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President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez, left, delivers remarks on immigration beside President of Guatemala Otto Perez Molina. (EPA /LANDOV)

Central American Presidents Say U.S. Shares Responsibility For Migration Crisis

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 24, 2014

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The presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador will meet with President Obama on Friday.

But before the meeting, the heads of state are making the rounds in Washington, telling their side of an immigration crisis that has driven tens of thousands of unaccompanied children to the U.S. border.

During a forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday, the presidents of Honduras and Guatemala said the U.S. shares responsibility for the crisis and they also called for more aggressive cooperation with the U.S. to curb the violence and poverty they say is driving the influx of immigrants to the U.S.

"I'd appeal to the heart of Americans," Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernndez said. "That they see this as a humanitarian issue, as an issue of neighbors."

Hernandez and Guatemalan President Otto Prez Molina blamed violence — Honduras has become the murder capital of the world — and poverty for the sudden exodus of migrants from their countries.

Molina said the situation is a tragedy that "all of humanity should reflect on."

Then, he took the long view. He said that with Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative, the U.S. has helped combat violence in Colombia and Mexico, but, he argued that as the countries pushed the violence of organized crime out, they have squeezed it into Central America.

"What has been good for Colombia and Mexico," Molina said, "has been bad for us."

Both presidents called on a new, regional initiative from the U.S. modeled on Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative, which pumped billions of dollars into the countries to fight organized crime.

Hernandez called the Central America Regional Security Initiative, a similar kind of program that has handed out $642 million since 2008, "almost a joke."

Of course, the great, big question hanging in the room was: What are these countries doing on their own to address these issues.

"We are not shirking our responsibility," Hernndez said. He added that Honduras was bringing to justice corrupt police officers, judges and prosecutors. Over the past weeks, he said, they had arrested 12 coyotes, or human smugglers.

Molina said his country had, in the past year, reduced the homicide rate significantly.

And Hernndez added that the flow of unaccompanied minors into the United States had already been significantly curbed in the past weeks.

"We're dealing with the problem, even with our limited means," Hernandez said. "But with level of complexity of the problem... we can't do it alone."

Hernndez said the problem of human smugglers telling families in Honduras that they could stay in the U.S. if they make it past the border is just "one face of one enormous monster."

The rest of the monster, he said, is the drug trade, which the U.S. drives with its vast consumption.

"That monster," Hernandez said, "has one foot in Central America and one foot in the U.S."

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President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez, left, delivers remarks on immigration beside President of Guatemala Otto Perez Molina. (EPA /LANDOV)

Human Rights Watch Researcher Reports ISIS Abuses In Iraq

Jul 24, 2014 (Fresh Air)

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Panic in a Suitcase cover ( )

'Panic In A Suitcase' Puts A Fresh Spin On A Coming-To-America Story

Jul 24, 2014 (Fresh Air)

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There's a wonderful 1982 memoir called An Orphan in History by the late Village Voice writer Paul Cowan. It's about Cowan's search for his European Jewish roots, and in it he says something about the sacrifices of older generations of immigrants that's always stayed with me. Cowan says: "Millions of immigrant families . . . left the economically and culturally confining Old World towns where they were raised, and paid for the freedom and prosperity this country offered with their pasts."

Those words speak to me because that's my family's story: I can't tell you the names of my great-grandparents, left behind in Poland and Ireland, because nobody ever mentioned them. The break was that final.

These days of course, it's different. Within the space of a few hours, people can fly across oceans; through Skype and email, they can electronically commute between Old World and New. Three cheers for The March of Progress, right? Except, if you want to make a definitive break, how can you when the Old World is always calling you on the phone, texting and crashing on your living room couch for extended visits? That's the crucial question Yelena Akhtiorskaya mulls over in her sharply observed and very funny debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase.

Akhtiorskaya, who was born in Odessa and emigrated to the Russian immigrant enclave of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, at the age of seven, writes of the fictional Nasmertov family, whose move from Old World to New imitates her own. Beginning in 1993, the novel follows the lives of the Nasmertovs for over two decades as they pledge allegiance to ambivalence, most of the family members wondering, at times, about America, "Should I stay or should I go?"

The novel mostly focuses on an adult son, a poet named Pasha, who, in 1993, flies in from Odessa to visit his recently emigrated parents, sister and brother-in-law, and niece — all crammed together in noisy disharmony in a Brighton Beach walk-up. The family is pressuring Pasha to emigrate, but he's not so sure the move is worth it, especially when he sees Brighton Beach for the first time: "Filth [and] dreariness ... didn't bother him, but five [restaurants] in a row called Odessa did. His fellow countrymen hadn't ventured bravely into a new land, they'd borrowed a tiny nook at the very rear of someone else's crumbling estate to make a tidy replication of the messy, imperfect original they'd gone through so many hurdles to escape, imprisoning themselves in their own lack of imagination ... "

Pasha's feelings about emigration will continue to seesaw throughout the next decade; eventually, they'll be transferred to his niece, Frida, whose fascination with the Odessa she can barely remember pulls her back to that city.

I'm making the plot here sound contrived and it isn't. In fact, there barely is a plot in Panic in a Suitcase. That's not a criticism: what we get instead of a sweeping story are a multitude of exuberant set pieces about modern migr life, animated by Akhtiorskaya's insider knowledge and her offbeat way with words. Here, for instance, is how she describes the view from the Nasmertov's Brighton Beach kitchen window: "The kitchen window looked out on the ocean, which had the cast-aside air of a large piece of grandparents' furniture thrown to the curb. Grandparents put plastic covers on sofas so butts and sweaty palms wouldn't damage the fabric, and children sat on the loud sticky plastic. ...The ocean seemed to be inside such a plastic cover and somewhere at the back there was a zipper that could be undone."


What an ingenious way to capture that look of the Atlantic Ocean, slick, contained, and worn out by the time it reaches Brooklyn's shores. Akhtiorskaya directs this same tart eloquence to her character studies, saying of the emotionally manipulative Pasha that: "Pasha's talent was to shift dynamics until all sympathy was directed toward him. ...He aroused feelings without necessarily returning them and was permanently enclosed in an aura of exemption."

Panic in a Suitcase updates the classic coming-to-America tale, making it more open-ended. Indeed, Akhtiorskaya's immigrants find it comically difficult to commit to a fresh start, given that so much old baggage keeps turning up on their doorstep.

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Good Movies You Might Have Missed

Jul 24, 2014 (Here & Now / WBUR-FM)

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The movie “Snowpiercer” opened to critical acclaim a few weeks ago, but you might have trouble finding it at a theater near you.

In fact, as Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr has noted, a number of good films have either not been released widely, or disappeared from movie theaters before audiences could discover them.

He shares a few of his recent favorites with Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti, including “The Immigrant,” “Fading Gigolo,” “Land Ho!” and “Edge of Tomorrow.”

Films Discussed In This Segment

“Snowpiercer”

The Immigrant

“Fading Gigolo”

“Edge of Tomorrow”

Ty Burr Also Recommends…

Locke

“Land Ho!”

“We Are the Best!”

“Under the Skin”

“Ida”

“Le Weekend”

“Only Lovers Left Alive”

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Veterans Say Suicide Is Their Top Concern

by Alex Ashlock
Jul 24, 2014 (Here & Now / WBUR-FM)

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Suicide is the top concern of veterans, according to a survey released today by Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America (IAVA), the first and largest organization for new vets and their families. The survey shows 40 percent of these vets knew at least one person who committed suicide.Other top areas of concern are unemployment and the backlog of disability claims — 70-percent of veterans surveyed say they have waited over 120 days for the VA to make a decision on their disability claim. Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti speaks withPaul Rieckhoff, IAVA founder and CEO, about the survey and its results. And producer Alex Ashlock shares these thoughts:

It’s estimated that 22 military veterans commit suicide every day, but if you talk to people who are familiar with this issue, they’ll tell you the real number is probably higher. The latest statistics from the Pentagon show that suicides among active duty military are up slightly, compared to the same period last year. There have been 161 confirmed or suspected suicides so far in 2014. There were 154 by this time last year.

According to the Associated Press, suicides are up among Navy and Air Force personnel. The numbers are down for soldiers and Marines.

Despite the upward trend this year, the Department of Defense points to the final suicide numbers for 2013 as a sign of progress. A DOD report this week says the number of active duty military suicides dropped by nearly 19 percent last year, when compared with 2012. More military personnel, the Pentagon says, are getting help.

Families who have lost military loved ones to suicide are leading the prevention effort. Susan Selke was on Capitol Hill recently to testify for the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention For American Veterans Act, a bill that has been introduced in the U.S. House. Clay was Susan’s son. A Marine, Clay served in Iraq and Afghanistan and came home and lobbied for vets in Washington. He was 28 years old when killed himself on March 31, 2011. The people who knew him best say he was wracked by depression and other problems after his combat experiences.

His mom told the House Committee For Veterans Affairs that even though her son was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he didn’t get the treatment he really needed from the VA. Among the challenges, she told lawmakers, was scheduling appointments. “Clay only had two appointments in January and February of 2011, and neither was with a psychiatrist,” she said in her testimony. “It wasn't until March 15th that Clay was finally able to see a psychiatrist at the Houston VA Medical Center. But after the appointment, Clay called me on his way home and said, ‘Mom, I can't go back there. The VA is way too stressful and not a place I can go. I'll have to find a Vet Center or something.’”

This was a veteran who overcame the stigma that prevents many members of the military from seeking help for mental health issues. His mom says he was very open about his PTSD and he tried to help others who were struggling. “Clay's story details the urgency needed in addressing this issue,” she explained. “Despite his proactive and open approach to seeking care to address his injuries, the VA system did not adequately address his needs. Even today, we continue to hear about both individual and systemic failures by the VA to provide adequate care and address the needs of veterans.”

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention For American Veterans Act is supposed to help do that. Supporters say it would improve access to mental health care at the VA and it would help the VA recruit and retain qualified psychiatrists.

This is important because a survey released today by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America shows that suicide remains the top issue facing veterans of our most recent wars. Fortypercent of the veterans who answered the survey said they knew at least one vet who had committed suicide.

Paul Rieckhoff is an Iraq War vet who heads IAVA. Clay Hunt was his friend.

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