Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Honduran November Elections, Peace Corps Budget, Do-Nothingest Congress, Anti-gay Violence in Jamaica, Robert Mugabe, Cuban Rafters in Bahamas, Oswaldo Payá’s Spanish Driver on Fatal “Accident,” Hamilton Quilt, American Health Care

Again, last time, as the time before, the photo I wanted from my translators’ party failed to post. I guess just doesn’t like that particular photo. Its size is something over 2 mg. but so are others that have posted successfully. OK, so I give up, cannot post it for whatever reason. If anyone can hazard a guess regarding the problem, please let me know via my e-mail address shown at the beginning of this blog. It’s quite puzzling as looks like a normal digital photo and has been e-mailed elsewhere, also posted on Facebook.

I tried making this post before, but it all ran together, no space between paragraphs or topics, and could not be corrected, so I tried to erase it all and decided to start over. This time, I'll even leave extra space. Perhaps too much. We'll see what happens. Even with leaving double space between topics, I see it still is running them together, so Blospot must be having a bad day. Sorry, folks!

In Honduras, President Porfirio Lobo is welcoming foreign election observers for the elections scheduled for November 24.

Not surprisingly, the House version of the Peace Corps budget contains 20% less funding than the Senate version, some $30 million less, which for the Peace Corps is a lot.

So far, the 113th Congress is the most unproductive in history. After nearly eight months, just 22 bills have passed and been sent to the President—worse than the famous “Do-Nothing Congress.” Even though the House of Representatives has worked for just 87 days this year, Speaker John Boehner just called for a five-week recess and left town to go golfing with Donald Trump.

An issue of concern to me as volunteer Caribbean coordinator for Amnesty International USA is the rampant anti-gay violence in Jamaica, where it has been reported that a 16-year-old youth, Dwayne Jones, was murdered apparently because he went to a party dressed as a woman (“In Jamaica, Transgender Teen Murdered by Mob, “ AP, August 11, 2013). This is just speculation on my part, but perhaps anti-gay violence now flares especially fiercely in countries where mores on homosexuality, influenced by changes in the US and Western Europe, are just starting to change there too—is Jamaica one these countries? This violence may be an expression of resistance to that impending change and a reaction in a cultural climate where gay and cross-dressing youths are now daring to more openly express what they had kept strictly hidden before.

Robert Mugabe, age 89, has again declared himself the winner of Zimbabwe’s presidential election. The guy is tenacious, I’ll grant him that, and I don’t disparage him simply because of his age as I’m no spring chicken myself. But after decades, how about giving someone else a chance, since, quite obviously, his rule has not been good for Zimbabwe?

In the Bahamas, 19 boat Cuban people held in immigration detention there, after alleging abuse and some sewing their mouths shut in protest, and after Cubans in Miami rose up to support them and threatening to boycott the Bahamas as a tourist destination, have been offered asylum in Panama, resolving the stand-off, although some other Cuban migrants remain, awaiting offers from other countries. Obviously, their intended destination was the United States, which did not step forward. However, if some make it through Mexico, they may yet arrive in this country.

Below is the headline of an article appearing in the Spanish-language version of The Huffington Post. It refers to an article saying that the driver of the car in which Cuban democracy activist Oswaldo Payá was killed was deliberately rammed from behind. The Spanish driver, Angel Carromero, in an interview with the newspaper El Mundo accuses Cuban State Security of murdering Paya. This is what Paya’s daughter Rosa Maria told us when she met with us at the DC office of Amnesty International. New UN Ambassador Samantha Power brought up the issue in a recent meeting with the Cuban foreign minister.

Ángel Carromero, entrevista en 'El Mundo': 'A Oswaldo Payá lo asesinaron' EL HUFFINGTON POST | August 4, 2013

On a visit to a friend in western Virginia, in the Blacksburg area where my parents used to live, I slept under a lovely, multicolored patchwork quilt, completely intact, every careful stitch visible. My friend said she is a descendent of Alexander Hamilton and has some quilts that were part of his estate. Imagine using a quilt lovingly hand-sewn by a woman living centuries ago. Thanks, lady, whoever and wherever you are.

Playing amateur psychologist here after seeing a woman on a bus treat her 2-year-old son with unnecessary roughness, yelling at him and yanking him to sit down beside her, “You get over here right now, or I’ll smack you, do you hear?” The child obeyed, then leaned up against the mother, hugging her, as if to reassure himself that she cared. I’ve seen children who have been scolded then seek love and reassurance from seemingly rejecting or hurtful mothers and wonder if a similar odd dynamic is in play sometimes with abused women who return to their abusers—wanting affection, but looking for it from someone close who blows hot and cold?

I just finished reading a provocative book, Catastrophic Care, How American Medicine Killed my Father—and How We Can Fix It, by David Goldhill. I won’t give you the whole story—read the book—rather just some highlights. The author’s elderly father entered the hospital with pneumonia, meanwhile acquired several hospital-borne infections, and died, one of 100,000 patients who die each year from hospital-acquired infections. The deceased’s widow received an astronomical hospital bill, which she ignored and no attempt was ever made to collect on it. Infections are not the only harm that emanates from the health care system itself, since unnecessary procedures and surgeries also inflict harm. And there has been a push by drug companies and other providers to “medicalize” conditions such as “erectile dysfunction,” obesity, and other conditions that used to be accepted as lifestyle choices, facts-of-life, or facts-of-aging, thereby to get them covered under the “heath insurance” umbrella. Advertising urges consumers to “ask your doctor” about a certain drug, apparatus, or procedure, thereby creating demand. No wonder “health care” is consuming an ever-increasing share of individual and public budgets, crowding out other social benefits that may also impact on health and well-being.

Since a fraction of patients use 70% of health care resources and since most people’s largest expenditures are made in the last months of life, in an often futile attempt to prolong their life, these are areas where remedies should be sought. But for the large bulk of worried well who have a steady income, author Goldhill suggests putting savings aside for a rainy day of health expenditures, which patients would then finance on their own and would shop around for the best products and prices, just as they do with everything else. Then health “insurance” could be saved for truly catastrophic events.

Much interest-group and political jockeying and compromises have led to some of the complications and inefficiencies of “Obamacare,” which the author details

It won’t surprise most readers to learn that “non-profit” hospitals do make a profit, that American health care professionals have incomes far in excess of what is paid in other developed countries, and that employers factor in health care benefits when calculating what pay to offer an employee. Health benefits are not really “free” to employees; they are factored in as part of their position’s cost to the employer. But the key argument of the book is that so-called health insurance is not really insurance in the usual sense of covering rare, catastrophic, and unpredictable losses, rather it is a payment system whose workings are almost impossible for an individual patient to figure out. Everyone is going to need health care sometime in their life and everyone is going need end-of-life care, so it is not insurance against an unexpected catastrophic event, like a house fire. Rather, so-called health insurance is a complicated system of paying for health services that everyone is going to use and that shields the recipient from direct payment or even knowing what his or her own costs of care are. The author suggests a number of reforms, some as hard to understand as the current system, but he does believe that routine care should be paid out-of-pocket, with insurance reserved for catastrophes and emergencies, which would make for more informed and careful consumers. Some consumers are already seeking treatment and surgery abroad, where even without “insurance,” their costs are often lower and outcomes as good or better than in the United States.

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