Monthly Archives: January 2002

Arthur Andersen

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Accounting, it’s the systematic recording and interpretation of financial accounts. There’s nothing in the definition about the systematic shredding of paperwork, or the systematic deletion of e-mails… but the latest details of a scrambling Arthur Andersen trying to cover its cozy relationship with the bankrupt Enron is threatening the reputation of an entire profession, and it may mean the end of Andersen itself. In a business where reputation is the most valuable asset, Andersen now faces the very public accusation that it was either sloppy or stupid or crooked. Re-establishing public and market confidence the U-S audit system as a guarantee of business integrity is an even bigger issue. Credible or criminal, the badly counted beans of Arthur Anderson


Lynn Turner, former Chief Accountant for the US Securities and Exchange Commission

Barbara Toffler, Adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School, formerly head of the Ethics and Responsible Business Practices Consulting Service at Arthur Andersen

and Floyd Norris, Chief Financial Correspondent for the New York Times.

Debate Within the Ebony Tower

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Perhaps nowhere is the role of the scholar so constantly questioned, revised, reviewed and criticized, as in the growing field of African-American scholarship. This field is no stranger to controversy. “Black studies” was born in the late 1960’s as an academic protest movement against racial inequity, inequality and injustice. But today, much of the questioning of the mission of black studies comes from scholars within its ranks who feel that, in gaining credibility in the predominantly white world of academe, black studies has become disconnected from the real world problems of African American people and communities. If the principal problems for black remain poverty and prisons, what’s the black intellectual to do?


Raymond Winbush, Director of the Race Relations Institute at Fisk University

Adolph Reed, Professor of Political Science at New School University

Joy James, professor of Africana studies at Brown University

and Ronald Richardson, director of African American Studies at Boston University.

E. O. Wilson and the Future of Life

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Sold. An island in the South Pacific, 680 acres, miles of coral reef, and only 37 million dollars. But don’t call the new owners to see if they’ll flip it so you can knock down a bit of jungle for a tennis court or a golf course. The island, Palmyra, was bought by The Nature Conservancy. It will never again be sold. Nor will it be developed, logged or mined. It’s a conservation strategy that gets a strong boost from famed naturalist E. O. Wilson in his latest book “The Future of Life”. But it’s a strategy that raises some serious questions. About the right of First World do-gooders to scoop up Third World treasures, about the efficacy of setting aside pristine chunks while the biosphere rots, and whether perhaps it’s just too late.


E. O. Wilson, Pellegrino University Research Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and author of “The Future of Life”

Armstrong Wiggins, coordinator of Central and South America projects for the Indian Law Resource Center in Washington DC

and John Fitzpatrick, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University and director of Cornell’s ornithology lab

The Fragile Colombian Peace

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These are tense hours in Colombia. A collapse in peace talks earlier this week brought the nation to the brink of renewed civil war. Although the government and the 18,000 guerrillas known as FARC are talking again, it’s a tenuous and fragile rapprochement, the latest in a long history poisoned by drug money, kidnappings, torture and intimidation. In some respects, it’s an American-made conflict. Cash from cocaine sold on the streets here arms the leftist rebels who challenge the government and the right wing paramilitary groups that help prop it up. Cash from Washington equips the Colombian army, but America is conspicuously absent from the peace table. Guns, cocaine, firefights in the jungle and one more desperate diplomatic dash for peace.


Ambassador Robert White, President of the Colombia Project at the Center for International Policy

Michael Shifter, Senior Analyst at Inter-American Dialogue

and T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times Colombia correspondent in Bogota.

Studs Terkel

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When Studs Terkel opens his newspaper these days he turns to the obituaries, because Studs is keeping track. At age 89, the man who transformed the story telling of the common man into a high art form of oral history has written about Working, and War, and Race and growing old. Now he’s written the one book he says he never thought he’d write, a book about dying. But the people who tell their stories to Studs are very much alive. Some are characters from his earlier encounters, and there are new faces too, young and old, whose lives have been shaped by proximity to death. They lead us to the same, revelatory place Studs Terkel has always taken us, to a deeper understanding of ourselves.


Studs Terkel, Pulitzer Prize-winner and author of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”

The Politics of Enron

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They’re circling like vultures, and with good reason. The House Energy Committee, Senate Governmental Affairs, House Financial Services and more. Plus a special task force of the Justice Department, the S.E.C. and a herd of lawyers. They’re all crowding around to carve into the bankrupt carcass of Enron. The huge energy company made Texan-sized political donations to the President and a long list of lawmakers from both parties. Now Enron is providing another kind of political fodder, the grist of scandal, coming into an election year no less. But the politicians know there’s danger in the hunt, that the benefit of such a scandal can be lost if all the public sees is birds of prey enjoying a blood bath. It’s a delicate dance in DC.


Larry Noble, Executive Director for Center for Responsive Politics

Lanny Davis, former Special Counsel to President Clinton

Congressman Bernard Sanders of Vermont

Remembering Mark Twain

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Quarter twain, quarter twain, MARK Twain! It was the call of the steamboat leadsman announcing the depth of the river at “twain,” two fathoms, that gave a pen name to America’s best loved humourist. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, himself once a riverboat pilot, never actually planned to be a writer, but his wide-ranging travels during the Civil War persuaded him otherwise. And yet for all the affection with which we regard Mark Twain today, recent examinations of the man reveal a darker, more unsettled side, a man who blamed himself for the deaths of daughters and brothers, and found, in that grieving, the breezy, sharp wit that earned him such fame. We’re plumbing the depths of the man and the writer, comprehending Clemens, fathoming Twain.


Ron Powers, author of “Dangerous Water: A Biography of the Boy Who Became Mark Twain”

Hal Holbrook, actor

and Dayton Duncan, co-author of “Mark Twain, An Illustrated Biography.”

U.S. Auto Industry

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Motor City metal, American cars, the Big Three. For generations they’ve been the engine of this nation’s economy, but American car-makers are looking at a rough road ahead. It’s happened before: Chrysler, GM and Ford have hauled themselves back from economic doom, most recently with mini-vans and sport utilities doing the pulling. But foreign manufacturers continue their assault on market share. North America’s “Car of the Year” is a Nissan. Toyota is just a couple of percentage points from nudging Chrysler out of the Big Three. 10 years ago the nation rallied behind a campaign to “Buy American.” It’s a quieter call today. Its meaning less clear, as Honda and the others have dozens of factories here, and thousands of American employees.


: Csaba Csere, editor-in-chief of Car and Driver Magazine

John Millbrook, VP of Sales and Brand Marketing for GM

and Sean McAlinden, Director of the Economics & Business Group at the Center for Automotive Research.

The Legacy of Yves St. Laurent

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Even the man’s initials speak of fame and fashion. YSL. At age 65, the Paris based fashion designer Yves St. Laurent is saying “ca suffit,” that’s enough. Later this month, 40 years since his first show as the enfant terrible of haute couture, he’ll show his last collection. Some in the catty world of fashion say his creativity retired years ago. But others say his legacy will last long after today’s designers are forgotten, because he understands what women want: to be sexy and powerful and wear the pants from time to time. It’s hard to remember when pants suits weren’t chic. Yves St. Laurent made them so. He also gave women the trench coat, the safari look and the see through blouse. Clothes that changed the way we see each other.


Hamish Bowles, European editor-at-large for American Vogue Magazine

Valerie Steele, author of “The Corset: A Cultural History” and chief curator for the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology

and Nan Kempner, a collector of Yves St. Laurent’s designs.

The New Face of the ACLU

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The American Civil Liberties Union seems to be having more luck dealing with foreign governments than with Washington these days. Under the guidance of its new boss, Anthony Romero, the ACLU is offering to help the consulates of imprisoned immigrants to build a case against the detentions of September 11. And while Attorney General John Ashcroft accuses the ACLU of trying to scare the public by conjuring up “the phantoms of lost liberties,” Romero is reaching out to gun owners and religious conservatives, go figure, trying to convince them, along with a frightened American public, that the ACLU is the last and best bulwark against the erosion of the constitution. Anthony Romero, on life as a “card-carrying member,” post September 11.


Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union.