Monthly Archives: May 2003

Fingerprinting Foreigners

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It used to be “give us your tired, your poor.” Now the message to people in foreign lands wanting to come to the U.S. is: Give the Department of Homeland Security your fingerprint, your photograph, a ton of information about yourself, and if you don’t match anyone in our database suspected of terrorist or criminal activity, then you can come visit. And if you come from one of the countries termed “state sponsors of terrorism,” you will be placed under an even more watchful eye at the INS.

Considering that many of the September 11th hijackers entered this country under the old rules, many Americans are saying it’s about time. We’ll talk about visas and visitors with the top federal official minding America’s borders.


Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security, Department of Homeland Security

Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute

Ahmed el-Gaili, native of Sudan, Harvard Law School ’03.

Chen Kaige's Films

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About 20 years ago, a new class of film directors came from the Beijing Film Academy. They were the first to graduate after the Cultural Revolution and they went on to change Chinese cinema forever. Chen Kaige was one of those filmmakers. He brought spectacular epics and detailed, disturbing images of China to a world that had never seen the country that way.

Chen’s films show both the warmth and beauty of China alongside the brutality of its political system. He has won critical acclaim for his unflinching eye, but some of his films are violent, hard to watch. His new film, Together, is about the clash of values in a rapidly modernizing China. It also marks a change for the filmmaker, a return to simple stories, of teachers, and students, and violins.


Chen Kaige, director, Together and numerous other Chinese films, including Farewell My Concubine and Yellow Earth

Eileen Chow, Assistant Professor of Chinese Literary and Cultural Studies at Harvard University

The Dollar's Dive

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Forget what you know about a strong dollar being in America’s national interest. These days, weak is chic. When Treasury Secretary John Snow declared the sagging dollar to be just fine thank you at last week’s meeting in France, the sacré-bleu! heard around the world sparked a sell off in world stock markets.

Here at home, the reception was a bit more positive. A downsized dollar will help boost U.S. exports and shrink the trade gap. It also makes the land of the free, the home of the bargain for world travelers. There is, however, a downside. That summer vacation to Italy or the already unaffordable shoes made there may now be really out of reach. Making “sense” of the incredible shrinking dollar.


Catherine Mann, senior fellow, Institute of International Economics

Rick Steves, founder, Europe Through the Back Door

Jack Burns, franchise owner, Days Inn

Jimmy Smith, president, Tradewinds International, Inc.

JFK's World View

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John F. Kennedy entered politics at the same time the world entered the Cold War. Kennedy made his first bid for public office in 1946, the year Winston Churchill declared an “iron curtain” had descended on Europe. Kennedy, starting with his very first campaign for Congress, made foreign affairs, world politics, the centerpiece of his political philosophy. As President, he would take the United States to the very brink of war with the Soviet Union.

Today the myth of John F. Kennedy focuses on the glamour and the tragedy, the sex and the sizzle of his story. But Robert Dallek, author of a big new biography, says that to understand the man, you must see how the Cold War shaped him and America. Kennedy’s world view.


Robert Dallek, Professor of History, Boston University, author of “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963″.

Al Qaeda's Return

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Citing “imminent threats,” the U.S. is closing its embassy and two consulates in Saudi Arabia. It seems as if the next wave of Al Qaeda supporters is rising out of the ashes of Afghanistan and Iraq; more diffuse, less powerful, but still alive, still kicking.

Experts say that the latest attacks in Riyadh and Casablanca, which took the lives of more than 70 people, bear the Al Qaeda imprint. This reinforces the claim that the war in Iraq boosted the organization’s stature and appeal, making it easier for Al Qaeda to recruit angry young Muslims. Others disagree, saying that the war in Iraq weakened terrorist organizations by sending a signal that state-sponsored backing of terror would no longer be tolerated. Al Qaeda and the new war on terror.


Matthew Levitt, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Dr. Kevin O’Brien, senior policy analyst at the European arm of RAND

Scott MacLeod, TIME magazine’s Middle East bureau chief in Riyadh

Sebastian Usher, BBC’s Arab affairs editor, in Casablanca.

Charles Simic

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The poet Charles Simic once said, “Language constantly fails me. That’s why I continue writing.” Those familiar with his work may have trouble finding failure anywhere there. Since emigrating to the United States from the war-broken city of Belgrade nearly fifty years ago, Simic has assumed and mastered many literary roles; that of translator, memoirist, essayist, and reviewer of books. But his heart belongs to poetry.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author has now released a new collection of poems. Some old, some new. It’s a tapestry of Simic’s trademark trees, gods, devils and darkness, stitched together with wit, and melancholy, and the beauty of the absurd.


Charles Simic, author of The Voice at 3:00 AM: Selected Late and New Poems. Simic is the author of numerous essays and books, including The World Doesn’t End, which earned Simic the Pulitzer Prize.

Reconstructing the Iraqi Psyche

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The precedents are many: Haiti, Somalia, the Balkans, and Afghanistan. They are nations ravaged by brutal leaders, then shattered by war, undone by fear and an absence of trust. The same is now true of Iraq, where American reconstruction efforts, so intent on seeing democracy flourish, have so far struggled trying to provide even basic services.

One problem in particular is helping Iraqis cope with the emotional toll or oppression and war. There is the mourning for loved ones lost to fighting, or uncovered in mass graves. There is also the anger of a people delivered, perhaps, from evil, but then into lawlessness. It is a nations with a still-slippery grasp on security even in its brave new world of life after war.


Colonel Garland Williams, Senior Army Fellow, United States Institute for Peace

Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor correspondent in Baghdad

Dr. Zuhair Humadi, Iraqi human rights activist and co-founder of, a website that tracks Iraq’s missing.

The Education of Ashley MacIsaac

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When Ashley MacIsaac first appeared he was a teenage prodigy with a scary haircut, nothing under his kilt and a frightening virtuosity with the fiddle. The musical elite embraced his talent. Young punk rockers thrilled to his onstage energy and antics. And enough fans bought his record, “Hi, How Are You Today?” to make it a multi-platinum hit. He had, as they say in marketing circles, “cross over appeal.”

He also had a crack problem. So when Ashley MacIsaac took a very public dive from propriety, fame turned to infamy, harmony to discord. But he’s back, this time with a self-titled CD that blends traditional Cape Breton fiddling with his own bluesy vocals. Ashley MacIsaac: ready for his comeback, and my guest.


Ashley MacIsaac, Cape Breton fiddler

Politics, Texas Style

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A Political showdown comes to an end in the Long Horn State. A bus loaded with runaway Texan Democrats crossed the Red River last night in its way back from Oklahoma. The Democrats had ridden out of the state earlier this week, trying to avoid voting on a Republican redistricting bill. And despite the best round ‘em up efforts of the Texas Rangers, they refused to come back until the bill had expired.

Democrats were upset because this redistricting scheme had come from Washington by the Republican House header Tom Delay. What Texans like least is Washington poking around in their back yards. But many say this latest shootout shows that Texas is no longer big enough for Republicans and Democrats, and that the time of going along and getting along between the parties is over.


Harvey Kronberg, editor of the Quorum Report

Walter Dean Burnham, chair of the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin.

Photojournalists Under Fire

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The legendary war photographer Robert Capa once observed that, “It’s not always easy to stand aside and be unable to do anything except record the sufferings around one.” But he did it anyway. Numerous others have followed him onto the battlefield, trying to capture brutality, atrocity and humanity with a camera. Navigating between danger, and the moral confusion of being a silent witness, photojournalists will tell you that sometimes the most graphic and telling photos will never pass in front of the public eye.

Renowned photographers Ron Haviv and Christopher Morris know intimately the complexities and responsibilities of war journalism. They’ve covered countless conflict zones around the globe, most recently, in Iraq. Chroniclers of war: Those who shoot with cameras.


Ron Haviv, Newsweek contract photographer and founding member of the VII photo agency. Also the author of “Afghanistan: The Road to Kabul”;
Christoper Morris, Time contract photographer and founding member of VII photo agency.