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NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

Accentuate the Positive

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A prime minister seeks to discourage negative questions from the media with a buzzer; a doctor who confronts a patient's obesity is asked to apologize; and the president of Turkmenistan slaps a firm ban on lip-synching.


Here's a theme about negativity in some of the news this week. Thailand's prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has been accused of being, by no less than the king of Thailand, an authoritarian. He's stern with Parliament and cracks down on dissidents. This week the prime minister started carrying a gadget to press conferences that emits a pleasant tone at what he considers a positive, constructive question and sounds a buzzer when a question seems negative (imitates buzzer). Now good people concerned about freedom of the press have denounced the prime minister's buzzer as discouraging freedom of inquiry. Such earnest and knowledgeable people must be right. But I also think they may misunderstand the contrary nature of reporters. I don't think we'll be intimidated by that buzzer; I think they'll feel challenged.

(With attitude) `Hey, man, I got the buzzer today (imitates buzzer).'

Now if the prime minister really wants to discourage reporters from asking negative questions, all he has to do to win over most of us is pass out coupons for a free latte.

A patient has complained to the New Hampshire State Medical Board about the negativity of her physician, Dr. Terry Bennett of Rochester. `I told a fat woman she was obese,' Dr. Bennett says bluntly. `I tried to get her attention. I told you you need to peel off the weight that's going to kill you.' Dr. Bennett's been delicately suggesting to his patient for years that she lose weight. She has not and has developed diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux and chest paints. Dr. Bennett wrote her a letter of apology, but now the state attorney general's office has told him to acknowledge that he made a mistake and take a medical etiquette course. Dr. Bennett has refused. `I've made many errors in my lifetime,' he says. `Telling someone the truth is not one of them.' Maybe Dr. Bennett should positively reassure the patient that she's svelte and lithe, and when she dies her family can sue the doctor for failing to tell her that she was--if I might put it so negatively--hazardously fat.

And finally, Saparmurad Niyazov, the president of Turkmenistan, is an authoritarian who's already outlawed opera, ballet, long hair and gold teeth. But don't assume that he's negative about art. This week he also banned lip-syncing, pretending to sing along to prerecorded music. He says that lip-syncing has what he calls a negative effect on the development of singing and musical art. He says he'll send police into wedding parties to make certain that no one is playing music and just lip-syncing along. Just because a guy's a tyrant doesn't mean he can't do something constructive once in a while.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Men: (Singing) Tell me something good.

Ms. CHAKA KHAN: (Singing) Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Tell me that you love me, yeah.

Unidentified Men: (Singing) Tell me something good.

Ms. KHAN: (Singing) Oh, baby, baby, baby, yeah. Tell me that you like it, yeah.

Unidentified Men: (Singing) You got to tell me something good.

Ms. KHAN: (Singing) Ohh...

SIMON: Rufus and Chaka Khan at 18 minutes past the hour.

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Simon Says

Simon SaysSimon Says

NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small