NPR's Frank Langfitt has a really interesting piece on tonight about Blackwater, a private military company that's looking for new markets, including provide peacekeeping services in areas like Darfur. In doing the reporting, Langfitt also brought back this great side story:
As I travel the country, I'm always surprised to see how broad our listenership is. Last week, I drove to North Carolina to visit Blackwater, a private military company that provides bodyguards in war zones. I was working on a story about the company's pitch to do peacekeeping in Darfur — a non-starter, according to the United Nations.
Blackwater's training facility covers an area about half the size of Manhattan and is filled with target ranges, a driving track and a streetscape for practicing urban assaults.
On the way out, two security guards stopped me to get my visitor's pass, which identified me as an NPR reporter. Like most Blackwater employees, they looked like former military men. They had broad shoulders and wore tight T-shirts and commando pants. Both had semi-automatic pistols on their hips.
One of the guards had a question for me: "Do you know Diane Rehm?"
No, I said sheepishly. I explained that she worked at one of NPR's member stations, not at the headquarters, where I work.
The guard tried again.
"How about Terry Gross?" he said, hopefully. "Is she blond?"
Now, I got it. He wanted to know if these two, venerable NPR personalities were "hot."
I offered that Terry Gross had short, red hair. "Oh," he said, sounding a bit deflated.
"Well, thanks for listening," I said.
And off I drove.