World Culture

Discussing Leaders Great and Small

Fidel Castro

Cuban leader Fidel Castro exhales cigar smoke during a March 1985 interview at his presidential palace in Havana. Castro announced today that he will not seek re-election as the country's president. AP hide caption

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So, 3 a.m. brings word that Fidel Castro is stepping down as the longest serving head of government in the world, for 50 years.

We thought, who can we wake-up this early to talk to us about this? ... Who will a) be great, b) tell us something interesting c) speak to us again in the future, after we have (as I mentioned) awakened them?

This is what's great about working at NPR — not only is NPR correspondent Tom Gjelten GREAT anyway, he has just finished a book on modern Cuba and is thoroughly up to speed on the story. As an added bonus, he was AWAKE, COHERENT and willing to come to the studio (and not mad at us for calling him). HOORAY!

Thanks, Tom!

(So this just leads us to let the other guests know that we'll be asking them to standby for a few minutes.)

The other conversations today are updates on issues we've previously covered, like the stop and frisk story ... I know that this is an issue that just gets people's blood boiling. If you are one of those likely to be stopped (let's just say it, a young minority male), chances are, you say this practice is outrageous, intrusive and wrong.

If you are one of those who sees himself as a potential victim — one of those who may have experienced a bad time in New York or other cities — you are likely to feel that this is a minor intrusion on civil liberties, and a small price to pay for a safer city.

Who's right? Is there a "right" and "wrong" in this?

Check out the original story we did last December on Leonardo Blair.

Also, the FEMA situation. Tests performed by the CDC found potentially hazardous levels of toxic formaldehyde in FEMA-issued trailers. We decided to check-in on one of our regulars, Gralen Banks. He's living in a trailer next to his destroyed home in New Orleans. We check-in on him from time to time to see how he's doing. His attitude may surprise you...

And, finally, what's it like to be BANISHED?

This is the kind of thing we might play for laughs It sounds like a 1960's TV show or a reality show, but it's not. It's a tragic story of displacement and loss told through a new documentary by Marco Williams. Williams previously did a film called the Two Towns of Jasper. Now, this film tells the story of the African Americans who were literally forced off their land in counties across the country.

It's interesting that the film premieres today. Today is also the "Day of Remembrance," which marks when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the executive order establishing internment camps into which Japanese citizens and non-citizens alike were imprisoned along the coast.

Hidden history but, in a free society, not hidden for long ...



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In regards to the show Banished, I don't think race was the only issue that has snatched land away and has caused sore points in the South. FDR, the Democrat hero, is reviled in the South not because of politics, but because his New Deal stole the land away from many POOR people to "help" them. When in fact, land was the only thing they had in many cases. My family was so poor, the Depression wasn't affecting them at all, but they had land that had been theirs for generations 1700-1800's snatched away by the government never to be seen again. So, the African-Americans and the native americans aren't the only ones to lose land to the government. But in the white's case, it was an economic discrimination, not a racial one.

Sent by Grace | 3:02 AM | 2-20-2008


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