Monthly Archives: March 2005

A Changed Man

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Imagine what might happen next if a neo-Nazi entered the offices of a Holocaust survivor claiming he’d had a change of heart. The writer Francine Prose first imagined, then wrote that scenario in her new novel, “A Changed Man.”

With two such polar opposites as its main characters you would expect a hostile confrontation. But in today’s society of televised makeovers and overnight conversions, personal transformation is also a ticket to celebrity.

It is a story of hate and hope in a world when anything and anyone can change unexpectedly. As Prose crafts the impact of one man’s declared epiphany on everyone around him and in the end asks, who has the most capacity for change? Writer Francine Prose and the extremist makeover.


Francine Prose, author of “A Changed Man: A Novel.”

The Coup in Kyrgyzstan: Why It Matters

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Angry protestors claiming government corruption and election fraud have forced the president of Kyrgyzstan to flee the country. As looters case city streets, officials are busy securing the capital.

It is the third time in 18 months that there has been a coup in a former Soviet Republic. This time it is in a small, mountainous country reeling from a lifeless economy and an increasingly autocratic government where it was once considered the most democratic among the former Republics.

Yesterday, the protests spread quickly in the capital Bishkek where thousands of people brandishing wooden sticks and hurling stones seized the Presidential Palace. Officials in Washington and Moscow are keeping a close eye on the situation — both have strategic military bases in the country. The uprising in Kyrgyzstan and what the latest political protests mean there, and here.


John Schoeberlein, Director of the Program on Central Asia and the Caucasus at Harvard University

Martha Brill Olcott, Senior Associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Ivan Watson, NPR reporter in Bishkek

Punching in the Golden Years

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For many Americans, after years of punching the time clock, retirement is the great reward. Those endless hours at the office are supposed to be all worth it, for what we call “the Golden Years.” A time when the putting green is always open, the grandchildren are perpetually photogenic and the gardening gloves are still damp by the tool shed.

But increasingly Americans are finding that retirement isn’t so golden after all. Many are working well past 65 when bills and mortgages make living on a fixed income just too tight. Others are too restless around the house.

Now, major companies are actively recruiting silver haired workers. Once seen as liabilities, older workers are a hot commodity for their skills and their strong work ethic. From Home Depot to Borders Books, older workers are offering something that the Gen-X crowd is lacking.


Robert Friedland, Associate Professor and Director of the Center on an Aging Society at Georgetown University

Stephen Wing, Director of Government Programs for CVS Pharmacies

Anne Gorenstein, worked in systems implementation for 20 years, now a part-time court reporter

Protecting Your Identity

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It might not have happened to you, but you probably know someone who has been hit — someone who has had a credit card, social security number or check stolen and found themselves a victim of identity theft.

Experts says there are now over three million Americans targeted each year, and it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. In the past month alone people have discovered that their data’s been illicitly purchased from big companies like ChoicePoint, LexisNexis, and Bank of America.

Consumer advocates say it’s just too easy for hackers to get into these databases and that the government’s been too slow to regulate the credit industry. Others argue that in the digital age, where instant credit is a norm, these kinds of breaches are inevitable. If someone steals your identity, where does that leave you?


Mari Frank, attorney and member of the Advisory Board to the California Office of Privacy Protection

Evan Hendricks, Editor and Publisher of Privacy Times.

The Poetry of Jorie Graham

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Shortly after the attacks of 9/11, when American soldiers were once again heading off to war, the poet Jorie Graham found herself walking the beaches of Normandy. She was struck by thoughts of the American soldiers who landed on the coast of France. In the hedgerows and fields, she found images of death and remembrance.

Soon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer began trying to make sense of wars past and present. The result is a new book of her poetry, Overlord. It’s the code name for the U.S. invasion of Europe and its also an attempt by Graham to connect soldiers serving today in Iraq to those who fought before them, as well as a search for what binds soldiers of all uniforms, Iraqis, Germans, Americans — all dying for a cause — and leaving unanswered questions behind them. Poetry of war.


Jorie Graham, Pulitzer Prize winning poet and author of “Overlord”

Too Many Guns or Not Enough?

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The community of Red Lake, Minnesota today is still reeling from a school shooting, a student’s rampage that has left ten dead and several critically injured.

To most people, most times it seems that gun violence happens somewhere else, some other place — but not this month. In Wisconsin, a man walked into a church service two weeks ago, pulled out a handgun and killed seven people. In Philadelphia, nearly two dozen people were murdered in a span of just ten days, including a ten-year-old boy.

Killings like these are adding emotional fuel to the debate over the best way to stop gun violence. Some say more guns is the answer, that if everyone had a gun it would deter the bad guys. Others say too many guns is already the problem that more weapons makes violence more likely. Slipping “the safety” on or off.


Ruben Rosario, reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press

John Myers, Pennsylvania State Representative

Rebecca Thoman, Executive Director of the Citizens for a Safer Minnesota.

Revealing Diane Arbus

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The photographer Diane Arbus revealed an America that most people preferred not to look at. The close-up images of drag queens, sideshow acts and nudists challenged a 1960’s audience in ways that were both physical and emotional.

Arbus was held up as a genius and reviled as a predator for those intimate portraits. In retrospect, she is even more interesting for her decision to reject that privileged upbringing above the treetops on Central Park West in favor of the bizarre company she kept in the Bowery.

Arbus somehow mixed enough charm, empathy and talent to get those living on the margins to invite her home for a closer look. After years of silence from her estate, a new exhibition traveling the country tells us more about the woman who kept her own secrets behind the lens. Diane Arbus further Revealed.


Patrica Bosworth, author of “Diane Arbus: A Biography,” and Contributing Editor to Vanity Fair.

Big Dig

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Boston’s Big Dig is the most expensive public works project in U.S. history. The transformation of the city’s elevated highways into underground tunnels topped with that impressive suspension bridge has cost nearly 15 billion dollars. The taxpayers in Massachusetts and across the country are picking up a big piece of the cost.

The bill today is four times what was projected and it hasn’t even been settled yet. There’s another problem. The tunnels leak — a lot. Engineers who’ve inspected the project now say they can’t vouch for its safety.

We’ll take a closer look at how the Big Dig came to be and where it all will end. As the costs continue to climb, people are starting to wonder if the grand thinking behind the Big Dig or any such megaproject, is worth it, after all. Digging in, on the Dig.


Raphael Lewis, Boston Globe reporter who has covered the Big Dig since 2000

David Luberoff, Executive Director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and co-author of “Mega-Projects: The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment.”

Where Are the Women?

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There’s a fierce debate among media people over women writing columns in American newspapers, and specifically, why there aren’t more of them.

It all began when the columnist Susan Estrich took L.A. Times opinion page editor Michael Kinsley to task — but it’s clearly not just that newspaper. Look at the Op-ed pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time Magazine or Newsweek — each has only one woman columnist among a line-up of male writers.

Feminists who have been tracking this say the number of women holding these public posts hasn’t much changed since the 1970s. Journalism today has many women writers and leaders so why aren’t they holding court on the opinion page. Some suggest that the confrontational style of the columnist is a role designed by and for men. We’ll listen for the missing voices.


Susan Estrich, columnist and law professor at the University of Southern California

Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and author of “The Argument Culture”

Katha Pollitt, columnist for The Nation magazine

Renee Loth, Editorial Page Editor of The Boston Globe;