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December 2005





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That Was the Year That Was

Canada: Too warm for the bears

Denmark: Art and Religion Collide

Lebanon's Sorrow

Far Flung Fellows



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That Was the Year That Was

FRONTLINE/World logo.

Good Night and Good Luck, George Clooney's tribute to iconic broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, was this year's surprise movie hit. A surprise, at least, to me -- I did not expect a serious, black-and-white film about journalism to appeal to a large audience.

But the movie's story of how Murrow and his team at CBS in the 1950s dared to challenge Senator Joe McCarthy's anti-Communist witch-hunt is clearly striking a nerve with contemporary audiences. McCarthy's crusade fed on Cold War fear and anxiety. Americans felt threatened -- it was a time of political tension that resonates with our own war on terror. Clooney's film portrays journalists willing to take on a powerful politician whose bullying tactics and unsubstantiated smears intimidated critics and destroyed many innocent lives. The movie's success, I suspect, reflects something of a renewed desire for journalism with a conscience -- a nostalgia for the kind of reporter who questions authority even when it involves personal risk.

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Canada: Too warm for the bears

Polar bears in the snow.

Biologists have documented a 17 percent decline in the Hudson Bay polar bear population as a result of the warming trend.

The shooting started up just after dinner. First a boom, like a shotgun blast, followed by the crackle of small-arms fire and a volley of other projectiles that whistled and squealed like bottle rockets. I got up and looked out the window. Two patrol vehicles were parked across the street at the edge of town, shining their headlights into an empty field.

Back home in Oakland, California, this type of artillery barrage would send me diving to the floor. But in Churchill, Manitoba, it's the sound of bear trouble. The officers were shooting to scare, not kill.

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Denmark: Art and Religion Collide

Cartoon depicting Mohammed with a bomb for a turban.

It was this cartoon, published in Denmark's leading newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, that many found particularly offensive. It depicts the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb for a turban.

A little sacrilege is always a good way for an artist to stir up controversy. Take some elephant dung and throw it on Jesus's mom a la Chris Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary" or put a crucifix in a glass of urine as Andres Serrano did for his "Piss Christ" photograph and the battle lines are drawn.

Ofili's piece led to a courtroom showdown between "America's mayor" Rudolph Giuliani (when he was still just the mayor of New York) and big-shot First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, while my hometown's hero, "Pasta and Politics" Senator Alfonse D'Amato, took his outrage over Serrano's work to the Senate floor.

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Lebanon's Sorrow

Gebran Tueni.

Gebran Tueni interviewed by FRONTLINE/World at his newspaper's offices in Beirut in spring 2005.

We were shocked and enormously saddened this week by the news of the death of journalist Gebran Tueni, who was killed in a car bomb explosion in Beirut on December 12.

Our reporter, Kate Seelye, interviewed Tueni last spring for our story, "The Earthquake," about the political upheavals in Lebanon following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Tueni was the outspoken editor of Beirut's leading newspaper, An Nahar, and a devoted Lebanese nationalist who wanted a free, independent and democratic Lebanon. A Greek Orthodox, whose mother was a Druze, Tueni was also a strong defender of religious tolerance and of peace between Muslims and Christians.

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Far Flung Fellows

They've roamed the back streets of Cairo, interviewed Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, and covered elections in Afghanistan.

Once a year, we set loose upon the world a half dozen or so FRONTLINE/World Fellows to practice the art of backpack journalism. We award travel grants to talented students enrolled at graduate schools of journalism who convince us they can take their laptops, digital cameras and lightweight video gear to places like Sicily and Rwanda and bring back stories that will surprise, inform and entertain us.

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Nepal: Caught up in the "people's war"

Reporter Guna Raj Luitel interviews regional Maoist leader.

Guna Raj Luitel (right), news editor at Nepal's largest newspaper, interviews Comrade Binit, area secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in the Bardia district of western Nepal.

According to local Nepalese, the trek to the village of Arughat, 100 km west of Kathmandu, should take no more than five hours from the closest town. But after nearly nine hours of climbing steep peaks, slipping along mud paths -- feet blistered and nearly out of drinking water -- I'm about ready to throw in the towel.

I have to make it to Arughat before the army imposes the 6 p.m. curfew. Otherwise, I fear I'll have to sleep outside -- in a war zone. Most of the fighting between the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) and Maoist rebels takes place after dark. So, ignoring my blisters, I pick up my pace.

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