Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane, Goodreads, Visitors, Voting, More Shootings, Fallen PCVs, Muslim Festival, Trump, Halloween

Hurricane Sandy caused us all to take time out to focus our attention on the immediate physical environment. My interpretation work was cancelled for two days, unfortunately, as we are paid only for hours worked. However, it was kind of exciting to watch rain constantly beating down and trees swaying wildly for hours on end as the wind howled. Our city, like others, came to a standstill, with the federal government and metro system both shut down for most of Monday and Tuesday. A tree fell on car in our block and there are other downed trees. Washington is located a little south of the worst of it, but we were still hit fairly hard, with wet snow actually falling at higher elevations and many power lines knocked out. Fortunately for our neighborhood, all electric lines are underground and therefore protected. The suburbs, with overhead lines, were not so fortunate. These more frequently occurring natural disasters, perhaps exacerbated by man-made climate change, are certainly wreaking havoc on an already fragile economy. This time, the disaster hit the heavily populated northeast corridor, increasing the human and economic toll.

Just discovered that the former Peace Corps volunteer who’d tried to sabotage my book on Amazon because of his competing Honduras book has been at it again on Facebook on a site I didn’t even know existed. He has a real vendetta against me. I won’t mention his name nor will I retaliate in kind, though it’s tempting. However, if blog readers familiar with my book should care to post a counter-review on Facebook or even register a “like,” I wouldn’t object. I imagine you’d have to be a Facebook subscriber. Certainly the internet is a two-edged sword. This is cyber-warfare! My book has won universal praise from professional reviewers and has led to numerous speaking invitations, including from two biography-collections librarians I’d never met before who invited me to speak, in DC and NY City respectively, not to mention librarians from several smaller libraries. Librarians are the ultimate critics. Anyway, here’s the link and thanks. Facebook, unfortunately, is too influential!


After I’d gotten all hot and bothered, all ready post this, a veteran PC volunteer who loved my book, advised, “Just ignore him, not very well read. I stand by what I said, your book is one of the best ‘manuals’ for volunteers and staff, and not limited to age, Honduras, or Latin America. Don't stoop to his level; you are too much of a professional. Go to the high ground...con cariño.”

Another friend said, “Some are readers, some are writers, some sit in cellars tapping out hateful spite message on ancient keyboards because their Huggies need changing. I am a reader; you are a writer; he is what’s left.” Maybe they are right, I should remain above the fray. But you may still register a “like” for my book if you’ve read it, or even post a review on Goodreads above if you are so inclined.

Lots of recent out-of-town visitors, including my nephew John, my brother’s oldest son, shown with me here. One of my longer-term visitors, back in 2006, was Davaa from Mongolia, back again in Washington for a conference, with photos he took of me and of us together. He said that many Mongolians who had lived in nearby Arlington, Va., have now returned to their own country because of difficulty finding work here, while Mongolia is booming. That’s due mostly to mining for gold, coal, and other metals, many of them being shipped directly to China, which borders Mongolia and has a voracious appetite for all raw materials.

Romney seems to be a chameleon, shifting positions to the point that it’s hard to predict what he would do as president. Every politician does that to some extent, addressing different audiences in different ways, but Romney remains a big question mark. Although he has vowed to take a number of actions on “Day One,” you have to wonder, because he will have a pretty busy first day if he actually does them all. Prospects for the Peace Corps don’t look good if Romney wins. Already the Republican Congress has cut foreign aid and the Peace Corps budget. Why would Romney support a Kennedy program? His experience in developing countries is nil. Unlike the Mormon missionaries I saw in Honduras, young Romney served as a missionary in France.

In the 3rd debate, Obama scored some points, I hope not too late. I’m very worried that he may actually lose and haven’t really faced up to that possibility. Any readers out there who favor him, please get yourself to the polls! As already indicated, I’ll be voting for Obama myself, despite disagreements, especially on immigration, where, in my opinion, this administration has been overly aggressive in deporting people, especially those with no offenses beyond illegal entry or with old, minor closed cases, like traffic violations, under the so-called “secure communities” provisions, including some Cubans, who surely will suffer at the hands of the government if sent back. Also, if a modified “dream act” could be implemented administratively, why wasn’t that done much earlier? In the last debate, Romney came off as a peace-maker, an image he hasn’t tried to project before. However, an editorial in The New Yorker lays out what I consider a fairly cogent case for voting for Obama:


One of my readers remains unconvinced, saying: We remain conflicted: unable to vote for either major candidate because neither should be in the job, but reluctant to throw away a vote on a third-party candidate that has just as much chance as being attributed to nut fringe as to "none of the above."

Perhaps all the negative ads are having an effect, making some voters reject both candidates. Of course, here in Washington, DC, there has been no campaigning or advertising whatsoever, since over 90% of voters are registered Democrats and we have no voting congress people or senators. Black evangelicals, I understand, are having a hard time voting for Obama because of his announced support of gay marriage, but are hardly inclined toward Romney. I don't know what to advise people who feel they cannot vote for either Obama or Romney. What to do in a two-party system when you can’t stand either major candidate and third-party candidates are not enticing and have no chance of winning? Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world of imperfect leaders. None is without flaws. Who have been good presidents in the view of hindsight? George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt? John Kennedy had too short a tenure and his image has been enhanced by martyrdom, so maybe he doesn’t count. Many folks still like Bill Clinton despite his womanizing. If I were in the shoes of a frustrated undecided voter, I’d either not vote or would find, if possible, a third-party candidate, however obscure, who I thought (hoped) would do a good job if actually elected, even though he or she had no chance of actually winning and I would cast my vote there. Then when the actual election winner screwed up, as he inevitably would, I could at least feel I was not responsible.

Another correspondent tells me he’s voting for Jill Stein, Green Party candidate. There is also Virgil Goode of Virginia on the right and a slew of others. Just Google “Third Party Candidates” and you will see a big array there. I hope we won’t face a situation like 2000, when the guy with fewer votes is declared the winner, though if that’s Obama, this Supreme Court may not lean in his favor. In any case, it’s a very polarized electorate and pretty evenly divided, divided both racially and gender-wise as well, so half the country is bound to be very unhappy and even angry at the outcome. A recent AP poll shows a slight majority of Americans have negative views of blacks and Hispanics, no huge surprise. When whites are no longer the majority, the tables will turn. The anti-black sentiment apparently has actually grown slightly since Obama became president, but perhaps due to the recession more than to him. The winner of the presidential race will have to try to mollify the other side. Romney was not such a terrible governor, though some residents of Massachusetts dispute his own representation of his bipartisanship, which they say he resisted. Maybe he will soften his positions if he wins office? A Republican president may even be able to win over a recalcitrant Republican Congress on some issues, like Nixon going to China. While bracing ourselves for the worst, we can only hope for the best. Just like with the recent storm Sandy.

Iran now, copying the U.S. and Israel, has its own drones and probably is also planning cyber-warfare like that which Israel apparently perpetrated on its centrifuges. War has escalated into new territory.

Still more mass shootings, in California and again in Wisconsin. The president and the governor of Wisconsin sent their condolences, but said no more. We’re already becoming almost numb to these tragedies, which certainly have a copycat element. Nor does the “right to bear arms,” touted as being protective, seem to be protecting victims in any noticeable way. The Wisconsin shooter’s wife had a restraining order, but she died anyway and others with her. Of course, there are probably thousands of restraining orders in effect and not all can be closely monitored. There is also the cost to survivors in pain and suffering and long-term disability, think Congresswoman Giffords who barely survived and had to give up her seat, plus the cost to society of treating survivors both medically and in rehabilitation. I often see black men in wheelchairs clustered around metro stops, some fairly young, some doubtless gunshot victims, just as I saw many young Honduran men paralyzed by gunshots, including Antonio, a lottery salesman introduced in my Honduras book, who died young because of pressure sores.

A list has been compiled of “fallen” Peace Corps volunteers over the last 50 years, 287 in all, unfortunate, but not a terrible toll given the many thousands who have served. The latest was this year, a man age 65, the very demographic I’m reaching out to in my talks—he died of a sudden heart attack in Zambia at age 65, after having passed the initial physical exam. For him, like for me, Peace Corps service was a long-delayed dream, but he didn’t get to realize very much of it. Reportedly six volunteers have died in Honduras over 50 years, one shot when mistaken for an intruder, one in an auto accident, one of illness, and one in a flash flood, with the cause of death not specified for the other two. It’s sad that they died while in the Peace Corps, but, in reality, people die every day in this country in a variety of similar circumstances, auto accidents, getting shot, becoming ill, or in natural disasters—and that includes young people in college or elsewhere, young people like most PC volunteers. They get into auto accidents, get drunk and fall out dorm windows, or are killed by jealous lovers. We cannot expect the Peace Corps to be any safer, though somehow, a death seems more shocking when it occurs during humanitarian service far from home.

Our Amnesty Int’l office recently celebrated the Muslim festival of Dhul Hijjah, specifically Eid Al Adha, whereby we had to countdown until sundown before actually start eating, though it’s not such a long-term fasting proposition as during Ramadan. We had a speaker, Laila Al-Arian, an attractive young woman who was wearing a headscarf and was pregnant. She belongs to a Palestinian family and is a journalist and a reporter for Al Jazeera. I don’t know if she was born in the U.S. but she speaks unaccented American English. Her father, Sami Al-Arian, was formerly a professor of computer engineering at the University of South Florida and was a first-term GW Bush supporter. Now he is under house arrest in complicated circumstances, acquitted by a jury of most charges, but apparently because of some involvement with a Muslim charity and a plea bargain is still considered suspect. Googling him doesn’t add much clarification. The daughter gave a convincing defense of her father and made a case that U.S. law enforcement is entrapping young Muslim men, fabricating plots with them, mistreating and radicalizing them.

I predict that despite Africa’s political and economic turmoil, that continent, because of its untapped human, agricultural, and mineral potential, is rising and will be a growth and investment center in the future. The Chinese know that and are already heavily involved there.

I have 100 balls in the air and am only catching some of them. I’m not as swift as I used to be, but am working on something all the time, almost every minute. When people tell me they have been watching TV or a film, that’s beyond my comprehension. I do listen to NPR, especially Prarie Home Companion when eating dinner or on the rare occasions that I’m cooking. With houseguests, like my nephew, Davaa, and another friend from SF recently, I will go out to dinner. Taking the metro or bus to interpretation assignments, I read newspapers, magazines, or books—that’s my recreation and I sometimes almost miss my stop. The rest of you are probably more efficient, giving you more leisure time.

Donald Trump’s much touted “October surprise” on Obama turned out to be a real dud, but the man doesn’t care how foolish he ends up looking as long as he gets publicity, which he always does.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Articles Featuring Yours Truly, Deaf Bereaved Father, Interpretation & Translation, Caribbean & Honduras Happenings, Gallup Poll, Domestic Concerns, Peace Corps Bad Apple

Above, Cuban and Honduran flags, also an image of my son’s gravestone, which I visited recently in a lot of land in rural Virginia. It’s sinking into the ground and needs to be pulled up and sand put underneath, if I can get someone to help me do that. The inscription is a quote from a Walt Whitman poem, “I Stop Some Where Waiting For You.”

FYI, I was featured in an article in a local free monthly paper The Hill Rag. There were several color photos included, but only one shows up in the on line version below. The article emphasizes the IHS medical brigade in which I participate every year (ihsmn.org), as we still need more volunteers, especially doctors, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists, so if anyone reading this is interested, please get in touch with me or IHS directly. The organization works only in Honduras and has no office or paid staff—no overhead—volunteers and donors pay everything, so be forewarned. Two prospects have already contacted me because of the article. If you or anyone else might be interested, please contact me via the e-mail address above or go directly, ASAP, to organizer John Kirckoff , JMKKEK@Yahoo.com, Phone: 320-634-4386.


Another item, this one appearing in an on-line inspirational blog, was actually written by me according to the host’s specs. Its emphasis is on recovery from loss.


The above article mentions The Compassionate Friends, a support group for bereaved parents to which I belong. Last night, at our meeting, we had a deaf father for whom we were having trouble finding a sign-language interpreter, preferably one who would help him out pro bono. At the last minute, we found a woman who had lost her own daughter and was willing to do it free of charge.

Earlier this week, en route to a medical interpretation at a hospital, I was dismayed that our metro train stopped suddenly because of a report of someone on the tracks at the next station. It turned out that a 24-year-old man had committed suicide by jumping in front of a moving train. Not only does that mean the tragic (and painful) end of a life, but such suicides create havoc in the transit system affecting thousands of passengers. Of course, I was late and missed the bus to the hospital where I was due, instead taking a cab driven by a man from Ethiopia complaining because the ride was so short. I gave him a $2 tip for a $7 fare. (I should have given him nothing for all his grumbling.)

At a school interpretation for a parent workshop, about a dozen parents were Spanish-speaking, including one father, a rarity. Two women were from Honduras! Among non-Hispanics, was a mother cloaked all in black, with only her eyes and hands showing, her voice muffled by her facial covering. But she entered into the workshop with enthusiasm (making learning aids for kids to use at home). Our workshop was held in the school cafeteria, where some kids were finishing up their breakfast, many throwing away uneaten bananas, cartons of milk, and small boxes of cereal. It seemed like such a waste, but a teacher said rules prevented recovery of uneaten, untouched food. All must be discarded by the child without interference. I would think that if children know beforehand that they don’t want to eat the full breakfast (or lunch) then an adult could remove those items before handing over the package and collect any unwanted items for a shelter or soup kitchen. But, of course, the entire breakfast is prepackaged and removing unwanted items and transporting them to needy folks would require an extra task of school personnel.

I prefer live interpretation to written translation which, however, can be done in the comfort of my own home. Written translation is less personal, much harder and more technical and, of course, more permanent and subject to greater scrutiny. With live interpretation, even in a medical setting, the main effort is to simplify explanations, because the patient is the recipient of the communications. Written medical records translations involve physicians communicating with each other on a professional level and become part of the patient’s medical record here. I just finished a very long interpretation (14 pages) of the records of an 81-year-old lady from Mexico who has been experiencing mild memory problems and who underwent a whole battery of tests and even a brain scan in Mexico City. Now, apparently, she has come to this country with her husband (judging by the reports) to see if anything more can be done. First of all, her deficits did not seem all that serious to me; who doesn’t have some forgetfulness at age 81? The woman still drives, reads books (though forgetting some details later), and recognizes and remembers the names of people close to her, though often forgetting the names of those she has met recently. Furthermore, there are few remedies available, perhaps some drugs to slow the progression or ways of cuing the environment. Dealing with her problems here will be complicated further by the language barrier. But often wealthy people from abroad do come here, hoping for miracles.

Speaking for myself at age 74, I certainly need to write reminder notes on my daily calendar to know what to do each day. Otherwise, I’d be lost. Do I need and could I possibly benefit from medical intervention for my slightly failing memory? Is this the beginning for me of the slippery slope? A good friend, now in her 80s and living in a locked Alzheimer’s facility, always feared the onslaught of dementia and consulted every specialist available, undergoing brain scans and all the rest, taking meds, and still failed to prevent the fate she most feared. At first, she resisted and railed against her protective “incarceration.” But now, as her memory deficits have progressed and as she has adapted to her restricted environment, she seems fairly tranquil. Modern medicine can help slow the aging process and delay death, but not forever.

Cuba’s President Raul Castro has announced that starting in January, Cubans will no longer have to get an expensive and complicated exit visa to leave the country. However, professionals, athletes, performers, and military and medical personnel will still have to apply for an exit visa, which can be denied. This is to avoid a brain-drain. “The update to the migratory policy takes into account the right of the revolutionary State to defend itself from the interventionist and subversive plans of the U.S. government and its allies,” the government declared. “Therefore, measures will remain to preserve the human capital created by the Revolution in the face of the theft of talent applied by the powerful.” (“Cuba to ease travel abroad for many citizens,” The Washington Post, October 16, 20012) Some Cuban Americans see the move as a cynical attempt by the Castro regime to rid itself of less productive and more burdensome citizens. In any case, Cubans arriving by air from the island presumably would need to have U.S. visas before being admitted. Also, the Castro government can always deny certain individuals a passport, even without the exit visa. So it all depends on who the government wants to see leave.

On October 4, 2012, well-known opposition blogger Yoani Sánchez was arrested along with her husband Reinaldo Escobar and several others in the south-eastern town of Bayamo where Sánchez was to cover for Spain’s El País the next morning’s opening of the trial of the imprisoned driver of a car in which well-known dissident Oswaldo Payá was killed. Seven judges were scheduled to hear the case. Sánchez was transported back to Havana and subsequently released after 30 hours of reported mistreatment during which she lost a tooth. Payá’s family was not permitted to witness the trial where the defendant, being held incommunicado, was facing seven years imprisonment.

Javier Zúñiga, at Amnesty International’s London headquarters, declared: “These apparently arbitrary arrests ahead of Angel Carromero’s trial mark the latest in a string of harassments that Yoani Sánchez and other dissidents have suffered at the hands of Cuban authorities. The authorities must immediately reveal the full details of everyone detained in Bayamo and either charge them with internationally recognizable criminal offences or set them free. Cuba’s senseless restrictions on freedom of expression and independent media must come to an end.”

In my capacity as Amnesty International USA’s volunteer Caribbean coordinator, I sent a letter supporting a stay of deportation for a Dominican adult with—not sure of politically correct term—intellectual or developmental disabilities, what we used to call mental retardation.

Gunmen kill 11 men playing soccer in Honduras

AP, October 15, 2012

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Police say gunmen have attacked three groups of men playing soccer at small fields in Honduras, killing 11.

The motives for the attacks in the rural province of Olancho are still under investigation. Drug traffickers have been active in the area.

The victims were aged 18 to 25.

Police commissioner Hector Garcia says the first attack occurred Saturday, and killed eight men. The second attack Sunday killed two more men, and a third attack left one man dead. All the attacks occurred around the city of Catacamas.

On Friday, gunmen killed the husband of the national Assistant Health Minister Miriam Paz in Olancho. Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla pledged to impose order in the violence-plagued province, and dispatched a contingent of police and soldiers to the area.

Well, Hugo Chavez was victorious by a comfortable margin, though smaller than before. Of course, he controls all the communications media and also tried to project a softer image, retracting his threat that followers would create havoc if he lost, saying instead that he would accept the outcome, whatever it was. Let’s see if he survives his term.

The latest Gallup poll, usually reliable, shows Romney ahead of Obama among likely voters. It’s really scary to think Romney might actually win! He has had pretty good debate performances and has avoided putting his foot in his mouth, as he has so often done before. Obama has done OK too, but he needs to be superior to pull definitively ahead. For many undecided voters, the superficial impression each gives in the debates may matter more than the substance of what each says he will do and what he will actually do in the presidency next term. If Romney should win this election, we can only hope and pray that he won’t be as bad as we had feared, though I said the same about George W. Bush when the Supreme Court declared the winner of his first election and, in fact, he ended up being much worse. Of course, I was in Honduras then and was glad to be far away.

Terrance Williams, a prisoner on death row in Pennsylvania, got a stay of execution in part because of advocacy by Amnesty International activists. Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases.

A local judge in the DC area ruled that the following sign had to be displayed in public metro-rail stations, which it has been: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man, support Israel, defeat Jihad.” So far, no one has attacked the sign, though I heard that a couple of women stood outside one such sign with their own sign or statement disputing it. A Muslim group now wants to post a counter-ad. It seems that a public area like a metro station supported by tax dollars could have certain restrictions. Of course, there's always the question of where to draw the line. Cigarette and alcohol ads are not permitted on metro, free speech or not. Maybe this question will go to the Supreme Court?

There were two cases recently of a man killing his son with a firearm, thinking he was an intruder. People trying to protect their homes with handguns would be well advised not to be so trigger happy, to at least shout out, “Who goes there?” before pulling the trigger.

Here’s a shocking report about a former Peace Corps volunteer: Jesse Osmun of Milford, CT, charged with abusing several young girls in a South African HIV/AID encampment preschool, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. Just how this case impacts the future of the Peace Corps in screening volunteers could not be determined. Calls to the agency resulted in the release of the following statement from Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet: “The Peace Corps has no tolerance for abuse of any kind, and our deepest sympathies are with all the victims involved.” However, the prosecution said that if Osmun’s “prior instances of his misconduct” had been properly reported, “he would not have been accepted as a volunteer…and the abuse to these children would have been avoided.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cameroonian Artists, Presidential Debate, Netanyahu, Tax Cuts for the Wealthy, Venezuelan Election, EU Peace Corps, Honduran Deportees, Father at School, Bereaved Deaf Parent, Gun Violence, Aung San Suu Kyi, Cuban Five, Under Tents in Haiti, Honduran Model City, Amnesty Urgent Actions on Honduras & Cuba, Baby Panda Dies

Photos above are of Herve, a young Cameroonian artist staying temporarily at my place while using resources at the Museum of African Art. One shows him with his 4-year-old son, now waiting for him back home. The others are of him at a couple of his exhibits. He speaks French, but not much English yet. As I have mentioned elsewhere, my daughter Stephanie and her husband, both biologists, spent 6 months in the eastern jungles of Cameroon doing research on monkeys and plants, camped out in a tent among Baka (pigmy) people there. Poor Herve, his last two weeks of search here were lost when his computer crashed and he had made no backup.

Listening to the first debate between Obama and Romney, I thought Romney did pretty well; he didn’t flub as he often does. He seemed well prepared, though offering very few specifics. We shall see if he has gained momentum from his performance. He has everything to gain from these debates.

Speaking of the election, in a get-together with former co-workers from the occupational therapy association where I once worked, I was surprised when one woman said she is supporting Romney because he was a successful businessman. (Yes, successful in laying off workers and investing off-shore.) A sub-text of her support was that she is Jewish and considers him more protective of Israel. Though we thankfully didn't get into a contentious discussion, she seemed to like Romney's tough talk on Israel-Iran and his apparent siding with Netanyahu about bombing Iran's nuclear facilities. But not everyone in Israel is happy about Netanyahu's war talk, red line, and obvious efforts to affect the US election, although many American Jews (and evangelicals) still buy his arguments. Of course, nothing is certain in life, but I am sure Obama is keeping track of the Iran problem and is trying to reduce tensions and offer Iran a face-saving way out, while Netanyahu is only ratcheting up tensions, perhaps because he genuinely believes that preemptively attacking Iran is the way to protect Israel or maybe he’s only bluffing to increase his own domestic support. I thought his direct appeal to the American public and his cartoonish UN bomb graphic were a little crude and might evoke a backlash among the American public, since the US is bankrolling Israel and doesn’t need Netanyahu to be directing our foreign policy. Of course, there are quite a few Jews (certainly not all) and evangelicals who believe in the “chosen people,” biblical land rights, and in Israel’s exclusive right to have nuclear arms in the Middle East. However, others may feel that Netanyahu has overstepped the bounds and is trying to drag us into a war of his own choosing. All we need now is another war in the Muslim world, with Iran a much more powerful country militarily than either Iraq or Afghanistan. Attacking Iran unilaterally, in my opinion, will only increase the danger for Israel. It’s a very delicate situation. Obama called Netanyahu after his UN appearance and would have had to choose his words very carefully, as the Israeli leader would have no compunctions about revealing details of their conversation that he did not like. Romney also called the Israeli leader. Netanyahu believes he is helping Romney to win, but even if that happens, Romney may not be as pliable as Bibi hopes and may equally resent his meddling.

No big surprise that the Congressional Budget Office has found that tax cuts for the wealthy don’t actually create jobs or boost the economy, they just make some people richer. Some wealthy people may buy a few more things or hire more servants, making a small trickle-down effect, but mostly, they already have everything they ever wanted and are hoarding their money or putting it into off-shore accounts, as Romney has done, perhaps trying to protect their wealth to pass on to progeny, because there is only so much they can actually spend in their own lifetime.

The Venezuelan presidential election is immanent. Venezuelans in the U.S. are allowed to vote, but only at a consulate and the consulate in Miami, where most of them live, has been inexplicably closed, perhaps because most Venezuelans living here have already voted with their feet to leave during Chavez’s time in power, hence are not his supporters. Not daunted, Miami Venezuelans have organized caravans and special flights to take them New Orleans, the next closet consulate, so they can vote.

Recently, I had a conversation with a woman who told me that the EU is starting a program like the Peace Corps. She didn’t give details, but that’s good news, because the need is so great and it also provides an excellent experience for volunteers. I’ve searched on-line and see that the program still in the planning process. Like the Peace Corps, it seems mostly geared toward young people, providing them with training and experience to make them “the leaders of tomorrow.” But there should be no overlooking that yesterday’s or today’s leaders could become “the volunteers of tomorrow.”

During the period 2003-2012, more than 220,000 Hondurans have been deported from the US, with the highest number in this year, 2012. Final figures are not yet available, but it looks like there might be as many as 44,000 this year alone. It’s so difficult and perilous for Hondurans to make that journey across Guatemala and the whole of Mexico that it’s surprisingly that enough make it to allow so many to be deported. I have commented here before that I have seen the deportation flights unloading on the Tegucigalpa airport, with dejected passengers getting off a plane unmarked except for a tiny American flag on the tail. Airport employees told me that was the regular deportation flight, the exact reverse of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Recently, I commented here that in all my school interpretations, usually for annual evaluations carried out with parents of children in special ed, only mothers have appeared on their children’s behalf. Well, yesterday, I had a father for the first time and I commended him for that. “Well,” he said, “I wouldn’t be here except my wife died. I really didn’t want to come, but the school insisted.” He was a man my own age or older who said he had something like 9 kids and, really, it was too much to try to help them all with their education, as he himself had never attended school and didn’t know how to read and write or speak English. Accompanying him was a son in his late 20s who apparently is helping the 17-year-old special ed student, a very diffident boy, who, because of his age, was allowed to sit in the session with teachers and therapists trying to chart his future educational course.

Haven’t discussed it much here, but I belong to a support group of parents who have lost children, The Compassionate Friends. A new parent is the father of a 5-year-old who ran out into the street and was killed by a vehicle. This father is deaf and I have contacted Gallaudet University for the deaf here in DC to see if anyone would be willing to act as a pro-bono sign language interpreter for this grieving father during our meetings.

Another multiple shooting, this time in Minneapolis. Anyone with a grievance and a gun is a menace to the rest of society. A Conn. man shot and killed his son wearing a mask, thinking the boy was a home invader. But, quite obviously, nothing is going to be done before the election, if ever. Ryan has come out even more vociferously than ever for “gun rights.” Suicide now surpasses car accidents as a cause of death, many of those suicides impulsive acts committed with guns. In this area, apparently a man shot his wife and two children before shooting himself in a family murder-suicide. I have a reader who insists that guns protect, though I haven’t seen much evidence of that. Perhaps gun possession does prevent some injuries and deaths, though that’s harder to quantify than cases where someone is actually killed.

Burmese laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was here in Washington and because of my Amnesty work, I received an on-line ticket to hear her speak on September 20. But when the ticket was issued, it required confirmation within 6 hours and I did not see it in time to confirm, so my ticket went to someone else, much to my regret. It’s expected that most people will remain “connected” at all times, checking e-mail frequently. However, I’m an old-fashioned type, with only a fixed home phone and a desk-top computer, so I missed out. Suu Kyi’s case was one that we had worked on for years in Amnesty.

On September 17, 2012, several Americans appeared as spokespersons and among the audience for a Cuban Interests Section presentation broadcast via live webcam (a tactic adopted from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana) rallying support for the Cuban Five’s innocence and attesting to the still inspiring nature of the Cuban revolution, lo these many decades later, despite continued American government hostility. The Cuban government seized American Alan Gross 3 years ago to use as a bargaining chip for the Five's release, but probably matters will remain stalemated until after the November election.

The Cuban Five, my readers may recall, were men convicted of spying in the US who had infiltrated Miami exile organizations and notified the Cuban government of the flight pattern of 2 Brothers to the Rescue planes, which were shot down by the Cuban air force, killing 4. One of the Cuban Five has been out on parole for a year, but not permitted by a judge to leave the US for 2 more years. Interesting that the Cuban Interests Section here in DC is using a webcam, just as the US Interests Section in Havana has been doing from time-to-time, but under much more restricted circumstances there, because Cuban dissidents wanting to talk by webcam from Havana may be intercepted on their way to the US Interests Section by Cuban State Security. Amnesty International has questioned the fairness of the Miami venue of the Five’s trial and has advocated that their wives be allowed to visit, but has not pronounced them innocent.

On September 21, participants at the NYC and DC offices of Amnesty Int’l, along with many other organizations, held a joint meeting via live webcam with Sanon, a Haitian representing FRAKKA, a citizens’ grassroots effort mobilizing around housing initiatives. Speaking in French with interpreters, Sanon traced the roots of Haiti’s current housing crisis from its troubled political past, through the earthquake of January 12, 2010 that killed 300,000 people, to today when 350,000 to 400,000 people remain without permanent shelter. He gave examples of police and landowners colluding to evict squatters without due process and NGOs and government functionaries, along with common criminals, preying on helpless families, wantonly destroying their shelters, arresting, and even killing them with impunity. (Some videos of these events were shown.) The Haitian legislature and president have apparently ignored the situation. The pretext for evicting families is often environmental protection. However, the situation is not completely hopeless and progress is possible. Giving up would only make matters worse. Homeless people are being trained to plead their cases. Pro-bono law offices in the U.S. are being called upon to help. Haitian groups are touring the U.S. to raise awareness and money. One Haitian organization is able to build a decent house for $11,000. Habitat for Humanity and Taiwan are also constructing houses in Haiti, building them to withstand tremors and other acts of nature, some being built right at the quake epicenter. “Under Tents” (http://undertentshaiti.com) is an international campaign for housing rights in Haiti, so check out the website.

Plan for Charter City to Fight Honduras Poverty Loses Its Initiator

By ELISABETH MALKIN in the September 30, 2012 New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/01/world/americas/charter-city-plan-to-fight-honduras-poverty-loses-initiator.html?hp

Apparently the charter city idea has hit up against the very problems it was trying to address—see article.

Urgent actions issued by Amnesty International regarding the situation of human rights defenders in the Americas.

Honduras: Killing of human rights lawyer Antonio Trejo Cabrera exposes dire need for action

Human rights lawyer Antonio Trejo Cabrera died on Saturday evening after gunmen shot him five times outside a wedding ceremony in a southern suburb of the capital Tegucigalpa. He had reported receiving death threats linked to his work representing the victims of human rights abuses amid an ongoing land conflict in the Bajo Aguan region in the north of the country.

Read the press release here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/honduras-killing-human-rights-lawyer-sows-fear-2012-09-25

Urgent Action: Cuba – Human rights activists detained in Cuba

Members of the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) have been detained in Havana and several other places in Cuba. Some remain in detention and the authorities have failed to provide reasons for their detention or information on their whereabouts.

To read more, take action and share the information, visit: http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR25/022/2012/en

Maybe it’s not monumental on the scale of calamities, but we here in DC are lamenting the death of our new baby giant panda, something of a surprise when it was actually born, a rare event. Years ago, at the National Zoo, I saw the playful panda born here before he was shipped back to China when he turned five, as per the agreement with that country. This cub was female, even more of a loss, as she could have been bred when she came of age, since her mother is coming to the end of her reproductive life. Panda breeding in captivity is very difficult in any case, involving calculations of when ovulation occurs and artificial insemination at the precise moment, even then, with minimal chances of success. Not like rabbits! The mother panda apparently mourned her infant’s death, judging by her vocalized laments and she has been cradling a toy ever since as if it were the departed panda cub.