TONY COX, host:

From Oprah's influence in the Middle East to a gas shortage that has crippled parts of the American southeast, the topics on our blog News & Views have hit on an array of events this week. Geoffrey Bennett is the web producer for News & Notes. He joins me now with an update. Hey, Geoff.

GEOFFREY BENNETT: Hey, Tony.

COX: So, a recent New York Times article detailed Oprah Winfrey's growing influence, I should say, in Saudi Arabia, of all places. What's that about?

BENNETT: Well, yeah. "The Oprah Show" first broadcast in Saudi Arabia in November 2004, and it became an instant hit with women 25 and younger in that country, according to the Times. Now, the article reads, in a country where the sexes are separated, Ms. Winfrey provides many young women with new ways of thinking without striking them, or Saudi Arabia's ruling authorities as subversive. So, you know, Oprah, love her or hate her, is always a flash point for conversation. And on our blog, Jessica writes, it's amazing to see a down to earth black woman from Mississippi appeal to so many different people here in the U.S. and in other countries. Another reader named Zakita Jones(ph) says, I'm awed at how fast different forms of globalization are taking off and reaching other countries, but Candice James(ph) writes, Oprah works my last nerve. Saudi Arabia can have her!

COX: Speaking of women's issues, another hot topic on our blog this week, women who are choosing to be single mothers. What's been the response?

BENNETT: Yeah. We linked to an article by blogger Kira Craft. She wrote, I don't need a man to have a baby. I don't need to find the one to procreate. So, we asked for women who aren't in a relationship but do want children, is going it alone, you know, is that a viable option? And one reader wrote, certainly, I want to be a parent. Don't want to be a wife. I have the financial means, the emotional stability, so why not? Another reader using the alias Whole9 says, I don't believe that simply wanting a child is a sufficient reason to have one. And T. Dawn(ph) says, if a woman decides to become a single parent, I hope she also considers that a child will want a family. Being a parent is awesome. Deciding to be a single parent with no other type of partner is selfish.

COX: On another topic, the country's financial meltdown has moved attention away from the gas shortage which hit part of the southeast this week, but our online community has been affected by it, right?

BENNETT: Yeah. Parts of Atlanta, Georgia, and parts of Florida, and areas around Nashville have been really hardest hit. And the shortage is due to supply problems after Hurricane Ike. So, a reader named Dennis(ph) wrote in our blog, I literally drove past 28 different gas stations before finding one that still had gas for sale. And a reader in Asheville, North Carolina, says that cars were stretching half miles in two different directions out of that gas station. And some perspective from another reader in Kansas City, he says, we have plenty of gas and no lines. Looks like the folks in the southeast are getting jerked around since we also get our gas from those Houston refineries which were hit by Ike.

COX: In the time we have left, what else is on the blog that people are talking about?

BENNETT: Well, Katie Couric is set to interview Sarah Palin, so we're taking folks' questions. We want to know what they think Katie Couric should ask. We've got video interviews with singer Eric Benet and Glynn Turman who won an Emmy over the weekend.

COX: He did.

BENNETT: Yeah, we're going to revisit that video. And we have more video interviews coming up with the cast of Spike Lee's "Miracle at St. Anna."

COX: Oh, sounds like some good stuff.

BENNETT: Yeah.

COX: All right. Geoffrey Bennett, thank you very much. Geoffrey Bennett is the web producer for News & Notes, joining me here in our studios at NPR West.

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