Monthly Archives: October 2002

Melting Pot Blues

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Lewiston, Maine. Population 36,000. It’s blue collar, a bit run down, a city of long time residents, mostly white. Except for the newcomers.

In the past two years, over a thousand Somalis fleeing civil war, refugee camps, and dangerous American cities have settled in this mill town, founded a mosque, and sent their kids to school. But there’s friction too, as the immigrants stress city services, and local sensibilities. A recent call from Lewiston’s mayor asked Somalis to slow the migration, to give the city “breathing room” to adjust “emotionally” and “financially,” and it’s provoked charges of racism and religious intolerance.

How America handles its refugees and the story of Lewiston’s search for solutions.


Phil Nadeau, assistant city administrator for Lewiston

Abdirizak Mahboub, Somali resident of Lewiston

Arthur Helton, Council on Foreign Relations fellow and author of “The Price of Indifference: Refugees and Humanitarian Action in the New Century.”

The New Face of World Terror

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It’s a web, the experts insist, a web of terror that daily shows us new connections: this morning, to a shopping center in the Philippines where bombs kill and injure dozens, to Bali, where last Saturday nearly 200 people were killed, to shots in Kuwait, and arrests in Malaysia, all of it leading back, perhaps, to a camp in the Afghan desert, or not.

In Bali and the Philippines, no one’s claiming responsibility. Muslim radicals are suspected, and always someone pointing to the dot at the center, the one marked Al Qaeda. The masterminds with a master plan, or simply a name for distantly connected cells, angry individuals with similar ideologies. With the shockwaves of each new bomb, a shifting global effort to stop the killing.


Thomas M. Sanderson, the Deputy Director of the Transnational Threats Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

Romesh Ratnesar, staff writer at Time magazine

Sidney Jones, director of the International Crisis Group in Jakarta, Indonesia

Chatting up a Storm

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Call it the lowercase “great experiment in democracy,” the electronic salons and chat rooms of the Internet. They are the post-modern melting pot of thoughts and ideas, the perfect haven for open conversations ranging from taxidermy to existentialism. But when the threads turn political, stand back or run for cover. Decorum goes out the window, along with reason and anything resembling insightful dialogue.

Instead, picture the online equivalent of a barroom brawl. With chatters hiding behind the virtual veil of a pseudonym, even the most rational topics can degenerate into vituperative verbal flame-throwing.

The great online experiment, a great failure? Free speech in cyberspace. You running dog, lickspittle, whinging whiner.


Nicholas Thompson, Markle Fellow at the New America Foundation

Mike Godwin, policy fellow at The Center for Democracy and Technology and moderator for The Well.

Capital of Fear

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Welcome to the split screen life of a superpower. In the marble halls of Washington DC, political power is on parade. Flanked by a stern-faced group of Congressional supporters, President Bush signs into law a newly passed resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein. On the same day, everyone else in Washington, the suburbanites, the students, the secretaries, the people who make their living outside those halls, are fixated on a different killer, a homicidal sniper in a mini van with a ladder rack.

And while both sides speak of terror, they’re talking about something completely different. And the city that best expresses the exercise of power seems powerless. Fear and trembling in the shadow of the Capitol.


Peg Cahill, licensed social worker in Washington DC

Marc Fisher, Metro columnist with the Washington Post

Richard Norton Smith, presidential historian and former speechwriter for Senator Bob Dole.

Umberto Eco

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When you see the bones of a saint displayed in a cathedral, there’s no way to know for certain that they are those of who they are said to be. But that might not matter because they give comfort to people based on what they represent. It is faith or belief that gives them power.

Umberto Eco tackles this in his new novel, “Baudolino,” something he calls “a game of ambiguity about truth and lies.” Eco explored the suppression and celebration of history and religion in his 1980 bestseller “The Name of The Rose,” and this latest novel continues the twisting of history, of dates and identities, crafting an epic from the tale of a rascal storyteller and interpreter by the name of Baudolino.

Umberto Eco, something of a rascal storyteller himself, on truth and history.


Umberto Eco, a professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna, and a writer of fiction, essays, academic texts, and children’s books.

After the Vote in Pakistan

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Call it democracy, Pakistan style. Campaigns, voting booths, and what election observers call “unjustified interference with the process,” shootouts among rivals, and a misuse of state broadcasts.

The White House says it’s “an important milestone in Pakistan’s ongoing transition to democracy.” Perhaps only in the sense the people there are voting again. As for the result, it’s probably not quite the milestone Washington wanted.

For the first time in Pakistan’s history, Islamic parties have won a majority of seats in two of the nation’s four provinces as well as greater strength in parliament, yet many voters there say it’s about more than religion. They call it an indictment of America’s “War on Terror.”


Owen Bennett Jones, former BBC correspondent in Islamabad and author of “Pakistan: The Eye of the Storm”

Outsmarting the Odds

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For the typical college student, a holiday weekend is the perfect time to regroup from classroom rigors. For members of the underground MIT blackjack team, a long weekend was the ideal opportunity to hop a flight to Vegas and burn down the house.

The legendary cabal of beautiful minds, not satisfied with gedanken experiments, decided to tackle a real world problem, how to shift the odds away from the casino. And what began as an exercise in intellectual curiosity evolved into a multi-million dollar operation, student card-sharks living in the shadows, leading double lives, mild mannered engineering geeks by day, hot blooded high-rollers by night.

Big minds and blackjack, MIT’s high-stakes work-study subculture.


Ben Mezrich, author of “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions;” James Hartley, vice president gaming services with iView Systems, and casino surveillance expert

Kevin Lewis, former member of the M.I.T. blackjack team

The Investor Strikes Back

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After a year of dwindling stock portfolios and 401Ks, there may be, finally, someone to blame. Prosecutors are after the necks, and the accounts, of big brokerage firms.

It seems every day there’s a new probe or lawsuit. Investigators are claiming that investment banks disregarded a fundamental ethical line, the so-called “chinese wall” that’s supposed to separate salesmanship from solid advice. Also in the mix: vengeance. Investors who lost want big, American lawsuit-style payback. On both sides of the legal battle there are promises of reform, from the investment bankers and the regulators.

An audit of responsibility and ethics, a recasting of the entire investment game. Wall Street, on the witness stand.


Fred Isquith, co-lead counsel for a number of cases against investment banks

Charles Gasparino, senior special writer for the Wall Street Journal

Jim Stanton, an individual investment advisor, mans the website,

The Dobro According to Jerry Douglas

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Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve noticed this bluegrass thing going around. You know that rootsy, twangy amalgam of acoustic instruments, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and bass.

But if you’ve listened carefully, you’ve heard another voice, some sort of franken-guitar adorned with bizarre metal contraptions and emitting a primal cry or a vicious bark. It’s the dobro or resophonic guitar.

This 20th century American creation might have come late to the dance, but now it has a full card. There’s one man responsible for the rise of the resonator, Jerry Douglas. The Miles Davis of the dobro, he’s the reigning gunslinger who’s transformed it from second fiddle to leading lady. Jerry Douglas slides his six string into our studio.

Jerry Douglas will perform tonight at the Somerville Theater, Somerville, MAWith special guest Kevin Welch
Friday, October 11 at 7:30pm
Tickets $25.50
Tickets on sale now


Jerry Douglas, Dobro virtuoso

The Nobel Peace Prize Goes to Jimmy Carter

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It’s a long long way from a peanut farm in Plains Georgia, to the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize. But James Earl Carter Jr. was today honored by the Nobel Committee for standing by the “principles that conflicts must, as far as possible, be resolved through mediation, and international co-operation.” Ouch. That’s got to be echoing in the Oval Office today.

Jimmy Carter is 10 days past his 78th birthday, and 22 years away from his years in a White House marked by those memorable moments at Camp David, the Iran Hostage Crisis, the Olympic boycott, and his pardoning of Vietnam draft resisters.

Civil rights, human rights, at home and abroad, a living legacy for Jimmy Carter, and a life now honored with a Nobel Peace Prize.


Hamilton Jordan, White House Chief of Staff under President Carter

Jody Powell, President Carter’s press secretary

Hodding Carter III, president of the James L. Knight Foundation, State Department spokesman in Carter Administration

Pat Derian, former assistant secretary of human rights and deputy campaign manager under President Carter

Douglas Brinkley, author of “Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey Beyond the White House”