Friday, July 26, 2013

Interpreters/Translators Fete, Goodbye Kenyans, Honduran Indigenous Leader Killed, Dengue in Honduras, Weiner Campaign, Stand Your Ground, Cuba-North Korea Nexus, More on Forgetting Baby in the Car

Some 50 interpreters and translators of every conceivable language (3 photos above), members of the National Capital Area Translators Association, held their annual gathering at my house. I was asked to host the event by a friend and neighbor with only a studio apartment. As part of the program, I gave a short reading from my Honduras book and made my pitch for Peace Corps service by older, experienced volunteers, especially those with language fluency corresponding to needs in the field. Then two association members, both writers, one a poet from Indonesia, the other a fiction author and poet from China, gave short readings. The woman from China actually spent some of her childhood years in a labor camp with her mother because both her parents were educators with some Western influences.

Alas, my Kenyan visitors have left all too soon it seems. Their four months went by quickly for me—not so fast for them, as toward the end, they were getting anxious to go home to their families. Now we are just myself and a young Mexican grad student in anthropology, Patricia, doing archival research here until the end of August.

The week before, the Kenyan visitors, taking an auditing and accounting course at GAO headquarters here in DC, graduated in a nice ceremony. I will miss them, as I always do. There were the usual 20 fellows in the program this year, all of whom I had a chance to meet, with the following countries being represented: Brazil, China, Hungary, India, Kenya (of course), Kuwait, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, UAE, Yemen, and Zambia.

Below is part of a recent Amnesty International Urgent Action on Honduras, taking place in the indigenous Lenca area near La Esperanza, my second Peace Corps site.

ARMY FIRES ON PROTESTERS IN HONDURAS On 15 July the army opened fire during a protest in Honduras, killing an Indigenous leader and seriously injuring his son. There are grave concerns for the safety of protesters, as the demonstrations are continuing.

Since April, the Lenca Indigenous communities of Rio Blanco, Santa Barbara, western Honduras, have been demonstrating against a hydro-electric power project on the land they have been living on for centuries, alleging lack of adequate and prior consultation. The communities belong to the Civic Council of the Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Populares e Indigenas de Honduras – COPINH).

On 15 July, at approximately noon, a group of around 100 demonstrators started marching towards the gates of the hydro-electric project as they have been doing on a daily basis for the last three months. According to reports, demonstrators were peaceful and marched under the supervision of the police and the army. As they were approaching the site, the army opened fire against the demonstrators. Tomas Garcia, an Indigenous leader and deputy mayor in his local community, who had been active in the campaign against the project, received three shots to his arm, chest and head. He died immediately. Allan Garcia Dominguez, his 17-year-old son, was also shot. He received medical attention and his condition is stable. One soldier was arrested in connection with the killing of Tomas Garcia and the wounding of Allan Garcia Dominguez.

In Honduras, ten people have been reported to have died of dengue. This is the rainy season, when dengue mosquitoes are most prolific. Dengue, as I have said in my book, has neither vaccine nor very effective treatment and there are four varieties. A victim just has to suffer through it and hope to survive. Only after having endured all four varieties will a person be immune.

Regarding another mosquito-borne disease prevalent in Honduras and elsewhere, a malaria patch is now being tested in Uganda and, if it works, may supersede other efforts.

Anthony Weiner, trying to re-enter politics as a New York City mayoral candidate, seems to have dealt himself (and his long-suffering wife) a cataclysmic blow by having engaged in inappropriate sexual on-line activity once again, two years after discovery of his initial transgressions. So the guy, no matter what is a stake, seems unable to control his (self) harmful urges. I suppose that’s sort of an addiction—getting his kicks from sending his naked crotch photo to women. He says he’s not dropping out of the mayoral race, but this latest revelation of his continued bad behavior must be a big blow to his comeback efforts, not to mention to his wife. If I were a NYC voter, I would think twice about trusting his judgment.

Jury nullification was a phrase used to describe the O.J. Simpson trial and it’s also been applied more recently in the case of the Trayvon Martin killing—namely that the ethnicity and perhaps other personal aspects of jurors do matter when the defendant shares their ethnicity and other qualities and the victim does not. The two cases are not equivalent, because, in my opinion, Simpson’s guilt was much more blatant. Nonetheless, white observers of the Zimmerman trial may feel it was payback for Simpson’s acquittal. Certainly neither a judge nor a jury is necessarily fair, but it’s the system we’ve got. My assessment from afar is that Zimmerman was an overzealous, self-important busy-body type with an itchy trigger finger who was probably a pain-in-the-neck to the local police department, someone out looking for trouble who really should not have been (nor should he in the future ever be) entrusted with a gun and allowed to patrol a neighborhood. And Martin was not recognized by him and may have aroused suspicion by running or resisting Zimmerman’s orders. But to say without a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman had an intent to commit murder would be a stretch.

It’s now reported that an African American woman in Florida, who invoked the stand-your-ground law when she fired a warning shot to scare her abusive husband (not hitting him or anyone else), is serving 20 years for firing that shot. If so, justice is being unevenly served, as is often the case.

In Milwaukee, apparently a 76-year-old man shot and killed a 13-year-old African American boy living next door because he thought he had stolen from him. Was the man senile or mentally compromised? Perhaps he got his firearms years ago when he was competent and still had them as he mentally declined. Maybe older gun owners should be required to be tested, just as older drivers are, though, of course, there is no universal testing or licensing of gun owners to begin with, not to mention requirements for periodic updating of their competency.

At the same time, I believe that neighborhood watch folks should report what they consider suspicious activities to the police but should not be armed themselves. It’s one thing to have a gun in your home for self-protection, though I do not favor that either because of the potential for accidents (as occurred to my youngest son at age 12, hit in the foot when visiting another boy playing with a gun found in the home) or for an impulsive murder or suicide. However, it’s another thing to be carrying a gun outside the home looking for trouble and a chance to use it. That’s a big expansion of the self-defense doctrine. Apparently, the number of American gun-owners has been shrinking even as the number of firearms owned by this smaller number has been growing, providing them with veritable arsenals.

One U.S. government action that many have argued is long overdue is taking Cuba off the list of “state sponsors of terrorism.” While in the past, that label may have been fully justified, Cuba has been thought to no longer have the wherewithal to mount a credible international terrorism threat, although it may still give small arms and strategic advice to would-be terrorists and offer them safe haven. However, any such policy reversal received a serious setback in July 2013 when a North Korean ship passing through the Panama Canal was found to have missile system components hidden within its sugar cargo, components thought to be left over from the Soviet Missile Crisis. So the U.S. embargo against Cuba (though now very porous) appears likely to be renewed again in September.

Last time, I mentioned that a local woman was charged after she let her baby die in a hot car, apparently forgotten, while she went into work. An even worse case was that of another local woman who left two of her small kids to die in a hot car. What was on the minds of these ladies that led them to such absent-mindedness and negligence? They remembered to feed and dress their kids and put them in their car seats in the back, but when they got to work, the existence of their kids somehow didn’t register. It’s hard to imagine that they would be so preoccupied with their work that couldn’t remember the elementary fact of their children’s presence.

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