2009 – Under-Told Stories Project

Under-Told Stories Project


Auto Industry Shows Small Signs of Recovery at Annual Detroit Show

electrical car chargerA recap of the Detroit Auto Show 2009.
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JIM LEHRER: Now, a pair of recession snapshots of two very different sectors of the economy. The first is the auto industry.

NewsHour special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from Detroit on the annual auto show.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO, NewsHour correspondent: After a week of expert reviews and previews, the doors of the Detroit auto show opened this weekend to the real target of the glitzy displays and marketing gimmicks: the car-buying public.

Kevin Smith braved snow and sub-zero temperatures to be here.

Are you in the market for an automobile?

KEVIN SMITH: Constantly.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: You’re a car nut, in other words?


FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But this 20-year General Motors veteran is looking for something much more basic than a new car.

KEVIN SMITH: Like a lot of folks right now, I am unemployed looking for my next great opportunity, which hopefully will be back in the auto industry.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The industry isn’t likely to start hiring back soon. Unemployment in this city is nearly 11 percent, and far fewer people are buying cars. In fact, some prominent brands — Nissan, Infinity and Suzuki — are not even represented here.

But this is the hometown of the big three, and there’s no shortage of loyal customers. Even though Japanese name brands stole headlines with new models, physician Jeff Klein and his wife, Sue, shopping for a small car, will not consider them.

Would you ever consider brands like Honda or Toyota?

CAR SHOW ATTENDEE: Not right now, no, because we really want to buy American. We’re trying to support American autoworkers, the UAW. It’s very important right now.

CAR SHOW ATTENDEE: We see the struggles of the industry around us. We want to help it any way we can.

Patriotic consumerism

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In this crowd, there’s a lot in a name, even though many Japanese, German and Korean models are made in the U.S., even though many Fords, for example, are made in Mexico.

TOM OVERBAUGH: I don’t know if I’d consider it American, but I would consider the car, yes, the car manufacturer.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Does the badge mean something to you?

TOM OVERBAUGH: Well, yes, Ford definitely means something to me.

CAR SHOW ATTENDEE: There’s some patriotic there. Believe me. There’s some there, yes. I try to buy American.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But that patriotic consumerism goes only so far. Both Tom Overbaugh and Gary Fowler are firmly opposed to federal aid to automakers, even if it means that some iconic names would disappear.

Can you imagine a world in America without General Motors?


FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But you’re willing to take that risk?

TOM OVERBAUGH: I am, yes, because, like I said, basically we’ve got the big three. And if one of them failed or went out of business, as I said, there would be a lot of people that would hurt for whatever length of time, but after that I think the other two that are left are going to pick up the slack.

I believe in capitalism. And I think it would take care of itself.

CAR SHOW ATTENDEE: I don’t think it would happen. I think…

CAR SHOW ATTENDEE: I think they’d reinvent themselves.

Industry tries to reinvent itself

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Car companies are already feeling pressure to reinvent themselves, even before the federal bailout. The University of Michigan’s Bruce Belzowski says government told them they had to raise fuel efficiency an average of 40 percent by 2020. That spurred some new models.

BRUCE BELZOWSKI, University of Michigan: You’re seeing a lot of smaller ones, the introduction of more hybrids into the fleet, as well as pure electrics. So there’s a lot of different ways that the manufacturers are approaching consumers, as well as, by extension, their new stakeholders, the U.S. government.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: G.M.’s plug-in Chevrolet Volt is considered a critical model in the company’s survival plan that will cost around $40,000 when it becomes available in two years. How much consumers are willing to pay for new technology is a key question.

CAR SHOW ATTENDEE: That car is definitely the future. There’s no doubt about it. If I had the money, I’d buy it.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That’s a huge if, if consumers have the money, and how much extra they’ll be willing to pay for fuel-efficient, eco-friendly cars.

PAULA PICKLE: Probably not a whole lot, a couple thousand bucks maybe, if I was going to get a long-term benefit out of gas.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So you would be willing to pay an extra couple of thousand dollars if it would save you more than that down the road?

PAULA PICKLE: And it didn’t impact performance.

MICHELE KREBS, automotive writer: If environmentalism is easy, people will do it, or it affects their pocketbook.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Michele Krebs is an editor with the automotive site Edmunds.com.

MICHELE KREBS: I mean, there clearly are people who are doing it for the environmental consciousness of it, the image of it. But I would say most people are doing it based on what’s good for their wallet.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: She says automakers face a daunting challenge, coaxing consumers into cars they’re not familiar with or sold on and, for as long as this recession continues, won’t be able to afford.

But auto shows are for fun, and it wasn’t hard to coax Kevin Smith to forget the troubled job market, to dream of future possibilities, and to relive the glory days and songs past.


Detroit Program Aims to Provide Job Training, Hope in Tough Times

photo of Elanor JosaitisEleanor Josaitis co-founded the Detroit program Focus: Hope more than three decades ago to provide job training and other opportunities to the city’s residents. With the U.S. mired in a recession and the auto industry future uncertain, her group is reinventing itself. Click here to watch the video »


JUDY WOODRUFF: Our next story profiles how one woman and the project she founded are working to heal deep divides and create new jobs in Detroit, where there’s been a prolonged recession. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has our report on this social entrepreneur.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO, NewsHour correspondent: In the 1960s, two million people lived in Detroit. Less than 900,000 live here today. Homes, like factories, are shuttered. The last elected mayor is in jail. And the football team lost all its games last season.

In a city short on optimism, this woman is known as an apostle of hope.

ELEANOR JOSAITIS, co-founder, Focus: Hope: It doesn’t happen unless we all hang in there together and say, “We’re not going to be intimidated by this.” God bless you. Keep up the fight.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Eleanor Josaitis has brought reconciliation, even created an island of prosperity, in one of America’s most distressed and racially polarized cities. She’s equally at ease whether among childcare workers organizing for better pay or Detroit’s glitterati, like General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner.

RICK WAGONER, CEO, General Motors: She’s my hero.

ELEANOR JOSAITIS: Oh, listen to him.

RICK WAGONER: No, really. Thanks for everything you do, all right?

ELEANOR JOSAITIS: Love you, hon. Love you.

RICK WAGONER: Really appreciate it. Now, you take care of yourself and we’ll see you…

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In 1968, she co-founded an organization called Focus: Hope, whose mission is to meet challenges with intelligent, practical actions, joining the late Father William Cunningham. They began working in Detroit to heal the growing racial divide in a riot-torn city. William Jones, a former Chrysler executive, recently became the group’s CEO.

WILLIAM JONES, CEO, Focus: Hope: Eleanor stands about five-foot-three and generally is the tallest person in the room. And I can say that. I’m six-foot-seven myself. But, generally, she’s the person that everybody sees. She’s also very, very compelling in terms of presenting the story of Focus: Hope.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In the 1960s, when whites were leaving in droves for the suburbs, Josaitis did the opposite. She took her family, including five children, and moved from the suburbs into Detroit to help Father Cunningham. It was a controversial move that provoked a painful family rift.

ELEANOR JOSAITIS: Were there challenging times? Extremely challenging, like when my mother hired an attorney to take my five children away from me. But if I’d have kept that pain in my heart, I’d never had been able to accomplish what we’ve done.

Founder overcomes tough times

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Focus: Hope began by distributing winter clothes and surplus government food commodities, but then it took on a very different challenge. In 1970, it sued Michigan’s largest insurance company for race discrimination. The litigation lasted 13 year, which saw powerful early supporters pull away.

ELEANOR JOSAITIS: The foundations left us, the corporations, the trust funds. You see, you get a lot of hugs and kisses and “God bless yous” when you’re providing food to people. But when you’re challenging a society or an institution, it’s not considered proper.

We won $10 million for the people that were discriminated against, and we run — we have a trust fund that we will manage for 25 years.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Funders gradually returned, including, eventually, the insurance company they sued. The money it received allowed Focus: Hope to expand exponentially, serving all sectors of the community, from small children to hungry adults.

But perhaps its biggest focus was helping people get jobs. It targeted teenagers with special classes to boost their English and math skills. They were also taught discipline. Any drugs, even tardiness to class, meant immediate dismissal, Father Cunningham told us when we first started covering the organization in 1992.

FATHER WILLIAM CUNNINGHAM, Co-Founder, Focus: Hope: We’re not in the business of saving souls here. We’re in the business of providing serious performance capabilities to young black men and women and others.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Focus: Hope also provided vocational training, bringing together former autoworkers who’d retired to the suburbs with inner-city students. The kids, like Andre Reynolds, dreamed big dreams when we met him 16 years ago.

ANDRE REYNOLDS, former trainee, Focus: Hope: So, if they have a problem, let’s just say in Germany, or in Japan, they will say, “Well, who can we get to solve the problem?” They say, “Well, call Andre Reynolds.” “Where is he?” “Well, last I heard, he was in Washington.” So they call me up, and I fly down to Japan, and I won’t need a translator, because I already know the language myself.

Focus: Hope evolves its mission

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Focus: Hope dreamed big too, lobbying both industry and government for funds in the early ’90s to turn a shuttered Ford factory into a cutting-edge center for advanced technologies. Father Cunningham said it would have an impact way beyond those being trained within.

FATHER WILLIAM CUNNINGHAM: It’s good of you, Senator. Thank you. God bless you. The check’s for $20 million.

In the center of Detroit, where the little kids can walk down the street, look in the windows, and see their older brothers and sisters in the highest ranks of technology, what a marvelous thing that is to see.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Focus: Hope’s fortunes rose along with the car companies in the mid-’90s, becoming a parts supplier to the industry and plowing all profits back into its programs. However, with growing outsourcing and slumping fortunes at the big three, this grand teaching factory experiment mostly came to an end.

ELEANOR JOSAITIS: I’m going to use the word “painful,” because that is what’s painful to me, to see this go, because this was Father Cunningham’s dream and vision, and we were really cranking it out.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Today, Focus: Hope’s annual budget — around $25 million — is about a third of its peak a few years ago, mostly because it got out of the parts manufacturing business.

A lot of people will watch this and say, “You built this whole thing for an industry that pulled the rug out from under you.”

ELEANOR JOSAITIS: No, I mean, it’s just the time. I don’t blame the automotive industry. I mean, it’s changing times. And everybody’s got to change with it. And we’ve got to be in a transformational mood just like they are. And I just refuse to be intimidated by the moment. It’ll turn around, and we’re going to help turn it around.

And what are we doing with the contracts for the Navy?

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Despite the downturn, Focus: Hope is trying to stay ahead of the curve, turning from manufacturing to research. It has contracts with the Navy and is helping develop a so-called mobile parts hospital for the Army.

It’s like a MASH unit for vehicles, is that essentially it?

The slow economy aside, experts say there’s a severe shortage of machinists and engineers across the U.S. They say the prospects remain very bright for the 200 engineers and 2,400 machinists who’ve graduated from here.

TEACHER: And you can connect your Ethernet cables to the routers, but do not connect serial cables until you can figure that router.

Personal stories inspire co-founder

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And for almost a decade, Focus: Hope has also trained almost 1,000 students in the growing information technology field.

ELEANOR JOSAITIS: You know, the thing that thrills me most is when the young people that we train around here come back and throw their arms around me and say, “I’ve got a job, I’ve bought a house, I got married.” I mean, you know, those are the things that keep me going every single day.

ANDRE REYNOLDS: Hello, Ms. Josaitis.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: One of those whose story thrills her is Andre Reynolds, the young dreamer. He went on to get his engineering degree and is now a seven-year veteran at Ford, part of the design team for new models. Reynolds says one of the most valuable lessons he learned at Focus: Hope was how to survive the bruising automotive downturn.

ANDRE REYNOLDS: You have to actually show the company that, hey, you’re hiring me because of these skills that I have. And not only do I have these skills, but I can also adapt and learn more skills. I learn different software, different techniques every day of my job.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: As for Eleanor Josaitis, 70-something and a cancer survivor, she keeps on going.

ELEANOR JOSAITIS: Thanks for the check. Yes, I know.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: She works 12 hours a day and has no plans to retire.


Ancient Christians in India

old bookIn southern India, in Kerala, there are millions of people known as St. Thomas Christians. Their ancestors, many believe, were converted by the Apostle Thomas in the first century. Portuguese missionaries later destroyed most of the ancient church writings, replacing them with their own. But now Benedictine monks at St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota are rediscovering the surviving texts.
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BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: In southern India, in Kerala, there are millions of people known as St. Thomas Christians. Their ancestors, many believe, were converted by the Apostle Thomas in the first century. Portuguese missionaries later destroyed most of the ancient church writings, replacing them with their own. But now Benedictine monks at St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota are rediscovering the surviving texts. Fred de Sam Lazaro has a close-up view of all this. He is both our correspondent and journalist-in-residence at St. John’s University.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota may be best known in the world of biblical manuscripts for its illuminated, hand-written Bible.

Reverend COLUMBA STEWART, OSB (St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN, handing over manuscripts): Ethiopian manuscript, Latin manuscript.

DE SAM LAZARO: But also here, in the subterranean Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, is one of the most extensive records of sacred texts from around the world.

Reverend STEWART: This project of preserving manuscripts photographically was started out of our Benedictine tradition of being guardians of culture. The monasteries have been places where texts particularly have been treasured.

DE SAM LAZARO: Father Columba Stewart’s quest to record church history, to fill in its blanks, has taken him to the farthest trails of early Christianity — Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and, perhaps the least well-known destination, Kerala, a province in southwestern India where he recently brought a delegation of his museum’s benefactors.

Rev. STEWART: We got to India through the Middle East, and of course that’s how Christianity got to India in the first place. There’s an assumption that there were no Christians in India until the Western missionaries brought the Gospel to this land of pagans, and that’s not the truth at all.

DE SAM LAZARO: Long before it reached many parts of Europe, Christianity came across the Arabian Sea to Kerala along the thriving spice trade routes. Today about seven million people, a fifth of Kerala’s population, call themselves St. Thomas Christians after Jesus’ apostle, who many here believe arrived in India in 52 A.D. Even today, parts of some liturgies are sung in Syriac, close to the Aramaic language spoken by Christ.

Professor ISTVAN PERCZEL (Department of Medieval Studies, CEU): They claim to have been converted by St. Thomas the Apostle. This we cannot prove either or disprove. But from the, I don’t know, third, perhaps fourth century onwards we have testimony to their existence here.

DE SAM LAZARO: Professor Istvan Perczel, a Hungarian scholar of medieval Christianity, has championed the effort to document Kerala’s church history, bringing together the Minnesota monastery and local Indian scholars

Prof. PERCZEL (looking at manuscript): Hmmm. We have never seen this.

DE SAM LAZARO: He’s spent months in Kerala scouring dusty church closets for old texts and records.

Prof. PERCZEL (pointing at page in manuscript): Can we come back to digitize this?

DE SAM LAZARO: Most of these go back only as far as the beginning of colonization around the 15th century, when the first European colonists — the Portuguese — arrived to find both spices and the St. Thomas Christians who, they discovered, were a distant branch of Middle Eastern Orthodox churches

Rev. STEWART: By their lights, viewing it through the lens of the 15th- and 16th-century European perspective, these people were heretics. They were concerned that their liturgies and their other writings be purified and corrected on the basis of what a Portuguese Latin-Rite Roman Catholic would expect to be normative. So there is very, very little manuscript evidence from before the Portuguese era, because the Portuguese were very good at collecting these manuscripts that they’d already found, destroying them, and issuing corrected copies of them.

(speaking to Father Ignatius): So, Father Ignatius, this is your oldest Syriac manuscript?

Reverend IGNATIUS PAYYAPPILLY (Director, Catholic Art Museum of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, India): This is the oldest Syriac manuscript which I have here in these archives. It is written in 1563.

Rev. STEWART: It’s a Syriac manuscript, but there’s a Latin note that this manuscript belonged to the Carmelites, and it’s interesting that they write it in Latin. It, again, tells you something about the religious situation.

DE SAM LAZARO: Latin or Roman Catholic were introduced or imposed on the St. Thomas Christians, though Syriac continued in use in their liturgies. But many outlawed rites survived, as did factions that resisted pledging loyalty to a Syriac patriarch instead of the pope. Scribes from Kerala were later sent to the Middle East to recover texts destroyed by the Portuguese. The only surviving copies of many are now in Kerala.

Rev. STEWART: Those are treasures, because we can find manuscripts that may have disappeared in Middle Eastern libraries, some collections of East Syrian canon law, for example, preserved in unique manuscripts in Kerala, which haven’t survived because of the later persecution of these Christians in the Middle East in the 19th and 20th centuries.

DE SAM LAZARO: The Kerala church, meanwhile, has seen schisms both between and within the Western and Eastern branches. But through it all the St. Thomas Christians have maintained a distinctly Indian — that is non-European — character.

Rev. PAYYAPILLY: We are Christians in faith, and we are Indian in citizenship, and we are Hindus in culture.

DE SAM LAZARO: Father Ignatius Payyapilly started this museum a few years ago, collecting relics and statues mostly from demolished church buildings.

Rev. PAYYAPILLY: See the halo of Jesus around his head, Jesus, and see the long ears and his hair. These are all typical resemblance of the statue of Buddha.

DE SAM LAZARO: Although the Western scholars first came in search of Syriac manuscripts, they’ve also discovered a rich local history inscribed on palm leaves and in Malayalam, the local language, and tongues that preceded it. Much of it is everyday church accounts and records. Valuable history to scholars — just clutter to most priests in the local churches

SUSAN THOMAS (Church Scholar): And most of these palm leaves were, you know, either put in somewhere where you have them exposed to termites and mice, or just put up with the logs and water wells or the waste material. Sometimes they burn it up.

DE SAM LAZARO: The palm leaves reveal a community that could serve as a model of interfaith harmony in a larger region that’s often seen sectarian violence. The churches employed Hindu scribes, for example, and bishops enjoyed warm relations with the local kings who reigned in the area

Rev. PAYYAPILLY: I have seen here in these archives a beautiful document written by the bishop — handwritten together with the printed one — requesting all the churches belonging to the Cochin Kingdom — they should celebrate the 60th birthday of the king.

DE SAM LAZARO: The king is Hindu?

Rev. PAYYAPILLY: Yes, the king is a Hindu…and they have to say special mass, solemn high mass for the longevity of this king.

DE SAM LAZARO: There’s still much to be analyzed, much to be discovered. All of it will be digitized — rescued from moisture, termites, and neglect and stored here for scholars and for posterity. There will also be back-up copies in an unlikely safe haven: a monastery in central Minnesota.

For RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY, this is Fred de Sam Lazaro.


Feeding Nigeria

woman pouring grain out of a basketIn the first of a series of reports about food security, Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on how the efforts to improve Nigeria’s food supply are hindered by scarcity of water and high supply costs. Click here to watch the video »



FRED DE SAM LAZARO, correspondent: This busy food market in Mayadoua sits just inside Nigeria’s northern border. A lot of produce, like these beans, is from neighboring Niger, even though that nation’s 13 million people are often on the brink of starvation. The economics are simple: Prices are higher in oil-rich Nigeria.

But why is Nigeria even importing food? Agricultural produce used to be its main export. Now it must turn to neighbors to feed its growing population, already Africa’s largest at 140 million.

Most Nigerians live on farms, but today many, like the extended Usman family, can barely provide for themselves. The rains provided a good crop of sorghum and maize this season, maybe enough to get through the dry season. But even as the ladies sing to celebrate a good crop, Ramatu Usman and Aisha Yusuf say each new year brings new uncertainty.

AISHA YUSUF SAY: We’ve had difficult times when rainfall was poor, when we had to rely on leaves and shrubs.

RAMATU USMAN: We pluck them, boil them, sprinkle with salt, sometimes eat them with peanut butter.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Not that the food they enjoy today is either bountiful or balanced. The U.N. says almost a third of Nigeria’s young children are moderately to severely underweight.

In this family’s main daily meal is a starchy porridge, flavored with chilies, dried tomatoes, and monosodium glutamate, or MSG, an additive that mimics the taste of meat, as they rarely have the real thing. The few goats and poultry are the savings account, sold to buy clothes or medicine or to pay for a wedding.

Much of the blame for the poor state of Nigerian agriculture lies with the successive military dictatorships, which since the 1970s promised, but never delivered, on grandiose modernization plans.

Muhammad Sabo Nanono heads a group of large farmers.

MUHAMMAD SABO NANONO, farm organizer: The focus was how to improve farming through a large-scale effort, as well as through the creation of facilities for dry-season farming. And this resulted in the construction of several dams in this country, in several irrigation schemes.

Fuel shortages

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The Djibiya dam project was one part of the grand plan. Its canal network is supposed to water surrounding fields during the dry season, affording two crops a year instead of one. But much of the network is bone dry.

The water should be gushing through this canal. Instead, there’s grass growing in it. The problem is that the electric supply is erratic around there and there’s no diesel to run the pumps. No diesel in one of the world’s most energy-rich nations.

A few fields have benefited in Djibiya, alongside sloped canals that get water through gravity. But Yusuf Suleiman, a nearby farmer, says many growers have been burned trying to plant dry-season crops.

YUSUF SULEIMAN, Farmer: There were times before when people were mobilized, activity took off very well, but, unfortunately, somewhere in the middle there was a scarcity of water, so some people lose whatever they might have put in to place.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Other farmers say they’ve been crippled by soaring costs of fertilizers, seeds, and especially diesel fuel.

KABIR ABUBAKER MATAZU, farmer (through translator): We used to get five gallons of diesel for two naira. Now it is 180 naira.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In Katsina province, Kabir Abubaker Matazu has seen nothing but losses since buying 1,000 acres in the early 1970s.

KABIR ABUBAKER MATAZU (through translator): The aim was to go into mechanized farming, using tractors, et cetera. But as you can see, they are here lying idle; 1987 was the last time we cultivated the whole farm.

No price controls of goods

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Matazu says the government has done little to assure farmers can recover their costs, let alone make a profit.

KABIR ABUBAKER MATAZU (through translator): There should be some control of price of commodities in the market. Farmers need support from government to find a market that will make it work. As it is, there is no control on prices. One season, the price is very low; another year, it’s very high.

MUHAMMAD SABO NANONO: So the farmers are exposed to the vagaries of price volatility. Today, if maize was given more money, people will rush to maize next year, and then the price of maize will collapse.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For decades, the government plan has been to stabilize prices by building a strategic reserve. That would enable it to buy grain and to store or release it into the marketplace to curb wild price swings.

GUIDO FIRETTI, Contractor: Well, this is the 25,000-ton strategic grain reserve for Kaduna. It’s presently at 75 percent stage of completion.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: There were supposed to be about three dozen such facilities, but fewer than half were ever completed, and those that were, never been more than half-filled. This one was started 20 years ago, says Guido Firetti, whose Italian firm was hired to finish it.

GUIDO FIRETTI: I believe it was awarded in ’89, ’90, and construction started here in ’91 and stopped in ’92, due to some various problems. Some of their materials were missing. And since then, it has been in a state of non-completion, until recently, when it was re-awarded.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s one more symbol of a government flush with oil revenues that lost its bearings, says Sabo Nanono.

MUHAMMAD SABO NANONO: The reality of the situation is the easy money that we get from the oil industry has created more problems than solutions, that we became virtually a consumer nation rather than a productive nation. And that culminated into huge imports of actually rice, even maize, and also imports of all other luxury items.

Oil revenues

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He says oil revenues went to buy everything that should have been made or grown here, policies that urbanized the country, even built a whole new capital city, Abuja.

Thomas Odemwingie is with the non-government group, Action Aid.

THOMAS ODEMWINGIE, Action Aid: A lot of the able-bodied people, you know, who otherwise were involved in our culture now are headed for the cities. The local people, what do they have to show for the big dams? You know, their poverty — their situation never changes.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Who made the money with all these dams?

THOMAS ODEMWINGIE: Who made the money? The private, you know, contractors who got the contract to build the dams, and most of them are foreigners. They are foreign, you know, firms.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: There are glimmers of hope that things are turning around in a country that only in the last decade or so has moved from military to democratic rule.

Guido Firetti points out that projects like this silo are finally being completed.

GUIDO FIRETTI: And it is the first time in so many years that we are — we are hearing that they want to increase capacity and they want to boost agriculture. And, of course, we have to believe them until we are proven wrong.

Government’s response

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Farmer Yusuf Suleiman, a member of the ruling party, is betting things will turn around, that government will become more responsive. He’s investing in a dry-season crop for the first time in years.

YUSUF SULEIMAN: The minister of water resources was in Djibiya about four weeks ago on this project, and he made a pledge that the government is going to supply all the facilities that are required for this irrigation plan.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: You’re prepared to bet that this government will deliver the water you need this winter?

YUSUF SULEIMAN: Inshallah, inshallah, by the grace of God.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s critical for the larger region that farmers like Suleiman succeed, that Nigeria begins to meet more of its own food needs. With its large population and oil revenues, there’s widespread fear that Nigeria will increasingly crowd out its smaller, impoverished neighbors from the region’s food market.


Nigeria’s Polio Fight

little girl receiving a drop of polio vaccinePolio continues to be a major medical problem in Nigeria where suspicions about vaccines and other issues have revived the crippling disease. Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from Nigeria on efforts to curb the polio problem.
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GWEN IFILL: Next, another in our series of stories on global health issues. Tonight, tackling the scourge of polio.

Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from Nigeria.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO, NewsHour Correspondent: For as long as he’s walked, 48-year-old Aminu Ahmed Twada has walked on his hands. His lower limbs are withered by polio. He lives in one of the last places on Earth still threatened by the disease.

Nigeria has vast oil reserves, but political instability and economic mismanagement have brought widespread poverty. The average life expectancy is just 45.

But Twada’s is a story of success against daunting odds. He has a thriving business in tricycles used by the handicapped. But he has a much grimmer message that he tries to get across to parents as he coaxes them to immunize their kids.

AMINU AHMED TWADA (through translator): I will tell them, “Do you want your son to be like me? Look at me. I am a polio victim. I cannot join police. I cannot join army. I cannot even join football.”

Misinformation about vaccine

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Polio is spread mainly through poor hygiene and sanitation, problems in so much of the developing world, but it is easily prevented with a course of oral vaccines discovered decades ago which wiped out polio in the United States.

In 1989, a campaign was launched to eradicate it worldwide. When the campaign began about two decades ago, polio claimed 350,000 victims, spread across 125 countries. Today, that number is down to less than 2,000, and polio is endemic in just four countries: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and here in Nigeria.

And only in Nigeria is the situation getting worse.

FAIZA GIDADO, Physical Therapist (through translator): The number is increasing every day. The number of polio patients is increasing.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: This hospital is in Kano in northern Nigeria, the polio epicenter. Physical therapist Faiza Gidado says they sometimes see 50 new patients a week brought here to stem the paralysis.

FAIZA GIDADO (through translator): Normally we do infrared for them. That is a treatment over here which will warm the place and thereby increase blood supply to the area. We also do electrical stimulation by stimulating the muscles, the weak muscles.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The campaign against polio in Nigeria had been making progress, but about five years ago it began to run into opposition which started in some mosques in this conservative, predominantly Muslim region.

In 2003, not long after the U.S. invaded Iraq, a rumor took hold around Kano that the polio campaign was, in fact, a U.S.-led conspiracy against Muslims, that the vaccine would cause the children to become infertile. That rumor mill spread enough fear that several regional governments in northern Nigeria suspended their vaccination campaigns for as long as 13 months.

We could not find any religious leaders willing to talk now about their opposition to the vaccine campaign. But Ibrahim el Khalid, an Islamic scholar, says African history is filled with injustices that make it easy to stir up suspicion and anxiety here.

IBRAHIM EL KHALID, Islamic Scholar (through translator): Even some doctors, even some scholars, some educationists, they believe it, so that’s what brings all the problems.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So people thought it was a plot by the American government, to sterilize children?

IBRAHIM EL KHALID (through translator): Yes. You know politics, how it is. They think America does not like Muslims.

Difficulty vaccinating everyone

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The campaign had to regroup, says Dr. Stephen Blount. He’s with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, a partner with several U.N. and private agencies and foundations in the immunization drive.

DR. STEPHEN BLOUNT, U.S. Centers for Disease Control: We listen carefully to their concerns, took members of that community to see how the tests were done. And, in fact, I think the vaccines here were actually produced in Indonesia, a Muslim country. And so that was an important step in counteracting some of the fear and increasing the acceptance at the level of the religious leaders.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Now the vaccination campaign is again in full swing. Village by village, it begins with a town crier announcing the arrival of a vaccination team, urging parents to bring the young children in.

Along with the oral polio vaccine, the children are also given a shot for measles, which still kills hundreds of children each year in Nigeria.

Even with the blessings of religious leaders, experts say the campaign falls short in critical areas. For example, among frontline workers, most employed by local governments, there’s often inadequate training, equipment and motivation.

Jonathan Majiyagbe is with Rotary International, one of the polio campaign sponsors.

JONATHAN MAJIYAGBE, Rotary International: Are vaccinators able to reach the houses? When they reach the houses, do they get all the people in the house? Some people give us results that they’ve been to houses when the truth is that they probably have not been there.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And sometimes they get to a house too late. Two-year-old Saria  developed a fever, then got progressively worse, say her parents, Abdul and Hassana Muhammed.

HASSANA MUHAMMED (through translator): About four days ago, her legs stopped moving. She was walking before. She’s able to sit up, but she can no longer move.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: They rented the regional public health facility, which alerted the polio campaign. While they awaited tests to confirm the disease, Saria’s parents were instructed to massage the child’s lower body with hot compresses. Until now, they knew nothing about polio.

HASSANA MUHAMMED (through translator): Never heard anything. We’ve never been to the hospital or anything like that.

Political commitment necessary

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: At the core of the problem is an underfunded, uncoordinated public health system, one that suffered from neglect over the very same decades that Nigeria’s revenues as one of the world’s top oil exporters have grown.

DR. MUHAMMAD ALI PATE: For primary care in particular, we have 774 local governments. The coordination was not optimal.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate recently returned after years of training and working in the U.S. He was invited by Nigeria’s government to repair a broken system. He runs into people with more immediate medical needs and says they wonder why there’s so much fuss over polio prevention.

DR. MUHAMMAD ALI PATE: It is something that we have to work to explain to make sure that communities understand the value that this is a disease that can be prevented, to actually let them feel this is something that is only a part, and that in the medium to longer term we need to rebuild primary health care system so it’s able to deliver not only polio vaccines, but measles vaccines, maternal health services, as well as just basic care package.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The CDC’s Dr. Blount says rebuilding the primary care system will take something that’s been absent from much of recent history.

DR. STEPHEN BLOUNT: The key issue here and elsewhere is political commitment. The leaders of this country have to demonstrate not only their occasional interest, but their ongoing interest. And by that I mean holding accountable the officials that report to them on making progress. We’re seeing some more of that happen. That’s the next key step.

Public communication is crucial

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Polio campaigners in northern Nigeria say their next step is to convince everyone that the vaccine is needed.

JONATHAN MAJIYAGBE: The rumors die hard.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: They still find people who believe the vaccine harms kids. It’s particularly painful for Rotary’s Majiyagbe. Until 2005, he was the global president of Rotary, which has raised almost $1 billion to eradicate polio.

JONATHAN MAJIYAGBE: It breaks my heart. I mean, I also expected that, thank God, during my time as president, we would finish this job. And that was the very moment in my own home state that the exercise was temporarily paralyzed.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And for countless children, the paralysis will be lifelong. Aminu Twada and his wife, Hadissa, who’s also a childhood polio victim, say they waited anxiously for months during the suspended campaign before polio vaccines were once again made available.

But it was too late for your boy?

FATHER: Yes, got the disease, too late for my boy.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Tragically, their six-year-old son, Umar, was infected, a victim as much of political squabbling and official neglect as polio.


MLK Jr. in Gandhi’s Footsteps

people in suits throwing flowersFifty years ago at the beginning of America’s civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. went to India to walk in the footsteps of one of his heroes, Mohandas Gandhi, who had led India’s successful struggle for independence from Britain. Dr. King was strongly influenced by Gandhi’s teachings of nonviolent resistance. Recently, Dr. King’s son and many civil rights veterans revisited India to honor both King and Gandhi. Download the video podcast »

In Nigeria, Christianity and Islam Combine

two posters on a wall reading life is beautiful and shari'ah our pride their fearFred de Sam Lazaro reports on the blending of Christianity and Islam in Lagos, Nigeria, as an avenue to rediscovering the West African tradition of interfaith tolerance.



GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, mixing Christianity and Islam under one roof. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from Lagos, Nigeria. A version of this story aired on the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.”

FRED DE SAM LAZARO, NewsHour Correspondent: This is one of hundreds of small churches in Lagos, but perhaps the only one that has on its lectern both Koran and Bible. The invocations come loudly from both.

It’s all the more unusual in a country often torn by religious conflict. Half of Nigeria’s 140 million people are Muslim; the other half practice some form of Christianity.

Sectarian violence has led to thousands of deaths over the years. Last November, such conflict in the city of Jos, often based on land disputes, claimed more than 300 lives.

But practitioners of so-called Chrislam, 1,500 on some Sundays, see no religious fault line.

Shamsuddin Saka — he’s called Prophet — says they are all children of Abraham.

PASTOR SAKA (through translator): Abraham has many children. Abraham is the father of Christianity and the father of Islam. Why are the Christian and Muslim fighting?

Bringing faiths together

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Saka was born Muslim, and it was after returning from a hajj pilgrimage to Mecca that he was inspired — he says instructed by God — to launch his new ministry.

PASTOR SAKA (through translator): That was about 19 years ago. Then there were a lot of people killing themselves in Nigeria 19 years ago. So I was praying, and I lied down, and the lord told me, “When you get to your country, make peace between the Christians and Muslims.”

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He’s done that most noticeably in this dusty Lagos neighborhood, bringing the fates together in a blended liturgy.

It begins each Sunday morning with Koranic prayers in an open floor space that, like a mosque, has no pews. These then give way to prayer with the congregation seated in chairs, well, sometimes seated.

It gets intense, almost trance-like, similar to a Pentecostal Christian service, and climaxes with a sermon from Saka.

On this day, he hit repeatedly on themes of prayerfulness and the commonality between Islam and Christianity.

PASTOR SAKA: Is that how we bring Christian and Muslim together?

Picking from each tradition

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Islam was brought to West Africa by Arab traders 10 centuries ago, Christianity by European colonization starting in the 15th century. And although it’s unusual to see it under the same roof, it’s not uncommon for ordinary people, even professed Muslims, to pick and choose from each tradition, says Mara Leichtman, an anthropologist at Michigan State University.

DR. MARA LEICHTMAN, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Michigan State University: They believe, in some cases in various African counties of what I’ve call spirituality without boundaries. So it’s nothing foreign to a Muslim to believe in Jesus, to pray in Jesus, or some of the other prophets, to light a candle for the Virgin Mary, for example, as I’ve experienced Muslims do in churches in Senegal.

Helping people cope

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And, she says, in a land where spirituality is a dominant force, economic hardships may also push people to try new ideas. Nigeria has vast oil wealth, but it’s only benefited a few. Per capita income is just $850 a year, for example, life expectancy about 45 years.

DR. MARA LEICHTMAN: If they’re poor, if they’re suffering from HIV-AIDS, if they’re trying to understand a changing political situation, finding a new religion is one way of coping with the situation, of looking for new leadership, of trying to have control on their own through prayer, through different rituals of something that may not necessarily be controllable.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Many who come to Chrislam are praying for what Saka calls deliverance, from illness, for example. Cawakalit Adecunji, who was born Muslim, came to Chrislam 15 years ago when she couldn’t have children.

CAWAKALIT ADECUNJI (through translator): I now have children. I came and saw that miracles are performed here. Those who didn’t have children have children. Those who are lame are walking. And the blind are now seeing.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: At the service, there are petitions for miracles of health and wealth, not unusual in some churches, but Saka insists it’s compatible with Islam, too.

PASTOR SAKA (through translator): Islam is a religion of peace, of love, of miracles. When you’re talking about miracles, Islam is a miracle itself. The founding of the Koran itself is a miracle.

Rediscovering interfaith tolerance

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And every week, people testify to what they claim are miracles: a child conceived or a business deal. Saka himself drives a late-model Hummer, the gift of two followers whose prayers were answered, he says.

PASTOR SAKA (through translator): Listen to me, I’m a millionaire before my call. You know we don’t collect much money. We collect 50 naira, 10 naira, 20 naira. This is not my own source of income.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The shiny SUV may raise eyebrows, but Saka insists he doesn’t benefit personally from the tithes of his congregants. His fortune came long before his call to ministry, he says, from a real estate business.

Even skeptics give Saka credit for setting an example with this worship community for how people like Samson Antimola see themselves…

Are you Christian or Muslim now?

SAMSON ANTIMOLA: Whatever you call me, I am.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: … for rediscovering the tradition in West Africa of interfaith tolerance.


School Principal Changes the Lives of the Poor

nun holding the door of a bus open for childrenSister Cyril Mooney, principal of the Loreto Day School in Kolkata, India, is working to provide poor children a place to learn by day and a safe haven at night. Fred de Sam Lazaro reports. Click here to watch the video »



JIM LEHRER: Now, the story of a Catholic school principal who is changing children’s lives in Calcutta, India. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has that story. A version of his report aired on the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.”

SISTER CYRIL MOONEY, principal of Loreto Day School: Left, left, left, right, left, left, left…

FRED DE SAM LAZARO, NewsHour correspondent: With her habit, her whistle, she’s the sergeant of this morning drill, in many ways the old-fashioned parochial school principal who can strike terror in encounters like this…

SISTER CYRIL MOONEY: Are you aware that you tried to cheat?

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: … encounters the student will carry well into adulthood.

SISTER CYRIL MOONEY: So now say to me, “Yes, Sister, I’m very sorry. I did cheat.”

YOUNG FEMALE STUDENT: Yes, Sister, I am very sorry. I did cheat.

SISTER CYRIL MOONEY: You did cheat, right? Look at the tears. Are you sorry? OK. It shouldn’t happen again, all right? Once the tears come, you know that the contrition is there, you know?

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And so you think she’s cured, basically?

SISTER CYRIL MOONEY: She won’t do it again. None of them ever do it a second time when they’re caught.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Sister Cyril Mooney has transformed the lives of thousands of children in this school and across the city of Calcutta.

She grew up in Ireland, where she joined the Loreto Order and went to India in 1956. She got a PhD in zoology and began teaching in the elite English-language Loreto schools begun during colonial days.

But she found the quiet, comfortable life discomforting.

SISTER CYRIL MOONEY: I was appalled by the poverty almost outside our gate.

School takes in street children

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So when she took over this school in 1979, this social entrepreneur cut in half the number of traditional fee-paying students, forgoing revenues for things one might find in elite schools, like a swimming pool. The uniform hasn’t changed, but today 50 percent of these students — most from the slums — attend for free.

In 1983, Sister Cyril reached beyond the slums to an even lower rung of poverty: street children. Their families live on the sidewalks, rural migrants who must leave their children to fend for themselves as they look for work as laborers.

For these kids, the Loreto doors are always open to come in for a meal or a bath. They’re never forced to stay. The children must decide on their own if it’s better here than on the street, where many have learned to survive.

SISTER CYRIL MOONEY: I went over to meet someone off the station, and this little one ran up to me with a cup of tea. She told me, “I make my living by picking people’s pockets. But I only pick what I need.” Now, what do you do with a child like that? What? Eight years of age. I mean, unless we can do something better, why should we take away their survival skills?

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Survival skills or not, street children are vulnerable to being trafficked into the sex trade. So the Loreto Day School has become a night shelter, called the Rainbow Program, where about 250 girls study, play, eat, and sleep. The school’s roof terrace has been converted into a dormitory.

The next morning, the children of judges and doctors mingle with those of rag pickers, their lives intertwined on purpose. Every so-called regular student is required to spend at least two hours a week tutoring a Rainbow child.

Not only have social barriers fallen, Sister Cyril says, but the students have become advocates for change. They volunteer to teach in rural areas, and they’ve tackled the pervasive use of domestic child labor in middle-class homes.

SISTER CYRIL MOONEY: It’s against the law to employ a child below the age of 18, but many of these children are passed off as relations up from the village, so nobody can catch the employers.

But our children who live next door to them and are the same social standing — parents — as the employers of these, they go and they fight with the employers, and they get out these children to come and play, and they identify them. Now they brought them in for a camp, a medical camp.

Children form dreams of their own

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: On this day, several busloads of young domestics were brought in for routine health check-ups.

I see children here who look they’re not even 10 years old, Sister.

SISTER CYRIL MOONEY: Oh, yes, this one. He’s only 7 years old.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Seven years old and on-call 24/7 to gather water, wash utensils, to wipe floors. A few lucky ones, like Saloni Khatun, are rescued early enough so they have fewer learning handicaps.

Saloni is a third-grader, brought here four years ago by a Loreto alumna who noticed she was being abused by her employers.

SALONI KHATUN: One day I was wiping, and they were not in the home. She took me here.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: She took you from the home?


FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What were you wiping? The wall?




FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So you were wiping the floor, and this girl came and got you?

SALONI KHATUN: Yes. She brought me here.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What would you like to be when you grow up?

SALONI KHATUN: Air hostess.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Air hostess? What do they do?

SALONI KHATUN: For helping others.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Helping others, whether on an airplane or on the streets, is a common refrain. Teresa Shah, an 11th-grader, was brought here when she was three by her mother, who still lives under a sidewalk tarp. She plans to go to college, then work, and says she’ll share her wages with Loreto and with her family.

TERESA SHAH: After my studies I’ll find a job, then I’ll earn something, and first earnings I want to give it to Sister, because this is the place where everything is for us.

SISTER CYRIL MOONEY: My hope is that every child who comes out will have a better future, and I think the next generation will have a very good future.

Breaking the cycle of poverty

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: You’ve broken the cycle of poverty.

SISTER CYRIL MOONEY: Yes, we’ve broken that cycle.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But how to break the cycle of endless need in a city of 15 million and growing? Sister Cyril’s approach can be found in classes that train so-called barefoot teachers. Most are women with some formal education nominated by their communities to come here for a six-week course. They come from rural areas or Calcutta’s burgeoning slums, where they return to teach.

This community near Calcutta’s eastern bypass road is sandwiched between railroad tracks and a lake now being filled to make way for a metro station. It’s populated mostly by rural migrants desperately seeking work in a city that long ago ran out of room.

But this slum now has a school. Teacher Jharna Naskar, trained at Loreto, says it was a top priority for parents here.

JHARNA NASKAR, teacher (through translator): I’ve seen these children roaming around here. They were in such bad conditions, dirty conditions. Now they’re here, learning some songs, some classroom exercises. Also, they’re learning about health and hygiene.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Jharna Naskar is one of 7,000 barefoot teachers trained by Sister Cyril, an achievement that has not gone unnoticed.

ANNOUNCER: Sister M. Cyril Mooney…

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In 2007, India’s government recognized her with one of the country’s highest civilian honors, rarely bestowed on foreigners.

SISTER CYRIL MOONEY: I ask myself, what are you here for? Are you here to produce agents of human change among your children? Are you here to change the mental set of people? So even if you do it with a small number, it spreads.

After all, Mahatma Gandhi was only one man. He managed to get the might of the British Empire out of India, which is something quite fantastic. I mean, we can do it if all of us will work together.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It all began here, but today some 350,000 children across Calcutta are off the streets and sitting in some form of classroom.


Aravind Eye Hospital

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Aravind is the world’s largest eye care center, a one-stop shop that even makes many of the lenses and instruments used by its surgeons. It looks like any of India’s high tech centers where rich Indians and medical tourists can get first-world care at third-world prices. The surgical error rate is as low here as any place in America. The big difference at Aravind is that its patients are among the world’s poorest people.

Twenty years ago, I visited Aravind’s founder, Dr. Govindappa Venkatswamy. Everybody called him Dr. V. He had retired from a government hospital in 1976 and set out to tackle “needless blindness.” Worldwide, 45 million people still suffer from preventable or reversible blindness. Twelve million are in India alone, where the extreme sun and a genetic predisposition are blamed. Many people lose their sight—and livelihood—by their early 50s.

post01-aravindeyeDr. GOVINDAPPA VENKATASWAMY (Aravind Founder, speaking in 1988): There is nothing which disables a man more than cataract and poor eyesight, and there is nothing more easier than to mend it. You just do a small operation.

DE SAM LAZARO: Dr. V began with a simple idea in a sparse 11-bed hospital with four doctors, three from his own family. It would serve patients who could pay, but the profits would afford free care to the many more people who couldn’t afford even the bus fare. So Aravind set out to find patients, mainly through screening camps in surrounding rural areas. For those needing surgery, groups like the Lions Club provided buses to the hospital, where they entered a brisk assembly line operating room. Dr. V’s business role model was the American chain store.

Dr. VENKATASWAMY: In America you have models, whether it is Sears stores or McDonald’s hamburgers. You are able to open a chain of stores, restaurants, hotels, and you are able to organize them efficiently.

Dr. ARAVIND SRINIVASAN (Aravind Hospital Administrator): You spoke to him here. You were sitting here, and he was sitting there and talking about McDonald’s.

DE SAM LAZARO: Dr. V died in 2005, but his office is left untouched as a shrine to him. His nephew, ophthalmologist Aravind Srinivasan, manages a system that’s grown to five regional hospitals and 25 satellite clinics. This was the first one.

post02-aravindeyeDr. ARAVIND: This is a 32-year-old hospital, so we are probably geared to see about 700 patients a day. Today we are seeing about 1500 to 2000 patients a day.

DE SAM LAZARO: Each pays about one dollar for a doctor’s appointment. That helps fund an equal number of patients who go next door to a free eye hospital. There’s not much profit margin, so a heavy volume of paying patients—satisfied patients—is critical. Efficiency is also critical.

Dr. ARAVIND: We call this a clinic scoring sheet.

DE SAM LAZARO: Dr Aravind, who also has an MBA from the University of Michigan, has continuous productivity reports at his fingertips.

Dr. ARAVIND: This statistic talks about service time, what percentage were seen within two hours.

DE SAM LAZARO: Patients are promised a completed appointment in two hours. A brochure details what they can expect.

Dr. ARAVIND: Registration takes about 5 minutes, vision test about 10 minutes, refraction check about 10 minutes.

post03-aravindeyeDE SAM LAZARO: This is sort of a patients bill of rights almost?

Dr. ARAVIND: Exactly. So they understand what’s happening.

DE SAM LAZARO: Aravind’s reputation is drawing patients from farther and farther away.

K.G. ANGENEYULU (Aravind Patient/Voice of Translator): Whenever you say eye operations everyone says go to Madurai.

DE SAM LAZARO: Fifty-five-year-old K.G. Angeneyulu had been in a three-year depression that started when cataracts began clouding his vision. He became completely blind three months ago. Angeneyulu and his wife Shobha endured a two-day train journey to get here.

Mr. ANGENEYULU (Voice of Translator): I was a sportsman. I used to swim. After the cataract, I could no longer move around. I got stuck at home, and I started eating. Then a leg injury made me even more immobile. I had problems being overweight, and I developed high blood pressure.

DE SAM LAZARO: By nine o’clock the morning after arriving here he was being prepared for surgery. Already dozens of patients had gone ahead of him

(to Dr. Aravind): So you’ve been going for two hours and done 16 surgeries?


DE SAM LAZARO: Dr, Aravind and surgeons in several other operating theaters or OTs were first working the routine—mostly cataract—cases.

Dr. ARAVIND: The other OTs are not primarily cataract surgeons. They are primarily doing either glaucoma or cornea, and they also do some cataract to contribute to the main volume, so we are able to identify those cases that need a little extra attention are segregated from the pool.

DE SAM LAZARO: Angeneyulu was a high-risk case, given his hypertension and obesity.

Dr. ARAVIND: You just have a margin is about five to10 minutes to get the surgery done.

DE SAM LAZARO: About 10 nervous minutes later, Dr. Aravind had removed a particularly tough, leathery cataract.

Dr. ARAVIND: The cataract was a little obstinate, but things went on well. He’ll get about 95 percent vision tomorrow, so when you see him tomorrow you’ll see a very different man—more confident.

DE SAM LAZARO: By the end of this day, Dr. Aravind and his colleagues did about 300 surgeries, about half of them free of charge. Increasingly, however, patients are seen outside the hospital. Telemedicine connects doctors to satellite clinics, and today’s eye camps offer much more on site—from grinding eye glass lenses to digital scans. Near the camp a satellite truck beamed high resolution images to specialists at the hospital. Technology has improved care, and it has also brought down costs—notably for the intraocular lenses which are implanted during cataract surgery. They used to be imported.

Aravind began making its own intraocular lenses back in the early 1990s. They used to cost between $50 and $100 each. Today they are made in this factory for as little as two dollars a piece. Aravind lenses are exported to 120 countries, and they own eight percent of the global market in intraocular lenses. This factory is an example of how Aravind turned a supply problem into an opportunity.

It’s not just business acumen that drives the mission, but also a firm spiritual basis, inspired by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, a mid-20th century spiritual leader. He believed that good work and good ideas are a manifestation of the divine.

R.D. THULASIRAJ (Aravind Executive): Part of that is to recognize that whatever ideas you get, it’s not really your ideas. They are divine ideas. So how do you kind of act on it but are not taking the egoistic ownership to those ideas, like “I have don it?” So how do you train yourself to open up?

DE SAM LAZARO: One way Aravind has opened up, or shared its ideas, is by training some 250 hospitals in 40 nations to adopt its methods.

Mr. THULASIRAJ: In this institution we train organizations to become more efficient. We completely give our intellectual property or our store away. We open up our systems, processes, how we charge the patients, our records.

DE SAM LAZARO: It’s the ethos set by his uncle. Dr. V, who was single, never took a salary. In fact, he mortgaged his home to start Aravind, and he also coaxed or inspired 34 members of his extended family to work here, starting in 1976 with his sister Natchiar and her husband. Both left surgical careers in America to work here for about $20 a month.

Dr. G. NATCHIAR: Today, oh my God, we are very, very happy. In fact, at that time in ’80s we were not happy, even though Dr. V was happy. In the family, like me and my husband, two children, it was not easy for us. We could not even buy a cycle. At that time, we didn’t appreciate his far vision.

Mr. ANGENEYULU: God bless you, Madam.

Dr. NATCHIAR: God bless me? God bless the surgeon.

DE SAM LAZARO: She says the satisfaction of seeing patients like Angeneyulu restored to full lives makes up for any material privation, although over the years salaries have greatly improved for the 220 doctors and some 2500 other Aravind staff.

Mr. ANGENEYULU: My children are starting school on the first, so I want to get going.

Dr. NATCHIAR: We’ll give you some dark glasses just like a Hollywood actor.

DE SAM LAZARO: He’s one of 27 million patients who’ve been treated at Aravind and 3.4 million who’ve had surgery.

Over the next 20 years the goal is to raise that number ten-fold. That’s a measure of how ambitious the Aravind people are. It’s also a measure of how many people remain blind in the world whose vision can easily be restored.

For Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, this is Fred de Sam Lazaro in Madurai, India.


Cambodians Face Threat of Drug-resistant Malaria

man hooked up to an IV in a hospitalA new strain of Malaria is emerging on the Thai/Cambodia border.
Click here to watch the video »



GWEN IFILL: Now, a story about the threat of drug-resistant malaria. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports for our Global Health Unit from the border region of Cambodia and Thailand.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO, NewsHour correspondent: In the forests along Cambodia’s border with Thailand, scientists have spotted early signs of drug-resistant malaria that could threaten millions of lives far beyond these isolated villages. But their first challenge is finding patients.

It took nearly two hours for a team from the regional center in Thasanh to reach the village of Samlot, which has seen several dozen malaria cases in recent weeks.

“Is anyone you know ill,” they asked? A short walk down the road took them to 22-year-old Pin Sreymom. She was too weak to work the family’s small farm field.

DOCTOR (through translator): Have you been vomiting?

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But inside their tiny home, her 19-year-old brother, Pin Vantim, was in even tougher shape, with a searing temperature that, along with nausea and vomiting, are malaria symptoms. Both siblings agreed to be tested to confirm the diagnosis before they got any treatment. Until now, Pin Vantim had refused all help.

PIN SREYMOM (through translator): Even if you give him pills like paracetamol, if you’re not paying attention, he’ll throw them out.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He even refused to get free treatment available at the health center because he’s afraid of both pills and needles. His sister didn’t go because it costs too much to get there, and she didn’t want to leave the house unguarded. There are lots of reasons people don’t take advantage of the offer of free care.

PIN SREYMOM (through translator): I don’t want to go. There’s no one to take care of the house. I’m afraid to leave it unattended for so long.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So like most people who get ill around here, she got some pills from an aunt who bought them from a nearby store. This is a typical example of how drug resistance can begin: A patient doesn’t follow the prescription and, in this case, takes only a partial dose.

DR. DARAPISETH SEA, Cambodia Ministry of Health: This one will have to take four dose, but this one have only two dose.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So she’s taking the right stuff, but not sufficient amounts of it?

DR. DARAPISETH SEA: Not sufficient, yes.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Taking less than a full dose means some parasites remain in the body, where they adapt genetically and become immune to the drug. Dr. Darapiseth Sea of Cambodia’s health ministry says many patients are simply too poor to afford the whole dose.

DR. DARAPISETH SEA: They have only enough amount of money to buy only some drug, and then…

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Not enough for the whole course, in other words?

DR. DARAPISETH SEA: Yes, not enough for the course. And sometimes when they get better, they feel that don’t need more medicine, so they throw the rest away.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Or they save it for somebody else, possibly.


FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Another source of partial-dosing comes in counterfeit drugs, mostly from China and Thailand. They contain only a fraction of the active ingredients, so they can be sold cheaply, sold without prescription, and mostly by people with no training.

There are quality problems even in pharmacies, like this one we stopped by in Battambang, Cambodia’s second-largest city. I asked for malaria medications.

We can see that the expiration date here is May of 2008. So this is an expired drug, but it’s on the shelf.

A customer stopped by complaining of diarrhea. She swallowed one antibiotic pill. There’s no guarantee she’ll return for the rest of what should be a three-pill regimen.

YUN SAMEAN, translator: She just came and took one pill. Maybe they take one time, and then, when she doesn’t feel better, she come back.

Signs of resistance

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The malaria parasite first became resistant to chloroquine in the ’70s, then mefloquine. Now there are early signs of resistance to the most effective drug currently on the market, artemisinin, or artesunate.

LT. COL. MARK FUKUDA, U.S. Army: So one of the things we have to think about is what our next study is going to be here.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Dr. Mark Fukuda co-authored one study with such findings. He’s with the U.S. Army, one of several international agencies working on a renewed effort to contain the problem here.

It’s sponsored largely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation is also an underwriter of the NewsHour.

LT. COL. MARK FUKUDA: In very few instances, those parasites do appear to return, and they appear to return despite the fact that there are adequate blood levels of an anti-malarial in their blood. In this case, the concern is, is that the — the resistance is occurring to the — the last widespread anti-malarial available for use, and that is artesunate.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: There’s no backup drug if this one fails, in other words?

LT. COL. MARK FUKUDA: There are drugs in development at the moment, but there’s no backup that’s readily accessible at this point.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The stakes are high in Cambodia, where about 200 people died from malaria last year. But they are huge in Africa, where thousands of mostly children die every day. The history with previous malarial drugs that became ineffective is a disturbing guide, says Fukuda.

LT. COL. MARK FUKUDA: The resistance originated in Southeast Asia and spread to sub-Saharan Africa. That happened, and it’s been documented with scientific studies, contemporary studies, with chloroquine, as well as Fansidar. And if that pattern holds true — and there’s no reason to expect it wouldn’t, because of global travel today — that that’s the pattern, that’s the concern of spread. And so, hence, there’s this effort on trying to contain parasites.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The effort includes distributing bed nets to keep out mosquitoes, which spread malaria to humans, and stepping up screening. But most importantly, the scientists want to limit the parasite’s exposure to artesunate to preserve its effectiveness.

So Cambodia’s government has banned its use as a solo drug. It’s allowed only in extreme cases in health centers. All others have to use a blend of artesunate and older drugs that are no longer as effective by themselves, but work in combinations.

LT. COL. MARK FUKUDA: The thing about this is it could be, if it’s legitimate, it’s a good treatment, but it’s not a government — it’s not part of the national regimen, so it’s an example of how private sector outlets are unregulated. It could be good; it could be bad.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So you just don’t know whether this is the real article or something…


Cracking down on illegal sources

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: However, given the remote border region, the lack of much law enforcement, there’s no guarantee artesunate it won’t come in from illegal sources. Michael O’Leary heads the World Health Organization’s Cambodia office.

MICHAEL O’LEARY, M.D., World Health Organization: What manufacturers, what some illicit manufacturers will do then is put a small amount of the active drug in their product so that it can, in fact, pass simple tests and so on and also have some effect and sell those at substantial profit.

So there’s a lot of stimulus to do that. There has been an effort with international policing agencies, with health agencies, and so on, to clamp down on this, on this flow of drugs across the border, and that’s one way that has been at least moderately effective.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Later this year, in a European-sponsored program, international agencies here hope to take a different tack against the illicit medicines, a price war to run the counterfeiters out of business.

MICHAEL O’LEARY: We have a new mechanism which would put heavily subsidized malaria drugs on the market and allow them to be sold at very low prices, a fraction of what they’re currently being sold for, and therefore flood, as you say, the market with high-quality drugs, at low prices, that can actually undercut the illegal drug trade.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The plan also calls for training local village volunteers to diagnose malaria cases, utilizing rapid test kits that are now available.

So it takes a little — a pinprick.

DOCTOR: Drop of blood.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Drop of blood.

DOCTOR: And then you put a — there’s a solution you put here into the blood. It then migrates here. You can imagine it’s simple, like a pregnancy test kit.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Some kits in local hands would ensure that patients like Pin Sreymom and Pin Vantim are reached far sooner.

DOCTOR (through translator): Make sure to take all the pills we have given you.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: As the team suspected, there was a lot of the deadly malaria parasite in Pin Vantim’s blood. His sister, because she took some medicine, had a lower level of infection.

Dr. Darapiseth urged her to take all her pills, then issued a dire warning about her brother.

DR. DARAPISETH SEA (through translator): If you can, you must take him to the hospital. Do not worry about the money. If he doesn’t get treatment, he’s going to die. I don’t want to scare you, but that’s the truth. If you didn’t take the pills, you would have been just like him.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The stern talk was enough to coax him to take at least the first of the four doses in the combination therapy. For the team, it was one tiny step in a very long journey to contain drug-resistant malaria and a much longer one to eradicate it.


Influenza Watch in Cambodia

three birdsA report on how Cambodians’ proximity to wildlife is sparking new concerns about the spread of avian flu. Click here to watch the video »



FRED DE SAM LAZARO: On the street outside Phnom Penh’s most prominent Buddhist temple, the merit bird business is brisk. It’s an age-old ritual in many parts of Southeast Asia based on the belief that freeing a caged bird brings merit to one’s soul.

But in recent years, these wild birds have come to symbolize something very different to public health workers: potential carriers of H5N1, the avian flu virus.

PRISCILLA JOYNER, Wildlife Conservation Society: Sellers are very interested in whether or not these birds do have avian influenza. And so they’re interested in knowing about the health of the wildlife and how this impacts their health, as well.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And their livelihood, too.

PRISCILLA JOYNER: And their livelihood, too, yes.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Priscilla Joyner is with the Wildlife Conservation Society. Its staff regularly tests samples of wild birds across East Asia for any signs of flu.

PRISCILLA JOYNER: A big concern here in this area is the very close proximity of people living with domestic animals and interacting with wildlife. And this can either be in the home or this can be in the market or in merit bird training. And this close proximity can be enough pressure to allow a pathogen to jump from one species to the next and then lead to a disease that otherwise may not have occurred.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Although so far merit birds have been free of avian flu, Joyner says Cambodia is in many ways an ideal Petri dish for its spread. People are always around wild birds and domestic animals and poultry in the markets and in backyards of this mostly rural country still recovering from decades of war.

H5N1 is common but harmless in ducks. It is lethal in chickens. And it’s deadly when it does make the cross-species leap to humans. Two-thirds of the 400 people who’ve contracted bird flu have died.

Cambodia has seen just eight human cases since 2005. Almost all had very close contact with infected chickens. So far, the virus has not spread from human to human.

Still, Dr. Sirendes Vong of the Pasteur Institute says bird flu remains a concern, especially if it infects someone who already has another form of flu, including swine flu that spread widely in recent months.

Deadly Combination

DR. SIRENDES VONG, Pasteur Institute, Cambodia: Once humans are infected, if they’re infected with seasonal flu, that’s a possibility for H5N1 to mix with the seasonal flu and to come up with a new virus that would have the potential to be a pandemic one.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: To spread like seasonal flu.

DR. SIRENDES VONG: Exactly. How deadly? I don’t know. But there’s a potential to get a virus that is as deadly as H5N1 and as transmissible as…

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The bird flu?

DR. SIRENDES VONG: … as seasonal flu or the current swine flu virus.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He says Cambodia doesn’t have the resources to check on every case, but with agencies like Pasteur, it is monitoring selected sites across the country for any signs of flu in chickens and responding to major outbreaks.

DR. SIRENDES VONG: If there is something, there’s a team from the Ministry of Agriculture, from the veterinary services, that would go to the field and investigate the phenomenon. And the difficulties, again, is to come at the early stage so that you would be able also to test at the early stage of the outbreak.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And they are hoping the message gets out on how to lower the risk of an outbreak, separating chickens from ducks, for example, keeping kids away from ponds where ducks swim, and improved hygiene around the backyard. It’s a message that’s gotten through to small farmers like Khieu Nyim.

KHIEU NYIM, farmer (through translator): I heard the news from the TV and radio. I heard that swine flu makes the pigs sick first and also infects human beings. First, I heard that it spread in Mexico, and then it also spread in America.

I take precautions for myself. I clean the pigs and make sure I wear a mask when I enter the cage.

Risk of Inter-Species Diseases

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: No one’s sure whether most farmers are adopting such practices or whether most farmers can afford protective gear. And even though there’s fear of the bird flu and swine flu viruses mixing, no one’s sure when or if such a super-bug might emerge.

Dr. Michael O’Leary heads the World Health Organization office in Cambodia.

DR. MICHAEL O’LEARY, World Health Organization: I think it’s largely a theoretical concern at this point, because we have, you know, many kinds of viruses around us all the time. And so while we have to say that it’s possible that these two or other viruses may mix and result in a new virus, that’s essentially always the case. We can have such a scenario any time.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He says the risk of diseases that jump from one species to another has risen in recent decades with dozens of examples, from Ebola to Lyme disease.

DR. MICHAEL O’LEARY: The destruction of forests or the urbanization of people, that’s created new opportunities, I think, for new kinds of interaction between humans and animals. Another is the ease with which people move around the world now.

There have been so many emerging diseases in the last few decades. We’ve seen dozens of new diseases, HIV being only one, most of which did result from a spread of an organism from the animal world to the human world.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: O’Leary says it will be important to strike a balance, watching for early signs of outbreaks while avoiding socially disruptive measures, like shutting down the merit bird trade or shutting down markets.

GWEN IFILL: For more on how viruses are transmitted from animals to humans and for Fred’s reporter’s notebook on Cambodia, visit our global health Web site at newshour.pbs.org.


India’s Growing Problem, Food Production

India, soon to be the largest nation on earth, is facing a crisis in providing enough food for its people without destroying their environment. Click here to watch the video »

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next tonight, looking for the best way to feed India. The challenge has led to new questions about India’s first successful drive to produce more food, known as the green revolution and created by American plant scientist Norman Borlaug, who died last weekend.

NewsHour correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from India.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: By the middle of this century, India will overtake China to become the world’s most populous nation. The question is, where will the food come from for 1.5 billion people? Already half the kids under age 4 in the country are malnourished.

Seventy percent of India’s people are rural. They barely scrape by off tiny plots of land. Every year, tens of millions of them are driven by poverty into overcrowded cities in search of work. That means fewer and fewer food producers and more mouths to feed. At the same time, environmental degradation threatens the prosperous breadbasket region of Punjab.

Amitabha Sadanghi thinks one solution to the food crisis is to make small subsistence farmers more productive. He goes to villages like this one in the impoverished northern state of Uttar Pradesh and gets everyone’s attention by inviting them to the movies.

These actually are very long commercials for products sold by his nonprofit enterprise, but they have all the movie staples, he says.

AMITABHA SADANGHI, International Development Enterprises, India (through translator): Bollywood style, with known actors and a good story. You have romance, fights, songs, dances, everything.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And at the end of the story, in true Bollywood style, everyone lives happily ever after, thanks either to the KB treadle pump or the KB drip irrigation system. More than a million farmers already have brought these products.

They are simple devices that provide farmers who now grow one rain-dependent crop each year the water to grow additional crops during the dry season. And there are other advantages, as well, according to Sadanghi, a social entrepreneur who believes there are market solutions to poverty.

AMITABHA SADANGHI (through translator): They go out of the village and take anything, rickshaw-pulling, roadwork. But after getting a treadle pump, they stay in the village in the house. They have two extra crops. They have an extra $500 a year they didn’t have before. And another thing: When children go to the cities, they don’t go to school. Here at least they do attend school.


Indonesia Remains Secular Despite Islamic Revival

Despite a resurgence of Islam in the predominately Muslim country, Indonesia has remained politically secular. Click here to watch the video »

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: religion and politics in Indonesia.

Earlier this week, Indonesia’s secular president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was sworn in for a second term.

Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on how this Muslim nation is experiencing a surge in Islam, while remaining politically secular.

A version of this story aired on the PBS program “Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly.”

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Islam is making a comeback in Indonesia. At the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta recently, about 10,000 worshipers gathered for Friday noon prayer. At this crowded shopping center, the most popular garment seems to be the head scarf, something few Indonesian women wore just a few years ago.

INDONESIAN WOMAN (through translator): I’m here because Islam tells women to wear the scarf.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Forty-year-old accountant Inne Burnamasari began covering her hair three years ago.

INNE BURNAMASARI (through translator): I feel ashamed, because I should have been wearing it since I was young, but at least I am wearing it now.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, around 200 million. But the country has been quite secular since independence from the Dutch in 1945, says historian Dewi Fortuna Anwar.

DEWI FORTUNA ANWAR, historian (through translator): Islam and the traditional, customary laws were regarded as being backward and primarily blamed for, you know, the defeat of many Muslim countries under European rule, so that many of the earlier nationalist leaders, many of the educated elite, in fact, turned their back on religion.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Anwar says when the dictator Suharto came to power in the mid-1960s, he enforced a rigid separation of religion and state.

But, in the ’80s, alongside a booming free market economy, religious practice became more popular. And, in 1998, when a teetering economy forced Suharto to resign, democratic reform and religion both began to flourish.

DEWI FORTUNA ANWAR (through translator): Among the younger generation, there seems to be a greater willingness both to be openly religious and to be modern and educated at the same time. I think maybe there is not just a search for a greater spiritual anchor, but, also, I think it’s greater self-confidence.

Fear of fundamentalism

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But she and others say this religious revival is not fundamentalist, nor militant, notwithstanding a spate of terrorist bombings in recent years.

Police recently raided a home 300 miles from the capital, Jakarta, and killed a key al-Qaida-backed mastermind of several of the attacks, which have killed more than 240 people since 2002.

Ulil Abdalla, who is with a liberal young Islamic scholars group, says anti-Western extremism exists here, but it’s not widespread.

ULIL ABDALLA: For some people, Islam as practiced in this country is corrupted. Movies, and food, and, you know, lifestyle and so forth is — it’s pretty much influenced by the American cultures.

So, when radical Islamic ideologies was introduced by some activists to Indonesia, it appealed to young people, but that’s — you know, the appeal is limited to a fringe.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In fact, a recent Pew poll in predominantly Muslim countries shows support in Indonesia for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has fallen 34 points, to 25 percent in recent years. Support for suicide bombings dropped by a half, to 13 percent.

Anies Baswedan, an expert on Islam and politics, says the sympathy one heard after earlier bomb blasts largely disappeared after the last U.S. presidential election.

ANIES BASWEDAN, professor, Paramadina University: During the Bush years, people were often seeing — saying, this is terrible, the bombings is terrible, but look what happened in Afghanistan, look what happened in Iraq, how many thousands of people were killed out there. So, this is nothing. That’s the message they have got to see.

But, today, people are saying, why are you doing this? Because the — Obama is there, the tone of the relationship has changed.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Professor Anwar says the election of President Obama, who spent four years of his childhood here, restored a longstanding admiration for America.

DEWI FORTUNA ANWAR: In Indonesia before 2003, the United States had an over 70 percent approval rating in Indonesia. After Iraq, after the invasion, it went down to about 23 percent.

The whole — you know, the whole story of Obama, I think, just somehow washed away, you know, the dark days of Bush, his history, the fact that he grew up for four years in Indonesia, and then his own campaign promises of looking towards a more cooperative international order, in which United States will be bound by international law and so on, you know, like music to most people’s ears.

Indonesia enjoys new stability

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Terrorist incidents aside, Indonesia is enjoying a period of stability rarely seen in its independent history. Indonesians are free to choose their government, and they are free to pursue religion.

And they’ve made it clear in elections that they want to pursue each separately — that is, to keep religion out of government.

In elections earlier this year, the secular incumbent, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, won easily. Islamist parties, which enjoyed a surge in the 2004 election, dropped 10 points, to less than 30 percent of the vote.

And, in the province of Aceh, newly elected leaders have vowed to reverse strict laws governing behavior that conservatives passed in their last days in office.

Analysts we spoke to say Indonesians, especially the 14 percent who survive on less than a dollar a day, are more concerned with food prices, the economy, and corruption among public officials. That’s true even among those who like the idea of stricter Islamic law, often referred to as Sharia.

MARTA, (through translator): From what I understand about Islamic states, the people live in prosperity, and the law is enforced very strictly. Those who steal, those who are corrupt, they cut off their hand, rather than here, where people who can bribe judges and police get away with things.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But Marta, who, like many people here, uses just one name, voted for the incumbent president, as did his neighbor, Samsuddin. He praises programs put in place to help the poor.

SAMSUDDIN (through translator): Number one is cash for poor families, and the second is cheap rice. We get $10 a month in cash and 15 kilos of rice. We are a Muslim family, but we are not that strict. I voted for the party that is already helping people. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Islamic or not.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That kind of sentiment has moved many Islamist parties to the center.

ANIES BASWEDAN: People understand now, campaigning, that we are Muslims, we are an Islamic party, this is a Sharia platform does not sell.

FAHRI HAMZAH, Indonesian parliament: We don’t name it Sharia, because if you name it Sharia, it — people then, from beginning, suspicious to see.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Fahri Hamzah is a member of parliament with the most successful Islamist party, called Prosperity and Justice, which joined the ruling coalition government.

Although it once campaigned for Islamic law and more conservative women’s attire, Hamzah says they are happy to govern by consensus in a liberal democratic framework.

FAHRI HAMZAH: We are an Islamic party, but what we talk about Islam is Islam as the universal values, because we believe every religion, you know, inspired by God.

You know, we follow this direction that anti-corruption is Islamic agenda. Clean government is Islamic agenda, you know, welfare, manage our economy, open economy, you know.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That kind of pragmatism may be rooted in this diverse country with significant Hindu, Buddhist and indigenous religions that predate the now dominant Islam.

DEWI FORTUNA ANWAR: Indonesia is composed of islands, over 17,000 islands and over 700 different ethnic groups, with different languages, different cultural traditions. And to be accepted, a new belief, a new religion would have to adapt to local circumstances from the beginning.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: One sign of that adaptation could be women’s fashion. The idea of a plainly dressed, covered woman is alien here, says saleswoman Rosa Lestari.

ROSA LESTARI, (through translator): It will look strange if an Indonesian woman wore that kind of plain clothes, especially nowadays. They probably think you are a terrorist’s wife.

YUDI TOZA, (through translator): We believe in Indonesia that Islam is more modern, more moderate.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And that’s made for a lucrative market in what store owner Yudi Toza calls distinctly Indonesian Islamic fashion. Five years after opening his first outlet, he now has five stores.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You can watch more of Fred’s reporting online. He has partnered with Saint John’s University in Minnesota to report undertold stories around the world.

To watch them, follow a link from our Web site, NewsHour.PBS.org.


Battling Global Warming One Stove at a Time

indian woman wearing traditional clothing eating foodFrom India, we report the battle to combat one virulent source of pollution: the cooking stoves that create “black carbon”, one of the country’s most serious public health threats. A report on attempts to equip some of the country’s poorest communities with “clean” cooking stoves.
Click here to watch the video »


FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It is sunny most mornings in Khairatpur, but you can hardly tell, at least not until some time after everyone’s had breakfast. That’s because here and in millions of villages in the developing world, food is cooked with wood or cow dung. The soot or black carbon from incomplete combustion causes not only lung disease, but global warming, says climatologist V. Ramanathan, who is with the Scripps Institution at the University of California, San Diego.

V. RAMANATHAN: And this is being done by over three billion people in the world, not because they want to destroy their environment. They have no access to other types of fuels.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He says reducing black carbon will immediately slow global warming. Cleaning up diesel engines is one way to do this, but Ramanathan is focused on cleaner cooking.

He’s doing an experiment. With U.N. and private grants, his Surya project is handing out cleaner-burning stoves to 15,000 households in and around Khairatpur. They use biofuels, but have a solar-charged internal fan to burn more efficiently.

V. RAMANATHAN: So, that instrument measures black carbon.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Over the next two years, the team will measure what the cleaner stoves do for air quality, hoping to make a strong case for scaling up this idea.

V. RAMANATHAN: The preliminary data shows, if you replace the current way of cooking, we should see a dramatic impact, first on the health, second on the air quality, and hopefully on regional climate.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Ramanathan’s call to reduce black carbon is supported in a recent U.S. government report. Some advocates wanted this issue on the agenda of the Copenhagen climate summit.

But there are skeptics. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says we don’t yet know enough about black carbon. And he says there’s no quick climate dividend. Getting billions of people to abruptly change the way they cook just isn’t practical.

RAJENDRA K. PACHAURI: If one uses that argument, I would say that running faster trains in North America and providing public transit in a city like Houston is a so much more logical solution than people driving gas-guzzling cars and SUVs. So, you know, these things are not decided by merely back-of-the-envelope calculations. If you ask people to give up driving their cars, you have to change mind-sets. You have got to change values.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Despite his skepticism on the climate question, Pachauri’s Delhi-based Energy and Research Institute has partnered with Ramanathan, since he has no argument on the health issue.

Some 1.5 million people in India alone die each year from inhaling indoor air filled with pollutants you rarely find in the developed world, says epidemiologist Kalpana Balakrishnan. She’s at Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai.

KALPANA BALAKRISHNAN: Just to give you a comparison value, many indoor settings in developed countries that do not have this particular source of particulates are in the range of 25 to 50 micrograms, no more than that. In a typical unimproved rural household, you could be as high as an order of magnitude more, 400 to 500 micrograms per meter cubed 24 hours.

MAN: So to adjust the flame, you turn this button here.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s one thing to give away a few thousand stoves, but how to get them into another 120 million households in a vast, diverse nation? A freebie, especially one using unfamiliar or finicky technology, will quickly begin to gather dust. What’s needed are commercial enterprises, a so-called market value chain, says Hafeezur Rehman, who is one of the scientists on the Surya project.

HAFEEZUR REHMAN: The commercial players will have to invest substantially in building that rural value chain, market value chain, which would be so essential, not only for delivery of the technology, but also for its maintenance, upkeep, spares, all the other things that go with it.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: A nonprofit group called Envirofit, backed by the Shell oil company’s foundation, thinks it has a market-based plan that could be a model. In a handful of rural markets, it has persuaded retailers to carry Envirofit stoves, which they can sell and service for a profit — the next challenge, getting customers to buy, marketing.

HARISH ANCHAN, Envirofit India: If you look at rural India, what message reaches to the consumer there in the rural? I mean, the newspapers do not reach. Televisions would be — there would be penetration of television, but it would be remarkably low.

So, when you want to do a communication of the benefits of the stoves or awareness of the indoor air pollution, it has to be a video on wheels or a van on wheels which goes from village to village, demonstrating the stove.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Envirofit holds demonstrations of its stove models, a patented design made at its Colorado headquarters that sells for around 25 U.S. dollars. They also provide entertainment, with games, with song and drama.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The not-so-subtle messages is about clean indoor air, says Envirofit’s Harish Anchan.

HARISH ANCHAN: The man of family buys a television, and he buys a bike, and then he buys a mobile phone. And you have the lady who keeps on saying that you’re going into modern age. You’re getting all these particular gadgets. But look at the kitchen, which is the main heart of the entire household. And we’re still having the same traditional cook stoves and that gives out fumes and is less efficient.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: All this generates consumer interest.

WOMAN: Does it leave charcoal?

MAN: No. All the wood is burned to ashes. All the energy is absorbed. The nearest dealer is written here on the side.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: These women seemed sold as they took their brochures home. One thing they would like is financing.

WOMAN: Installment.

WOMAN: Installment.

WOMAN: If that’s available, we would buy them right away.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Envirofit is working to get microloans to make the purchases easier. The goal is a million stove sales by 2011.

Epidemiologist Balakrishnan, who is studying indoor air and stove design, says none of the current models achieve emission standards that the World Health Organization calls healthy. But, even though they’re not the cleanest, they are cleaner, she says, and, most importantly, they have sensitized people to pollution that many rural Indians used to accept as a fact of life.

KALPANA BALAKRISHNAN: Many people, if you go to the rural areas, appreciate the fact that they have a less smoky stove. I think the best shouldn’t be the enemy of the good.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Definitive study results on the effects of black carbon are expected in two years. And climatologist Ramanathan says, they will determine whether cleaner cook stoves can not only help lower people’s exposure to toxic soot, but also help slow global warming.


Drought Down Under

JIM LEHRER: Next tonight: another in our ongoing series about food. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on the record drought in Australia.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The dust storms that blanketed Sydney in September were a vivid reminder of the drought gripping Australia, imperiling the livelihood of farmers and food exports this country and the world depend on. The eight-year dry spell has convinced many Australians that it’s a signal of permanent climate change here.

The epicenter is a huge agricultural area in southeastern Australia known as the Murray-Darling Basin, an area the size of France and Germany combined, named for Australia’s two main rivers. Lake Boga, where fish, birds and water sport once thrived, has been bone-dry for almost two years.

Ian Mason used to earn most of his income farming rice. Once a half-billion-dollar export crop, it has now virtually collapsed. He’s had to switch entirely to wheat, a staple with strong global demand, but its return has been mixed, at best. This field here once had rice in it?

IAN MASON, farmer: That’s right. It’s set up. It wouldn’t have seen rice in this paddock for probably eight to 10 years.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And wheat, which is a hardier, less thirsty crop, is also struggling?

IAN MASON: Yes, that’s right, because we just haven’t had any rainfall. It’s already started to die off from the bottom.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: More than direct rainfall, farmers like Mason rely on an extensive network of dams and canals first built during the Great Depression. It brought water and prosperity, and, out of an arid plain, spawned a food industry larger than California’s. Farmers were lured by the promise of a reliable supply of water. They bought land and signed their farms onto the network by purchasing water rights. These entitlements added stress to the river system, but farmers like Ian Mason say they were taken for granted, until the water stopped coming. This year, Mason got 9 percent of his allocation. It’s still better than last year and the year before, when he got no water from the canal system — zero. And the evidence of irrigation and no irrigation is plain to see here.

IAN MASON: That’s right.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He spent his limited allocation to irrigate a part of his wheat crop. So, you can see the sharp contrast between the two soils.

IAN MASON: This one’s got some future, and this one’s got no future, basically.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And the crop with some future must find a new buyer. He had been selling it to neighbors who own a dairy farm. Ideally, you would sell this wheat to the McPhees, so that they can mix it with their silage and feed it to their dairy cows?

IAN MASON: That’s right, yes. Yes, that’s what normally happens.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But normal hasn’t happened in a long time for Mason and his neighbors, Graham and Jane McPhee. They have decided to sell most of their prized cows.

JANE MCPHEE, dairy farmer: We can’t afford to feed them. We just can’t afford to do it.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The McPhees’ fortunes have declined steadily, in tandem with their water allocation in recent years.

JANE MCPHEE: The last few seasons, we have never had 100 percent entitlement. They have taken it back to sort of 82 percent, and then 64 percent, and I think last year around 3 percent. Is that right?

GRAHAM MCPHEE, dairy farmer: That was the first time in three years we actually got an allocation. So…

JANE MCPHEE: That’s any water.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Facing mounting debts and market vagaries that have pushed milk prices lower, the McPhees had to sell one of their last bankable assets, hoping to buy some more time. You have gone from one season to the next now for several, saying it’s got to end now, it’s got to end now. And it hasn’t. Have you visited the — the ugly scenario in which it doesn’t end next season? And — and what then?

GRAHAM MCPHEE: Oh, we don’t like to think like that.

JANE MCPHEE: We’re optimists.

JANE MCPHEE: That’s why were still here.

GRAHAM MCPHEE: I don’t know, either that, or bloody stupid, one of the two.

Help for farmers

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What farmers are is stoic, reluctant to seek help, says Andrew Gregory. He is with a government agency that runs the drought bus, a traveling one-stop shop for various assistance programs. Farmers weren’t coming into the office, so the office went to them.

ANDREW GREGORY, Australian Government Drought Assistance: Farmers, in general, are very proud people, and this was a factor that we needed to address. So, we had these reports in the media of some horrific numbers of farmers taking their lives. We realized that we need to take the service out to the farming communities. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He says some 27,000 farmers have popped into the mobile centers. Among various programs are grants equal to about $125,000 U.S. to get out of irrigated farming.

TONY BURKE, Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry: We are in the front line of feeling the impact of climate change. And, as it’s gone on, it’s started to become, what’s the impact then on the family? And that’s having a very real bearing on some of the difficult decisions that they have got to make about their own futures.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Tony Burke is Australia’s minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry. The government has earmarked some $5 billion to improve the efficiency of farmers and the irrigation system itself, for example, lining canals to prevent seepage. It has also a $2.5 billion program to buy back water allocations from farmers, hoping to lessen the stress on the rivers and streams.

TONY BURKE: We pay a very big price for previous policy neglect, a very big price. It means we have a river system which is massively over allocated. The environment needs a healthy river. And from the perspective of farmers, irrigators need a healthy river, too.

After the drought

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Burke says, when it finally ends, the drought will leave fewer, larger and water-efficient farms.

Ross Nicol’s 700-cow dairy offers an early glimpse. Water is carefully measured before being released by a computerized system of floodgates.

ROSS NICOL, dairy farmer: Every drop of our farm is retained on the farm, so it’s getting recycled.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: His pastures are hardier grasses that use less water. The fields are leveled by laser technology, so water flows evenly, with no puddles.

ROSS NICOL: There’s probes at 10 centimeters, 20.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Probes measure the moisture content in the soil, helping determine how much water is needed.

ROSS NICOL: We have obviously got to run the business with less water. So, I guess a direct reflection of that is, when there’s less water available, the cost of that water goes up, so is it viable to use water at that price?

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: To survive, farmers will have to adopt new technology, use much less water, and look for market opportunities in crops that yield more profit on less water.

Mark Howden is an expert on climate change and agriculture.

MARK HOWDEN, climatologist: What we have already seen is water rights and water licenses moving from low-value uses, so, for example, from producing pasture for dairy cattle, through — and moving into areas such as fruit-growers or vineyards, where there’s a lot higher economic return per use of any given amount of water.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But, Howden says, the total amount of water will never return to what it has been, thanks to climate changes caused by greenhouse gases. He says Australia’s recent extremes, tropical storms and deadly bushfires, are beyond normal weather cycles. Ag Minister Burke agrees.

TONY BURKE: For those who hoped we were just in a normal cycle that was dipping a little bit lower than previously, it’s not that. We need to be smarter than we have ever been before. That means we need to adapt to the new climate. We need to never turn our back on research and development.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Polls show a solid majority of Australians agree their country is experiencing permanent changes in climate. Farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin like Ian Mason are more skeptical.

IAN MASON: I’m a firm believer that what we’re seeing is climate variability, that we — that it has happened before. There’s been prolonged droughts. I mean, I have no doubt that it will rain again. I certainly don’t subscribe to the view that it will never rain again. It’s just how we then prepare ourselves for the — if it’s going to happen again, you know, or when the next drought happens.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The key question is whether farmers can hang on until the next sustained rain happens. Longer-term, the question is whether Australia can remain a major food provider, amid growing demand in a world whose population will reach nine billion by 2050.

JIM LEHRER: Fred has also reported on the challenges posed by climate change in India and Nigeria. You can watch those stories on our Web site, NewsHour.PBS.org.