The big news of the day was obviously the events in Iran. It’s always encouraging to see people taking to the streets – and the size of the demonstrations in Tehran (estimated at 100,000 to more than half a million, depending on what source you looked at) along with the government’s obvious unwillingness to crack down hard (despite the seven deaths one death) are particularly encouraging.
However, the news here in the United States seems to be focusing on the demonstrations and the issue of election fraud – Iran is bad – without looking deeper. But over on The Guardian website, you can read Simon Tisdall discussing the role of the deeply unpopular Rafsanjani in the election or a piece in the Comment is Free section arguing that “Ahmadinejad is who Iranians want.”
This, by the way, is similar to the opinion of the guy who runs my neighbourhood café, an Iranian immigrant. He thinks that the Western media, and Iranians overseas, fail to appreciate Ahmadinejad’s popularity with many Iranians – how well he “plays in Peoria.” He believes the election was fraudulent as well – but that Ahmadinejad’s supporters overestimated the amount of ballot stuffing needed, producing the unbelievable, lopsided “result.” I don’t know about that. It does seem that whatever the truth of the election, Iran is going to go through some major changes in the days ahead.
The New York Times had two of its best pieces in weeks today – both op-ed columns: Frank Rich on “The Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers” and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman on the danger of thinking the economy is back on track. These are the kind of intelligent and insightful articles we’ll miss if we are stupid enough to let all the major newspapers disappear.
Also in today’s New York Times you can read about read about Good Guide – a website and iPhone app that give you health and other information on a range of consumer products. And you can get “Updates on Iran’s Disputed Election” in The Lede.
But for me, the most moving news today was about something that happened back in January…
Along with all the major Australian news outlets, The Guardian is reporting on the coroner’s findings in the death of Mr. Ward, an Aboriginal elder in West Australia who died in police custody in January of this year. Mr. Ward “cooked to death” while being transported in a security van as it drove for more than 4 hours through some of the harshest terrain in the country in 47c/116F temperatures. Mr. Ward, a father of two, had been arrested for drunk driving and was being taken in for processing in the West Australia city of Kalgoorlie.
- DPP may charge over death in prison van – The Age
- Prison van firm under scrutiny over death – ABC
- Criminal inquiry call over prison van fatality – The Australian
- Transport contract scrutinised after death of elder – ABC
The van in which Mr. Ward was being transported was operated by a private security firm, GSL, which has also put in a bid for the operation of the prisons in the state of New South Wales [here]. Hopefully, this shocking death will make people rethink the advisability of letting private, for-profit companies handle such activities. Criminal justice is too crucial, and too central to national life to be privatised and run for a profit – by, eg, using vans without air conditioning to hold people in one of the hottest places on earth.
This death in custody comes 20 years after a royal commission in Australia raised serious concerns about the treatment of Aboriginals in police custody. [For a summary of that commission’s findings, see here.]
While the coroner’s report on the death of Mr. Ward was making headlines, it was announced that the inquiry into another Aboriginal death in custody, five years ago on Palm Island, would be re-opened. And today the Australian government’s discrimination watchdog agency criticised human rights laws in Australia as “too weak” [here]. While it was just coincidence that these stories came out while Mr. Ward’s death was still making news, hopefully these coincidences will bring some much needed attention, in Australia and abroad, to the issue of human rights for indigenous Australians.
You can begin reading more about Australian Aboriginals here…