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Week of August 27, 2002

Program 0235


British Neo-Fascism | Transcript | MP3

Arab Stereotypes | Transcript | MP3

Pest Radar | Transcript | MP3

China Learns English | Transcript | MP3

Globalization of Baseball | Transcript | MP3

Spy Museum | Transcript | MP3

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

BRITISH MAN ON THE STREET: The only trouble we have in this country is the Pakistans.

KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, right-wing political parties gain ground in England.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: And Hollywood’s struggle with Arab stereotypes.

JACK SHAHEEN: They teach us that, that Arabs are not a very civilized race and that Islam is not a religion to be revered. That it—unlike Christianity and Judaism—it is a violent religion. Which is, of course, is a myth we’ve selectively framed.

MCHUGH: Plus, tracking damaging crop pests with radar.

JASON CHAPMAN: Well, we can detect all the larger-sized insects above the size of an aphid. Aphids are just too small for us to detect but anything larger than that—and this would include very important pests like the diamond backed moth. But also, interestingly, we can detect the insects that are farmer’s friends—the natural enemies of their pests.

PORTER: More after this.

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British Neo-Fascism

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MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Last year, northern England endured a long, hot summer of urban violence. In the aftermath, far-right political groups such as the British National Party—the BNP—gained considerable support in local and general elections. Max Easterman traveled to one small Lancashire town to find out how people are reacting.

[The Christian and Muslim music from a special Christian-Muslim worships service entitled “Building Bridges in Burnley”; A Muslim chant is followed by Christian hymn singing.]

MAX EASTERMAN: St. Andrew’s Church, in Burnley, Lancashire. This is the launch of “Building Bridges”—the latest initiative to bring together Muslims and Christians; to heal the wounds of suspicion, hostility, and neglect.

[The sound of an imam chanting and preaching.]

EASTERMAN: It’s a remarkable sight: the front pews are crammed with imams and other Muslim community leaders. On the dais, are town counselors and other local dignitaries, with the town’s Bishop, John Godard.

[The sound of Bishop John Godard speaking at the service to Christians and Muslims.]

EASTERMAN: A year ago, the scene was very different. St. Andrew’s Church stands right next to the Duke of York pub, which was totally burned out as the disturbances took hold in the nearby Daneshouse area.

[A contemporary radio news report describing the riots.]

EASTERMAN: A fight between Asian and white gangs over drugs boiled over into racial violence. It was fueled by far-right activists from the British National Party. The town council and many local people were so shocked, they appointed a special task force to investigate why this had happened, and how to stop it happening again. Their report came out last December, but before any real action had been taken, the local elections came round, and Burnley had another bad night.

[Someone announcing election results, followed by shouting and yelling.]

EASTERMAN: May 2nd, and Burnley was in the headlines again. For the first time in 20 years, a far-right party had won seats in a municipal election in England. All three seats were in largely white, mainly working-class wards of the town. A third of the electorate had voted for a party described as extremist and neo-Nazi. And Burnley’s Council Leader, Stuart Caddy, from the Labor Party, couldn’t believe it had happened.

STUART CADDY: Ten thousand people voted for the British National Party. Which came as a shock to myself and a lot of colleagues within Burnley. They’ve given us a kick. Certainly to say it’s a wake-up. It is a major problem. Racism does exist in this town, but within Burnley I can assure you that there’s not 10,000 people that are racist.

EASTERMAN: [reporting from outside the Burnley pub.] So, the question is, did 10,000 people vote British National Party simply as a protest, or were there more deep-seated reasons. Well, I’m standing outside one of Burnley’s many social clubs, where people come for a lunch-time drink, talking to people as they come and go.

[The sound of traffic going past the club.]

BRITISH MAN ON THE STREET #1: The Pakistans seem to run everything and we seem to get nothing out of it. They get everything and we get nothing.

EASTERMAN: Do you think the Council does a good job?

BRITISH MAN ON THE STREET #1: I think they do a crap job.

BRITISH MAN ON THE STREET #2: They wondered why people voted BNP. You know, I mean….

EASTERMAN: Well, why did they vote BNP?

BRITISH MAN ON THE STREET #2: Because the money’s going to the wrong areas, to the Asian areas.

EASTERMAN: And you think that’s wrong?

BRITISH MAN ON THE STREET #2: I’m sure it’s wrong.

EASTERMAN: Which way did you vote as a matter of interest?


EASTERMAN: Would you vote for them again?


EASTERMAN: Did you vote in the last local election.

BRITISH MAN ON THE STREET #3: Yes, I vote. First time for the BNP. The only trouble we have in this country is the Pakistans.

EASTERMAN: And that’s why you voted BNP?


EASTERMAN: Were you surprised that 10,000 voted for the British National Party?

BRITISH MAN ON THE STREET #4: No, I wasn’t surprised at all. I voted British National Party.

EASTERMAN: What did you used to vote, before that?


EASTERMAN: Would you vote Labor again?


EASTERMAN: [Reporting from a car as he travels with BNP organizer Stephen Smith.]

STEPHEN SMITH: We’re actually traveling up towards the Gannow Ward, which is one of the wards that we won in the local elections. For the most part it’s populated by white working-class people.

[The sound of a car stopping, car doors slamming, people leaving the car and going onto the street.]

SMITH: My name’s Stephen Smith. I’m the branch organizer for the Burnley Branch of the British National Party. We were not surprised we won three council seats. We’re only surprised other people are surprised we won. And obviously it’s we that are more in tune with the feelings and thoughts and instincts of the British people. They feel betrayed and alienated by the governing parties, which Labor, Liberal-Democrat, and Conservative. The government and the local council are penalizing those people that living in more affluent areas. They’re having to subsidize an area such as Daneshouse to the detriment of their own areas. And Daneshouse is 90 percent populated by the Asian community.

EASTERMAN: And this area—Gannow—is that about 90 percent white?

SMITH: Yes, it is, actually. Yes. The people that are responsible for these divisions are the people that run our town. And these resentments, these frustrations, the riots, the deprivation are a direct consequence of multi-racialism and multi-culturalism.

[The sound of children shouting, playing soccer on the street.]

EASTERMAN: Well, contrary to what the BNP claims, Daneshouse is only 60 percent Asian. I’ve been talking to the people who live here—Asian and white (or British, as the BNP insists on calling them)—and they all say there was very little racial tension until the BNP moved in. Daneshouse is amongst the ten worst housing areas in Britain. The task force that investigated last year’s disturbances made it clear that poverty and bad housing were a major factor. And the young Asian men kicking a ball around over there agree.

YOUNG ASIAN MAN ON THE STREET #1: Jobs—that’s what people need. They need bloody work here. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white whatever; people have work and there’s no need for violence and trouble and shit like that.

YOUNG ASIAN MAN ON THE STREET #2: It was a poverty thing. You know, the white people in poor areas, they’re unemployed. Their area is poor in terms of resources. And they’re looking at this Asian area and going “Jobless.” They think they’ve got a right to money. We haven’t. Because we weren’t born here. We’re not from here. We’re not white.

EASTERMAN: Were you born here?

YOUNG ASIAN MAN ON THE STREET #2: I was born here. These guys were all born here. We’re British. But they think, because of the color barrier, they think they’ve got a right to all this money.

[The sound of children playing on the street.]

EASTERMAN: Another factor behind the disturbances identified by the task force, was segregation. Not a deliberate policy, but perhaps a defensive move by both communities, each fearing the unknown in the other. The children playing on this climbing frame—like the young men over there—are all Asian. There’s not a white face to be seen, except mine. So, do they have any white friends—at school perhaps?



YOUNG ASIAN MAN ON THE STREET #3: Because no one will talk to me.

EASTERMAN: They don’t talk to you.


YOUNG ASIAN MAN ON THE STREET #4: They have their own friends.

EASTERMAN: So you have your friends and they’re all Asian and they have….


YOUNG ASIAN MAN ON THE STREET #3: Yeah, well, I have a few white friends.

EASTERMAN: Do you mix with them outside school?

YOUNG ASIAN MAN ON THE STREET #3: No, no. Not outside school.

YOUNG ASIAN MAN ON THE STREET #4: They don’t come here.

EASTERMAN: You don’t go to where they live?

YOUNG ASIAN MAN ON THE STREET #3: No, ’cause I don’t know where they live.

EASTERMAN: How many white kids are there in your school?


EASTERMAN: So you don’t, you don’t have any white friends at all, then?

YOUNG ASIAN MAN ON THE STREET #5: No. They’re racist.

EASTERMAN: They’re racist? Do they say nasty things to you?

YOUNG ASIAN MAN ON THE STREET #5: Yeah. We’re black bastards, you know.

EASTERMAN: Black bastard?


EASTERMAN: Burnley is a small town of 90,000 people, but it has the problems of a big inner city. But because it’s small it isn’t a single-tier local authority. This means that its schools and welfare agencies aren’t run by the local council, but by the county council, based a good 40 miles away. It also means it has very little money for urban renewal—that mainly comes from central government, 200 miles away. But Abdul Hamid Koreishi, an Asian community leader, says there’s still plenty the local council could do. He claims the council lacks vision.

ABDUL HAMID KOREISHI: I think the council has got no strategy, in real terms, developing the understanding between the communities. They always have talking about integration. It’s not a matter of integration. It is the matter of understanding the real issues. Understanding how the communities will be working together to develop an education strategy for example; a skills strategy. Because the people are coming out of school. They do not know anything. So there is no inspiration for them. And that is the job of the council and the education establishments. You need a body who really mobilizes the organizations towards a very specific programs. The young people are inspired to look forward towards life with dignity.

EASTERMAN: One of the key recommendations of the Burnley task force was that the government in London should give Burnley the tools to do the job properly, or risk more disaffection and trouble among local people. I met the task force chairman, Lord Tony Clarke, on the terrace of the House of Lords at Westminster. He told me he sympathizes with people who feel nothing’s being done for them.

LORD TONY CLARKE: I can understand somebody saying that because there doesn’t seem to be any real evidence anybody is determined to assist the assimilation of different cultures and to help. The government should consider granting Burnley Inner City status, which would overcome some of these problems. At the moment it’s not responsible for social services but is at the receiving end of all the complaints about social services. I’ve said so many times that you’ve got to put together the agencies and put somebody there that is going to actually push the thing through. You cannot leave it to bureaucrats to keep ’em talking about it. You need someone that’s going to push those that have got the ability, those who’ve got the vision, those who’ve got the resources to do it.

EASTERMAN: [reporting from a street in Burnley.] The message from Lord Clarke in London, then, is that everyone needs to pull together. And it’s clear that he means the politicians need to cooperate as well. But in Burnley, the Council leader, Labor’s Stuart Caddy, admits that he and his colleagues may have been guilty in the past of not listening closely enough to what the people of Burnley were saying, but that’s as far as he’s prepared to go.

CADDY: I think that the difficulty is that we’ve been doing battles with inside the council chamber, talking about petty little issues rather than addressing the real issue.

EASTERMAN: You said when the three BNP councilors were elected, you would not work with them. That they would be cold-shouldered.

CADDY: When I said that on May 2nd, and May 3rd, I am still clear, and I will not change my mind. I would not work with a BNP fascist councilor.

EASTERMAN: But they have been legitimately elected. They are legitimate members of the council.

CADDY: Well, I don’t work with the Conservatives. I don’t work with the Independents. They’ve got different agendas; once you’re inside the council chamber, that’s the political arena.

EASTERMAN: [reporting from Gannow] Well, that may be overconfidence, perhaps even arrogance, but it would certainly seem to spell problems for the BNP’s three councilors. So, what will they do? What can they achieve? The party organizer, Stephen Smith, is quietly confident.

SMITH: We’re realistic but what we believe we can be is a catalyst for change. If the people that run this town continue along the road that they happen to be on, then we will without doubt win more council seats next May. Now, while we’d had no public representation, our opposition were able to treat us as pariahs. Now that is not an approach that we can make anymore, because whether they like it or not they’re going to have to do deal with us.

[The sound of the “Building Bridges” service in Burnley.]

EASTERMAN: [reporting from the church service] It’s certainly a sign of hope that the Building Bridges initiative intends to include everybody in the dialogue. Even the Asian representatives say that, now the BNP is there, they have to be talked to. The question is, will the BNP and its supporters—alienated, white, working-class—want to get involved with a faith-led initiative like Building Bridges. And there’s another problem: there are alienated Muslims too—and many others who worry that “Building Bridges” will mean assimilation; losing their Muslim identity. But John Godard, the Bishop of Burnley, has made it clear that that is neither the intention nor the likely outcome.

BISHOP JOHN GODARD: “Building Bridges” is the way of trusting and the way of celebrating diversity, which doesn’t mean that you lose your identity. But you can actually celebrate it.

EASTERMAN: [interviewing Bishop Godard] But isn’t the problem that alienated people are not going to be affected by a church initiatives, are they?

BISHOP GODARD: Yes they are. And they’re going to be affected because what we do here will spread out. The whole community is going to be drawn into this, we hope.

EASTERMAN: How long is this going to take? Are we talking about generations?

BISHOP JOHN GODARD: Oh yes, yes. We’ve started something here tonight that will need to be built on considerably over the years. I was not long ago talking about two church villages coming together. And the reason that in the end they wouldn’t come together is one had fought on the side of Cromwell and one had fought on the side of the Crown in the English Civil War. Our building together is not going to happen overnight. I am pledging myself that for the next 20 years I shall be working on this.

[The sound of a Muslim song being sung at the “Building Bridges” service.]

EASTERMAN: The people of Burnley must hope that the politicians in the council chamber, and the politicians in London will all pledge themselves and enough money for the long-term regeneration of the town. But it’s clear from talking to local people that their votes will not return to the mainstream parties unless they can see real improvements across all the deprived areas, white and Asian. “Building Bridges” will not be enough, unless they also build new homes and new confidence in local politics. For Common Ground, this is Max Easterman in Burnley, northern England.

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Arab Stereotypes

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MCHUGH: At a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East, American film and TV companies are producing more entertainment dealing with Arabs. Unfortunately, say critics, those films and TV shows all too often offer denigrating stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims. Reese Erlich reports on how Arab-Americans look at the good, bad, and ugly in Hollywood. Please note: this report contains strong language.

[The sound of martial music and helicopters from the Hollywood movie, Rules of Engagement. Then dialogue from the movie follows]

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: We’ve been ordered to the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden. This comes straight down Second Division, through General Perry. The American embassy at Yemen is surrounded by a crowd of demonstrators.

SAMUEL L. JACKSON: I’ll take the men myself, quietly. One platoon; Trap Team; put everyone else on Ready Five.

REESE ERLICH: At the beginning of the film Rules of Engagement, a Marine officer played by Samuel L. Jackson, thinks he’s going to protect a US embassy in Yemen from hostile, but nonviolent demonstrators. He soon finds out there are Arab snipers on the roofs firing at his men.

[More sound bites from the movie—sniper fire, then helicopters come to the rescue. A character orders, “Lock and load! Lock and Load!”]

JACK SHAHEEN: It’s a great film for the military. In other words, it makes the military look terrific.

ERLICH: Jack Shaheen, a retired mass communication professor from Southern Illinois University, has studied Hollywood’s portrayal of Arabs and Muslims for 30 years. He says Rules of Engagement, released in the year 2000, portrays all Arabs as anti-American terrorists. The supposedly innocent demonstrators, including young children, are later shown to be shooting at the Marines. He notes that the book on which the film is based was written by a former secretary of the Navy and that the Department of Defense fully cooperated in making the film.

SHAHEEN: Every country not only hates the Marines but they circulate tapes saying that every good Muslim should kill Marines. And children are seen—you know, they were injured as a result of this attack. And in the end we see those kids who were injured, we see them shooting at the Marines. And Samuel Jackson, Jr., the protagonist, says “Kill them all.” And Jackson is let off.

[More sound bites from the movie.]

A SOLDIER UNDER FIRE: Negative, negative! Be advised I’ve got women and children in my line of fire! I got snipers in the building with four hundred men. Copy. Over!

JACKSON: What is it about this order you don’t understand?

SOLDIER: Sir, are you ordering me to fire into the crowd? Over!

JACKSON: Yes, goddammit. Waste the mother—- [bleep]!

SOLDIER: Six out. Engage, engage, open fire! [sound of massive gunfire, people screaming.]

ERLICH: Professor Shaheen has catalogued more than 900 films in his book, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. He says most of those films contain negative stereotypes of Arabs, which in turn impact American perceptions.

SHAHEEN: They teach us that, that Arabs are not a very civilized race and that Islam is not a religion to be revered. That it—unlike Christianity and Judaism—it is a violent religion. Which is of course is a myth we’ve selectively framed.

ERLICH: Shaheen says he studied American television shows in light of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism. He says stereotyping has gotten much worse since 9/11.

SHAHEEN: Since October of 2001, there has been one television entertainment show a week that has in some way vilified, castigated not only Arabs and Muslims, but Americans of Arab descent and Muslims. I’ve been monitoring television programs for three decades now and I’ve never seen a program a week for 12 consecutive weeks that has done so much to vilify a people.

ERLICH: Shaheen notes, however, that Hollywood isn’t the only place that produces stereotypes. Many people in the Arab and Muslim worlds, he notes, falsely believe that Jews control the media.

SHAHEEN: They like to scapegoat Jews here in our country. What they do is they see that there’s a strong Jewish presence. There’s a big difference between presence and control. Some Jews vilify Arabs, others don’t. Some Italians vilify them, others don’t. What people abroad do is they look for Jewish names and they say, “Ah, there’s a Jewish name. Therefore all Jews are alike. All Jews hate Arabs.” Which is as wrong as having people here say all Arabs are terrorists.

[The sound of shots being fired, people running.]

ERLICH: But not all Hollywood films stereotype Arabs. The 1999 release Three Kings, which takes place during the end of the Gulf War, starts with a lot of anti-Arab prejudice.

[Sound bites from the Hollywood movie, Three Kings.]

Soldier #1: Whoa! Congratulations my man. You shot yourself a rag head.

SOLDIER #2: Dag! I didn’t think I’d get to see anybody shot in this war.

SOLDIER #1: Take my picture [a camera clicks.]

ERLICH: But Three Kings subtlety shifts, sometimes quite comically, as in this scene between three soldiers. An African American sergeant is ticked off at a white southerner who uses offensive language to describe Arabs.

BLACK SOLDIER: I don’t want to hear dune coon or sand nigger from him or anybody else.

WHITE SOLDIER: Captain uses those terms.

OFFICER: Look, the point is Conrad, that towel head and camel jockey are perfectly good substitutes.


WHITE: I apologize. It’s just confusing with all this pro Saudi, anti Iraqi type language and all that.

ERLICH: As the film progresses, the soldiers—who are trying to steal Saddam Hussein’s secret cache of gold—come to identify with a group of Iraqi Shiite Muslims fighting against Saddam. In one scene those Shiites are praying, and the soldiers meet an American educated Iraqi who explains why Iraqis feel betrayed.

[More sound bites from Three Kings.]

[The sound of Muslims chanting Allah Akbar]

ARAB MAN: I went to B school at Bowling Green. Okay? I came back to open a couple of hotels near Karbalah. I’m nearly in the black when this stupid war starts, and you guys bomb all my cafes. Now we try to get rid of Saddam; Bush leaves us twisting in the winds.

[The crowd begins to shout in Arabic and in English, “Where is America now?”]

ERLICH: Professor Shaheen, who worked as a consultant on Three Kings, says the producers made a sophisticated film that was also great entertainment.

SHAHEEN: Their main intent was to present balanced portraits of Arabs and Muslims and to reveal prejudices, as well as to present an honest a view of what happened after the Gulf War as possible. And I think they were very successful doing that. And by the way, the producers with whom I worked were both Jewish.

ERLICH: Professor Shaheen says Three Kings shows that the US entertainment industry is perfectly capable of balanced portrayals. He notes that film stereotypes of black Americans decreased under pressure from the civil rights movement and when African Americans became part of Hollywood decision making. Professor Shaheen says a similar process can force Hollywood to change its attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims. For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich.

MCHUGH: Pursuing pesky pests, next on Common Ground.

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Pest Radar

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PORTER: Agronomists are developing a new tool in the fight against crop pests. It’s a radar early warning system that not only detects damaging insects but also predicts their movement. Scientists developing the system say the device could one day benefit farmers in the developing world. Alastair Wanklyn reports from London.

[The sound of a tractor.]

ALASTAIR WANKLYN: Farm workers in southern England are plowing this field for a cabbage crop.

[The sound of a tractor.]

WANKLYN: It’s intensive labor, but the work doesn’t stop here. When the plants grow they’ll attract pests, such as the diamond backed moth, and the crop must be sprayed with insecticide. This tiny moth is a heavy burden for vegetable growers, in both labor and chemicals. But scientists at Britain’s Institute of Arable Crops Research say they can now predict when the diamond backed moth is approaching. They’ve built radars that beam upwards and identify insects flying overhead. Project Engineer Alun Smith says it’s a simple concept.

ALUN SMITH: These systems are based on a marine radar transmitter, which is actually designed to detect ships at a range of say 50 miles. But perhaps surprisingly it turns out you can use a simple system like that and detect insects up to, in our case, up to altitudes of 1,000 meters or so. And so it sits—in the case of the system at Rothamsted—it sits on the roof of one of the buildings and we just have a computer in one of the laboratories which is analyzing the signals. And this system is running 24 hours a day continually monitoring the insects that are flying over.

WANKLYN: Insects that pass overhead are picked up as dots on a screen. The computer sorts them into sizes, and decides what species of fly, cricket, or moth they’re likely to be.

WANKLYN: Vertical-looking radar, as the system is called, has been around for several decades. But what is new is that the British system is the first to measure the size of insects, their speed, and the direction they’re flying in. Entomologist on the program, Dr. Jason Chapman says the radar even measures the wingbeat, so there’s no mistaking the kind of insect overhead.

JASON CHAPMAN: Well, we can detect all the larger-sized insects above the size of an aphid. Aphids are just too small for us to detect but anything larger than that and this would include very important pests such as the diamond backed moth. But also, interestingly, we can detect the insects that are farmer’s friends—the natural enemies of their pests—such as ladybirds and hoverflies and lacewings, which are all very important predators of aphids.

WANKLYN: The radar also picks up larger pests such as locusts—insects that can make or break a crop in parts of the developing world such as in sub-Saharan Africa. The British scientists say one day, ranks of radars could scan the skies and monitor which way swarms of locusts are heading. But some third world agriculture consultants are skeptical of the claim. At the aid agency Oxfam, which administers food aid programs across sub-Saharan Africa, agronomist Kevin Watkins says a high-tech radar would only be a distraction from the basic needs of poor farmers.

KEVIN WATKINS: This is the type of intervention which won’t do a great deal to help. It’s probably not going to be affordable; it’s probably not going to be workable. I’ve got my doubts as to how effective it would be in tracking locusts, and predicting their arrival points and so on. I think what sub-Saharan Africa really needs is increased public investment and increased aid in the basic rural infrastructure—rural feeder roads, irrigation, extension services to the crops that small hold farmers are producing. We’ve seen one high tech solution after another in sub-Saharan Africa. They all have one thing in common, which is none of them seem to work. And this sounds like it may well be joining that list.

WANKLYN: But back at Britain’s Institute of Arable Crops Research, the scientists developing the radar say they’ve found it does work and if it goes into production could come down from its present price of several thousands of dollars to a few hundred. But even that price is too much, according to Oxfam consultant Kevin Watkins. He accuses rich-world manufacturers of pressing on the third world costly and impractical gadgets.

WATKINS: Well, unfortunately these things often do have attractions in Sub-Saharan Africa, not least because northern governments dangle very large inducements in the way of governments who are willing to go down that road. It’s the wrong road in reality for the vast majority of sub-Saharan Africa. And one very much hopes that governments will listen to their own rural producers and look at their own development plans rather than at the sales prospectuses of whatever company it is that are producing these devices.

[The sound of a tractor.]

WANKLYN: Back in the arable fields of southern England, farmers spraying their cabbage crops do have the kind of finances that allows investment in high-tech devices such as the vertical-looking radar. Large arable farms in Europe or North America are spending huge sums every year on chemical pesticides, and if the radar does indeed tell a farmer when or when not to spray costly insecticides, perhaps it’s here that the true market lies. Alastair Wanklyn for Common Ground in London.

[Musical interlude]

PORTER: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

PORTER: I’m Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, Chinese businessmen learn the “A-B-C’s” of English.

LIN JUN: [via a translator] I think the best way to put it is to say that since China entered the WTO, the Chinese people need to be players on the world stage. So that is the largest driver for the need to learn English and to raise the bar.

MCHUGH: Plus, the globalization of baseball and spy gadgets of days gone by.

DR. CONSTANTINE MENGES: The most important secrets are the intentions of foreign governments or foreign organizations that can do damage to the United States.

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China Learns English

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PORTER: The same people that brought you the dreaded SAT exam, the Education Testing Service, are now using their question-forming talents to teach English to business people and workers in China. With help and prompting from the Beijing government, a Chinese education company has signed a multimillion dollar deal with America’s largest educational testing service to create and use a practical English test throughout the country. Catherine Drew reports.

[The sound of people taking photographs.]

CATHERINE DREW: Representatives from the Beijing Topeak Education Company traveled all the way to New Jersey to sign the contract with the nonprofit Education Testing Service at a small ceremony. The deal is worth between $70 and $100 million dollars for ETS. For that, the company will specially design an exam to test the English language skills of business men and women, and service workers in state and private industries. Lin Jun, the CEO of the Beijing Topeak Group, says the Chinese must do more to learn the dominant language of the western business world.

LIN JUN: [via a translator] I think the best way to put it is to say that since China entered the WTO, the Chinese people need to be players on the world stage. So that is the largest driver for the need to learn English and to raise the bar.

CHINESE SECRETARY: [speaking English and answering a telephone call] Welcome to How may I help you?

CHINESE BUSINESSMAN: [speaking in English] Oh, I’m Mr. Chan. I would like to find Mr. Lee.

CHINESE SECRETARY: Okay. One moment please.


DREW: Many Chinese businesses, like Internet company Culture dot com, use English to greet foreign visitors, many of whom come from China’s English speaking neighbors and economic rivals like Singapore. Kurt Landgraf, head of ETS, is helping China with a long-term plan.

KURT LANDGRAF: It’s very clear that they intend to become a significant economic power. This will help them to do that.

DREW: Since the early 1980’s China has pushed English language training in schools. Many children start learning in third grade, although many rural schools lag behind those in the major cities due a lack of qualified teachers. But this latest multimillion dollar deal puts the focus on the drive for the adult population to learn English.

MARK FUNG: China is trying to seek an image of modernity right now. And what better way to do that than to show that its people possess the skills of the world’s lingua franca.

DREW: Mark Fung, a China scholar at Johns Hopkins University, says this latest deal with ETS highlights the importance the Chinese are placing on making sure a wide range of citizens speak English ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games.

FUNG: They have such a short amount of time. This is China’s one chance to show their face to the entire world. And if they have people who are not being able to facilitate either spectators or athletes, you’re going to have some problems. So they have to ramp up right away.

DREW: That sense of urgency about learning English is echoed by Liu Jun, the CEO of Beijing Topeak Group.

LIU JUN: [via a translator] Specifically, I think we’ll start seeing increased learning activities as early as next year. We expect a significant number of people to start taking tests right away. As they prepare for the test, they’ll focus on functional English skills.

CATHERINE DREW: Mr. Liu says they’re confident tens of thousands of service industry and business people will soon be studying for and taking the English language test, devised thousands of miles away at ETS headquarters in New Jersey. Initially it will be offered as a paper test, although ETS plans to administer it via the Internet soon, another indication that a process of modernization is underway in China. While individually, the Chinese may be keen to improve their job prospects, it’s clear the country’s leaders have their eyes on a future where as many people as possible are proficient in the language of their economic rivals. For Common Ground, I’m Catherine Drew in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Globalization of Baseball

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PORTER: Talk of a player’s strike in Major League Baseball is focusing American fans on the money involved in the sport. But the rest of the world is paying attention as well. America’s favorite pastime is now a global game.

MCHUGH: Names like Suzuki, Sosa, and Hernandez fill the rosters of pro baseball teams. They are part of a rapidly growing number of foreign-born players. Those players are helping infuse Major League Baseball with lots of new fans that are spending lots of money. As Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman reports, many of them start at the bottom, just like their American-born teammates.

PUBLIC ADDRESS ANNOUNCER AT A BASEBALL STADIUM: Ladies and gentleman, here’s the starting lineup for your Burlington Bees!

BROCKMAN: It’s a warm but pleasant summer evening in the Midwest. A small faithful crowd cheers on the home team at a minor league baseball game in Burlington, Iowa.

[The sounds of the crowd cheering at the game.]

PUBLIC ADDRESS ANNOUNCER AT A BASEBALL STADIUM: We ask that gentleman please remove their caps and all who are able to do so, please stand in honor of our country as Mandy Ferrin sings our National Anthem.

[A singer begins to sing The Star Spangled Banner.]

BARRY ARMITAGE: I was at work one day and a friend of mine called me up and said, “Hey, Allan Baird—who’s the General Manager of the Royals and Oleso Verio, who’s one of their scouts, they were over there.” He said, “Come over there, just want to see you pitch, see how you like…” like, ’cause I just happened to have pitched in a good game that previous weekend. So I went over there. I threw for them for about five or ten minutes. They wanted to meet up with me later on that night. I went over, we spoke a bit. And then ended up signing the contract later that night.

BROCKMAN: Barry Armitage is a relief pitcher for the home team. But he’s a long way from his home—in Durban, South Africa.

ARMITAGE: No, I never, ever pictured being here in the first place. You know, baseball for me was never—I would never consider it a job or anything like that. I just, it was something I did for fun at home. So being here is just, I mean that’s a great opportunity first of all. But obviously I want to, I want to get to the big leagues.

BROCKMAN: Armitage is far from alone, though. He’s one of eight foreign-born players on this minor league team of the Kansas City Royals. And the Burlington Bees radio announcer, Randy Wehofer, says Armitage has fellow countrymen on the field.

RANDY WEHOFER: The team we’re playing against tonight just added two South African-born players to their roster within the last week. So here we are in Burlington, Iowa and we’ve got three natives of South Africa playing professional baseball on our diamond. And I don’t know of any team in the league that doesn’t have representation from at least three or four countries on their roster. Especially at this level.

BROCKMAN: Almost half of all professional baseball players are from a country outside the United States. More than 200 of them are in the major leagues. The rest play for minor league teams like the Bees.

[The crack of a baseball bat hitting a ball sharply, followed by sounds of the crowd cheering at the game.]

TIM BROSNAN: I think that it’s come about through kind of natural evolution.

BROCKMAN: Tim Brosnan is Executive Vice President for Business for Major League Baseball.

BROSNAN: There were traditionally a lot of foreign born players in the minor leagues achieving some level of success. And as the, as they gained competition they went back and offered that competition in their native countries. And kind of raised the level of play in a lot of places. The combination of that evolution of, of the level of competition in different countries, along with the explosion of a global media has fueled really the premise upon which our international growth has come from. And that is, Major League Baseball is the preeminent form of the game and athletes naturally gravitate toward the best competition that they can find. And that happens to be Major League Baseball.

PAUL ARCHIE: One other factor might be as our clubs look to become more competitive they’re looking to go worldwide to look for talent.

BROCKMAN: Paul Archie is Vice President for Major League Baseball’s International Business Operations.

ARCHIE: Australia being a good example of that. Where they go to a country and sign a player who has a degree of success. That just breeds more scouting and more player development within that country.

RANDY WEHOFER: [announcing the Burlington Bees game over the radio.] Hitting just over .300 during this streak, his second longest of the year.

BROCKMAN: Back at the ball park, Reuben Gotay of Puerto Rico is off to a good start at the plate.

WEHOFER: [announcing the Burlington Bees game over the radio.] Gotay lines one into the gap in right-center field. This is going to be a hit and possibly extra bases. Around first, racing for second; they’re just now getting to the ball on the warning track. Gotay into third and he slides in ahead of the throw! A one-out triple for Reuben Gotay, his seventh of the year. And the Bees have a runner just 90 feet away from…

GOTAY: That was my dream, to play professional baseball. And now my other dream is to make the big leagues. I don’t know how long it’s gonna take. Maybe gonna take three, four, five years. I don’t know. But if I, if I gotta, you know, wait five years, I gonna wait. But I want to make it.

BROCKMAN: Tim Robbins and his wife are regulars at all the Bees home games.

TIM ROBBINS: I think Reuben Gotay is probably one of the most promising players that we have on the team this year. He’s shown some great improvement. And bats well, fields well. And does look very promising to me. Yes.

BROCKMAN: Do you think he’s got a chance to get to the major leagues?

ROBBINS: Yes. It’s a long pull from this level. There isn’t a lot of ’em make it. But if he continues to learn and continues to develop, yes, I would say maybe a few years down the road he has a chance.

[The sound of an umpire crying out balls and strikes at the game.]

BROCKMAN: Some of the foreign players do become big stars, which also means big money for Major League Baseball. Here again is Paul Archie.

ARCHIE: The fact that we have so many foreign-born players—you know, 26 percent on the major league rosters—and the fact that they’re star players—we have very high profile players, I mean it helps—more than just helps—it drives our business in those local countries. It leads to increased television exposure, helps us attract sponsorship opportunities in those countries, locally.

BROCKMAN: Tim Brosnan agrees.

BROSNAN: Underlying this all is that Major League Baseball is a business, and at this point a big multinational business. As we are able to drive more revenue we’re also able to drive—I’ll call it R&D for lack of a better term—but, we’re able to fund a lot more at the grassroots and fund countries where traditionally they’ve produced spectacular athletes but maybe not in, in the sport of baseball. We’re seeing the fruits of those labors, evidenced by the, you know, the 33 countries—and I think the number is eight new countries in the last two years—that have had professional baseball players signed.

BROCKMAN: Television plays an important part in the globalization of Major League Baseball. The World Series is broadcast to other countries—224 last year to be exact. But now, Major League Baseball has almost 70 individual contracts to broadcast regular season games overseas. Fans in Japan, for example, are anxious to see their home country players on the Seattle Mariners. And then there’s merchandising—the selling of caps, jerseys, coffee mugs, and all those other items a true fan wants.

ARCHIE: We’re seeing buyers with, you know, a fan affinity making those purchases. Interesting to see the Mariners, who now have three Japanese players and they also have one extremely popular Japanese player, with Ichiro. And we see that people are buying that because of that. Because they follow Ichiro and the other two Japanese and they’ve become Mariner fans. It’s one place where the Mariners a couple years ago wouldn’t have been in the top ten of clubs sales there, which now are number one.

BROCKMAN: Unlike other professional sports, Major League Baseball does not release its financial reports. But Archie does say the licensing business from merchandising alone grew 36 percent last year. And he expects it to show at least that much growth this year. There is a darker side to all this globalization. With so much money at stake there may be a temptation for scouts and recruiters to break the rules. I asked Brosnan about that.

BROCKMAN: [Now interviewing Brosnan.] There has been some controversy or some accusations made about the development of the Latin American market. Major League Baseball has been criticized for the way that it’s handled some things like signing prospects under the age of 17; signing players without a standard contract; discouraging agents.

BROSNAN: Our baseball operations people have dealt with this, some of these issues—and by answering your question I’m not taking all of them to be fact—but some of these issues, like underage kids being signed—we’ve actually gone down and helped reform the documentation process in some places. To be able to have a much more clear and concise defining document of one kid’s age. We have also publicly disciplined, I think, two clubs in the last two years for conducting or at least being seemed to have conducted some of the activities that you spoke of.

[The sounds of the crowd cheering at the game. The public address announcer is also speaking in the background.]

BROCKMAN: Those issues are a long ways from Barry Armitage’s mind. Right now he’s just hoping to pitch his way into the big leagues.

ARMITAGE: It’s not really about the money. I mean, like I said, I never dreamed about being here in the first place. But to be the first South African to be there; that’s probably a big part of it. There’s a lot of people back home that watch me, like pull me up on the Internet all the time and keep up with it. And to make them all proud and to be the first South African, it will be, it will be a big moment for baseball in my country and I think for most of the world.

[The sounds of the crowd cheering at the game.]

BROCKMAN: For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.

[The sounds of the crowd cheering at the game.]

[Musical interlude]

MCHUGH: Coming up: a celebration of our spying eyes. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

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Spy Museum

Listen to This Segment: MP3

PORTER: Gadgets are an important prop in any Hollywood spy fantasy. Maxwell Smart made telephone calls from his shoe. James Bond never left home without an assortment of weapons disguised as regular objects such as a writing pen. And Austin Powers always appears to have something tricky up his sleeve.

MCHUGH: Although Hollywood often glamorizes the secret agent, spying is a very serious and very dangerous part of global affairs. And as new forms of conflict change the role of espionage, some real life spies are sharing secrets from the good old days at Washington’s International Spy Museum. Priscilla Huff is on the case.

[The sound of someone walking.]

PATRICIA HUFF: In true spy fashion, I went in the back door the first time I visited the International Spy Museum.

[The sound of children crawling through an air duct tunnel.]

HUFF: I quickly learned its no secret—children find the museum in downtown Washington a lot of fun, especially the heating and air conditioning duct a spy might crawl through—a little more quietly than they did.

[The sound of children playing and making banging sounds in the metallic air duct.]

HUFF: The International Spy Museum, with its interactive exhibits, presents a deadly serious subject in an entertaining fashion. Dr. Constantine Menges is a researcher at the Hudson Institute.

DR. CONSTANTINE MENGES: The most important secrets are the intentions of foreign governments or foreign organizations that can do damage to the United States—terrorist organizations. So the most important secrets have to do with what human beings intend to do. And usually only other human beings can ferret that out.

HUFF: The introductory film at the museum quickly underscores that point.

[Sound bite from the museum’s introductory movie. “Today, there are more spies in Washington than any other city on earth.”]

HUFF: The world may have changed, but the need for spies has not. Dennis Barry, the museum’s president says, it’s a human story.

DENNIS BARRY: In the final film for the museum, we deal very much with this return to on-the-ground espionage, particularly again in light of the events of September here in the United States and the fact that we—we and others need to have people infiltrate various cells and other organizations that would move against us.

HUFF: The International Spy Museum illustrates the ancient origins of intelligence gathering with a miniature Trojan horse—the gift that hid an army. But Dr. Menges says, espionage is not just about military strategy.

MENGES: Espionage is a very important guarantor of peace. It isn’t usually thought of that way. And in the hands of democracies, the reasons for espionage usually are first, to provide assurance about what potentially hostile countries are doing. And espionage serves as a way of providing reassurance that nothing dangerous is happening or warning that something else, something is happening that maybe needs to be prepared against.

HUFF: And he says, it takes a human, a spy to evaluate the information gathered. Peter Earnest is the Executive Director of the museum and a 34-year-veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency.

PETER EARNEST: Visiting the museum, you will learn their stories, who they were what they did, and how they did it. Many of them set out to change the world and some did. In judging the ethics of their spying and actions, you the visitors must judge for themselves whether their individual accomplishments justifies the means they used. And whether their impact on the course of history was for a worthwhile greater good or not.

HUFF: From the Enigma machine…

[A series of beeping sounds.]

HUFF: …which helped the allies beat the axis powers during World War II….

[The sound of a submarines’ pinging sonar.]

HUFF: …to the underwater snooping of Russian and US submarines…

[The sound of very soft conversations.]

HUFF: …to whispered conversations captured by telephone bugs, the museum illustrates the art and science of espionage with gadgets, gizmos, and even a little fantasy.

[The sound of a rapidly accelerating and maneuvering car.]

HUFF: The sleek lines of James Bond’s Aston Martin are a reminder of the black and white, good guys versus bad guys style of Hollywood storytelling, and helps evoke the Cold War era, a particular focus of the Spy Museum. Museum President Dennis Barry.

BARRY: And yet, now in hindsight, it seems like a simpler age, where, you know, it was spy versus spy, and there was some code of conduct. And I notice people’s reactions. They look back at Berlin, which was a very dangerous place, and they think, “Oh, yeah, Berlin—1960’s, romantic, mysterious, but certainly not as difficult as the world is today.”

HUFF: And tomorrow, as Dr. Constantine Menges of the Hudson Institute confirms, intelligence remains crucial. He’s done research into China’s use of espionage to steal the plans for America’s nuclear warheads and the rockets that carry them.

MENGES: I believe that the capabilities that China has developed will make them more aggressive as a communist dictatorship against the United States in the coming future. And so I think that their success in espionage has strengthened the military capabilities of their regime against us. And they believe that the threat they present to our cities as a result of the secrets they stole from us and now use in making their own weapons, they believe we will back off if they do certain things.

HUFF: It’s knowledge that will shape the future, as it has shaped the past. The range of exhibits at the museum, from a letter by George Washington written with invisible ink to an audio transmitter in the heel of a shoe to a mock-up of a modern-day CIA operations center, it’s clear espionage and history are inextricably tied. For Common Ground, I’m Priscilla Huff.

[Musical interlude]

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security

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