About Kelley

After serving in the Peace Corps in Guatemala, Kelley has returned home to the U.S. and is now working on Arsenal for Democracy as a co-host and contributor.

Guatemala has a lot to celebrate this independence day

Today Guatemala celebrates its Independence Day and it is quite a different country than it was just 365 short days ago, or even six months ago, when I left Guatemala after finishing my two years of Peace Corps service in the rural, western highlands of the beautiful country.

Photo taken by Kelley in Cajolá, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala at a girls' leadership camp hosted by Kelley and local health center staff.

Photo taken by Kelley in Cajolá, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala at a girls’ leadership camp hosted by Kelley and local health center staff.

When people ask me if I am glad to be back, I sincerely respond that I am not sure if I’m glad to be back in the United States, but I am definitely glad that I am not in Guatemala anymore. You see, Guatemala is an extremely difficult place to live. Bus drivers are frequently shot by cartels when bribes are not paid; men present a real and constant danger in the street and at home because of an oppressively “machismo” mindset that persists in the country; and 50% of children are chronically malnourished, an unfathomable and heartbreaking statistic.

Not only is Guatemala a hard place to live, it is a really hard place to get things done, Decades of impunity, staggering inequality, and corrupt governments make Guatemala a perfect storm of inefficiency and the people of Guatemala, particularly the large indigenous population, are the ones who suffer. According to the World Bank, of every country in the world, Guatemala spends the least on health, education, and infrastructure, proportionate to its economy. The Executive Director of the Foundation for the Development of Guatemala (Fundesa), Juan Carlos Zapata, reports “We believe that 30 percent of the budget is lost to corruption.”

However, today as I think about Guatemala, I am able to reflect more softly on my experience and I have brighter hopes for what’s ahead in Guatemala. Maybe that’s just because my months at home have allowed me to physically and emotionally begin to recuperate from an exhausting two years.

But I think it has more to do with the political revolution that is well under way in Guatemala. Guatemalans in the capitol, Guatemala City, and around the country, have begun to say “enough is enough”. Maybe, like many other countries, this is because of the smart phone revolution, allowing people to spread pictures and ideas more easily. Maybe Guatemala is finally shedding the yoke of a 36-year-long civil war, which ended in 1996 but still stains every part of society. Whatever the reason, the actions taken by ordinary Guatemalan citizens in the past few months make me proud of the time I worked in the endlessly fascinating country of Guatemala.

Protests began in April after the Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, CICIG), an international body backed by the United Nations and responsible for prosecuting serious crimes in Guatemala, charged the Vice President and others in the administration with taking bribes for reducing import and customs taxes.

The first big victory for Guatemalans seeking a less corrupt government was the resignation of Vice President Roxana Baldetti on May 8, 2015, who prosecutors claim took $3.7 million in bribes as part of the customs scandal. At the time, President Otto Pérez Molina claimed no wrongdoing, but CICIG and the Guatemalan people were suspect.

So, protests continued with the simple phrase “Renuncia Ya” (Resign Already) at the heart of it all. For nineteen weeks, concerned citizens protested, employing only nonviolent protest tactics, even going to far as to offer flowers to police. Then the unthinkable happened, on August 31st, the 132 members of Congress who were present for voting (out of 158 members total), voted unanimously to rescind the presidential immunity, which had formerly protected Perez from prosecution. In a country where lawlessness abounds because people are not held accountable for their actions, 132 members of Congress and tens of thousands of protesters decided that Guatemala needed to change.

Then, on September 2nd, the embattled president, Otto Pérez Molina, finally resigned.

Now, with the former Vice President and President in jail, the world’s eyes are watching what Guatemala does next. In Guatemala’s first round of voting for a new president, which occurred on September 6, Jimmy Morales, a comedian with no political experience won the first round. (This election had already been scheduled before Molina’s resignation.) A run-off election will occur on October 25, between Morales and former first lady Sandra Torres. Morales is running on a simple platform of “Not corrupt, not a thief” and is touting his position as an outsider, while Torres is reminding the country of the social work she did as First Lady. There are lingering questions about each of their abilities to continue to rid the government of corruption.

The battle against corruption is far from won, but today, Guatemala’s Independence Day, is a day to celebrate the hard work done by men and women over the past 365 days to ensure a better future for the citizens of Guatemala. Guatemala has been referred to as one of the worst places in the world to be a child, but the progress made in the past few months makes me hopeful that the impoverished, indigenous children I worked with in Guatemala might grow up to live in a country whose government strives to serve them and their families.

United States to accept (a few) more Syrian refugees

On Thursday, September 10th, President Obama announced that his administration was preparing to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States in Fiscal Year 2016 (October 1, 2016 – September 31, 2016). This number represents a five-fold increase from the fewer than 2,000 refugees accepted into the United States in the past year.

While these numbers sound impressive, the truth is that they do not go far enough in aiding the 4 million refugees who have fled the Syrian Civil War. Countries closest to Syria have absorbed the most refugees; Turkey has accepted over 2 million alone and Lebanon has accepted well over 1 million.

Of course, accepting millions of refugees has taken a toll on these countries, themselves developing nations, and as resources diminish, refugees have begun to look for what’s next. Many refugees have set their sights on Europe, where many empathetic citizens have welcomed them but where leaders have remained startlingly silent on the emerging humanitarian crisis. More than 2,400 refugees have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.

In the face of such an alarming need, this is no time for small actions. Yet, the 10,000 immigrants President Obama is prepared to accept represents way less than what America can and should do to help alleviate the suffering of Syrian refugees.

In May of 2015, a group of fourteen Democratic Senators asked President Obama to allow 65,000 Syrians to settle within the United States in each of the next two years, following a recommendation from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). However, of the 16,000 refugees that have recommended for resettlement in the US by UNHCR, the US has only taken about 10%.

The Republican party also finds itself divided between their moral responsibility to aid refugees and their concerns over national security, a divide sure to make itself known at next week’s GOP primary debate.

While accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees into the US is significant, and especially significant to those individuals and families who build a life in here under this initiative, it is also insufficient and should not be the end of our country’s discussion on how to provide aid to Syrians amidst this unspeakable humanitarian crisis.

Sept 2, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 141

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: A vital ruling by the National Labor Relations Board; the European refugee crisis; Lebanon’s capital protests lack of trash collection. People: Bill, Kelley, Nate. Produced: August 30th, 2015.

Episode 141 (56 min):
AFD 141

Discussion Points:

– Workers’ rights: Major U.S. corporations will no longer be able to shield themselves on labor issues by subcontracting and franchisees will have to face unions.
– Refugees: Is the European Union doing enough to deal with the refugee crisis? Is the world prepared for mass climate refugee situations?
– Lebanon: The people rise up in Beirut as trash goes uncollected for weeks on end.

Related Links

– Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “NLRB ruling could be boost for contract and franchise employees”
The Guardian: “Syrians fleeing war find new route to Europe – via the Arctic Circle”
“Why Al Jazeera will not say Mediterranean ‘migrants'”
AFD: “Real world costs when the Left sells out immigrants”
AFD: Beirut’s Garbage Uprising
AFD: “Lebanon gov’t hastily builds concrete wall, then tears it down”

Subscribe

RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video game blog of our announcer, Justin.

Justin’s Story: Hurricane Katrina’s 10th Anniversary – A Radio Documentary

Description: Justin recounts his evacuation from New Orleans in August 2005, what happened afterward, and what has happened to New Orleans in the 10 years since then. Running time: 1 hour, 2 minutes.
(Interstitial narration by Kelley. Produced by Bill. Recorded during August 2015 in Newton MA and New Orleans LA.)

Documentary

Don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, Justin’s video game blog.

(Image Credit: Vybr8 / Wikipedia) Caption: A merged derivative of two satellite photos of New Orleans. One was taken on March 9, 2004 and another on August 31, 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The middle frame of the three-image gif is a fabricated blend of the two source images.

(Image Credit: Vybr8 / Wikipedia) Caption: A merged derivative of two satellite photos of New Orleans. One was taken on March 9, 2004 and another on August 31, 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The middle frame of the three-image gif is a fabricated blend of the two source images.

Subscribe to our regular talk show:

RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

Why We Should Keep the (Whole) 14th Amendment

Margaret Thatcher once said, “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.” When a country is united by ideals and not bloodlines, defining citizenship is a unique challenge, one that the United States has grappled with time and time again in its history.

In recent weeks, many of those seeking to be the GOP’s candidate for president have begun talk of getting rid of a constitutional amendment in order to redefine who is a citizen. Frontrunner Donald Trump and others would like to see the United States do away with the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to anybody born within US borders and subject to the the jurisdiction of federal laws (i.e. the baby’s parents are not foreign diplomats or have other formal relationships with foreign governments). Rick Ungar, a contributor for Forbes writes:

It turns out that those who have long enjoyed portraying themselves as the “Guardians of our Constitution”, through strict interpretation of the same, and the proponents of law & order as the bulwark of an orderly society — of course I’m speaking of Republicans — are the very folks who no longer have much use for the Constitution when it fails to meet their desires or live up to their expectations.

 
The argument around the 14th Amendment is largely due to frustration over so called “anchor babies”, a derogatory term for babies born to illegal immigrants in the United States supposedly under the pretense that the child will somehow help the parent gain legal status. It is true that for the past 147 years, all children born within US borders are legal US citizens, regardless of their parent’s legal status.

However, the idea that these babies and US citizens are helping to grant their parents legal status in the United States is a fallacy for which there is no legal backing. In fact, in 2011 there were 5,000 children in state care or foster homes because their parents had been deported. In 2013, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement deported 72,410 people who had at least one child who was a US citizen.

Still, the term “anchor baby” and the vitriolic desire to get rid of the 14th Amendment persist. The amendment was a Reconstruction Amendment, adopted on July 9, 1868, with the goal of providing citizenship to African-Americans who had formerly been slaves with no protection under the law. The Citizenship Clause of the Amendment overruled the Supreme Court’s findings in Dred Scott v. Sanford, which stated that African-Americans, even those who were free, were not American citizens and therefore could not sue in federal court.

When the 14th Amendment was originally debated, there were a few mentions of children born to immigrants on the debate floor. However, in 1868 there was no limit to immigration into the United States, meaning there was no illegal immigration at the time of the amendment’s adoption. In 1898, the Supreme Court cleared this up in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, by ruling that the children of immigrants born in the US are indeed entitled to citizenship.

Since that time, America has continued to grapple with immigrant policy and citizenship laws, but with little exception, those born within the borders of the United States are citizens of our country. While American immigration policy leaves much to be desired, the 14th Amendment has provided continuity and stability to the definition of citizen. Our country’s greatness is derived from the diversity of our citizens and the uniqueness of our history. Paternity tests or another arbitrary way to obtain citizenship would rob future generations of the philosophy and ideology on which this country was founded and continues to grow.

14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, section 1. (National Archives of the United States.)

14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, section 1. (National Archives of the United States.)

Aug 19, 2015 – Ep. 139: Interview with Amb. Nicholas Burns

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Guest expert Ambassador Nicholas Burns on the Iran nuclear deal. And: Discussion of the Republican debate and Planned Parenthood. Hosts: Bill, Kelley, Nate. Produced: August 14th and 16th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– The details and benefits of the Iran deal from Ambassador Nicholas Burns, former lead U.S. negotiator
– Nate, Kelley, and Bill discuss the first Republican debate and the Trump phenomenon
– Kelley explains the latest opposition to Planned Parenthood

Episode 139 (56 min):
AFD 139

Guest Bio: Nicholas Burns

Ambassador Burns is the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and Faculty Chair for the Programs on the Middle East and on India and South Asia. The Diplomacy Project focuses Harvard’s students, fellows and faculty on the importance of diplomacy in the 21st century global environment. He is also a member of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board, Director of the Aspen Strategy Group, and Senior Counselor at the Cohen Group.

As a career Foreign Service Officer, he was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2008; the State Department’s third-ranking official when he led negotiations on the U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement; and was the lead U.S. negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program. He has also served as the U.S. Ambassador to NATO and Greece and State Department Spokesman.

Related Links for Segments 2 and 3

CBS News: Trump on Iraq and Jeb Bush
Business Insider: “Jeb Bush: ‘Taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal'”
AFD: “The surge is a lie. A really dangerous lie.”
AFD: “When The Party’s Over: The 1820s in US Politics”
Washington Post: “Ben Carson’s tortured defense of his fetal tissue research”
Washington Post: “How Planned Parenthood actually uses its federal funding”

Subscribe

RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

What is the debate about Planned Parenthood really about?

Hint: it’s certainly not about science.

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Since the release of five highly doctored videos of Planned Parenthood executives appearing to sell fetuses, much has been said about Planned Parenthood and the women who use their services. However, few people appear to have asked “Who was buying fetal tissue and why?” Little attention has been paid to the importance of research on fetal tissue and the typically bipartisan support that this research receives. (Even Senator Mitch McConnell, now spearheading the effort to defund Planned Parenthood, voted to support the donation of fetal tissue from abortions in 1993.)

On July 29, 2015, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards sent a much-ignored letter to the director of the National Institute of Health. She wrote:

“It has become clear in the ensuing public debate … that there is widespread confusion about fetal tissue research and that government officials, medical researchers, health care providers, and the public could benefit from a review of the research and the procedures surrounding it by an independent expert panel. The last time such a review occurred was in 1988 during the Reagan Administration. We believe it may be time for another expert panel to examine these issues in light of the advancements achieved in medicine over the past 27 years.”

 
The 1988 panel to which Richards refers was overseen by a conservative judge opposed to abortion. Nonetheless, “a decisive majority of the panel found that it was acceptable public policy to support transplant research with fetal tissue.” The panel even concluded that aborted fetuses were acceptable donations to the medical community, so long as the decision to abort a fetus and decisions regarding the time or method of abortion were not interfered with in order to collect the tissue.

Fetal tissue is no longer a central focus of transplant research, but remains important for many other kinds of medical discovery, including the study of birth defects, genetic causes of diseases, and even possible cures for degenerative disease, such as Parkinson’s Disease. Researchers at MIT are even able to use fetal tissue to implant the human immune system into mice, allowing them to study tumors and human responses without using human test subjects.

Fetal tissue has a long history of being incredibly valuable in the medical field, most notably in the development of vaccines. In the mid-1960’s, an aborted fetus allowed researchers to isolate the Rubella virus and develop the vaccine for the deadly disease which is still used today. The researcher central to this discovery, Stanley Plotkin, spoke out:

“Human fetal cell strains, derived from voluntary abortions, have been extremely important for vaccine development, specifically for rabies, rubella, hepatitis A, and chicken pox. It is important to understand that the cell [lines] are stored and no new abortions are done to produce those vaccines.”

 
(The last line is presumably meant to clarify that the fetal cells are used only in the research and development phase, not the actual manufacture of the developed vaccines. –Ed.)

Richards’ letter to the NIH explains the limited, but important role that Planned Parenthood plays in fetal tissue donation. Planned Parenthood exists in all 50 states, but currently, in only five states are women able to donate tissue through Planned Parenthood. She writes:

“We participate in fetal tissue donation and occasionally partner in research not because this research is a core part of our mission, but because we are supporters of medical research and serve women who chose to make donations.”

 
In an editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the influential journal threw their full support behind Planned Parenthood and their work:

“We strongly support Planned Parenthood not only for its efforts to channel fetal tissue into important medical research but also for its other work as one of the country’s largest providers of health care for women, especially poor women. The contraception services that Planned Parenthood delivers may be the single greatest effort to prevent the unwanted pregnancies that result in abortions…We thank the women who made the choice to help improve the human condition through their tissue donation; we applaud the people who make this work possible and those who use these materials to advance human health.”

 
An opinion piece in the Washington Post this week brought into light the similarities between the policies of Planned Parenthood and the donations of fertilized embryos by in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics. The author, Margo Kaplan, an associate professor at Rutgers Law School, believes that one of the biggest differences between perceptions of the two donations is which women are making the donation.

Women who donate through the IVF clinic are women who want to become mothers and have waited a long time to get the treatment. (Oh, and they are typically white and wealthy.) Those women who decide to end a pregnancy at a Planned Parenthood clinic are admonished by society for their “irresponsible lifestyles” and unwillingness to become mothers at the moment.

It seems to me that if the outrage that has continued to smolder since the public viewing of these doctored videos was truly over the use sale of fertilized embryos and the use of fetal tissue in research, people would be talking about those things. (GOP Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson himself used fetal tissue in research, but claims that since the specimen was already dead when he used it, he is in no way in the wrong.) Instead, once again, it appears that the target of the public’s thinly-veiled outcry is actually the women who use the services of Planned Parenthood.