Monthly Archives: October 2002

Grave Matters

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There’s hardly a better place to get in touch with life than in the quiet, stone lined paths of a cemetery. A place where you can observe the arc of life as a measure of time between two dates, where you can visit those who were close to you and are now gone.

Author Mark Taylor says it’s also a chance to touch people we never met in life, writers and thinkers who shaped our worldview. He writes that graveyards are so much more than bone-yards, that they beg for pilgrimage, a chance to get close to Wordsworth and Melville, to contemplate Dickinson, Kierkegaard, Camus, and Thoreau.

This Halloween, we are looking death in its face, and seeing a challenge for modern culture to think about these grave matters.


Mark C. Taylor, professor of Humanitites at Williams College, and author of “Grave Matters”

Dietrich Christian Lammerts, former student of Mark Taylor and professional photographer.

Coalition No More

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Things fall apart. After 19 months of an awkward marriage with Likud, Israel’s Labor party walks out. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s financial support for settlements is the official reason for the breakup. But many say this high profile divorce is just political posturing in advance of the upcoming Labor Party election.

Regardless, Sharon, now forsaken by his fellow ex-general, Fuad Ben Eliezer, now needs to decide how to hold onto power, either by reaching out to the right wing, or by holding national elections that could see him losing to Binyamin Netanyahu. Ironically, this latest crisis might breathe new life into the opposition, allowing voices, silenced by 19 months of coalition government, to be heard.

Labor and Likud, why breaking up is hard to do.


Ambassador Philip Wilcox, president of the Foundation for Middle East peace in Washington

Cameron Barr, Middle East correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor

Benny Elon, member of the Knesset

Ze’ev Schiff, military analyst for the daily Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz

Tzali Reshef, member of the Knesset. Labour Party.

Woman on the Verge

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If Oedipus Rex had a sister, her name would be Medea. In the pantheon of Greek tragedy, she is the mother of all murderers: a woman who betrays her father, dismembers her brother, and finally, kills her own children, all for her love and her hate of a man.

In the original version by Euripides, she is a sorceress, whom the Gods, out of pity or respect, whisk away in a golden chariot at the end of the play. But in a new Abbey Theater production now headed for Broadway, the gods are missing. Instead director Deborah Warner and actor Fiona Shaw offer a Medea who is more human than hero, more trodden than tragic.

She is a frighteningly modern Medea, a middle aged mom in tennis shoes who gets left for the younger woman, who gets mad and then gets even.

Medea is playing at the Wilbur Theater in Boston through November 3, and at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts November 6-9, 2002.


Fiona Shaw, actor

and Deborah Warner, director of the Abbey Theater production of “Medea”, currently on tour in the United States.

Senator John McCain

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Senator John McCain is reviewing the icons in his life, men of substance and honor, the characters who inspired his own drive to serve the country. In his new memoir, the Senator lauds the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater, and Robert Jordan… Robert Jordan? Yes.

The inspired, doomed protagonist of Hemingway’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” risks his life, but not his honor, putting his mission and the concerns of others ahead of himself in a bloody, and as it turns out, morally ambiguous civil war.

The tale resonated with a young McCain, and Jordan still stands tall on McCain’s mantle along with his other heroes in a world “worth the fighting for.” Loyalty, honor and courage, from the Spanish Civil War to the Senate floor.


Senator John McCain

Terrorism, Ethics, and Tactics

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The gas that filled the theater in Moscow brought a deadly end to a Chechen terrorist attack. But it also opened a serious debate on the ethics and tactics of counter-terrorism today: what is acceptable in dealing with attacks that are designed to horrify civilians, and calculated to change the policies of their governments.

For years, theologians, soldiers, and philosophers have debated the concept of a “just war.” Now on the table: What is a just war on terrorism? Do the rules change? In the case of the Moscow theater, the situation is complicated by lingering Soviet-style secrecy, but nevertheless, Russian President Putin asks for forgiveness even as he claims triumph: “We couldn’t save them all” he said.

Exploring the ethics of counter-terrorism and reassessing the rules of engagement.


David Brannan, terrorism expert, Rand Corporation

Michael Sandel, professor of government, teaches popular course called “Justice,” Harvard University

Scott Peterson, Moscow bureau chief, Christian Science Monitor.

Anti American Sentiment…in Amman

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Diplomatic eyes are on Amman, Jordan in the wake of a shooting, the gunning down of a USAID official that increasingly looks like a political assassination.

A local terrorist group is claiming responsibility for the killing, and that an arrest has been made. Anti-American sentiment seems on the rise there as the U.S. prepares for war against next-door neighbor Iraq. In the 1990 Gulf War, Jordan’s beloved King Hussein sided with Saddam Hussein. This time around his son, King Abdullah, is allied with President Bush, though his subjects are deeply divided.

The bond between the two countries is tricky: America remains staunchly Pro-Israel, while more than half the people who live in Jordan are Palestinians.


Rami Khouri, Analyst for the International Crisis Group, former Editor-in-Chief of the Jordan Times

Fouad Ajami, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies, and author of The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey

and Nicolas Pelham, reporter for the Christian Science Monitor – based in Amman.

Battle for the Senate

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With just eight days to go before midterm elections, all bets are off in the race for control of the U.S. Senate. Campaign strategists on both sides say it may come down to a handful of votes in any one race and lawyers are already gearing up for challenges.

The death of Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone only exacerbates political uncertainty, leaving Democrats scrambling for a replacement, and Republicans bracing for a wave of voter sympathy. Nationally, at least four other races, in New Hampshire, Colorado, Missouri, and South Dakota, are far too close to call. With Democrats holding a one-vote majority, every race has potential to tip the scales and dramatically alter the balance of power.


Sarah Binder, professor of political science, George Washington University

Kirk Victor, political reporter, National Journal;

What Lula Wants

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Brazil is filled with red flags today, the red flags of the Workers’ Party, waving to celebrate the landslide victory of a one-time factory worker and shoeshine boy known to all as Lula. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is the first working-class president ever elected in Brazil. Until now, military men or members of the economic elite have ruled in a country where 60 percent of the population is poor and 20 percent are considered destitute.

However, Lula’s election is raising red flags of another sort, too. It owes billions to banks and the International Monetary Fund. Lula, who once said he would default on foreign debt, now promises to repay it, even as he feeds the hungry, houses the homeless, and gives peasants land. Brazil’s dilemma now is whether Lula can get what Lula wants.


Martin Kaste, NPR correspondent in Rio de Janeiro

Luis Bitencourt, director, Brazil Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Jana Butland, vice president and emerging market strategist, Fleet Global Markets.

The Funk Brothers

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Many successful singers stand on the shoulders of others: Dylan rocked with The Band, Springsteen has The E-Street Band, and Neil Young rides with Crazy Horse. But the greatest backing band of all time is perhaps the most unsung.

The Funk Brothers, are the virtuosos of jazz and R& B who put the fire and soul into Motown’s greatest hits. But memories of Motown are memories of the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson while the men who actually built that Detroit groove rarely made the liner notes.

Now there is a new full-length documentary that turns a long-overdue lens on The Funk Brothers, men who churned out more hits than Elvis or the Beatles. They are the engine in the Motown machine and the motor city’s musical muscle.


Jack Ashford and Joe Hunter, Funk Brothers

Allan Slutsky, musician, author, and producer of the film “Standing in the Shadows of Motown”

Hostage Standoff in Moscow.

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It’s a no win situation. Not far from the Kremlin, hundreds of theatregoers are being held by dozens of Chechen rebels. The gunmen demand the withdrawal of all troops from Chechnya, a popular notion even among Russian people.

But in a terrorist crisis, for a leader who’s trademarked a strong-arm policy in the rebel province, military capitulation hardly seems a real option. What’s a Russian president to do?

The rebels are sorting the hostages to three groups: Russians, Ukrainians and others, signaling that they will release the foreigners, including Americans. Getting the world’s eyes trained again on their hard-hit homeland is apparently all part of the plan.


Graham Alison, director of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Studies;

Christian Science Monitor reporter Fred Weir in Moscow

Alexander Golts, visiting fellow at Stanford’s Center for
International Security and Cooperation and senior editor of the political section at the Russian weekly news magazine “Zhurnal”