Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day, San Pedro Sula--Murder Capital of the World, General Rios Montt, Haiti’s Child Servants, IRS Targets, Weather Extremes, Cyber Bullies, Anthony Weiner, Men Experience Labor Pains, Interpretation & Translation, Greek Letter μ, Kaiser Health Care

The above photo, taken in 1967, shows me and my late ex-husband with our first child, Andrew, who died in 1994. Daughter Stephanie dug it up from somewhere and posted it on Facebook. Of course, I remember my son on Memorial Day and every day. He died after a work accident at age 27 in 1994.

Memorial Day greetings to all. My Dad, Leonard Currie, was a World War II veteran who, as a U. S. Army Lt. Colonel, directed the army engineering corps in Europe. As a reservist, he was called to duty in 1941 when we were in Central America, so we had to return precipitously. Born in Canada (he became an American citizen), Dad studied architecture first in Minnesota, where he met my mother, then a rare female architectural student, and went on to a Master’s Degree at Harvard where he studied with well-known German-born architect Walter Gropius with whom he later worked. My brother and his son have followed in his footsteps, becoming architects as well. Dad died in 1996 at age 82.

Referring to San Pedro Sula is an article entitled:  City in Honduras has a murder rate of 173 per 100,000 residents, reportedly the highest in the world outside a war zone (from the Guardian)

A long-time Honduran labor leader, Gladys Lanza, has launched a women’s political movement seeking justice and equality for women.

I was not terribly surprised that General Rios Montt’s conviction for crimes against indigenous people was overturned by Guatemala’s supreme court. I would have been surprised if he had actually remained in prison. It’s an uphill battle to convict an elderly person for crimes committed years ago. General Pinochet escaped prison on grounds of illness and old age. Cambodian genocide defendants of a certain age also encountered relative leniency. No matter how egregious the deeds, these leaders can always claim they did not know—inasmuch as they never actually did the dirty work themselves. Also, tyrants and dictators always have their sycophants and supporters. We will doubtless see an outpouring of defense of the Castro brothers worldwide if they should survive to ever face human rights tribunals.

Haiti is reported to have 250,000 children called restaveks, given away as unpaid servants to wealthy families because their parents cannot afford to raise them. I have seen such children, usually girls, both in Haiti and other Latin American countries. They often sleep on the floor and eat whatever is left over after the family has left the table. And if they run afoul of their patrons, they may be thrown out on the street. Some are allowed to attend school, usually at night. There is a fine line between these girls, some as young as 6, and the teenage live-in maids who work for a pittance for families in Honduras, some described in my book and on this blog. It could be argued that living with and working for a better-off family is an opportunity for these teens to learn more about cooking and housework while having a roof over their head and regular food, though a lot depends on how well they are treated.

The IRS should not single out conservative groups for special scrutiny regarding their tax-exempt status. Yet, given new rules making so-called “social welfare” entities suddenly tax-exempt, it does not seem unreasonable to question whether an organization that has “Tea Party” in its name is really non-political. Obama has gone down on bended knee to apologize for the IRS’s overzealousness in investigating such groups, but it doesn’t seem such a stretch to wonder if such newly minted organizations are truly non-political. It would seem that they would merit extra scrutiny to determine whether that is indeed the case. Their actual status is rather fuzzy, as they are apparently permitted to express some political preferences.

Are there more episodes now of extreme atmospherics and weather—snow and ice storms, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornado, floods, droughts, heat-waves, and even earthquakes—and, if so, is human activity a contributing factor? Or is it just that now news travels faster and more vividly and that earth is more densely populated, resulting in greater human impact? Probably it’s some of all of that.

An author named James Lasdun has written a book, Give Me Everything You Have, about how he was harassed on internet sites by a female former student, apparently motivated by obsessive unrequited love and envy of his professional reputation. She reportedly missed no chance to criticize his work on line and now, with this book, she will have additional opportunities. In an NPR interview, Lasdun characterized her as a cyber bully, though that term is not usually applied to someone who deliberately trashes an author’s writing. I suppose the term could be applied as well to my relentless book critic, although since he and I have never met, I don’t take it personally and see it for what it is, an attempt to hurt my success as an author to boost his own rival Honduras memoir. Certainly the internet propels a lucky few to viral fame, but it’s a two-edged sword that can also be used to gang up against someone, leaving them with little defense, except, perhaps, to write a book about it.

Anthony Weiner, no doubt restless staying home with his child while his wife works, is now anxious to get back into the political fray. Perhaps buoyed by the recent congressional success of former SC Governor Mark (“Appalachian Trail”) Sanford, he has announced his NYC mayoral candidacy. If Weiner can pull off victory there, he will be a champion “come-back kid.” His transgressions have a decided “ick” factor and lend themselves to considerable comic parody, esepcially given his last nam. Does he want to subject himself and his loyal wife to that?

Below is an item from Yahoo News that gave secret vicarious pleasure to many of us women –labor pains are not something you ever forget! These men were hooked up to machines that simulated the contractions of labor, but only for a single hour! Check it out.

Two Men Experience the Pain of Childbirth in Hourlong Simulation

By Melissa Knowles, May 15, 2013

Of course, I continue with my interpretation work as it comes up in all its interesting variety. One recent morning, I was asked to be at the lovely rural campus of an Episcopal school at 6 am. Why me and not an interpreter with a car? In any case, I agreed, provided my taxi ride to the school would be covered (at $59!), so I was deposited there at 5:30 am, alone, still in darkness, to wait for others to arrive. It was delicate matter, involving the dismissal of a Spanish-speaking groundskeeper before the usual workday began, then a meeting at 7 am with the remaining groundskeepers to reorganize their duties after their colleague’s departure. All were Hispanic, not surprisingly.

Later that same day, I was at a DC public school where 14 people met for 1 ½ hours trying to resolve problems for a teenage special ed student who had been suspended for over a month for a behavior incident. Among those attending the meeting were the student, his mother, his cousin, his aunt, his lawyer, a mediator, myself as interpreter, and 7 school staff, including a lawyer from the central office. The student’s designated educational disabilities were not immediately evident, though were apparently of the attention-deficit, behavioral variety. As a result, his school performance was lagging and the family wanted that remedied and wanted him to pass in a school year soon ending. Lots of people were trying to lend support, but, it seemed that the ultimate responsibility was the student’s. He appeared to be enjoying the attention of so many people, but whether he will do the hard work to make up his grades remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, have also been working on a medical records translation (why don’t they send me a fascinating essay, novel, or poetry?) about an elderly Spaniard here because of chronic rhinitis that produces abundant yellowish green secretions. At least, he doesn’t have cancer, as in most medical records that I’ve translated. I sincerely hope he can be helped as his condition sounds rather unpleasant.

Last time, I asked if anyone knew more about the mysterious μ sign appearing in many medical documents. Well, now I have the answer. It’s the lower-case version of the 12th letter of the Greek alphabet, is pronounced “mi,” and is used in academic fields, including chemistry and pharmacology.

About 18 months ago, I joined a Kaiser health plan, not only because it’s cheaper, but because I believe that the way Kaiser organizes, delivers, and finances health care is the wave of the future. It may be more impersonal, but it’s more efficient. With Kaiser, you don’t have to worry about getting unnecessary care because the incentive is not there. However, the bureaucracy and waiting can be annoying. Never can a patient see a specialist without an appointment first with a primary care doctor (with a co-pay), beginning with waiting in line to register for that appointment which, except in an emergency, has already been made via the internet. That doctor must then authorize the referral (as in many health plans) before you make an appointment with the referral doctor by waiting in another line, and coming back on another date for that appointment and its co-pay. When you pick up a prescription, instead of calling ahead to a pharmacy where your doctor has already called it in, you must go to a Kaiser center, wait in one line to turn in your prescription, then in another to pick it up, lots of waiting in line and much information communicated via internet, so you often don’t have much sense of a doctor-patient relationship—it’s efficient on the medical side, but impersonal. But I guess I can live without that. I did have successful hernia surgery last year at Kaiser at minimal out-of-pocket cost. In a case of medical necessity, as a patient, one has the sense that Kaiser will come through.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother’s Day, Hondurans Missing After Gang/Police Encounters, Search for Honduran “Ciudad Blanca,” Translation Challenges, Cuba’s Ladies in White Awarded Havel Prize, “Queen of Cuba,” More Kids’ Gun Deaths, Boston Bomber, Benghazi, Duvalier and Rios Montt in the Docket

Above is my photo taken yesterday, Mother’s Day, with my 5-year-old great-grandson De’Andre, in front of my house. Oswaldo Otero, a Cuban carpenter whose arrival in this country I facilitated years ago, sent me a Facebook greeting on Mother’s Day, saying he will always remember me on special days because, “thanks to you, I’m in this marvelous country.”

I love it when an interpretation client asks me whether I am from Honduras, as one did just this week!

AP IMPACT: Honduran criminals missing after arrest
May 13, 2013

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — At least five times in the last few months, members of a Honduras street gang were killed or went missing just after run-ins with the U.S.-supported national police, The Associated Press has determined, feeding accusations that they were victims of federal death squads. In a country with the highest homicide rate in the world and where only a fraction of crimes are prosecuted, the victims' families say the police are literally getting away with murder.

The accusations create a dilemma for the United States, which has given an estimated $30 million in aid to Honduran law enforcement in the last two years: The police are essential to fighting crime in a country that has become a haven for drug-runners.

I would refer readers to an article in the May 6 issue of the New Yorker, “The El Dorado Machine,” about a rumored, mythical but perhaps real, ancient . Arial Mayan “Ciudad Blanca” (“White City”) hidden in the jungles of the eastern Mosquitia of Hondurassurveillance has proved promising, but the ruins of the city have not been found. Since the 1930s, searches have been underway. Some aerial photos appear promising, but intact ruins have not yet materialized. Maybe the jungle and looters have pretty much obliterated any site that may have once existed.

Reluctantly, I still do written medical translations as well as live interpretations, which I much prefer. The two are very different animals. Here below is just one paragraph from a recently translated medical record about a woman from Uruguay with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, what Jackie Kenney died of. Patients seem to come here when the best private care (really quite sophisticated) in their own country fails them, though often their cases seem so advanced, I fear they will not find success with their last-ditch efforts here either. But do physicians really have to use such esoteric language? Is it done to protect their professional guild? This time I also found in the literature and was able to copy a commonly used medical symbol that had eluded me before, the μ, however that is pronounced and whatever it means. If any reader knows, please let me know via e-mail (address above).

Myelogram (Bone Marrow Cytology)

A puncture was taken of bone marrow at the EIPSI level for a myelogram IF and BNO.
Marrow was obtained, rich, polymorphic, with megakaryocytes present. G/E relation = 2 to 1

A series of myeloides are observed, all of them in a good stage of maturation. Lympho-plasmocyte sector-- represented by 15 %, with lymphocytes and plasmocytes of mature appearance.In the samples obtained, no cells of extra-hematopoyetic origin are observed.

In summary: Bone marrow with cytomorphology, within normal limits.

News Item: The 2013 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent Awarded to Ali Ferzat, Park Sang Hak, and the Ladies in White

NEW YORK (May 3, 2012)- The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) today announced the recipients of the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent. The 2013 laureates are: Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, North Korean democracy activist Park Sang Hak, and Cuban civil society group the Ladies in White—represented by their leader Berta Soler. They will be honored at a ceremony during the 2013 Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway on May 15.

An initiative of New York-based HRF, the Havel Prize for Creative Dissent was founded with the enthusiastic endorsement of Dagmar Havlová, widow of the late poet, playwright, and statesman Václav Havel.

The Washington Post Magazine for April 21, 2013 has an article entitled “The Queen of Cuba” about Ana Montes, a Cuban mole working for 17 years inside the US Defense Department, finally discovered and now serving 25 years in prison. She was connected with the “Wasp” network to which the Cuban Five, considered heroes in Cuba, belonged. Four of the Five are still in prison. One who was released on parole a year and half ago, Rene Gonzalez, a dual citizen born in Chicago, was allowed by a judge to attend his father’s memorial service, but decided to stay in Cuba and renounce his US citizenship. The Cuban government had been trying to exchange the “Five Heroes” for imprisoned USAID contractor Alan Gross.

In Kentucky, a 5-year-old boy, given a “kids’” rifle as a gift, used it to kill his 2-year-old sister. The rifle, a miniature version marketed specifically to children, nevertheless was not a toy and proved lethal. Another small boy subsenquently shot and killed himself with a gun he found.

Independent of my general opposition to the death penalty, I think it would be a tactical mistake to seek the death penalty for the surviving Boston bomber because of his youth, the influence of his more radicalized older brother, and the fact that he would then become a martyr whose death jihadists around the world would feel obliged to avenge. (However, if indeed, he and his brother were involved in a 2011 triple murder now being investigated, that would provide more pressure for the death penalty, though I thought Massachusetts had abolished it.)

As for the Benghazi hearings, no one has hinted, as I have heard people here who knew Ambassador Stevens do privately, that he was not overly cautious about his own safety. Why else, on the 9/11 anniversary, would he go to a consulate, less well guarded than the embassy, on that sensitive day? Of course, the ambassador is the highest authority in his posted country, so who is going to question his decisions? And now, with the ambassador having become a martyr, no one is likely to raise that point. There is also the question, with the push to reduce taxes and federal spending, how much to invest in security for overseas posts, especially in outlying consulates. During the last few years, the State Department and foreign aid budgets have been drastically cut (including the Peace Corps), so, what do budget hawks expect? Hillary Clinton, and her possible presidential aspirations, seems the obvious target of these hearings.

Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier has found himself facing belated charges in Haiti after spending 25 years in exile in France and General Efraín Ríos Montt was put on trial in Guatemala, both of them for serious abuses occurring decades ago. Amnesty International hailed the general’s conviction for crimes against humanity for his role in the deaths of over 1,700, mostly indigenous, individuals, and the disappearance of many others. These efforts offer worthy precedents for Cuba, although the Castro dictatorship’s crimes were of much longer duration, involved many more, and continue right up to the present day.