Monthly Archives: March 2005

The Politics of Right to Die

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In the early hours of this morning, the case of Terri Schiavo took one of its strangest turns yet. Both Congress and the White House passed a bill which puts the fate of the brain damaged woman back in the courts and it raises the question of who holds the right to intervene.

It is an unprecedented move by national politicians to take up an issue that’s normally decided at a patient’s bedside. What began as a fight between Schiavo’s parents and her husband escalated after a Florida judge on Friday ruled that her feeding tube should be removed. That news sent lawmakers into special sessions and had President Bush rushing back to Washington.

Some on the conservative right say this is exactly why George Bush was re-elected. Critics regard it as exploitation. The politics of the intensely personal in the Terri Schiavo case.


Gail Chaddock, Congressional Correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor

George Annas, Chairman of the Health Law, Bioethics, and Human Rights Department at Boston University’s School of Public Health and author of “Rights of Patients;” Jayd Henricks, Director of Congressional Affairs for the Family Research Council

When the Blind Actually Do Lead the Blind

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When Sabriye Tenberken travels to a new place, it is the sounds and smells she locks away in her mind. When she lost her sight as a teenager, Sabriye found herself navigating a world where she had to create her own visual imagery to survive, and to find the courage to confront a world of prejudice.

Feeling constrained by overprotective friends and a skeptical society, Sabriye set off to change the way the world sees. A lifelong love with Asia led her to Tibet. When she discovered there was no Braille system for the alphabet there — she invented one — in just two weeks.

Determined to help the country’s blind children, she founded training programs and schools, leading sightless children up the steep climbs of the Himalayas, and working to integrate them into society.


Sabriye Tenberken, founder of Braille Without Borders and author of “My Path Leads to Tibet.”

Two Year Turnaround?

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Michael Young, Columnist with “The Daily Star” in Beirut, Lebanon;Mona Makram Ebeid, Professor at American University in Cairo and Secretary General of the Party of Tomorrow

Shock and Awe — Two Years Out

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This coming week marks the second year anniversary of “Shock and Awe” and the invasion of Iraq. To many soldiers, their families and people across this country, the war that was supposed to be a cakewalk has now become a daily routine of car bombs and fears of that phone call.

But new hints of democratic reform blowing through the Middle East this spring could offer some good news, and some are crediting the Bush Administration with beginning this change.

From the West Bank to Basra to Beirut, people have been in the streets, demanding human rights, self-determination, and reform. But before President Bush claims victory for the “Arab Spring” critics point out that there is still plenty of anti-American sentiment there, and that civil wars, and new crackdowns remain a distinct possibility.


David Ignatius, columnist with the Washington Post

Mona Makram Ebeid, Secretary General of the Party of Tomorrow, a pro-democracy party in Egypt whose leader Ayman Nour was recently released from jail

Amotz Asa-El, Executive Editor, The Jerusalem Post

Michael Young, columnist with The Daily Star in Lebanon

Thanassis Cambanis, Baghdad correspondent for The Boston Globe.

The Earth Moved

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Aristotle once called earthworms the intestines of the soil, and Darwin devoted the last years of his life to studying the humble worms in his backyard. But scientists still don’t know very much about the prehistoric creatures that inhabit the soil beneath our feet.

Earthworms get a lot of credit for being gardener’s helpers and great fishing bait. But these denizens of the dirt are more controversial than you would think. Some ecologists are sounding the alarm as foreign-born earthworms munch their way through the beds of pristine forests. Genetic researchers are studying worms to see if their spooky ability to regenerate may have applications for humans.

Amy Stewart who wrote a book about the little things that wriggle in her garden. They may be spineless, but she says, there’s more than most of us know to the dark life of the earthworm.


Amy Stewart, author of “The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms”

Cindy Hale, founder of Minnesota Worm Watch and a researcher with the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Is Biodefense the Best Defense?

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Anthrax was in the news again this week with false alarms at three Washington, D.C. mail facilities. Then the Department of Homeland Security issued a doomsday-style report, offering its death and damage estimates for potential terrorist attacks. Scenarios involving biological weapons like pneumonic plague, and hoof and mouth disease were at the top of the list.

While the government prepares for bio-terror on a grand scale, more than 700 of the nation’s leading scientists are warning that the billions of government dollars pouring into research on anthrax and other potential bio-weapons are costing Americans more than money. They say it’s taking the focus off diseases that are already killing people. So is Biodefense the Best Defense?


John Rennie, editor-in-chief of Scientific American

Abigail Salyers, University of Illinois microbiology professor and former president of the American Association of Microbiology

C.J. Peters, biodefense director at the Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas in Galveston.

The Bassline Unbound

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For a working jazz musician, home is more of an idea than a place to park the bass. Moving from plane to van to hotel to stage and back again, everywhere and nowhere winds up as home. The bass player, bandleader, and composer Avishai Cohen is making his place in his music, and that too draws a little from everywhere.

The Israeli-born composer mixes it up with Middle Eastern tones, African township grooves, Latin rhythms and straight-up Be-Bop, but its not just a mix of all that.

Avishai Cohen is classically-trained. He went through his electric phase and then earned reputation on the wood bass backing up Chick Corea, Neena Freelon and Ravi Coltrane. He’s no jazz snob, just a lover of music, testing its borders and boundaries. Avishai Cohen makes his home for an hour in our studio.


Avishai Cohen, Bassist, bandleader, and Founder of Razdaz Records;Sam Barsh, pianist, fender rhodes and melodica player

Mark Guiliana, drummer

Sadako Ogata

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The end of the Cold War unleashed waves of brutal ethnic, tribal and regional conflict. Without that familiar balance of American and Soviet power, old grievances came to the fore with deadly results. The 90’s brought us the breakup of Yugoslavia, genocide in Rwanda and refugee marches across Africa.

All during that decade, Sadako Ogata was the high commissioner in charge of refugees for the United Nations. Her job was to help bring food, and shelter and find a way out for those who had lost everything. She stirred controversy by saying that humanitarian problems deserve more than humanitarian solutions and that politics, not aid, is the answer.

Now, Ogata is looking back on that turbulent time. We’ll talk with her, and test some of her conclusions. Looking back and at the future for refugees.


Sadako Ogata, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees

David Rieff, journalist and author of “A Bed for The Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis.”

Composer Paul Moravec

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Neither the music, nor the inspiration is typical. New York composer Paul Moravec drew on William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” for his piece Tempest Fantasy. One critic described the piece as “openly and ebulliently attractive, flowing with an effortless lyric pulse.” The top accolade, given to Moravec was the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for music.

There’s more to the story, Moravec also knows the dark side of tempests. Years back he was hospitalized and given electroshock treatment for clinical depression. He often speaks to people about that time, using his own story to show that recovery from mental illness is possible. We talk with him about his life, his classical music, and using the great English playwright as inspiration.


Paul Moravec, winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his contemporary classical piece, “Tempest Fantasy”;Terry Teachout, music critic for Commentary, a monthly opinion magazine.

The Quality Cure

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People in the U.S. spend more on health care than people anywhere else in the world. A lot of them — especially the politicians — think that’s a problem. But David Cutler doesn’t. He’s an economist who thinks that spending more to live longer and survive diseases that used to kill off previous generations is a good thing.

Instead of focusing on cutting costs, Cutler says that fixes to health care should focus on improving quality, squeezing more value out of health care dollars, rather than spending fewer of them.

But since America already spends 15 percent of its gross domestic product on healthcare, many say the country must pay attention to the bottom line, especially when so many people don’t have insurance and few in Washington seems committed to finding ways to give it to them.


David Cutler, professor of economics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for Social Sciences

James Mongan, President and CEO of Partners Healthcare, Boston

Roger Lowenstein, contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.