Monthly Archives: February 2003

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra

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There is one thing that distinguishes Afrobeat music. It is never just music. It is political inspiration without lyrics. It was designed by its founder Fela Kuti as music to empower people in the face of Africa’s cruel dictatorships.

In the 6 years since Kuti’s death, the music has gone through a number of transformations. One of the most interesting is the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, a gathering of Latin and African and American musicians from New York. They mix their Nigerian, Ghanian, Cuban, Jamaican and Brazilian sounds to form the next generation of Afrobeat.

But don’t work too hard to take it apart; it is funk and jazz. It’s meant to wash over you; to get you moving, and thinking. Caution: the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra is closer than it appears.

Antibalas will be performing:
Fri. 2/28 Winooski, VT, at Higher Ground, and Sat. 3/1 Northampton, MA at the Iron Horse Music Hall


Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra

So Long, Neighbor

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Remembering Mr. Rogers. For the past 35 years, his televised neighborhood has offered children a safe place to relax, pretend, and feel special. “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” was a revolutionary concept, a collection of puppets and stories and songs, complete with a magic trolley that transported children between his living room and the Neighborhood of Make Believe. But it wasn’t only the innovative format, it was the man, and his manner, that defined the show.

Fred Rogers talked directly to the camera and straight into his viewers’ hearts. Always the same tone, with kids or adults. Always the same person. And children’s television has never been the same. A farewell walk around Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.


Paul Lally, former director, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and executive producer, “Ciao Italia” on Public Television

Christopher Cerf, founding partner, Sirius Thinking, Ltd., co-creator, “Between the Lions” on Public Television, and co-founding editor in chief, Children’s Television Workshop

The World Trade Center, Reimagined

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Daniel Libeskind’s story is the stuff of myth: the son of Holocaust survivors, his first sight of America was of the Statue of Liberty. He drew on his passion for American ideals of freedom and democracy when designing plans for a new World Trade Center, a 1,776-foot jagged tower, reaching into the sky, protecting, marking, and celebrating the sacred ground by its side.

His design for a memorial, the pit ringed by its unshakable concrete walls, touched a nerve among the victims’ families. But not everyone agrees that a rebuilt World Trade Center should be a memorial above all. And not everyone agrees that such avant garde, spectacular architecture is the right kind of design for a 21st century America.


Robert Campbell, Architecture Critic for The Boston Globe

James S. Russell, Editor-at-Large for Architectural Record.

The Post-Saddam Plan

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As if to signal that the looming war with Iraq is that much closer, President Bush last night laid out his vision for a post-Saddam Iraq. Regime change, Bush said, would signal to other nations in the Middle East that the time is ripe for democracy, and that time could be running out.

Bush pledged America’s support in rebuilding Iraq for “as long as necessary, and not a day more.” The president’s vision extends beyond Iraq. The next stop on the freedom train is the “roadmap for peace” in the Middle East, one that includes new Palestinian leadership…followed, gradually, by an end to Israeli settlements. Then on to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria.

Assessing the pitfalls and possibilities of the President’s To Do list for the Middle East.


Michael Mandelbaum, author of “The Ideas that Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the Twenty-first Century” and Director of the American Foreign Policy Program at Johns Hopkins Schools of Advanced International Study

Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent for Al Hayat newspaper.

The Last Letter

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From fact to fiction. After making 33 documentary films in 35 years, Fredric Wiseman has turned his camera on something completely different: The fictional account of the final letter from a Jewish mother to her son. Wiseman’s film, “The Last Letter,” is drawn from the Soviet writer Vasily Grossman’s, “Love and Fate.”

It is a frightening account of anti-Semitic brutality, despair and loss. To convey it all, Wiseman, who’s known for his compelling combinations of real life sound and image, went minimalist. Black and white; no props; lots of shadows and just one actor, Catherine Samie. With her deep, enchanting voice, the senior member of the Comedie Francaise evokes distant and recent memories of human cruelty and compassion.

The Boston Jewish Film Festival is copresenter of “The Last Letter” directed by Frederick Wiseman, showing at the MFA, from February 26-March 30. Click the link below for exact show times.


Frederick Wiseman, Director of “The Last Letter.”

Voluntary Human Shields

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When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, he captured hundreds of foreign workers and forced them to be his human shields. He stationed them at power plants and refineries, critical points of infrastructure that would be targets in a military campaign to cripple Iraq.

The deployment of human shields is a strategy to discourage those with the bombs, to threaten them with unnecessary civilian casualties in a conflict. It is also a war crime. But when the human shields are volunteer peace activists hoping that their presence in Iraq will help deter a war there, strategy and criminality aren’t so easily defended. Especially when the enemy is happy to host them.

Mission unclear. Sizing up the good intentions and the potential consequences of voluntary human shields.


Tom Malinowski, Washington Advocacy Director for the Human Rights Watch

Paul Eliopoulos, former prisoner of war and involuntary human shield during the Gulf War

Michael Birmingham, a peace activist with Voices in the Wilderness

Captain Lawrence Rockwood is a former US Army intelligence officer who is now a human rights activist and adjunct professor of history at Cal State San Marcos.

Voices from Iraq

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A war with Iraq is one step closer. The United States, Spain, and Britain have now tabled a second resolution, threatening Baghdad with “serious consequences” if it doesn’t abide U.N. orders to disarm. France, Germany, and Russia, not surprisingly, have proposed a counter resolution, urging for more time and more inspections. And across the world, sitting in the midst of all the diplomatic brouhaha and battle over political phrases, there is the country of Iraq.

In this ongoing debate, the nation is often overshadowed by its reigning leader, Saddam Hussein — and talk to most Iraqis in exile and they’ll say that there’s nothing sweeter than his removal. But how — and if — that happens is the real heart of this latest news story. We’ll be talking to two Iraqis about the possibility of war in the place that once was home.


Zainab Al-Suwaij, Executive Director of the American Islamic Congress

Yahia Said, Research Officer at the Center for the Study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics.

Saving For Retirement

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Pension plans in America are a soup of letters and numbers. 401ks – IRAs – Roth IRAs. The tangled safety net for retirement has been in a constant state of repair, but new proposals by the Bush administration are offering some of the most radical alterations yet. No more tucking away pre-tax money. No more taxes on withdrawals. A new Personal Savings Account that comes restriction-free.

Sound too good to be true? Some are warning that these proposals are part of a long term shift away from institutional plans and a move toward personal responsibility for pension saving. The potential downside: give the middle class control of its own money, and they’ll likely do anything but save it. Planning for retirement…all by yourself.


Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Chris Edwards, director of fiscal policies at the Cato institute.

The Morning After The Grammys

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Every year the music industry honors its latest, its newest tunes and stars. So last night’s opening act at the Grammys, featuring a pair of aging folkies, performing the 37 year-old “Sounds of Silence”, revives the old debate that the Grammys perpetually provokes.

What is the music of the moment, and what’s the point of the annual event beyond its embracing of characters for its hall of fame ? Yet as maligned as the Grammys may be, the event is a cultural barometer of the moment. At the very least it continues to track a splintering of the music industry, now rewarding itself with 114 different categories, only 12 of which were showcased on network television last night. And regarding the sweep by the throaty tones, of Norah Jones.


Wayne Wadhams, professor of Music Production & Engineering at Berklee College of Music, and author of: “Inside the Hits: The Seduction of a Rock and Roll Generation”

Kelefa Sanneh, pop critic for the New York Times

Oil and The Fear Premium

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The stores of sweet light crude that keep America’s wheels running, are running dangerously low. If you’re worried about the price at the pump, you should also know that America’s oil supplies are at levels last visited when Pintos were still on the road and Ford was in the White House.

The shrinking stores represent the collision of a number of forces: uncertainty over a war with Iraq, Venezuela’s ongoing oil strike, a harsh winter’s higher heating demands. And as dollar prices per barrel inch into the red zone of the high ’30s, the pain is being passed along to you. Relief, so far, is elusive. War with Iraq could drive prices even higher, or bring new oil onstream. It’s a gamble where market forces and geopolitics get equal play. Speculating and the prospects for America’s oil economy.


Youssef Michel Ibrahim, editor in chief, Energy Intelligence Group and senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Larry Goldstein, president, Petroleum Industry Research Foundation