Monthly Archives: January 2005

The Story of the Weeping Camel

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It’s not often that two camels gets the red carpet treatment from Hollywood, but a new documentary called “The Story of the Weeping Camel” has captured the eye of the Academy.

The Oscar-nominated documentary follows the lives of a nomadic family in the Gobi desert, and their camels. The story describes the reunion a mother camel, her colt and the family that raises them.

The film is a window into ancient nomadic culture and its inevitable collision with the modern world. We’ll talk with one of the directors, Luigi Falorniwho, spent months in Mongolia getting to know the family and the camels. A look inside the living traditions of the Gobi Desert.


Luigi Falorni, writer, director and cinematographer of “The Story of the Weeping Camel,” nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

The Iraqi Election

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It was Iraq’s first free election in 50 years, and officials say more than 8 million people, turned out to vote. They did it in defiance of insurgent threats and many said they voted in part to take revenge against Saddam Hussein.

Results aren’t expected for days or even weeks, but already Iraqi and US officials are hailing the vote as a success. The day was not without violence — suicide bombs killed dozens and death threats and mortar attacks kept many Iraqi’s away from polling stations, among them, those in the Sunni community who boycotted the election — raising fears that the results may be rejected by them.

Some here in the United States say the vote shows that democracy can succeed in Iraq — others say it shows that its high time the U.S. started designing an exit strategy for its troops.


Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford

Alissa Rubin, Baghdad Bureau Chief for the LA Times

Thanassis Cambanis, Boston Globe reporter based in Iraq

Zuhair Humadi, Secretary General of the Council of Ministers in Iraq

Donny George, Director General of The Iraq Museum

Ambassador Peter Galbraith, former U.S. Ambassador to Croatia and Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

The Fearless Man

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What does it mean to be fearless? That question’s at the heart of Donald Pfarrer’s new novel, “The Fearless Man,” about a Marine infantry company in Vietnam.

The story follows Captain MacHugh Clare, a seasoned battlefield leader, wise to the ways of his enemy, sensitive to the safety of his soldiers, but unafraid to order them to “break on through” when they’re under heavy enemy fire. But even Mac succumbs to fear, and his faith in himself falters when he comes face to face with a North Vietnamese soldier who seems truly unafraid of death.

The encounter leaves Mac, and the reader, wrestling with questions about the nature of bravery, faith and fear. The novel draws upon the author’s own experience in Vietnam, and offers an unflinching and gritty view of raw combat.


Donald Pfarrer, author of “The Fearless Man.”

The Iraqi Expatriate Vote

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Starting today, Iraqi citizens living outside their country, from Jordan to Denmark, the UK to the U.S., are casting their ballots for a new Iraqi government.

But of more than a million eligible voters, only about a quarter of them have actually registered. Some say the low turnout of Iraqi expats is because of bad organization, requiring many to travel hundreds of miles first to register, and then to vote. And some Iraqis say they’re not voting to protest the American-led invasion and occupation of their native land.

Others hail this tenuous experiment with democracy as a chance for a new start. As one Iraqi voting in Sydney Australia said: “If you want freedom you have to fight for it. I’m voting for democracy.”


Anwar Diab, Iraqi American in the US, currently owner and General Manager of eLink Associates, and CEO of Baghdad Communication Group, based in the US and Baghdad

Sabah Jawad, Iraqi living in the UK, Secretary of Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation

Thanassis Cambanis, Boston Globe reporter based in Baghdad.

Nothing But the Truth

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Truth and Reconciliation is something a lot easier said than done in the play “Nothing but the Truth.” It’s written by one of South Africa’s top actors, John Kani. Its a story examining the emotional turbulence of South Africa in the years after apartheid — by looking in on the dynamics of one ordinary family. Kani knows a lot about the fight for liberation. His brother was shot and killed while reading poetry at a funeral. Kani himself was locked away in solitary confinement. He is today a self-described “cultural activist” but still he wonders if the nation has healed…and if he has too. For individuals, he says – truth and reconciliation is a whole other drama. John Kani’s play takes us away from the heroes and the exiles and the legends of liberation.


John Kani, Award Winning South African Actor, Director and Playwright. He won a Tony Award for his performance in “The Island.” Kani’s new play is “Nothing But the Truth.”

Code Names

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This week Washington learned that the Defense Department has been keeping a big secret. Turns out it’s been running covert intelligence operations since 2002 — without anyone, including the CIA, knowing. The military has always been in the business of keeping secrets –that’s nothing new. But what is new is the extent to which all that classified information is being shielded from the public and the civilian leaders who are supposed to oversee such activity. The defense analyst William Arkin says that post 9.11 — the military has become obsessed with secrecy…and that obsession is hurting its ability to protect the nation at home and abroad. He argues that the elaborate system of classification and code names not only blinds the public and the politicians — but it distracts the military as well.


William Arkin, author of “Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs, and Operations in the 9/11 World.”

Retired Colonel Patrick Lang, former head of Middle East and South Asian intelligence and counter- terrorism for Depart of Defense.

Holocaust and Memory

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In April of 1994, Jacqueline Murekatete was 9 years old, living on a farm in Rwanda. She played with her Hutu neighbors. They came over to borrow cups of meal and milk. But in that month these same neighbors took Jacqueline’s parents and brothers and sisters down to the river and hacked them to death.

David Gewirtzman was 11 in 1942, when his family crawled into a pit under the pigsty on a farm in Poland. They lived there with rats and lice for almost two years, until Poland was liberated by the Russian army. Sixty years after soldiers liberated Auschwitz and the world swore, “Never Again” these survivors of two genocides, half a century apart, share their stories, and wonder with us — is memory enough?


Jacqueline Murekatete, survivor of Rwandan genocide, student at NYU

David Gewirtzman, retired pharmacist, survivor of Holocaust

Ruth Messinger, Executive Director of American Jewish World Service who recently visited the Sudan

Politics and Social Security

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It wasn’t hard making the case for Social Security seventy years ago, back when Franklin Delano Roosevelt sold it to the American people. The Great Depression made the case for him. Older Americans, who had spent their lives working, watched their savings and pensions disappear with the crash of the markets. And with that, the largest government retirement and insurance program in the world was born.

President George Bush wants social security to figure as large in his legacy as it did in FDR’s. He wants to change it, radically, by creating private accounts. Proponents say his plan will harness the power of the market for retirees. Others say it puts the most successful insurance plan in history at the mercy of the market.


Representative Mike Castle from Delaware

Eric Roston, writer and reporter in TIME’s Washington bureau

Theda Skocpol, Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University.

A Modern Adventurer

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When Redmond O’Hanlon boarded a deep sea fishing boat in the middle of a January hurricane, he knew he was in for an adventure. But he got much more. Beyond a gutting table slithering with Hagfish & Roundnose Grenadiers, he found himself adding sleepless night to sleepless night in a state that rendered him contorted, retching and utterly disoriented.

O’Hanlon is a modern adventurer, and used to roughing it. His treks in the Amazon, encounters with crocodiles, and tastings of monkey head soup are standard fare for him.

In his new book “Trawler” O’Hanlon serves up the lives of fisherman from the Orkney Islands as they battle 50 foot waves, yearn for loves left at home, and encounter both beautiful and hideous creatures pulled from the depths.


Redmond O’Hanlon, author of “Trawler.”

Training Day

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For many officers in Iraq — following orders, going by the book, really hasn’t been an option. There simply isn’t a book for the kind of challenges they face. There is no manual on how to spot insurgents during civil repair work, or how to navigate messy ethnic and tribal politics.

So instead of waiting for the higher ups to catch up with realities on the ground, a group of West Point commanders devised a way to help troop leaders learn from each other.

They started a website which became a virtual front porch where platoon commanders and junior officers could swap advice and anecdotes. Now a third of all army captains are part of the site and it is even getting praise from the brass as a learning tool. But what about army discipline?


Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Wong, research professor of military strategy at the Army War College

Major Peter Kilner, start-up team member of the website

Dan Baum, New Yorker writer and author of the article “Battle Lessons: What the Generals Don’t Know.”