, what’s happened to Trump and his wall? Will that go the way of his plan to deport 11 million “illegals”? Trump and his diehard supporters may not care what “pundits” and the Republican establishment say about him. He is apparently not looking forward to debating Clinton and is already explaining his likely loss: "And I'm telling you, November 8, we'd better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged," the New York billionaire told Fox News.

The danger is that his diehard supporters, when (if??) he loses will create disorder and not accept the results. And Trump will probably egg them on. After his loss, he may go back to reality TV and his business empire, including the renovation of a beautiful 1899 DC building on Pennsylvania Ave., once a post office, now being converted into a hotel. It’s supposed to open in September, but apparently has been delayed. Such a shame that he owns the place now. Of course, he may be better at running hotels than at politics. We’ll have to see if his businesses will be boycotted due to his controversial presidential bid. If so, he may declare bankruptcy once again and give up that building.

50 GOP national security officials say Trump would be 'most reckless president in American history’
After Trump insisted that Obama and Clinton created ISIS, he also hinted that he wouldn’t actually mind losing the election, because he already has a wonderful life. He may be getting tired of the whole campaign and he clearly is not looking forward to any debates with Clinton. He does well only with pre-scripted comments read off a teleprompter. Off-the-cuff or Tweeting, he’s a disaster! So that should be a cue to the Republican Party to focus down ballot and forget about trying to control Trump, because he isn’t going to let it happen, at least not for long. Can you imagine him as president with daughter Ivanka at his side trying to keep him on-message? If he actually should win the presidency, he might listen to advisers even less than he does now. After all, he would say, “I am the president!” Our country and the world would have a wild ride for the next 4 years, but it would certainly be interesting. Hillary is old news, as she’s been around and striving for so long, except for a few years mostly out of the public eye after her stint as secretary of state. Trump, on the other hand, surprises us every single day, delighting some, repelling others. In any case, win or lose, Trump is one for the history books.

I heard Hillary's economic speech in Michigan, which was solid, but not spectacular or particularly inspiring. I am personally not so opposed to TPP, but since the electorate is so strongly against it (thanks to both Sanders and Trump), then she has to say she is too. It would be good if Obama could pass it before his term is up. Nothing whatsoever has been said about Cuba, which I think most Americans, to the extent they even care, consider a done deal. Certainly, Democratic lawmakers visiting Cuba have taken pains to meet only with the leadership and avoid any public comment on the daily beatings and arrests of peaceful activists.

Obama had a problem joining the mostly white old boys’ club of Congress because of his race and being a relative national political newcomer, a Democrat, and more cerebral than most members of Congress. Hillary will have a problem because she is female and also a Democrat, though she is more of a known quantity than Obama was when he first ran for president. She may not be readily accepted either, facing the same sort of stonewalling by Republicans that Obama has faced, not to mention the vitriol that has been leashed against her to undermine her campaign. Obama has actually accomplished quite a lot in the face if all that steely opposition. Let’s hope that Trump not only loses, but takes down some Republicans with him. (Of course, if Trump should win somehow, he won’t be readily accepted by Congress members of either party either.)

Does Ann Coulter really think that Trump’s incoherent immigration speech was actually “better then Churchill”? If so, those folks are living in a parallel universe.

Predictions already abound about how Republicans Are Already Planning How to Ruin a Hillary Clinton Presidency (politics is low-gauge warfare)

Huma Abedin, now traveling with Hillary Clinton on her high-stakes presidential campaign, was finally obligated to disassociate herself from her unfortunately named husband, Anthony Weiner, who, apparently, had stayed home caring for their son. Weiner should have known by now that his private inline “flashing” urges would not be kept secret, especially during a presidential campaign, but maybe boredom, envy of his wife’s prominence, and the thrill of a high-stakes risk kept him going, as it often does for skydivers and race car drivers. Doing something like that is almost creepier than engaging an actual affair.  The last straw for his wife may have been sending a raunchy photo of himself with his young son appearing in the background. No doubt, Weiner has sought psychiatric “help” for his urges, but such help doesn’t always work, especially if the affected person really doesn’t want it.

Some good news from Cuba: Cuba reports remarkable success in containing Zika virus

My position on Cuba now is that US diplomatic relations may have been a good first step and that travel and cultural exchanges can build mutual trust outside of politics, but this does not mean that US officials, particularly Democratic officials and US Embassy staff, must only engage with the leadership and avoid everyone else. They need to take a more balanced approach and to communicate with and support ordinary citizens, including those expressing different political views in a peaceful manner. That’s what our country stands for, not deciding, in the name of diplomacy, to exclusively support an un-elected leadership (un-elected for 57 years!) and turn a blind eye to the actions of that leadership, which routinely encourages physical attacks and arrests of Cubans engaged in peaceful expression and assembly, those seeking freer internet communication, or those who are simply trying to make ends meet. There is something disquieting, almost obscene, about lawmakers, high-end models, American media figures, sports stars, and other “beautiful people” descending on Cuba to meet and be photographed with Raul Castro, while the Castro government is routinely beating up and jailing the Ladies in White and others engaged in peaceful expression. It’s as though our government condones those attacks. And the Castro government’s defense that what happens inside the country is protected by Cuba’s “sovereignty” is like asking someone to be cordial with a neighbor who is beating up his wife and kids. Dr. Martin Luther King said that "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” We should not keep silent.

Article 53 of the Cuban Constitution states that: “Freedom of expression and the press will be recognized in accord with the goals of a socialist society … the press, radio, television, movies and other means of mass communication will be property of the state and cannot be, in any case, privately held to assure their exclusive use in the interest of society.” 

Changing subjects, earlier on this forum, I’ve discussed the DR’s anti-Haitian descendants’ policy, on which that government is hanging tight, despite international condemnation.

Port-au-Prince (AFP) 8-29-2016- Former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide made a rare public appearance to support his party's presidential candidate. (I was an election observer when Aristide himself was elected in 1990.)
"All of Haiti's children must give a hand to help heal our country," said Aristide, who returned to Haiti in 2011 after being ousted in a coup seven years earlier.
Speaking in Creole with his signature use of metaphor, the former shantytown priest said he and candidate Maryse Narcisse were "bringing the strength of our dignity." Nearly 6.2 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots on October 9 in the first round of the presidential election as well as a legislative vote. The presidential election's second round is scheduled for January 8.

Pastors for Peace, which has been sending material aid to Cuba for many years, may lose US tax-exempt status

Posted: 23 Aug 2016 05:45 AM PDT
Tweet from the daughter of Cuban democracy leader, Guillermo Fariñas, who is on the 32nd day of his hunger strike:

I don't understand. Where is the humanity of Pope Francis when in Cuba Guillermo Fariñas is slowly dying for the sake of human rights?  

No comprendo donde esta la humanidad d @Pontifex_es cuan2 en #Cuba @cocofarinas esta murien2 lentamente x hacer valer sus #DerechosHumanos
— Alicia Fariñas (@HaisaAlicia) August 23, 2016

I’ve read a couple of massive books recently, Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack (2004), about GWBush’s decision to pre-emptively attack Iraq. Even though no WMDs were found, Bush told Woodward that he was convinced he had made the right decision, that history would be his judge, but admitting that “by then, we’ll all be dead.”

The other book is Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon, about parents raising kids very different from themselves: deaf, gay, transgender, dwarf, autistic, or even criminal or genius offsrping. It’s sometimes hard to remember, when a notorious criminal is captured, that he or she has—or has had—parents and a family.