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ALEXANDR IVANOV: Don’t be afraid of us. We’re not fascists, we’re not extremists; we’re simply struggling for the survival of our people, for the white race.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, Moscow’s growing skinhead movement.
KEITH PORTER: And mapping the world’s biodiversity
SALLY NICHOLSON: We want to have a good planet, a good quality of life for our children and our children’s children. We want to make sure that the options are still open to them.
PORTER: Plus, how one Colorado town is helping fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa.
AMY KIMBERLY: They responded with such enthusiasm and we raised $8,000—we sent them the 1st year. And what it managed to do, I think, was as much as your million dollar funder.
MCHUGH: These stories, coming up next.
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PORTER: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Keith Porter.
MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Russia is trying hard to integrate itself into the international community. President Vladimir Putin has been reaching out to the United States, and his country will soon be a full member of the Group of Eight industrialized democracies.
PORTER: But not everyone in Russia favors internationalism—in foreign or domestic affairs. Denis Lefkovich reports from Moscow about one group that wants Russia to be a country for Russians—and only Russians.
[A martial-sounding drum roll.]
DENIS LEVKOVICH: Deep in a forest a cult meeting is taking place. Dozens of young men and women dressed in white are marching around a burning cross.
[The sound of a ceremonial chant or oath.]
LEVKOVICH: Their right hands raised high in a ritual salute. Despite the obvious resemblance, this is not the Ku Klux Klan. It’s a meeting of the skinheads near the Russian capital, Moscow.
[Sounds of someone speaking at the meeting.]
LEFKOVICH: Unlike the original skinheads—the British anti-bourgeois protest movement of 1970s—this group’s goal is racial domination. They believe that the solution to the country’s numerous problems is to sweep the state clean of all foreigners. In order to achieve this goal they’ve created a military-style organization, called the National People’s Party—or NPA—with military discipline, ranks, and combat training.
[The sound up gunfire.]
LEFKOVICH: In a shooting gallery members of the NPA are practicing their marksmanship skills. The skinheads’ leader, Alexandr Ivanov, picks up a pistol and shows his followers how to aim. His bullets leave holes in the heart and head of a human-shaped target.
ALEXANDR IVANOV: [via a translator] We’re bringing up the warriors. We’re saying the war is coming and therefore we’re creating a volunteer-based army. Don’t be afraid of us. We’re not fascists, we’re not extremists; we’re simply struggling for the survival of our people, for the white race. There are no modern examples for the youth. Young people are exposed to a low quality of literature and television propagating banditry, narcotics, and prostitution. We are the only people doing anything for the Russian youth. No one else is lifting a finger to help them.
LEVKOVICH: In Russia, there is practically no youth development program, and children of alcoholics, drug addicts, or ex-convicts are out on the street without any care. The shortest way to these children’s hearts is to promise them the opportunity to forcefully take what they believe is rightfully theirs. A military uniform and easy-to-digest nationalistic ideas make the group even more attractive. Again, party leader Alexander Ivanov.
IVANOV: [via a translator] We are the party of revolutionaries. We give our youth a clear understanding of the modern world. We’re saying Russia is for Russians. Clean blood is superior to mixed blood. Young Russian kids join our ranks because our philosophy will help our nation to survive.
[The sound of street riots.]
LEVKOVICH: The result—uncontrollable outbursts of violence. During the soccer World Cup, the skinheads used Russia’s defeat as a reason to riot in downtown Moscow. Cars were turned over and burned, shops’ and restaurants’ windows shattered. One person was killed, dozens injured. The skinheads hunted down young students from Asian countries and beat them up. They also attacked a Korean church. Police have arrested a few suspects, but so far no official charges have been filed. Even if detectives at Moscow’s crime division did press charges, they say the racial motivation behind the crimes would be impossible to prove.
Their dilemma is nothing new. In the past, skinhead “brothers” have attacked black security guards at the American embassy and beat up Japanese students at the Moscow Conservatory—each time escaping punishment. Russia has all the tools to fight extreme nationalism. The Parliament has approved a law, proposed by President Vladimir Putin, that is aimed at eliminating any racist movements in the country. But human right activists, like Dederic Lohman of Human Rights Watch, say the government itself often propagates racial problems.
DEDERIC LOHMAN: The way police treat, I think, minorities in this city, they set exactly the wrong example. Go to any Metro station and you’ll notice almost immediately that police are stopping systematically the people with the darker skin.
LEVKOVICH: Russian officials have often singled out various nationalities as suspicious. Chechens are targeted as Russia’s war in the breakaway republic of Chechnya continues. And Tajiks are blamed for the flow of narcotics coming in from Central Asia.
[The sound of people talking at a busy office (the skinheads’ headquarters).]
LEVKOVICH: At the National People’s Party headquarters, skinhead leaders are planning new ways to get publicity. Young kids with short hair and swastika-like emblems on their black leather jackets sort leaflets with invitations to a rock concert, where a popular skinhead band is going to perform.
[The sound of a rock music concert.]
LEVKOVICH: The songs are calling new recruits to cleanse the city of what they call the “dark-skinned scum.”
[The sound of a rock music concert.]
LEVKOVICH: Few groups are reaching out to young Russians at the moment. And as long as that’s the case, it may be very difficult to stop the violent Russian nationalism from spreading.
[The sound of a rock music concert.]
For Common Ground, I’m Denis Levkovich in Moscow.
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MCHUGH: Leading environmental agencies are warning that humans are causing devastating damage to the world’s ecosystems. Hundreds of plant and animal species are disappearing annually, and according to leading scientists that could have a major impact on the future of mankind. Suzanne Chislett reports on a new tool for understanding changes in the world’s ecology.
CHISLETT: The United Nations Environment Program has launched the World Atlas of Biodiversity. For the first time it provides a comprehensive map-based view of the variety of animal and plant life that man depends on and the links between them. It may sound like something from school days, but environmentalists hope the map will serve as a wake-up call and dramatically improve our outlook on green issues. Sally Nicholson is from the World Wildlife Fund.
SALLY NICHOLSON: It’s when people think about what it really means in their daily lives. At the moment they are fine, they’ve got water on tap. But just stop and think about, what if they didn’t? It’s not just about something that is always happening “over there,” always will, and the world will sort it out in the end, or somebody else will take care of it. It’s something that’s, that’s on our doorstep and if it’s not on our doorstep now, it may very well soon be.
CHISLETT: Experts estimate that at the current rate of extinction, the earth is losing one major drug every two years. Plants that could provide the key to ending some of the world’s biggest killers like cancer and AIDS are vanishing fast because of the way man farms and destroys environments.
[The sound of trees being felled by chain saws.]
CHISLETT: And the impact of extinction is already being felt. In developing nations some 80 percent of people rely on medicines based largely on plants and animals, and they are being directly effected by the impacts of over-farming and deforestation. Michael Holland is from the Chelsea Physic Garden in London. For the last 300 years the center has tested plants from around the world for medicinal properties. He says it’s vital that these environments are sustained.
HOLLAND: Things that we take for granted as weeds, maybe things that are growing on the lawn beside us right now, at some stage in the past have been used as medicines, but not so much anymore. Some things like the dandelion, the daisy, and even the grasses can be used for—the roots of grasses can be used against rheumatism. Nowadays there is a resurgence in that sort of thing, but it’s not mainstream.
CHISLETT: The Atlas compiled by the United Nations Environment Program contains a wealth of facts and figures on the importance of forests, wetlands, marine and coastal environments, as well as other key ecosystems. It is the diversity that is key to ensuring that the ecosystems continue. So says Mark Collins from the UNEP.
MARK COLLINS: Biodiversity is all these living things around us but the message we particularly want to put across is that it’s about more than species. It’s about more than the genetic diversity in species that we all depend upon. It’s also about ecosystems and the process and functions within ecosystems which are so important to the future of people around the world.
CHISLETT: The World Wildlife Fund conducts similar research every two years, and over the past three decades has been able to produce what it calls a Living Planet Report. It reveals that populations of the world’s forest species have declined by 15 percent since 1970, marine species populations are down 35 percent, and among fresh water species numbers have been more than halved. Sally Nicholson is head of Global Policy for the WWF. She says changes must be made to the world-wide attitude to conserving ecosystems and those changes must come quickly.
NICHOLSON: WWF wants governments to focus on how they can help deliver real, sustainable development. So, it is not just about the environment, it’s not just about social progress, it’s not just about the economy—it’s about all three of those being mutually supportive. Looking at poverty eradication, looking at sustainable consumption patterns, and looking at ecosystem integrity. We want to have a good planet, a good quality of life for our children and our children’s children. We want to make sure that the options are still open to them.
CHISLETT: And for that to happen, argue environmental groups, the governments of the world have to put aside politics and come up with a long-term plan to ensure the future of the many hundreds of animal and plant species under threat today. For Common Ground, I’m Suzanne Chislett in London.
MCHUGH: Fighting AIDS in Uganda, next on Common Ground.
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MCHUGH: When Common Ground correspondent Simon Marks started planning a recent trip to India and Pakistan, he scarcely imagined that one of the most challenging problems he would face would be traveling between the two countries. Though not formally at war, the Pakistanis and the Indians are certainly engaged in an ongoing conflict over the disputed territory of Kashmir and a host of other policy issues.
PORTER: That conflict translates into an enormous problem for businesspeople, vacationers, and families trying to make the journey from Pakistan to India and back again. Simon sent us this essay on the journey he made from one capital city to another.
SIMON MARKS: It is just after 8 o’clock in the morning on a warm Saturday in Islamabad, Pakistan. And we have just arrived at the city’s international airport. Our task today should be a relatively simple one: to travel the 400 miles between here and the Indian capital, New Delhi. It’s a distance equivalent to the distance between New York and Washington or London and Paris—two journeys that traditionally could be accomplished in around four hours or less. But this journey is going to take us considerably longer.
[Sounds from an airport terminal.]
MARKS: Well, we’re now inside the airport. Our journey to Delhi is due to begin with a flight from Islamabad to the Pakistani city of Karachi. But there are only two flights this Saturday from Islamabad to Karachi and both are full. So we’re on what’s called a “chance list.” It’s kind of like being a stand-by passenger, although it’s difficult to ascertain exactly what our chances are of making the flight from here to Karachi.
[The sound of people talking at an airport ticket counter.]
MARKS: [with the sound of jet engines in the background] Well, it’s now 10 o’clock in the morning and it turns out that our chances were actually pretty good. We finally got cleared to get on board the flight to Karachi, so we’re heading out to our plane now. We can’t fly direct to Delhi because there are no direct air links between India and Pakistan. So Karachi becomes the first stop on a rather lengthy journey.
[The sound of a flight attendant speaking over a plane’s public address system, in both English and a non-English language. Then the sound of a crying baby and jet engine noise on a flying aircraft.]
MARKS: We have now arrived in Karachi. It’s a little after midday and we’ve been on the road for just over fours now. Were relations between India and Pakistan normal, we could probably have been in New Delhi by now. But they’re not and we aren’t. Even though these two neighbors were forged from the same single nation when the British left India back in 1947, they are barely on speaking terms. And permit no direct travel in either direction between mostly Muslim Pakistan and mostly Hindu India. So next, instead of continuing our journey eastwards towards Delhi we’re actually about to travel in exactly the opposite direction.
[The sound of a traveling jet aircraft.]
MARKS: It’s just after 4:15 now. And after a three and a half hour layover in Karachi we are on board Emirates Flight 581 from Karachi to Dubai. Lunch has just been served. We’re flying directly west. And only once we’ve reached Dubai will we then be able to get on board a plane to Delhi. Every passenger from India trying to reach Pakistan or from Pakistan trying to reach India is forced to find a third country through which to transit in order to reach their final destination.
[The sounds from an airport terminal.]
MARKS: Well, we are now in Dubai, in the lounge operated by Emirates Airlines. We’ve been here for quite a while. Patience is beginning to wear a little thin because we’ve faced a seven-hour layover waiting for our connection to Delhi. It’s now around 11 o’clock in the evening back in Pakistan where our day began at 8 o’clock this morning. We’ve got another couple of hours to wait before our flight will finally be available to take us to Delhi. We’re told that we’re quite lucky though, that a seven-hour layover could be worse. Because some days of the week—this is a Saturday—but on Sundays, for example, there’s a 16-hour layover for those people arriving here from Karachi and awaiting a flight to Delhi.
[The sound of a traveling jet aircraft, followed by announcements on a public address system from the flight crew.]
MARKS: It is now five to five in the morning in Delhi. It’s taken around 20 hours to complete the journey. We’ve been traveling at an average speed of just 20 miles per hour. A little earlier this year India and Pakistan agreed to allow each other’s airlines to fly over their respective territory. That means a Pakistani jet heading to Australia, for example, can fly over India; an Indian jet heading to Paris could fly over Pakistan. But for these two nations battling each other over the disputed territory of Kashmir, and suspicious of each other’s motives in virtually all other aspects of policy, direct flights remain a no-go. So later today another group of travelers will begin the journey we’ve just completed. As we check into our hotel the only thing on our minds is getting to bed. For Common Ground, I’m Simon Marks—finally in Delhi.
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MCHUGH: In the next two decades, the AIDS pandemic is expected to surpass the Black Death of the 14th century as the worst health crisis the world has ever known. Nearly 25 million have already died in its first two decades. Around the world, government efforts to contain the disease are frequently mired in politics, corruption or stifling bureaucracy. Now, the United Nations is helping local-level donors connect with counterparts in need in Africa. Eric Whitney reports on one unlikely partnership this effort has created.
ERIC WHITNEY: On the surface, Laurie and T’lilie may seem to have little in common. They are both women in their 30s; but one is black, one white. T’lilie Thlanglala is from a small city in southern Africa. Laurie, who didn’t want to use her last name, lives in a remote part of Colorado. Perhaps the most significant thing they share is something you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at either of them—that both young women are HIV positive.
LAURIE: And nobody can understand exactly what that is unless you are HIV positive, you know.
WHITNEY: This is Laurie.
LAURIE: I can go into any room of people who are HIV positive, and automatically start connecting. We have parallel feelings and I think you can’t get past that.
WHITNEY: Laurie gets a lot of support from, and volunteers time to, a small local nonprofit—the Western Colorado AIDS Project. The same is true for T’lilie, who volunteers in her home—the tiny, subtropical Kingdom of Swaziland.
T’LILIE: And I’m here as a member of SAA-so. SAA-so stands for Aids Support Organization. It’s an organization of people living with HIV. So I’m here in the office as a volunteer.
WHITNEY: And at this point when T’lilie and Laurie’s lives seem most similar, they actually diverge pretty radically. Because she lives in Africa, where anti-AIDS drugs are nearly impossible to get, T’lilie’s best treatment option is the same advice she offers new clients at SAA-so. She tells them to try and eat a balanced diet and to take care of themselves.
T’LILIE: Like we do not encourage them to eat red meat. We also do not encourage them to drink such as Coca-Cola, Fanta—they are just chemicals. They are not nutritious. So we encourage them to eat food which will build their body and boost their immune system.
WHITNEY: This may not sound like a lot of help. But in places where nutrition programs are paired with counseling, people have been living productively with HIV infections for ten years or more. A big part of it, everyone associated with the programs agrees, is choosing to live positively and reaching out to others with HIV, too, instead of focusing on the disease’s grim circumstances. T’lilie says it’s important for someone whose just learned they’re infected to see that life doesn’t have to end immediately.
T’LILIE: You know, if you do not know about other people you sometimes think you, it’s your problem alone. To see other people are in the same problem, it gave me support and courage to continue with life. I realized that life goes on even if one is HIV positive, because I could see other people looking beautiful, fresh, and free.
WHITNEY: Laurie, on the other hand, attacks the HIV in her body with the best pharmaceuticals modern science has to offer.
[The sound of Laurie going through her pill bottles.]
LAURIE: This is nighttime. This is Sustiva. This is, I started taking, it was called 1592. But this medicine may be taken with or without food. So that’s a good thing. This one they you to drink at least two glasses…
[The sound of Laurie going through her pill bottles.]
WHITNEY: The nine pills a day Laurie takes are not a cure for AIDS, but they can suppress the amount of HIV in her body to very low levels. She still has to be careful about nagging health problems, though, which always seem to come up. Her drugs cost about $1,300 a month.
LAURIE: And it’s not like I can just run out and get a job that’s going to afford me those medications sitting on the counter.
WHITNEY: It would be hard to afford $15,000 a year in medication on what most jobs in western Colorado pay. But even if Laurie took an average job here, she’d lose the social security benefits that buy her drugs. This is where the nonprofit Western Colorado AIDS Project fills a gap, making life easier for people with AIDS, many of whom, like Laurie, have very limited means. The AIDS Project helps people with HIV here find medical, emotional, and sometimes even financial support.
[The sounds of a large, enthusiastic crowd at the Telluride AIDS Benefit Auction.]
WHITNEY: The AIDS Project’s biggest fund raiser, by far, is the Telluride AIDS Benefit. Telluride is a splashy ski resort town where this year’s 10th annual fashion show and charity auction helped raise more than $100,000. Two years ago, benefit directors began giving beyond Colorado’s boundaries for the first time. Former director Amy Kimberly explains why.
AMY KIMBERLY: We were one of the few AIDS benefits that were managing to raise more funds every year, rather than funding going down. And to be able to inspire that continued climb in fundraising I felt we had to reach beyond our own boundaries and look at other areas that we could help in AIDS. And Africa was just a breaking story at that time, and I wanted to help Africa, but it was a faraway land.
WHITNEY: Luckily, the US Conference on AIDS was in Denver, Colorado, at the same time Kimberly was looking for projects.
KIMBERLY: The United Nations had brought over a group of mayors that had come to appeal to the people at the conference to help them, because their own government wasn’t helping them. So I embarrassingly went up and said, “Well, yeah, I, you know, the Telluride AIDS benefit wants to help you guys.” I mean, it’s not gonna be much money, and the problem is so huge, that the thought of even sending, you know, offering $5,000 or $8,000 seemed to be just a drop in the bucket that wouldn’t do much. But they responded with such enthusiasm, and we raised $8,000, we sent them the first year. And what it managed to do, I think was as much as your million dollar funder.
[The sound of water splashing out of a tap.]
WHITNEY: This tap, the only source of clean water for four families in Skom, Manzini’s most desperate slum, is part of what that $8,000 provided.
SYLVIA: Yes, now there is clean water. Now I have, we have gardens, so we do plow vegetables. That’s why we say because we have water we can now do gardening. We can do things better now because we have clean water.
WHITNEY: Besides allowing people to grow the fresh vegetables that stand in for medication here, this clean water tap also prevents a common disease that often proves fatal to those with HIV—diarrhea. Access to clean water means people with or without HIV aren’t sick as often as they used to be. That’s especially important to people trying desperately to live long enough to raise their children. In Swaziland, young parents are in the age group with the highest HIV infection rate. AIDS Orphans are becoming more and more common in Swaziland. One study says that in 14 years, fully a quarter of the country’s population will be orphans.
Statistics like that can be hard to fathom, but they can really hit home simply by taking a trip on one of the minibus taxis that are the main mode of transportation across much of Africa.
[The sound of getting on a crowded minibus, followed by the sound from inside a traveling minibus.]
WHITNEY: Typically, there are about 20 people in a fully loaded minibus, although it often feels like more. In southern Africa, the equivalent of five people in every minibus on the street has HIV. Here in Swaziland, average life expectancy used to be about 60 years—after AIDS it’s fallen to 42. Father Larry McDonnell is an Irish Catholic missionary who has worked in Swaziland for more than 30 years.
MCDONNELL: Economically, people, when they’re dealing with 10, 12 children that they’ve inherited from dead relatives, cannot carry on. They cannot take in any more children; that has been a major cause in the increase in the number of children we have on the streets.
[The sounds from a local school classroom.]
WHITNEY: There aren’t as many children on the streets of Manzini as in some other African cities, and the orphanage Father Larry runs is a big reason why. He takes in as many children as he can, giving them something to eat, a place to sleep, clean clothes, and help with education. He also teaches them to sing.
[The sound of children singing enthusiastically.]
WHITNEY: This is another place being supported by money raised in Telluride, through the UN partnership. Father McDonnnell is glad to have it, but he hopes that the relationship can be a two-way street.
MCDONNELL: I think most people nowadays are becoming, are beginning to realize that every culture has got something to give to other cultures. The relationship between funders and the funded shouldn’t be a relationship of the project; it should be a relationship of a partnership, that we’re entering into an agreement, that the people in Telluride want to join a community out here, and share with them what they have as community. And that may not necessarily be money, but it may be something else. It may be some kind of a cultural exchange.
WHITNEY: So far, representatives from Telluride and Swaziland have visited each other’s communities once. Laurie and T’lilie have never met, and probably never will. But Laurie says that the AIDS crisis is obviously so much worse in Africa, that she doesn’t mind that some of the money that could be spent fighting HIV in her community is going to Africa instead.
LAURIE: Well, I think it’s great. I think they need to do that. The only way that you can really do anything locally is to really look at how it affects things on a global level. I mean, that sounds so cliché, it sounds like a T-shirt or a bumper sticker. But I—it does make a difference.
WHITNEY: For Common Ground, I’m Eric Whitney in Telluride, Colorado.
PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, Eric Whitney continues his report on AIDS in Africa.
STEVEN S’BANDEKE: There is that anxiety that something should be done, and done quickly.
PORTER: Plus, saving the Afghan Buddha statues.
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PORTER: There isn’t much good news about AIDS in Africa these days. The continent is home to just 10% of the world’s population, but 70% of the world’s HIV infections. However, the East African nation of Uganda stands out as a beacon of hope. It’s now estimated that less than 10% of Ugandans carry the virus that causes AIDS, and that’s down from a one-time high of nearly 30%. Health officials credit the Ugandan government for attacking the problem head-on, but also point to the local people, who formed a grassroots group, The AIDS Support Organization, or TAH-so, that educates with an eye toward preventing the disease. Eric Whitney profiles a 10-year TAH-so veteran.
WHITNEY: There is perhaps no better example of the difference between life in the industrialized and developing worlds than in the fate of people infected with HIV. In the United States and Europe, even people with limited means can get sophisticated anti-retroviral drugs. It may be hard for the poor to get the intensive medical follow-up that’s necessary to maintain people on these effective but highly toxic drugs, but it’s still generally available. In Africa, treatment for people with HIV often consists of being advised to eat a healthy diet. Lucky patients may get some counseling. For Africans, it can be hard to get even common drugs to fend off the opportunistic infections that start HIV-positive people on a downward spiral. Only a handful of the wealthiest have access to the medicines that fight the virus itself.
The best treatment offered in many African countries is counseling. Steven S’bandeke provided that kind of support to the HIV positive in Uganda for a decade. Taking a break from his work at a primitive rural hospital, he says that even people in the poorest, most remote areas have heard about the new generation of AIDS fighting drugs.
STEVEN S’BANDEKE: Yes, they are, people here are aware, especially the HIV-affected people. They are aware it is available, but they are also aware that it is very costly, they cannot afford.
WHITNEY: Under pressure from activists and governments in developing countries around the world, some drug manufacturers are donating AIDS drugs to poor nations, or are making them available at a lower cost. But S’bandeke points out that drugs themselves are not the only cost of anti-retroviral treatments.
S’BANDEKE: Also, laboratory tests are very, very costly. They would cost them 70,000 shillings. That is roughly $35, but most people could not afford. So if you cannot afford it, a laboratory test of 70 at the initial stage, how will you manage in the future?
WHITNEY: Lack of medical infrastructure, and its cost, is why the ground troops in the war on AIDS like S’bandeke spend a lot of their time counseling their HIV-positive clients about good nutrition and maintaining a balanced diet. It may not sound like much help, but he says he’s seen it make a difference.
S’BANDEKE: Up to today, there are some people who improved on their quality of life. There are still people living [that] I started with in 1990. That is over 10 years ago.
WHITNEY: But while good nutrition helps, S’bandeke says it won’t do any good unless people learn how to live positively with HIV.
S’BANDEKE: Because some people, once they are HIV positive, they get worried, so much worried. And the worry can reduce their life expectation. Because when you are so much worried, that means you will not even have appetite for food. Even if the proper food was available, people would not be able to eat it. And you find them losing weight.
WHITNEY: For years, Africans have referred to AIDS as “slim disease,” because it’s common for them to see their friends and neighbors mysteriously begin to lose weight, and then rapidly sicken and die. S’bandeke says that doesn’t have to be the case. He’s helped his clients deal with the persistently strong stigma against the HIV positive, encouraging them not to isolate themselves and dwell on their misfortune.
S’BANDEKE: If you are busy working it is—you can hardly find time to think about death, about the future of your children, about the future of your wife. You know, when you are busy you know, you—there is something occupying you at that particular time. So you have no worries. But if you sit down and what you think about is HIV, how it has disrupted your plans, how you are going to die and leave your children, how you are going to die and leave this plan unfulfilled, you know that is the major causes of worries. So when we are talking to people we tell them, please, even if you are not feeling very strong, do something light.
[The sound of motorcycles idling and revving their engines.]
WHITNEY: After 10 years, S’bandeke had to give up his job as a counselor because of hypertension. But he’s still in the health field. He spends his days riding a small motorcycle, visiting poor subsistence farmers scattered across the Ugandan countryside, and monitoring their health as part of a study for the US Centers for Disease Control.
[The sound of S’bandeke talking with patients in the field.]
WHITNEY: Many of the people he visits are HIV positive. He says he doesn’t sense anger among them that they can’t access the sophisticated anti-AIDS drugs available in the first world, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want and need help.
S’BANDEKE: The issue I think is not being frustrated. I think the people who are affected that way—I mean infected and those affected—they feel that maybe the scientists should do more to find easier ways of dealing with the virus, other than looking at these expensive treatment which people may not easily access. There is that anxiety, that something should be done, and done quickly.
WHITNEY: For Common Ground, I’m Eric Whitney in Tororro, Uganda.
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MCHUGH: Advances in military technology can change the nature of war and the nature of international relations. Gunpowder, iron clad ships, aircraft, rockets, and nuclear weapons are some examples of technologies which changed the battlefield and the world. Today, military aerospace manufacturers are busy promoting the “next big thing.”—unmanned aerial vehicles, known as UAVs, which saw action in conflicts such as Afghanistan and Yugoslavia.
PORTER: And after those battle field tests, manufacturers are trying to make sales. At one of Europe’s largest aviation exhibitions, the Farnborough air show in southern England, reporter Alastair Wanklyn examined what’s on sale.
[The sound of a helicopter.]
ALASTAIR WANKLYN: Helicopters and fighter jets entertain the tourists and plane spotters, who every two years take their binoculars and notebooks to the Farnborough air show. But in the sidelines, dressed in suits, military and government representatives are gathering round items on sale.
[The sound of aerospace executives and high-ranking military officers talking with each other at the air show.]
WANKLYN: Talking points here are a robot helicopter and half a dozen small automated aircraft. These are drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs. To a casual observer, these things look like dumb gliders. But the UAV is alert, carrying sophisticated cameras and other electronics.
SCOTT WINSHIP: It’s a pretty powerful payload. From 18,000 feet it can make out, flying directly over, it can make out essentially the make of the car that’s driving by and the license number.
WANKLYN: This spy in the sky is a small helicopter, called Fire Scout by its manufacturers, Northrop Grumman. Spokesman Scott Winship says Fire Scout is essentially a hovering television camera.
WINSHIP: It’s a very powerful television camera. It’s an electro-optical sensor which is a television camera, and it—very powerful magnification. Plus it does IR—infrared sensor, so you can see in the rocks and the shadows where you can’t see visible, you can see sometimes the infrared signature of somebody walking on the rocks at night.
WANKLYN: [interviewing Mr. Winship] Now you said it flies fairly high up or can do. It’s also fairly small. Does that mean that it’s pretty invisible to a potential enemy?
WINSHIP: Well, we’re doing a demonstration of flying it out of China Lake out in the high desert of California right now. And it actually will be about two and a half, three miles away from you—you can’t see it, you can’t really hear it—if there’s any ambient noise you can’t hear it—and it can probably take, it can take a picture of your badge and tell you what the number is on the badge.
WANKLYN: Reading peoples’ ID cards is about all Fire Scout will do for now, since Northrop Grumman hasn’t sold it to any military buyer yet. But the manufacturer hopes to sell it to the American Navy and Marine Corps, and has had interest from navies elsewhere too—Germany, Italy, even Japan and Singapore. Those nations watched the US military and CIA operate robot planes called Predator and Global Hawk above battle fields in Afghanistan, where those planes proved effective according to analyst Andrew Krepinevich of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, DC. He says the agile UAV is replacing less flexible military satellite technology.
ANDREW KREPINEVICH: Satellites pass over an area and they’re gone. UAVs can loiter in an area and give you that persistent intelligence of what’s going on. So number one, you can see a lot more of what’s going on. Number two, these things can be available longer because you don’t have to have the added weight of the pilot and all the life-support systems that go into a manned aircraft.
WANKLYN: But speak to some other manufacturers promoting UAV technology at the Farnborough air show, and you’ll hear that it’s the reduction of risk to personnel that makes robot planes so attractive. At French firm Dassault Aviation, Vice Chairman Bruno Revellin-Falcoz says governments are increasingly aware of the cost of losing pilots.
BRUNO REVELLIN-FALCOZ: If you take recent example in war you can understand what was the situation of an air force having for example lost one or two members of a crew beyond the battle area and obliged to develop diplomatic meetings with the enemy just to recover the one or two pilots. So this is the fact that led all the governments I believe to go to unmanned vehicles.
WANKLYN: It’s an opinion shared by the aerospace analyst Andrew Brookes, of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London. But he says however great the current interest in UAVs, militaries are finding that the science has limitations.
ANDREW BROOKES: The downside is that this is still rather rudimentary, you can’t operate them in winter, the electronic gizmos are not 100 percent reliable, they get interfered with, they can easily get shot down. So they’re not the panacea; they have a lot of potential, but they’re rudimentary phase at this stage.
[The sound of a helicopter.]
WANKLYN: As the air displays wind down at Britain’s Farnborough air show, and defense purchasers report back to their governments on what they saw, the UAV manufacturers are confident that the skies will soon be full of unmanned aircraft flying alongside conventional warplanes. But some say that optimism may be misplaced when it comes to governments other than the United States. In Europe, it’s the UK alone that has said it’s looking to buy substantial numbers of robot spy planes. And at current costs of up to $40 million per plane, some analysts expect UAVs not to take off as fast as the manufacturers hope. For Common Ground, I’m Alastair Wanklyn, at the Farnborough Air show in southern England.
PORTER: Coming up, the growing popularity of herbal medicine. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
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PORTER: It’s been estimated that up to 43 percent of the US population has used some form of complementary or alternative medicine. That can mean anything from homeopathy and traditional Chinese or Native American treatments, to more modern spiritual practices that might be regarded as New Age. The rise of their popularity has so far outstripped the ability of science to test the claims that are made about all the treatments and practices that are out there. A special White House commission, which produced its final report earlier this year, acknowledged the uncertainties and called for more research spending.
So, who’s using complementary or alternative medicine?
ROBIN GELLMAN: [speaking to her acupuncturist, Eric Serejski] Doing pretty well. I think, though, I’d like to work on some insomnia issues. I’ve been having some crazy dreams and…
PORTER: Robin Gellman, for one. The resident of Washington, DC is among the growing number of Americans who don’t believe that Western medicine has all the answers.
GELLMAN: [responding to questions from Mr. Serejski] Umm hmm. Actually, I’ve….
PORTER: So when it comes to combating sleeplessness and other conditions, she turns to an ancient Chinese treatment—acupuncture. In fact, the 30-something former television producer is so convinced of its merits that she’s training to become a practitioner herself.
ERIC SEREJSKI: So, as you know, those needles are sterile and one-time used.
PORTER: The man treating her is a former Yoga teacher from Belgium who got a degree in biology in the United States before studying acupuncture. Eric Serejski, who’s now the Clinical Director at the Maryland Institute of Chinese Medicine, says America’s interest in the field really took off in the 1990s.
SEREJSKI: Since then there have been a little boom in the complementary field. So that an explosion of interest and an explosion of growth in terms of people looking into, into studying that and in terms of people looking into experiencing that. To help them with the lifestyles and problems.
PORTER: Part of the reason for that explosion, he says, was an endorsement from the US government’s premier medical research agency. In 1997, a panel of experts assembled by the National Institutes of Health concluded that acupuncture could be effective in treating certain disorders.
SEREJSKI: This one—the Xia Yao Wan—is more popular for the depression. But again….
PORTER: The growing interest in acupuncture has also exposed more Americans to traditional Chinese herbal remedies, which are given for a range of modern life’s afflictions—from stress to chronic fatigue. Eric Serejski says that patients are attracted by the traditional Chinese approach.
SEREJSKI: When a person would come with a typical symptoms in the Western medical model, the symptoms will be analyzed. While in the Chinese medical model the symptoms will be analyzed as part of a bigger picture. And for some condition, analyzing the picture, the symptoms will be quite important, while for other conditions it will fail because the whole picture needs to be approached.
KIMBERLY WILSON: [while teaching her yoga class] Just letting your day go with your exhalation.
PORTER: The modern appeal of ancient practices is also clearly illustrated in places like this downtown Washington yoga class, the like of which has sprouted up all over the United States. Instructor Kimberly Wilson started teaching Yoga in her home two and a half years ago.
WILSON: I think the big trend in yoga right now, although it’s been popular for many years, I think there’s been a really big boom in maybe the past five. I think people are seeking an alternative, an alternative way to get physical activity while also working with their mind and body. You know, combining the whole thing.
WILSON: [while teaching her yoga class] Sliding the shoulder blades down the back, into your back pockets and lifting the heart center.
PORTER: Kimberly Wilson has seen her student base grow from just a handful to around 300. Yoga, which traces its roots back thousands of years to what is now India, has a spiritual component, and those who attend Wilson’s classes say that for them it’s certainly far more than a good workout.
YOGA CLASS MEMBER #1: It’s probably more spiritual than physical for me. It keeps me peaceful.
YOGA CLASS MEMBER #2: It’s the unification of your mind, your mind and your spirit working to bring, I think, peace and a sense of contentment during times when things aren’t feeling so content.
PORTER: Yoga’s proponents say there are psychological and physical benefits, but they don’t claim that it’s a cure-all. And James Gordon, who chaired the White House commission, calls for a holistic approach to complementary and alternative medicine.
JAMES GORDON: There’s a tendency that we have to want to look for the magic bullet. And that is highly unlikely for most complicated chronic illnesses. And I think what we have to do is enlarge our understanding, that there are very few magic bullets out there for chronic illness. And that what’s needed is a comprehensive approach that includes a number of these different therapies.
PORTER: But that approach is not without its critics. The White House commission’s final report acknowledges areas of significant disagreement, even among its members. The reports introduction also concedes that most complementary and alternative therapies have not yet been proven to be safe and effective. Meanwhile, the commission’s harshest critics accuse it, in essence, of supporting quackery. But Commission Chairman Dr. Gordon, a psychiatrist who’s a professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and a leading backer of complementary and alternative approaches, is fighting back.
GORDON: There is a good deal of scientific evidence for some therapies and not so much or none for others. The commission’s recommendations are that the evidence that’s there be made easily available to everybody so that when somebody makes that kind of statement saying this is quackery, that’s a testable hypothesis.
PORTER: And as the most scientifically promising therapies attract more and more followers, the question increasingly being asked is how they can be used in conjunction with conventional Western medicine.
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MCHUGH: During their reign in Afghanistan, the Taliban shocked the world with many of their actions, including destroying much of the country’s cultural heritage. Long before the September 11th attacks, the Taliban made headlines when they tore down Afghanistan’s famous Buddha statues. But, photos stored in a basement at an Austrian university may lead to restoration of the statues. Karen Engel reports from Austria.
KAREN ENGLE: As a specialist in mountain cartography, Professor Robert Kostka of the Graz University of Technology visited Afghanistan 30 years ago, when he took 3-D photographs of the largest of the two famous Buddha statues in the Bamian Valley.
ROBERT KOSTKA: In 1970 I took stereo photo from this Buddha statue; two images from the two different places. And with this stereo photo it is possible to make a model of this side. The wall, the cliff, of the rocks, and all of the Buddha statue.
ENGLE: It turns out that these photographs are the only professional high-definition photogrammetric measurements in existence of the Buddha. A company in Graz will now scan these photographs into a computer and construct a 3-D model of the Buddha, which everyone will be able to see at the Website of a global heritage Internet society called newsevenwonders.org. The New Seven Wonders Society and the Afghanistan Museum in Switzerland are trying to raise the money to rebuild the Buddha based on the computer model. There were two Buddhas in the Bamian Valley, but photographs only exist for the largest one. Even now, Professor Kostka remembers with awe his first encounters with the Buddha—the largest as high as a ten-story building.
KOSTKA: It was really a huge statue. It’s about 55 meters. And there’s also the possibility to climb up to the top of the head of the this statue. There are many caves with holes inside the rock. One can go up to the, could go up to the head and have a wonderful view of the whole valley.
ENGLE: Bamian is situated on the Silk Route, linking Europe and Central Asia. Greeks who settled in the area following Alexander the Great were the first to create images of the Buddha. The Bamian statues were made by local artisans influenced by Hellenistic art. For 2,000 years the two giant Buddhas had survived earthquakes, the sweeping army of Ghengis Khan, Russian bombings, and 20 years of civil war, only to be blasted into dust last year. Professor Robert Kostka says the Afghani people would like to see the Buddhas re-erected. For Common Ground, this is Karen Engle in Graz, Austria.
Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.
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