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Living-Today: Issues of modern living

By United Press International   |   March 4, 2002 at 4:45 AM   |   Comments

CAMP X-RAY

The Pentagon says prisoners at Camp X-ray in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, will be allowed to wear turbans but must submit them to periodic security checks.

A prisoner fashioned a turban from a sheet Wednesday morning and guards ordered him to remove it. The prisoner was praying at the time and did not respond to repeated requests to remove the headdress -- a concern to guards because it could hide a weapon.

The turban's forced removal sparked a hunger strike that two-thirds of the 300 prisoners were participating in by Thursday night. On Friday, it was announced that the prisoners can wear the turbans -- traditional headdress for many Islamic sects -- but must submit to random security checks.

Some detainees have been at the prison camp for seven weeks with no word whether they will face trial in U.S. courts, military court, a special tribunal or whether they will be returned to their home countries. The ambiguity arises because the U.S. government has taken the position that the Taliban are prisoners of war covered by the Geneva Conventions but that the al Qaida prisoners are not POWs.


TORNADO MAGNETS

People who live in mobile homes are 20 times as likely to die in tornadoes as occupants of fixed dwellings.

That's according to Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., who said in 1960 only about 2 percent of people in the southeastern United States lived in mobile homes. By 1990 it had increased to 13 percent. In the rest of the country, mobile home dwellers increased from 1.5 percent to 6 percent.

"The death rate of people in mobile homes and in permanent homes has stayed roughly the same for years," he said. "But now as we get larger numbers of people in mobile homes we're seeing more deaths in them."

Brooks -- a speaker at the 2002 National Severe Weather Workshop, held in Norman last weekend -- said 25 years ago, one-fourth of tornado deaths were in mobile homes. In 1990 it was one-third and today it is about half.

Statistics from the May 3, 1999, tornadoes that killed 36 people in Oklahoma City alone illustrate the peril, he said. Eleven of the direct fatalities were in mobile homes, but there were only 100 mobile homes hit by the twisters while 8,000 permanent homes were damaged.

"Everyone knows it," he said of the danger. "But it is much less expensive to live in mobile homes, especially in rural areas. If I built my little house out in the country it would cost 30 to 40 percent more to get some construction guys to haul the material out there and go build the house. It's a socio-economic thing."


THE 'SPANISH-LANGUAGE DEBATE' DEBATE

One candidate's refusal to speak entirely in Spanish became an issue last Friday night in an historic Spanish-language debate between the leading candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Texas.

Dan Morales -- a former two-term Texas attorney general -- answered reporters' questions in both Spanish and English during the hour-long debate with Tony Sanchez, a Laredo millionaire. The Spanish-language debate was billed as the first ever in the nation between gubernatorial candidates and recognition of the growing political power of Hispanics in the United States.

Sanchez said Morales had violated the negotiated rules that they would only answer questions in Spanish, and that it was a "slap in the face" to the 7 million Latinos who live in Texas.

But Morales said it was important to communicate with all voters, including those who are Hispanic and speak only Spanish. "I also believe the great majority of the voters in the state of Texas, including those who are Hispanic, speak English," he said.

In an English debate earlier in the evening, Morales said he was proud of his Hispanic heritage but that English is the dominant language in Texas and the United States. "I think we need to promote the fact that children should learn to speak English as quickly as they can," he said.

Nearly one third of Texas' 21 million residents are Hispanic, according to the 2000 Census. In the 1990s, the state's Latino population increased more than 50 percent so it comes as no surprise that politicians are speaking more Spanish.

Hispanics are also taking more interest in the Democratic gubernatorial race this year because of Morales and Sanchez campaigns. The winner of the May 12 primary will face Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has been taking Spanish lessons but has no intention of debating either candidate in the language, according to his spokeswoman.

(Thanks to UPI's Phil Magers in Dallas)

Topics: Rick Perry
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