Thursday, August 28, 2014

Family Photos, Ex-Gov. McDonnell, Hamas Executions, Cuban Medical Care, Cuban Dissident in Mortal Danger?

Though hardly my own style, my 26-year-old granddaughter Natasha loves decorated fingernails, no two alike. The other photo is of my son Jonathan near his home outside Honolulu, in the town of Kaneohe, a community of 35,000 on the windward side of the island, a really lovely place.

 Former Va. Governor Bob McDonnell is fighting for his freedom. A former trial lawyer himself, his strategy in his corruption trial seems to be to put all the blame on his wife, who was not a public servant, hence cannot be charged. They are even living apart, though I would not be surprised, assuming they emerge from this ordeal without prison time, that they will “reconcile” once it is over. Or maybe this strategic rift will end up permanently damaging their marriage. Apparently the former governor is quite a convincing speaker, so may sway the jury with his marital problems story, while infuriating the prosecution--which has presented a pretty strong case until now. A jury trial is like a chess game, with each side trying to sway the jury. The “truth” is whatever the jury believes.  

 Witnesses said over a dozen suspected informants were executed by Hamas in Gaza, presumably without trial or solid evidence, without due process, after Israeli attacks on Hamas leaders. Hamas seems completely uncompromising. There is no evident “peace” movement in Gaza. At least for now, the two sides have stopped firing on each other. Both are claiming victory. I do have a friend whose parents were Holocaust survivors who signed the letter in the NY Times protesting the destruction in Gaza.

 WHO made a visit recently to Cuba and declared its health system a model for developing countries, according to a French physician, whose article appeared in The Huffington Post. I will vouch that Cuban doctors and other health workers are well-trained, at least according to my experiencing working with them in Honduras, where many have stayed on after completing their tour of duty. Honduras, like many poor developing countries, also has a universal health care system (unlike the United States), perhaps not of the highest quality, but available to all. I’ve worked in that system as a Peace Corps health volunteer and subsequently in return visits to Honduras. I have not made a comparison with other developing countries, but doctors from Cuba visiting or exiled in the US report that the Cuban system report has deteriorated over the last 25 years and is now only excellent for the political elite and medical tourists. Perhaps those are the facilities that WHO visited. Recently arrived doctors tell me about patients having to buy their own medications, bring bedding with them to the hospital, and have their relatives provide food and clean up around their bedside. Electricity and water, I’m told, are often shut off. I suspect that WHO may be perpetuating the myth of excellent health care in Cuba because the government only showed its delegates model facilities, as in Michael Moore’s film “Sicko” which I saw a few years ago and recognized the Cuban hospital featured as one for the political elite that I had once visited myself.  And while Moore’s American patients got free care, medical tourists usually pay going rates for care. Not long ago, a Cuban woman visiting relatives in Havana from the US paid $100 per session of dialysis.   

 Fears have been expressed privately in the Cuban diaspora for the wellbeing of Antúnez, the Afro-Cuban dissident mentioned last time, who wrote a long, open letter to Raúl Castro, accusing him of being an assassin, among other things. As Antúnez himself emphasizes in his letter, other dissidents have died under mysterious and suspect circumstances. His supporters in this country fear the same might happen to him because of his outspokenness.  Is he asking to become a martyr? Raúl cannot allow him to ignite Cuba’s large disaffected and disadvantaged Afro-Cuban population, so if Antúnez meets an unexplained death, you first heard about it here.

 I’m a mother whose 11-year-old son, years ago, was shot in the foot (fortunately, not fatally) when another boy dropped a loaded gun found in a parental bedroom. So, I cannot fail to comment on the 9-year-old girl at a shooting range who accidently shot and killed her instructor with an Uzi. Gun advocates might argue that people should start learning to use guns as children so as to be proficient as adults. But learning to shoot an Uzi, a weapon of war? This year so far, at least 45 American children have been killed accidently by guns they found at home, calling into question the merits of keeping guns around for personal protection.

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