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.

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