Saturday, June 9, 2012

Photo Caption, Woops! Forgot Cuba Book Last Time, Honduras Murder Arrests, Dolores Huerta, Rangel Challenger, Newseum, Gun Rights & Wrongs, A “Rotten Book”

First, the most recent photo was posted on June 5 by my daughter Stephanie, whose friends from Honolulu are standing there with me in my Washington, DC, kitchen on a recent visit.

Mea culpa, dear friends and readers, I fully intended to mention my current Cuba book-in-progress on the last blog as cited in the header, but forgot to include it in the text. Trying to go back and remove that header reference was unsuccessful. If your curiosity was aroused, I’ll tell you now that it will be a book about my extensive Latin American, and especially Cuban, experiences beyond Honduras, which has already been covered sufficiently. I’m looking for a graphic designer to help me put the book together and insert photos, so am open to recommendations, preferably for someone willing to work with my idiosyncrasies who wouldn’t charge me an arm and a leg. It would be great to have the same guy who helped me with the Honduras book, but he’s too busy right now. A graphic design student needing to get some real world experience and add a book to his/her resume would be ideal. I’m willing to pay, but would expect a price break while the designer is learning on-the-job. Commercial publishers are usually unwilling to include photos except for famous authors, one reason I’ve decided to self-publish again; it’s also a matter of having more complete control. For your designer suggestions, please contact me via my Yahoo address.

IFEX 6 June 2012 Unprecedented arrests of suspects in journalist's murder

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and IFEX's member in Honduras Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre) welcomed the unprecedented arrests of 10 suspects linked to the kidnapping and murder of a radio reporter whose body was found last month.

Alfredo Villatoro, a director of HRN radio, one of the oldest broadcast stations in the country, had been blindfolded and shot twice in the head. His body, discovered on 15 May in a busy street near the capital, had been dressed in a police uniform.

Thousands of people had taken to the streets around the country to protest a wave of journalist killings in Honduras in the wake of Villatoro's brutal murder, reports RSF. He is the second reporter killed last month after journalist and gay rights activist Erick Martinez was murdered on 7 May, says C-Libre.

The IFEX members say more than 20 reporters have been killed in Honduras since a 2009 coup that ousted then President Manuel Zelaya. None of the murders have been solved. In the face of growing protests and international condemnation, "the police and the national authorities have been prompted to act," says the "Guardian".

According to news reports, five suspects - two women and three men, aged 15 to 29 - were arrested last week. An AK47, rifles, handguns and bullets were recovered from their homes, and two cars, thought to be linked to the kidnapping, were seized.

This came days after three other arrests in connection with the kidnapping and murder, report the IFEX members. Two prison inmates are also being questioned after a call from a mobile phone traced back to the prison was made to Villatoro's family, says RSF. One of those arrested is allegedly a police officer, RSF says.

According to the "Guardian", in recent days the Honduran government also announced its intention to draw up an emergency national protection plan for journalists at risk. Justice Minister Ana Pineda said the plan was designed to "ensure adequate security to enable journalists to be able to work free from threats and intimidation."

Newspapers, too, have joined the call for action against the drug traffickers, criminal gangs and political forces that have created a climate of fear and intimidation for Honduran journalists since the coup. On 28 May, "La Prensa", a leading Honduran daily, wrote a story headlined "Enough Already!" which demanded the right to "exercise our vocation and have the freedom to show Hondurans the reality as it is."

According to the UN, Honduras had the world's highest murder rate in 2011, with 86 homicides per year for every 100,000 inhabitants - which is roughly 20 times the murder rate in the U.S.

Perhaps signifying a shift in political will in Honduras, suspects have been arrested in two other cases, reports C-Libre. Former police officer David Lanza Valdez was arrested in connection with the August 2010 murder of journalist Israel Zelaya Díaz. And in Colón, Gabriel Menocal Vargas was arrested for the murder of journalist Fausto Elio Hernández, who was hacked to death with a machete in March.

On another subject, a distant relative of my friends in the Espaillat family in the Dominican Republic, Adriano Espaillat, is challenging veteran Charlie Rangel in the Democratic primary in a newly redrawn congressional district.

According to our local Spanish language press, Dolores Huerta, who took over Cesar Chavez’s farm workers organization after his death, has received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama. Now 82 (and the mother of 11 children), Dolores was a frequent overnight visitor to our apartment in Sacramento, California, where she did lobbying for farm workers’ rights. Glad to see her lifelong efforts recognized.

I’ve gone back to work after my hernia surgery—which not a big deal, but big enough, making me realize that having any surgery at my age (74) is not a trivial matter.

At a reception at the Newseum, a private media museum located in downtown Washington, we guests were given a private tour of the impressive exhibits, including a big section of the actual Berlin Wall with a guard tower erected behind and an extensive FBI exhibit, featuring such news milestones as the Lindberg baby kidnapping, capture of the Unabomber, and the Oklahoma City bombing and its aftermath. The building has a lovely high terrace looking out over the capitol and monuments. A Citibank director, Jonathan Clements, an amusing and informative speaker, told us that we are unlikely to ever see return to the glory days of pre-crash profits in our lifetime, giving each of us a signed copy of his book, The Little Book of Main Street Money.

No doubt this happens to anyone who uses a computer a lot, that is, dreaming about being on the computer, erasing and moving words, pressing the “send” button. I’ve awakened suddenly to realize I was keyboarding in my sleep!

In a town outside Washington, an 8-year-old boy accidently killed his 11-year-old brother with a handgun taken from a house where the boys were helping a neighbor with yard work. My younger son, at about age 12, was shot in the foot by another boy playing with a handgun found at the parental bedside of third boy whose home they were visiting. Fortunately, though he suffered pain and had to go to the hospital, my son survived. Perhaps personal guns are useful to some degree for protection or hunting, though I am not a fan of hunting either. However, I suspect that if a statistical analysis were made, many more people are hurt or killed through gun misuse than are ever saved. Although guns, especially loaded handguns, are supposed to be locked away from children or others who might misuse them, that often doesn’t happen. The NRA seems to have stranglehold on politicians, including Obama and other Democrats, who seem unwilling to tackle any curbs on gun ownership in an election year, even regarding background checks. And, in the District of Columbia, the US Supreme Court has imposed gun “rights” that the majority of citizens had roundly rejected. So, for the time being, we seem to be stuck with those “rights” and children and other innocent victims will continue to be killed as the price to be paid for the “freedom to bear arms.”

Well, my Honduras book recently received its first bad review and it’s a real humdinger! One-star and titled “This Is A Rotten Book!” with a strong recommendation not to buy it. It’s so over-the-top, it made me laugh, although it sounds like a vendetta. I never actually met this person, a former PC volunteer in Honduras from years ago who first contacted me after seeing my book’s award for “Best Peace Corps Memoir of 2009” posted on the Peace Corps Writers’ website. At his request, I sent him a free copy (though his review says he bought it) in exchange for one of his early self-published books about his travels with his sons in Latin America, a slim uneven chronicle with quite a few typos, really almost a pamphlet. Although he says he has a Hispanic wife and has traveled extensively in Latin America, I found his quotes in Spanish awkward, not quite wrong grammatically but not how a native speaker would say them. I didn’t consider that a fair exchange and he has written many other books that I have not read which may be better. He urged me to purchase his own book about his Peace Corps experiences in Honduras, saying it was very good, but based on the first book he’d sent, I declined. Later, he urged me and others to vote for his Honduras book for an award by the same writers’ group that had given me an award. I didn't vote for it and he didn't win, which I suppose upset him. He once did a valuable job in chronicling crime and other statistics about PC volunteers throughout the years and I publicly thanked him for that on the writers’ website. He also put together PC books for a special collection at the Library of Congress (maybe he threw mine out?).

I was frankly surprised by the vehemence of his negative review of my book (the only negative review posted), a book which many readers have praised and which a few have said inspired them to actually join the Peace Corps. Of course, I am not able to judge my own writing objectively, but aspects he found so objectionable, like my recounting of my early experiences in Honduras as a small child, have proven interesting to many readers and go beyond the usual PC story. Also, my book is a memoir, not a travelogue like his own little book sent to me. My book has been favorably reviewed by a number of outside reviewers, including a reporter for The Washington Post, Ed O’Keefe, who said, “Barbara’s book is a great read… Buy and read this book, no matter your age.” It has also won at least three literary awards. The Peace Corps’ director and assistant director have praised it highly, but were unable to endorse it because of legal advice. Maybe this guy is angry because I never bought his Honduras book? Because my Honduras book was more successful than his and he is envious? He may be a frustrated writer who never has hit his stride or gotten the recognition he craves.

I do feel somewhat vindicated by a positive review that came in since, making no mention of his negative one, probably just as well, though Amazon has given his review such a prominence that I hope won’t discourage future readers. If anyone reading this blog cares to counteract his review (there’s a commentary space right after it), I certainly won’t object. I hope his review won’t affect sales and therefore my future work in Honduras, since my project support depends in part on book sales. Already, my sales on Amazon are down because of Peace Corps’ departure from Honduras. Maybe it’s not necessary to take him on point-by-point or set up a war of reviews by disparaging his own books, some listed on Amazon. His review of my book is so crazy that maybe no one will take it seriously. They may chalk it up to sour grapes, which is probably the case. I really don’t know, except to repeat that old adage, “Different strokes for different folks.”

1 comment:

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