Aboriginal prisoner was cooked to death in security van


Mr. Ward

A coroner has found that an Aboriginal man was “cooked to death” after he spent four hours in the back of a security van in searing heat with no air conditioning as it drove across the goldfields of south-west Australia.

The 46-year-old Aboriginal elder suffered third degree burns after collapsing in the heat and falling to the floor of the van while it travelled 250 miles from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in 117ºF heat.

Ward, whose first name cannot be used because of an Aboriginal cultural prohibition that forbids relatives from naming their dead, had been arrested a day earlier in January 2008 for drink driving.

He was given one pint of water before boarding the van but the coroner found he died before he could finish drinking it…

The West Australian coroner, Alistair Hope, found that Ward was effectively “cooked” to death and heavily criticised the state prisons department, the private security firm that operated the van and the two guards who escorted Ward.

“It is a disgrace that a prisoner in the 21st century, particularly a prisoner who has not been convicted of any crime, was transported for a long distance in high temperatures,” Hope said. The security guards, who did not check to see if he needed a toilet break, food or water, had breached their duty of care.

Little need to point out the racist traditions in Australia and the likelihood of the role that played in the mistreatment of this prisoner – leading to his death.

Next up? Whitewashing the penalties accorded the security guards.

Irish unity of orange and green can be achieved


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

SINN FÉIN president Gerry Adams has told Irish-Americans that a united Ireland is within reach but he said that it will require a massive effort, including “huge outreach” to unionists…

“Our struggle has taken many forms, sometimes armed, sometimes electoral, sometimes peaceful. We’ve fought on all fronts. We have suffered. Others have suffered also,” he said.

With your support, we have made progress. There is an end to armed conflict . . . and I believe the political and economic dynamics in Ireland today make a united Ireland a realisable and realistic objective in a reasonable period of time.”

The Sinn Féin leader told the conference, which drew a capacity audience to a vast ballroom at the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan, that this generation could make a united Ireland a reality. “It will require thoughtful strategies, huge outreach to our unionist brothers and sisters and a patient process of nation-building to unite orange and green,” he said.

Brendan O’Leary, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, spelt out some of the steps that would be necessary to unite the two parts of Ireland…

Before the start of the conference, Mr Adams told The Irish Times that Sinn Féin’s poor performance in recent elections could not be seen as evidence of a lack of enthusiasm in the South for a united Ireland.

“Irish unity is bigger than Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin doesn’t have a monopoly and doesn’t want a monopoly on that primary national issue,” he said.

Sith gun robh so…

Cellphones replacing landlines for the poor


Leon Simmons, disabled with emphysema, has a free Tracfone

John Cobb, 59, a former commercial fisherman who is disabled with cirrhosis of the liver and emphysema, lives in a studio apartment in Greensboro, N.C., on a fixed monthly income of $674. He has been hoping to receive more government assistance, and in February, he did.

It came in the form of a free cellphone and free service.

Mr. Cobb became one of a small but rapidly growing number of low-income Americans benefiting from a new wrinkle to a decades-old federal law that provided them with subsidized landline telephone service.

In a twist, wireless carriers are receiving subsidies to provide people like Mr. Cobb with a phone and typically 68 minutes of talk time each month. It is a form of wireless welfare that puts a societal stamp on the central role played by the mobile device.

Mr. Cobb’s cellphone is a Motorola 175. “I feel so much safer when I drive. If I get sick, I can call someone. If I break down, I can call someone,” Mr. Cobb said. “It’s a necessity…”

Since November, the number of customers receiving free or subsidized wireless service has doubled to 1.4 million, he said. To be eligible for the program, known as Lifeline, a person must meet federal low-income guidelines or qualify for one of a handful of social service programs, including food stamps or Medicaid.

The opportunity has prompted interest from the nation’s biggest carriers, including Sprint Nextel and AT&T. But at the forefront is a much smaller company, Tracfone, a Florida provider of prepaid mobile service that has become the face of the fledgling subsidized cellphone.

Tracfone began providing its service, called SafeLink, in Tennessee in August and now does so in 16 states, including New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia, according to its Web site. Each time it enters a market — which generally requires state approval — it runs television ads telling people how easy it is to get a free Motorola phone, like Mr. Cobb’s…

Tracfone, whose paid service has 10 million subscribers, sees the Lifeline service as an opportunity to make some money but, more pointedly, to eventually convert the subsidized customers into paying ones if their fortunes turn around and they no longer qualify for a free phone.

RTFA. Lots more detail than I’m offering here. Looks like a win-win even with some exposure of how meager costs actually are for wireless providers. Certainly no reason to feel sorry for the profits drawn from marginal accounts.

Also – a landmark – with “official” recognition of how the cellphone has replaced landlines.

Microsoft to employees: We’ll only subsidize WinMo smartphones!

Microsoft-approved

Like many large companies, Microsoft has been trimming costs in places in response to the global economic downturn…It also means scaling back perks. On the chopping block? Apple iPhone, RIM BlackBerry and Palm Pre service plans.

Regardless if the iPhone or BlackBerry is used for work purposes, Microsoft says if an employee wants to use one, it’s on his or her own dime, according to Business Insider.

The only phones Microsoft will pay for? Windows Mobile-powered smartphones, naturally.

Many companies do not reimburse employees for personal mobile devices, but that wasn’t the case at Microsoft (until now)…But questions remain about the move, such as:

If it didn’t affect that many staffers, why make the move at all? Just how much money is Microsoft saving if employees pay for the phones?

Aren’t data plans fairly similar in price?

If Windows Mobile is deemed inferior to the competition, what’s the use? Why frustrate employees?

The policy…poses less a financial question than a cultural one: if Microsoft employees don’t naturally gravitate toward in-house devices (say, the way Google employees do), isn’t that indicative that more work must be done in the mobile department?

It’s called employee loyalty. Something I’ve always endorsed in my own life, wherever I worked. If I thought a firm was worthwhile enough for me to spend my waking hours helping their sales – their products should be something I found useful and desirable on my own.

Sounds like Microsoft isn’t winning that discussion.

Two reporters jailed for violating Israeli censorship


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Two journalists for Iranian Television were convicted of violating the Israeli military censor during Operation Cast Lead.

Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem, they were found guilty Sunday of relaying information to the enemy for reporting live Israeli troop movements near the Gaza border. They were sentenced to two months in prison along with six months probation.

They reported the beginning of Israel’s military incursion into Gaza despite the censor’s orders. The original charge was suspicion of espionage.

The report on Israeli troop movements was broadcast Jan. 3 in Iran and on Arabic satellite stations, including those broadcasting in Gaza, placing Israeli soldiers’ lives at risk, the court said.

Always a good excuse. The Free Press is an early victim of fascism. Every time.

Clinic and travel agency offer gay marriage/pregnancy combo tour

As niche package tours go it is one of the most original and precisely targeted. As of this week, British lesbians are being invited to dig into their pockets, catch a flight to the Spanish costas and come back either pregnant, married or both.

The offer comes from a fertility clinic and a gay and lesbian travel agency, which have launched joint package tours to what has now become one of the most socially tolerant countries in Europe.

Together they have spotted a growing trend among British lesbians, who increasingly travel to clinics in liberal Spain for insemination treatment, which has become more difficult in Britain since sperm donors lost the right to remain anonymous in 2005.

“We noticed the increase in British women coming to us as soon as the law was changed,” said Dr Rafael Bernabeu, founder of the Instituto Bernabeu clinic in Alicante, eastern Spain. “Here we can still offer that anonymity, so people are coming to us…”

The guarantee of anonymity means Spanish clinics have few problems finding sperm and egg donors, whose numbers fell dramatically in Britain after 2005 as people worried about getting a knock on the door in 18 years’ time.

Unlike some other countries in Europe, Spain does not require those wanting fertility treatment to be married. “As long as you are in control of your mental faculties, then you can do it,” said Bernabeu.

That leaves out most Republicans. Har!

RTFA. Some pretty sharp marketing smarts in Spain. If your brain has made it to the 21st Century, you probably won’t imagine any problems more difficult than any other marriage and pregnancy.

Ex-Dustbowl has jobs and affordable homes – unlike California

Fleeing the Great Depression and a drought unprecedented in American history, a vast wave of Oklahomans and Texans dubbed “Okies” loaded everything they could onto crowded vehicles during the 1930s and headed west for California. Today, in huge numbers, their grandchildren are moving back…

As California housing prices went wild in the middle of this decade, hundreds of thousands of residents scratched their heads and moved to places where homes were still affordable, state and federal statistics show. When prices started falling and unemployment started rising, many continued to leave California for healthier job markets.

The result was five consecutive years when California saw more residents going to other states than coming. Although many stayed closer to home – Nevada, Oregon, Arizona – the mid-South saw a large influx.

From 2004 through 2007, about 275,000 Californians left the Golden State for the old Dust Bowl states of Oklahoma and Texas, twice the number that left those two states for California, recent Internal Revenue Service figures show. In fact, the mid-South gained more residents from California during those four years than either Oregon, Nevada or Arizona. The trend continued into 2008…

Ask these Okies-in-reverse why they traded the Golden State for the Sooner State – named for settlers who came there sooner than the Homestead Act allowed – and you’ll hear a lot of similar themes: easier to find a job; cheaper to buy or rent a home; better place to make a fresh start. Ask them why they stay in Oklahoma and they’ll add to that list a deep optimism that it’s a place where things are about to take off.

“Oklahoma City is like Sacramento back when the Kings were in the playoffs,” said Branddon Jones, 26, who moved about a year ago to get out of Del Paso Heights. “It’s growing. You can get a job. It’s just crazy.”

Makes sense to me. It’s a lot like that here in New Mexico.