Olympic Torch Concludes Ill-Fated World Tour

A symbol of the Olympics returns to Chinese soil Wednesday after a 20-nation tour plagued by protests and disruptions. Security remains a concern and officials in Hong Kong are on high alert.

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BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from NPR Studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, I break for Guam. I'm Rachel Martin.

MIKE PESCA, host:

And I'm Mike Pesca. It's Wednesday, April 30th, 2008.

MARTIN: Michael, have you ever had a personalized license plate?

PESCA: Yeah, like I'm going to spend the five extra bucks a month on that thing. Didn't they used to be called "vanity license plates"?

MARTIN: Oh, you're right, they did. Well, apparently there's some brouhaha in Florida. They want to - some folks...

PESCA: I believe it is actually a donnybrook. But anyway...

MARTIN: Oh, donnybrook. Some people there wanted to be able to put religious symbols, specifically a cross on their license plates.

PESCA: The state legislator itself, right, wanted to have the Christian cross, the stained-glass window, and the words "I Believe" on a license plate.

MARTIN: A little controversial.

PESCA: Well, I would say that it looks like a separation of church and the State Department of Motor Vehicles. Let's do a little playacting, OK. Here's what I think the problem with the plate is.

MARTIN: What is it?

PESCA: I'm a state trooper, and you're driving your "I Believe" license plate, all right?

MARTIN: OK.

PESCA: I've just pulled you over.

MARTIN: OK.

PESCA: Well, ma'am, you know how fast you were going?

MARTIN: I think I was going about 55.

PESCA: I believe you were going faster. Do you know what the speed limit is?

MARTIN: I believe the speed limit was 55.

PESCA: Yeah, I believe you're in a school zone, and I believe I'm writing you a ticket. See, just open yourself up to that. I wouldn't. I'd think you'd attract police scrutiny.

This hour on the show we ask the question, who is Guam? The Guam cauci (ph) are this weekend, and with the Democratic race as tight as it is, both Clinton and Obama are campaigning for the island's four delegates. We'll get a report from the fine folks at Guam Public Radio. Who knew?

MARTIN: And also, a place we like to talk about a lot, Alaska. The citizens of Alaska's capital, Juneau, are in an energy crisis. An avalanche cut off a major power line from a hydroelectric-power facility, and the city is powered with diesel generators. The people there could see their electricity rates rise more than 400 percent. We're going to get a report from the state's capital coming up in just a little bit.

PESCA: I don't like when they say that rise 400 percent. That means rise three times, right?

MARTIN: Yes.

PESCA: A rise in 100 percent is double, then two is triple, then three is quad...

MARTIN: Do you know what time it is? Are you seriously asking me to compute that right now?

PESCA: No, it's five times. It's going to raise five times. OK. And the new film, "Son of Rambow," opens this weekend. It's not what you think. It's not a "Rambo" sequel. In fact "Rambow" is spelled with a W. It's the story of a couple of ten year olds, and those ten year olds set out to film their own sequel to "Rambo." The director and producer of the film are in the studio to talk about it. We'll get today's headlines in a minute. But first... ..TEXT: (Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of singing crowd)

PESCA: That is the welcoming ceremony for the Olympic torch arriving back on Chinese soil today. It was supposed to be a journey of harmony, but so far the 20-nation Torch tour has been part marathon, part relay, and part covert ops. Still, the torch arrived in Hong Kong today in one piece.

MARTIN: Although the iconic Olympic symbol is in friendlier territory, security remains a concern. At least seven activists were deported from Hong Kong before the torch's arrival. And about 3,000 police will guard it Friday during its relay through the former British colony.

PESCA: But that relay pales into comparison to China's biggest gambit, an attempt to take the torch to the top of Mount Everest, and broadcast that on live TV. I guess they've made big advances in anti-wind technology in China. It's supposed to happen in the next week and a half, but nobody knows exactly when because, of course, the weather will play a large part.

MARTIN: The Chinese constructed a special high-altitude torch for this very purpose, and they've spent two years training the cameramen for the job. But the BBC's Jonah Fisher, who's on Everest waiting for the big moment, says so far he hasn't seen much.

He writes, quote, "Unfortunately, it seems providing information on the torch's ascent is no longer part of China's media plans. It now seems that they only want us to report the victorious summit moment. We may never know if there were failed attempts, or indeed, if someone hurt themselves trying for the top. The only fact we possess is that the flame is somewhere in the area."

PESCA: Security is high all around Everest under pressure from Beijing. Nepal's government has posted soldiers on its side of the mountain, and banned climbing near the summit for the first ten days of May.

MARTIN: You can go to npr.org throughout the day for updates on this story. Now let's get more of the day's news headlines with the BPP's Mark Garrison.

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