Monthly Archives: March 2004

Rural America: Help Wanted

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Optimism can be a precious commodity if you make your home in one of the thousands of small towns across America where the words, “jobless recovery” are just another way of saying you still don’t have work. From northern New England to the hills of Appalachia, from the Great Plains to the Pacific Northwest, communities that once thrived on family farming or fair-wage factory work are going quiet, their populations dwindling as working age men and women pull up stakes to try again somewhere else.

And if the exodus from rural places is a national story, so is the one about the people who stay behind, getting by on less, remembering when they had more. It is the hollowing out of small town America. We’ll talk about what’s lost, and what America cannot afford to lose.


Tim Egan, Pulitzer Prize-winning national enterprise reporter for The
New York Times

Mike Korth, farmer in Randolph, Nebraska;
Philip Barkhurst, mayor of Malta, Ohio;
Bob Danderson, mayor of Berlin, New Hampshire;
Peggy Carey, city manager of John Day, Oregon;

Pakistan's Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi

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Back in September 2001, George Bush gave the world an ultimatum. He told other states that “You are either with us or with the terrorists.” For Bush, choosing sides was nowhere more difficult than in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan where the country’s military leadership had close links with the mullahs, and where there were already longstanding ties with extremists in Afghanistan.

Accepting Pakistan’s pledge of support was equally risky for the U.S. where critics contend the country belongs more on the axis of evil than on the list of allies. Relations were further strained with recent news of Pakistan’s nuclear garage sale, but the U.S. continues to support the Musharraf government, putting millions behind his efforts to capture Al-Qaeda leaders.


Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.

Chasing Tornadoes

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Scientists call tornadoes “the black hole of meteorology.” No one knows what causes a thunderstorm to turn into the super cell which then spawns a twister. But the effect is devastating, unpredictable and, to the storm chaser, utterly exhilarating.
This time each year, tornado chasers head to the Great Plains in search of their perfect storm. Some are scientists drawn to solve the natural mystery; some are amateurs hooked on the thrill of watching a sky turn green and purple and then twist into whirling destruction. Tornado chasers live their lives by weather maps, cell phones and truck stop food, driving a line between luck and catastrophe that can shift as quickly as the wind.


Tim Samaras, Senior Research Engineer for Applied Research Associates and long-time Storm Chaser

Dr. Lou Wicker, Research Scientist National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Severe Storms Laboratory, featured in he NOVA special, “Hunt for the Super Twister”

David Lewison, Amateur Tornado Chaser

Steven Levine, Director of Tornado Alley Safaris

Pumping up the Prices

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Long called black gold, crude oil is the essential ingredient fueling the global economy. But the boom in Asia is putting new pressures on the oil stocks, and prices everywhere are hitting record levels. Here in America, drivers and consumers are watching the numbers rise and wondering if the increase in the cost of gas and oil might be all it might take to skewer an already struggling economy.

This week, OPEC ministers are expected to tighten the spigot and let prices rise even higher. And while a worried Bush administration fills up its own reserves and waits for oil from Africa, Russia and Iraq to start flowing, some are saying the only way out of the OPEC stranglehold is to get serious about a gas tax. Saying goodbye to cheap oil.


Philip Verleger, visting fellow at the Institute for International Economics

Paul Roberts, Harpers writer and author.

Magic Realism's Spell Broken?

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El boom has gone el bust. The Latin American literary movement that dawned in the 1960s with writers like Mario Vargas Llosa (YO-sah) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez has, in the last decade, been challenged by a new generation of writers whose first person fiction eschews the folklore in favor of something grittier.

Gone are the levitating beauties, the flurries of butterflies, and the rainstorms that lasted for four years, eleven months, and two days. In their place: true life renderings of all the complexities and contradictions of modern Latin America. If magical realism launched its authors, it also transformed the Western Hemisphere into a sleepy hothouse of siestas and the supernatural. Now, this new crop of writers says, it’s time to reclaim the popular imagination, for reality’s sake.


Edmundo Paz Soldan, author, “The Matter of Desire” and assistant professor of literature at Cornell University.

Fetal Rights

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Depending on who you talk to, Congress’ recent decision to pass the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act” is either a blessing for women, or a blow. The law makes it a federal offense to harm an unborn child in an attack on a pregnant woman, and for the first time at the federal level, gives the fetus independent legal standing.

Supporters say the bill will help stop violence, because now the perpetrator of an attack against a pregnant woman will be charged with crimes against two victims, not one. But those opposing the bill see it as one more cut, in a well-orchestrated campaign to erode reproductive freedoms; that granting legal rights to the fetus, flies in the face of Roe v. Wade.


Marlene Fried, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program at Hampshire College

Serrin Foster, President of Feminists for Life of America, based in Washington, DC

Sarah Childress, reporter for Newsweek magazine.

First Impressions

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We’ve all done it. We meet that perfect someone at a cocktail party, impress them with our expertise in Egyptian Art and Tuscan cooking, along with witty reflections on attending a recent high school reunion. We exchange numbers and then wait for the phone to ring. And it doesn’t.

Then there’s that uncomfortable suspicion that maybe what we thought was a great first impression wasn’t. There are researchers who tell us it takes just eight seconds for the average person to size us up; to take full account of the clothes we’re wearing, our haircut, even how we talk. All these clues lead someone to make a snap decision about who we are. From the other side of the looking glass, the psychology of the first impression.


Ann Demarais and Valerie White, psychologists and co-authors of “First Impressions: What you don’t know about how others see you.”

Al Qaeda On The Run?

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From the streets of Madrid and Hamburg, to the tunnels of Waziristan, to the jungles of the Philippines, a secret and shadowy network called Al Qaeda is evolving into its next phase. Its disciples have weathered two years of war and billions of dollars in U.S. Defense expenditures since September 11th, but the global terrorists of the 21st century are still going strong.

And while the U.S. deploys 2,000 more Marines on the Pakistan border to help hunt down the organization’s leaders, many are wondering if the U.S.-led war on terror is making it more difficult for the group to recruit and organize, or whether it is making it easier. Inside Al Qaeda, looking for dots to connect between Iraq, Afghanistan, and Europe, and decoding the next generation of terrorists.


David Rohde, New York Times reporter in Islamabad, Pakistan

Robert Young Pelton, journalist and author of the recent National Geographic article “In the Land of Bin Laden”;Tim Golden, New York Times reporter

Magnus Ranstorp, deputy director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St. Andrews

John Updike

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Since 1953, John Updike’s short stories have mapped places in America that would still be terra incognita without him. In small-town Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, his heroes live in the shadows of suburbia, stepping through adolescence, marriage, children, and divorce, somehow protected from, or oblivious to the thundering of history.

They are fathers telling stories to their children and teenage boys working the checkout at the A&P. They live immersed in an ordinary that Updike suspends between heaven and earth, between sorrow and beauty. With a new collection of more than 100 of his short stories, John Updike looks back over much packed dirt, at our lives, lived in his fiction.


John Updike, Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

Machismo and the President

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When President Bush, dressed in a flight suit, and carrying his helmet strode the deck of an aircraft carrier, one overexcited newspaper writer described him “hot, virile.” Video of John Kerry snowboarding or wading through the rushes with a shotgun is designed to draw undecided people to see the manly side of guy who spends most of his time in a suit and tie.

The two men running for president seem to favor motorcycles and chainsaws over the motorcades or the Roosevelt Room. Presidential races are fought over the substance of domestic policy and foreign affairs. Aren’t they? Or are we watching a contest to decide who is the most macho man? Quien es Mas macho?


Geoffrey Nunberg, Stanford Linguist and author of the forthcoming book
Joan Hoff, historian and former president of the Center for the Study of