Sunday, May 29, 2011

Blind Kids, Honduran Pts., No Rapture, Port. Med Units, S-K “Seduced”?, Sudan Borders, Bush Lecture Tour, Israeli Borders, Demographic Time Bomb

Last week, I was invited to talk to a group of blind kids from DC public high schools, including Wilson, which my kids attended, about how blind adults and students fare in Honduras, drawing on my book. One boy, originally from the Dominican Republic, and I chatted in Spanish. With one of the program administrators, whom I’d met through my interpretation work, we are trying to gather up a bunch of items for the blind to send to Honduras. There is a special provision in the US Postal Code (which PO workers always have to look up) that allows boxes of such materials of a certain size to be sent free via surface mail to blind facilities in other countries.

Last week, I also had two medical patients from Honduras, including one from La Esperanza who knows my former office mate and friend, Luis Knight. I must repeat the old cliché “small word.”

Well, May 21 came and went and we are still here. No end of the world, no rapture. God must have mysteriously postponed it.

I met a physician visiting from Florida who tells me that Doctors without Borders has perfected a blowup medical clinic that sounds cheaper and even more practical than mobile medical unit. I need to find out more about it and if it is available to other organizations. If anyone knows, please advise.

A reader tells me: John Ashcroft is now Blackwater's new head of Ethics. Lots of experience with such matters.

Apparently former IMF head Strauss-Kahn had recently predicted that false accusations might be lodged against him. Now much of the French public reportedly believes that the NY hotel maid’s accusations are an elaborate plot engineered by Sarkozy or some other nefarious enemy. Probably due to DNA evidence, Strauss-Kahn will now be forced to admit to a sexual encounter with the maid, but will argue that it was “consensual.” If so, given his prior fear of a possible conspiracy to frame him, why in the world would he have voluntarily engaged in sex with an unknown woman, a hotel maid yet, and thereby fall into a trap? Surely, a smart guy, given his premonitions, would have had better judgment. Or was he just the victim of a wily and relentless seducer? It doesn’t wash. His hasty retreat from the hotel, leaving his cell phone behind, and attempting to leave the country within hours are not the actions of an innocent man. Still, with high-powered lawyers and a sympathetic jury, he may yet beat the rap, just like OJ Simpson did. After all, a jury has to decide if guilt is proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” something open to interpretation.

The local Hispanic press has said that Manuel Zelaya would return to Honduras before the end of the month, after which Honduras will be readmitted to the OAS. The Economist says the same (see article below). I seen now that his return went off yesterday as scheduled. He was greeted by boisterous crowds arriving in a Venezuelan plane from neighbroing Nicarague.

Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, whom I once met, was recently in NY City meeting with Dominican groups living there. He said that two million of his fellow countrymen live in this country.

Having been to South Sudan, including to the border area now in dispute, I’m concerned but not terribly surprised that a conflict has broken out there just prior to the full declaration of independence voted on in the recent referendum.

If I was feeling a little sorry for GW Bush in his reported self-imposed isolation, it now turns out that he’s been pretty busy after all giving paid speeches (the same one over and over?) at minor venues on topics related to finance, golf, and other matters. Public speaking wouldn’t seem to be his strong point, but he’s already raked in $15 million doing that since leaving office. So, being a former president is pretty lucrative and surely a lot easier than actually being president. Laura Bush and the president’s brother and parents also give paid speeches. You would think that someone who is independently wealthy and who enjoys a humongous pension might impart whatever wisdom he has to offer for free, but apparently not. At least Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have established non-profit enterprises with laudable goals to soak up some of their post-presidential largesse, though I realize that many non-profits offer lots of luxury perks as well. I’m sure Bill Clinton doesn’t fly around the world in economy class. The only time I myself was offered a modest speaking honorarium, I asked that it be donated to a small non-profit on whose board I serve. I would think GW could do the same (maybe he has without announcing it?).

Since everyone is weighing on Obama’s remarks about Israel’s 1967 borders, which he was gutsy enough to repeat in a speech to AIPAC, I would just observe that it’s nothing new and nothing so shocking. Apparently, neither the Israeli nor US public, except perhaps for religious Jews and extreme evangelicals, found his statements remarkable or terribly worrisome. But Republican lawmakers and Netanyahu certainly zeroed in on them, probably for political reasons. Of course, Israel and its citizens want to survive in safety, but it really doesn’t appear to be in Israel’s interest or security (or that of the US) to keep having Israel occupy and control an ever-growing restive and resentful Palestinian population crowded into a tiny geographic area. The Arab Spring has changed the regional dynamic. Nor should Israel be so eager to bite the hand that feeds it, though certainly Netanyahu seemed to be doing that by appealing to his US constituency in AIPAC and Congress over the head of the president.

Those celebrating the recent passage in Md. of offering in-state college tuition for undocumented students brought here as children and who fulfill other requirements may have celebrated too soon. Apparently, there is a small-minded group gathering signatures to mount a referendum to reverse that decision.

Deficit analysts, among others, have pointed out that ever-increasing longevity is an important factor in driving up such public entitlements as pension and medical-care costs, whether financed by federal or state government. (Increasing medical expenditures, in turn, increase longevity, which increases both pension and future medical costs in a continuing upward spiral.) One remedy would be to continue gradually raising the retirement age; another would be to raise the income limit on social security contributions; and, finally, there is legalizing undocumented folks, who have already proved their importance to the economy, in order to keep them living in this country because we desperately need them! They are younger than the average American and are our only hope for avoiding demographic economic collapse, such as that being experienced by Europe and Japan. Dire warnings about the “population bomb” have morphed into the “oldster population bomb.” We keep finding new ways to remedy illness and keep people alive, so this is the inevitable result.

Best Memorial Day wishes. My late father, Leonard Currie, was a US WWII veteran, though Canadian-born, retiring as a Lt. Col. in the US army, among his many life achievements.
The Economist, May 24th 2011

Nearly two years after he was hustled onto a flight and into exile, Manuel Zelaya at last looks set to return to Honduras. Mr Zelaya’s presidency came to an abrupt end in June 2009 when soldiers sent him packing to Costa Rica after the Honduran Supreme Court ordered his arrest for illegally pressing on with an informal referendum on constitutional change. His ousting, which a truth commission is expected to describe as a coup when it reports next month, led to many countries breaking diplomatic ties with Honduras, and its suspension from the Organisation of American States (OAS).

See full article

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