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June 2006





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Kind Words from the Critics

U.S.-Mexico Border: The Season of Death

Notes from the World Cup: Security 1, Soccer 0

The Trouble With Afghanistan

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East



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Kind Words from the Critics

Robert Mugabe.

FRONTLINE/World's final TV report of the season goes inside Zimbabwe to find a broken country.

Our season finale this week was exceptional in that all three of our stories -- from Zimbabwe, Mexico and China -- were reported and produced by women who graduated recently from the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. Tim Goodman, the TV critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, took note of this in his popular blog, "The Bastard Machine." This is what he had to say...

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U.S.-Mexico Border: The Season of Death

Women and children in front seat of a truck.

A mother and her children ride in a truck to the Arizona border. Once there, they will cross the desert in a larger group with their "coyote," or smuggler.

The life of a border reporter in Arizona starts each day with a single call.

"Any more bodies?" you ask the Border Patrol. This time of year, surprise comes only if the voice on the other end says no.

Little has changed in the two years since we filmed the FRONTLINE/World story of Matias Garcia Zavaleta, except that a lot more people are dying. Last year, a record 271 people died trying to walk across the Arizona-Mexico desert. More than 500 died across the entire U.S.-Mexico border. This year is keeping pace.

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Notes from the World Cup: Security 1, Soccer 0

Convoy of police vehicles.

A cavalcade of German police escorts the U.S. soccer team through downtown Hamburg.

The German woman on the street in Hamburg assumed some important dignitary was in town, perhaps a head of state. Why else would police have blocked off one of the city's main avenues? Why else would a cavalcade of security vans with their lights flashing be escorting a bus with tinted windows? As the procession crawled slowly through a downtown shopping district, motorcycle cops zipped about like hornets, scouting ahead then circling back.

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The Trouble With Afghanistan

Rioters targeted many local businesses and shops, including the country's only five-star hotel, the Kabul Serena.

I finally got to shoot a Kalishnikov -- the Russian weapon that seems to be synonymous with Afghanistan. It turns out I'm not a bad shot. My Afghan colleagues tease me, saying I must be Afghan despite growing up abroad.

Although there is a strong foreign and local belief in the Afghan warrior lore, people here prefer peace. But while living in Kabul for the last 10 months, I've learned that peace is not just about disarmament and physical security. It's overwhelmingly about economic security.

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The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East

Lemon Tree book jacket.

Editor's Note
June 5, 2006 marks the anniversary of the Six Day War in 1967 when Israel defeated its Arab neighbors, Egypt, Jordan and Syria, whose saber rattling had terrified an Israeli public. In the wake of its lightning victory, Israel occupied Gaza, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights. From that occupation, a Palestinian resistance emerged which continues to this day. It is a story we often cover, most recently in our broadcast reports about Hamas and Israel's new prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

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Russia's Hate Crimes

Nikolai Girenko.

Nikolai Girenko.

Editor's Note: Reporter Kelly Whalen has written an update following new developments in the murder case of Russian human rights activist Nikolai Girenko. Girenko was the subject of Whalen's August 2005 Rough Cut report, "Murder in St. Petersburg", about the rise in Russia's hate crimes.

The announcement by Russian authorities last week that five suspected neo-Nazis in police custody will be charged with the killing of Russian hate crimes expert Nikolai Girenko came as a surprise break in a case that many believed had gone cold. When Girenko was gunned down in his home in June 2004, dozens of investigators were assigned to the high-profile case. By the time I traveled to St. Petersburg in March 2005 to report on the progress of the investigation, 100 people had already been questioned, and the last remaining investigator on the case reported to me that they weren't any closer to discovering who was responsible for the murder.

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Syria: A Tie that Binds

protester holds up

In early 2005, Steve Talbot and correspondent Kate Seelye reported from Syria and Lebanon on mounting tensions between the two countries following the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The tie is hanging in my closet. Its distinctive pattern reminds me of tiles in an Arab mosaic.

The tie once belonged to a Syrian human rights lawyer, Anwar al-Bunni, who was wearing it when reporter Kate Seelye and I interviewed him last year in Damascus for FRONTLINE/World. When I mentioned casually that I liked the design, Bunni, a trim, dark-haired, energetic man, instantly removed the tie and gave it to me.

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Papua New Guinea: No Escaping the Virus

Villagers shelter from rain.

Villagers on the island of Kiriwina, part of the Trobriand Islands (and known by tourists as the "Islands of Love,") take shelter from the rain.

On the 25th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, HIV threatens even the world's most isolated populations.

Papua New Guineans take pride in their country's tourism motto: "Land of the unexpected." Visitors to the South Pacific nation have been known to come across rare wildlife, mud-covered men, and once, in the 1980s, a mountain tribe that had almost no previous contact with foreigners. But perhaps the most unexpected thing about Papua New Guinea is that it has become the epicenter of AIDS in the Pacific, and only the fourth country in the region to experience an epidemic that has crossed from high risk groups into the general population.

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