Under-Told Stories Project

2002

Dialing for Dollars

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Bangalore may be best-known as India’s Silicon Valley, but these days, instead of perfecting their computer programming language, many young people are perfecting their English.

MAN: A-E-I-O-U…

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That’s because the back-office business is booming here– back office for American and British companies, that is: Sorting insurance claims, clearing credit card transactions…

SPOKESPERSON: Thank-you for calling. Good-bye.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: …And now, running phone banks, talking to customers in Europe and America– everything from tech support on computer help lines to telemarketing calls selling credit cards and vacations, to filling catalog orders.

SPOKESMAN: The black bra and the CD recorder will be delivered by 6:00 PM Friday.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Bangalore is fast becoming the 1-800 capital of the world– at least the English-speaking world.

P. GANESH, Call Center Founder: In India, people have always been anglophiles. They love to learn… they love to actually learn more about other cultures, speak like them. It’s part of the fun.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s been much more than fun for P. Ganesh. Two years ago, he started a company called Customer Asset. It takes advantage or lower long distance rates and new technology that automatically forwards local or 1-800 calls dialed in America to operators in India. Ganesh recently sold the business to an Indian conglomerate for $20 million.

P. GANESH: If somebody had told me even five years back that this kind of industry would be possible in this kind of numbers, and these kind of things would be happening in India, I wouldn’t have believed it, that we would actually work with the housewife and consumer in U.S. and UK, sitting in India…

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: How many of you kids study English and like it?

GROUP: Almost everyone.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The key asset in this land of one billion is an infinite supply of English- speakers, the legacy of British times and the modern-day colonial power, satellite TV.

LITTLE GIRL: I like to watch nickelodeon because there is many games on it– game shows and many cartoons and many good, good things.

LITTLE BOY: I like watching Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, National Geographic.

LITTLE GIRL: I like AXN. I like that, and I like my favorite serial at 9:00 and all that stuff.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The challenge is how to make their English readily understandable to non- Indians, how to neutralize an English richly flavored by India’s diverse tongues.

SPOKESMAN: So what does a Malayalam accent sound like? Thomas, why don’t you give us a small demonstration?

SPOKESMAN ( Heavily accented ): Why did the student go to the college? ( Laughter ) to gain some knowledge.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So even before they learn about the products they’ll be selling, call center hires begin with accent training.

SPOKESMAN: “Come da.” “Da,” that is a very common Bangalore colloquialism. You shouldn’t say colloquialisms in any form.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In a land where English is spoken with no speed limit, they are taught to slow down.

INSTRUCTOR: Come to the park. Now, what’s wrong? What is happening there? Can you tell me? Come to the park. Indian come “do” the park.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And to bite their lips.

INSTRUCTOR: Say the word “averse.” Do you see what’s happening there? The Indians… your upper teeth must touch the lower lip. Say the word “averse.”

MAN: Averse.

INSTRUCTOR: Say “available.”

MAN: Available.

INSTRUCTOR: A good practice word is “West Virginia.”

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Call center companies in India don’t like naming their clients in the West, where the issue of jobs going overseas is a sensitive one. They also cite competitive reasons. But many of the largest companies: from GE, to British Airways and Dell Computer– have set up their own call centers here, and they seem to take pains to make the calls sound as though they’re just down the street. Vivek Kulkarni is the information technology secretary for the state government in Bangalore.

VIVEK KULKARNI, Minister, Information Technology: For example, her local name will be Geta, where she will be known as Mary for the people in America.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Why do they make people say they’re from somewhere else for the American market?

VIVEK KULKARNI: They don’t really say that they’re from somewhere else. All that they say is the name which the other person is familiar with. The idea is that you finish the call quickly, you solve his problem quickly, the customer doesn’t have time to get into anything else.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But just in case a customer does want to engage in small talk, C.R. Suman says she studies the Internet for weather or current events, and can chat in her friendly, recently acquired American accent.

C.R. SUMAN: When it comes to the culture or the way they live, yes, we have done a lot of research. We have had a lot of training here. We had Americans come and train us for some time.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Customers don’t usually know they’re talking to someone overseas, and especially with telemarketing calls, don’t want to be talking at all.

C.R. SUMAN: They don’t like the sales calls too much. So we didn’t know about that. It was a whole new experience when they just sometimes put the phone down. You know, they just don’t even think of saying, “I’m not interested.” Just bang the phone down. It was like, “Oh, my God.”

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Irate consumers don’t detract from the lure of these jobs. Unemployment and other professions is as high as 20 percent for college graduates. And the new customer service industry is helped by favorable exchange rates and is able to offer better pay than traditional professions. Veena Suwant has a graduate degree in architecture.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Obviously this was a more lucrative industry than architecture?

SPOKESPERSON: Yes, much, much.

SPOKESMAN: I’ve done one year of hotel management and would probably be working in hotel as a chef by now. I wanted to be a chef when I was young, so I make three times less than I make here.

SPOKESPERSON: I don’t have any hang-ups about being an MBA graduate and I’m working in a call center.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Although it’s considered a good career, call center workers typically earn just $200 to $250 a month. American and British companies moving their back offices here save up to 40 percent, and they’re moving in droves.

VIVEK KULKARNI: In fact, we receive every week one new foreign company here. We have been doing it for the last 104 weeks.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: One foreign company per week.

VIVEK KULKARNI: One foreign company which sets up base, which opens an office in that week.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: India’s call center and back office business, which literally did not exist two years ago, is expected to earn $25 billion in annual revenues in just five years. That’s three times what the venerable software business brings in today.

 

No video is available

Battle for the Senate

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Five days after their standard-bearer died in a plane crash, Minnesota Democrats at an 11th hour convention named their elder statesman to take on the mantle.

SPOKESMAN: It is our honor and pleased to place in nomination, Walter F. Mondale for the United States Senate.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In six days, Walter Mondale hopes to return to a chamber he served for 12 years before leaving in 1976 to become Jimmy Carter’s Vice President. He officially returned to active politics with an acceptance speech before a crowd of 800 party faithful, including many Paul Wellstone campaign workers.

WALTER MONDALE: When Paul was first sworn in as Senator, he asked me to walk down the Senate aisle with him to present his credentials. A decade later, under awful circumstances, his son, David Wellstone, told me that his family wanted me to carry on for him. And when Joan and I talked it over, we knew we had to do it, and we knew we wanted to do it.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: As mourners continued to visit the impromptu memorial to Senator Wellstone, his wife, daughter and five others lost in last Friday’s crash, Mondale said he’d set a new tone in what had been a hard-fought, often bitter race.

WALTER MONDALE: If there was ever a time to put aside political dog fighting, now is the time. (Applause) We need to honor what the people of our state are going through. We need time to heal, and my campaign must help in that healing.

COLEMAN CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL: Today, all of Minnesota grieves. The prayers of Laurie and I go out to the families of Paul and Sheila and Marsha and all those who lost loved ones.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Republican Norm Coleman echoed the theme as he aired his first commercials since the crash.

NORM COLEMAN COMMERCIAL: This election is about hope, and opportunity, about jobs; it’s about quality education for our kids; it’s about taking care of our parents and grandparents; it’s about changing the tone in Washington.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The tone of the campaign changed markedly on Tuesday at a memorial service planned by the Wellstone family to honor those killed in the crash. Republicans say it turned into a political rally and Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, in particular, was criticized.

SEN. TOM HARKIN: Keep standing up. Keep fighting. Keep saying yes to justice, to hope for people, for Paul! For Paul!

SPOKESMAN: I’d like to make an announcement so that there is no confusion, all right? This is a political rally. ( Cheers )

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Last night, Republican Party Chairman Ron Erbensteiner accused the Democrats of abusing the memorial event.

ROB EBENSTEINER, Minnesota Republican Party Chair: People here were expecting a memorial service for Senator Paul Wellstone; instead it was a planned political rally.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: You say planned?

ROB EBENSTEINER: Planned political rally.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But his Democratic counterpart, Mike Erlandson, insisted the event was not planned as a political rally.

MIKE ERLANDSON, Minnesota Democratic Party Chair: You know, we regret if people felt that was a political rally – it wasn’t. It was a memorial service for as popular a politician as the state of Minnesota has ever seen. It was particularly amongst working men and women who were there en mass and grieving deeply.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In his re-launched campaign Norm Coleman told the St. Paul rally that he was in touch with the needs of everyday Minnesotans having campaigned hard for two years.

NORM COLEMAN: Americans and Minnesotans we work. No one by the way, no one gives you anything. It’s not by entitlement in this state. This is not about holding a place. This is not about national party politics. This is about working, working for the people of Minnesota, for their future.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Coleman admitted the campaign’s unusual circumstances have left a lot of uncertainty.

NORM COLEMAN: I guess two concerns honestly. One is that you run against a famous name, somebody who is part of Minnesota history. I think it’s balanced by my firm belief that people are looking to the future. And secondly, that we sort out the deep emotional pain. I don’t know where that goes. I can’t measure that. In the end we have to get back to work.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In a very tight race both sides are battling over absentee ballots before Minnesota’s Supreme Court. Late today the court ordered local election officials to send out new absentee ballots to people who asked to change their vote in the wake of Senator Wellstone’s death.

SPOKESMAN: None of us here control the matter of luck.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: As lawyers for both parties argued this morning, Mondale began making his case at a news conference reacquainting himself with a new generation of Minnesota voters.

WALTER MONDALE: And there’s a lot to do and in an almost weird way no time within which to do it. I want to hear from Minnesotans, and you want them to hear from me about how I see our future and how we have to deal with it.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: With just five days to go, both Mondale and Coleman say the race is as much against time as each other. As Democrats hope to prevail with the blue chip Minnesota political name, Republicans are hoping for a boost from President Bush who will visit this weekend.

 

St. John’s Settlement

This story originally aired on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly on Oct. 17, 2002. Correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro covers the court process and settlement for sexual abuse reparations with the Catholic church.

No transcript is available.

 

No video is available.

AIDS Challenge in Thailand

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Many Buddhist temples are tourist attractions in Thailand. But this one, tucked away in a hillside north of Bangkok, is unusual. It was built a decade ago to be a hospice, a place where AIDS patients come to die with dignity. There are about 300 beds here, a fraction of the demand. But thousands of tourists, most of them Thai, come through each week. They meet and take pictures with AIDS patients; view the stark crematory and bone room, where the bones and ashes of patients lie in piles thousands high; and the after-death room, a macabre display that more befits a pathology museum. In fact, tourist donations sustain this facility, and the founding monk says it helps sensitize the public to the AIDS problem and educates school kids, who arrive by the busload.

PHRA ALONGKOT DIKKAPANYO: If they can see for themselves, not only listen or look at the pictures, they can understand easily. And it is a good way of education in our country.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Thailand has long been in the vanguard in tackling AIDS. It was the first Asian country to suffer an epidemic centered around another enduring tourist attraction: The commercial sex trade, which caters both to Thai and foreign tourists. Thailand had a quick response when AIDS hit in the early ’90s. Not with money or health services, but with its highly successful family-planning program. It had popularized one of the most effective weapons in AIDS prevention: The condom. The campaign was led by Mechai Viravaidya, a politician from a prominent family, economist by training, but best known as Thailand’s “Condom King.” We first interviewed him last year.

MECHAI VIRAVAIDYA: We said, “Look, one must not be embarrassed by a condom. It’s just from a rubber tree, like a tennis ball. If you’re embarrassed by a condom, you must be more embarrassed by the tennis ball. There’s more rubber in it.” We said, “You could use it as a balloon, as a tourniquet for snake bites and deep cuts, you can use the lubrication for after-shave lotion, and use the ring of the condom as a hair band. What a wonderful product. Why be embarrassed by it?” So we gave them out all over, and said, “Look, the condom is clean in your mind, it is not dirty. So please, take one.”

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Viavaidya took his case early to monasteries and monks. Surveys shored they where the most influential people, especially in rural areas of this predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million. Leading scholars were asked to develop a structural basis for the campaign.

MECHAI VIRAVAIDYA: And in the Buddhist scriptures it said, “Many births cause suffering,” so Buddhism is not against family planning. And we even ended up with monks sprinkling holy water on pills and condoms for the sanctity of the family before shipments went out into the villages. So when AIDS came along, it’s like using “Gone With the Wind” in Technicolor and stereophonic sound. It’s just redoing the family planning program and getting out to the public.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The renewed condom and AIDS information campaign is widely credited with a dramatic drop in the number of HIV infections, from about 140,000 a year in 1990, to about 30,000 cases a year a decade later.

MECHAI VIRAVAIDYA: So any customer who buys some fruit will also get condoms and AIDS safety tips.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Fewer Thai men visit brothels, and of those who do, the number using condoms went from below ten percent to more than 90 percent. But amid the severe Asian financial crisis, Thailand cut funds for its AIDS campaign in the late ’90s. That’s blamed for an increase in infections among certain key populations, including pregnant women. Experts say this group represents the emerging generation of adults, and the message hasn’t resonated with enough of them. Viravaidya says the lesson is: There is no room for complacency, and that campaigns must be sustained.

MECHAI VIRAVAIDYA: You can’t just do it for a year and stop. You have to continue and change your message, put it into soap operas, commercial movies again; we have to redesign our public education program and make it a bit more jazzy compared to its last days of somewhat dullness.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So, it just basically lost steam?

MECHAI VIRAVAIDYA: Yes.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Viravaidya is confident Thailand’s infection rate can be contained once again. Awareness is high, as is literacy, as is the availability of condoms. The big problem is how to deal with the one million or so Thais already infected. Tens of thousands of previously symptom-free HIV patients are now in the visible, advanced, or terminal, stages of the disease. The campaigns may have raised awareness, curiosity, and even generous donations, but patients like Phra Choochart, one of about a dozen monks here, say that doesn’t translate to sympathy or compassion.

PRA CHOOCHART: I keep secret for many years. But finally, something happened in my skin. It beginning to appear. I cannot keep secret anymore. So, I come to be a monk because in society if you catch HIV, nobody want you; also your family.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Family members rarely visit patients, most of whom are from the lower socioeconomic groups. The monastery offers a refuge. But with the pressing numbers, even here, the care seems more matter of fact than compassionate. Chris Lack is a recent medical graduate from Australia, one of several foreign volunteers.

CHRIS LACK, Volunteer Doctor: Right, so these are the coffins that every day when patients die and they’re loaded into one of these, and then the next morning they’re taken in a truck out here and off to the crematorium. There are seven, seven ovens in the crematorium. So, apparently, when they were building it, they built it with the belief that… that, you know… I might just go over and check if this guy’s alright. He’s still alive. He will probably die tonight. He’s held on for a couple days now, and he didn’t seem like he would, but he’s… pretty much all that moves now are his eyes, and even his eyes only sometimes move. So, he’s very much in the last stage.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Death here is a no-frills affair. Every day, an average of two to three patients die. They are transferred to the crematory, and after a brief Buddhist ceremony, the bones and ashes are piled up ever higher. Few patients remains are ever claimed by their families. The Abbott hopes in time that the hospice will teach people that AIDS needn’t be contagious; that families should care for their loved ones at home.

PRA ALONGKOT DIKKAPANYO: I try to give knowledge to our people for a long time, ten years. And nowadays, they can visit the patients. They like to learn, they like to visit, but they cannot touch the patients. Maybe five or ten years in the future, our hospital will be like a school: It gives knowledge; people can come here and learn how to look after the patient in their family.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Also, the Thailand government will soon make available at just a dollar a day the so-called cocktail drugs; these expensive anti-retroviral drugs are now commonly used by HIV patients in the West; in time, they should extend the lives of Thai HIV patients and lessen the need for spaces like these. Right now, this monastery has a waiting list of 10,000 AIDS patients.

 

No video is available.

Chad’s Pipeline

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Among the world’s poorest nations, Chad is just about the poorest.

Its per capita income is $200 a year is less than half Haiti’s, for example.

For years, rival warlords, some backed by neighboring Libya, have fought for control of this vast land-locked nation, which has survived largely through international development aid.

Oil in Africa

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: All that could soon change. Chad is the site of one of Africa’s largest building projects: a $3.7 billion pipeline that will vault the country of 7 million into the club of oil exporters.

A consortium of oil companies, managed by Exxon Mobil, is laying 650 miles of steel pipe. It will carry a quarter million barrels of oil a day from southern Chad, through neighboring Cameroon to the Atlantic.

Andre Medoc is an executive with the Exxon Mobil, which is called Esso here.

ANDRE MEDOC, Exxon Mobil: Basically we hope and of course the Chad government administration and people hope that we can move from this project from basically the pre-industrial era to the 21st century.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The pipeline has presented Chad a unique opportunity to use its natural resources to benefit all its people.

That’s not often been the case in resource-rich nations in Africa.

For example the oil industry in Chad’s neighbor, Nigeria, has been plagued by environmental mishaps. There are widespread allegations of corruption. The oil companies have been criticized by human rights group and some non-governmental organizations for focusing solely on their profits, as life for ordinary Nigerians became increasingly miserable.

Nigeria’s gross national product, for example, has nose-dived to about a third of what it was 20 years ago.

Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, says African governments and western donors share the blame.

PRESIDENT IDRISS DEBY (Translated): If we in Africa have over the last 30 years completely missed our development opportunities and, if, as the West has alleged, we are bad managers or corrupt, then we share responsibility with the West.

If we are corrupt, then you are the corrupters. We were partners in responsibility.

The World Bank’s guidance

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But this time, in Chad, donor nations, Exxon Mobil and Chad’s government vow things will be different.

To begin, the oil consortium asked the World Bank to come in as a moral guarantor, to insure that the project helps reduce poverty.

Gregor Binkert is the bank’s Chad director.

GREGOR BINKERT, World Bank: The oil companies, of course, have learned from some of their — you could call them public relations disasters in other countries in which they were somehow implicated or government officials were implicated and it is a new way of thinking on their part.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The World Bank itself has been criticized, by members of Congress among others, for financing questionable projects.

So when it was invited to Chad, the bank invested millions to create democratic and transparent institutions, whose accounts, for example, can be publicly audited.

It also attached strings. Exxon had to sign on to an environmental protection plan. And the government had to pass a law setting priorities for spending its windfall, outlined by Petroleum Director Mahamat Hassane.

MAHAMAT HASSANE, Petroleum Director: You know, in the law we have defined some sectors that we call the prior sector, the educational sector, health sector, environment sector, drinkable water sector and infrastructure.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: A committee that will be drawn from government, the supreme court and civil society will allocate the money. And oil revenues will go directly to escrow accounts in Europe.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It is an historic government concession, according Donald Norland, a former US envoy to Chad

DONALD NORLAND, Former US envoy to Chad: It is an infringement on the sovereignty of a newly independent African country. Can you imagine yourself having a major account in the bank but unable to write a check on that bank? Someone else is going to have to give you permission to get at your own money…

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Norland says worsening conditions left the government few options but to allow foreigners in to look over its shoulder

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Chad’s president, Deby, a former warlord who rose to power 10 years ago, is philosophical on the sovereignty issue.

PRESIDENT IDRISS DEBY: The world has become a village. It’s all a process of globalization and economics and politics and finance.

We voluntarily entered into this agreement because we wanted to make sure the petroleum resources, the money from the petroleum, is used for no other purpose than to combat the poverty of the Chadean people.

The hopes of Chadean people

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: People in the path of the oil pipeline are being offered compensation by Exxon, or ESSO.

They can choose $1,000 in local currency, or they can opt for kind compensation and that would come from the ESSO catalog, which features everything from bicycles to sewing machines to fruit trees.

Absent banks or legal forms payment, payment is made in cash, and recorded on camera

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The process is fraught with complication and there’s been especially strong criticism of programs that compensate communities near the pipeline

In a country where two out of three people can’t read or write many villagers complained that the school they were promised is behind schedule. They also pleaded for a well; three of four Chadeans lack access to safe water.

Company officials also are deluged by job seekers. Exxon Mobil has been criticized for not employing enough local people, for flying in most supplies from Europe instead of seeking local partners.

Michael Didama is editor of the French language weekly, Le Temps’.

MICHAEL DIDAMA, Le Temps’: I have seen the schools and dispensaries that they’ve built. They’re just buildings, they’re inadequate. They have to come into a community in a way that they’re really integrated and do something that’s useful in the society rather than just these token things.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Exxon Mobil’s Medoc says the problem is understandable, but the people have unrealistic expectations.

ANDRE MEDOC: In the village here they don’t have a water well, they don’t have a school, they don’t have a dispensary, they don’t have anything.

So the expectations are very high in terms, for example, of employment also. Everybody would like to have a job on this project. And we need to explain to them that our role is basically to produce the oil that we have discovered in Chad. And we are not trying to substitute ourselves for the government.

The role of Chad’s government

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But the government’s own role has been questioned.

Editor Didama cited an example from two years ago, when the government received a $25 million advance or bonus from the oil consortium.

MICHAEL DIDAMA (translated): The government used the money to purchase arms. It could have used the money for many other things. We haven’t got electricity, we don’t have health services, we don’t have schools.

There’s no differences between what has happened in Nigeria and Angol and what’s going to happen here.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But others, like US Ambassador Christopher Goldthwaite, note the government did yield to pressure from western donors.

US AMBASSADOR CHRISTOPHER GOLDTHWAIT: We, the WorldCom and others intervened, and focused attention on it — the government froze the remainder of it. Certainly the fact that this occurred, the fact that that money disappeared before people knew what was happening, that does raise a red flag

PRESIDENT IDRISS DEBY (translated): Let me tell you one thing! I’m a nationalist. I love my country…I don’t answer to anyone except the people of Chad who elected me

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: President Deby angrily defends his actions. The advance money was not part of the World Bank agreement, he notes, and was used for a legitimate
national need.

PRESIDENT IDRISS DEBY: Chad was confronting a rebellion from the north; we needed the money for the army. So, I took the $3 million only to support to the army because I am not going to let our institutions be threatened. I need to have peace and stability to make this project a reality.

DONALD NORLAND: Deby regards this as his project; he desperately wants it to succeed. He wants this to be the Deby legacy.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Former Ambassador Norland says if successful, the project’s benefits could be far reaching and even help the war on terrorism.

DONALD NORLAND: I see a successful anti-terrorism program as requiring a long-term dimension.

And I see this project as being a marvelous opportunity to raise standards of living of the people in a part of the world that risks one day — maybe not next year — maybe not the year after — but one day it could descend into the same kind of a swamp that we find in parts of the world where there are foot soldiers being conditioned to take over and use violent means, anarchic means perhaps too, to change governments and to conduct jihads against enemies.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Chad’s first oil revenues will begin flowing early in 2003.

 

No video is available.

Foreign Country Doctors

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Eutaw, Alabama, is one of the poorest places in the United States, with a per capita income of just $15,000 a year, about half the US average. Its once-reliable cash crop, cotton, is long gone.

Despite a history of civil rights struggles, blacks and whites still lead very separate lives in the old days, the area could depend on homegrown talent, but the names on the shingles at the doctors office here say a lot about how the face and name of the country doctor has changed in America.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Doctors Adnan Seljuki, Mohammad Siddiqve, Salahuddin Faroooui, all from Pakistan, and Lourdes Ada, from the Philippines, now form the backbone of Eutaw’s medical care they came to the rescue of a town that was at one point fearful of attracting enough doctors to keep its small hospital open.

Sandrall Hullett was a doctor in Eutaw for 30 years, now she just works part-time in the local nursing home. She knows how life can be in a small town with too few physicians.

DR. SANDRALL HULLETT, Physician: I’ve worked periods of time when I had no one but me seeing over 50 patients a day. That’s very, very hard work if you’re doing that and delivering babies at the same time.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s hard to attract American doctors to rural areas like Eutaw because of the poverty and isolation. But compared to the state of medicine in his home country, Adnan Seljuki finds the situation in Eutaw satisfying.

DR. ADNAN SELJUKI, Greene County Physicians Clinic: One thing which I really liked about this system here, the healthcare, is that although the poverty is there, but the healthcare is almost first-class healthcare for all people here. Any patient who comes to the emergency room here gets everything, which is supposed to be given to them.

Adjusting to patients’ needs

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Foreign doctors used to be criticized for having inferior training, but these days, they wave to pass rigorous exams on a par with their US counterparts, according to Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan who practices in inner-city Washington.

DR. FITZHUGH MULLAN: In the last couple of years, the US Medical Licensure Exam has included a portion for international medical graduates where individuals are measured on their ability to interact appropriately in a clinical setting.

The effort is to make sure that people passing exams are not just paper whizzes, but in fact are clinically and interpersonally able as well.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: However, Dr. Mullan, who headed the National Health Service Corps under President Carter, says cultural and language concern remain.

DR. FITZHUGH MULLAN: It is very, very important to be as knowledgeable about, and as comfortable with the culture of the folks that you’re treating as a physician as possible. And front and center, of course, is language, but there’s a lot else that comes with it in terms of cultural understanding as well.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The doctors in Eutaw have tried hard to get around the language barrier

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Do you ever have difficulty understanding your patients?

DR. LOURDES ADA, Greene County Physicians Clinic: Yes, sometimes.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What do you do in those situations?

DR. LOURDES ADA: I ask somebody from the staff to help me listen closely what the patient means. You know, it takes a lot of patience, keep repeating what they just said; “may I hear it again?”

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Muslims in a mostly Christian town, foreign born in the town where most people’s families go back generations, the doctors also have tried hard to fit in to the town life.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Sandrall Hullett knows about the difficulty of fitting in. She was the town’s first female and African American doctor.

DR. SANDRALL HULLETT : Learning to do the small talk, and that’s what really… in small towns, that’s what really helps a lot.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What sort of small talk?

DR. SANDRALL HULLETT: You know, we talk about the garden, kids, politics, big things football games, Alabama, you can’t tell someone you don’t know who is playing football; that you don’t know whether Auburn or Alabama won the game or not.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But Dr. Hullett, who’s recruited most of the foreign doctors to town, acknowledges problems with earlier hires, in what she calls cultural competency — like the one physician who refused to examine pregnant patients unless a husband or male relative brought them in.

DR. SANDRALL HULLETT: His philosophy was that if a woman was pregnant, then the father of the child, thinking everybody was married, should be there every time this lady came for her visit. And so, we tried to explain to him that you don’t do that. And he did not want to work with us, so we had to fire him. We actually fired him.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But she gives high marks to Eutaw’s current crop of doctors. Most, like Dr Siddique, say they adjust to new cultural norms, on teen pregnancy, for example.

DR. MOHAMMAD SIDDIQUE, Greene County Physicians Clinic: It gives me lot of pain when I see young girls getting pregnant, and then they are out of their way for their future. And their path has so many problems. Really, it gives me a lot of pain.

Foreign doctors in rural areas

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Rural areas are not the only places, which have become dependent on foreign doctors. They are also prominent as residents in large urban hospitals, where they fill a void in the doctor supply pipeline, according to DR Mullah.

DR. FITZHUGH MULLAN: We graduate 16,000 or 17,000 students as physicians each year, and yet we offer about 22,000 first-year residency positions, internship positions. So there’s a mismatch of 5,000 or 6,000 people and there’s no place to go, essentially, but abroad. And that’s become a very stable part of our system.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: About half of those foreign students are actually US citizens who have studied abroad. The rest are foreign nationals, most from developing countries.

At Tomasson Hospital in El Paso, Texas, Dr. Abraham Verghese says he had a much easier time when he came to America two decades ago, than his foreign students do now. Verghese, who has written two best selling books about his experiences as a doctor, came from Ethiopia and India.

DR. ABRAHAM VERGHESE: There’s a whole new set of hurdles which, 20 years ago, were relatively simple. You could most likely stay on if you wanted to. These days, the kind of visa that many of us came on simply doesn’t exist.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Today, foreign medical graduates enter the US on J-1 visas, which require return that they return home after completing their residency, generally three to four years

DR. ABRAHAM VERGHESE: I think that most people who take the trouble to go through all the different hurdles you have to go through to come to America are under no illusions that they’re going to go back after just three years of training.

I think they’re very determined to stay, they’re just as determined as they were when they were trying to get here. They remain just as determined to stay.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: One of the few options for extending or waiving J-1 visas is to agree to serve in a federally designated physician shortage area, such as Eutaw, typically for two to four years. The doctors then get permanent work visas, and at that point, Dr. Mullan says, their aspirations are no different from American colleagues.

DR. FITZHUGH MULLAN: You have people starting their practice in areas that are less sought-after by American graduates. When you look, however, at the overall distribution of international graduates, many, if not most, return to practice settings in suburban or urban areas that are indistinguishable from US graduates. And the data shows that many migrate back to more middle-class kinds of settings.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In fact, the biggest complaint in Eutaw is that foreign doctors usually leave almost as soon as their obligation is completed.

SUZETTE QUINNIE: You get a lot of them that come. They don’t stay. They do their training or whatever. By the time you get used to them and they’re a real good doctor, they move on to somewhere else.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Three of Eutaw’s four doctors who decided to remain did so even though they are now past their visa obligations, and they hope this brings new patients. Even though a clinic from a town 30 miles away opened a satellite facility in Utah, the immigrant doctors say they have the hometown affection. For the Pakistani families, devout Muslims, that’s meant a lot post September 11.

MRS. KHOWLA SELJUKI: Right after September 11, initially, I was a little scared to go out because of my scarf and my Muslim outlook. But when I went out, people were more friendly to me here in Eutaw. In the grocery stores and everywhere, they were more friendly, and the people whom I barely knew, they were coming to me and they were, like, talking to me and asking me that, “if you need any help, if somebody gives you any trouble just call us and tell us,” but nobody gave us any trouble.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But there may be other trouble on the horizon for rural communities now looking for doctors. Citing security concerns, the federal government recently announced it will no longer issue the waivers that extend the temporary stays of international medical graduates. Past attempts to limit foreign doctors have failed, and that’s because they fulfill a need, according to Dr. Verghese.

DR. ABRAHAM VERGHESE: I think America is really in denial about the degree to which residents, particularly foreign medical graduates, man the county hospitals of this country and but for their services, I’m not sure how exactly we could manage.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Citing a desperate need for doctors in their home states, many members of Congress are hoping to overturn the anti- J-1 waiver decision, either through persuasion or legislation.

 

No video is available.

Religious Violence

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Gujarat is the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. At the center from where he plotted India’s independence in the early 20th century, schoolchildren today sing about nonviolence and peace. (Children singing)

But it’s been anything but peaceful and nonviolent in Gujarat recently. Violence erupted in February in the village of Godhra when a group of Muslims set fire to a train.

Stories differ on what sparked the incident, but in the end, 58 Hindus– most of them women and children– were burned alive. The train was carrying Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya. It’s the site of a long-simmering dispute over ground claimed as sacred by both Hindus and Muslims.

The assault triggered one of the worst cycles of violence in what’s often been a bloody relationship between the nation’s 850 million Hindus and at least 130 million Muslims.

Today, some 110,000 of the Muslim minority live in relief camps in Gujarat’s capital, Ahmedabad. They tell stories of rape, murder and torched homes that followed the train incident.

MUSLIM WOMAN (Translated): Tell us, where can we go? They burned our homes; they took our Koran, threw it in the street and pissed on it. They tell us to get out of this country. We were born here. Our men fought for this country. Where can we go?

Violent struggle over a sacred site

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: A few miles away, a family mourns the loss of a son and brother killed by a Muslim gang. He was a youth activist for the World Hindu Council, a Hindu nationalist group. “He was a martyr for the cause,” they say, “and that cause will continue.”

Central to their cause is Ayodhya, 800 miles away from Gujarat. It’s the site where this 16th century mosque stood. It was built by the Moguls who reigned here before the British colonized India. Hindu nationalists insist the Muslim ruler, Babar, destroyed a Hindu temple to build the mosque, and that the site is the birthplace of the Hindu God, Ram.

In 1992, Hindu militants tore down the mosque. Hundreds of Muslims and Hindus died in violence that followed across the region.

Throughout the ’90s, the BJP, a party allied with nationalist Hindu groups, rode the issue to election success, campaigning to build a new Hindu temple on the disputed site.

In power now with more moderate coalition partners, the BJP has tempered its stance. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee now says the courts should decide whether the temple should be built. As India’s supreme court grapples with the mosque versus temple issue, Hindu forces have been active through the impasse, building the temple, they say, just waiting to erect it.

Not far from the disputed site, hundreds of pillars and columns of sandstone have already been carved. Pilgrims and activists visit each day, admiring the stonework, chipping in a few rupees for the temple project.

Religious riots and massacres

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Today, the dozens of their number who perished on the train last February have been called martyrs; their deaths sparking a campaign of retribution against Muslims on a scale Ahmedabad Police Commissioner P.C. Pande says he’s never witnessed.

P.C. PANDE, Ahmedabad Police Commissioner: We have dealt with several such situations. It’s not the first time. But we don’t expect people to come out in hundreds of thousands. We don’t expect that. That is what had happened.

And that’s why, I mean, on the very first day, on the 28th of February itself, realizing that the forces would not be adequate, the army was called in by the state government.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In many Gujarat cities, every Muslim business was set on fire. By the time army troops had been called in, the official death toll had exceeded 800; most of them Muslims.

Media reports put the toll in the thousands. Many bodies, like the relatives of 14-year-old Naved, have never been found.

NAVED (Translated): My mother, my father, brother, sister, plus an auntie and her family, we all lived together. On February 28, our house was burned. My hands and legs were burned. I ran to my employer, who took me to the hospital.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The stories and rumors of atrocities on both sides abound. It’s not often that one can walk in the middle of the street in a big Indian city.

Ahmedabad has five million people. But weeks after the orgy of violence that claimed thousands of lives, there continues to be sporadic outbursts of violence fed by the rumor mill, so police routinely impose curfew on neighborhoods like this one at night. Even with the police and army patrols, there are almost daily clashes and dozens of fires.

And the toll continues to mount– more than a dozen deaths during our own three-day visit. To many critics, the failure to contain the violence proves the complicity of the Gujarat government, a legislature in which the BJP has a majority. Siddharth Varadarajan is an editor with the Times of India, a top English language daily.

SIDDHARTH VARDARAJAN, Times of India: The killings which followed the train massacre were not spontaneous. They were not the result of mass anger on the part of Hindus. But it was an orchestrated, organized, calculated pogrom, which took place because the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has state power and was able to use that power to essentially give a free hand to its party activists to indulge in this kind of criminal behavior.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The BJP’s allies in Gujarat blame Muslims, what they call Islamic terrorism.

HINDU ACTIVIST: Here in Gujarat, Hindus are victims of Islamic terrorism.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Praveen Togadia is president of the World Hindu Council, which has led the campaign to build a temple in Ayodhya.

Many Muslims, he charges, think of themselves as Muslims first, not Indians. Many Indian Muslim leaders say the overwhelming majority of their community should not be judged by pronouncements of a few.

Abid Shamsi is a retired English professor in Gujarat.

ABID SHAMSI: I believe that the voice of sanity is not heard. There is such a large, large scale and widespread rule of fanaticism where you can’t go and talk reason.

Breeding ground for extremism?

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Shamsi says aside from a few movie stars and industrialists, India’s Muslims are poorer and less literate than most Indians.

Far from being fanatics, he says many chose to live in a secular democratic India instead of a Muslim Pakistan.

However, Syed Shahabuddin, who publishes the weekly magazine Muslim India, fears events in Gujarat are exactly what breed extremism.

SYED SHAHABUDDIN: We cannot control the motivation of individuals — an adolescent who has lost his entire family, who has seen his mother and sisters being raped and who has seen his fathers and brothers being butchered. If he becomes a terrorist, what shall you tell him? What can you tell him?

Yes, I go on telling them, please have fortitude, have faith in Allah. I might teach them, I might try to keep them from the path of violence, because, as I told you, I see the redemption of India, and I see the future of the minorities in this country — not in their own effort, singly — but in cooperation with the huge mass of this country, which is tolerant, which is good, which is peaceful.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Months into the Gujarat violence, however, the forces of moderation have yet to rise.

There was one person we spoke to yesterday that said it will just take time and fatigue to bring peace to Gujarat.

ABID SHAMSI: Yes.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Do you agree with that?

ABID SHAMIS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And this time it’s going to be a long time.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Many Indians take heart from the fact that the religious violence hasn’t spread beyond Gujarat.

Others, however, fear that it will be a struggle to keep Gujarat, the birthplace of Gandhi, from becoming the graveyard of the secular nation he helped found.

 

No video is available.

Stem-Cell Research

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Now, our “Cover Story” on human stem-cell research.

Many researchers want government approval to extract stem-cells from cloned human embryos, and then learn to grow them into tissue that might cure disease. But many others object because that procedure would mean destroying the embryos, and, they say, that means destroying life.

The U.S. Senate is expected to take up this spring a bill the House passed last year that would ban all human cloning — to reproduce a person or to try to cure disease. The president’s new Council on Bio-ethics is also considering the morality of cloning. But while the ethical debate continues here, research is moving ahead overseas, where there are fewer restrictions and moral objections. Fred de Sam Lazaro begins his report with a remarkable eye operation in India.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: A year ago, Abishek Sharma was almost completely blind due to a degenerative corneal disease mostly found in the tropics. Surgeon Virender Sangwan decided the last hope lay in a stem-cell transplant — a pioneering experiment that’s so far been tried on three dozen patients in the south Indian city of Hyderabad.

Doctors at the L. V. Prasad Institute cultured stem-cells taken from Sharma’s parents to lessen the chance of rejection. These were then sutured on his damaged eyes. Three months later, Dr. Sangwan says the stem-cell graft seems to be taking.

(to Dr. Sangwan): Is he out of the woods yet?

Dr. VIRENDER SANGWAN (Surgeon, L. V. Prasad Institute): He’s not really out of the woods, but we have to be on watch and he has to be on treatment to prevent rejection.

ABISHEK SHARMA (Patient): Dr. Sangwan is really God for me, he make me to see. Now I can see, I can read, I can ride my bike. I have come back to my normal life.

DE SAM LAZARO: Sharma’s progress, however tentative, is an early indicator of the immense medical promise of stem-cells. These are biology’s basic starting point from which grow the body’s various organs and tissues. The problem — the ethical dilemma — is that the most promising, versatile stem-cells are not the adult cells used in Sharma’s case, but those found in embryos up to 14 days old. These early embryonic stem-cells have the potential to develop into any of the 200-plus different types of cells in the body. However, embryos don’t survive after the stem-cells are extracted. And opponents, including the Catholic Church, say destroying embryos — human life in their view — is morally unacceptable.

President Bush struck a compromise last August, when he authorized restricted federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: More than 60 genetically diverse stem-cell lines already exist. They were created from embryos that have already been destroyed, and they have the ability to regenerate themselves indefinitely, creating on-going opportunities for research. I have concluded that we should allow federal funds to be used for research on these existing stem-cell lines, where the life-and-death decision has already been made.

DE SAM LAZARO: The president approved research funds for 64 stem-cell lines from across the globe. Ten are in India, seven at the Bombay-based Reliance Life Sciences, a private lab headed by Dr. Firuza Parikh.

Dr. FIRUZA PARIKH (Reliance Life Sciences): Our immediate goals are for peer review, for establishing efficient collaboration and for putting India on the global scenario of biotech, especially in this area of stem-cell research.

DE SAM LAZARO: The seven stem-cell lines at Reliance are in a delicate early phase, not fully cultured into self-sustaining colonies. Parikh plans to develop additional lines and says she doesn’t need U.S. government funds to do so. Her lab is owned by a multi-billion-dollar Indian conglomerate.

Dr. PARIKH: At this point in time what we are looking for, at least for the next three or four years, is just pure research. We are not looking at numbers that are generated commercially. Of course in the long run, when this research fits into hospitals and goes onto the patients, we would certainly look at revenue.

DE SAM LAZARO: Back in the U.S., there’s concern among some that the Bush decision does not provide sufficient stem-cell lines for research and will handicap American scientists — that it will slow the development of therapies and give other countries a competitive advantage. There also are fears of a brain drain of top scientists like diabetes expert Roger Pedersen. Last year he left the University of California to pursue embryonic stem-cell research at Cambridge University. Cambridge’s reputation was a big lure, but so was Britain’s research climate.

Professor ROGER PEDERSEN (Cambridge University): In general the public supports the kind of research that we’re doing, and that takes the form of financial support, long term financial support. So that the opportunities of actually achieving our goals are very much enhanced by this kind of tangible support for embryonic stem-cell research.

DE SAM LAZARO: In the United States, for example, the idea of cloning has been met with widespread resistance. Britain, on the other hand, doesn’t allow reproductive cloning, but it has approved the idea of cloning for therapy. The embryonic clone of a patient, for example, could serve as a custom made source of stem-cells, cells which would not be rejected. The United Kingdom, home of Louise Brown, the world’s first in-vitro baby, and Dolly, the first cloned mammal, seems more accepting of new reproductive technology, Pedersen says, but it also polices it strictly.

Professor PEDERSEN: There’s no room for cowboys in the UK. The regulatory process is highly prescribed and the penalties for violations are imprisonment. So there is really just a narrow path, to follow and I think it’s a very reasonable condition because it ensures that patients are protected and yet allows the research to move forward.

DE SAM LAZARO: In India, the concern is that research will move forward without adequate protections. The government is only now drawing up guidelines for stem-cell research. And laws have not always prevented abuses here. For example, ultrasounds are routinely used to detect female fetuses. These are then aborted in a society that favors boys. Also, in a land of desperate poverty, many sell their kidneys to transplant centers.

Some critics in India say it should focus on basic needs, like clean water and adequate nutrition. But others say there’s room for new technologies to tackle both indigenous diseases and those more commonly found in developed countries. Dr. V.K. Vinayak works for the government agency that regulates biotechnology.

Dr. V.K. VINAYAK (Government of India): We have lifestyle-related disorders like cardiac disease and diabetes. The age expectancy is going up, it’s more than 60 years. So, I see very great potential for stem-cells.

DE SAM LAZARO: And you’re saying that in India it can be done in an ethically sound environment?

Dr. VINAYAK: I’m sure, I’m sure.

DE SAM LAZARO: No human cloning?

Dr. VINAYAK: No human cloning.

DE SAM LAZARO: No sale of embryos?

Dr. VINAYAK: No sale of embryos, right.

DE SAM LAZARO: Every research project has to get the government’s approval?

Dr. VINAYAK: Right. That’s true.

DE SAM LAZARO: In Bombay, Dr. Parikh insists all the embryos she uses to create stem-cell lines are voluntarily donated, as they are in the United States. Unlike American colleagues, however, Indian scientists don’t have to worry about any larger societal debate over when human life begins. Still, Dr. Parikh says the Bush decision is a good start.

Dr. PARIKH: I think it is a limited scope but at least it has set the ball rolling. At least this is a way scientists will have a healthy dialogue, there will be peer review. There will be an ability to evaluate these lines. And I think there on perhaps, certain decisions may change.

DE SAM LAZARO: Indeed, further down the road, if stem-cell research begins to yield tangible results, ethicists like Mark Yarborough say the pressure in the U.S. to change its position will get only stronger.

Professor MARK YARBOROUGH (University of Colorado): As we age, and Parkinson’s becomes more prevalent in our generation, as Alzheimer’s becomes more prevalent, if we come to believe there are effective therapies out there, I think we’re going to become very persistent in demanding access to those, just like we’ve demanded access to everything else in our society.

DE SAM LAZARO: Stem cell therapy is still well in its infancy. But Indian scientists say global collaborations will speed up the research. How much the U.S. participates remains to be seen. The wrenching debate over embryonic stem-cells and therapeutic cloning will likely continue for years.

 

No video is available.

Minnesota’s Balancing Act

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Minnesota is coming off a heady streak of economic prosperity. In each of the three years since Independent Governor Jesse Ventura’s surprise election, taxpayers have gotten large rebate checks.

GOV. JESSE VENTURA, Minnesota: My entire campaign for governor was based upon the fact that there was a $4 billion surplus.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Property taxes have been cut, as have car license tabs. Public school funding went up, and the state actually increased its budget to provide health benefits and wage subsidies to help welfare recipients enter the workforce.

At job placement agencies like Lifetrack, which places many welfare clients, the joke was, all you needed to get a job was a pulse. All that changed last September. The economy had begun to slow by summer, but the attacks on the 11th hit key sectors very hard, says Lifetrack director John Mohr.

JOHN MOHR, Director, Lifetrack Resources: Three that have had very significant declines in terms of job openings are manufacturing, the hospitality industry, and thirdly, transportation, airport, air-travel related activities.

All three of those have been significant magnets for us in terms of placing people. All three of those have had tremendous hits, and what that’s meant is that it’s much tougher for people we’re helping move into employment to find entry-level work.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Overall, unemployment has almost doubled, from 2 percent to 4 percent, and the consequences have rippled quickly here to the state capital. Tax revenues are projected to fall short by $2.3 billion.

That’s almost 10 percent of the state’s budget for the next two years. And that shortfall could worsen to more than $3 billion for the years 2004 and 2005.

By law, the budget has to be in balance, but tackling the deficit has been complicated by the distinctive political makeup of Minnesota state government. The state House is controlled by Republicans; the Senate, by the Democratic, or DFL Party, as it is called in Minnesota; and Ventura ran from the Reform Party.

In past years he has allied himself with Democrats sometimes, usually on social issues; Republicans at other times, often on fiscal matters. This year, he’s expressed disdain for all legislators, saying they’re afraid to make tough decisions like across-the- board cuts and some tax increases, as he’s proposed.

GOV. JESSE VENTURA: The problem with legislators is they only have a vision to the next election. You know, they call this public service. Well, the result of that is self-serving. It’s not serving the public, it’s serving themselves.

ROGER MOE, (D) Majority Leader, State Senate: We have, in fact, reached an agreement on the 2002-2003 portion of the budget.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Responding to Ventura’s criticism, lawmakers put aside their historic differences, and in just three weeks, reached a budget accord.

ROGER MOE: The sooner we act, the sooner our state can begin its economic recovery. We feel that we have tried to address some of the major concerns by holding education all but harmless, by reinstating some additional resources for the Dislocated Workers Fund and other important issues.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The legislators managed to avoid any tax increases. Instead, they proposed cuts in health and human services, and some reductions to education– mostly public universities.

They would also dip heavily into a $1.3 billion reserve fund set up as a cushion for tough times. The lawmakers called it step one in tackling the multiyear budget problem, and urged Governor Ventura to sign the bill.

STEVE SVIGGUM, (R) Speaker, State House: I have zero idea why he would not agree with this. I would give him my humble advice, my humble direction, that he ought to sign this bill; he ought to take it with the good- faith first installment that it is.

GOV. JESSE VENTURA: If I were to grade it like in a schoolroom, if it were a report for a class, and I was a teacher, I would give it an “incomplete.”

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Governor Ventura said lawmakers were depleting reserve funds with short-term fixes– not dealing with inflation, with future deficits.

The governor proposed what he called permanent fixes: Deeper cuts across the board, and tax increases on gasoline and cigarettes.

GOV. JESSE VENTURA: It wasn’t easy for me. I’m a person that ran on, you know, “We’re not going to raise any taxes.” But I couldn’t foresee the result of September 11 and what it did to us, and you have to do what has to be done and not be afraid of it.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum said it wasn’t necessary to raise taxes, especially to tackle deficits in the future.

STEVE SVIGGUM: Governor Ventura’s recommendations were wrong. They created havoc, wrong priorities– cutting schools, raising taxes. When you’re trying to solve a budget three and a half years out to 2005… there’s only one other state that’s doing that– only one other state. And you know, I ask anybody in a rhetorical sense, you know, “where are you going to be in 2005? What type of moneys are you going to be making?” We’re going to have seven budget forecasts before then.

GOV. JESSE VENTURA: I am vetoing House File 351.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Charging that they were shirking their duties in a period of war, Governor Ventura vetoed the legislators budget plan. He was asked if overriding the veto was would be unpatriotic.

GOV. JESSE VENTURA: Yes, you’re darn right I’m saying that. The trickle-down of this attack has now hit Minnesota in our economy, and I’m asking Minnesotans to step up to the plate and be patriots instead of carpetbaggers.

TIM PAWLENTY, (R) State Representative: The governor is saying that anyone who opposes his tax increases is unpatriotic, and that is ridiculous and it’s shameless. And I think we don’t want to stand here and be lectured by him about public service at the legislature.

SPOKESMAN: And House File 351 is repassed, notwithstanding the veto of the governor.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Legislators managed to override Ventura’s veto. However, their bill does not erase all the deficit, so more reductions will be needed, dragging out an already tough session. The biggest hit from budget reductions will come in health and human service programs. That worries counselors at Lifetrack, many of whose clients are becoming ineligible for assistance under welfare reform.

JOHN MOHR: Families now are beginning to hit up against that five-year time limit that they can receive welfare benefits, and so that’s working a tremendous hardship on a goodly number of families here in this area. It’s an irony that at a time people need it the most, the resources are also being threatened significantly.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For their part, policymakers say exceptions will be made for hardship cases. But the best hope for everyone, they say, lies in an economic recovery. As the upper Midwest sorts through one of its worst slowdowns, few economists are expecting that anytime this year.

 

No video is available.

Islam in Uzbekistan

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Now, a special report from Central Asia, where militant Muslim fundamentalists, like the defeated Taliban, still want to seize power and impose strict Islamic rule on Muslims who are more moderate. Our case in point is Uzbekistan. The U.S. needs bases there to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, next door. But that requires an alliance with a repressive regime whose human rights and economic policies may be encouraging the very terrorism we oppose. Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from Tashkent.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Uzbekistan’s monuments and public buildings show its past as a Soviet republic. It’s now independent, but former Communist boss Islam Karimov still holds a tight rein over this remote central Asian country.

What has changed since the early 90s is the practice of Islam — flourishing once again as it did before the Soviet era. Eighty percent of the nation’s 24 million people belong to Uzbekistan’s relatively liberal Islamic tradition.

Those traditions were challenged soon after independence, with the advent of Muslim missionaries from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other nations. Shoazim Minavorov is with the government agency that regulates religious activity.

SHOAZIM MINAVOROV (Deputy Religion Minister): Uzbek people have always looked at Islam as peaceful. And it was with great trust that we accepted the foreign religious missionaries in our mosques. But what happened was that these missionaries brought a different brand of Islam which was alien, foreign to our people.

DE SAM LAZARO: The newcomers preached conservative ideas, stirring conflict and often violence, particularly in rural areas, according to Marat Zakhidov, a former member of parliament, now a human rights advocate.

MARAT ZAKHIDOV (Human Rights Advocate): People who were not willing to observe certain rules and rituals were boycotted. We saw the first manifestation of this extremism in 1997. I’m talking about assassinations of police and government officials, businessmen in Namangan and other areas.

DE SAM LAZARO: But Zakhidov says the government used the unrest as the pretext for widespread arrests of suspected Muslim fundamentalists and anyone else considered a government opponent.

A 1999 U.S. State Department report called Uzbekistan one of the world’s most oppressive nations. The government of Islam Karimov has jailed thousands of citizens, ostensibly in a crackdown on terrorist activities. But the report said many of those jailed were hauled in on trumped-up weapons or narcotics charges. Many were guilty of little more than attending services in a mosque.

Marat Zakhidov himself was fired from his job as a university professor and removed from parliament. With international support, he has managed to continue advocating for some of the 5,500 people he says are now detained. Many are tortured to extract confessions on vague charges of extremism.

Mr. ZAKHIDOV: These were the appeals I’ve had in just the last two weeks. The courts are totally corrupt it is virtually impossible to work with them. They take very unjust, even at times monstrous, decisions about the fate of people.

DE SAM LAZARO: The government defends its response, citing threats from an ill-defined network of terrorist organizations and an assassination attempt on the president in 1998.

Mr. MINAVOROV: There were cases where people, based on fundamentalist feelings, were calling for overthrow of the government, distributing leaflets, incidents of violence in Ferghana. So these people have been justly prosecuted.

DE SAM LAZARO: As for re-Islamization in Uzbekistan, he said, it will be according to Uzbek traditions.

Abdukayum Azimov cites eminent Islamic scholars from history who hail from this region. He heads the government-run institute which trains clerics for what he calls the moderate, Hanafi brand of Islam.

ABDUKAYUM AZIMOV (Imam, Al-Bukhari Islamic Institute): We do not need to be preached to about Islam. We are the inheritors of these great scholars. Hanafism is a harmonizing Islam, that takes into account local customs. Women don’t cover their faces, for example it’s more tolerant.

However, to some, this is not authentic Islam. Muktabar Ahmedova openly supports the creation of an Islamic republic of Uzbekistan, a position that for most Uzbeks would be grounds for treason. Ahmedova’s sex and age have apparently been grounds for leniency.

MUKTABAR AHMEDOVA: The Islam practiced here has been “Russified” — it’s been subjected to decades of atheist influences. If these people were not in power, we would in fact have a much purer form of Islam.

DE SAM LAZARO: Polls show that a large majority of Uzbeks prefer a secular nation. Still, fundamentalist groups hold some appeal. Despite oil and mineral wealth and fertile soil, the economy has faltered badly, leaving many people worse off than they were in Soviet times, according to Ravil Bukharaev. He’s an Islam scholar, now with BBC’s Russian Radio Service.

RAVIL BUKHARAEV (Islam scholar, BBC Russian Radio Service): These radical views flourish and flower in times of trouble, the so-called “gray areas” of history, where nobody understands nothing, except that they had something and now they are destitute.

DE SAM LAZARO: Economically?

Mr. BUKHARAEV: Of course, socially They had a social security. Now they have none and they turn to God because there’s nothing to turn to. So, where people have no hope for the future, especially where the government is corrupt, more or less, then these people are very active and they present a political force.

DE SAM LAZARO: Up and down Uzbekistan’s rugged highways there are military and police checkpoints. They’re off limits to cameras, but it’s here that farmers and other traders complain they’re forced to pay bribes to get through, and that further erodes their already minimal incomes.

Mr. ZAKHIDOV: School-children are forced to help their parents to survive, to get work wherever they can, rather than go to school. And the level of training of teachers has also diminished considerably.

DE SAM LAZARO: As rural literacy declines, a small urban elite flourishes. Sergei Yechkov is one of few journalists who’ve reported on the widespread corruption.

SERGEI YECHKOV (Journalist): It becomes bad manners if you have not paid a bribe. It has become an inalienable national characteristic of Uzbekistan. It explains the very limited amount of investment and difficulties in relations of Uzbekistan with other countries.

DE SAM LAZARO: This country’s proximity to Afghanistan has made it a key American ally and some human rights activists fear that this will prompt Washington to back off from earlier criticism of the regime’s human rights record, corruption, and the resulting economic decay — the very conditions that they say spawn Islamic fundamentalist movements, and sometimes terrorism.