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Week of February 24, 2004

Program 0408


Plan Puebla Panama | Transcript | MP3

Dirty War Update | Transcript | MP3

Richer, Fatter, Happier? | Transcript | MP3

North Korea Entrepreneurs| Transcript | MP3

Iran Earthquake Orphans | Transcript | MP3

International Airport Security | Transcript | MP3

Christ the Savior Cathedral | Transcript | MP3

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

DONA LINA: [via a translator] For us, it would bring more pollution here, with all the smoke. And all they’ re going to do for us, we’re against it because it will bring pure contamination.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, Mexico’s economic plan to address poverty meets with organized resistance.

KEITH PORTER: And human rights activists demand justice for the victims of Mexico’s so-called Dirty War.

ERNESTO ONTIVEROS: [via a translator] The masterminds of all the atrocities in Mexico—the forced disappearances, tortures, and deaths—were the presidents of the republic.

PORTER: Plus, why the world is richer and fatter but not necessarily happier in 2004.

CHRISTOPHER FLAVIN: Some people have called it a religion, that we define ourselves, we define our purpose in life, we define our reason for being in terms of consumption.

MCHUGH: These stories—coming up next.

[Musical interlude]

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Plan Puebla Panama

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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. Three years ago Mexican President Vicente Fox introduced with great fanfare the large-scale economic scheme known as Plan Puebla Panama. It was touted as a way to address the poverty and misery endemic in Mexico’s southern states and in Central America. The $25 billion dollar multi-year plan called for construction and improvement of highways, hydroelectric dams, oil exploration, and agricultural industry. It also promised jobs, sustainable development, and new services. Today, the plan has become a focal point for organized resistance throughout the region and the government may be re-thinking its strategy. From Chiapas, Mexico Tatiana Schreiber reports.

[The sound of someone giving a public speech in Spanish, followed by applause and shouts of approval]

TATIANA SCHREIBER: At the edge of Mexico’s Lacandon jungle in Chiapas, a man thanks dozens of visitors who’ve traveled from around the country to attend a conference here. The visitors have come to learn about the way of life of this small indigenous community and to celebrate the accomplishments of their tiny local school.

[The speech and recognition ceremony continue in Spanish]

SCHREIBER: In one of the school’s two classrooms, a thin elderly farmer describes the basic techniques for growing corn and beans.

[The farmer, speaking Spanish, describes his agricultural techniques]

SCHREIBER: The city visitors have lots of questions and are appalled when they discover how little people here earn for their efforts.

[The visitors, speaking Spanish, discuss the economic situation of the village]

SCHREIBER: Farmers are making less than 30 cents a pound for their corn, and only 20 cents a pound for their raw coffee.

[The visitors and the farmers, speaking Spanish, discuss the economic situation of the village]

SCHREIBER: There’s no doubt that people in this southernmost region of Mexico—as well as most of Central America—suffer extreme poverty. With 30 percent of the population, southern Mexico has the highest levels of illiteracy, infant mortality rates of 30 deaths per 1,000 births, the lowest life expectancies, and the fewest children finishing primary school. Herbert Taylor Arthur, General Director of Plan Puebla Panama in Mexico, says the plan is a way to address these inequalities.

HERBERT TAYLOR ARTHUR: [via a translator] The main idea is to see how we can generate for the people of the region today, a kind of development that’s harmonious, that’s integrated, and that takes into account people’s economic development, their social development, their personal development, their development of skills, and the development of better standards of living.

SCHREIBER: Taylor Arthur says Plan Puebla Panama—or the PPP—will meet these goals by building transportation and energy infrastructure that links northern and southern Mexico and integrates it with Central America. The large-scale projects envisioned by the plan are to be funded by loans from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, as well as private investment. The idea is that if the infrastructure is built, investors will follow, to take advantage of the region’s huge population of workers, and provide a way out of poverty. But the plan has its critics, like Reyna Moguel Viveros, a sociologist with the College of the Southern Border in Chiapas. She was asked by the state governor to review the plan.

REYNA MOGUEL VIVEROS: [via a translator] If they claim to present the plan of industrialization as the only way to bring the south from its underdevelopment, well, then, Plan Puebla Panama has to tell us—what model of industrialization are we thinking of?

SCHREIBER: Early PPP documents called for some 90 new maquiladoras to be built in Mexico’s south. Maquiladoras are factories, largely owned by foreign investors, to assemble clothes, auto parts, or electronics. Until now, most maquiladoras have been in the north or central Mexico.

REYNA MOGUEL VIVEROS: [via a translator] To me, the truth is, the plan scares me. It scares me because in Mexico, and not only in Mexico, maquiladora development is characterized by its volatility. They’re installed in places where the profits are marginally strong, and when the profits decrease, they go. They go to other places where they can continue to gain these marginally higher profits.

[The sound of women making tortillas]

SCHREIBER: One of the places new maquiladoras might go under Plan Puebla Panama, is near the many small communities bordering the Lacandon jungle. Here Luisa Gomez, who didn’t want her real name used, is making tortillas for the family with her sisters. At 21 one she has only a fourth-grade education. She’d like to find employment and learn a skill, but she’s skeptical about the maquiladoras.

MARIA DE JESUS: [via a translator] I’ve heard people say that, like with the clothes, in one place people will be person sewing, in another people will be cutting, in another making thread. It’s by the piece, so you’re not going to learn one complete thing. I don’t think such a thing will be good for us.

SCHREIBER: Luisa says only the plant-owners would really benefit, not the people of the community. Her brother, Esbin, has a different view. He’s 20 now, and has left home once. It was three months of hard labor at the northern border, often with agrochemicals being applied as the pickers worked. He says it was dangerous to his health and he was homesick, so he came back. He’s in favor of a plan that would build factories nearby.

ESBIN: [via a translator] If they succeed in putting one in, I think it would be good for us, because there we’d be closer to our families, to go to work. Because if we don’t find a better way of making a living, how are we going to survive?

[Sounds from people walking and talking in the village]

SCHREIBER: A few houses away midwife and herbalist Dona Lina says she can understand why some of the young people might favor maquiladoras. But she is worried about how they’ll affect the environment. She says the community has worked hard to protect its land, prohibiting hunting and logging in some areas and completely banning burning.

DONA LINA: [via a translator] For us, it would bring more pollution here, with all the smoke. And all they’ re going to do, well, for us, we’re against it because it will bring pure contamination, more contamination.

[Sounds from the jungle]

SCHREIBER: There’s good reason to be concerned for the environment here. The village is just outside the Montez Azules biosphere reserve, home to some 60 different species of orchids among other flora, and animals like the tapir, howler monkey, jaguar, and crocodile. It’s rich in tropical trees and is thought to contain significant deposits of oil and natural gas. The PPP includes plans for what it terms environmentally sound industry, such as biotechnology, within the biological corridor. Critics say this opens the door for big business to profit from the vast genetic resources here, including medicinal plants and indigenous cultural knowledge about these plants, and they say the plan fails to address the environmental costs of its projects. Reyna Moquel Viveros.

REYNA MOGUEL VIVEROS: [via a translator] There is not one mention—not one mention—of who is going to pay the environmental costs. Because they are talking about millions and millions and millions of dollars, a plan that is going to require 25 years, in zones where there are the greatest biological and ecological reserves of the Earth. At least if there was some minimal written, that each peso that went into the Plan Puebla Panama, one centavo would go for environmental costs, well, one could breathe. But there are no laws to require foreign companies to pay the environmental costs.

[The sound of someone making a speech, in Spanish, at a conference]

SCHREIBER: At a conference of indigenous leaders from 15 countries in the region a declaration is read calling for protection of biodiversity but rejecting all aspects of Plan Puebla Panama.

[The sound of someone making a speech, in Spanish, at a conference]

SCHREIBER: In the three years since the plan was announced, indigenous groups in Mexico and Central America have held many such gatherings opposing the PPP and calling for a different model of development—one that works on the local level with businesses and small farmers to improve their marketing and raise prices for quality locally produced goods. And while some parts of the PPP have now been downplayed by the government, such as plans for new hydropower dams, Taylor Arthur, Director of the PPP, says the government is going ahead with at least one aspect of the plan. He says 13 new highway projects are underway. Taylor Arthur took over the job at the end of 2002, after his predecessor was fired. At the same time, the plan was moved from its position within the Office of the Presidency to a less visible location in the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Activists say these changes suggest the government is rethinking the entire plan, or at least its public presentation.

[Sounds of people talking in the jungle village]

SCHREIBER: Back in the jungle community six or seven men are preparing a huge pig to feed the visitors at the conference. After quickly killing the animal they singe its skin and scrape off the tough hair.

[Sounds of the villagers preparing the pig for cooking]

SCHREIBER: With great effort and a lot of laughter the men hoist the animal to its other side to finish the job. Meanwhile the women have prepared a giant cauldron of vegetable soup. It’s this way of life—small scale communities of farmers and their families earning a living off the land—that critics say is threatened by Plan Puebla Panama., a plan that pits large-scale development models over small. Which will take precedence remains to be seen. For Common Ground, I’m Tatiana Schreiber, in Chiapas, Mexico.

MCHUGH: Seeking justice in Mexico’s so-called Dirty War, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

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Dirty War Update

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MCHUGH: Mexican human rights activists say that the recent discovery of a mass grave in Ciuidad Juarez containing the bodies of 12 men, apparently murdered by police, recalls government practices from the so-called Dirty War of the 1970s. That was when the Mexican government unleashed a campaign of terror against suspected guerillas and political opponents. More than three years ago newly elected President Vicente Fox pledged to make human rights violations a relic of Mexico’s past. Fox appointed a special prosecutor to bring the authors of the Dirty War to justice. But despite an ongoing investigation no punishments have been handed out and human rights activists charge the administration’s pledges are in danger of not being fulfilled. Kent Paterson reports.

[The sound of Ernesto Ontiveros speaking in Spanish]

KENT PATERSON: Retired schoolteacher Ernesto Ontiveros is the President of Afadem, Mexico’s relatives association of detained and disappeared persons and victims of human rights violations. Afadem is waging a campaign on behalf of hundreds of people who are believed to have been disappeared by the Mexican government for political reasons. Most of the cases are from the 1970s. Ontiveros says the Fox administration took a step forward recently when it issued arrest warrants for former officials who carried out the so-called Dirty War, including one-time federal security directorate heads Miguel Nazar and Luis de la Barreda. But he says that so far the Fox administration has stopped short of prosecuting the Dirty War’s suspected architects.

ERNESTO ONTIVEROS: [via a translator] Let’s remember that the masterminds of all the atrocities in Mexico—the forced disappearances, tortures, and deaths—were the presidents of the republic. Of course with important people that were under their orders. Until now, they’ve only called in former presidents Lopez Portillo and Echeverria Alvarez to testify but they still haven’t tried them. Why not? Because there still isn’t sufficient evidence. And who could give this evidence? The people who were below them like Nazar Haro.

PATERSON: Nazar Haro and three other former police officials suddenly dropped out of sight late last year when it became apparent arrest warrants would be issued for them. One of the wanted men then suffered an unexpected death. Afadem and other human rights activists contend that the flight of the elderly fugitives is but the latest missed opportunity in investigations that have yet to result in anyone going to jail.

[The sound of a vehicle driving to the town of Atoyac]

PATERSON: Perhaps the most important center of the dirty war probes is in the town of Atoyac in Guerrero state, a flashpoint of guerrilla resistance that began in the 1960s and even continues to this day. Local residents and activists say as many as 400 people or more might have been picked up by the security forces in the surrounding region and disappeared.

[The sound of Georgina Landa speaking in Spanish]

PATERSON: Georgina Landa takes a break to talk in her Atoyac office. Landa represents the special prosecutor’s office for crimes against social and political movements of the past, which was set up by President Fox to investigate and prosecute the Dirty War cases. Although many nongovernmental organizations criticize the special prosecutor’s track record, Landa says the investigations are making headway. She insists they are doing all they can to bring human rights violators to justice in a delicate political situation.

GEORGINA LANDA: [via a translator] The people are assessing how we act here and in the process of all this, we’re trying to say this is for real. At the very least our chief, Special Prosecutor Carrillo Prieto, is risking everything to carry out this work. He’s a man of integrity with intelligence and good qualities, and this makes us optimists that we can do it. We try to stress what we can do instead of what we can’t do, because if one starts to think of all the obstacles, it gives one fear. No?

PATERSON: Nonetheless, Landa’s office in Atoyac is suffering a credibility crisis. Key informant Zacarias Barrientos was recently murdered, and the story took a strange twist when Landa’s principal community liaison was accused by local authorities of plotting the murder allegedly because of a senior citizen’s love triangle gone sour. Human rights advocates like Afadem claim that 80-year-old Iisias Martinez and four other suspects were tortured by Guerrero state police into falsely confessing Barrientos’ murder. The activists charge that the frame-up could be designed to protect the real authors of mass kidnappings and murders. They are demanding the release of the five suspects, saying their jailing represents a return to a dirty war that is supposed to be over.

[The sound of Mariano Riva speaking in Spanish]

PATERSON: In Atoyac, one name is frequently mentioned: Mario Arturo Acosta Chapparo. He is a former Mexican military officer who is accused of spearheading mass disappearances like the one carried out in 1974 in the village of El Rincon de las Parotas. Mariano Riva claims to have witnessed the raid led by Acosta Chaparro.

MARIANO RIVA: [via a translator] The government arrived early on the morning of October 1st and began to surround the town so nobody could leave. By the morning, they had everyone in the basketball court.

PATERSON: Some longtime residents say as many as 11 people were then carted off by Mexican soldiers. Acosta Chaparro resurfaces later on, and in some surprising places.

PATRICIA GARIBAY: I have a brother that’s missing since ’98 along with 9 other people that disappeared the same night. I’ve been constantly trying to locate him through legal means and we just don’t get any help from our US government or the Mexican government.

PATERSON: Patricia Garibay is the sister of Jorge Garibay, a US citizen who vanished six years ago in Ciudad Juarez after he was abducted by men claiming to be police officers. Garibay’s disappearance is one of many violent incidents connected to the organized drug trade along the US-Mexico border. US officials believe Acosta Chaparro had a hand in the carnage during the 1990s. Garibay.

PATRICIA GARIBAY: Mr. Vicente Carrillo, one of our local cartel leaders, is protected by Mexican military. So I mean, the, Mr. Chaparro and all of them were involved in helping him bring in the drugs, distribute the drugs, and also get rid of their enemies. So believe that he’s also involved in some of our disappeared.

PATERSON: In a startling admission, the Mexican military declared nearly two years ago that Acosta Chaparro and another Dirty War veteran, General Quiroz Hermosillo, were responsible for the earlier murders of 143 detainees during the 1970s. Yet neither man has been tried fir crimes related either to the Dirty War or the more recent narcotics -related disappearances. Instead, both are serving moderate prison sentences for drug offenses at a Mexican army base.

[The sound of Ernesto Ontiveros speaking in Spanish]

PATERSON: Afadem’s Ernesto Ontiveros worries that what might be called the Pinochet syndrome will undermine the Dirty War investigations.

ONTIVEROS [via a translator] Another thing is that the alleged perpetrators grow old. And since they are old men, a question arises on human rights grounds: How can you try them? What happened to Pinochet? They couldn’t do anything to him and he continues right along just like a spring chicken. All these people who are responsible for forced disappearances, tortures, and deaths are hoping that they will be tried after they get old or die.

PATERSON: For Common Ground, I’m Kent Paterson in, Mexico.

[Musical interlude]

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Richer, Fatter, Happier?

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PORTER: What does the weekend trip to the Wal-Mart Super Center have to do with world affairs? Consumption habits, especially by Americans, are having an enormous impact on the well being of both the environment and the people who live in it. The WorldWatch Institute focused its State of the World 2004 report on the consumer society and its impact across the globe. The mantra “shop ’til you drop” has a whole new meaning in the context of their findings, as Priscilla Huff discovered.

[The sound of vehicles on a busy road]

PRISCILLA HUFF: Its time to drive out for your shopping trip.

[The sound of vehicles on a busy road]

HUFF: About one-quarter of the world’s passenger cars are in the United States. In fact there are more passenger cars than licensed drivers in America.

CHRISTOPHER FLAVIN: Consumption is on the rise in rich countries and is rapidly spreading to more prosperous developing countries.

HUFF: Christopher Flavin is the President of the WorldWatch Institute.

FLAVIN: The bulk of this consumption is occurring, of course, in the industrialized world, so that US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, with just 12 percent of the world’s population account for about 62 percent of the world’s household expenditures. By comparison, sub-Saharan African, which has only 11 percent of the world’s population accounts for about 1.2 percent of the world’s consumption expenditures.

HUFF: In fact, the WorldWatch Institute is convinced, consumption—that shopping habit—has gone beyond fulfilling basic needs—food, shelter, water, warmth—to a whole new level. Christopher Flavin

FLAVIN: But it is a society in which, the outlook of people and the goals of people and the goals of policy makers, are increasingly articulated and valued in terms of acquiring more and more material goods and services. So it’s as much as mindset as it is, you know, an actual measures of increases in material flows. And some people have called it a religion, you know, that it is a modern religion—that we define ourselves, we define our purpose in life, we define our being in terms of consumption.

HUFF: For the half of the world that lives on less than $2 a day—that’s about three billion people, mostly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa—more consumption is a good thing. But, its a different story in America, says Christopher Flavin.

FLAVIN: New houses, for example, in the United States, are 38 percent larger than they were in 1975. Most people in the United States were of course were living quite comfortably in 1975. There are more refrigerators per home today than there were 30 years ago and they are 10 percent larger on average.

HUFF: Size is just one aspect of the consumer society. Maybe you are shopping for some new electronics.

[The sound of a clacking keyboard]

HUFF: A new computer comes carefully wrapped in lots of packaging—all of which must be disposed of. Europe has changed its approach on who is responsible to get rid of that trash. Lisa Mastny of the WorldWatch Institute explains how take-back laws have worked in Germany.

LISA MASTNY: In 1991, Germany passed a new packaging ordinance that holds producers responsible for taking back and managing all packaging waste and the law has actually triggered very steady reductions in packaging materials in Germany. Within three years of its passage, the recycling of waste paper in the country shot up to 54 percent after having stagnated at 45 percent for about 25 years.

HUFF: In fact, Mastny says, Europe is pioneering production systems where little to no waste is created.

MASTNY: One of the better known success stories of zero waste comes from Denmark—the city of Kalenberg—where a number of local companies have been engaged in a sort of symbiotic relationship where the outputs from one factory become the inputs to another. That’s just one example. The natural gas that is flared off by Denmark’s largest refinery is now being used as an input into a nearby plasterboard factory, so essentially, nothing is wasted.

HUFF: After you’ve gone shopping, you might want to meet a friend for lunch.

[The sound of a ringing cell phone]

HUFF: Mobile phone manufacturers are offering all sorts of new features on cell phones, including the very popular camera models. To make a new cell phone, a rare mineral, coltan, is needed. Coltan is mined in one of the most dangerous parts of the world—the jungles of Central Africa, where the tribes of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and others have fought civil wars for decades—battles sometimes funded by money from coltan mining. But, while picking out a new cell phone may be a choice, Brian Halwell notes…

BRIAN HALWELL: Eating, of course is not a choice, its a necessity.

HUFF: Even so, that burger you may be considering ordering for lunch with your friend also has its own impact on the world.

[The sound of cattle mooing]

HUFF: WorldWatch’s Brian Halwell notes, to raise cattle for that hamburger takes a huge amount of resources—from grain to piles of manure And then there are American eating habits.

HALWELL: If each American reduced his or her meat consumption by only 5 percent—this is only equivalent to eating one less meat meal each week—10 million tons of grain would be saved. This is enough to feed 25 million people, which is roughly equivalent to the number that are estimated to go hungry in the United States each day.

HUFF: The WorldWatch Institute finds small choices on consumption both by individuals and by large scale consumers, such as governments, can have a cascading effect, changing how markets function and having a big impact. However, consumption is fun and Christopher Flavin says they’re realistic about the future.

HALWELL: I think the challenge for us is to rethink the goal here. Is the goal for us as individuals to have more stuff? Is the goal for businesses to sell more stuff? I don’t think that that should ultimately be the goal if we’re interested in our development. And that’s what this is all about. We’re interested in our development. Real development, it seems to me, comes from increasing the quality of life, what some people call well-being, you know, increasing our own well-being. And, if you were to think about it, who should be the winner in an economic competition? Should it be the country that produces the most goods? Or should it be the country that produces the highest quality of life with the lowest consumption of goods? It’s that kind of thinking, that kind of goal-setting that I think we need to set for ourselves we’re just not there yet.

HUFF: While the Congress may be reluctant to legislate changes to the consumer society—and WorldWatch knows Americans have a long way to go—they are hopeful examples from around the world can show the state of the world can be improved by changes in our consumer habits. For Common Ground, I’m Priscilla Huff.

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

[Musical interlude]

KRISTIN MCHUGH: I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, why at least one businessman believes North Korea is Asia’s best investment opportunity.

ROGER BARRETT: About two months ago, the first commercial flights took place from Seoul to Pyongyang and back again—that’s from the South Korean capital to the North Korean capital and back again—it hardly made the international news.

PORTER: Plus, mixed international reaction to the newest U-S airport security regulations. And, Iran struggles to cope with the scores of orphans left behind in the devastating Bam earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED IRANIAN VOLUNTEER: [via a translator] They don’t have anyone. And there are very few nurses. Yesterday we were three people in this room and there were 12 children. For example, that boy Avabi cried and was in pain. By the time we got to him, another child was crying. There are just very few nurses.

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North Korea Entrepreneurs

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MCHUGH: North Korea—in the eyes of the Bush administration is a country stuck on the Axis of Evil. But some suggest North Korea is the next Asian Tiger. Beijing correspondent Celia Hatton met up with one businessman who argues now is the time to invest in the North Korean economy, before it really begins to take off.

CELIA HATTON: At a UN press conference in Beijing a few months ago, North Korea was characterized as a country on the brink of disaster. Rick Corsino, Director of the UN World Food Program in North Korea, pointed to rising malnutrition rates, poor harvests, and a general lack of aid when describing the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis.

RICK CORSINO: What we have today in the DPRK is much like what we had last year and the year before. It’s a continuation of a chronic emergency.

HATTON: But one man in Beijing paints a far different picture of the isolated communist country. British businessman Roger Barrett has been doing business in Asia for more than 20 years. After working in Hong Kong, China, and South Korea, he now makes his living as the Managing Director of Korea Business Consultants, a company which acts as a conduit for Western investors to enter North Korea. He argues that North Korea could be the next Asian economic tiger and draws a parallel between the criticism that he received when doing business in China 20 years ago and the same remarks that he hears about North Korea today.

ROGER BARRETT: People said, “Why are you coming to China? I mean, “China,” they were saying in 1983, “everybody wears a blue or a green uniform and do they have any money?” Well, I mean people were very skeptical about why I came to China and people said there is nothing to do in China. And I just enjoyed making friends and having dinner, having lunch, and just doing business.

HATTON: Barrett can rhyme off a long list of reasons why people should choose to invest in North Korea. Economic reforms that began in July 2002 have streamlined the country’s tax and accounting laws. Goods manufactured in North Korea can also be shipped to South Korea duty-free, Barrett says, pointing out that the potential market for goods then expands from North Korea’s 23 million to a combined population of 70 million. Some argue that Mr. Barrett’s arguments must be taken with a grain of salt, considering that his company profits from introducing companies to North Korea. It’s in his interest, they might say, for him to exaggerate the speed at which the North Korean business environment is improving. Marcus Noland is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC, who has devoted much of his academic career to studying the economy on both sides of the Korean Peninsula. In spite of the economic reforms, he is cautious when rating the investment environment in North Korea.

MARCUS NOLAND: There clearly have been changes in the last year or two. There has been an upsurge in small-scale retailing activity; the authorities may be taking a more positive attitude in certain respects. The point is simply that there is still a very, very long way to go before North Korea becomes a viable environment for investment by most mainstream firms in the United States or elsewhere.

HATTON: Noland points out that even some of the things which could be ripe for investment in North Korea—mining and mineral deposits—become less appealing when North Korea’s shaky infrastructure is taken into account.

NOLAND: It’s not just enough to say there’s minerals or there are mines in North Korea. There would have to be ancillary investment in things like roads, bridges, railroads in order to make that asset—the mine—an economically viable one.

HATTON: Some Western companies, including the Swedish-Swiss engineering firm ABB and Italian car maker FIAT are actively doing business in North Korea. Roger Barrett estimates that there are another 40 or 50 western companies operating under the radar in North Korea. According to KBC company literature, many companies wish to remain confidential during the early stages of a project cycle. Roger Barrett blames North Korea’s poor public image on the Western media.

BARRETT: About two months ago, the first commercial flights took place from Seoul to Pyongyang and back again—that’s from the South Korean capital to the North Korean capital and back again—it hardly made the international news. In fact, people I told about it didn’t actually believe that it had happened. That’s how little information gets out. Mind you, if one shot is fired across the demilitarized zone, let me tell you that it’s all over the world media.

HATTON: Asian tiger or Asian nightmare? Both visions of North Korea seem to exist simultaneously. In mid-January, the European Union opened the doors to its first Chamber of Commerce in Pyongyang. Just six days later, the UN World Food Program announced that it was cutting food aid to 2.7 million North Korean women and children, in the height of winter, due to a lack of aid from international donors. For Common Ground, I’m Celia Hatton in Beijing.

[Musical interlude]

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Iran Earthquake Orphans

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PORTER: Iranian authorities are looking for the families separated from hundreds of children rescued in the country’s devastating earthquake in December. Requests to adopt the children have been coming in from all over the world, but Tehran says it must first make sure the youngsters are truly orphans. Roxana Saberi reports from Bam, Iran.

[The sound of a child playing with a musical toy]

ROXANA SABERI: Nine-year-old Rahmaan may sound happy as he and his little sister play with a musical Go Fish game. But these children have seen more death and destruction than most people ever see in a lifetime.

RAHMAAN: [via a translator] My father went to free my mother, he says. A piece of iron hit his head and killed him.

SABERI: His parents were two of the more than 40,000 Iranians killed in Bam’s earthquake in December. Many of the victims were children—as are many who survived. About 1,800 children are thought to have been left without parents or relatives. Dozens were brought to centers like this one in Kerman, a two-hour drive northwest of Bam. Some left quickly, reunited with their parents or other relatives. But other children, like Rahmaan, remain—playing with toys and reading books, waiting for what may come next. They’re cared for by a limited number of nurses, their days broken up by unfamiliar visitors, some of them volunteers like this woman, who try to comfort them.

UNIDENTIFIED IRANIAN VOLUNTEER: [via a translator] They don’t have anyone. And there are very few nurses. Yesterday we were three people in this room and there were 12 children. For example, that boy Avabi cried and was in pain. By the time we got to him, another child was crying. There are just very few nurses.

SABERI: This woman from Kerman came to keep the kids company. She doesn’t know much about the little girl in her arms, except that her name is Vida, and no one—not an aunt, not an uncle—has come for her yet.

VOLUNTEER MAAMIKE ZEINABI: [via a translator] She has nobody. She doesn’t talk to anyone. I’ve been with her since yesterday afternoon, so she talks to me more than to other people.

SABERI: The head of this children’s center says Vida’s case is not common—that only about 10 percent of the kids here seem to be left with no family ties.

[The sound of toddlers playing]

SABERI: Down the hall, in a room full of active toddlers, nurse Shamsiye Shuraabaadi says the government must keep searching for these children’s families. And if those searches are unsuccessful, to provide money to raise them.

SHAMSIYE SHURAABAADI: [via a translator] We try to do whatever we can for them. I don’t know if what we do is right or not, only God knows. The only thing we can do for them is to love them like our own children, do kindness to them. Their future—that’s up to the government to clarify.

SABERI: Tehran says it has been working hard to reunite children with their parents or close relatives. But if no one comes for them after six months, they might be put up for adoption. Requests have been coming in from all over the world to do just that. But the President of Iran’s State Welfare Organization says the rules must be strictly followed.

MOHAMMAD REZA RAHCHAMANI: [via a translator] It’s possible that someone who doesn’t have a family will wants to take care of these children. We act according to the law, and people who can adopt these kids must be Iranian, married, and not have been able to have any children for five years.

SABERI: Mohammad Reza Rachamani says another option is for the government to raise the children in orphanages like this one in Tehran—centers that Rachamani says would require a lot of money from Iran and foreign charities.

MOHAMMAD REZA RAHCHAMANI: The country’s Welfare Organization provides for the comfort, sanitation, treatment and all the other needs of these dear ones. For their education we send them to school and high school like other kids. We send them to university. We pay for their studies.

[Sounds from the child center in Kerman]

SABERI: Back in Kerman, a nurse maneuvers among a roomful of cribs, trying to tend to a mixture of hungry, sleepy, and smiling babies. She says no one knows the names of a few of the babies rescued from Bam.

UNIDENTIFIED IRANIAN NURSE: [via a translator] Until one week ago these children were in their mother’s embrace. Their mothers laid them down and picked them up.

SABERI: Still, with some help, nurses here say, the orphaned children of Bam, like this newborn, Mahdie, can succeed at their new lives.

[The sound of a crying baby]

SABERI: She was born the day of the quake, pulled out of her dead mother’s body. A sign of life amid a time of death. Like all these children, nurses here say, a sign of hope for the future. For Common Ground, I’m Roxana Saberi in Bam, Iran.

MCHUGH: Coming up next, the international controversy over America’s new airport security measures. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

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International Airport Security

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MCHUGH: In January, US authorities began fingerprinting and photographing travelers as they arrive at major American ports and airports. Now millions of visitors to the United States face extra security screening on their arrival. The controversial move has provoked a somewhat mixed reaction from the international community, as Nina-Marie Potts reports from Washington, DC’s Dulles International Airport.

POTTS: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Things have changed somewhat since those frequently quoted words were inscribed on the Statue of Liberty nearly 120 years ago. Today, the nation’s monument remains closed indefinitely since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. And although foreign visitors to America’s shores are still welcome, they must now be photographed and fingerprinted. This is not true for nationals from 27 mostly European countries who currently don’t need a visa to pay a short-term visit to America—at least not yet. If those same countries fail to meet the October deadline to upgrade their passports with biometric data, the US government has warned they may be dropped from the visa-waiver program.

[Sounds from a busy airport]

POTTS: Here at Dulles International, just outside Washington, DC, newly arrived passengers are getting their first taste of the new system.

[A visitor is questioned by a customs official at the airport about how why he is in the US and how long he will be staying]

POTTS: Visitors arriving in the US approach the desk in the normal way. They present a passport. The passport is scanned by a machine reader and then the visitor is asked to put their left index finger, followed by their right index finger, on an electronic fingerprint reader. Finally, the officer swings in the camera, takes your photograph and if everything’s in order you’ll be on your way.

[The customs official explains to the visitor how to place his hand to get his fingerprints taken]

POTTS: The gathering of so-called “biometric’ data”— information unique to an individual—is billed by the US government as the biggest security improvement to the visa process in three decades. The American authorities expect the procedure to add around 15 seconds to the screening time. In return, they say, the system will protect legitimate travelers and the American people. Robert Mocny is Deputy Director of the US Visit program at the US Department of Homeland Security:

ROBERT MOCNY: America has been and always will be a welcoming country, but we will always be on guard, watchful for the signs of potential acts of terrorism.

POTTS: The fingerprints are used to verify a traveler’s identity and ensure that they’re not on a watch list of known or suspected terrorists and criminals.

[A visitor is questioned by a customs official at the airport about how why he is in the US and how long he will be staying]

POTTS: International arrivals at Dulles International airport appeared generally unphased by the new arrangements. Shobhani Tayal, from Mumbai, India, said the response of travelers might depend on where they’re from.

SHOBHANI TAYAL: Coming from India, I am pretty open to anything like this because I am sure everyone would agree that violence in India is you know, far more, as compared to the West. So, I think Indians by far appreciate any measures that any country takes in order to protect the security of its citizens and the visitors.

POTTS: Meanwhile, Elena, a 36-year old Russian, speaking from Moscow, says while the new rules are a bore, they won’t stop people from going to the States.

ELENA: [via a translator] I think that everyone protects themselves the way they can. But for us, it’s of course going to be uncomfortable. It will make it more difficult to enter the country. I think it will stop some people from going there. But it won’t stop me. If I really need to go, I would do it anyway.

POTTS: Another Muscovite, Valeri, says for Russians, the main obstacle to visiting the States isn’t security, it’s finance.

VALERI: [via a translator] I think that any restricting order from the government creates difficulties. But knowing that the threat of terrorism really exists and if it helps to save lives, even one life, these measures are justified. America is so far away and our life here is so complicated financially, not everyone can afford to fly to the States, so only well-off people go there. I think it’s the right thing to do. If the mechanism of this procedure works well, then it shouldn’t create any problems.

POTTS: But some countries haven’t been quite so understanding. Brazil, protesting America’s new security measures, implemented its own policy of fingerprinting US visitors, which Washington labeled discriminatory. And the threat of international retaliation hasn’t put US officials off course. Like it or not, the message from the US government is “Get used to it.” Officials say the gathering of biometric data will become a routine feature of international air travel. For Common Ground, I’m Nina-Marie Potts at Dulles International Airport, outside Washington, DC.

[Musical interlude]

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Christ the Savior Cathedral

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PORTER: Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral is one of the main attractions in the Russian capital these days. Rebuilt in the year 2000, the temple has become a symbol of Russia’s revival after the Communist era and attracts crowds of visitors every day. As part of our occasional Destination Spotlight series, Anya Ardayeva reports from Moscow.

[The sound of ringing church bells]

ANYA ARDAYEVA: On a chilly Sunday evening in Moscow, a Russian Orthodox religious service is about to begin. Crowds of people—tourists and believers from all over the world—gather to attend the service at Moscow’s most famous church—Christ the Savior Cathedral.

[The sound of an Orthodox church service]

ARDAYEVA: There’s no electric light inside the sanctuary, but numerous burning candles create a mysterious atmosphere. There are no pews or seats either. People stand in the middle of the room as the priest conducts the service—singing and reading prayers in the old Russian language. Along the sides of the hall, believers pray to the icons lining the walls. Each icon, some of which are made of gold and pearls, depicts a different saint. According to the Russian Orthodox tradition, if a person has something to ask a particular saint, he should buy a candle, light it, and put it in front of the icon.

Many Russians travel for hours, or even days, to attend the cathedral, which has now become the main Orthodox temple in Russia. Maria Alexandrova, who lives several hours away from Moscow, says she finally made it here after watching major religious services being held in the cathedral on TV.

MARIA ALEXANDROVA: [via a translator] I always wanted to come here. I’ve been to Moscow before, but always wanted to come here. We’ve already spent more than three hours here and we don’t want to leave. I brought my daughter and grandson. This temple is becoming a symbol for all religious people in Russia, although it is new and difficult to get used to.

[The sound of an Orthodox church service]

ARDAYEVA: The cathedral’s history is complicated and tragic. Built in the 19th century in memory of the Russian victory over Napoleon, its construction took almost 44 years. But it was completely destroyed by the Communists in 1931 and replaced with a swimming pool. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the new government decided to rebuild it. The recreation of the temple was considered a symbol of Russia’s spiritual revival after the long years of Communist rule.

[The sound of an Orthodox church service]

ARDAYEVA: These days, the cathedral’s massive and shiny golden dome is visible from all over central Moscow. Christ the Savior Cathedral is the largest church in the country—33 feet higher than the Statue of Liberty. It’s located in the busy historic center of the Russian capital just a short walk away from the Kremlin, surrounded by offices and restaurants. Many Muscovites come here during the day to take a break from the city’s busy, everyday life. Violetta, who works nearby, says she comes to sit on a bench by the cathedral several times a week to shake off the stress of living in this big city.

VIOLETTA: [via a translator] I come here to rest and get rid of negative emotions. There’s positive energy here. I think it helps, because it takes off the burden of problems. You look at the domes and the blue skies and it feels better. I just sit here and think about nothing.

ARDAYEVA: And Victor, who brought his girlfriend here for a walk, says he is not religious at all—he just likes the atmosphere.

VICTOR: [via a translator] This is one of the most beautiful places in Moscow, on the bank of the river. It looks great, with clouds passing by. I come here three to four times a year and will bring my children here.

[The sound of an Orthodox church service]

ARDAYEVA: Moscow’s new Christ the Savior Cathedral does not have hundred-year-old walls, like other Russian churches. But it does reflect modern-day Moscow—busy, gigantic, and somewhat pompous. And still, it has a special aura that draws hundreds of visitors every day. For Common Ground, I’m Anya Ardayeva in Moscow.

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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