Saturday, August 31, 2013

Happy Holiday, Apologies, ML King Commemoration, Late Son’s Birthday, Honduras News, Egypt, Syria, Cuban Rafters, Panda Birth, Adoption Issues, Impeachment, Zapatistas

Happy Labor Day. Though not a Labor Day theme, I was intrigued by the decorated van parked across the street from my house, reminding me of decorated buses, some in Honduras and many in Haiti. The first time I tried, the bus didn't post, so we'll see on this second try. Looks like omitted photo will not post nor are there spaces between topics as a permanent feature. Will have to figure out what to do next time. Maybe this is to encourage shorter and more frequent posts? if anyone knows how to correct this, please advise here or at my e-mail address above.

Very sorry about run-on blog posting last time. It must have been a fluke that I certainly hope won’t be repeated. The failure to leave space between paragraphs and topics last time, even when I erased the whole thing and reposted it with double spaces between, may have been a one-time event. We shall soon see here. If extra space appears here now, it’s because of my exaggerated effort to separate topics. There is no one readily available that a blogger can call or write to at blogspot to find out about or fix a problem; that might take too much staff and cost money. I'm wondering this time whether at least indenting each new paragraph, if allowed, will help with readability. Will try it now.

Washington, DC, in the last several days, has been caught up in a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of MLKing’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Of course, as already mentioned, I attended the original 50 years ago with my then-husband. We had another reason for visiting the nation’s capital at the time, but had scheduled it so we could participate in the King march. Back then, I confess to not realizing that it would be such an historic event, though I do remember being very impressed at seeing so many people of all races, ages, and nationalities gathered together as far as the eye could see. The original was held on a bright sunny day, unlike the overcast sky and light rain of the anniversary event, with many, many more people and much less security. That is, 50 years ago, while there were lots of police and National Guard around the periphery of the crowd, in case we rioted, I guess, in contrast, this time, we all waited in a long line to be funneled through security gates and were wanded individually with metal detectors. Of course, back then, King was not that famous or well-known, while on the anniversary, we were hearing from the President live and two of his predecessors, Carter and Clinton. Although the air was humid and drizzly during the commemoration, it was fortunately not too hot. And this time, I could hear the main speeches much better, including Barack Obama’s, whereas King’s speech, though delivered with emotion and gestures, had been hard to hear from where we were standing 50 years ago. This time, bells chimed precisely at 3 pm, sending a thrill through the crowd, and, soon after, Obama began speaking and he spoke at length. Certainly, progress has been made over the last half century, though as Obama said, much still remains to be done to increase racial and economic equality and opportunity in the United States. Still, it was a memorable and hopeful day. A woman next to me fainted and was taken away in a wheelchair by people wearing red-cross insignias. I met several older folks who, like me, had been present 50 years earlier and we shared a special feeling of camaraderie. After the President finished speaking, there was a huge crush as everyone rushed for the exits.

September 4 is my late son Andrew’s birthday. He would have been 46. Of course, in my mind, he is always 27, the age at which he died.

For the first time recently, I had a translation of the medical records of a patient from Honduras, someone with an apparent history of kidney cancer—of course, I only have the written medical records to go on and a little data on the patient, like her birth date. These particular records would indicate that Hondurans who can afford private care get pretty sophisticated treatment, although, like those from other countries whose records I’ve translated, they apparently come to the US for the last word or a last ditch effort at finding a cure.

Here is statement from Afro-Honduran Garifuna people living on the north coast and depicted above marching for their land rights: We have occupied and claimed ancestral lands that had been taken by others, such as Vallecito Limón. We are also using international human rights law in order to guard our territories. We have a claim against the government in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Washington regarding Triunfo de la Cruz . We hope to have a decision in November or December. This will create an important precedent for all indigenous peoples, not just for the Garífuna. It’ll define the responsibility of the state to protect territories and rights of indigenous peoples. This will only be the [fourth] case ever brought that will help establish policies and mechanisms to protect the territories and resources of indigenous peoples, and all of humanity, of course. [The other three are] Sarayacu in Ecuador, Saramaca in Suriname, and Awas Tingni in Nicaragua.

Also in Honduras, the computer system for the newspaper La Gaceta was hacked and a message from “Anonymous” appeared: Recuerden gobiernos, recuerda Pepe Lobo, es el gobierno quien debe lealtad al pueblo y no al revés. La patria no se alquila, no se presta, no se vende; corruptos de Honduras, ya despertará el país, esperad lo. (Remember governments, remember [President] Pepe Lobo, it’s the government that owes loyalty to the people, not the reverse. The homeland cannot be rented out, not lent, not sold; corrupt citizens of Honduras, the country will wake up, be prepared.)

Egypt appears to be on the verge of or already in a civil war. The extent of the bloodshed is inexcusable—the army should not have used force to dislodge people camped out on the streets provided they were not attacking others, the police, or property. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood, like many political factions who win elections in a previously autocratic nation, may have felt they were entitled to act like dictators because of the vote. Of course, in many other countries, winners take advantage of their position to further their reign and reward their cronies; even in the United States, winning candidates name their supporters to important positions and try to get themselves or their party members elected subsequently. Others, like the late Hugo Chavez and some of his Latin American allies, rig the system to be re-elected continually by changing laws, controlling media, and doling out favors. But even they have not gone as far as Egypt’s military, which seems to have used excess force and created martyrs and a severe political rift that will be hard to heal. Even Mubarak does not seem to have gone that far in such a short time. However, the US is keeping its options open on aid, perhaps to maintain some leverage and also to protect American arms manufacturers supplying Egypt, as well as Israel, which has a treaty with that country.

As for Syria, both inaction and action are risky. There are bad actors on both sides and war brings unintended consequences. The American public is war weary, but still an atrocity has been committed in violation of international law. Obama feels impelled to respond, but apparently doesn’t want to take the chance of being rebuffed by the Republican Congress using a vote as another effort to thwart him. He also has the example of the British Parliament preventing UK participation in any action. At the same time, there is the sorry example of GW Bush getting our nation into a protracted war under false pretenses. I’m glad I’m not the president having to decide in this case.

In an update on the Cuban rafters being held in immigration detention and mentioned last time, two are being considered for asylum in the US, one was being considered by a third country, and what happened to the asylum offer from Panama for 19 more is now unclear. If those two actually make it to the US, they've won the jackpot, and if another gets asylum elsewhere, he won't do so badly, but those who were returned to Cuba, 24 so far and 20 more pending, won't fare too well. It's really a matter of luck among rafters who survives, who gets to the US, and who is returned to Cuba, but even the limited success of this group of rafters will inspire others to try. However if they hadn't raised such a ruckus, they all would have been sent back by now. Gone are the days of Brothers-to-the-Rescue, a group of Cuban Americans who circled in small planes, picking up lost rafters. That effort ended after the Cuban military shot down two Brothers’ aircraft and after President Bill Clinton instructed the U. S. Coast Guard to send rafters back to Cuba. Otherwise, if the Brothers had been permitted to continue their rescues, South Florida would be even more inundated with Cubans than it is already.

The female giant panda at the National Zoo in DC has given birth to her 3rd cub. The first had to be sent back to China after 5 years. The second born last fall died. Panda cubs are very tiny and delicate at birth. A twin of this cub was still born. So we are all holding our breath for it this time. Gender is still uncertain.

Although I haven’t mentioned it much on this blog, I’m a board member of a local adoption agency, Holy Cross. In a recent conversation with the director, I learned that adoption has become increasingly difficult and expensive. Also, increasingly rare. Reproductive assistive technologies have increased, contraception is more reliable, and abortion is legal. Surrogacy is also in vogue. Foreign countries have also been tightening their rules or shutting out American adoptive parents (i.e. Russia, and India and China have new restrictions), the Hague Convention designed to regulate adoptions internationally has turned out to increase costs and slow the process with excessive paperwork, and the internet has allowed prospective adoptive parents to search on line to find birth mothers. More domestic adoptions being carried out privately rather than through agencies and money changes hands, though, strictly speaking, a birth parent cannot be paid for giving up a baby but she can have lots of expenses paid, such as rent, food, medical care, maybe even a car. Our agency’s director said that one of her best and least expensive contacts is with a lawyer in Florida who charges a flat $50,000, almost a bargain in today’s market. She also works with an organization in Georgia that specializes in African American babies often sought by black couples, but increasingly unavailable through agencies as well. Such a couple in DC, after getting a home study from the local public agency, was told that now DC is only placing children with relatives, so they will have had to look elsewhere. But after a child is actually in the new home, a home study is still required before an adoption can be finalized, which is where our agency comes in these days, after, not before, the fact of placement. Adoptive parents would really have to do something terrible or to reject the child for the adoption not to go through at that point. My director friend recently approved an adoption by a high profile African American single woman who expected to be adopting a biracial baby, but when the infant was actually born, he looked totally Caucasian—the white birth mother said she wasn’t sure of the father because of having had more than one partner, but had been guessing that the father was probably African American. Apparently, he was not the one after all. But the new adoptive mother is thrilled with her pale baby and turnabout is fair play for all the black and other non-white children adopted by Caucasian couples.

Two Republican congressmen and a senator say they want to impeach the President, though their reasons for doing so remain murky. Apparently, they just want him out of office, gone, disappeared, vanished, an idea that apparently plays well with their constituents during this recess campaign season. They are Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan who looks a little like Dick Cheney in his photos, and Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Maybe others will jump on the bandwagon. Interestingly enough, Republicans who made such a big deal about Obama’s supposed Kenya birth and his consequent ineligibility for the presidency are being completely mum on the fact that Senator Ted Cruz was born in Canada, nor did they raise the birthright question for McCain, who was born in Panama.

This is not a current issue, but one that has some resonance in recent Mexican history, how the Zapatistas, led by horse-riding masked man Comandante Marcos AKA Delgado Zero (neither his real name), tried to co-op the indigenous people of the southern-most Chiapas region of Mexico to start a movement to overthrow the bourgeoisie and install a socialist government. He had read Marx and fought with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Patricia, a Mexican anthropology doctoral student staying with me until the end of the month, had promised to make a presentation on the Zapatistas to my local Amnesty International group, but was unexpectedly detained in New York City. So, I had to stand in for her as best I could. The Zapatistas’ involvement in Chiapas brought in the Mexican army and while local people did not welcome the army, during the ensuing conflict, they found their own voices and did not need the Zapatistas to represent them anymore. Marcos retreated to a secret place and continues his efforts at revolution in writing. European supporters mostly left after the recession. Some communities still consider themselves Zapatistas, but they do so under local leaders.

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