Thursday, June 23, 2016

Grandson, PC Logo, Muhammad Ali, Honduras Equipment Appeal, My Cuba Articles, Honduras, DR, Sanders, Trump, Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, Orlando

New Peace Corps logo, my youngest grandchild, Kingston, age one in July, living in Hawaii

Back in the 1990s. when I was writing articles for OT Week, a magazine published by the Amer. Occupational Therapy Ass’n, I covered a meeting with Muhammad Ali, who by then was unable to speak, so his wife read his speech for him. I remember him as a tall, well-built man with a slight smile who shook my hand fairly vigorously, despite his Parkinson’s, but who said nothing. I then took a photo of him with his wife for our magazine

After making my medical supply appeal on the last blog, I decided to look up new wheelchair prices on the internet and ever since have been bombarded by wheelchair sales ads. Whew! Your life on the internet is an open book. I can readily understand why some people have told me that they aren’t on-line because of privacy concerns. Now someone living in St. Augustine, Florida, has a good wheelchair for me to take to Honduras, but it needs to get to DC before next Feb. If anyone is driving from there to DC, please let me know so you can bring the chair.

Last time, I made an appeal for medical supplies and medications to take to Honduras next Feb. Now, I’d like to add to that appeal for a working laptop, not necessarily the newest and lightest model, but one with life still left in it. About 3 or 4 years ago, I’d given a new one to the family where I stay in Teguc, and it was used by the whole family, especially the teenage daughter. I also used it when I stayed there, but last Feb. it was no longer working. Computer repair is not that easy in Honduras, so this family could use another laptop (and so could I when I'm at their house). Obviously, when out with a medical brigade in a village, I don't have computer access, but it's nice to get caught up when I'm in the capital, just in case you hear of someone upgrading. I will leave the laptop there.

All my Huffington Post Cuba articles are available at this address:

The first and last ones have been republished on another blog, Democracia Participativa, which mostly posts in Spanish, where I’m told they have gotten hundreds of hits despite being written in English:

I also posted a comment there, but being IT challenged am not sure if it went through. I asked readers to ask their congressional reps to intervene with the US Embassy in Havana (what are embassies for, if not for such requests?) to take up (quietly) Avila’s protection with the Cuba government when she returns. She has already suffered repeated attacks on her property and person and is now disabled, so she is evidently at risk and needs special protection, whether or not the Cuban government was actually behind the numerous previous attacks against her. I would ask my readers here to do the same. I contacted my own non-voting delegate Eleanor Holms Norton on Avila’s behalf, as well as former MLKing associate Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) with whom I exchanged correspondence after he broke with the Congressional Black Caucus to meet in his office with former Amnesty Cuban prisoner of conscience, afro-Cuban Jorge Luis Garcia Perez (see my book for more about Garcia Perez, nicknamed Antunez).

One of my correspondents has raised a controversial question: Are there really certain universal human rights, and, if so, what are they, or are they just those on which there is some consensus? Do they change and evolve? Or is the whole idea of universal human rights an effort, as per critics in more traditional societies, to impose Western values on the rest of the world? Even in the U.S., gay marriage, transgender bathroom rights, gun rights, abortion rights, and the death penalty are controversial. Of course, support of universal human rights is the raison d’etre of our Amnesty International work.
Honduran President Juan Hernandez, together with global consultants McKinsey & Co., has rolled out a plan to increase jobs locally and to reduce child migration by half by 2020. The plan, which also relies on US aid, claims to have already reduced child migration from Honduras, but sceptics doubt investor confidence in the country will result in generating enough jobs to reduce migration substantially.

HRF Met with OAS Chief in the Dominican Republic
 (June 17, 2016) — Earlier this week, Human Rights Foundation’s (HRF) chief legal officer Javier El-Hage met with Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS). El-Hage praised Almagro’s moral courage and congratulatedhim for activating the Inter-American Democratic Charter’s (IADC) 2001 democracy clause, which could lead to the suspension of the government of Venezuela from participation in all organs of the OAS.
“Prior to Almagro’s report and for nearly 17 years, Venezuelans saw their democracy gradually erode to the point of complete breakdown without receiving any support from the OAS,” said El-Hage during a speech that praised Almagro’s “moral clarity” and the “technical strength” of his report activating the OAS democracy clause.  
Could the reduction in the price of oil be due partly to a reduction in demand? Maybe alternative energy sources are making inroads. Cuban energy is being impacted, with blackouts at factories and homes because of reduced oil shipments from Venezuela, just when American tourism to Cuba is surging and hotels have to keep the lights on.

Thanks to Bernie Sanders, just before our DC primary on Tuesday, June 14, for bringing up the fact that we are disenfranchised here, with no voting congressional reps or senators, unlike other US jurisdictions. Most American citizens take for granted that they can appeal to their representatives and probably don’t even know we don’t have that right, although we have a larger population than Wyoming, where our former VP Dick Cheney was a senator. Also, we are not so far behind Delaware and RI in population. So Bernie, even though you won’t become president, many thanks for that acknowledgement.

While I’m a Democrat and agree with that party’s stated positions on many, but not all, issues, I do think there is some utility in having the Republicans (Donald Trump not included) pushing back sometimes to provide a moderating effect, assuming it doesn’t result in paralysis.

Donald Trump is certainly like a bull in a china shop—no one knows what he will say or do next. Many seem to identify with his freedom to do or say whatever he wants. But for many in the middle, he is so goofy and extreme that he is pushing them either to sit out the election or vote for Hillary. Republicans down the ticket must be worried about not only losing the White House, but also the Congress or Senate. For some brief moments, he heeded the teleprompter and a pre-prepared script and seemed do better, then he went pff on a rant about not being a racist and ending up calling Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.” (He’s not getting the Native American vote.) Republican leaders must be tearing their hair, trying to figure out how to stop or control him. Of course, his diehard supporters will say this is just the Republican “Party establishment” working against him, much as Sanders’ supporters have said of the Democratic Party regarding Hillary’s nomination.

While I haven’t closely followed the Stanford rape case, it seems pretty much to follow the usual college pattern of excessive drinking by both parties. Not to excuse the young man, but if the woman got so drunk that she passed out, doesn’t she have some contributory responsibility? She may not even have been aware of being raped—witnesses told her later, apparently—but she claims to have had suffered irreparable emotional damage.

According to a weekly conservative magazine, Washington Examiner, Justice Clarence Thomas may retire from the court next year, which would be a welcome development.

I suspect that at least some of Puerto Rico’s financial problems are due to a drop in tourism because of fear of the Zika virus and because so much American tourism has been diverted to Cuba.

Six US airlines are now making regular flights to Cuba

A popular Cuban comedic program is going to be rebroadcast in the US. While I remain critical of Cuba’s human rights practices, I am totally in favor of such “soft” exchanges, whether for sports, the arts, educational courses, or, now, TV, which helps normalize the atmosphere between citizens of both countries.

Here is pretty extensive article about the differences between Raul and Fidel Castro, with an excerpt below, about a real threat to the Cuban Communist Party, namely, the indifference toward it of much of the populace:

“There is no more discipline within the traditional ranks,” a retired government official told me. ‘No one wants to belong to the CDR [Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the neighborhood snitch organs]. No one feels they have to belong to the Communist Party.” He added: “Five years ago, if you didn’t belong to the CDR or the Party, you weren’t going to get a promotion or could get in trouble. But there is no more fear about it.’
Likewise, such bastions of the Revolution as the Federation of Women, the Workers Union, and the Young Communists League are losing members, I was told. these organs that have buttressed the Revolution are in decline, losing momentum as membership oozes away. “Everybody’s looking down the road about how to be an entrepreneur or a capitalist,” said a man who has turned his home into a casa particular.”

Scarcities are becoming an emergency in Venezuela, where, as in Cuba, food is increasingly unavailable. Cuba jumped ship from Venezuela to the US in the nick of time. Interesting that apparently in Cuba, because of strict media control, most people are unaware of the current problems in Venezuela and still hold Hugo Chavez—and to a lesser extent, Nicolas Maduro—in high esteem. Days before Obama’s visit, (a probably worried) Maduro got the full diplomatic treatment that was withheld from Obama.

Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro gave his endorsement to Bernie Sanders, “our revolutionary friend.” Is that an endorsement that Bernie and his supporters would appreciate? A spokesman for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly given a favorable nod to Donald Trump.

It still amazes me that the former Guatemalan president was forced to resign and now faces charges. That almost never happens in Latin America.

Much turmoil still over last year’s Haitian elections; Our Haiti country specialist Randy Mont-Reynaud, PhD, considers Robert Fatton, a Haitian-born University of Virginia professor quoted in the article to be a sound observer.

Looks like Haiti’s (re)elections are scheduled for next Oct., a year late, and will the controversy be over then? Hardly.

U.S., EU criticize Haiti presidential elections rerun ( 
Haiti’s decision to rerun its disputed first-round presidential vote continued to ripple through the international community Wednesday as the European Union and the United States criticized the move, and the Organization of American States announced its continued support for the process. All three donors had contributed to last year’s $100 million elections price tag and had praised the Oct. 25 presidential vote that pitted government-backed candidate Jovenel Moïse against Jude Célestin of the opposition. “Despite a certain number of flaws and irregularities that were observed, they were not however of the nature to alter the results,” the EU’s Electoral Observer Mission said.

A UN Peacekeeping mission, including British soldiers, has gone to South Sudan to try to keep the fragile peace there.

As for Orlando, the most recent mass shooting in the US, where were gun advocates who claim that “the right to bear arms” protects citizens? Reportedly, an armed security guard was on duty at the club. Gun-toting citizens never seem to be on hand to prevent or protect against these shootings. And does self-protection include the right to own an assault rifle? What about explosives or bombs? At the biker brawl in Texas, having both sides armed actually resulted in more casualties. (A more recent biker brawl and exchange of gunfire in Ohio left 2 dead.) Senator Rubio says to focus on the ideology, not the weapon, but it seems more feasible to control access to firearms than to try to ascertain or control someone’s beliefs or find out if they are mentally ill or have some serious grievance. I doubt that the Orlando shooter was truly motivated by ISIS—that seems more like an afterthought.  I’ll grant that control of access is hard when so many guns are already in circulation and, of course, gun sales shot up after this most recent mass shooting, as always happens. Is it because people feel the need to be armed for self-protection or because they fear that access to guns will be curbed? And many gun owners have a whole arsenal. What is this? Fortress America? Certainly, there is a segment of the population that expresses a culture of gun violence. Such a culture also exists in Honduras, where every city shop has an armed guard, providing jobs and resulting in one of the world’s highest murder rates—a high rate that is further fueling the gun culture. In the US, suicides and accidents, especially by children finding guns, apparently count for a majority of gun deaths.

Not every gun death can be prevented, no matter what laws are in effect. Probably there actually are instances where a gun-owner prevents a death, but it’s a matter of statistics and odds. And in Britain, an MP was killed by a gun despite strict gun laws. Still, annual gun deaths in Britain are probably about the same as the daily total in the US.

We interpreters, like everyone else, are finding our work being outsourced or automated, so that live, face-to-face interpretation is becoming less frequent. Written machine translation is also growing, though I do less translation than interpretation. On-site medical interpretation is one of my preferences, but now doctors and hospitals are not only using telephonic interpretation for cost savings, but also on-line or Skype interpretation from anywhere—maybe to a lower-cost interpreter living abroad? The days of my late-life career are numbered!

No comments: