Monthly Archives: July 2003

The Threat to Wilderness

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It was the midnight hour for wilderness in America last night, literally. In a late-night debate over the Department of Interior’s budget, congressmen clashed over the meaning, and uses, of the nation’s wildest places.

At the center of the controversy, lies a debate over roads. Build a road in the mountains, or call an old horse trail a road, and it’s an invitation to bulldozers, say environmentalists. They want to keep wilderness areas road-free. Advocates for industry, snow-mobilers and ranchers, along with the Bush administration, say public land belongs to the people and should be left open for all to use and enjoy.

As the clock ticked 12, the House voted to allow road building in national forests and many other wild places. This land is whose land?


Rick Bass, nature writer and novelist, Congressman Mark Udall, Democrat from Colorado

Del LeFevre, owner of the Seven Bar X Ranch in Boulder, Utah

Miss Rhythm, Ruth Brown

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It’s the house that Ruth built, and we’re not talking Yankee Stadium. Rather, Atlantic Records, which singer Ruth Brown crowned with her own brassy self and some two dozen hits during the 50s.

For most of that decade, the queen of rhythm and blues ruled from the top of the charts, but the high notes didn’t last. Cut loose from her contract in the 60s, she made ends meet driving a bus and scrubbing floors, while her old label raked in the cash from her hits. Today Ruth Brown is back after a long, hard climb. She earned a Tony, a Grammy, and a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along the way. She even slew the corporate dragon and won a settlement against Atlantic.

For information about Ruth Brown’s performance, click on the link below.


Ruth Brown, Grammy and Tony Award winning singer.

The Buzz for Dr. Dean

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Sell the sizzle, not the steak. It’s an old advertising maxim that applies whether you’re selling T-bones or political candidates. In a field of nine Democrats, that most Americans still can’t name, people in Iowa have a definite advantage. With the Iowa caucuses, the first official contest for the Democratic presidential contenders, just six months away, voters get the chance to have coffee and more coffee with the candidates.

Right now, the word from the cornfields is that former Vermont Governor Howard Dean is the man to beat. He’s against the war with Iraq. For gay civil unions. He’s raising money and expectations and restarting an old debate over whether Democrats with progressive views can win elections.


Ed Kilgore, policy director of the Democratic Leadership Council

Eric Hauser, Democratic political strategist

Brian Tibbets and Megan Scott, Dean volunteers in Iowa who are running “meetups” in Iowa City.

Sex After Sixty

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There’s a nursing home in New York where the residents have a “knock first” policy. It’s done wonders for their sex lives. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being barged in on when in flagrante delicto.

Now, if you find that hard to believe, maybe you need to consider this: Old people like sex, too. You can keep your shuffleboard and bridge tournaments, senior hikes and church mixers. Time may well lay waste to hair lines and dress sizes, but the libido lives on. MTV might not show it. Madison Avenue might not admit it. You might not want to think about it. But lust and the gymnastics that go along with it know no demographics. Sex and the sexagenarian. Why in anything goes America, the elderly are still kindly invited to keep their clothes on.


Joseph Epstein, author, “Fabulous Small Jews”

Jane Juska, author, “A Round-Heeled Woman”

Sixteen Words

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Who knew sixteen words could cause so much trouble. “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” This one sentence from the President’s State of the Union address has thrown the White House into a finger pointing frenzy and stirred a somnolent press corps into a who-knew-what-where-when tizzy.

The Administration has thrown out a swarm of contradictory statements, strangely out of character for a team known for its tight-lipped message discipline. Officials have tried to downplay the 16 words, saying the White House and the American people are “over” questions about Iraq. Getting over and under the truth. Accountability and the political half-life of yellowcake.


Paul Reynolds, BBC World Affairs Correspondent

David Sanger, White House Correspondent for the New York Times.

The Age of Sincerity

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Here’s a trivia question. What year did David Letterman make his late night debut? Think it might have been, say, a decade ago? Think again: it was 1982, and ever since, his brand of sardonic, edgy humor has been the baseline for a popular culture that didn’t just celebrate irony, it bathed in it.

Think “whatever,” “whassup,” Seinfeld and the Simpsons. But after more than twenty years of irony’s bitter little pill, some critics say America is going through a massive culture colonic. One that is going to wash away the nasty joke, the existential angst and the dark double entendre, and replace them with the girl next door, a can-do attitude and a bright, shiny smile.


Bill Strauss, founder of The Capitol Steps and author of many books about generational change

Robert Thompson, director, Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University

Donna Learmont, video production teacher, Lahser High School, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Marching Season

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An old Irish proverb says “keep a thing for seven years and you’ll find a use for it.” It’s been just five years since the Good Friday agreement ushered in a new era of power sharing in Northern Ireland, but it is already making a difference for the people of that divided land.

There are fewer bombs, and fewer killings, and half way into this year’s marching season, when Protestant loyalists parade through Catholic nationalist neighborhoods, life seems quiet. But where some see signs of peace, others believe deep sectarian divides remain, along with wounds that politicians alone cannot heal. A conversation with Paul Murphy, the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, on reconciling the past and marching forward.


Paul Murphy, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and former Secretary of state for Wales

Noel Large, a loyalist former prisoner

Sean Murray, a republican former prisoner, both he and Noel are community activists in the mobile phone network in Springfield, Belfast.

Berlusconi's Bravura

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That Silvio Berlusconi’s party name “Forza Italia” or “Go Italy!” is also a national soccer cry already tells you plenty about Italy’s popular prime minister. For Berlusconi, politics, like soccer, is a sport of fancy footwork and well-timed passing.

Indicted for bribing judges? Pass a law rendering you and your top officials immune from prosecution while in office. Concerned that your almost total control of the Italian mass media looks like a conflict of interest? Pass a law redefining what “mere ownership” really means. Now, as Berlusconi settles into the rotating European Union presidency, the man who likes rules best when they don’t apply to him is in for some closer scrutiny.


Franco Pavoncello, dean of academic affairs, John Cabot University, Rome

James Walston, head of the department of international relations, American University in Rome

Maurizio Molinari, New York correspondent, La Stampa

Who's To Judge?

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Justice is blind. Or at least she wears a blindfold on all those statues in courthouses across America. Justice is supposed to rule without fear or favor, to make no distinctions of race or class. But now judges are being asked not only to close their eyes, but to sit on their hands when it comes to sentencing.

Tough-on-crime lawmakers are imposing more and more mandatory minimums. And so today, if someone is found guilty in federal court of possessing five grams of crack cocaine (that’s the amount in a sugar packet), he or she gets five years. No exceptions. But sometimes, say judges, there need to be exceptions. That is why those statues carry scales. Now some judges accuse Congress of tipping the balance of power.


The Hon. John S. Martin Jr., U.S. District Judge

U. S. Rep. Tom Feeney (D-FL).

EO Wilson's Ode to Ants

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King Solomon is quoted in the bible as telling people, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise.” Since his childhood, EO Wilson, the father of sociobiology, professor of zoology, and curator in entomology, has indeed been going to the ant. More than a decade ago, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his work on this small and annoying insect, one known more for infiltrating kitchen cupboards than for complex social behavior.

Now he has a new book: an 800 page volume on the genus Pheidole: better known as the big-headed ants that live and crawl from the U.S.A. to Argentina. All of them are represented in drawings by the scientist himself. EO Wilson and his new triumph of love.


EO Wilson, Pellegrino University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University. Author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book The Ants. His most recent book is Pheidole in the New World: A Hyperdiverse Ant Genus.