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26 January 2017

Oh, What a Day! 26January

Remember how we have talked about BBC's World Service which comes on at midnight on NPR's WNIJ, and everything is so suspiciously USA-centric?  Well, 26January is Australia Day (or for aborigines, "Invasion Day") and it seemed last night on the other side of the International Date Line that Australia was getting full press.

There was an in-depth report on campaigns on cigarette smoking and what works/does not work.  Australia is the first and thus far, only country banning any graphics or promotional printing on the package (plain white wrapper, please!) and one pack now costs AUD$28.  Since we're not talking third-world chump change here, this translates to about USD$30.

Then, there was the Witness program which interviewed a man who had joined the "Aboriginal Tent Embassy" on the lawn in front of Parliament House in 1972, after the Australian government basically took away or denied aborigines of basic citizenship.  Since aborigines were declared aliens in the country, then, four activists decided that as aliens, they should create an embassy, just like other aliens.  It turned out that at that time, there were no restrictions against pitching a tent on the Parliament House lawn unless there were more than 11 of them.  More people joined them and white Australians also lent support.  Then, in July, a law was passed making it illegal to camp out on the Parliament House lawn and overnight, police ruthlessly cleared them out.  Even while they were young at the time, less than 21 years old, only one of the original four activists survives today, highlighting the still abysmal health care conditions which aborigines face, resulting in a life expectancy of only half of that of white Australians.

And, even in sports headlines, the BBC World Service was delighted to tell us that Serena and Venus Williams are excited to face each other in the Australia Tennis Open Women's Finals, after handily defeating a Czech and a fellow American named Coco.

See how much about Australia one can learn lying awake listening to the radio?

On another note, 26January is also the birthday of Bessie Coleman.  There is a Bessie Coleman Drive at O'Hare Airport, and Larry has always accused Carolyn of not being curious enough.  Larry not only did not know who Bessie Coleman was, but he did not even ever notice Bessie Coleman Drive. Google Doodle for the day led to learning that Bessie Coleman was the first American woman aviator of African-American and of Native American (Cherokee!) descent.  Reading about her makes one think most of us are just cruising through life and not contributing enough.  She worked two jobs to make enough money to go to flight school.  As no American flight schools accepted blacks or women, she first learned French and then, went to Paris to learn to fly.  She later opened up a beauty salon to earn money for her own plane.  She hoped to open a flight school for young black aspiring aviators.  Her death is a waste, though, if we don't learn two lessons from it:  A good pilot always checks out his plane first before okaying it for take-off.  And, always wear your seatbelt (or something to keep you protected from falling 2000 ft out of a Curtiss JN-4 (of the Inverted Jenny stamp fame).

That, of course, reminds me of the first book that I read which included the Inverted Jenny stamp, Lawrence Sander's first Archy McNally title, McNally's Secret, now sadly out of print.

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