Monthly Archives: July 2003

Pandora's Petri Dish

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When news of Louise Brown’s birth flashed across the world, the press invented a simple way of describing this progeny: test-tube baby. Short, sweet, alliterative. 25 years later the press still hasn’t come up with a bouncy phrase to describe the brave new IVF technologies like Pre-Implantation Genetic diagnosis, a procedure used to screen embryos for diseases like down’s syndrome.

And if the press is sensationally befuddled, medical ethicists and ordinary folks are still pondering just where science should stop and moral concerns take over. Stuck in the middle of the debate are tens of thousands of couples, desperate for a child, a healthy child of their own. Thoughts on Louise Brown’s 25th Birthday, fertility science at the ethical edge.


Dr. Mark Hughes, Professor Molecular Medicine and Genetics Wayne State University School of Medicine

Dr. Gerard Magill, Executive Director of the Center for Health Care Ethics at St. Louis University

Gweneth and Jeff Berkowitz, patients of Dr. Hughes undergoing PGD/IVF treatment

Honoring Place

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Place and literature: It’s simply impossible to have one without the other. Imagine Mark Twain without the meandering Mississippi River. Emily Bronte absent the sweeping Yorkshire moors. Or Joan Didion without the headache-inducing Santa Ana winds. Those who are married to literature know that place is more than scenery. More than the backdrop on which plot and theme run amok.

Place, some argue, is as central to the work as character. Or is a character itself. Think: James Joyce. Dublin. Ulysses. Now, Britain’s Royal Society of Literature has launched a new award for the fiction or non-fiction work that paints a literary landscape and best evokes the magic of a place


Biographer Michael Holroyd, author of “Lytton Strachey: The New Biography;” and “Works on Paper: The Craft of Biography and Autobiography,” President of the Royal Society of Literature

Sven Birkerts, reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, member of the core faculty at the Bennington Writing Seminars, editor of the literary journal AGNI, and author of the memoir: “My Sky Blue Trades.”

Tony Blair's Crisis

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Crisis, what Crisis? Those were the words of former British Prime Minister James Callaghan months before he was driven from office by the voters in 1979. “Crisis, what crisis?” better not be the question current British Prime Minister Tony Blair is asking himself at the moment.

The predicament he finds himself in is real, even if it has elements of melodrama that are more appropriate to a political thriller by John LeCarre. Blair’s approval ratings are in free fall. But this is more than just a crisis of political popularity. This fight over the reasons for going to War with Iraq, is threatening to neuter a globally popular politician and undermine the diplomatic blood pact between the U.S. and Britain.


Clive Crook, Deputy Editor of The Economist

Lord Tom McNally, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and former Labour MP

Peter Kellner, chairman of British public opinion polling firm Yougov.

Sole Survivor

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Allen Boyd is the only member of his family left. All the rest, died by their own hand, victims of suicide. First, he lost his mother Sara, an elementary school teacher with movie star good looks. Next, his twin brothers, one from a shot to the head, the other from injuries sustained when he tried to jump through a plate glass window. Then, his sister, Ruth Ann, the golden child of the family, the one everyone thought would beat the family curse. And then, three years ago, after pleading with him not to give up and give in to his grief, Allen Boyd lost his beloved father.

This hour, a story, stranger than fiction, about love, loss and what runs in families. The Boyd’s of Chunns Cove, North Carolina.


Allen Boyd Jr., the sole survivor of his family — his parents, brothers and sister were all the victims of their own hand

David Jobes, Professor of Psychology at The Catholic
University of America and past President of the American Association of Suicidology.

The Right of Return Revisited

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When a Palestinian public opinion researcher was attacked in his office by his fellow Palestinians recently, it was news. The reason? His findings questioned the importance of the Right of Return. From before Camp David. From before Oslo. From before the Six-Day War, all the way back to the founding of the Israeli state in blood and battle in 1948, the right of return has defined modern Palestinian identity, an identity that sometimes seems to be wholly based on being a refugee.

Four million Palestinians claim this right. But if they all returned to Israel, what would happen to the unique character of the Jewish state? And you thought getting agreement on Jerusalem and Israeli settlements was going to be tough. Going Home, the Palestinian’s Right of return.


Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland

Benny Morris, author of Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist–Arab Conflict, 1881–2001;Gaber Suliman, Palestinian refugee, living in Lebanon.

The Mock Troubadour

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If life were like a Richard Thompson song, we’d all be doomed. With his penchant for titles like: “Withered and Died,”Wall of Death,” and “Walking Though a Wasted Land,” it’s no wonder people reach for words like despair, gloom, and longing when describing his music.

This may be part of the reason that after 35 years in the business Thompson is still referred to as popular music’s greatest unknown songwriter, as he plays to packed houses filled with adoring fans around the world. Those devotees know that when Thompson’s not watching the dark, he’s winking and wisecracking, penning sarcastic ditties about fast food and polka records and playing guitar like nobody else. Richard Thompson and his tourniquets for the soul.


Richard Thompson, guitarist, singer, and songwriter

Doubtful Intelligence

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The subject is intelligence. And not the animal or emotional kind. The kind that spies, secret agents, and moles gather. The kind of information that a country can’t prosecute a war or protect its borders without. The kind that foreign governments, and even our own government, don’t want us to know. The kind that is never, never, never, supposed to make its way into the headlines.

Since September 11th America’s intelligence services have been sorely lacking this kind of information. And while some call for the scalp of CIA director George Tenet, he remains securely at his whipping post, a perpetual fall guy for an administration that is setting new standards for politicizing state secrets. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh is the chronicler of this secret process and he has something to say about it.


Seymour Hersh, staff writer for The New Yorker

Frank Anderson, CIA’s Near East Division Chief from 1991-1994.

The Death of Julius Caesar

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Friends, Neighbors and Countrymen, lend me your ears. Think you know who killed Julius Caesar, well think again. History has long held that Caesar’s long and despotic reign was cut short by the sharp ambitions and daggers of his fellow Roman Senators. Men like Brutus, Mark Anthony and others, who turned against their friend and leader in order to save their beloved Republic from the glutinous excesses of his power. But a new take on this old story, argues Caesar deserves a second look.

Forget what you know about the cruel and despotic ruler crushing the unwashed Roman rabble in his fat little fist, Caesar was a Democrat, a powerful man who had the good of the people at heart and went against the interests of the rich to do it. Ancient Rome, class warfare and the ides of March.


Michael Parenti, author of “The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome”

Mary Lefkowitz, professor of Classics at Wellesley College.

Hong Kong Fighting

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One country. Two systems. When Hong Kong made the move from British Colonial to Chinese rule in 1997, Beijing promised the region economic and political freedoms unheard of on the mainland. Hong Kong’s residents had a special dispensation to do what they do best. Make money. When the bubble inevitably burst, expectations and everything else sank.

Ancient Chinese proverb say, When economy goes south, people get political. So when Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa proposed a Beijing – backed “antisubversion” bill, the people of Hong Kong took to the streets. The protests have sparked a leadership crisis in Hong Kong, and put the People’s Republic of China on the defensive.


Christine Loh, CEO, Civic Exchange, a Hong Kong-based political and democracy think tank

Minxin Pei, senior associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Joe Fewsmith, director, East Asia Interdisciplinary Studies Program, Boston University

Alexandra Seno, Hong Kong correspondent, Newsweek.

African American Studies

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African American studies at Harvard University is not what it once was. Not only has the department endured the high-profile departures of Cornell West and Anthony Appiah, but it’s changed it’s name and its focus. It’s now called the department of African and African-American studies, and the change is more than semantic.

For years, scholars have argued that Black studies should refashion itself and focus more on the African, in order to understand the American. Now Harvard is making it official. And while some see new signs of life in this move, others are asking, who needs ethnic studies anyway? A conversation with two Harvard scholars. Defining the diaspora.


Evelynn Hammonds, historian of science , Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Marcyliena Morgan, linguistic anthropologist, Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Gerald Early, professor of English and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.