Thursday, March 18, 2004
Honduras is a Dangerous Place
I read with a great deal of interest the article about Mr. Birk’s sojourn to Honduras and to the tobacco-growing area of that country [“Smoke, Guns and Monkeys,” March 4-10]. He is most fortunate to have survived his journey because Honduras is one of the most crime-ridden and corrupt countries in our hemisphere. I speak from my experience as an operative with the Central Intelligence Agency, having spent a considerable amount of time in that country.
His gun-toting guards are not only protecting the workers in the tobacco fields against invading Nicaraguans but also guard against any attacks by armed thugs who are omnipresent as noted below.
My brother, a geologist, was ambushed and murdered by a gang of AK-47-carrying thugs while working in the Olancho district several years ago. To date, neither the US Embassy nor the Honduran government has done anything to bring to justice all of those responsible for his murder and those of more than 40 US citizens who have suffered a similar fate.
One of the killers is in the USA illegally and no one of any authority here has done anything to capture him and deport him even though there is an arrest warrant for him from Honduras and even though they are aware of his being here.
Honduras does make good cigars, as I have visited the factories at Danli and know the factories where Don Tomas, Baccarat, Punch, Placencia, and Hoyo de Monterey are made.
Mr. Birk took a circuitous route to get to Tegucigalpa. United Air Lines had a flight from LAX to San Salvador with a connection by the Salvadoran airline TACA to Tegucigalpa when I last went there in 1998 to arrange for my brother’s return home.
Mr. Birk’s article is well written but I have a caveat for those who wish to travel there: BEWARE!!!
Andrew Wilson | Pacific Grove
Smoking is a Dangerous Activity
The Coalition For a Tobacco-Free Monterey County is troubled by the article printed on March 4, [“Smoke, Guns and Monkeys.”] Cigars have been portrayed as trendy with no mention of their deadly health consequences. Cigar use causes almost twice as many strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular diseases as it does lung cancer.
Young adults (18-24 years old) have the highest rate of smoking in Monterey County. The Weekly is read all over our county and especially by our young adult population. Owning a business means taking responsibility for the practices of that business. The Weekly is not being responsible by publishing an article so blatantly glamorizing cigar use.
Community members, including the Weekly, should protect our future generations from the debilitating and deadly effects of tobacco use. Tobacco companies spend millions of dollars annually to mount aggressive advertising campaigns to hook new customers by showing glamorous photos, cool graphics and rebellious images. Your article is helping the tobacco industry promote its deadly product.
Now is the time to address the very real problem of Big Tobacco buying our communities and addicting another generation of smokers.
Kay Smith | Dale Hillard
Coalition For a Tobacco-Free Monterey County
Fundamentalism is Dangerous as Hell
There is a clear problem that has plagued history and plagues us now, and this problem is religious fundamentalism. By definition, whenever you have one group of people believing they are on the only true path to God, and that all others must follow that same path or they are doomed, you set yourself up for major problems.
Is it not ludicrous that large percentages of adherents to all major religions believe that they and those that believe as they do are the only ones chosen by God? That all others are doomed? Does this mean we can never live in peace until one of the religions has killed or converted all the others?
Surely this is not what God intended for us, nor what we really want for ourselves. It is incumbent upon members of all faiths to promote the acceptance of other faiths as equally leading to God, and to discourage other members of their own faith from professing spiritual supremacy. Perhaps this is the test we have all been given: To believe we know the path to God and still allow that others are not any less the children of God because they know him in a different way. Even better, we should support all who seek to uplift themselves spiritually.
It is important for us as Americans to realize that, while we all clearly see the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, there are similar dangers from Christian fundamentalism. Our country is the international “hotbed” of it, and it is increasingly shaping our policy. Can anyone who believes that theirs is the only true path to God be trusted to lead us to peace in this world? Perhaps this question should be asked of the presidential and other political candidates: Do you allow that other’s paths might equally lead to God? Religious fundamentalism of any kind is dangerous, and we should be careful if we think that “our” version of it is safer than “theirs.” It all leads to the same place.
Shalom, Salaam, Namaste, may God bless us all.
Aaron Eden | Carmel
Salinas Checkpoint Creates Hell
At first this might sound like my own personal sob story, but please read through a few paragraphs to find the community angle.
On January 28, one month before my driver’s license expired, I sent a check to Sacramento for renewal. I haven’t received a new license, and the check hasn’t cleared, but I didn’t really notice that. I felt that I had done everything correctly, and I’ve never had any trouble with these kind of clerical lapses in the DMV before.
On the evening of March 4, I was passing through downtown Salinas on my way home from work at Gavilan College in Gilroy. Tired and hungry, I encountered a massive DUI checkpoint. The particular officer, one of about 20 who were working that checkpoint, noticed that my license had been expired for four days. He cited me, took my truck, and put me on the street.
I spent the whole next day at the local DMV office getting my license renewed and going back and forth between the Salinas Police department and the towing “service” to reclaim my vehicle. The total cost so far is $250 (a big percentage of my monthly take-home pay) not counting the lost day of work. Also this does not include the citation, which I will have to spend hours and dollars dealing with in the coming weeks.
It is a Kafka hell. I’m stuck between two indifferent, non-communicating bureaucracies. I’m frightened of our government. I’m angry and paranoid.
Peripherally I noticed that there were demonstrators at this checkpoint, 8 or 10 brave people holding signs in English and Spanish. I was just as the tyrants wish me to be—neutralized by my personal stress and weariness—so I didn’t notice what the signs said, but their presence indicated that this was not a one-time event, and mine was not a unique anguish.
I did a search on the Web sites of all three local papers and saw no coverage of this demonstration, but if people are organized enough to respond spontaneously when a checkpoint goes up, seems like there must be something going on which should be reported.
I enjoyed the free day at the Steinbeck Center last week, and I was planning to come back to Oldtown to check out the new coffee shop and restaurants. I won’t do that now. I’m not particularly afraid of the gang violence and murder rate in Salinas, I know the town better than that, but now I am afraid of the Salinas Police.
James A. Frazier | Marina
Democrats Must Unite
Last week President Bush unleashed his first set of campaign ads saturated with 9/11 imagery. By using footage from Ground Zero and a firefighter’s funeral for his political gain, the president dishonors the families of those who lost their lives. Then I remembered that Bush has nothing else on which to run his campaign. The president’s campaign tactics mislead Americans.
Now, more than ever, we need coalition building and strong public involvement to defeat Bush in the November election.
The Republican Party’s strength over moderates, liberals, independents, and progressives in the past has been its unity. The only way to see change come in November is to unify at both the national and grassroots levels.
It is imperative that every person who feels that this country is moving in the wrong direction take action in the Democratic campaign now. We can’t afford not to. Sign up to attend local monthly meetings on democrat.meetup.com and kerry2004.meetup.com. Also, check out montereydemocrats.com. Everyone, from all different backgrounds, young and old, has something to offer in this campaign.
Kristin Meyers | Monterey
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