Monthly Archives: September 2003

Local Activism

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Ka Hsaw Wa and his wife, Katie Redford are the most patient of impatient activists. Over the past decade, they have worked in the jungles of Burma and Thailand, and in American law libraries, building what they hope will be a landmark legal case, aimed not at Burma’s military leaders, but rather at the American oil company Unocal.

These activists claim that a pipeline of which Unocal is part owner, is not only carrying natural gas to Thailand, but is bringing with it forced labor, rape, and environmental degradation to Burmese villagers. When Ka Hsaw Wa and Redford first filed their lawsuit seven years ago, most experts said it would never fly. Now, a decision is pending, and it’s sending shudders through American boardrooms.


Ka Hsaw Wa, Burmese activist and co-founder of EarthRights

Katie Redford, human rights attorney and co-founder of EarthRights

Thomas Niles, president of the United States Council for International Business

Unocal Attorney Dan Petrocelli, partner with O’Melveny and Myers.

Internet Spying

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If you think you are the only one reading your work email, think again. A new survey of major businesses shows most monitor their employees’ email and internet access. That means your supervisor and the folks in the tech department could be reading everything you type, from that friendly email to your honey, to the help-wanted site you visited during lunch.

Many companies tell employees that the computer is for business, but be honest, who hasn’t emailed friends, checked the sports page or swapped the latest work gossip. And as most Americans spend more time at the office, it’s getting harder to leave all personal business to after hours. Cyberspying at work. Who’s reading what, why businesses say they have no choice, and why most people don’t even know they are being watched.


Mark Rowe, Senior Research Associate, Center for Business Ethics at Bentley College

Lewis Maltby, President, National Workrights Institute.

Al Franken

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There are some people Al Franken just doesn’t like. Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Anne Coulter — who Franken calls, simply, a nutcase. They are all self-confessed members of the right wing media, all regulars on Fox News. What most irritates Franken about them is that they “concoct an inflammatory story that serves their political goals.” Or more specifically: they lie.

Hence the title of his new book: “Lies and The Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” To counter the conservative media, Al Franken’s talking about creating a liberal talk radio network. He says it’s necessary, and he’s often mentioned being the front man on the dial.


Al Franken, author of “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.”

America's Poor

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The numbers came out last Friday, that’s the day of the week when organizations release bad news that they hope will disappear quickly. This, is the Census Bureau’s new tally of America’s poor: 34.6 million people at or below the poverty line in 2002. That’s 1.7 million more than the year before, and the second year in a row that the numbers have gone up.

For single people under 65, we’re talking about scraping by on less than ten thousand dollars a year. Beyond the numbers, though, are the faces. Single mothers and minority groups are still too well represented. And suddenly, so are suburban families, married couples and senior citizens. No one, it seems, is immune from rising unemployment and falling wages.


Cynthia Duncan, Director of Community and Resource Development, Ford Foundation, and author, “Worlds Apart: Why Poverty Persists in Rural America”

Katherine Newman, Dean of Social Science, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and author, “No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City”

The Power of the 23rd Psalm

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Green pastures. Still waters. And that valley of the shadow of death. Those words alone may be enough to evoke the piece from the Hebrew Scriptures that many people can recite in its entirety, even it they’re not religious. The 23rd Psalm is the one that begins “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” It’s only fifteen lines long, 57 words in its original Hebrew. It’s often read out loud at funerals, and whispered privately at moments of fear and grief.

Rabbi Harold Kushner has a new book on the 23rd Psalm that he says completes a conversation he began after the death of his fourteen year old son, when he first raised questions about why bad things happen to good people.


Harold S. Kushner, author, “The Lord Is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-third Psalm”, Rabbi Laureate, Temple Israel, Natick, Massachusetts

The Democrats Debate

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And then there were ten. Last night, before a red, white and blue bandstand background, the ten Democratic candidates spun and whirled, and wagged their fingers at George W., and invoked the name of the great and powerful Clinton.

It was Wesley Clark’s first time at the prom, and he didn’t spill anything on himself. John Kerry and Dick Gephardt took Howard Dean out to the parking lot, but he gave back as good as he got. Al Sharpton had the best lines. Mosley Braun complained she was ignored and Bob Graham and Joe Lieberman continued to dance, without attracting much notice. But all ten are now one hundred days away from the real start of primary season, and with President Bush’s approval rating at an all time low, these Democrats are starting to get noticed.


Ken Rudin, political editor for National Public Radio

Frank Luntz, republican pollster and founder of Luntz Research Companies

Allan Murray, Washington Bureau Chief for CNBC and columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

K Street

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Take a few real senators. A few more famous actors. Take away the scripts, bring on the hand held cameras, mix them all together and you get HBO’s new reality series “K Street.” The show claims to give an insider’s view of politics at its grittiest, showcasing the way power, sex and influence are wielded by Washington’s least likeable power brokers, the lobbyists.

Director Steven Soderbergh calls it real time fiction, some critics call it a reckless blend of fact and fantasy. And now, with Howard Dean spouting lines from the show in the real-life democratic debates and Conan the Candidate in California, you have to wonder whether this is a case of life or at least politics, imitating art or the other way around.


Stuart Stevens, co-producer, K Street, and political consultant

Gail Chaddock, Congressional correspondent, The Christian Science Monitor

Alan Hoffman, lobbyist with Timmons and Company.

Female Cadets Under Assault

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Over the past 10 years, close to a hundred and fifty cases of sexual assault and abuse were reported at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Female cadets were raped, attacked, and humiliated on a regular basis, and despite a number of internal investigations, military brass did little to stop the violence or change the culture.

This week, a report by a congressional committee points at “a chasm of leadership” that “helped create an environment in which sexual assault became a part of life.” And the finger pointing doesn’t stop at the gates of the academy. Some say the blame goes all the way to the top, to the Air Force brass, and to the Pentagon. Others say nothing will change until leaders put an end to the macho and misogynistic culture of the military cadet.


Judith Hicks Stiehm, Professor at the Department of Political Science, Florida International University and author of “Bring Me Men and Women”

Scott Silliman, director of the Duke Law School’s Center for Law, Ethics and National Security, and retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force

John Ferrugia, reporter for Denver’s ABC affiliate, KMGH

Aya LaBrie, enlisted in the Air Force academy in 1993.

Assessing the Iraqi Psyche

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They need security, electricity and clean running water. They need hospitals and schools and a way to earn a living. But for the millions of Shia in southern Iraq, another imperative of reconstruction is healing. Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party regime ruled by fear. Arrests were arbitrary, torture indiscriminate.

According to a newly released report from Physicians for Human Rights, years of deprivation, intimidation and repression devastated Iraq’s psychological infrastructure, leaving men and women scarred physically and emotionally, and unable to care for themselves and their families. For the post-Saddam, post-war period to yield progress, the report says, mental health care has to be a priority.


Dr. Lynn Amowitz, senior medical researcher, Physicians for Human Rights

Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor correspondent in Nasyriah

Dr. Mufeed Raoof, Mental Health Consultant for the World Health Organization in Iraq.

The World's Nuclear Watchdog

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With an October 31st deadline looming, time is running out for Iran to come clean about its nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency has issued Tehran an ultimatum: Give us access to your facilities, or risk UN sanctions.

While it’s unclear just how Tehran is likely to respond, what is clear, according to some analysts, is that the world can’t afford to wait. If Iran is not stopped soon, they say, the country will develop the bomb before the decade’s end. This hour, the head of the world’s nuclear watchdog agency discusses Iran’s bomb-making potential, and the future of nuclear proliferation, and what to do when the superpowers won’t play by their own rules.


Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency