Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Greetings, My Upcoming Blog Radio Interviews, Obamacare, Lawmakers Physically Attacked, JFK Remembered, Monroe Doctrine, Honduras Elections, Cuban Honoree, UN HR Council, Mandela Film, Zimmerman Again, Sandy Hook Anniversary, Another Recommended Book, Artist Dubya

OK, folks, trying again with a little higher resolution and larger image of my early Central American bath time photo that I posted last time. Let’s see what happens this time. It now looks like some text will ne underlined, but when it wants to do that, It's hard to erase. I'll try.
            Thanksgiving greetings, Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias, Happy Hanukkah!
I have a couple of upcoming interviews on blog radio. One is only 15 minutes at 10:15 am EST on Saturday, Nov. 30, Sharon Jenkins Show. I’m not quite sure what her website address is but when I look for her name this comes up: The number I’m supposed to call to talk is (858) 357-8416, then press 1. I don’t know if that’s the same for callers or listeners.
On Monday, Dec. 2, at 6 pm EST, I’ll be on Dr. Jeanette Gallagher’s hour-long blog radio program, a call-in program at (424) 258-9318, where you may call in anytime during the whole hour. Here’s the link:
From The Hill newspaper: A key official in the repair effort for said the site's error rate is now lower than 1 percent thanks to weeks' worth of special improvements were made. Former White House budget director Jeff Zients, who was enlisted to triage the website, touted the development as a sign of progress. He noted that there were no unscheduled outages on the site in the past week, a positive sign.                  
Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), a freshman member of Congress, was robbed and left unconscious a few blocks from my home, right next to the Capitol bldg.
Va. State Senator Creigh Deeds (D), a previous gubernatorial candidate, was stabbed and seriously wounded by his son who then shot himself to death. Hours earlier, the son had been seen in a hospital emergency room in an apparent mental health crisis, but apparently no psychiatric bed was immediately available, so he was released. The details don’t seem to be known. Many factors can impede a mental health hospitalization: lack of adequate insurance, lack of mental health treatment facilities, and the patient’s unwillingness to undergo treatment. However, those voters most bent on cutting taxes and impeding Obamacare are those targeting the need for mental health treatment while also promoting gun rights. If the electorate wants low taxes, no gun restrictions, and no expansion of health care, then these sorts of tragedies are going to continue to occur. It’s a matter of choices and odds. Not everything can be fixed. Any course of action has benefits and risks.
We have just been through the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death. I was living in Sacramento, California, with my husband at the time, hearing the terrible news on the radio and shedding silent tears. President Kennedy’s earlier announcement of the formation of the Peace Corps stayed with me throughout the decades, prompting me to join the Peace Corps later in life. In all my travels, especially to Africa and Latin America, it’s been common to see a portrait of Kennedy right there next to family photos and the ubiquitous Last Supper in a kind of household altar. There’ve been a few American presidents with that iconic saint-like worldwide appeal: Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy, and, yes, Obama.
Secretary of State John Kerry has declared that the Monroe Doctrine has outlived its usefulness and that nations in the hemisphere now regard and treat each other as equals. Known as the Monroe Doctrine after it was adopted in 1823 by former US president James Monroe, the policy had stated that any efforts by European countries to colonize land in North or South America would be views as aggressive acts and could require US intervention.
The European Union sent election observers to the Nov. 24 elections in Honduras. I haven’t heard about US observers going there. The Nationalist candidate, Juan Hernandez, seems to have won, with vociferous objections and cries of fraud from Xiomara Castro, Zelaya’s wife, or rather from Zelaya himself in his wife’s notable absence. I know nothing about the probable winning candidate except that he has promised to get tough on crime, but I fear that the objections of the Zelaya faction and their followers do not bode well for peace and stability there. Also, with 8 candidates in presidential contest, the winner will not have a majority of the votes. If Zelaya’s wife had won, probably Maduro would have again turned on the Venezuelan oil spigots, turned off abruptly when Zelaya was ousted.
Ximoara Castro was an opponent and Juan Hernandez, a supporter, of a law to regulate new Employment and Economic Development Zones (ZEDE –  Zonas de Empleo y Desarrollo Económico) (the newest version of the discarded “Model Cities” initiative), approved by the Honduran National Congress after their last debate. This law is the complement to the amendments to the Constitution, which paved the way for the creation of these special ZEDEs where businesses can choose to invest in specific regions with different rules than the rest of the country.
An article in the Washington Post is headlined, “At one of the world’s scariest airports, there’s little ‘margin for error,’” referring to Tegucigalpa airport, which has seen 10 crashes since 1989. It’s very scary to land there and passengers usually applaud once safely on the ground. Fortunately, it’s not one of the world’s busiest airports, but several flights a day do land there. Often before my annual trip to Honduras, friends ask whether I’m not afraid of all the violent crime there. Well, yes, but perhaps that initial landing is the riskiest part. The take-off is not so scary. According to the article, regular US deportation flights now land at the more ample San Pedro Sula airport, 150 miles away.
In an unauthorized referendum conducted Oct. 31 in the contested Abyei border region between the two Sudans, 99% of those voting favored going with the south, which does not surprised me after having been there in 2006. Of course, the north does not recognize this vote.
President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a Cuban dissident, Dr. Oscar Biscet, one of those arrested in the 2003 Black Spring crackdown and declared an Amnesty International POC. He was denied an exit permit by the Cuban government, so his wife received the medal on his behalf. I once met her in Cuba about 20 years ago. Dr. Biscet, along with several others, has often been mentioned as a future leader of a democratic Cuba.
December 10 is Human Rights Day, a time when my local Amnesty Int’l group holds an event to raise awareness and urge people to write letters on behalf of individuals and issues.
In recent elections for the UN’s 47 member Human Rights Council (UNHRC), some of the winners of the coveted seats are countries that are among the world’s major human rights transgressors.
 According to Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch “China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens and they consistently vote the wrong way on the UN initiatives to protect the human rights of others.”
“Regrettably, “added Neuer, “so far neither the U.S. nor the EU have said a word about the hypocritical candidacies that will undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the UN human rights system.”
Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng stated, “China wants to join the UNHRC not to promote human rights, but rather to prevent democracies from questioning their human rights record.” Chen, a blind former political prisoner, was spirited out of China last year and now lives in New York.
Rosa Maria Paya, a daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, commented that, “The presence of the Chinese, the Russians and the Cuban regimes, is disappointing for the victims of repression, and it sends a message of complicity from the international community,” adding that “democratic governments should not share seats with criminals which behave with impunity since they are not suffering any consequence.”
It certainly seems that adding Cuba and some of the other nations to the UN HR Council is inviting the foxes to guard the henhouse. If the idea is to coopt them and win them over to the human rights agenda, it could well turn out in reverse. I believe that the Saudis have declined to serve.
I was invited along with Amnesty Int’l members to premier release at the Kennedy Center of a new film, Nelson Mandela: The Long Road to Freedom. Producer Harvey Weinstein spoke beforehand, along with Sen. John McCain and former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton. There was no obvious security but guests were pre-screened. Clinton, whose wardrobe has often been commented on, was wearing an odd bright turquoise jacket with pinched waist and a flared reaching to mid-thigh over black leggings. The film, appearing appropriately now at the end of Mandela’s life, is an emotionally moving, serious, non-genre effort, filmed entirely in So. Africa, with a cast of thousands and lots of sudden eruptions of violence (as indeed actually happened) but sometimes with shifts that are barely explained, such as when Mandela publicly announces his separation from his wife Winnie, his champion during his incarceration and who herself endured more than a year in solitary confinement. In reality, his split from her, which ended in divorce, was apparently triggered by her continuing advocacy of violence and involvement in the murder of a 14-year-old boy while Nelson was advocating peace and reconciliation. Also, she was thought to be carrying on an affair with one of her body guards. These aspects are only hinted at in the film, such as a flash of a tire necklace-ing of an apparent suspected informer and the Winnie character reminding her husband that he was gone for so many years. In the film, she listens to his presidential address over the radio (since, in fact, she was not invited to his inauguration). The actress playing Winnie was also present at the Kennedy Center event.
If South Africa has any lessons for other countries, they aren’t very hopeful. Blacks succeeded only after continuous acts of violence, such a fire bombings, and suffered many casualties. Finally, the apartheid regime gave in.
George Zimmerman is in trouble again. He apparently has a persistent violent and impulsive streak. But so many gun-rights advocates rallied around him and donated money to his cause that perhaps the jury trying him for the Trayvon Martin killing felt duty bound to acquit him—who knows what they were thinking? Now, they may realize that he is someone who shouldn’t carry a weapon and that he probably should have been found guilty of manslaughter after all.
With the approach of the Sandy Hook anniversary, Columnist Ruth Marcus observes that despite her son Adam’s odd behaviors: still Nancy Lanza encouraged his interest in guns. She went target-shooting with Adam and his older brother. They took National Rifle Association safety courses. I can understand a parent, desperate to find a way to connect to an alienated child, seizing on a mutual passion. But no person with Adam’s bizarre behaviors ought to be around guns, let alone have them within easy access at home. Few parents have to deal with the likes of Adam Lanza. Many parents, perhaps most, have to learn to find the balance between devotion and denial, empathy and enabling. Nancy Lanza failed at that task. Searching her house after the shootings, they found a check she had made out to Adam. It was dated Christmas Day, and designated to buy a CZ 83 pistol.
Will mention another book that I’ve just read, The Invisible Wall (2007) by Harry Bernstein, about the author’s early life on the Jewish side of the street in a small English town on the eve of WW I. Christians live on the other side and there is little interaction. Then his older sister falls in love with and marries a Christian boy. Her family considers her dead and sits shivah. Only after the newly married couple has a baby does her family acknowledge her and then the two sides of the street come together to celebrate their union. The book, his first, was written when the author was 96, a feat in itself. That story reminded me of a Jewish friend who was similarly mourned when she married outside her faith, to an African American man, no less. She was not informed of her father’s death, being only readmitted to the fold decades later when her own husband passed away, though no one in her immediately family ever referred to her marriage.
Last but not least, GW Bush’s artistic skills appear to be improving. Dubya, appearing on the Jay Leno show, awarded Leno a portrait that looked pretty realistic with a little individual touch.

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