Back to Common Ground Archive

Week of November 12, 2002

Program 0246


Brazil AIDS | Transcript | MP3

Cuba’s Democracy Movement | Transcript | MP3

Cyber Terrorism | Transcript | MP3

Afghanistan Voices-Student | Transcript | MP3

Chris Moon | Transcript | MP3

National Zoo | Transcript | MP3

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

Dr. Paulo Barroso: Everybody in the
world who works with HIV needs to recognize that there’s this disparity of
having tens of millions of people dying with HIV, without having access to

This week on Common Ground,
Brazil battles AIDS.

And attacking Castro with the Cuban constitution.

Oscar Arias Sanches: The Cuban
people will not escape the shackles of autocracy until they are guaranteed
fundamental human rights.

terror in cyber space.

Most companies
are not as well protected as they need to be, but awareness in many industries,
especially the most critical of infrastructures, is increasing rapidly, and
you’re seeing defenses purchased and deployed and monitored in those sectors at
a very promising increase month after month.

stories—coming up next.

Top of Page

Brazil AIDS

Listen to This Segment: MP3

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

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Brazil was on
track to have a major AIDS epidemic by the year 2000, but it never happened.
Brazil’s widespread anti-AIDS education program and free medical care
stabilized the infection rate to levels comparable to that of developed
countries. Brazilians succeeded with fierce opposition from the international
medical establishment and multinational drug companies. Reese Erlich reports
from Rio de Janeiro.

[The sounds of upbeat
Brazil music being played in an outdoor setting.]

It’s a warm
night along the Copacabana Beach and young people are participating in the
mating rituals common to any big city. Eighteen-year-old Allison Almeida and
two friends are hanging out on a street corner wearing tight jeans and stylish
T-shirts. They carefully eye women dressed in halter tops and even tighter
jeans. I asked Allison, if he found a partner tonight would he use a condom?

[via a
translator] AIDS is a very concerning problem, so I, each time I—sometimes I
didn’t use, but each time I face the situation of sex, I use it.

ERLICH: How about these guys? [referring to
Allison’s friends.] Do they use condoms?

[via a
translator] Yeah, we use it. We use it.

ERLICH: Right. Do they, do they have condoms
with them now?


ERLICH: Where does he carry it?

ALMEIDA: [speaks Portuguese, asks his friends the

ERLICH: In his wallet?

ALMEIDA: In his wallet.


ERLICH: Three? [laughing]
He’s very lucky. He’s very optimistic.

[laughing, speaking Portuguese]

ERLICH: Let’s be honest. A
lot of times guys don’t want to wear a condom. Does that, has that happened to

translator] He says, first time, “Yeah, yeah! A lot of times. A lot of times.
You know, it’s kind of, you’re so hot, you’re so hot at that moment. Yesterday.
Yesterday it happened!”

ERLICH: Such conflicting
attitudes towards safe sex worry international AIDS experts. In 1995 the World
Bank estimated there would be 1.2 million Brazilian AIDS patients within five
years. But today less than half that number are HIV positive. In fact, Brazil has
reduced AIDS deaths by 50 percent and reduced hospital admissions for AIDS by
80 percent. How did they do it?

[The sound of echoing footsteps as someone walks down a large hallway
or a long set of stairs.]

Dr. Paulo Barroso: This is the, our Infectious Disease

ERLICH: Dr. Paulo Barroso heads the Infectious Disease
Department at the Federal University Hospital in Rio.

Dr. Barroso: We don’t have any more specific beds or
wards for HIV patients. They are admitted together with all other patients in
the same unit.

ERLICH: Dr. Barroso says
international experts would not have believed Brazil was capable of treating
AIDS patients so effectively. They used to tell him that the only way to stop
an AIDS epidemic in Third World countries was to emphasize prevention. Dr.
Borroso says such advice was effectively a death sentence for people already

Dr. Barroso: They are talking about prevention,
prevention, and prevention. And we had relatives and family dying of HIV and we
couldn’t do anything for those, those guys. So I think that now if you look
back, we see that it’s possible to, to give therapy in developing countries.
Brazil has shown that.

ERLICH: Since the late
1990s, under pressure from nongovernmental organizations and AIDS activists,
the Brazilian government has provided free medical care for any AIDS patient,
including free blood tests, exams, and drugs.

Dr. Barroso: Yes, it is expensive. But it’s doable. And
it will take only a small portion of the money that we are using for other
purposes in the world, like war.

ERLICH: This would be
shocking in the United States

Dr. Barroso: Yeah.

ERLICH: As you know.

Dr. Barroso: Yeah, I know. [laughing] It’s strange.
‘Cause some people thought that we shouldn’t be doing this thing. But I think
that is the only way that you can guarantee drugs for everyone.

ERLICH: Why, why, what was
the argument against it?

Dr. Barroso: Ah, some people say that you should put the
money into other things, like education. This is not a high priority.

ERLICH: Brazil provided
free treatment through government run hospitals and clinics. But it had to pay
$115 million a year for just two anti-AIDS drugs made by US and Swiss
pharmaceutical companies. That amounted to 36 percent of the Health Ministry’s
entire budget. In order to bring those costs down, Brazil embarked on a unique
and controversial policy. It started manufacturing its own drugs.

[Sounds from an industrial facility.]

ERLICH: Here at the
state-owned Far Manguinhos pharmaceutical factory, a supervisor opens an
airtight door leading to the special machinery making anti-retroviral drugs for
AIDS patients. We put on white bunny suits that cover every inch of our bodies,
including special hoods with respirators.

ERLICH: [questioning plant
representatives] Why do we wear all this special clothing?

Because this area, it’s a restricted. Because we are
producing anti-retrovirals. It is necessary—special clothes, the special
controls in this area.

ERLICH: Is the clothing to
protect us or to protect the drugs.

It protects us.

[Sounds from an industrial facility]

These machines produce about 40,000 capsules per hour.

ERLICH: Forty thousand
capsules per hour?

Yes. Drugs for anti-retrovirals.

ERLICH: Umm hmm. So to
fight AIDS.


ERLICH: Eloa Dos Santos
Pinheiro, the factory director, welcomes me into her office. She worked for
multinational pharmaceutical companies in the US for 18 years. The Brazilian
government asked her to calculate the cost of manufacturing anti-AIDS drugs.
For drugs made by Merck and Roche, she compared their retail prices with the
cost of manufacture. The difference shocked her.

Eloa Dos Santos Pinheiro: Why the price of the drugs on
the patents, why the price so higher? This institute does technology, does
research. And then it can buy from anywhere. And I calculate the costs. And I
saw that Merck, Roche, could drop their price also.

ERLICH: She estimates that
companies such as Merck and Roche charge 80 to 90 percent over the cost of
production for AIDS drugs. For other pharmaceuticals the difference is even

Pinheiro: There is some products here for hypertension.
One difference between my price and the price in pharmacies—2,000 percent. Two
thousand! They are so greedy, it’s incredible.

ERLICH: Pharmaceutical
companies argue they spend a massive amount of money to research and develop
drugs. So their high prices are justified because they must recoup those
initial expenses. Pinero says she can research and develop a drug for 10
percent of the cost claimed by the multinationals.

Pinheiro: They calculate about $500 million to develop
new entity. I think this is outing the cost in research ten times more than our
calculation. I know that there is a difference of salary. That is one thing
that I know they have that we haven’t. They pay for lobbies. They pay for
marketing. They pay for a lot of things.

ERLICH: Brazilian officials
said they wouldn’t let the multinationals get away with charging outrageously
high prices. They threatened to break the patents and start making those drugs
generically in Brazil. That threat brought the companies to the negotiating
table. They reduced their prices by up to 70 percent and the government
continues to make generics with those drugs no longer under patent.

[The sound of a busy public place.]

Dr. Barroso: This is where the patients come to get their
medicines. So we are going to get into the pharmacy.

ERLICH: Okay. Umm hmm.

Dr. Barroso: Someone comes with the prescriptions and
they are checking, she’s in the system and all this kind of…

specialist Dr. Barroso says all his patients now get a full array of
internationally accepted anti-AIDS drugs—for free.

[The sound of a prescription being processed and distributed to a

Dr. Barroso: This is DDI. And you have Astavudine. So you
have all the drugs.

ERLICH: So it’s a mixture
of the drugs made in Brazil and…

Dr. Barroso: Yes.

ERLICH: …and those made by
international drug companies.

Dr. Barroso: Exactly. Exactly.

ERLICH: If I lived in a
small town or a village in rural Brazil, would I still be able to get these
drugs in a medical treatment?

Dr. Barroso: Yeah. Exactly. Yes. But as in any country,
if you go to the middle of Texas probably it’s going to be harder to have
access to medicines and therapy than if you are in New York City or Miami. So,
but still, we have AIDS programs working in most of the states and most of the
cities, the big cities.

ERLICH: But some Brazilians
say it doesn’t always work out that way. They complain of long lines and drug
shortages in some regions.

[The sound of a busy public place.]

ERLICH: Here at a
Copacabana restaurant in Rio, prostitutes grab a quick bite to eat before
resuming their work along the nearby beach front. Some of them are very
critical of how government hospitals handle AIDS patients.

a translator] A daughter of my roommate, she contracted HIV and she went to the
hospital to get the free medicine. And she stayed on the line to get the free
medicine. And she stayed so, so much time that when she got the right to get
the free medicine she was already in a terminal phase. So she died.

ERLICH: But she and the
other sex workers say that on the whole the government anti-AIDS program works
well. AIDS education helps.

ERLICH: [interviewing a
prostitute] Are most of the men you meet Brazilians or foreigners?

a translator] American, Italy, French—I work usually with tourists.

ERLICH: Are they willing to
use condoms?

a translator] Yes, yes. They demand to use condoms.

ERLICH: Oh, the men demand

a translator] Yes.

ERLICH: She says a key to
success in AIDS education is the role of volunteers from nongovernmental
organizations. Unlike some government bureaucrats, she says, they have empathy
for the sex workers.

a translator] They do a campaign on that. It motivates us to use the condom and
talk about the aspects of the disease. In the summer they come here, they go
through the beach. They distribute condoms and folders explaining about the
disease. They are volunteers mostly, and I think this is very interesting. I
don’t think this is a pressure from the government. It’s a good thing. And it’s
trying to make people more aware…

ERLICH: Make people more

a translator] More aware, yeah.

ERLICH: Everyone
interviewed here in Copacabana knows about Brazil’s successful fight against
AIDS. This prostitute says she now has something else to be proud of. In
addition to the country’s winning soccer teams.

a translator] I think all the countries should modelize themselves to, to copy
Brazil on that issue. Because Brazil is an example of that attitude.

ERLICH: Dr. Barroso says
Brazil has some unique advantages because of its government-run pharmaceuticals
industry. But he says in recent years South Africa and other Third World
countries have also successfully pressured drug companies to lower their

Dr. Barroso: Everybody in the world
who works with HIV needs to recognize that there’s this disparity of having
tens of millions of people dying with HIV, without having access to drugs that
are available in developed world. This is big difference between rich and poor
countries is not acceptable anymore. This is a tragedy. HIV, it’s a tragedy—in
Africa, in Asia, in Latin America. And Brazil has shown that we can make a
difference if we try to work together.

ERLICH: For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich in Rio
de Janeiro.

[Musical interlude]

Top of Page

Cuba’s Democracy Movement

Listen to This Segment: MP3

MCHUGH: One of Cuba’s
leading dissidents has been honored by one of America’s leading organizations
promoting democracy around the world. The National Democratic
Institute—NDI—gave this year’s Averell Harriman Democracy Award to Cuba’s
Oswaldo Paya, an activist from Havana who has spearheaded a petition drive in
the island nation.

PORTER: “The Varela
Project” aims to use Cuba’s existing laws and constitution to bring about
political change, but as Common Ground‘s
Simon Marks reports, Cuba’s President, Fidel Castro is giving the activists
behind the idea a run for their money.

[The sound of a busy Cuban street.]

SIMON MARKS: Ninety miles
off the coast of Florida, a quiet revolution is underway in Cuba led by Oswaldo
Paya, a would-be revolutionary who is prepared to be quiet no longer.

Oswaldo Paya: [via a translator] The government decides if
a person can study or not. Who has a telephone. Who can travel. Who can work.
Who is allowed to build a house, to own a car. The government decides
everything because the people have no rights here.

MARKS: For over 20 years,
Oswaldo Paya has led an at-times solitary campaign against Cuba’s communist
leader Fidel Castro. Jailed at the age of 17 for openly criticizing the Cuban
government, in 1988 he founded Cuba’s “Christian Liberation Movement,”
preaching nonviolence to achieve democratic change. But then, in the 1990s, he
had a revelation. Article 88G of Cuba’s communist constitution says that any
citizen can introduce legislative initiatives before the country’s Parliament
provided they’re accompanied by a petition bearing 10,000 signatures. So Oswaldo
Paya launched The Varela Project, named after a renowned 19th-century Cuban
priest who advocated basic freedoms. Paya started going door-to-door,
stoop-to-stoop, trying to win 10,000 signatures for a legislative proposal that
calls for freedom of speech in Cuba, free enterprise, free elections, and
freedom for the country’s political prisoners.

Paya: [via a translator] The Varela Project is not a
partisan movement. Nor even a political project. The Varela Project stands for
rights that the entire world recognizes as universal.

MARKS: Collecting the
signatures wasn’t easy, because Cuba’s government-controlled media refused to
publicize Oswaldo Paya’s efforts. And yet in May 2001, just two years after his
dogged signature collection campaign began, Paya presented a petition carrying
11,200 signatures to the National Assembly in Havana.

Oscar Arias Sanches: I applaud the courageous work of
Oswaldo Paya on the Varela Project.

MARKS: Nobel laureate Oscar
Arias Sanches, the former President of Costa Rica, is just one international
leader who has embraced the signature collection effort.

Sanches: The Cuban people will not escape the shackles of
autocracy until they are guaranteed fundamental human rights such as freedom of
speech and open elections, and it is precisely for these rights that Mr. Paya
is fighting. Yet he’s not fighting with guns and bombs, he’s seeking political
reform peacefully following the rules laid out in the Cuban constitution, and I
believe there is no better way to achieve change.

MARKS: But some analysts
question that viewpoint, and they do so because of the way in which Fidel
Castro responded to the Varela Project. Facing a petition with 11,000
signatures on it, Castro launched a petition of his own calling on Cubans to
pledge their support for legislation that makes socialist rule in Cuba
irrevocable. In a matter of days, more than 8,000,000 Cubans had signed Fidel
Castro’s petition, many of them after standing in line for hours at nearly
130,000 official signature collection points. Brian Alexander of the Washington
DC-based Cuba Policy Foundation says the government’s response to the Varela
Project has only demonstrated its strength in Havana.

Castro’s been in power for 40 years. I think he’s demonstrated great agility in
maintaining control. And the fact that 8 million Cubans, whether they wanted to
or not, went out and signed a petition saying that socialism is irrevocable is
an indication that Castro is very much in charge on the island.

[The sound of upbeat Cuban music being played in a public setting.]

MARKS: Washington has been
quick to embrace Oswaldo Paya and the Varela Project. He was awarded the
National Democratic Institute’s W. Averell Harriman Democracy Award at a glitzy
ceremony earlier this year—a ceremony he was unable to attend after the Cuban
government declined to let him leave the island. But analyst Brian Alexander
argues the US should be careful about the extent to which it embraces Oswaldo
Paya, for fear that the Cuban government will continue to argue he’s a stooge
for the CIA.

ALEXANDER: Bad politics for
the US to embrace them because the Castro government has been using for years
the excuse that anyone promoting change in Cuba is an agent of the United
States. So for the United States to become involved in any way with the Varela
Project I think damns the Varela Project to the status of Yankee
interventionism—whether that’s true or not.

MARKS: Fidel Castro himself
has never spoken publicly about the Varela Project, although former US
President Jimmy Carter, in his recent visit to the island, did mention it in
remarks that were heard all over the island. By collecting millions of
signatures compared to Varela’s 11,000, Castro demonstrated at the very least
his ability to mobilize support in Cuba. But Oswaldo Paya, the dissident
activist, says he’ll continue his work, and continue to fight for democratic
change in his homeland. For Common Ground,
I’m Simon Marks in Washington.

[Musical interlude]

Top of Page

Cyber Terrorism

Listen to This Segment: MP3

Cyber terrorism is no longer a science fiction fantasy—it’s rapidly becoming a
global threat. The US has seen a significant rise in the past 12 months. The
White House is increasingly worried that hostile foreign governments, more than
terrorist groups, pose a great risk to the security and digital infrastructure
of the US. In an attempt to work more closely with the private and community
sectors, the government has released a national strategy on cyber-security.

[The sound of someone tapping away at a computer

The frantic tapping of a hacker at work—is this a teenage prankster or
political activist? An American or foreigner? A criminal or terrorist? These
are just some of the questions facing cyber-analysts and US officials, in the
face of increasing cyber-attacks. Even more troublesome is the mounting
evidence that links foreign governments to recent mysterious break-ins of US
government systems. So just which countries is the government concerned about?
Tim Belcher, an analyst for the company Riptech, has been monitoring the increase
in attacks over the past year.

We certainly
have seen Iran, or groups in Iran launch coordinated attacks, or groups in
Israel launch coordinated attacks, or groups in China or groups in South Korea.

MCHUGH: Other top offenders include Indonesia,
Pakistan, and Egypt. Professor Dorothy Denning, Professor of Computer Science
at Georgetown University and a national expert on cyber-security, agrees the
threat is real.

I think our
government is mostly concerned about the higher end kind of attacks against
critical infrastructures and concerned not only with those attacks that might
be conducted by terrorists, but also attacks that might be conducted by nation
states that would have more resources and more capability to cause greater damage.

MCHUGH: The government has recently released “The
National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace” to deal with the growing threat. The
draft was heavily criticized by the private sector, and when the final document
was released, it was clear the government had backed away from some of its
earlier strict recommendations for government, companies, universities, and
home computer users. Under the plan, the government
takes a leading role and calls upon all users to take action, but does not
force action through increased regulation. Richard Clarke, the
President’s special adviser on cyber-security, has said the document is
designed to be dynamic and consultative. The government hopes to lead the nation in the adoption of secure network
protocols, and potentially certify its vendors and expand the use of security
assessment and policy tools. Professor Denning explains in detail.

happening is that, you know, more and more systems that were originally using
proprietary network protocols, are now using the standard Internet
protocols—the TCP/IP suite of protocols, as the basis for their networking.
And what that means is that they’re then using common software, software that
you and I are using on our networks for example, and so that may make them
potentially more vulnerable to attack.

MCHUGH: Meanwhile, the threat remains real. What
is most significant about the type of attacks over the last year, is that the
power and energy sector has become America’s number one target. Again, Tim

BELCHER: The previous six months, the last six
months of 2001, there was a 79% increase in the volume of attacks overall, with
the leading sectors being financial services and power and energy. This six
months, there’s a 29% increase or 64% annualized growth, with the most volume
targeting power and energy companies.

MCHUGH: But what’s the difference between
cyber-terrorism and cyber-crime? There are hackers who will do it for thrills,
taking down Internet sites—and then there are hacker wars. Sandra Schneider is the
CEO and founder of the Security university, which trains companies in security

There is
clearly a difference between a 13- or a 9-year-old script kiddy user. We do
still see a lot of defacements, we still see a lot of things going on in the
nonprofit sector, where people are just emotional. So you’re going to see
people internally attack networks or deface them, or they’re making changes to
people’s Web sites, but they are not, I would not call that cyber-terrorism.

MCHUGH: Then there are grown-up criminals on the
web, and they’re not just looking to steal your credit card number or download
secret data. More and more of the nation’s infrastructure, from hospitals to
water works to airports, are controlled and monitored though the Internet. In
real terms, this makes it possible for hackers to open the floodgates of a huge
damn, or release a city’s sewage works into the water supply.

[The sound of New York
City street traffic.]

MCHUGH: Computer hackers recently shut down many of
New York’s traffic lights for three days.

SCNEIDER: I think we have some issues with the gas
regulated type of utilities.

MCHUGH: Sandra Schneider says there is a feeling
among analysts that there are no easy fixes to a major cyber security breech.

SCNEIDER: Have you ever experienced a bad storm?
And your power might be out for days? So they already know how to try and
reclaim or do recovery processes. But the gas companies? I don’t think they
have any idea how to do that. Unless it’s a pipe blowing up somewhere—they know
how to do construction renovation, but are they dealing with cyber controls?

MCHUGH: In some scenarios studied by the FBI,
attackers combine real and virtual terrorism. Al Qaeda could, for example, use
real explosives to bomb a city, then use computers to shut down emergency
networks and power supplies to city hospitals.

[The sound of sirens.]

MCHUGH: With the release of the national
strategy for cyber-security, calling on Internet and private businesses to
voluntarily improve their cyber defenses, US officials have identified an
urgent need for firewalls and security software. The plan has been criticized
because it makes no requirements on the private sector. Many are saying it’s a
case of too little, too late. Tim Belcher, from Riptech.

BELCHER: Most companies are not as well protected
as they need to be. But awareness in many industries, especially the most
critical of infrastructures, is increasing rapidly. And you’re seeing defenses
purchased and deployed and monitored in those sectors at a very promising
increase month after month.

MCHUGH: In an attempt to patch up its computer
systems, the government has released a list of top 20 cyber-security holes, and
methods for dealing with them. US officials have made it clear that their
cyber-strategy is not final, and they want continued dialogue with the private

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

I’m Keith Porter.

And I’m Kristin McHugh. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, Afghanistan in transition.

SOHRAB: The people all were
armed, they were with weapons, they could do anything. But now, except [for] the
uniformed soldiers, there is no guns, so it is, what it means that the security
is getting better.

Plus, running against landmines. And one of Washington’s high profile couples.

Top of Page

Afghanistan Voices-Student

Listen to This Segment: MP3

PORTER: From opportunities for women, to international investment
and nascent democracy, Afghanistan is undergoing great change, and that change
is most keenly felt on the streets of Kabul where daily life looks vastly
different from Taliban times just a year ago. Alastair Wanklyn reports from
Kabul, Afghanistan.

[The sound of a busy Kabul

SOHRAB: My name is Sohrab. And I am been living in Kabul City.

ALASTAIR WANKLYN: This is Sohrab. A stocky 18-year-old youth,
dressed in jeans and T-shirt, he is headed to college shortly to study
medicine. Sohrab has high hopes for his country’s future, after witnessing the
changes here since last year.

SOHRAB: And the main thing is the education, that they made the
girls to school and the university, when the girls came here. And this is all
what the progress has made by Hamid Karzai and the support of the Afghan people
in this past 12 months.

WANKLYN: President, Hamid Karzai was elected by Afghan political
and tribal leaders at a traditional council called a Loya Jirga, convened with
support from nations worldwide. It was the first time for many years that
representatives of so many of Afghanistan’s ethnic and political groups had met
under one roof. The roof was here on the grounds of Kabul’s polytechnic
college, a campus of leafy avenues where students both male and female now
wander between lessons. Sohrab remembers how the Taliban placed restrictions on
the dress and even the sex of students here.

SOHRAB: So this is polytechnic university, and this was built by
Russians. So the students that they were learning here, they were all
engineers. At the Taliban time just the boys were here and now we can see that
the female education is ongoing and they made a co-education for better
progressing of Afghanistan.

[The sound of young
children playing in the street.]

WANKLYN: Healthcare is one area where improvements are badly
needed. Currently one in four children dies in early childhood. Before the
Taliban, 40 percent of the nation’s doctors were women. When they were banned
from working, healthcare suffered greatly.

[The sound of Kabul street

WANKLYN: Today truck and bus drivers are busier than ever,
exploiting Afghanistan’s newly restored relations with neighbors Pakistan,
Iran, and states in former Soviet Central Asia to ferry goods and people across
the borders.

[The sound of a shopkeeper
playing Afghan music.]

WANKLYN: And the range of products available in local shops is
rapidly expanding. Religious prohibitions imposed by the Taliban no longer
restricts what shoppers in Kabul can find in the stores. Standing outside a
video movie shop, Sohrab says this kind of entertainment is welcomed by

SOHRAB: At these shops—video shops—the people, they—it wasn’t
allowed in the Taliban time even to have any kind of cassettes, tape cassettes,
CDs or video movies. And nowadays you can buy any kind of films. Indian films,
American films, Japanese films, audio and video films. So it is better to go inside
and see what is happening in.

[Sohrab walks into the
video shop.]

SOHRAB: This they have divided into parts. This is American films,
and down there are cartoons. Even it wasn’t allowed at the Taliban time to see
the cartoon films. Generally the people they want to see American and Indian
films. Mostly in Kabul, they mostly they want to see Indian films. Because
Indian films are family.

WANKLYN: Clerics administering Taliban rule passed guidelines on
entertainment, social policy, and economics according to a strict
interpretation of Islamic principles. Businesspeople often found it difficult
to work in this way. So now those entrepreneurs are returning, encouraged by an
industrialist’s eye for business. One example is an American Afghan, who has
financed a mobile telephone network, currently only in Kabul, and also the
country’s first direct Internet connection. At present the Internet is
available only in a couple of government ministry buildings—and in one solitary
Internet café, where it’s generally only wealthy foreigners who can afford the
fees to use it.

But that doesn’t stop
Afghans from preparing to embrace this now not-so-distant technology. Sohrab
shows us an apartment building carrying a giant cloth advertising what it calls
Internet classes. This school can’t afford yet a connection to the Internet
itself, so students learn in front of a blank computer screen.

[The sound of a

SOHRAB: Now what you are looking [at] is the PSI computer center,
where the students of learning computer are here. “Free Internet classes only
on Fridays,” for both male and female. It is not—it is just learning the way
how to do that. It is not doing Internet system or making contact with the
Europe. It is just classes that they have made to teach the students how to do,
how to—just the way.

WANKLYN: In a country where many people earn only a few US dollars
per month, the cost of wireless connections and other 21st century technology
may be out of the reach of nearly all Afghans at the moment. But freedom for initiative
has been extended to other elements of the media. There’s a new, broad freedom
of the press. But prosperity and economic inclusion will take a long time to
spread. Two major factors influencing that are security and infrastructure, in
a nation where both have been ravaged by decades of war.

[The sound of truck
traffic and militia troops speaking with each other.]

WANKLYN: The road from Pakistan to Kabul, perhaps Afghanistan’s
most important transit route, passes through provinces held by several different
political factions. Armed men routinely halt trucks and cars at about a dozen
points along the 200 kilometers, and extract a toll for passage. This not only
hampers free passage of goods and people, it’s considered an open rejection of
central government authority. So the Afghan Interior Ministry, with
international military advisers, have spent much time trying to secure the
roads and disarm local militias. In Kabul an international security assistance
force, comprising soldiers from more than a dozen countries worldwide, and
currently under the command of Turkey, patrol streets and hunt for illicit
weapons and explosives. Many Kabul residents, including Sohrab, welcome the
peacekeepers, saying in recent few years there’s been too much uncertainty and
danger on the streets.

SOHRAB: Yeah, at the previous time, at the Taliban time, I can tell
you that it was not safe. At first, interim government was the same. The people
all were armed, they were with weapons, they could do anything. Going to
peoples’ houses they can grab things and they create many kinds of problems.
But now, except [for] the uniformed soldiers there is no guns, so it is what it
means that the security is getting better.

WANKLYN: That disarming work is carried out by the 5,000 or so
international peacekeepers based in Kabul, patrolling the streets day and
night. This security assistance force is highly respected—and not only for its
purely military work.

SOHRAB: Actually, now, the people are really very happy from the
foreign soldiers. Because when they came into Afghanistan they wanted it to
make a better security for Afghanistan. So the people are really happy from
them. Because they have many kinds of patrolling round the Kabul City, inside
the villages, assisting people, assisting old people, that they need something,
they help them, they assist them for carrying something, or giving lift
somebody or at night when somebody is getting some kind of sicknesses. So the
international forces, they are assisting really the people and the people are
really appreciating from these people.

WANKLYN: Kabul residents also appreciate the reappearance of
assistance from foreign companies. Before the years of civil war, foreign
firms—Russian, American, French—had a presence here.

SOHRAB: Now we are standing in front of the big German company,
Hoechst company, which was destroyed after Dr. Najiballah’s regime and
beginning of Islamic government of Afghanistan. And at that time they were
producing every kind of medicines, even we didn’t need any commercial medicines
to bring from Pakistan, Iran, China, or other countries. So it was our own
medicine that we were using on that time. And now it was destroyed and they had
no activities in these last eight or nine years. And nowadays, about four or
three months ago they reactivated this factory.

[The sound of street
traffic and people shouting on the street.]

SOHRAB: If the security of Afghanistan is going to begin the same
which is now, and it is going to get better, many manufacturers will come from
the all over the world to Afghanistan to have agencies here and by making
factories. Because now Afghanistan is destroyed they need rebuilding, they need
fabrics to, for employing of the people to the fabrics, to have jobs.

WANKLYN: For Common Ground,
I’m Alastair Wanklyn in Kabul, Afghanistan.

PORTER: After two decades of turmoil, unemployment and a lack of
technical skills pose two of the greatest problems for the new Afghan
administration as it tries to unify the country and build prosperity. Next
week, Alastair Wanklyn will examine what the country now needs and how the
government plans to rebuild the state.

MCHUGH: Coming up next, the importance of never giving up. And
later, celebrating an anniversary with a Washington power couple. You’re
listening to Common Ground, radio’s
weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

Top of Page

Chris Moon

Listen to This Segment: MP3

MCHUGH: For decades, land mines have killed and maimed thousands of
people in countries wracked by war. Most victims of the stealthy killers are
anonymous villagers and children in forgotten parts of the world. But one
victim is anything but anonymous.

PORTER: Former British Army officer Chris Moon lost his lower right
leg and arm in a mine accident in Mozambique in 1995. Less than a year after he
left the hospital with a new prosthetic leg, he ran the London marathon. On a
recent trip to Washington, he sat down with Common
‘s Judith Smelser.

JUDITH SMELSER: The handsome, easygoing, and earnest Chris Moon
could easily be a Hollywood leading man. And his life story reads like a Hollywood
screenplay. His adventure began when he decided, after a stint in the British
army, to go to work disarming land mines in some of the most dangerous parts of
the world. In 1993 he traveled to Cambodia, where a 13-year civil war between
the government and the brutal Khmer Rouge rebels was winding down. Little did
he know the war would become intensely personal for him.

CHRIS MOON: One day when we
were driving back, we were ambushed by about 25 Khmer Rouge guerrillas. The
civil war was still going on. And these guys told us later that I was accused
of being a foreign military advisor to the government. Sounds utterly
ridiculous, but if you put yourself in their shoes and you really understand
their position, which was most of them had never had a natural parenting
relationship, they’d never had any education, and they had never had any
information on the outside world except what their commanders had told them.

SMELSER: What were your
captors like? What was your relationship with them like?

MOON: Well this is the
extraordinary thing, that they were very polite. But then again, they were very
polite even to the people they killed. It’s very difficult to explain to people
why they didn’t kill us because eventually when we got back to the village
where we were originally taken, the local people ran away from us, because we
came back at the night, and there’s a locally held belief that ghosts come out
of the forest at night, and they were told by the guerrillas that we would be
executed. So we were incredibly lucky to live through that. What it taught me
was the importance of never giving up.

SMELSER: Chris ends a lot
of his stories with those words—”what it taught me.” Each of his adventures—and
misadventures—has a moral for him. And none more than the accident that changed
his life forever. Just two years after his harrowing experience with the Khmer
Rouge, he was back in the trenches clearing mines in Mozambique that were left
behind after a long civil war that ended in the early 1990s. One day, he was
walking in an area that had supposedly been cleared of mines, when the
unthinkable happened.

MOON: I was walking in an
area where the mines had been removed. I, for some reason, thought something
was wrong, I took a few paces, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and
then I heard the loudest bang I’ve ever heard.

autobiography, One Step Beyond, Chris
describes the moment after the explosion: “The noise of the explosion is
ringing in my ears,” he writes. “Everything is calm. I am lying on my chest. I
feel fine. No pain. I turn over carefully and sit up. My hand is mangled and
bleeding, like a squashed strawberry. I look down at my right leg. I stare. My
lower leg has completely gone.”

MOON: At that point, the
most shocking part of it all was realizing it was much, much easier to give up
and pretend it wasn’t happening, try to go to sleep. And it was a very, very
powerful feeling. It was almost like the silent siren of death was beckoning, and
it was much more pleasant than potentially a life of disability or dealing with
the pain. And in the end I couldn’t give up, simply because I believe in life
that you gotta do the best you can. I remember thinking that I was so fortunate
to survive that in many respects, I forfeited my right to complain. And I find
it quite difficult sometimes when I hear people complaining about things that
really aren’t big issues when you think of how many people in the world are
hungry, how many people are living in absolute poverty, and how many people are
not well equipped to get through life.

SMELSER: Right after the
explosion, Chris, who was an avid runner before the accident, made a

MOON: I wanted to run
again, and I decided, believe it or not, as I looked in the minefield, I
thought “Right. One day I will run again,” as I was waiting. And I had no idea
at that point how difficult it would be. I had all these unrealistic
expectations that I’d get this sort of stick-on leg, and I’d just be back
running again. But it wasn’t like that. It was about seven months before I got
a trial leg and then I went up to the local football field in the car, you
know, put Eye of the Tiger in the
cassette player, got terribly excited, got up there, and I fell over for about
35 minutes, and fast-limped. And I just couldn’t run. And then the next day I
was so stiff I couldn’t even get out of bed.

SMELSER: But less than a
year after leaving the hospital with his new prosthetic leg, he was running in
the London Marathon.

MOON: Those of you who
haven’t seen the London Marathon, I should explain that there are lots of
people in fancy dress. And I thought I was doing quite well until I got to the
eleven mile point when the fattest man in the world passed me dressed as a
chicken. [Smelser laughs] And still, I’m pleased to say I got to the end.

SMELSER: Well, that’s
what’s important. And you went from there to the Sahara—one of the hardest
marathons in the world.

MOON: Yeah, I wanted to do
the Great Sahara Run. And there’s very powerful reason to do these kind of
events for me in that, with the number of charities, thanks to the generosity
of some of the businesses I work with and my friends and family, we can raise
money for some very worthwhile organizations. So for me, that’s a hugely
driving reason to do it. The Great Sahara Run was about raising money for a
prosthetic center in Vietnam, and that was a very, very driving reason for me
because I was lucky enough to get a prosthetic—an artificial leg.

SMELSER: Out of 355
runners, Chris finished 282nd in the Great Sahara Run. And earlier this month
he ran in the New York Marathon as part of a fundraising effort for a program
to help Rwandan children, run by an organization called Concern Worldwide.
Chris says he considers himself incredibly fortunate to be able to do the
things he’s passionate about.

SMELSER: [now interviewing
Moon again] You are easily one of the most optimistic people I have ever met.
But I’m just curious, was there ever a time, through all of this, when you were
angry or discouraged or wanted to give up or any of these negative emotions?

MOON: Very good question. I
can honestly put my hand on my heart and say I’ve never allowed myself to have
a down moment about my disability. And whenever I found the seeds of self pity
growing, I pulled them out. And I think it’s very important to recognize that
we can all do that. That when you start feeling, “Oh, poor me, I didn’t deserve
this,” stop, and say, “Right. I’ll focus on what I’ve got. I’ve still got my
left arm and left leg. I’ll think about what I can do, not what I can’t do. I’m
gonna stop, I’m not gonna go there.”

SMELSER: When he’s not
running marathons, Chris runs his own business providing motivational programs
for corporations. He also spends time with his wife and two young sons. And
through it all he says he continually feels glad to be alive.

MOON: We take so much for
granted—the joy of a sunny day, seeing trees, hearing the birds sing, all those
kind of things that we take for granted. And you shouldn’t have to lose
something to really appreciate its value.

SMELSER: For Common Ground, I’m Judith Smelser in

[Musical interlude]

You can find out more about Concern Worldwide and the program Chris
raised money for during the New York Marathon by visiting

Top of Page

National Zoo

Listen to This Segment: MP3

MCHUGH: They are perhaps
Washington’s best-known Chinese couple. Giant Pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian
are about to celebrate their second anniversary at the National Zoo. But while
spectators love them, the pandas are also here as part of a deeper purpose. Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman reports
from the National Zoo in Washington.

When is the pandas going to come out here and eat that bamboo?

time and a crowd has gathered at the panda house.

You see those little red biscuit things?

Yeah. Uh huh.

She’s like following them. She’s like sniffing ’em out.

BROCKMAN: Zookeepers are
enticing pandas to the front of their enclosure. There’s a feast of bamboo
waiting for them. And the crowd isn’t disappointed.

Oh my god! Oh!

BROCKMAN: Behind the
scenes, researchers and volunteers are keeping a 24-hour watch on the giant
pandas. It’s part of a collaborative effort with the Chinese to save the
dwindling and highly endangered species.

consider them the tip of the iceberg, of a much broader program on the part of
the National Zoo to help conserve the wild giant panda.

BROCKMAN: Dr. Lucy Spellman
is the Director of the National Zoo. She is also the Panda’s chief

DR. SPELLMAN: All of our
research focus on these two animals as well as all of our, what we call
“exhibit-spaced research,” we’re trying to answer questions that would benefit
that animal in the wild. And while giant pandas are popular, just like
elephants, there’s a lot of basic information we still don’t know about them.
What are their preferences for different types of bamboo, for example?

BROCKMAN: Dr. Spellman and
her team are also developing a method they think will help Chinese researchers
study wild pandas. It’s a way to analyze what she calls “panda poop.”

DR. SPELLMAN: They eat
bamboo 16 hours a day and it kind of goes right through them. They really don’t
digest much of it. So, it’s a great way to learn about them.

BROCKMAN: The giant pandas
are living in a refurbished habitat at the zoo. The enclosure includes two
shallow caves, mist and fog areas, and a grove of trees. Spellman says the zoo
is researching the giant pandas’ reaction to living in a new place.

colleagues in China are considering either moving pandas or reintroducing them
to reserve areas. And it’s not an easy thing to do if the pandas that are being
moved grew up in captivity and we don’t know how they would respond. So one of,
a lot of our studies are based on the fact that our colleagues in China would
like to consider moving pandas around, maybe to an area where there is more

BROCKMAN: The National Zoo
originally became involved in giant panda research in 1972. The Chinese
government gave the first pandas, Ling Ling and Sing Sing to the zoo as a
gesture of goodwill to commemorate President Nixon’s historic visit to China.
China is loaning the current pair of giant pandas to the zoo for 10 years.
Private donations cover the annual million dollar cost. For Common Ground at the National Zoo in
Washington, DC, I’m Cliff Brockman.

PORTER: That’s our show for this week. If you
have questions or comments about today’s program, visit our Web site at or e-mail us at [email protected]
Please drop us a line—we’d love to hear from you.

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

Top of Page