Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003  

Around the world

  • A foot of a different color
  • Usually, the color of someone's skin shouldn't matter. But, perhaps there are times when it does.

    LONDON (Reuters) - A black woman due to have her lower leg amputated was offered a white false foot and told she would have to pay extra if she wanted one that matched her skin, she said Monday.

    Ingrid Nicholls, 46, said she was told at the state-funded hospital in Oxford, central England, that she would have to pay about $4,725 for a prosthetic limb that matched her skin color.

    The cost of the white foot would have been covered by the National Health Service.

    "If you've got to have an amputation, you should be allowed to have an artificial limb in the color that is relevant to your skin," she told Reuters.

    "It's not cosmetic. Who would want to look like a freak, having one white leg and one black one -- nobody."

    A spokeswoman for the Thames Valley Strategic Health Authority said there had been an internal misunderstanding over funding and that the health service would pay for Nicholls to be fitted with the appropriate false limb.

    "This has caused a real problem for this patient and we need to sort it out," the spokeswoman said. "We are sorry for the upset and hurt that has been caused."

    The situation, if it happened as described in the news item, sounds fishy. The entire cost of an artificial limb would not be anywhere near the amount cited for applying a tint to the plastic covering. It sounds as if the people at the hospital just wanted to harass her. I've heard of that happening at clinics and hospitals here in the States. (For people not familiar with discrimination, a surprising number of white folks consider the kind of harassment Nicholls appears to have undergone funny.)

    However, I believe medical differences among patients of different 'races' are usually exaggerated. For example, as quiet as it is kept, most organ transplants patients of color receive in America come from white donors. But, so much publicity is focused on finding racially matching donors that the public may not realize that tissue and blood type matching are what matter most.

    Skin tone matching may become a non-issue. Increasingly, prosthetics eschew the cover-up. Many artificial feet and legs function better if not disguised as natural limbs.

  • Religious rampage kills 40
  • Religious practices are often vexing whether they occur Alabama or New Delhi. While a judge with neo-Confederate ties tries to impose a monument of the Ten Commandments in the former, scores of people died rushing a holy river in the latter.

    40 people are feared dead and 30 others injured after a stampede broke out at the Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela in western India.

    While Indian police have only confirmed 29 deaths so far, other officials said 40 bodies had been brought to hospitals in the area.

    The stampede Wednesday came as an estimated 4 million Hindus crowded to bathe in the Godavari River at Nasik, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) northeast of India's financial capital of Mumbai.

    Police say a barricade apparently gave way as tens of thousands of pilgrims pressed against it, on one of the holiest days of the festival.

    . . .CNN's Suhasini Haidar, who attended a bathing festival at Nasik earlier this month, said the rite has been associated with stampedes in the past.

    "There are so many people, it's just a mass of humanity that's all crowding into this one river ... going through very, very narrow lanes," she said.

    In 1999, 51 pilgrims died after a stampede caused a landslide at a Hindu shrine in southern India. The stampede began when a rope meant to channel the flow of people snapped.

    Though not considered in the story, there will likely be another type of injuries and deaths related to the festival. The holy rivers Indians bathe in during various religious observances are terribly polluted.

  • Thai agency says no to racy lyrics
  • The Thai government is having a heck of a time with songs it disapproves of. A government agency says lyrics such as those to "Big, Flabby Buttocks," destroy Thais' morals.

    Thailand's government wants to ban 18 love songs from radio and television, because they say the lyrics could promote promiscuity or infidelity.

    Officials claim the songs about love affairs are offensive to public decency.

    A government spokesman said the songs had "improper" content and should be banned.

    One of the songs contains the lines: "My wife has had an affair, it's the talk of the town, She left years of marriage and our children behind, My blue-blooded sweetheart, you don't care about morals, Always acting like Western stars do."

    Songwriter Suthep Wongkamhaeng said he was surprised his song, "Wrong Way to Love," faces a ban nearly 20 years after its release, reports The Nation.

    The government agency believes its plans are benign.

    The ministry says it wants state-run radio and television to stop using all the songs on the list.

    Announcing the list Thursday, MR Chakrarot Chitrabongs, permanent secretary to the culture ministry, said he did not think the ban was in any way an infringement of individual rights.

    Instead, allowing such songs to be played on air could be construed as violating the rights of people who disliked them, The Nation quoted him as saying.

    Rather than being overly conservative, he said the agency was simply doing its job preventing negative changes to Thai society.

    Aside from "Big Flabby Buttocks" ("Tai Aon Yaon"), songs featured on the ministry's blacklist include such titles as "Secret Lover" ("Choo Tang Jai"), "One Woman, Two Men" ("Nueng Ying, Song Chai") and "I Know That, But I Still Love You" ("Tang Roo Koh Rak").

    As some of you know, I've struggled with whether I want to continue listening to songs with lyrics I consider objectional on my stereo and iPod. However, I consider such decision-making to be personal, not the bailiwick of government anywhere.

    posted by J. | 12:28 PM

    Tuesday, August 26, 2003  

    Fiction Bonus: Michael Swanwick

    Science fiction and fantasy writer Michael Swanwick publishes much of his work to the web. The very short story below is from his online series Periodic Table of Science Fiction, based on the periodic table of the elements.

    45 Rh Rhodium 102.9055

    Cecil Rhodes in Hell

    Cecil Rhodes is remembered today as a statesman, an industrialist, and a leader of men. If you're white, that is. The inhabitants of the lands he seized and exploited remember him differently.

    Cecil John Rhodes was 17 when he arrived in South Africa. By age 25, he was a millionaire, a founder of the De Beers diamond company, and the beneficiary of myriad sharp dealings with local farmers.

    But his goal was not wealth. He was an imperialist. He wanted to make all of Africa -- and the former American colonies too, if possible -- part of the British Empire. In 1888, he met with Lobengula, a leader of the Ndebele, and through deceit and deliberate mistranslation got him to agree to British mining and colonization of lands between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. The land grab was on! Rhodes and his private army marched northwards, making their own laws and declaring their own government. By 1895, Lobengula was dead, the Ndebele were a defeated people, forced labor was a commonplace, and the country was known as "Rhodesia."

    In 1902, at age 49, Rhodes died. At his request, he was buried atop a mountain near his estates that he neither knew nor cared was sacred ground to the Ndebele. For his sins, he went directly to Hell.

    As a matter of policy, the denizens of Hell are normally kept ignorant of all events on Earth. There are always exceptions, however. Years after his death, a panel of historians met in solemn deliberation and decided that in terms of brutality and sheer mindless savagery, Rhodes was the second worst tyrant that Europe had ever imposed upon Africa. The first, of course, being King Leopold II of Belgium.

    The Devil heard the news and gleefully told his imps to cease their tortures long enough to pass it along.

    When Rhodes heard that he had only placed second, his agony was redoubled.

    ©2002 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.

    Swanwick is the author of several novels, including Bones of the Earth, Being Gardner Dozois and Stations of the Tide. His work is also widely anthologized.

    posted by J. | 7:02 AM