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MIKE JENDRZEJCZYK: There are thousands of North Koreans trapped inside China hiding in villages, mainly with Chinese of Korean descent and subject to, now, increasing harassment, surveillance. We’ve even heard of house-to-house searches.
KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, North Korea’s underground railroad.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: Plus, eliminating London’s traffic gridlock.
DEREK TURNER: I think the whole world of the transport planning community are looking at this, because it’s really, this is the first big city that has tried to do something quite as sophisticated and as radical as this.
MCHUGH: And extreme driving in Russia.
ALEXANDR NIKOLAYEV: [via a translator] There is no secret here. All the stunts they show in the movies are executed by our “first graders.”
PORTER: These stories—coming up next.
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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. As winter settles in on the Korean Peninsula and food becomes scarcer and scarcer in the famine-stricken North, human rights groups expect more people to try to cross the border from North Korea to China. The story of these migrants is somewhat of a mystery, since few people have access to the border areas where most of them live. But human rights groups paint a picture of people trapped between dire conditions in China and the threat of severe punishment if they return home. Judith Smelser has this report.
[The sounds of an African-American spiritual song.]
SMELSER: For most Americans, the words “Underground Railroad” conjure up images of a dark time in US history, when escaped slaves embarked on a treacherous journey from South to North. Chun Ki-won represents a different kind of underground railroad.
CHUN KI-WON: [via a translator] From 1997 until I was kicked out of China, I saved 237 refugees.
SMELSER: For four years, the South Korean pastor was one of many religious and humanitarian workers who help North Koreans escape their country via China.
CHUN KI-WON: [via a translator] There are three countries in the world that accept North Korean refugees—Cambodia, Thailand, and Mongolia. And I guided these refugees through deserts and through jungles and crossed the border to a third country.
SMELSER: No one knows exactly how many North Koreans have crossed the border into China. Some estimates put the number at 10,000—others as high as 300,000. Some leave for political reasons. Others, especially since the mid 1990s, have left to escape their country’s deadly famine. But crossing the border is a dangerous risk. China has been cracking down on border crossings, and once the migrants leave, they’re considered criminals back in North Korea. According to a recent report by the prominent human rights group Human Rights Watch, many of them end up in a perilous kind of limbo. Mike Jendrzejczyk is the Asia director for the organization’s Washington office.
MIKE JENDRZEJCZYK: There are thousands of North Koreans trapped inside China hiding in villages, mainly with Chinese of Korean descent and subject to, now increasing harassment, surveillance—we’ve even heard of house-to-house searches. And the possibility they could be arrested and forcibly sent back to North Korea virtually any time. They face extortion, women are particularly vulnerable to abuse. Some sell their sexual services or actually get involved in prostitution to make some money or to help feed their families. Others are abducted and forced into prostitution or are convinced to marry Chinese husbands who then end up beating them and becoming quite abusive.
SMELSER: The Human Rights Watch report is based on interviews with 15 North Korean defectors and several humanitarian workers with experience in the region. It urges China to stop cracking down on the border-crossers, but Beijing is standing firm.
XIE FENG: These North Koreans who come to China are not refugees. We consider them to be illegal immigrants.
SMELSER: Xie Feng is the spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington.
XIE FENG: They come to China mainly for economic reasons. That is, for better living and food. And secondly, I would say that there do not exist severe punishments in North Korea if they go back.
SMELSER: But not so says Mike Jendrzejczyk of Human Rights Watch.
JENDRZEJCZYK: Once you leave North Korea it is considered a crime under North Korean law. You are then subject to all kinds of persecution and abuse and possibly, if it’s considered treasonous, even the death penalty. So that, while many of the refugees, if not most of them are leaving for economic or other reasons, once they are in China they are subject to such severe abuse if sent back to North Korea, we think they should at least have the possibility of applying for asylum.
SMELSER: But that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Instead, North Koreans who want to leave their country must find other ways to reach their goal. Some have done so by breaking into foreign embassies and diplomatic missions in China. While Beijing usually negotiates the peaceful transfer of these migrants to third countries, Embassy Spokesman Xie Feng discourages the missions from granting them asylum in the first place. And he hints that the work of humanitarian organizations that want to help North Koreans trapped in the border region is being threatened by the embassy break-ins.
XIE FENG: These economic refugees coming into China, this problem has existed for quite some time. And it was only recently there has been this upsurge in numbers and the worst cases breaking into foreign representations in China. And we have evidence to prove that these are the result of instigation behind scenes by some NGOs and so-called religious groups. So we hope that they will not engage in any illegal activities.
SMELSER: Some humanitarian workers and human rights groups do blame the embassy invasions for China’s recent crackdown on North Korean migrants. But the other routes out of China, via the so-called “underground railroad,” are far from simple. They’re very costly for the defectors and dangerous for those who help them. Chun Ki-won was arrested in 2001 while trying to help 12 North Koreans cross from China into Mongolia. At a Congressional hearing last May, Timothy Peters, the director of a Christian charity called Helping Hands Korea, drew the lawmakers’ attention to the plight of Mr. Chun and others like him.
TIMOTHY PETERS: [testifying before Congress] I can only act as a spokesman, a voice, for not only Mr. Chun, but many others whom I consider unsung heroes who have taken it upon themselves, not only their personal safety, but their personal resources. Some of whom have gone into debt, into considerable amounts, which have strained their marriages, of their own personal finances, to bring North Koreans to safety.
SMELSER: At the time of the hearing, Mr. Chun was still in a Chinese prison. His fate was uncertain. But he was eventually released, having spent a total of 220 days behind bars. He’s forbidden from returning to China, but he’s not giving up the fight. He’s simply taken it elsewhere—as he told a group of reporters in Washington not long ago.
CHUN KI-WON: [via a translator] As long as the refugees want to escape, I have to help them escape. But there’s a limit to what I can do. That’s why I’m here. I’m going to go to England, I’m going to go to Japan, I’m going to go wherever I can go. And people like you will have to make an international issue of this refugee problem. That’s the way we can solve the problem eventually.
SMELSER: In the meantime, others are continuing his shadowy work on the underground railroad for the 21st century.
[The sounds of an African-American spiritual song.]
For Common Ground, I’m Judith Smelser in Washington.
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MCHUGH: We all know what it’s like to be stuck in traffic gridlock, and some cities have it worse than others. As old cities grow, the street plans of previous generations prove unsuitable for 21st-century modes of transportation. In London, planners are trying to reduce congestion by charging drivers who wish to take their vehicles into the center of town. From the British capital, Alastair Wanklyn reports.
[The sounds of London street traffic.]
ALISTAIR WANKLYN: Midday in central of London, and on Piccadilly Circus the traffic is backed up as far as the eye can see. The only vehicles that seem to be making much headway here are bicycles and motorcycles. Soon, the drivers of trucks and cars will be forced to pay a $7 or $8 daily charge to bring their vehicles into the center of London.
DEREK TURNER: What we’re aiming to do is actually to solve London’s congestion problems.
WANKLYN: Charging a fee on vehicles is projected to reduce traffic in London’s city center by 10 to 15 percent, according to project designer Derek Turner of the organization Transport For London. At present, every day a quarter of a million vehicles use the central streets to shift goods and people, and they will all be affected.
TURNER: This is going to result in us having to put in additional facilities for people to be able to make their journeys and particularly in terms of buses and bus priority measures.
WANKLYN: Conversion of streets to take buses and cyclists only is well underway in London. And around 250 video cameras are being installed on street corners to enforce the congestion charging. Computers will watch any vehicle in view and read its registration plate. Drivers will pay the $7 or $8 or fee either in advance or on the day of the journey, or face fines ranging from $60 to a term in jail. Some vehicles will be exempt, such as ambulances, buses, and the automobiles of people who live within the zone of control. But linked into a national database of vehicle registrations, the camera system is designed to be rigorous.
TURNER: What I like to describe our system is, is a 21st-century low-tech scheme. Because what we’re actually using is a scheme which actually relies on cameras for enforcement but there is nothing actually in the car. We’d like to see full electronic road pricing but really to do it all one big bang at the start is not really feasible.
WANKLYN: Full electronic pricing is something adopted however by some other cities around the world. Drivers in Singapore place special ID cards in their windshield, which identifies the vehicle as it enters restricted zones. And in Toronto, Canada, drivers agree to fix a radio transponder inside the vehicle, which allows charging per mile traveled. But these high-tech schemes take too long to implement in London, according to Derek Turner. And he says other cities worldwide are watching London’s experiment with low-tech video cameras.
TURNER: There’s a lot of interest in this. Tokyo’s interested in it. We’ve got lots of interest from the European countries, particularly Berlin, Paris. And also in this country we are sort of leading the way. I think the whole world of the transport planning community are looking at this, because it’s really, this is the first big city that has tried to do something quite as sophisticated and as radical as this.
[The sound of third-world traffic noise.]
WANKLYN: In developing nations the urban environment frequently suffers in the same way from traffic congestion. But solutions here may be very different. If China had the same per capita automobile usage as the US, China would have to pave over 60 percent of its arable land. So it’s not possible for some countries to acquire vehicles at the rate of developed nations. The UN human environment agency Habitat has a transport program that encourages developing nations such as Thailand or the Philippines to prevent gridlock. Speaking from Nairobi, Kenya, director Brian Williams says there are alternatives.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: We encourage or we promote the idea of basically realistic and viable alternatives to overuse of the private automobile to meet future transport needs. And that includes emphasizing travel by public transport, encouraging travel by nonmotorized transport means—that’s walking and bicycling, which in some developing cities contexts is already very much in existence, but is being threatened by overuse of the private automobile.
WANKLYN: In many cities of developing countries around half of urban trips are on foot. The vast majority of these are the urban poor who must walk two hours or so every day to work. The Habitat program aims to encourage nations to invest in urban buses, which offer low-cost mass transit, with only minimal investment in infrastructure.
WILLIAMS: Actually, one of the rages right now in urban transport service provision in developing countries’ cities right now is something called bus rapid transit, which essentially consists of a grade-separated segregated bus way, with a little bit of higher technology loading and off-loading of passengers, and obviously electronic ticketing. Which we are finding actually a great deal of that expense is covered from the fare box. And people are really willing to pay an appropriate fare to make that service work.
WANKLYN: And it’s not only potential passengers in developing nations who are keen on sustainable transport systems. Governments too have in recent years shown an increasing interest in adopting them, according to Habitat’s Brian Williams.
WILLIAMS: Primarily due to simply choking traffic congestion to such an extent that the economic productivity of urban residents has been in serious decline in the recent, say five years I’m seeing a new willingness and a new openness to accept that the urban transport patterns that have been developed in the West are, basically should not be copied wholesale in southern cities and that a third way can actually be created. And that a preemptive strike can be made to move to more sustainable transport systems before automobile-based development is so entrenched as it is in say, more wealthy northern cities.
WANKLYN: Wealthy or not, traffic gridlock wastes time and hampers economic growth. But from the traffic-choked cities of Southeast Asia, to the new congestion charging system in the British capital, it seems things are on the move. For Common Ground I’m Alastair Wanklyn in London.
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PORTER: Extreme sports—games that push traditional, and not so traditional sports to dangerous levels—are popular recreational activities with the world’s younger generations. But in Russia, extreme driving isn’t just for entertainment, it’s a matter of survival. Denis Lefkovick reports from Moscow.
[The sound of Moscow street traffic.]
DENIS LEFKOVICK: Driving in Russia is a daily challenge. The roads are full of obstacles—pot holes, protruding manhole covers—you name it. There are painted lines down the middle of the street, but they’re often simply ignored. To avoid a crowded lane, Muscovites will drive on the wrong side of the street or even take to the sidewalk. It’s a driver’s hell and you’ve got to be one hell of a driver to survive. Perhaps that’s why more and more Russians are joining so-called “extreme” driving schools.
[The sound of revving car engines at a Moscow driving school.]
LEFKOVICK: At an abandoned airfield, just five miles from the Kremlin a dozen or so cars are circling around orange cones, accelerating, then stopping suddenly—just one of the lessons taught at Moscow’s Higher School of Driving.
[The sound of a driving instructor teaching his pupils.]
LEFKOVICK: Head instructor Alexandr Nikolayev takes one look at my perfectly ordinary car and offers to show me just what it can do.
[The sound of a car driving through the cones at the driving school.]
LEFKOVICK: In a moment, my 10-year-old station-wagon becomes a NASCAR racer. We’re speeding on a freshly frozen stretch of Moscow tarmac, when Alexandr suddenly spins the steering wheel to the right and jerks up the hand break.
[The sound of screeching tires.]
LEFKOVICK: The car slides sideways and then turns 180 degrees. Before I know it, we’re moving in the opposite direction.
ALEXANDR NIKOLAYEV: [via a translator] There is no secret here. All the stunts they show in the movies are executed by our “first graders.” The so-called “police turn,” which you can see in almost any movie car chase, is a simple sequence—decelerate, release the pedal, turn the steering wheel all the way, pull the hand brake, and wait for the laws of physics to do the rest. Easy.
LEFKOVICK: The brains behind this operation is Professor Tsygankov. He invented the training method and has turned it into quite a successful business. His office is like any other manager’s workspace, with one notable exception—my host’s chair is nothing but a racing car seat, complete with safety restraints.
PROFESSOR TSYGANKOV: In the fast-developing new Russia people are counting money. Cars are expensive—$30,000 to $50,000. So, a small amount of damage could run to about $3,000 in repairs. It’s much cheaper to pay a few hundred dollars for training.
LEFKOVICK: No wonder the school is so popular. A full course costs you as little as $360 US—a bargain, especially when you consider that there is no car insurance as such in Russia. The latest statistics, provided to Common Ground by the office of Russian traffic police, show that over 10 percent of newly-qualified Russian drivers get into an accident in their first year on the road. The problem, according to Professor Tsygankov, is that Russian driving schools are teaching students how to get around in a world where everyone else is sticking to the rules of the road. But, he says, that’s not how the accidents happen and no “basic” driving school will teach you real-world survival tactics.
TSYGANKOV: [via a translator] What driving school prepares you for is to pass a basic test; a few simple exercises such as a U-turn, parking, a short ride with an examiner. In return, you receive nothing more then a right to operate a vehicle. Don’t kid yourself. You’re not getting any real skills there, you’ll get them on the street—sometimes on your way to an emergency room.
[The sound of cars at the driving school.]
LEFKOVICK: Back at the track, new recruits are eager to learn a few survival tips.
[The sound of students being taught over a radio.]
LEFKOVICK: They come in their own vehicles and receive instructions by radio. The small risk of scratching a fender here is apparently well worth the lessons learned about how to avoid something much worse on the unforgiving streets of Moscow. For Common Ground I’m Denis Lefkovick in Moscow.
MCHUGH: US-UN relations, next on Common Ground.
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PORTER: While there are many critics of President George Bush’s foreign policy, former US Senator Tim Wirth says the administration is taking significant steps to repair the US relationship with the United Nations. Wirth is president of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund. I recently asked him to elaborate on the state of US-UN relations.
WIRTH: There are a number of things that the Bush administration has done which I think are very welcome on the world stage. One of those is to help to assure that the US debt to the UN was paid off. As you may remember there were over the last six or eight years the United States has run up more than $2 billion of debt to the United Nations. And that finally all got paid off in the authorization bill that President Bush signed in early September. It was the first state authorization bill signed in many, many years, and certainly the first time that the financial condition of the United Nations has had any promise to it at all. It’s been in pretty sharp decline for the last eight years.
PORTER: You say the administration is working to repair the relationship with the UN, and there are some signs there. But it also sort of goes against the conventional wisdom which says that this President is all about unilateralism and some people say that the United States is, in fact, acting like a bully at the UN. How does that square with these efforts to repair the relationship?
WIRTH: Well, I think that your question reflects the ambivalence with which I think that the US foreign policy in this administration approaches global engagement of various kinds and cooperative work. On the one hand Secretary Powell and the State Department, you know, understand absolutely that we need friends and allies to get done what we want to get done. And then there are some others who I think are maybe a bit more ideological or conservative who have a view of a “go-it-alone.” So President Bush has had to balance those two pressures within the administration. And in fact those are pressures as you know within the Republican Party, you know, which are, there’s a very kind of conservative, almost isolationist streak in the Republican Party historically, and there’s a very international streak in the Republican Party, historically. And the President has had to balance the two of those.
PORTER: Back on the financial issues, are we now paid in full, completely up to date in our financial obligations to the United Nations, or is there more out there?
WIRTH: We are completely paid off in terms of the agreements that were made between the US and the UN about how much was owed. There are always technical problems. So if I were to say to you, “It’s absolutely paid up,” they’ll be places where there are questions as to how much was owed and where it was owed. But as a general proposition you can say safely that the US has agreed and paid up its past debts.
PORTER: The United States has also decided to rejoin UNESCO after many years—the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. What does that mean in practical terms for the US and for the UN?
WIRTH: I think it lets the US, particularly the US educational and scientific establishment to once again be the lead player that it ought to be around the world. I mean, US science is premier and there’s a lot of cooperative scientific work that can and should be done, both in the areas of pure science, but more often in the areas of applied science. You know, ocean science, atmospheric science, crop science, and so on, where cooperative arrangements are much, much better than anybody trying to go it alone. And where, what are the policies gonna be? What are the scientific and technical policies? Why do airplanes all fly and land in airports going the same direction? What languages are used on frequencies? How do—you know, there are a lot of technical issues like this and the US has a major stake in making sure that the technical agreements around the world are ones that it agrees to and it participates in. And the world certainly needs the US leadership. I mean, we are the superpower, and to have the US in a position of helping to lead is absolutely essential if this international cooperative set of agreements, which are essential to international commerce, international science, international education, are to be maintained.
PORTER: I have one final area I want to ask you about, Senator Wirth. As the President of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund, you’re a public advocate for the work of the UN. Give us one or two very recent examples of where you think the United Nations is making a positive difference in the world.
WIRTH: Well, first I think there’s no question about the fact that this whole debate on Iraq has turned out to be a very, very helpful way of drawing nations together, both on the threat and on the response. The UN in many ways was, you know, reminding the US—and a powerful reminder to the US—that you need to work with the rest of the world. And I think the American public has been overwhelmingly for that. They were worried, the American public, supporting the President’s action in Iraq, but the American public also saying that “If you’re gonna do this don’t go it alone.” So the UN has had a real victory I think in the resolution in which there was broad international agreement as to how to go about that.
I think there are a number of also very important environmental issues in which the UN has really had the lead. Looking at discussions on the oceans and the issues related to fisheries, fish stocks, international activities related to pollution of the ocean. You know, we are rapidly depleting the ocean and the UN plays a significant role in that. And the climate issue. The UN has really been—and the UN agencies—has been out front on the climate issue. The US has been very tardy in its response to that important issue. The UN has led there in an important way and the rest of the world is catching up. So those are a few examples.
We can talk about, you know, the issues related to women’s reproductive health and women’s issues around the world. The UN has really provided a kind of moral tone to what ought to be done in terms of empowering women through a variety of international treaties and conventions and gatherings. And you know, that’s the norm-setting leadership which comes from the UN, which is terribly important.
PORTER: And tell me something about what your organization is doing to make all this happen.
WIRTH: Well, the UN Foundation is a function of Mr. Turner, Ted Turner’s philanthropy. He committed $1 billion five years ago to the support of UN causes. We have focused particularly on women’s issues, environmental issues, children’s health, and peace, security, and human rights, conflict prevention, and post-conflict rebuilding of countries. An ambitious agenda. We’ve been very pleased, one, to work—we’ve spent a lot of effort to work with the Congress and the administration to get the UN debt paid off right here at home because without a strong relationship with the US it’s going to be extremely difficult for the UN to succeed. And so that was the first thing that we did right here at home.
We’ve also been very engaged in a number of health activities. We’ve worked with the World Health Organization and UNESCO, the United Nations Children’s Fund, on the final efforts for the eradication of polio, and helping to raise close to a billion dollars to finish that important task. We’ve become a kind of a broker or middle man, a facilitator, for a lot of people in the US and around the world who want to work with the UN.
PORTER: I’m sure there are many of our listeners who support the work but they’re also wondering about the state of the stock market and AOL Time-Warner’s stock and Mr. Turner’s fortune himself. Do you have plenty of funds left to carry out this work?
WIRTH: Well, we’re fine in terms of the commitment Mr. Turner made, the commitment to us five years ago and we tucked that stock away and we’re fine on that, in that situation. Obviously, you know, he’s a remarkable individual. He gave one-third of his total net worth, you know, to support UN causes when he did this five years ago. Now that’s a pretty remarkable thing for anybody to do. You know, a third of everything that he had and his fortune increased in the last five years, you know, with the boom of AOL and the so-called dot-com side of Time-Warner. That has now gone back to, you know, normal levels like most other parts of the communications world. But we’re in just good shape. His, his fortunes have gone up and down some since, but we are just fine in terms of the funding that he committed to us.
PORTER: Former Senator Tim Wirth is President of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund.
MCHUGH: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
KEITH PORTER: I’m Keith Porter.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, solving the Cyprus problem.
ERATO KOZAKOU-MARCOULIS: They are convinced that having a reunited Cyprus would stabilize the region.
MCHUGH: Plus, using computers to hunt for terrorists. And London’s jazz scene.
STEVE RUBIE: And I would say that at the moment the scene in London is amazing. I’ve never known so many good players around as there are at the moment.
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PORTER: For nearly 30 years the Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been one of the most intractable international disputes. To the outsider, the issues can seem baffling. But as Greek-Cypriots celebrate their invitation to join the European Union, the United States is more eager than ever that the island’s divisions should be healed in time for a united Cyprus to join the bloc. From Washington, Nina-Maria Potts has this report.
NINA-MARIA POTTS: The Cyprus problem has never been as important to the Bush administration as it is now. The dispute pits Greece, a member of the European Union, against Turkey, one of America’s closest allies in the war against terror, and a vital strategic staging post for any invasion of Iraq. At the heart of the current argument is Europe’s plans to welcome the Greek half of Cyprus into the European Union, an honor which has so far been denied Turkey. Many conservatives in the Bush administration have chided the European Union to treat Turkey better, urging Europe to embrace a country that hawks see as a model Muslim state, with its tradition of secular government backed by a strong, pro-western military.
NICK KAREMBELAS: The so-called hawks are kind of in a, being hoisted on a petard of their own making. The accession of Cyprus into the EU is the primary issue right now. The Bush administration has tried to get the EU to give Turkey a date to begin negotiations or not allow Cyprus to enter unless Turkey enters. I think they’re caught between a rock and a hard place now because the, unless something goes horribly awry it is going to happen. Cyprus is going to join.
POTTS: The island’s been split in two—into the Greek-Cypriot south and Turkish-Cypriot north—since its invasion by Turkey, in 1974, following a failed coup by supporters of union with Greece. The northern Turkish-Cypriot side is only recognized by Turkey, which keeps 40,000 troops there. European Union membership has been a long time coming to Cyprus, which first applied in 1990. Turkey considers both Cyprus’s original application and the European Union’s decision to admit Cyprus as a full member as illegal, saying it violates the Treaty of Guarantees establishing Cyprus. It’s a claim Greek Cypriots say is false and supportable. Turkey’s Ambassador to the United States, Faruk Logoglu.
FARUK LOGOGLU: The European Union—Greece is a member, Turkey is not, so by that definition alone, Cyprus is not really entitled to become a member of the European Union.
POTTS: Turkey’s own efforts to join the European Union have so far been frustrated by the European Union’s reluctance to offer more than a conditional date to begin accession negotiations. In public, European Union leaders talk about Turkey’s human rights record. In private, many Europeans worry that Turkey is simply too poor to enter the wealthy trading block. Despite warmer relations with Greece, Turkey has even threatened it might annex the north of Cyprus if the island joins before a settlement. Again, Nick Karambelas.
KAREMBELAS: As soon as Cyprus joins, Turkey will annex the northern part of Cyprus, and you will have a heightened, tense area for a long time.
POTTS: It’s a claim Turkey’s ambassador to the US, Faruk Logoglu does not entirely deny.
LOGOGLU: It is very serious. Whether it’s a threat or not, I think depends on how you look at it. But as I said, it’s an option, available out there for the Turkish side, depending on what happens in the European Union, how the European Union treats the “admission” of Cyprus, in quotation marks, into the European Union—a lot of unknowns. And it is not just what you do that counts, but also how you do it. And we have not seen much finesse from the European Union on the question of Cyprus. So we are a little worried about the future, in the context of Cyprus.
POTTS: Greece has warned that it might veto the accession of a raft of Eastern European nations if Cyprus is not included in the next batch of admissions. But why does Turkey care if Cyprus joins the European Union first? The Turkish ambassador to the United States, Faruk Logoglu.
LOGOGLU: If you admit the Greek-Cypriots into the European Union, they will certainly not help Turkey’s candidacy in the European Union, and it’s also only fair that everybody should become a member of the European Union, not just the Greek-Cypriots but also the Turkish-Cypriots, as well as Turkey.
POTTS: But Cyprus’s ambassador to the United States, Erato Kozakou-Marcoulis, says Greek-Cypriots fully support Turkey’s candidacy.
ERATO KOZAKOU-MARCOULIS: We do hope that Turkey will move ahead with its application for membership.
POTTS: Technically, the European Union will extend membership to the whole of Cyprus, even though it is still divided. But Cyprus’s Ambassador to the US says the government is very keen for a settlement before then, one which will reunite both sides in a federation.
KOZAKOU-MARCOULIS: When we are talking about a federation, we reiterate the fact that it should be a democratic federation. It should be a system of government that would take into account the rights of both communities, to safeguard those rights in a democratic federal government which will, of course, be a part of the European Union. I am a strong believer that this could happen, provided that there is political will from both communities. I know that our community, the Greek-Cypriot community, has this will—has had this will for a long time.
POTTS: But Turkey insists the occupied northern state be recognized as a first step in reuniting Cyprus as a two-state confederation. Mr. Karembelas, the Greek-American activist, notes that the threat of a Greek-Cypriot veto inside the European Union might help concentrate Turkish minds wonderfully as both sides seek a compromise solution.
KAREMBELAS: Once Cyprus joins, because the entry into the EU has to be unanimous, you can imagine what the chances are for Turkey joining if there’s not a resolution of the Cyprus issue.
POTTS: Meanwhile, intense efforts have been underway in Washington to influence the outcome of any settlement to the Cyprus question, with American mediators participating in international and United Nations attempts to drive talks between the two sides forward. Cypriot Ambassador Erato Kozakou-Marcoulis concedes the Bush administration has been lobbying for Turkey among its European Union friends, but says that Cyprus should end up a winner, too.
KOZAKOU-MARCOULIS: They have been in contact with a number of European Union countries to see to it that Turkey gets an encouragement from the European Union. So we see a very, very solid and determined position of the US administration for Cyprus’ accession to the European Union, because I believe they are convinced that solving the Cyprus problem and having a reunited Cyprus as a member of the European Union, that would stabilize the region because Greek-Turkish relations, which will eventually improve if this happens.
POTTS: But in the battle for America’s ear, the Turks remain confident that they are on an upward path. Ambassador Faruk Logoglu.
LOGOGLU: For the first time, we have a Turkish caucus in the Congress, about 44, 45 members. This was, this would have been unthinkable three, four years ago. For the first time we have some pro-Turkey resolutions emerging from the Congress.
POTTS: In Europe, Turkey’s admission to the European Union may look further off than ever, but among his friends in Washington, the Turkish ambassador is confident.
LOGOGLU: I think Turkey is destined to become a full member of the European Union. This is what we have been working on for the past 150 years.
POTTS: For Common Ground, I’m Nina-Maria Potts in Washington.
MCHUGH: Coming up next on Common Ground, the controversy over using high tech to look for terrorists. And later, London’s jazz scene.
PORTER: You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
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MCHUGH: It’s already been described as “Orwellian” and dubbed a “snooper’s dream,” by its critics here in the United States. But the Total Information Awareness program at the Pentagon also looks set to cast ripples worldwide. You’ve probably seen the reports about how “Big Brother” will soon know every time you pay by credit card, pick up a prescription, send an e-mail, and so on. The system under development aims to use the latest computer technology to sift through vast quantities of public and commercial data in the hunt for terrorists. And, as Malcolm Brown reports, there are some important implications for the rest of the world.
MALCOLM BROWN: So far, the debate surrounding the Pentagon research has been most intense here in the United States.
[The sound of a Washington, DC, demonstration where protesters are shredding the Bill of Rights.]
MALCOLM BROWN: Critics like those who gathered in Lafayette Park near the White House to protest the signing of the Homeland Security Act have tended to focus on what they say are the civil rights implications for ordinary Americans.
[The sound of a Washington, DC, demonstration where protesters are shredding the Bill of Rights.]
BROWN: Mihir Kshirsagar is a policy analyst at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. He says he’s worried about the lessons of history.
MIHIR KSHIRSAGAR: Really, you’re authorizing massive surveillance power to a centralized authority. It’s been shown in the past that whenever you give that kind of power, there have been abuses.
BROWN: That sort of concern has been heightened by the fact that the project is headed by former National Security Adviser John Poindexter, of Iran-Contra fame. However, supporters of the Total Information Awareness concept say that civil liberties safeguards are being incorporated at the design stage. Penalties for abuse would be severe, they say. Michael Scardaville, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, argues that the technology will begin by going after those already under suspicion.
MICHAEL SCARDAVILLE: The starting point is that we already have actionable intelligence on a suspect. We have the suspect already and we’re trying to find out more about them.
BROWN: While arguments on both sides of the debate are already pretty loud in the US, there’s been relatively little attention paid to the project’s possible global ramifications. Nevertheless, you don’t have to look too hard to see the international dimension of the programs now under development.
[The sound of a clacking computer keyboard.]
BROWN: Just go to the Web site of the Information Awareness Office, which is working on the program from within the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. There, beneath the Latin motto which, translated, reads ‘knowledge is power’, is the following statement:
ANNOUNCER: The goal of the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program is to revolutionize the ability of the United States to detect, classify, and identify foreign terrorists.
BROWN: As the 9/11 attacks demonstrated, foreign terrorists can strike from within the United States, but achieving “Total Information Awareness” clearly requires a global reach.
PETER ALDRIDGE: You’re looking for trends in transactions that are associated with some potential terrorist act.
BROWN: Doing so effectively demands the ability to sift through “vast quantities of data,” according to US Undersecretary of Defense Peter Aldridge. In a press briefing at the Pentagon back in November, he outlined the program’s aims and was pressed about its development of technologies designed to translate foreign languages automatically.
BROWN: [now interviewing Aldridge directly] And so, you need rapid language translation because you are trying to tap into databases of other nations if they will allow that, is that…?
ALDRIDGE: Or, or—yes. Exactly.
BROWN: Hence, the Translingual Information Detection, Extraction, and Summarization program just one of several tools being developed. TIDES, as it’s known, is being developed to allow English speakers to mine nuggets of information from huge volumes of foreign language speech and text. What’s not stated explicitly is how the system would access all that raw material in cases where it resides abroad. Over at the Heritage Foundation, Michael Scardaville hopes that in most cases it will be done with the cooperation of foreign governments.
SCARDAVILLE: Different countries have different approaches to civil liberties as well as different privacy concerns. If you look at the United Kingdom, for example, many people have very little concern about the government having information on them but they have tons of concerns over private industry. So in many ways the exact opposite of the United States. So, you know, we’re going to have to address that on a case-by-case basis.
BROWN: Mihir Kshirsagar, at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, sees the issue very differently.
KSHIRSAGAR: The implications for foreign governments are very significant. The question is to what degree will they allow their own citizens to be rounded up in the kind of search that America wants to conduct on its citizens. And Europe needs to face that question. Countries from Asia will need to face that question. To what extent do they want to cooperate with the US government in spying on their own citizens?
BROWN: For now, that’s a question that has not been answered, at least not in public. For Common Ground, I’m Malcolm Brown in Washington.
PORTER: Jazz, London style, next on Common Ground.
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PORTER: In the 1960s, Britain’s capital was known as Swinging London. These days you might call it the swinging, jazz capital of Europe. London has six full-time jazz clubs and many more that regularly play jazz. And, musicians say, the British jazz scene no longer simply replicates what can be heard in New York. Reese Erlich reports from London.
[The sound of Latin jazz from the Brazilian jazz band Samara.]
REESE ERLICH: Walk into a jazz club in London and you can hear just about any jazz style—straight ahead, traditional New Orleans, or Latin.
[The sound of Latin jazz from the Brazilian jazz band Samara.]
ERLICH: Steve Rubie is a saxophone and flute player who leads the Brazilian jazz band Samara. He also owns the 606 Club in South London. Visitors who walk down the narrow staircase into Ruby’s crowded south London club aren’t disappointed.
STEVE RUBIE: I spend a lot of time in New York. I go back and forth all the time. So I know that scene very, very well. And I would say that at the moment, I mean the scene in London, particularly—in England generally but certainly in London—is amazing. I’ve never known so many good players around as there are at the moment. That has a lot to do with the fact that we’ve got a number of really good jazz courses now, kind of catching up with American concept of actually, you know, youngsters being able to go and study the music properly.
[The sound of a jazz song, Guys and Dolls, playing by the band, Celebrating the Jazz Couriers.]
MARTIN DREW: The name is Martin Drew, star of stage, screen, and labor exchange, leader of the free French women, and leader supreme, and all-England crab champion.
ERLICH: False modesty aside, Martin Drew really does have a lot to brag about. He is perhaps Britain’s most famous jazz musician. He’s been the drummer with the Oscar Peterson trio for 27 years and heads his own band called Celebrating the Jazz Couriers.
[The sound of a Martin Drew jazz drum solo.]
ERLICH: Drew has played with many great American jazz artists. Without doubt, he says, through the 1970s, America had the best jazz groups. But not anymore.
DREW: But things have come a long way. There are lots of fantastic players everywhere you go. I mean, I go out to a place called Croatia, that would be joint called Zagreb. People say, “Zagreb, where the hell is that?” They have some sensational musicians there. I mean, they really have. I mean throughout Europe. In Russia and all that, some amazing musicians. I mean, you know, America has, obviously has a lot of, a lot of the most of the best, obviously. But I have to tell you they have a lot of the worst as well. And I’ve played with a few of them.
[The sound of Ronnie Scott welcoming people to his jazz club.]
ERLICH: Ronnie Scott’s is London’s best known jazz club. Scott was a fine saxophonist and his partner, Pete King, now owns the club. King says British musicians used to only imitate jazz greats such as Charlie Parker.
PETE KING: We used to look to America all the time for jazz musicians. But not necessarily so now. You can get wonderful, young, talented players from any country in the world. Now, America has led that field for many, many, many years and is no doubt is still leading it. But being pushed for certain individuals on certain instruments for no undue terms.
[The sound of the song, Bye Bye Blackbird, being played by a jazz ensemble.]
ERLICH: Ronnie Scott, who died in 1996, was also famous for his dry wit.
RONNIE SCOTT: We’re negotiating to get a great American quintet, which is co-led by the fantastic American tenor sax artist Stan Getz and the wonderful violinist Stuff Smith. And they’re known as the Getz Stuffed Quintet. [laughter] The old jokes are the best, I always say. [laughter].
ERLICH: So, next time you’re in London, check out the lively jazz scene at the 606 Club, Ronnie Scott’s, Selena Jones’s, or one of several Pizza Express franchises. Yes, you heard me, Pizza Express. For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich in London.
[The sound of the song, Bye Bye Blackbird, being played by a jazz ensemble.]
SCOTT: Thank you very much indeed and goodnight, everybody. Goodnight.
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