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March 2008





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Pakistan Blog



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End of the Road for Notorious Arms Dealer?

That Nice Little Italian Place

The Man Who Saved John McCain

The Cost of Nicaragua's Total Abortion Ban

Calling All Video Journalists



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End of the Road for Notorious Arms Dealer?

Victor Bout

Victor Bout was arrested March 6 during a U.S.-Thai sting operation in Bangkok. The U.S. has requested his extradition. (Photo: AP)

He is known as "the merchant of death" and he's been on the run for years from the U.S., the United Nations and Interpol. Now Bout sits behind bars in Bangkok, Thailand, following his March 6 arrest by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Thai police. Wanted for violating U.N. arms embargoes and fueling wars in Africa, Bout was caught in a DEA sting in which the Moscow-based arms dealer thought he was selling surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to representatives of Colombia's cocaine-dealing FARC guerillas.

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That Nice Little Italian Place

David Montero

David Montero reporting for FRONTLINE/World in Swat Valley.

Luna Caprese, an Italian restaurant in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, was one of the most popular "speakeasies" in a country where consuming alcohol is forbidden by law.

Sometime last Saturday evening, March 15, when the restaurant was full, someone apparently slipped into the garden, and placed a bomb under one of the tables. When it detonated at 8:40 pm, it killed a Turkish woman and wounded 12 people, including five Americans, four of them FBI agents. Two of the survivors that night are my good friends. One of them crawled his way out of the wreckage, collapsing in the street.

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The Man Who Saved John McCain


Nguyen Dang Doanh

Nguyen Dang Doanh claims he rescued John McCain from a lake near Hanoi after his plane went down.

I think about Senator John McCain every day, because every day I walk my dog, Moto, around Truc Bach, or Bamboo Island Lake, not far from my house. It's just a 10-minute ride from downtown Hanoi.

The lake is where Navy pilot McCain went down in October 1967, during the height of the war in Vietnam. He was then, like other pilots, both a hated enemy, and a prize for the Hanoi leaders as they contemplated negotiating with Washington, DC.

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The Cost of Nicaragua's Total Abortion Ban

Woman and child.

Rosa Argentina with her grandson Lesker, now in her care since the death of her daughter.

Macbeth's witches flashed briefly through my mind as I followed an herbal healer into a thatched hut, high on a forested hill in northern Nicaragua. A lone candle cast shadows onto a wood-fed stove where a cauldron bubbled. On the dirt floor, a mangy dog settled near the fire.

Luna, who asked that I not use her full name, began to prepare a concoction. From her garden she had plucked a precise set of ingredients: seven coffee leaves and buds, seven leaves from a plant she called diacepan and five leaves from the tree of the prickly guanabana fruit. She crushed them together in a bowl, added chamomile and a few drops of essence, before tossing them into a boiling pot. When brewed together, Luna explained, they make a bitter potion "that induces contractions" in pregnant women.

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Calling All Video Journalists

Joe Rubin

Video journalist and former IRP Fellow Joe Rubin on assignment in Sri Lanka in 2002 for the very first broadcast of FRONTLINE/World.

We are pleased to announce that FRONTLINE/World has joined forces with the International Reporting Project (IRP) in Washington, D.C. to offer a Fall 2008 Fellowship for a video journalist to report an international story. Applications are now being accepted. The deadline is April 1.

You can find all the details and an online application form on the IRP Web site.

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Tapegate: CIA Under Fire as Guantanamo Trials Approach

Guntanamo detainee.

The United States is preparing to try six men in a military trial at Guantanamo for plotting the 9/11 attacks.

As George Bush vetoes a Congressional bill that would limit the CIA's ability to use harsh interrogation techniques, including "waterboarding," and the United States prepares to try six men at Guantanamo for plotting the 9/11 attacks, a hunt is now beginning for videos and documentary evidence that will show the truth of how such "high value" terrorist suspects have been interrogated and, some believe, tortured.

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Pakistan: Men in Black

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Length: 5:02

Aitzaz Ahsan

Aitzaz Ahsan, the leader of the lawyer's movement in Pakistan and an outspoken critic of President Musharraf, was released from house arrest March 2.

Watch a video clip of the lawyer protests and excerpts from an interview with Aitzaz Ahsan.

The political landscape is shifting in Pakistan. After suffering a major election defeat last month, the government of President Pervez Musharraf has released from house arrest one of its most prominent critics. Aitzaz Ahsan, the country's most famous lawyer, was freed on March 2 after four months of detention. He had been arrested last November when Musharraf declared a state of emergency, dismissed his Supreme Court and rounded up thousands of lawyers.

At a press conference following his release, Ahsan called for the immediate restoration of the country's independent judiciary.

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Moscow: How the Vote Went Down

Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Putin.

Presidential election winner Dmitri Medvedev (left) with Vladimir Putin. Image: Corbis

March 2, 2008, which Russians still call "Presidential Election Day," didn't differ much from any other Sunday. Well, maybe Moscow was unusually quiet as many people had decided to spend the first warm spring weekend at their dachas, or country homes.

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Russia Closes the Curtain

Putin/Medvedev billboard

Vladimir Putin and his successor Dmitri Medvedev face out from a giant billboard hanging from the Hotel Moscow next to Red Square.

Three hundred years ago, Tsar Peter I (Peter the Great) opened a window on Russia to Europe and the West. By the 20th century, under his communist successors, the Iron Curtain was erected to cover that window. In the 21st century, the authorities are at it again, trying to draw an impenetrable shade across the window Peter the Great built.

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