A Daughter, Her Father, 9/11 and “The Weight of Dust”
On the morning of September 11, 2001, eight-year-old Amy Gaines’ father, Scott, dropped her off at the school bus stop. It was supposed to be the first day of his last vacation before his retirement after 20 years as a New York City police officer.
But then, news broke that a plane — and then, a second one — had flown into the World Trade Center. So Scott Gaines headed to Ground Zero, where he would continue to work for the next two months.
Like many 9/11 first responders, he would later be diagnosed with cancer. In fact, the projected death toll from illnesses potentially linked to 9/11 is larger than the number of people who died that day.
In a new episode of The FRONTLINE Dispatch called “The Weight of Dust,” Amy Gaines — now a series coordinating producer at FRONTLINE — embarks on a deeply personal quest to understand the long arm of 9/11 through the story of what happened to her father and thousands of others diagnosed with illnesses believed to be caused by exposure to toxic chemicals at Ground Zero.
Sisters’ journey into the Syrian jihad
It was October 2013. ISIS had splintered off from al-Qaeda earlier that year.
The militant group grows stronger and attracts recruits from all over the world, many from Western Europe.
Ayan and her younger sister Leila are Somali-Norwegian teenagers living in an affluent neighborhood outside of Oslo. They leave their adopted homeland to travel to Syria and marry ISIS fighters.
Author Asne Seierstad shares the family’s story in her latest book, “Two Sisters: A Father, His Daughters and Their Journey into the Syrian Jihad.”
At first, says Seierstad, Ayan and Leila’s mother is worried that the girls are becoming “too Norwegian” and sends them to classes with a charismatic Quran teacher. And that’s when the parents notice a change.
Arrest of Egyptian satirist
Twenty Egyptian policemen in plainclothes broke into the home of a young satirist on Sunday morning in the suburbs of Cairo. Authorities whisked away vlogger Shadi Abu Zeid and confiscated his computers, cash and electronics. But he was neither taken to a local police department nor charged in a civilian court. His whereabouts remained unknown for more than a day, until Monday evening, when his sister posted online that he had appeared at a state security prosecutor’s hearing in Cairo.
Egyptian authorities have yet to disclose charges facing Abu Zeid, a comic known for his YouTube channel. Experts say he is likely to be tried under the stringent 2015 counter-terrorism law that has indiscriminately been deployed against perceived dissenters. The Egyptian Embassy — which distributed two press releases on Monday afternoon about monetary policy — did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“This is not an exceptional case, and it’s not about satire,” said Nancy Okail, executive director of the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. One might argue that the primary difference between Abu Zeid and the thousands of others currently detained in Egyptian custody is that we know the young comedian’s name.
Mohsin Hamid on leaving home
With millions of people on the move around the world, the novelist Mohsin Hamid has set his latest novel against the backdrop of the refugee crisis. He tells Kirsty Wark how he imagined those fleeing home passing through mysterious black doors into other parts of the world. The lawyer and sociologist Carol Bohmer examines the culture of suspicion which greets migrants when they arrive. She looks at how officials judge the line between truth and deception, and increasingly label people as liars, criminals or terrorists. While many countries are looking to fortify their borders, the former Portuguese Europe Minister Bruno Maçães believes we need to think on a super-continental scale. He travelled overland from the edges of Europe to the heart of Asia arguing for a new world order. But the theatre director Robert Hastie is more interested in what connects people to the land and their origins, as he revives Peter Gill’s play The York Realist – a reflection on the rival forces of place, class and longing. Read more.
A Good Book
Daniel Hahn, a judge for this year’s Man Booker International Prize, asks what really makes a good book.
Listen on BBC website.
Author Flees After Threats & Ban
Abbad Yahya is used to controversy. For the last five years, the young Palestinian novelist has been writing books that have been criticized for including sex and politically unpopular opinions.
Yahya, who’s 28, expected similar complaints about his fourth novel, Crime in Ramallah, published in Arabic late last year, which chronicles the lives of three young men affected by a woman’s murder in the city where the Palestinian Authority has its headquarters.
“I thought the book may raise some noise and provoke writers, intellectuals or readers,” he says. “But I was really shocked when I started to read what people are writing about me.”
In February, angry Palestinians wrote on his Facebook page, and their own pages, that they wanted to lynch Yahya and burn bookstores and libraries carrying Crime in Ramallah.
They were especially outraged that one of the characters in the book, Noor, is a gay man who, in one scene, seems to be defiling the memory of Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader who remains a revered figure.
German Professor Supports Refugees
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the size of the refugee problem confronting the world today. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, more than 30,000 people are forced to flee their homes every day because of conflict or persecution.
But one energetic university professor in Germany decided that bemoaning and hand-wringing wasn’t solving anything, so she decided to take action.
Carmen Bachmann is a professor of tax and finance at Leipzig University. There are some 6,000 political refugees living in Leipzig, and the government is only able to supply their basic needs. She could have helped by volunteering for relief agencies that collect clothing or furniture for the refugees, but that didn’t seem to her the best use of her time.
“I’m a full professor,” she told me when I visited her Leipzig office. “I thought my contribution to [easing] this problem is what my profession is.”
Lahiri Finds Freedom In Italian Memoir
In 1999, Jhumpa Lahiri won a Pulitzer Prize for her very first book, Interpreter of Maladies. Her 2003 novel, Namesake, was turned into a movie, and she went on to publish Unaccustomed Earth and The Lowland.
But Lahiri wasn’t satisfied. “I’ve always been searching to arrive at a certain voice that will probably elude me forever,” she tells NPR’s Ari Shapiro. So Lahiri is trying something new — very new.
She wrote her new memoir, In Other Words, in Italian. “One week after moving to Rome I started writing in my diary in Italian. That was the first step I took on this road, and I haven’t really stopped yet,” she says.
IS Terror ‘All Over the World’
New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi is known for her in-depth reporting on terrorism and the Islamic State. Her recent jailhouse interview with Harry Sarfo, a German citizen who joined ISIS and trained in Syria before disavowing the group, revealed the organization’s particular interest in recruits from Europe. “[Harry] was very much a desirable target for them, given his German passport and his experience living in London — two countries that they’re still trying to infiltrate,” Callimachi tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.
In addition to her on-the-ground reporting, Callimachi follows ISIS’ encrypted social media channels and communicates through social media with people connected to the terror group. She says that the group’s recruiting efforts are widespread and focus on both the “mentally unwell” and those who have been “radicalized since birth.”
Callimachi says the individual motivations of the recruits don’t really matter as long as they contribute to the Islamic State’s primary objective. “The purpose of this group is to spread terror, to spread it all over the world, to make the kaffir, the infidel — which is us — feel as if they’re not safe anywhere,” she says. “That’s their end goal.”
Marjorie Liu: How Rejection Shaped Her Writing
San Diego Comic-Con is over. Nerds from all around the world have packed up their costumes, wiped off their makeup and left the city. Many of them will bring home more than just collectibles and photos. They’ll also bring back memories of meeting their favorite artists and writers.
Marjorie Liu is one of those writers; she wrote the epic fantasy comic book Monstress with Japanese artist, Sana Takeda. Throughout the weekend, fans flocked to their booth to meet Liu and have her sign their copies of the book.
“Thank you guys so much for making this book,” 26-year-old Jessica Wooden said as she approached the table, “It’s eye-opening,” she laughed, “and it’s just great.” Liu looked up and smiled. “That means the world to us. Thank you so much,” she said, handing the book back to Wooden.
Syria’s Secret Library
Away from the sound of bombs and bullets, in the basement of a crumbling house in the besieged Syrian town of Darayya, is a secret library. It’s home to thousands of books rescued from bombed-out buildings by local volunteers, who daily brave snipers and shells to fill it’s shelves. In a town gripped by hunger and death after three years without food aid, Mike Thomson reveals how this literary sanctuary is proving a lifeline to a community shattered by war. Produced by Michael Gallagher and translated by
Listen to radio story.
‘I Write About Awful People’ Gay Talese
Journalist Gay Talese has never shied away from controversial topics. He took on the mafia in Honor Thy Father and dove deep into America’s sex life in Thy Neighbor’s Wife. But even Talese paused when he first heard about the Manor House Motel in Aurora Colo., back in 1980. Innkeeper Gerald Foos had outfitted his motel with a special platform which allowed him to spy on his guests — and he invited Talese to take a peek as well. Talese, a man of seemigly insatiable curiosity, did just that. But Foos demanded anonymity, so Talese decided not to write about the experience. Until now.
His new book The Voyeur’s Motel is based on Foos’ journals, and Talese is already on the defensive about it. Last week, after the Washington Post unearthed some discrepancies in Foos’s story, Talese disavowed the book — then quickly changed his mind and now says the Postwas wrong, and he stands by his story. He tells NPR’s Lynn Neary that he was very upset when the Post initially confronted him, because “for 60-some years, I’d been a reporter who took pride in getting the facts right, and I was now told I got the facts wrong.”
The Island, the Sea, the Volunteer & the Refugee
A new series in which Poets respond to stories underneath the world news headlines
As the pressure in Greece from the humanitarian refugee crisis subsides, Poet Louise Wallwein who has a long-standing relationship with the Island of Kos, travels back to Kos Town where she worked as a volunteer helping arriving refugees during the past year . In the wake of an agreement with Turkey, as the numbers of migrants crossing the sea from Bodrum to Kos falls dramatically, she travels back to find out how the humanitarian crisis played out on their doorstep has affected the Islanders and to meet the refugees who are left behind.
The trip inspired Louise to write a ballad based on what she has heard and seen.
Listen to story.
Diary Of A Saudi Girl
Majd Abdulghani is a young woman from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who dreams of becoming a scientist — while her parents hope to arrange her marriage. Radio Diaries, a storytelling nonprofit and podcast, sent Abdulghani a recorder — and she ended up chronicling her world for over two years. Here are some scenes from her diary, which began on Oct. 31, 2013.
“The Morning They Came For Us”
It has been five years since civil war erupted in Syria. Hundreds of thousands have been killed. More than four million refugees have fled into neighboring countries — creating a crisis that has engulfed Europe. Janine di Giovanni, the Middle East editor for Newsweek, was embedded with the Syrian army. She says reporting on the war in Syria is unlike any other conflict she’s ever covered. And she has reported from dozens of war zones, including Bosnia, Iraq, and Somalia. Guest host Susan Page talks with di Giovanni about the brutal reality of the daily lives of Syrians.
Listen to radio story.
Ethical challenges covering refugee crisis
It can often be challenging for journalists to report on harrowing events or in difficult situations where the people involved are in need of help. Should journalists stop the reporting process to assist those around them? Or should their main priority be to continue gathering interviews to get a story back to their publisher?
The refugee crisis is a core example of this, where journalists are required to produce content for their news organisations back home, but are often in a position where they may feel like interrupting their work in order to give assistance to those around them.
In this podcast, Simon Shuster, reporter for New York based magazine Time explains the ‘humanitarian temptation’ that journalists face when covering the crisis.
Listen to podcast.
Yemen Quietly Being Killed
In this broad-ranging and incisive interview with journalist and filmmaker Safa Al Ahmad, she delves into her recent coverage of Yemen reflecting on the humanitarian disaster there, the various actors on the ground, and the gendered dimensions of covering this conflict.
Safa Al Ahmad is a Saudi freelance journalist and filmmaker. Her focus is the Arabian Peninsula, primarily Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Her first film ‘Al Qaeda in Yemen’ was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2012, and ‘Saudi Secret Uprising’ won best international investigative documentary at the AIB’s in 2014. Her essay “Wishful Thinking on Saudi Arabia and the Arab world post 2011” was published in the anthology Writing Revolution, winner of an English PEN award. – See more at: http://www.statushour.com/safa-al-ahmad.html#sthash.qdKbIRoR.dpuf
Cartoon censorship in the Middle East
We’ve seen what happens when cartoonists try to tackle religious subjects in Europe but what about when they do it in the Middle East? One comic-book magazine in Lebanon did just that and quickly found itself on the sharp end of the law. Cartoonists have been getting into trouble since the early 18th century and this story brings that right up to date. Monocle’s Beirut correspondent Venetia Rainey reports.
Listen to story.
Hungary: At the Cutting Edge
As more European countries follow Hungary’s lead and fence their borders against irregular migration, Maria Margaronis explores Hungarians’ responses to the refugee and migration crisis.
“There’s real anxiety here that comes from ignorance, but also an insistence on seeing the refugees in the worst possible light.”
Listen to the radio story.
The Odyssey through the eyes of a Syrian
The Odyssey by Homer is an epic tale featuring moody gods, siren songs and even a cyclops — and in the mind of Richmond Eustis, it was once a fantastical treat.
But when the literary professor assigned the book to a group of students in Jordan, his framework changed. His pupils, asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories, saw their real stories reflected in the themes of death, danger and displacement.
Today, Eustis and one of his students, Isra’a Sadder, join guest host Talia Schlanger to share a new angle on the 8th century B.C. comic adventure.
Sadder says education and literature are her “only salvation”. She also shares what it feels like to lose home.
“It’s like your soul is heavy, and you are just a burden.”
Le Guin Steers Her Craft Into a New Century
Ursula Le Guin has brought mainstream recognition to science fiction in a successful career that has endured for sixty years, with books that include The Left Hand of Darkness, Lavinia, and the Earthsea series for young readers.
She says she doesn’t believe in a lot of do’s and don’ts in writing. But she does run writing workshops in which serious writers might test what works well, and what doesn’t quite do the job. Back in the ’90s, Le Guin wrote a manual for aspiring writers called Steering the Craft. And she’s just released a new edition of the book, updated for the 21st century.
Le Guin tells NPR’s Scott Simon that sound is often forgotten in a piece of writing. “Writing is a kind of way of speaking, and I hear it,” she says. “And I think a lot of readers hear it too. Even if they hear it in silence. And so the sounds of the language, and the rhythm and the cadence of the sentences are very powerful.”
Listen to radio story.
Doc Chronicles Innovative Life in Camp
The nation of Jordan estimates that it has taken in about 1.4 million Syrian refugees since the fighting in Syria began in 2011. While the United Nations runs refugee camps there, many Syrians live in towns and cities where they do not have permission to work.
A new documentary, “Salam Neighbor,” looks at how Syrians are making a living in the Zaatari refugee camp and surrounding areas. One of them is Ghassoun, a mother of three and a nurse. She cannot find a job because she lacks a work visa and childcare. Instead, she sews trinkets for women who wear hijabs. That income helps her pay rent and working from home lets her look after her children.
Saudi Arabian Women Are ‘Pushing Normal’
I first saw Saudi Arabian women “pushing normal” before I knew this concept had a name. I was walking down Tahlia Street in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. It’s a trendy weekend hangout spot, a strip of fast food burger and brand name coffee shops popular with young Saudi men.
It was striking to see three young women stride down this all-male domain defying the kingdom’s conservative social codes enforced by the religious police and the judgments of family and neighbors.
“But if we listen to them, stay home, and not enjoy our lives, it’s going to be like this forever,” says Sadeem, age 17. Her friends, Amira, 18, and Yasmin, 16, nod in agreement, though none reveal their last names.
Listen to radio story.