Tanning beds and a Facebook queen


There are a few words, images and symbols that have caused me anxiety over my lifetime.
Coastal Point • Ryan Saxton

For instance, hearing my mother shout out my entire name while I was up to some form of nefarious activity would cause instant paralysis. Same goes for various older boys in my neighborhood when I was a kid, Klan symbols and the concept of ever finding my dashing bald self sitting in a Russian prison.

Admittedly, my mother can still strike fear in my heart, I still wouldn’t want to run into Tony Jackson under the wrong circumstances, racism continues to haunt me and, well, as far as the Russian prisons go ...

A Reuters headline this week kind of sums it up: “Prison to install sunbeds for inmates.”

Apparently, the Butyrka prison in central Moscow, a notorious 19th century facility that once housed Adolf Hitler’s nephew Heinrich, is installing sunbeds to improve the health of its inmates. National prison service officials said earlier this year that almost half of the country’s inmates are ill — with HIV and tuberculosis offered as examples of the diseases that many inmates have.

Now, installing sunbeds is not the only move the Russian prison system is making to improve the health of its inmates. They will also provide access to ultrasound systems and potentially mud baths, as well as Skype.

Yeah, Skype.

For those unfamiliar with Skype, it is an Internet service that allows relatively cheap voice and video calls. So, if you have a relative that’s being housed in a Russian prison, it’s conceivable that you could get a video call through your computer where you could talk to the inmate while he is lying in a sunbed.

I’d say, “only in America,” but that’s not exactly true, is it?

Technology has indeed muscled its way into nearly every part of life. A story on Yahoo! reported that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has joined Facebook — this supplements the royal family’s social networking activity that was already a presence on Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. A few hours after the page was launched, it was reported that 60,000 people had clicked the “Like” button, allowing those users to receive news feeds from the royal family.

Am I the only one who is envisioning a not-so-distant future where Queen Elizabeth could be chatting it up with a Russian inmate over Skype?

No? I’m alone on this one? Come on! Somebody? Man, you guys know how to leave me out here hanging on a limb. I pour out my soul every week and you can’t throw me a bone here? It’s like I’m on an island of dark and twisted thoughts and ...

But I digress.

We’ll just move on from that last thought and move on to another. Reuters reported late last week that sales of Ford’s Lobo pick-up truck have fallen in Mexico — because of that vehicle’s popularity amongst drug cartel hitmen, and the fear of consumers they will be mistaken as gangsters by police and soldiers.

The drug wars in Mexico have exploded over the past several years, with Mexican authorities reporting that more than 31,000 people have been killed across the country over the past four years. Police and soldiers have been killed by cartels, along with civilians and tourists, and much of the nation is living a fear-gripped existence.

But the question comes to mind — why are Ford Lobos so popular with the cartels, particularly with the hitmen of these cartels?

“It’s a vehicle that is in high demand for committing crimes,” said Gabriel Lopez. “There’s plenty of space in the pick-up’s cabin for more weapons.”

Oh yeah, Lopez, the man who offered the above quote, is not a member of a cartel or law enforcement. He’s the president of Ford in Mexico. Probably not the best advertising logo.