Monthly Archives: April 2003

Orwell's Legacy

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George Orwell might have thought it was deja vu all over again in Baghdad. He’d already imagined, in his novel “1984,” a “black-mustachioed face” gazing down from every commanding corner, with the caption BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.

You can’t help wondering if he might also have imagined the Pentagon’s plan to have an office of “Total Information Awareness.” Today people routinely talk of doublespeak, thought police and sex crimes, all terms invented by an English writer born one hundred years ago. A self-declared socialist, George Orwell died before the height of the Cold War, when he was embraced by the right as an anti-communist. What Orwell might think of us now.


John Rodden, author, “The Politics of Literary Reputation: The Making and Claiming of “St. George”
Orwell” and “Scenes from an Afterlife: The Legacy of George Orwell”

Daphne Patai, professor of Spanish and Portuguese literature at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and author of “The Orwell Mystique: A Study in Male Ideology.”

Osama Gets His Wish

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Twelve years after the U.S. built up its military presence in Saudi Arabia, American troops are finally leaving. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced yesterday in Riyadh that the U.S. is pulling out all but a handful of soldiers. With war in Iraq all but over, Rumsfeld said there is no longer any military justification for staying in Saudi Arabia. But that simple explanation cloaks a tangle of political rationales and gambles behind the move.

American and Saudi officials say shutting down Prince Sultan Air Base is not caving in to terrorists like Osama bin Laden who have demanded that American infidels leave sacred Saudi soil. Instead it is a strategic move to help the Saudi royal family appease its young, poor, and angry populace, while forcing it to make much-needed political reforms.


Richard Murphy, former Ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia

Charles Heyman, editor of Janes World Armies

Khaled El- Maeena, editor of the Arab News

and Mamoun Fandy, columnist for Asharq al Awsat, pan-
Arab newspaper based in London, and author, “Saudi
Arabia and the Politics of Dissent.”

Jane Goodall

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As a child, Jane Goodall’s first scientific project was waiting for a chicken to lay an egg in her family’s henhouse. Years later, in 1960, after arriving on the shores of East Africa, she engaged in a more sophisticated scientific observation effort.

Alone in the Gombe National Park, she patiently watched human’s closest relatives, the chimpanzees. She discovered that the animals were not gentle, cuddly vegetarians as previously believed, but instead they were highly evolved social creatures that hunted, waged war, and made tools. Her studies changed the field of primatology.

Today, Jane Goodall spends more time on the speaking circuit than she does in the jungle. The chimpanzees numbers are falling dramatically, and she says to save the creatures she loves, she need to leave them.


Primatologist Jane Goodall

founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, United Nations “Messenger of Peace,” recipient of the 2001 Gandhi/King Award for Nonviolence

and author of numerous books including In the Shadow of Man, and Reason for Hope.

Federal Reservations

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“I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize what you heard is not what I meant.” No one mixes words and a message like Alan Greenspan, the central banker turned cult figure. His bespectacled face may convey all the spark and enthusiasm of a basset hound after naptime, but there’s a reason four presidents have entrusted America’s multi-trillion dollar economy to him: Alan Greenspan is a Midas of monetary policy. The Mexican bailout of 95, the Asian contagion containment of 97, Y2K financial crisis that never was, each bears the imprint of the liquidity lover’s deft touch.

But with the economy showing no post-war pick up, some Fed watchers wonder if America can afford a fifth term for the Fed chair. All that glitters. Greenspan’s lifespan as Fed chair.


Bill Emmott, editor in chief, The Economist

Alan Murray, Washington bureau chief and anchor, CNBC

Michael Mandel, chief economist, Business Week

The Deadly Truth

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It’s the disease that ravages respiratory systems, and hobbles economies. SARS, the mysterious virus that’s infected nearly 5000 people, so far, has cleared out airports, offices, and discos in China, and Toronto isn’t fairing much better.

Although the World Health Organization is hot on the case, don’t expect a cure or vaccine anytime soon. Despite advances in medical technology, health officials are still battling the last bug, and losing, so says one professor of medical history. Cancer and heart disease, let alone the 1918 influenza epidemic, still have experts searching for a diagnosis. Our faith in medicine is misplaced, he argues. Its role isn’t to conquer illness but make it more tolerable.


Gerald N. Grob, Professor of The History of Medicine Emeritus at Rutgers University, and author of “The Deadly Truth: A History of Disease in America.”

Iran And The Post War Persian Gulf Puzzle

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Figuring Iran in the post-Saddam puzzle. Despite the ardent denials of the country’s political leaders, there is pretty solid evidence that Tehran has sent agents to help strengthen the hand of Shites fundamentalists in Iraq. The Bush Administration has been caught off guard by these moves. Officials were hoping Iran would keep up the good behavior it had displayed during the war with Afghanistan, when it stayed on the sidelines until invited in.

Now some are arguing for diplomacy, while others advocate playing military hardball as the way to stop the meddling intervention, and head off Iran’s efforts to build nuclear weapons. In Iran too, attitudes about the U.S. are divided. Reformers see opportunities for democracy in the post-Saddam era; while militants see a new Islamic state in the making.


Brenda Shaffer, Research Director for the Caspian Studies Program at Harvard University

Geoffrey Kemp, Director of Regional Strategic Programs at the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom

Eli Lake, State Department correspondent for the United Press International

Owen Matthews, Newsweek Middle East correspondent.

Ute Lemper

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It was a time when democratic ideals and artistic inspiration were one in the same. If gay rights and women’s equality were worth singing about, the status quo and moral strictures were worth flouting.

It was not long after the turn of the 20th century. Weimar Germany. The hard-won, short-lived peace between the First and Second World Wars, before Hitler’s murderous rise made his Prussian predecessors look lax in comparison. It was a time when popular entertainment was live, every night, in cabarets.

Bourgeois husbands and prim wives flocked to Berlin’s smoky caverns of the night, where the booze, and the satire, flowed freely.

Pointed lyrics. Red hot women. And anthems that resonate still.

German chanteuse Ute Lemper on the cabaret tradtion then and now.


Ute Lemper, singer-songwriter, whose latest album is “But One Day…”

Tuition Tug of War

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The high cost of college with a twist. Two decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled that anyone living in America, citizens and non-citizens alike, was entitled to a free public education through 12th grade. As a result, millions of illegal immigrants attend school every day. But few if any go to college.

With no documentation, they can’t get scholarships, subsidies, or federal loans. But today, legislatures in 20 states are considering bills that would allow illegal residents to pay in-state tuition. And Congress is also getting in on the act. Supporters say the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term costs. Critics say such perks should go to legal residents and American citizens who’ve earned them. Green cards and a public education.


James Ferg-Cadima, Legislative Analyst for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations, Numbers USA, an immigrant reduction organization.

O, Tupperware

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Tupperware. The very word can make people laugh. But starting in the 1950s, thanks to Tupperware, a lot of women were laughing all the way to the bank. In post-World War Two America, Rosie the Riveter was supposed to come home from the factory, put on an apron and lipstick, and cajole her husband for “pin money.” But for women who didn’t have a husband or needed to buy more than pins, selling plastic bowls at parties was a ladylike way to make a living.

The Tupperware story chronicles the first tentative steps toward women’s economic empowerment, even as it sounds a cautionary note about what could happen to a woman who dared in the 1950s to rise above the stereotype of happy housewife and find a place for herself in the business world. Pride, ambition and plastic bowls that burp.

For more information on “Tupperware!”, contact Laurie Kahn-Leavitt, Blueberry Hill Productions, 112 Bailey Road, Watertown MA 02472


Laurie Kahn-Leavitt, director/writer of the documentary film, “Tupperware!”

Anna Tate, first woman to become a Tupperware distributor.

Dick Gordon's Last Day in Baghdad

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It’s been over a month now since the first bomb fell on Baghdad. Residents here have been through so much since that day. From the bravado of Saddam Hussein under siege to the startlingly quick defeat of the soldiers who’d promised to stand by him.

So the people have had just over two weeks to taste a strange new kind of freedom. Saddam Hussein has disappeared and his thuggish regime with him. But this freedom has brought out the looters and bandits. It has brought disease, days without water and electricity. And a near nationwide shut down of jobs and schools. It has also brought great uncertainty about what lies ahead.

These past two weeks we’ve brought you the sounds and images of a nation struggling with unfamiliar assaults on the deep sense of pride here. The voices of Baghdad.


Baghdad resident Laith Adel Mohammed Saleh.