Monthly Archives: August 2002

Water Series #1: Interstate Waters, Conflict and Cooperation

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The story of water is the story of life. It’s also, too often, the story of conflict and death. Thousands fall victim to Mother Nature, in floods and droughts. But beyond natural disaster, nations measure their power in rivers, and in dams.

They play God with huge dam projects: one nation stemming and consuming a river’s flow, leaving dry, others below. The riverbeds of civilization, Nile, Indus, Tigris, Euphrates, connect us as people and as nations. Today those essential links are mightily strained. Some say that by 2025, water shortages will plague as much as half the world’s population.

And while some say scarcity forces us to adapt, others say it spells war. In the first of a 3 part series on water: geo-hydro-politics: conflict and cooperation.


John Briscoe, senior water adviser for the World Bank

Diane Raines Ward, author of “Water Wars: Drought, Flood, Folly and the Politics of Thirst.”

Portrait of a Burger

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Years ago, a young man working as the clown Ronald MacDonald is briefed by the bosses. “What do I tell the kids,” he asks, “when they want to know where Big Macs really come from?” “Tell ‘em they grow in the hamburger patch,” he’s told.

The truth behind the ‘burger patch’ is what Peter Lovenheim probes as he examines the deep disconnect between what we eat and where it comes from. He buys two calves, determined to see them from ‘conception to consumption,’ looking to make sense of the widening gap between city folk and country people.

It’s a two-year journey through the dairy farms, auction barns, county fairs and slaughterhouses of upstate New York. It’s a Portrait of a Burger as Young Calf. I’ll have ketchup, mustard, pickles and controversy. Thanks.


Peter Lovenheim, author of “Portrait Of A Burger As A Young Calf”

The Next Chapter in Business

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When a merchant in medieval Italy couldn’t pay his debts, the authorities came to the market square and smashed his bench, so he couldn’t do business anymore. “Banca rotta” or in Latin, “Bancus Ruptus,” bankrupt. How times have changed.

With all the recent Chapter 11 filings, talk is of “soft landings” for the airlines, the telecoms and energy corporations. Bankrupt merchants in old England might have had their ears nailed to the pillory, while a few might think about going after Ken Lay that way, there’s lots of talk that America’s bankruptcy laws in fact favor corporations over the little guy.

Is this the whining of people in a crashing economy, or is the oft-revised Bankruptcy Act really in need of a fairness fix? When corporations fail, I mean, reorganize.


Margaret Howard, Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University

Bettina Whyte, principal of Alix Partners and president-elect of the American Bankruptcy Institute

Aaron Feuerstein, chief executive of Malden Mills.

Going after Deadbeat Dads

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Say “deadbeat dads”, see fathers cruising yachts and smoking cigars while the kids go without dinner. Truth is that for years, state enforcement agencies have more often gone after low-income dads who’ve fallen behind in court ordered child support payments, some of whom don’t have the money to support even themselves.

Now though, the Bush administration is launching a new federal sweep, rounding up dozens of more affluent recalcitrant fathers, including a retired professional football player. It’s an effort to enforce the law, to take the pressure off of safety net agencies, and it’s meant to send a signal from on high about fiscal family values.

Father-support groups call it more bad politics in an election year.


Sherri Heller, commissioner of the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement

Gerald Rowles, founder of Dads Against the Divorce Industry

and Irwin Garfinkel, author of Fathers Under Fire: The Revolution in Child Support Enforcement

Censorship in Pictures

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Exposure, aperture, light, composition, quick quick quick. Get the shot. Get it in. The work of a photojournalist, life seen through a lens, is complicated enough. Yet before an image appears in the paper, it has to be chosen, cropped and color-adjusted, analyzed by editors, and doctored by artists.

And all those judgments and all those manipulations that stand between us and the photographer, us and the subject, raise the question: do we see, are we seeing, what we were meant to see? Colin Jacobsen has pulled together a collection of photos and essays he calls “Underexposed: Pictures Can Lie and Liars Use Pictures.”

They are the banned, altered, and unseen images of the 20th century, a different look through a darkened lens.


Colin Jacobson – former photo editor for a number of new magazines – including the Economist and the Independent, and Editor of the new book, Underexposed

Michele Stephenson, Director of Photography at Time magazine

and Paul Watson, Pulitzer Prize – winning journalist – currently the South Asian Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times.

Announcing Same Sex Unions

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For a thousand years, Christians have “published the banns” of marriage, announcements of intendeds. So important were the banns early on that if a couple didn’t have them read thrice, the vicar couldn’t tie the knot.

The banns of this age are the local paper’s wedding notices. Appearing on the social page means acknowledgment, recognition and perhaps approval. Gay activists are pressuring papers to include announcements of same sex unions, and this week, the Great Grey Lady said “I do” or at least “I will”.

Some call the New York Times’ decision long overdue – recognition of a change that’s already taken place. Others say it’s not up to a newspaper to bless unions of brides and brides, grooms and grooms. Do you, subscriber, take this paper, to have and to hold?


Joan Garry, Executive Director, GLAAD, Gay and Lesbian
Alliance Against Defamation

Peter Sprigg, Senior Director of Culture Studies, Family Research Council

Michael Bronski, author of “The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash, and the Struggle for Gay Freedom”

Charles Broadwell, Editor of the Fayetteville Observer, Fayetteville, North Carolina

War and Public Opinion

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The president gathers his national security team at the ranch today and it’s not about Iraq. The Crawford Gang meets after a week in which a host of key Republicans poured cold water on White House notions of attacking President Saddam Hussein. And while they say the meeting isn’t about Iraq, of course the subject could come up. Well spank me if it doesn’t.

But even as the administration reconsiders and nuances the Iraq game, complaining about the chatter overseas and in the press, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Bush know full well that they’re the ones who put Desert Storm Part II on the nation’s agenda. At some point, Bush says, he’ll make up his mind. At some point, some argue, Bush also has to forge a national consensus. Crossed lines in the sand.


Jeane Kirkpatrick, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute

Gary Schmitt, executive director of the Project for a New American Century

Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

Change Is In The Air

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Attention all passengers: Fly the friendly skies PLEASE. America’s airlines can’t decide whether to cut jobs, cut flights, or just keep cutting fares as they desperately bid to maintain a trickle of revenue in one of their worst summers ever.

Four airlines have landed in bankruptcy, others circle the tower, and yet, those who do want to fly are finding ever-cheaper fares. Call it the triumph of thrift. Farewell, First Class. Discount airlines and bargain fares are reshaping the industry.

But while it might seem attractive today, some worry the story tomorrow will be longer waits, and “You can’t get there from here.” So, seatbacks in the full upright position, pay attention: it’s a consumer’s look at the future of air travel.


Michael Boyd, president of the Boyd Group/Aviation Systems Research Corporation

David Stempler, president, Air Travelers Association

Satish Jindel, president of SJ Consulting Group

The Al Qaeda Video Library

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Seventeen hours on the back roads of Afghanistan led CNN to a stash of videotapes, perhaps Osama bin Laden’s personal archive. One analyst dubs it “Terrorism 101,” lessons in Assassination, Bomb Building, and Kidnapping.

The headline tape, the TV lead, shows a dying dog, apparently gassed in a chemical weapon test. And once again, questions abound. What do they know? What will they do? What’s to be done? It seems an insight into the scope and status of Al Qaeda as of September 2001, a rolling snapshot of the group’s self-image and vision.

There’s also reason to ask if the video trove itself may serve as propaganda for a group that’s been able again and again to outwit the world’s intelligence agencies. Fast forwarding Osama, and his own dogs of war.


Jim Walsh, expert on chemical and biological weapons at Harvard’s JFK School of Government

Judith Miller, reporter for the New York Times

Rohan Gunaratna, author of “Inside Al-Qaeda.”

Why Childhood

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Some of us, we are told, never actually make it out of childhood. But for most of us, it’s nearly 20 years locked and coddled in culturally encouraged immaturity, that sheltered, nurtured “practice period” leading up to adulthood.

Thus it has been for millennia. No other creature, flying, swimming, crawling or galloping enjoys such a luxuriously protracted rearing. But why wait to leave home, to work, or to reproduce? Anthropologists are digging to uncover the purpose of childhood.

The obvious: We, as kids, need all that time to fill our brains with skills and knowledge. But perhaps there’s more, and looking at the other end of life, old age, explains why we spend so much time, early on, on hold. Growing up, sloooooowly.


Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author, “Mother Nature,” professor emeritus of anthropology, University of California Davis

John Bock, associate editor, Human Nature, assistant professor of anthropology, California State University Fullerton

Douglas Bird, assistant research professor of anthropology, University of Maine Orono.