Home    About Us    Contact Us    Show Archives

Common Ground--Radio's Weekly Program on World Affairs

Sponsored by
The Stanley Foundation
209 Iowa Avenue
Muscatine, Iowa 52761 USA
563-264-0864 fax

Week of November 12, 2002, Program 0246

Brazil AIDS Transcript MP3 Related Links
Cuba's Democracy Movement Transcript MP3 Related Links
Cyber Terrorism Transcript MP3 Related Links
Afghanistan Voices-Student Transcript MP3 Related Links
Chris Moon Transcript MP3 Related Links
National Zoo Transcript MP3 Related Links


November 12, 2002
Program 0246

(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 drugs.

KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, Brazil battles AIDS.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: 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.

MCHUGH: Plus, terror in cyber space.

TIM 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.

PORTER: These stories—coming up next.

Top of Page

Brazil AIDS

Listen to This Segment

Related Links
Brazil From World Press Review

Tell Us What You Think


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.]

REESE ERLICH: 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?

ALESON ALMEIDA: [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?

ALMEDA's FRIENDS: [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 question]

ERLICH: In his wallet?

ALMEIDA: In his wallet.

ALMEDA's FRIENDS: [speak Portuguese]

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

ALMEDA's FRIENDS: [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 them?

ALMEDA's FRIENDS: [via a 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 ward.

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 infected.

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. [laughing]

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?

PHARMACEUTICAL PLAN REPRESENTATIVE: 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.


[Sounds from an industrial facility]

PHARMACEUTICAL PLAN REPRESENTATIVE: These machines produce about 40,000 capsules per hour.

ERLICH: Forty thousand capsules per hour?

PHARMACEUTICAL PLAN REPRESENTATIVE: 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 higher.

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...

ERLICH: Anti-AIDS 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 patient.]

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.

BRAZILIAN PROSTITUTE: [via 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?

BRAZILIAN PROSTITUTE: [via a translator] American, Italy, French—I work usually with tourists.

ERLICH: Are they willing to use condoms?

BRAZILIAN PROSTITUTE: [via a translator] Yes, yes. They demand to use condoms.

ERLICH: Oh, the men demand it?

BRAZILIAN PROSTITUTE: [via 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.

BRAZILIAN PROSTITUTE: [via 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 aware...

BRAZILIAN PROSTITUTE: [via 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.

BRAZILIAN PROSTITUTE: [via 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 prices.

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

Related Links
The Varela Project
USA Today opinion

Tell Us What You Think


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.

BRIAN ALEXANDER: I think 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

Related Links
Dartmouth College Analysis
ABC News.com

Tell Us What You Think


PORTER: 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 keyboard.]

MCHUGH: 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.

TIM BELCHER: 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.

DOROTHY DENNING: 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.

DENNING: What's 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.

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 management.

SANDRA SCHNEIDER: 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 sector.

PORTER: If you have questions or comments about today's program, visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org or e-mail us at commonground@commongroundradio.org.

ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. On the Web at stanleyfoundation.org.

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

PORTER: I'm Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: 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.

MCHUGH: Plus, running against landmines. And one of Washington's high profile couples.

Top of Page

Afghanistan Voices-Student

Listen to This Segment

Related Links
Afghanistan From World Press Review

Tell Us What You Think


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 street.]

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 traffic.]

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 shoppers.

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 motorcycle.]

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

Related Links
Chris Moon Web Page
ABC News

Tell Us What You Think


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 Ground'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.

SMELSER: In his 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 resolution.

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 Washington.

[Musical interlude]

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

Top of Page

National Zoo

Listen to This Segment

Related Links
Giant Pandas Web Page, National Zoo
San Diego Zoo, Panda Central
China From World Press Review

Tell Us What You Think


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.

A CHILD AT THE NATIONAL ZOO: When is the pandas going to come out here and eat that bamboo?

CLIFF BROCKMAN: It's lunch time and a crowd has gathered at the panda house.

A ZOOKEEPER EXPLAINING ABOUT THE PANDAS TO THE CHILDREN: You see those little red biscuit things?


A CHILD AT THE NATIONAL ZOO: 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.


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.

DR. LUCY SPELLMAN: I 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 veterinarian.

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.

DR. SPELLMAN: Our 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 bamboo.

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 commongroundradio.org or e-mail us at commonground@commongroundradio.org. Please drop us a line—we'd love to hear from you.

MCHUGH: Transcripts and information on how to order copies of this and other Common Ground programs are also available on our Web site: commongroundradio.org. I'm Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I'm Keith Porter. Cliff Brockman is our Associate Producer. B.J. Liederman created our theme music. Additional compositions by Wink Music.

ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. The Stanley Foundation: promoting public understanding, constructive dialogue, and cooperative action on critical international issues. On the Web at stanleyfoundation.org.

Top of Page

© 2002 by The Stanley Foundation
RealAudio® is a registered trademark of RealNetworks, Inc.