Monthly Archives: April 2005

The McPhee Sisters

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First there were the Bronte sisters, now there are the McPhees’. Their father John McPhee is one of the most respected writers in America. He told his daughters not to follow in his footsteps. As children they saw the hard work and dedication required to be a successful writer, but they also saw the delight he took in his work and eventually, they all ignored his warning.

Now that they are established artists they say it had as much to do with the passion and strong will of their mother, and a healthy level of sisterly competition. The parents, they say, showed them how to take risks but it was the close bonds with each other that helped keep them going.

Today we will hear from three of the sisters: Laura, Jenny and Martha about what it was like growing up McPhee, where they got their inspiration and how they found their own voice in a family that was so creative.


Jenny McPhee, author of “No Ordinary Matter,” “Girls: Ordinary Girls and Their Extraordinary Pursuits” and “The Center of Things”

Laura McPhee, photography books include “No Ordinary Land” and “Girls: Ordinary Girls and Their Extraordinary Pursuits”

Martha McPhee, author of “Gorgeous Lies,” “Girls: Ordinary Girls and Their Extraordinary Pursuits”and “Bright Angel Time.”

Understanding the Most Powerful Man in Iraq

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The most powerful person in Iraq today, doesn’t hold any office in the new government. But that’s not to say that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani doesn’t wield any influence over the political process. As the senior Shiite cleric in that country, he is the religious leader for the majority of people in Iraq. But his teachings go well beyond the mosque.

During the recent elections, he issued a fatwa saying that voting is a religious obligation, leading to massive turnout among the Shiite community. And last year, when he argued against the wishes of the U.S., for direct elections in Iraq, thousands of Iraqis rallied to his side, and the U.S. backed down.

So far Sistani has been a moderating influence, pressing the democratic process forward. But how will his religious views translate into political architecture of a new Iraq?


Anthony Shadid, Washington Post Middle East correspondent

Juan Cole, Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the University of Michigan.

Free Tibet or Lost Cause?

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Those maroon and gold bumper stickers declaring “Free Tibet” are looking pretty faded these days. There are no more Beastie Boy concerts, and fewer of those “Free Tibet” t-shirts on college campuses.

Instead there is a growing international silence when it comes to advocating for Tibetan autonomy within the People’s Republic of China. Among those who have not given up on this cause are those with the Tibetan Government in Exile, set up in India in 1959.

Lyodi Gyari is now the man who represents that group and its interests in talks with the Chinese government. Earlier this month, when leaders from India and China met to settle border differences and India reiterated its promise that it wouldn’t allow any anti-Chinese political activity — Lyodi Gyari was listening.


Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy for the Dalai Lama, and the lead negotiator with the Chinese Government, and Executive Chairman of the Board of the International Campaign for Tibet based in Washington

Elliot Sperling, Professor of Tibetan Studies and Chair of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University.

Addicted to Oil: Part Four

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An oil industry report earlier this month predicted that prices could climb to $100 a barrel. At the same time, the House of Representatives has passed a bill with countless provisions for increasing production of fossil fuel. There is not much there to discourage consumption.

Today we conclude our series “Addicted to Oil” with a hard look at the psyche of the American consumer and why it is, given all that we know about the environmental, political and biological havoc caused by oil, we continue to pump and pump and pump.

Some say that its the American affection for its cowboy on the frontier past that’s blinding it to today’s call for global responsibility. Can a nation that defines freedom as autonomy and success as being bigger than your neighbor ever learn to stop driving alone and become a conservation nation?


Dr. Peter Whybrow, Professor and Executive Chair, Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences Department, UCLA, author of “American Mania”

Juliet Schorr, Professor of Sociology at Boston College, author of “The Overworked American”

Jeremy Rifkin, Founder of The Foundation on Economic Trends, author of “Hydrogen Economy” and “The European Dream.”

Scholars at Risk

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America’s legal philosopher, Benjamin Cardozo once wrote, “Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom.”

In many countries that freedom is just an idea. In Ethiopia, Colombia, or China, speaking your mind can get you killed or land you in jail, though the punishment is often more subtle: threats, vandalism, or academic isolation.

One group that tries to help is called Scholars At Risk. It is an organization that helps those on the frontlines of free thinking and free expression — academics and local activists — who fight against human rights abuses, and oppression. It carries on a long an honorable tradition of providing shelter or safe haven for those who have something to say, and a homeland where it can’t be spoken aloud. Freeing speech and thought.


Robert Quinn, Professor of Law at Fordham University and Director of Scholars at Risk Network based at NYU

Habib Rahiab, research fellow at the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, and a former Human Rights Watch researcher in Afghanistan

Tatah Mentan, Visiting Professor of Political Science at Illinois Wesleyan University, formerly a Professor of Politics in Cameroon.

Addicted to Oil: Part Three

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They are the cars that are marked to transform the sound and the smell of America’s roads. From hybrids to fuel cells, drivers are turning their attention to alternative fuel vehicles. The wait for a Toyota Prius, the hottest selling hybrid, is several months. Don’t even ask about the wait for the fuel cell car. It could be 10 or 20 years. But many say it is worth waiting for any car that gets 55 miles to the gallon.

In today’s world of climbing gas prices, cars that aren’t as sexy or powerful as the SUV are starting to make more sense.

Later today, President Bush is expected to ask lawmakers for billions more in tax breaks for these alternative fuel vehicles. Is this the road to the future? U.S. car makers and energy companies are saying, maybe, and still hedging their bets. The technology of driving in our ongoing series Addicted to Oil.


Byron McCormick, Executive Director, GM Fuel Cell Activities

Gregory Vesey, President of Chevron Texaco’s Technology Ventures

Dan Hyde, Executive Director of Las Vegas’ Fleet and Transporation Services.

Going Nuclear in the Senate

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It is being called the “nuclear option;” dramatic language for the Washington fight over judicial nominees. It comes from the Democratic threat to filibuster President Bush’s picks for the bench.

Republicans accuse the Democrats of obstructing their nominees simply because they don’t agree with their religious views. So those on the right say they will change the rules of Senate to prevent the filibuster. Democrats say they will shut down Congress and bring business in the nation’s capitol to a standstill.

Call it a battle of fundamentals — the Democrats belief in their fundamental right to oppose, and the Republicans belief in some fundamental changes on the bench.

We look at the politics and the judicial nominees whose reputations are the basis for this fight. Is confrontation inevitable or is there room for detente?


Gail Chaddock, Congressional reporter for The Christian Science Monitor.

Jonathan Turley, Law Professor, George Washington University. ;

John Breaux, Forrmer Democratic Senator from Louisiana.;

Alan Simpson, former Republican Senator from Wyoming.

Addicted to Oil: Part 2

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Ladies and Gentlemen the end of oil is upon us…or is it? The answer depends on who you ask. Energy analysts, geologists, oil executives and politicians all have a different theory.

In America, most of the oil is used for transportation. Many drivers are cringing over prices at the pump; prices that range from $2.24 a gallon up to as high as $2.65.

Everyone is trying to figure out why prices are high and what is ahead for next year and beyond. That is where the issue of the oil supply is key, because if the world is really running out, then we might as well expect the price to keep on climbing.

There is a lot more to the story, and we try to get to the bottom of the barrel in our ongoing series “Addicted to Oil.”


Vijay Vaitheeswaran, Environment & Energy Correspondent for The Economist and author of “Power to the People: How the Coming Energy Revolution Will Transform an Industry, Change our Lives, and Maybe Even Save the Planet”

Chris Skrebowski, Editor of Petroleum Review, a founding member of the ASPO (Association for the study of Peak Oil) and a trustee on the board of ODAC (Oil Depletion Analysis Centre) – -based in London.


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The painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, was at the peak of his career; when in the spring of 1606, he killed a man in a dispute over a tennis match. Facing execution, he was forced to flee Rome, never to return. During the last four years of his life, his art underwent a dramatic transformation as he lived in exile, from Naples to Malta to Sicily. The mood of his pictures became more introspective, and he practically abandoned color, choosing instead to probe the human condition using light and shadow. Today, this 17th century master continues to inspire everyone from filmmakers to artists to fashion designers. His uncompromising representation of people and his ability to tell a story in oil make him as relevant today as ever before. Capturing Caravaggio.


Dawson Carr, curator of “Caravaggio: The Final Years”;
Fritz Drury, Artist and Professor at Rhode Island School of Design;
Michael Mazur, Artist

Addicted to Oil: Part One

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The price of gas will top the agenda when President Bush sits down today with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. President Bush is hoping if the Saudis increase production, prices at American pumps will fall. Right now, drivers are paying about $2.30 a gallon and there’s no end in sight as the summer travel season approaches.

The New York Times columnist Tom Friedman says the problem with gas prices is not that they are too high — but that they are too low. Set them at $4.00 a gallon and then you will see Detroit changing its ways he says.

It’s not just the price of gas; but the future of democracy in Arab countries, and the economic fortunes of people here, Friedman says, that hinge on whether this country decides to get serious about conservation.


Tom Friedman, three time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times and author of “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century”

Robert McFarlane, former National Security Advisor under Ronald Reagan and Chairman of Energy and Communications Solutions, an environmental policy firm in Washington, DC.