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 (, 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 ,, 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.”

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