February 2010

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A short but sweet run through of world news…

First of all, not quite tomorrow’s news, but amazing enough to slide in after deadline: this BBC slideshow about a woman in Mozambique who sought refuge and then gave birth in a tree during March 2000 floods.

You’re not the only one who doesn’t like where airport security may be headed, but don’t give up on interesting travel experiences yet.

BBC describes the political temperature in Kigali as “rising,” with grenade attacks preceding French President Sarkozy’s visit next week.

Egypt’s also been going through tensions, and Tuesday’s New Zealand Herald gives some context to one city’s experiences with
a walk through Cairo’s religious history

History also plays a major role in South America as Argentina rallies regional support over Falklands where oil is a sensitive topic.

Did you now that elephants ‘talk’?

Looking forward to this summer’s World Cup? I’m excited – but also a bit glad I’m not in charge of anything. Anyway, security is gearing up already, as NZ Herald reports : South Africa ‘ensures’ safety of World Cup fans. I know I’ll be ready!

And after this quick, little world tour, it’s time for this little Kroeker to get some sleep…

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Welcome inside the tallest building in the world… Walk down this hallway, step inside this elevator, and in barely a minute you can step onto the observation deck halfway up.

Or at least, that was how I began this report before I found out that the Burj Khalifah is now temporarily closed.

The building’s had an eventful history since December 2004 when Samsung signed on for its construction. Online, Gulf News showed us how they chronicled its development, and as the opening date neared, real estate values rose and the city filled in anticipation.

During the January 4th opening, the record breaking building was renamed the Burj Khalifah. The fireworks and ceremonies didn’t disappoint a local population whose pride in the building has been compared to that of other cities hosting national buildings like the Sydney Opera House and was evident in the work of photo contest participants like Ala’a Kahel.

The adventure didn’t stop with the opening – within weeks, the building had seen visitors ranging from national leaders to base jumpers. In fact, the building’s closure has been partially attributed to its popularity.

In the meantime, you can watch the tour or look off of the observation deck here, and there’s behind the scenes looks at everything from sustainability discussions to cleaning the building (I’m sure the merchandise is still available too). Also, the amazing Burj al Arab which recently celebrated its birthday remains open too.

Above is a link to the gallery with more of Steven’s pictures. I’ve also posted a few more pictures of the view from the observation deck and one of the maps I found when I first found out I’d be visiting Dubai (along with Abu Dhabi and Sharjah) over winter break. At the time, I didn’t realize I’d be there for the event myself.

United Arab Emirates map

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photo credit: terryballard

My ethics professor hosted a screening of The Most Dangerous Man in America, a documentary by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith. I’ll leave the issue of awards nominations to the entertainment professionals who know far more about the process than I do. Furthermore, the documentary does a fantastic job of telling Ellsberg’s story through family experiences, military service, a Pentagon career, and through the decision making process of leaking the Rand Corporation‘s report – over 7,000 pages on Vietnam – to The New York Times, and there’s lots of material written on the Supreme Court‘s 1971 decision New York Times Co. v. United States.

Map of Indochina including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

What I’d like to think about here are the various journeys – physical, emotional, and ethical, just to name a few – that led to the publication of top secret papers and, subsequently, historical decisions in both political policy and First Amendment law. No one in this story knew what was ahead or, once events started, how or where they would end.

Ellsberg’s journey from childhood to adulthood influenced his views on responsibility. Ellsberg also moved from military service to a career as a military analyst – a transition that took him behind the scenes of military decision making and into clearance “beyond top secret.” His trip to Vietnam was made in this capacity, where he saw for himself the conditions on the ground from troop movements and “non-existent patrols” to experiencing combat with both its effects on American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians. Ultimately, Ellsberg went from certainty to uncertainty. People he met along the way, from colleagues to followers of Gandhi, affected the way he saw the world and how he made decisions. Watching children pick through burning debris for a favorite doll in person during his trip in Vietnam gave him a different perspective by showing him things he couldn’t see from his desk in Santa Monica, California.

Once the Pentagon Papers were leaked to reporters, a whole new set of people faced new set of decisions. Reporters had to consider their responsibilities to their editors and the public as well as the risk to their sources. Editors had to consider their reporters, their publications, and the public. Lawyers for all involved had to weigh the pros and cons. In the end, The New York Times ran the story, and when they were ordered to stop, so did The Washington Post, then The Boston Globe – and then papers all across the country. The case worked its way all the way through the system until the Supreme Court’s Decision.

1972 population map of Vietnam from Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

1972 population map of Vietnam from Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

Watching this movie as a journalism student in the Cronkite School‘s First Amendment forum definitely added a personal angle to the experience. While situations like the Pentagon Papers may be once in a lifetime or only for a few, it’s very likely that I’ll encounter ethical situations, quite possibly with sources and sensitive material.

I’ll have to make my own decisions, and no matter how helpful a rule book or ethical code may be, in the end, I agree with my professor – no hypothetical situation will have all the information – so there’s no way to completely prepare for the real life situations that require handling on a case by case basis. In real life and real time, you may have to make tough decisions without all the information.

Every bit of preparation and guidance along the way will be helpful when a moment comes that I’m on the spot alone. My mother has compared it to learning CPR without knowing when you’ll use it, so that when an accident happens, you start with an idea of what to do, even if it has to be adapted to the situation in front of you – waiting to learn life skills till the accident’s already happened won’t give you much time to prepare.

Would I have made the same decisions that reporters like Neil Sheehan & Hedrick Smith made? Even with all the information available today, can I even answer that question without being there in that time and place?

At one point in the film, Ellsberg says, “The people there were more than pictures for me and they were more than numbers.” I think that ultimately, that’s what it may always come down to. Numbers are predictable, understandable, logical. There’s a clarity and neatness – at least before the fixing begins – that makes working with them simple. People? Not so much.

If you’ve ever been on the spot, what helped you make decisions along the way?

photo credit: Jeb Ro

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