Monthly Archives: January 2005

Year on Mars

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The mysterious Red Planet is a lot less mysterious than it was a year ago.

Spirit and Opportunity — the two robotic rovers — are now entering their second year of exploration on Mars. Their survival is not just considered a success — it’s seen as a major scientific miracle. The rovers survived their landing on Mars and they’ve long outlived their expiration dates. They were only supposed to function for 90 days in the harsh Martian climate. Yet, more than a year later they are continuing to crawl, climb and sift the surface of Mars sending news back to Earth.

Their original mission was to find signs of life and to help scientists search out answers to that perennial question — are we alone? Mission to Mars — Spirit and Opportunity still phoning home.


David Grinspoon, planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado and author of “Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life.”

Palestinians Go to the Polls

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The victory of Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian President has been greeted with celebratory gunfire. It was the first opportunity for Palestinians to vote since Yassir Arafat was elected president nine years ago.

The latest figures indicate that 66 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, and that should be enough for Abbas to claim that he has a mandate for action.

Israeli leaders say they are ready to work with the new Palestinian leader, but its not clear if Abbas will be able to persuade Palestinian militants to curb their attacks on Israel, or how easy it will be for him to end the corruption within his own administration. Without movement on either front, most analysts suspect his honeymoon will only last a few months. The election of Abbas, and questions about the long road back to the negotiating table.


Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah

Sari Nusseibeh, Palestinian Professor on Leave as President of Al-Quds University

Rashid Khalidi, Director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University

Daoud Kuttab, Director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University.

Pieter-Dirk Uys

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The South African satirist and on stage drag queen Peter-Dirk Uys doesn’t mince his words. “After having had an apartheid government that killed people,” he says, ” we now have a democratic government that just lets them die.” He’s talking about AIDS — and what he says is the refusal of South Africa’s current president Thabo Mbeki to tell the truth about the disease that each day claims the lives of six-hundred South Africans.

Uys is no stranger to political theater. He’s been in the spotlight since the eighties, when he was famous for his one-man performances criticizing apartheid. But today, Uys says AIDS has become a more dangerous killer than apartheid ever was — and so he’s fluffed up his wigs, and his wit in a campaign to educate people about AIDS by getting them to laugh.


Peter-Dirk Uys. His latest performance piece is “Foreign AIDS.”

Saving Civilization in a War Zone

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On this day in Iraq, nine more US soldiers were killed in one of the deadliest days in recent fighting. Rebuilding the country in the face of continuing violence and chaos is becoming increasingly difficult. Recovering its history is even harder.

That’s exactly what Donny George is trying to do. As Director General of Iraq’s Museums, he’s responsible for preserving and protecting what’s left of Iraq’s antiquities.

Nearly a year and a half after looters ransacked Baghdad’s prized museums, many of the nearly 13,000 stolen artifacts are still missing: some dating back to the dawn of civilization. George has watched three-thousand year old bronze statues and clay urns turn up on EBay, smuggled in suitcases and car trunks into the US and Jordan.


Donny George, Director General of Iraq’s Museums.

Nature as Prototype

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The English philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon described science in his time as learning to “torture nature for her secrets.”

For centuries, human progress was marked by domination of the natural world, mining, and extracting and leaving piles of waste behind. The new scientific approach called biomimicry wants to stop the fight with nature, and instead look to plants and animals for answers. It’s more than back to the land, it’s an approach gathered from secrets revealed by the latest electron microscopes, looking at everything from the energy-storing power of duckweed, to the moisture wicking valves of a wet pine cone, to the supple strength of a spider’s web.

In this hour scientist and writer, Janine Benyus talks about finding her answers during a walk in the woods.


Janine Benyus, biologist and author of “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.”

Nature as Prototype.

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Robin Wright, Washington Post dipomatic correspondent

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist

Andrew Bacevich, professor of International Relations at Boston University and author of the New American Militarism

and Narasimhan Ravi, editor of The Hindu.

The Two Sides of American Power

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This week, the world saw a very different picture of American power in action. U.S. Marines — aided by aircraft carriers and Seahawk helicopters — are delivering food and water to tsunami survivors in Indonesia.

Colin Powell is touring the devastated regions and President Bush is promising that the U.S. will stand by countries in need.

For many in this country and elsewhere, the images of U.S. soldiers in humanitarian rescue mode harken back to a time in World War II when American G.I.s in Europe were seen as saviors in a fallen world. But at a time when America’s international image is at an all time low — and with its troops still engaged in a bloody and controversial war in Iraq — can this rescue effort show American power in a new light?


Robin Wright, Washington post diplomatic correspondent

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist

Andrew Bacevich, professor of International Relations at Boston University and author of the “New American Militarism”

Narasimhan Ravi, editor of The Hindu.

Water Wars

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Forget oil, water is now considered by many to be the most precious resource on the planet.

Clean, fresh, drinking water is growing scarcer by the decade. While it dominates news this week from the villages destroyed by tidal waves, it goes much further.

Experts warn of a future dominated by an OPEC-like cartel of water-exporting nations. Already pipelines from Scotland to England and Turkey into central Europe are under consideration and companies are bidding on glacier water from the artic to sell abroad.

This hour the Connection’s series “Innovation That Matters” continues with Ashok Gadgil, an environmental physicist who has found a way to clean the dirty water in villages from Mexico to the Philippines. H2O as a commodity to be bought and sold or drinking water as a fundamental human right.


Ashok Gadgil, environmental physicist at Lawerence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Countdown in Iraq

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Yesterday in Iraq, the Governor of Baghdad was assassinated, five more US soldiers were killed, and two car bombs exploded. Today, ten Iraqis were killed and many more injured at a graduation ceremony for Iraqi recruits — and still Iraqi and American leaders say elections are going to be held on schedule.

Alissa Rubin is no stranger to stories of violence. In her year and a half heading up the Baghdad bureau for the LA Times, she has reported from the front lines of the conflict, and on the growing tensions between Shiites and Sunnis, stories that shed light on the personal lives of people there: rice farmers whose sons are executed by insurgents after joining the Iraqi National Guard, doctors trying to tend to the injured, the mothers of sons fighting on both sides of the conflict.


Alissa Rubin, LA Times Baghdad correspondent

Dan Murphy, correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor based in Iraq.

Free Culture Future

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The open-source movement gave rise to a new philosophy of equal access to information and file-sharing. That’s when the voices of regulation stepped in.

Lawrence Lessig is a law professor who brings democracy to the internet by challenging existing copyright laws. Lessig has published his “Free Culture” manifesto on the web with a license that allows users to download, sample and edit his text. It’s a move that flies in the face of copyright laws that haven’t yet caught up to the digital world.


Lawrence Lessig, Professor at Stanford University, author of “Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity”