Monthly Archives: February 2005

Looking Back and Looking Forward in Iraq

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A suicide bomb in Iraq today has killed more than 100 people in one of the deadliest attacks since the war began. It couldn’t have happened at a more critical time. Just as a new and democratically elected government is taking shape, and drafts of a constitution are scribbled out, Iraqis are being encouraged to look ahead, to consider what it means to be an Iraqi in today’s world.

For one man, that task starts with remembering and cataloguing all the abuses of the past. The former exile, and writer and scholar Kanan Makiya believes that the people need to see clearly where they were, in order to prepare for their future. He is collecting what he calls Iraq’s sacred texts — government records that document murder and torture under Saddam Hussein. The place of history in securing the future of a people.


Kanan Makiya, founder of The Iraq Memory Foundation and Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, Brandeis University.

More Signs of Trouble for the US Economy

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Forget about North Korea’s nukes — last week it was South Korea’s central bank sending out global shock waves. The bank just happened to mention that it was considering “diversifying” its holding, which some people read as dumping U.S. treasuries, and the stock market went into a tailspin.

Many in the economic forecasting business used it to warn that the U.S. economic bubble was about to burst. But cooler heads prevailed. The South Koreans backed off, the stock market stabilized, and the U.S. dollar regained much of the value it lost in the sell-off scare.

But uncertainty is still the word on the street. International observers say the government’s economic planners have their hands off the wheel, trusting the market, trusting the reputation of an economy which no longer steers straight. Too much trust in the guardrails.


David Rothkopf, former senior Clinton Administration economic official, currently chairman of the consulting firm, The Rothkopf Group, and author of the forthcoming “Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power”

Andy Busch, Global Foreign Exchange Strategist at Bank of Montreal in Chicago, and advisor to the US Treasury on economic and market issues.

Telling Tales of War to Children

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Not so long ago in a country far away lived an ordinary librarian who did something quite heroic. Alia ran the library in Basra, a city in Southern Iraq, and she loved her books dearly.

Two years ago, in advance of the American invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, Alia feared that looting and the fires of war would destroy her beloved books. So she started moving the collection to safety. Book by book, she brought them home where she kept them on windowsills, in cupboards and stacked on the floor. Sure enough, after many of the books had been removed; the Basra library burned.

Her story so caught the imagination or people here that two writers of children’s books set her story to paper in an effort to put a human face on the inhuman ravages of war.


Shaila Dewan, reporter for The New York Times

Jeanette Winter, children’s book author and illustrator. Her latest book is “The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq.”

Mark Alan Stamaty, political cartoonist and author of “Alia’s Mission”

Jane Cutler, children’s book author of “The Cello of Mr. O.”

Testing the Definition of a Terrorist

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It was a heart-wrenching crime: A 10-year-old girl killed by a stray bullet during a gang fight outside a Bronx church. 11 months later, no one had been charged with her death. One reputed gang member was released from jail after pleading guilty to trespassing, and the alleged killer had reportedly fled to Mexico.

Now, though, the Bronx District Attorney is resurrecting the case using a tool unique to post-9/11 America: a state anti-terrorism law. The same tactic was tried in North Carolina where prosecutors went after methamphetamine makers claiming they were producing chemical weapons. While some hail these new additions to the legal toolbox — other say they invite the abuse of power. The terrorist on the street where you live.


Lewis Alperin, New York attorney representing one of several alleged Bronx gang members who have been charged with terrorism

Jerry Wilson, district attorney in Boone, North Carolina, who tried unsuccessfully to charge methamphetamine producers under the state’s anti-terrorism statute

Mark Sidel, associate law professor at University of Iowa and the author of “More Secure, Less Free? Antiterrorism Policy and Civil Liberties After September 11.”

Remembering the Days of Disco

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For many people, disco is something better forgotten, left undisturbed in music history. The very word conjures up technicolor light shows and memories of wide lapels, flared pants, polyester and of course John Travolta aka Tony Manero in his white suit.

With a legacy like that, disco has been relegated to life at the bottom of the cultural and musical barrel. But there are students of that era who say that disco doesn’t deserve this fate, and that popular understandings of disco are not only too narrow, they are wrong. Real disco they say was born in the underbelly of New York City in the early 70s — in places like the Loft, the Gallery, places where both the disenfranchised — gays, blacks, and women — could get up and get down together. Disco — remixed with a little respect.


Tim Lawrence, author of “Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79″ and Director of the Music Culture Program at the University of East London

Nicky Siano, former owner of The Gallery in New York and an original DJ at Studio 54.

Debating the Right to Die

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It’s called the Death with Dignity Act in Oregon, but there are others in this country who call it state-sanctioned killing. N

Now it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide if Oregon can continue to allow terminally ill patients to take their own lives using a doctor’s prescription. Already, more than 170 terminally ill people have used the state’s assisted suicide law to end their own lives since it was enacted 11 years ago.

It is an argument that goes far beyond the courtroom, to questions of morality and religion, quality of life, and the place of the state. Above all, it’s a question of choice, should someone have the right to take their own life.


Kathryn Tucker, Director of Legal Affairs for Compassion and Choices and co-council in Oregon -v- Ashcroft

Dr. William Toffler, Spokesperson for Physicians for Compassionate Care and a Professor of Family Practice, Oregon Health and Science University

Robert and Patricia Matheny, their son Pat was one of Oregon’s first residents to enact the state’s Death with Dignity Law.

Ian Rankin

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Ian Rankin assumes that Edinburgh’s most famous fictional detective wouldn’t like him very much. Rankin may have devoted the past 20 years of his life to creating Detective Inspector John Rebus, but he thinks Rebus would find him too tame, too nice, perhaps unable to keep up, pint for pint, at the pub. But the fictional John Rebus is wise enough to know that Rankin has just been using him all these years to explore places in Edinburgh only a cop can go.

Rankin picked a policeman as his protagonist and murder as each book’s plotline, but it’s all centered in the city of Edinburgh. Rankin takes pains to depict the city in careful detail, so much so that it becomes a well developed character in the series. Opening a file on Ian Rankin, his detective and his city.


Ian Rankin, best-selling Scottish mystery writer. His most recent book is “Fleshmarket Alley: An Inspector Rebus Novel”. He won the 2004 Edgar Award for Best Novel.

The State of Marriage in America

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Marriage, once the cornerstone of American society, is today a bruised and battered institution. With divorce rates near fifty percent and only a small fraction of homes consisting of a man, woman and child — younger generations are growing up in what experts call a “culture of divorce.”

In an effort to salvage the traditional family, religious conservatives have teamed up with politicians and are pushing solutions like “covenant marriages,” binding legal agreements that make it harder to get divorced. These arrangements are most popular in Bible belt states where divorce rates are among the highest in the nation. But critics warn that legislating family values isn’t the answer and the government is overstepping its reach. Tying the knot, examining the state of America’s unions.


Samantha Lesher, 27 year-old graphics designer from Sherwood, Arkansas

John Mayoue, practices family law in Atlanta, Georgia

Dennis Rainey, Executive Director of Family Life in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Looking for a Match

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The list is long and it only keeps growing. As of today, there are close to 90,000 people waiting for an organ donation: from livers and lungs to kidneys and hearts.

Many patients spend years waiting for that vital organ to save their life. Others are frustrated and taking the search into their own hands, sidestepping the list and seeking their own organ donors using newspaper ads, highway billboards and online websites like

But the move to find these “live” donors has some crying foul: saying the match-making websites are violating federal law and ethical codes by turning organs into commodities — items to be bought and sold on EBay. A second opinion on the future of organ donation.


Dr. Jay Lowney, Medical Director of

Bob Hickey, first patient to receive a transplant through

Dr. Mark Fox, Chair of the Ethics Committee at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

Under Fire at Harvard

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President Larry Summers’ remarks about women in science stirred the cauldron at Harvard University, and now it’s boiling over.

He has repeatedly apologized for his comments suggesting that women’s intrinsic aptitude in the sciences may be less than men. He has created two task forces on women at Harvard and he has met with students and faculty members.

But critics still say Summers’ remarks were wildly inappropriate coming from the head of the nation’s oldest university. For that, some say he should be pushed out of his ivory tower. Others argue his remarks may have caused controversy — but they’ve also prompted debate — and that is what is supposed to happen in a university. Should he stay or should he go? A mid term exam on free speech and university leadership in the 21st century.


David Laibson, Professor of Economics, Harvard College;
Nancy Hopkins, Professor of Biology at MIT

Stan Ikenberry, President Emeritus, University of Illinois, and former president of American Council on Education

and TBA.