"My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante is the first of the mysterious Italian author's Neapolitan novels. The series tells the story of a life-long friendship between two working class girls in Naples. Critics have called Ferrante “one of the greatest novelists of our time.” Yet nobody knows her true identity. Join Diane and her guests for a discussion of “My Brilliant Friend.”
A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories: Syrian peace talks continue in Switzerland, but plans for direct talks between both parties break down. Political unrest continues in Ukraine as the president and opposition leaders resume negotiations. Russia pledges to beef up security at the Sochi winter Olympics after reports that officials are searching for potential suicide bombers in the region. India’s supreme court orders an investigation into the gang rape of a woman allegedly attacked on the direction of a village council. And Ambassador Caroline Kennedy criticizes dolphin hunting in japan.
- Yochi Dreazen senior writer, Foreign Policy; author of the upcoming book, "Invisible Front."
- Paul Danahar Washington bureau chief, BBC; author of "The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring."
- Courtney Kube national security producer, NBC News.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Syrian peace negotiations begin in Switzerland, when plans for direct talks break down. 13 men are arrested for a gang rape in Bengal, India, and the shaky truth settles over Ukraine after a week of deadly protests. Here for the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Yochi Dreazen of Foreign Policy, Courtney Kube of NBC News, and Paul Danahar of the BBC. As always, you're invited to be part of the program. Give us a call at 800-433-8850.
MS. DIANE REHMSend us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Happy Friday, everybody.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENHappy Friday.
MS. COURTNEY KUBEGood morning.
MR. PAUL DANAHARGood morning.
REHMGood to see you all. Before we turn to Syria, let's turn to the latest violence coming out of Egypt. What is going on there, Yochi?
DREAZENWe had, basically, a bombing, almost in the center of Cairo that, from the footage that came out this morning, shot off the front of a building, killed about five. The death toll will probably change. Wounded about 70. Again, those numbers will almost certainly increase. What's interesting is that this took place, one, in the center of a major city. And two, that it comes, as in the south of Sinai, sorry, in the south of Egypt, excuse me, in the Sinai -- there's been a low level insurgency raging now for close to a year, where you've had dozens of Egyptian police soldiers killed in the Sinai.
DREAZENAnd the fear had always been that that would spread. The other angle to this is there is a similar fear that when you ban a group like the Muslim Brotherhood, which has allies, that either it or groups are allied with it, will try to carry out attacks against what they see as the people who are responsible for their banning. So, whether they, themselves, are responsible, may well be unlikely. Whether they have allies who are responsible, or have allies who are planning other attacks, is much more likely.
DANAHARLook, I think this group probably isn't directly related to the Brotherhood. If you look back over the history of Egypt, whenever the Brotherhood leadership get banged up, they lose control of their movement. It happened under the Nasser period, it happened after Sadat's assassination. This always happens, because the Brotherhood is a big, big group. And on the fringes of it, there's always been extremists. And when the organization was created, it was a big tent organization. It allowed everybody in. So, I think what we're seeing now is basically the chicken's coming home to roost for 30 years of neglecting Sinai.
DANAHARBecause it's been lawless for decades, and now that the government is struggling to deal with all the tensions of the post coup era, this group is basically using that, and using that chaos, to strike back at the state.
KUBEYeah, the Muslim Brotherhood, initially, was blamed for this by the government. There were some planned protests by the Muslim Brotherhood today. It's the anniversary of the uprising three years ago, I think it's tomorrow, that the uprising began. But the Brotherhood has firmly denied that they were any part of this. It actually bears some of the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda, even though, you know, as we get further and further into this Al-Qaeda reach in the region, it's hard to say that anything bears the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda anymore, because there's so much blending of tactics between the groups.
KUBEBut it does seem possible this was a very seemingly coordinated attack. There was the first attack in central Cairo on the police headquarters, which was massive, as Yochi mentioned. It even damaged a museum across the street. Then, there were three other subsequent attacks that were smaller in nature, but seemed timed specifically to go off right after the initial, large attack.
DANAHARI think the thing about this is that the -- this group, basically, has been allowed to build itself up. I mean, the first attack they were blamed for was in July, 2012. So I think what we're basically looking at here is I think the timing and the target is significant, because the police were the -- Police Day, which is on the 25th, was a reason why the first demonstration that began the revolution, took place. I mean, this is kind of symbolic, going after the police. It's basically trying to ally themselves with the people that feel that their revolution has been taken away from them.
DANAHARWhat's interesting, though, is the Brotherhood has condemned the attacks. It hasn't condemned the group yet, and I think that's quite significant. They are trying, as they always do, to have it both ways.
REHMPaul Danahar. And we are going to take your calls very shortly. 800-433-8850. Paul is Washington Bureau Chief of the BBC, author of "The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring." Courtney Kube, why have the direct talks in Syria not begun?
KUBEWell, they sort of began on Wednesday.
KUBEYeah. It was the first time, at least, the two sides were in the same room together, and there were 40 other odd foreign ministers in there. And unfortunately, it didn't go very well. It was -- it started off as a discussion. I read the foreign ministers spoke and gave their opening statement.
REHMSecretary Kerry spoke, gave a very strong statement.
KUBEHe did. He widely condemned these new allegations of torture and executions. He spoke about the need for a transitional government in Syria. But then, when the Syrian Foreign Minister spoke, at length, for about 40 minutes, he said there is -- this is not for the international community to declare a new government in Syria. It's the Syrian people to do that. Then when the opposition spoke, they also fired right back. So, it became very tense. Unfortunately, Ban Ki-moon won't even acknowledge that this productive conversation had fallen apart.
KUBEToday, in Geneva, there were supposed to be the first one on one talks. That's very shaky. That hasn't happened yet. There's this interesting sort of shuttle diplomacy from room to room, with Ban Ki-moon, where he's literally meeting with the Syrian opposition in one room, going in and meeting with the Syrian regime forces in the other room. Unfortunately, both of them have come out this morning, or today, in Geneva, and said, the Syrian opposition have said, look, if there's not talk of a transitional government that does not include Bashar Al-Assad, we're out of here.
KUBEThe Syrian regime has come back and said, that's not a serious discussion. We want a serious discussion, or we're out of here tomorrow. The State Department came out this morning and said, the talks have not fallen apart. They're still ongoing. We have until tomorrow to make this work. Ban Ki-moon is working hard. Lakhdar Brahimi is working hard. So, I mean, it still remains to be seen whether there will actually be anything that comes out of this, but it's not very optimistic right now in Geneva.
DREAZENThere's never optimism, truthfully, on this. I mean, there are a series of significant senior people in the State Department, including Robert Ford, who's been negotiating this for months, who were communicating back to Secretary of State Kerry, this is not going to work. You should potentially delay this, potentially not hold it. So, you've had senior State Department officials, for months, saying to John Kerry, this is not going to work. And they've been proven right. There's a tragedy to this, obviously, that's sort of beyond comprehension.
DREAZENA hundred and something thousand killed. Those numbers are certainly on the low end. We focus on the chemical attack. Meanwhile, they're being killed by every other means possible, and there's unfortunately a farcical element to this, that if this wasn't so horrific and tragic, you would actually say, this is the absurdity of diplomacy.
REHMBut, you know, I'm really interested in your saying that his State Department people urged him not to go forward. And yet, here he comes, on the first day, making this strong statement against the regime. Why did Secretary Kerry decide to go forward?
DREAZENI think that there was no -- at this point, there was so little option for the US, except to go forward, in at least a rhetorical way. The Obama administration had the chance, almost two years ago now, to arm an opposition when it was A, moderate, B, gaining ground. At that point, Assad had at least some incentive to negotiate. Now, Assad knows that for much of the world, these insurgents are seen as Islamists, that the US, Germany, Russia -- sorry, Germany, Britain, had sent intelligence operatives to Damascus to ask for help from the Syrian Intelligence Service to identify Europeans who might come back to Europe to carry out attacks.
DREAZENSo that's been a successful thing for him. And he's winning on the battlefield, so the incentive that he had two years ago, to negotiate, is gone.
REHMWhat role is Russia playing?
DANAHARWell, Russia's been a spoiler all the way through. I mean, if you look back, there was a moment, in 2012, in the spring of 2012, when it really could have changed everything, if they'd have been, if the international community, in some way, intervened, whether it be supporting the opposition or whether it had created a zone where people were safe. But the Russians, all the way through, have been doing everything they can to spoil every single opportunity, because as far as they are concerned, it's not just about supporting Assad. They do agree with Assad when he says, he's fighting Islamic terrorists.
DANAHARAnd the Russians are equally worried about Islamic terrorists, cause they've had them in Chechnya and they've had them in Dagestan, so it resonates with them. This is not just about keeping Assad. The Russians buy the argument that Assad makes. But I think the interesting thing here -- last summer, I was in Damascus, and I met the Information Minister Omran Al-Zohbi, and I said to him, you know, are you prepared to talk to the opposition? And this is through a translator, and the translator said, yes. We are prepared to have negotiations.
DANAHARAnd the Minister stopped him. And he said, no. We're prepared to have a dialogue. Negotiations are with equals. They're not our equals. We'll have a dialogue. And I think that gives you an illustration of how they see each other. You know, this is not two parties that recognize that both have a valid point of view. They both think they've got to go.
REHMWhat if Iran had been included? Would that have made some kind of difference, Courtney?
KUBEYeah, I mean, John Kerry kind of muddied the waters on this, earlier this month, too, when he said Iran could play a productive role in this. But then he kind of caveated and said, well, from the sidelines in Geneva. But the fact is, there were, you know, all these foreign ministers there who really don't have any actual role in what's going on in Syria. Iran has a role. Iran could play a spoiler. Iran could help. I mean, if there was some kind of a dialogue, a conversation that Iran was involved in and approved of, they could potentially even go to Assad and say, here's why you should not seek re-election. And they may be able to convince him to help move this process along, to help stop the tremendous violence that's been going on for several years.
REHMThat was really an embarrassment for Ban Ki-moon.
DREAZENIt was. Just to pivot for a second off of Courtney's point. The Iranians had the ability to do something that was much more significant, frankly, and powerful, than simply be on the sidelines. They have Iranian Hezbollah operatives and Quds Force operatives in Syria than they've had them there for more than a year. They are training Syrian forces to rearm Assad. There are rumors that Assad's bodyguards now are heavily provided by Iran. So they are, in a literal sense, propping up the Syrian regime. They are sending weapons, they're sending money, they're sending soldiers and trainers.
DREAZENSo, it isn't simply that perhaps they could come in to talks, even though that would be important, and say, listen, you need to sit down at the table. If they pulled any of that, that would change the situation on the battlefield very significantly. They haven't.
DANAHARSorry. The important thing about Hezbollah was they were street fighters. And that's why they were so important in this war.
REHMPaul Danahar of the BBC, Yochi Dreazen of Foreign Policy. He's the author of the upcoming book, "Invisible Front." And Courtney Kube of NBC News. Short break. Your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here in the studio, Courtney Kube of NBC, Paul Danahar of the BBC and Yochi Dreazen of Foreign Policy. Let's turn to the Ukraine and protests there, Paul, obviously turned very deadly this week. Talks between the president and the opposition continue. What's the latest there?
DANAHARWell, the president is offering concessions. It's not going to be enough. At the moment, the whole of Ukraine is just grit by these protests. And it goes back to late last year when he backed out of a deal to tie Ukraine closer to Europe because the Russians basically offered them a large chunk of money to stay with them. You know, Ukraine's very important in Europe. It can make a massive difference either way deciding which way it goes.
DANAHARAnd I think the -- this goes back to the old kind of -- the breakup of the Soviet Union and where the leadership wants to be and where their people want to be. I can't see this one ending quickly because Ukraine is a very important country. And Europe's watching very closely. And...
REHMWhy is it so important, Paul?
DANAHARBecause it's huge. It's huge. It has a massive economy. And if it becomes part of your property, that changes the shape of Europe. But that really upsets the Russians because it basically means that Europe is moving closer, if you'd like, to influence on Russia's borders. And in some ways Ukraine's a bit of a buffer zone for the Russians to be able to feel that they're still a little bit removed from NATO, a little bit removed from the influence of the west, which, you know, particularly under Putin they've been keen to roll back on.
REHMThis is now about two months old. How much longer, Courtney?
KUBEWell, I mean, it took a very violent turn this week which was surprising. You know, we all watched the orange revolution ten years ago and there were no cases of violence in the overthrow of the government then. It was the same, you know, President Yanukovych. So it was very surprising this week to see the police really crack down. There were at least three, there were some counts of five people killed -- protestors killed, other, you know, stories of atrocities.
KUBEThis actually -- the protests that began in November had sort of started to quiet down recently in recent weeks. And then last week the Yanukovych government passed this law through parliament that banned all outside protests and that reinvigorated the protests. And it actually created sort of this radical element that's really been fueled by the violence this week.
KUBESo there were reports that when the opposition went and met with the Yanukovych government tonight actually, since the time difference, today and Friday, when they came back out and spoke to the opposition, the protestors out there, they booed the word of a truce. They don't want a truce. They don't want to talk to the government. They want the government to step down, to overthrow it, any means possible. So, I mean, that in and of itself is sort of -- you know, bodes the fact that it's going to go on for some time if the protestors out there don't want a truce.
DREAZENYeah, I think Paul's point is exactly right, that this is in some ways -- there's a domestic issue to it and it's also a proxy for a much broader issue. And we talk often about the war in the Middle East between the Saudis and the Sunnis on the one hand, the Iranian and the Shia on the other. This is, in some ways, a weird parallel. You have Putin very much wanting to reestablish as much as he can the old Soviet Union, his fear of influence. You've seen that frankly in Sochi that this is a massive naturalist effort to sort of say, Russia is back, Russia controls, Russia is expanding.
DREAZENPaul's exactly right that when the EU suddenly has the potential to bring the Ukraine -- this not only massive country but a historically important country to Russia into its orbit, that to Putin is an insult. And that's something that he will do everything in his power to prevent. There's a group with this sort of wondrous name, their name is pronounced -- and if someone here can correct me -- (speaks foreign language) translated into the right sector. And they've been openly threatening violence against the government of Ukraine.
DREAZENIt's not clear to me or to, I think, most people on the outside whether they have the capability of carrying out the attacks or sort of threatening to carry out. But it gets to Courtney's point that this is not something where he offers a few concessions if the protestors go home. This has the potential to get much worse and to go on much longer.
REHMMuch longer, wow. And at the same time you've got the hunt on for these so-called black widows in Moscow, in Sochi because the Olympics are coming up. There are threats of violence. How can Russia keep the Olympics safe?
DREAZENSo Putin has this weird phrase of this ring of steel that he said is not surrounding the city of Sochi. That said, there have been purported sightings of this particular woman. There are two or three others who are -- who have been named and are on the loose. They don't know if they're in Sochi or not. I have friends who are sports writers who have told me that if they didn't have to be there they would leave.
REHMThis is not an Olympics where I think there's any excitement, either by people who are there or people going there. There's real concern about the athlete's village, about the safety of the village. The U.S. has warships ready to evacuate. When that leaked I'm sure the reaction of the Putin government was not warm. So you have an Olympics that, for a whole lot of reasons including the fact that it's the most expensive Olympics of all time, somewhere between 50 and 65 billion, billions lost to corruption, now you have the real possibility -- the real possibility of a significant terror attack.
REHMThat if you have someone already in the city -- maybe no one else enters the city but if they're already there, as seems to be the case, preventing it is very, very difficult.
REHMAnd tell me about the terrain in Sochi. It's rather curious for winter Olympics, Paul.
DANAHARYeah, it's a funny place to have it on all different kind of levels. I mean, the thing about Sochi is right at the beginning people were suspicious about the reasons why it was going on. It wasn't considered to be the best place on earth. The problem with it is trying to secure it is really -- trying to secure it is really difficult. I think the problem you've got now is that Russia has had bombs in the center of Moscow. If you can't secure Moscow, if you can't secure your capital, you can't secure a skiing resort basically.
DANAHARAnd I think the problem is that, you know, suicide bombers are incredibly difficult to stop because at the end of the day when you stop them they blow themselves up. So it's not a case of being able to say, you know, we're going to be able to kind of capture this person. When they get to the point where they're being stopped, and that's normally by the security services, then that's their target. So, I mean, it's incredibly difficult and it always has been.
REHMSo if you've got the sports writers saying, I'd really rather not be here, what about the athletes themselves? Have we heard defections along the way as yet?
KUBEI haven't heard of any athlete defections. Definitely their families. I saw one of the hockey players said that he had told his wife and his kids and his parents -- his father was a player on the 1980 hockey team actually and was very excited to go back to Russia -- but he told his family not to come. So I haven't heard of any athletes. I know some of them have been hiring private security that will help them either for some sort of an evacuation plan if necessary.
KUBEI mean, I think that the larger point is this is -- obviously this lies right on the edge of a dangerous area, a dangerous region. But this is also a bigger part of the day and age that we live in right now. This is a soft target. There are a lot of people. There's international attention. I mean, this is a prime target for terrorists. So I think any time we have a large gathering like this, it is -- you know, I hate to say it, but look at the Boston Marathon bombing. You know, it was a lot of attention. There were a lot of people there.
KUBEWe have a Super Bowl coming up. These are the kinds of things that are going to be a prime target. So, you know, the other thing is this is really a legacy issue for Putin right now. He has everything to lose from something happening at these games. So, you know, he does not want to look weak in any way. As we've seen from the video of him bare-chested wrestling tigers and whatnot, the last thing in the world that he ever wants is to look weak. An attack on his soil during his games would be a terrible blows to him.
DANAHARThe only thing that's going in the Russian's favor is the fact that the people of Russia will accept a lot of security. I was in Beijing for the Olympics there. And, again, they had these rings of steel. It was incredibly difficult to move around the city. I had my press pass and you had to go through layer upon layer upon layer of security. The only thing in his favor is the people of Russia will accept a lot more security than the people of America are used to accepting. That will make it easier to track these people down, but it won't stop them from blowing themselves up when they do get stopped if they're there.
REHMOf course he wanted to have it there because he has a large estate there, I gather.
DREAZENHe does. And he basically said to the oligarchs whose wealth in part came from him, you will put money into this. So you have this Olympics that has been more expensive already by multiple factors than anything else that's ever been held. You know, you asked about athletes. Prior to this, the big question about athletes was, would some of them boycott because of Putin's anti-gay rhetoric? And there was real concern -- in fact several countries told their athletes that if they marched in in the opening ceremony, as some have threatened to do, with rainbow flags on their faces or with rainbow bands on their arms to show solidarity with gay athletes, that they would be kicked off the team.
DREAZENSo prior to this, the big question was, when you have a rapidly homophobic government, will athletes go for that reason? And just very quickly, Putin, in trying to be reassuring on that issue, as usual made it sound worse where he said, don't worry about it. You're welcome to come. No one's going to round you up, which is not reassuring, but stay away from the children.
REHMStay away from...
DREAZENWhich is, I mean, offensive on so many levels. And this was him trying to be reassuring, which gives you a viewpoint, I think, into his mindset.
REHMExtraordinary. And now we turn to this horrific gang rape in India, and reports that it was ordered by the village council. Courtney, tell us about that.
KUBEIt was a 20-year-old woman. She lives in the West Bangle state and she was gang raped by at least 12 men earlier this week. As if that's not horrific enough, it seems that he village elders are the ones who ordered the men to rape her, one of whom actually is allegedly distantly related to her. But she apparently fell in love with some man who's a different ethnicity, a different area, a different tribe ...
REHM...a different village.
KUBE...a different village. And he came to visit her apparently to propose marriage. And some of the villagers saw them. They tied them both to a tree and bound their hands and held essentially a kangaroo court and literally found them guilty of the crime of falling in love with one another and fined them both. Her family couldn't pay the fine so...
KUBE…yeah, 400 U.S. dollars, which I think is like 25,000 rupees. And they couldn't pay the fine so the elder who was overseeing this kangaroo court said to the men there, well have some fun with her. They can't pay. Do what you will.
REHMThey let the young man go.
KUBEYeah, his family paid and he was freed, although apparently he was tied up to the tree while she was attacked. I think the larger -- the thing that's really just disturbing about this is there's been this culture of sexual violence against women in India. And despite the fact that they cracked down in Delhi after a couple of high-profile attacks last year and the year before, there still remains this women as a second class citizen in the more rural areas.
KUBEThere are still honor killings in the north and there's this apathy among the police for it. So even in this case, the young woman was attacked on Monday -- violently attacked to the point where she doesn't even know how many men attacked her. She can't even remember how many there were. But her parents didn't even take her to the hospital and to the police until Wednesday. And now she's in critical condition.
DANAHARI think the thing about this particular case is the tribal areas of India are fairly autonomous in terms of how they run their legal system. I spent nine years living in India and you often came across stories where things were going on in the tribal areas that were just completely off the wall. I mean, with the way that they have their kangaroo court system, it's a little bit like the areas in Pakistan where they have their local tribes. They really do see themselves as aside from the state.
DANAHARSo they would not go to the police and they would not deal with the authorities because they are trying to protect their own way of life. They're trying to be away from the authorities so they are a little -- well, they're on their own. And the culture of everyone, even the family of this woman, will be, we've nothing to do with the State of India. We are our own little world and we'll deal with it ourselves.
DANAHARAnd the interesting thing about the tribal is that they're the people that the Christian missionaries have been trying to convert. And that's been a hugely kind of political issue in India with the Hindu rights. So it's a complicated place.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Yochi.
DREAZENThe previous cases to this that have gotten a lot of attention in the west were gang rapes in the cities that were not stopped by police or by anybody else, but appeared to be thugs, you know, criminality and just thugs who took advantage of the fact that there was a culture, as Courtney said, that allowed it, that the police were not particularly interested. To my mind, among the most revolting things about this -- and it almost is nausea inducing -- is that this wasn't random criminality and this wasn't random men taking advantage of a vacuum. This was ordered. That again, as Paul indicated, this little bubble that has its own legal system, this was the ordered punishment of a woman.
DREAZENAnd so when you think about the cities where it was not to remotely excuse it, but this was criminality carried out by thugs taking advantage of something. There's something even more horrific to my mind of it being ordered, that the legal system didn't just simply not stop it but actually said, you do this.
REHMAnd India itself is pushing back saying, you're making us this target of resentment and anger because of reported rapes. We have to do things on our own. We have to deal with it on our own. But our country is no worse than any other.
KUBEYeah, and, you know, there was a lot of attention when a tourist was attacked. She was asking for directions to her hotel and she was grabbed by five men and raped. But, you know, there's so many cases of this going on there that we never hear about because it's not a foreigner. It's in these, you know, more rural areas. And all the laws...
REHMSo you don't see anything changing as a result.
DANAHARNo, particularly because this is -- a lot of it -- basically the infrastructure of the government will say, this is what happens in the tribal areas. I mean, they will just dismiss this, put it down as a kind of freak of nature, if you'd like, within the political system. They do have to take seriously what happens in the cities because women vote. Women have political power in the cities. But in the tribal areas, no one votes in the tribal areas for anybody. It's all basically a kind of -- it's a law unto itself.
DANAHARSo this is going to be something that the Indians will basically say, it's kind of what happens there. There's not much we can really do about it. Yes, we'll try and see some justice is done. But it's not going to change the way that they manage as a tribal area because they know that trying to change that in itself would be a huge, huge issue.
REHMWhere -- what about tourism? What about the effect or the impact there?
DREAZENTourism is one issue and business investment is the other. I mean, India has been a place that foreign money has been flowing to because of its high tech sector. You know, this was not the image India had five years ago. This was not the image India had two years ago. This is the image India now has that impacts tourism, that impacts business investment. And that's a very dangerous thing.
DREAZENIn Davos right now, you have a lot of developing economies trying to say to the world, we're still here. Don't forget about us, South Africa, India. This is in no way remotely the message the Indian government wants to communicate.
REHMPaul Danahar, talk about Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan. She sent out a Tweet this week critical of that country's dolphin hunt. What kind of impact do you think her Tweet has created?
DANAHARWell, it's upset the Japanese government. And it's interesting. I spent some time in Japan when I was living in China. And I asked the Japanese, you know, how can you kill dolphins and whales? And the people said to me, how can you kill lambs? I mean, the Japanese look as us killing lambs as abhorrent as them killing dolphins. They say, these beautiful lovely baby creatures and you're killing them and eating them.
DANAHARSo there's a real cultural misunderstanding going on here. I think the thing that's interesting about this is Ambassador Kennedy knows how much this angers the Japanese when people attack them for this kind of thing.
REHMBut surely she had to have a go ahead from Washington to do this.
DANAHARYeah, I think it's an issue that the Japanese expect to get trouble for because they always do. It's an issue they're quite happy to push back on. I'm not sure it was perhaps the best way to start her tenure as ambassador. But I think at the same time, you know, she's going to have to comment on these things. It's an issue -- it will blow over because there's always been an issue about this kind of thing.
REHMPaul Danahar of the BBC. When we come back, more talk, your calls and emails. Stay with us.
REHMAnd, welcome back. Time to open the phones. We'll go first to Deanna in Clarksville, Maryland. Hi, you're on the air.
DEANNAHi. Hi, Diane. I love your show.
DEANNAAnd I just wanted to call in about the India issue, about the gang raping in India.
DEANNAI was just concerned that, you know, in the way that we report on these things, we tend to view them as, you know, a unique occurrence -- something that doesn't happen anywhere else. But the problem with that is, it speaks to a privilege that we all have, you know, in our lives, we don't have to deal with these things. And, for some people living in America, especially trans women of color, rape is -- rape and rape culture is something that you have to be afraid of and be aware of on a daily basis. And that's basically my comment.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling. Courtney.
KUBEYeah, you have, I mean you make an excellent point. I think one of the reasons that this specific story had additional attention, as Yochi was pointing out, is that it was -- it was an ordered attack on this woman, as opposed to random violence, which, I mean, as we all know occurs, unfortunately, all over the world. But this was a sanctioned, ordered attack on a woman for something -- the crime of falling in love with someone of a different ethnicity.
REHMAnd, of course, culturally, we don't get that. Let's go to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hi there, Ron.
RONYes, hi. Thank you for taking my call, Diane. I'd like to say that regarding Caroline Kennedy speaking out to protect the dolphins, it's really fairly rare for a politician to speak out. And she deserves a lot of credit. She shows a lot of courage and resolve and high character. And I just can't say enough about Caroline Kennedy as a person and also what she did in this instance.
REHMAll right. Thanks for your call.
DREAZENYou know, Ron's point's an interesting one, in part because, when she arrived, the Japanese press exploded with Camelot returns, you know, this -- she came with a celebrity factor that it's almost -- you never see an ambassador coming. And it'll be interesting to see what the response to this is. Does that celebrity fade? You know, does she start getting attacked in the Japanese press? Or is this something where it carries over and, because she's so high-profile, this resonates because of who she is, the name she has, and the kind of press coverage she had when she first arrived?
REHMAll right. To Billy in San Antonio, Texas. You're on the air.
BILLYI'm calling about a recent article in Time magazine that showed a very graphic picture of six or eight men out in the countryside with long clubs beating down a man who was trying to get somewhere to vote. And they killed people on their way to vote. And it was striking that they aren't going to make much change if they can't get to the voting places in the countryside.
REHMWhat country are you...
BILLYIndia. It was a picture out of India in the recent Time magazine. And then one more comment. Yesterday, there was a very graphic movie that -- put on the Internet of Danish young men killing dolphins in a secluded cove in Denmark, with people watching. And it was a rite of passage that they should slaughter these dolphins with large hooks. And people watched it. And it was a bloodbath. I find that very disturbing.
REHMAll right. Paul, do you want to comment?
DANAHARYeah. On the India, I think the thing about India, for all of its faults, it really does take its democracy seriously. That doesn't mean that in the areas where there is a breakdown in law and order, in places like Bihar, people do actually try to stop people voting, because a lot of the politicians in places like that end up basically getting in power and then using the power that they have to make an awful lot of money and there's an awful lot of corruption. So there are times when it does fall apart in certain parts of the country. But, overall, India really does take its democracy seriously.
DANAHARMost of their elections in most of the places are very free and very fair and very well organized.
REHMHelp me to understand how the Japanese use the dolphins.
DANAHARWell, they eat them.
DANAHARI'm not quite sure whether they eat every bit of it, but they certainly -- I mean, as far as they're concerned, it's a fish to be eaten...
REHMIt's a food.
DANAHAR...in the same way that they -- I mean, they slaughter whales under the guise of scientific research. But they're eaten, too. It's a matter of, you know, what they think they want to eat. And what their communities -- this is about, in many ways, a cultural thing. The communities that kill these dolphins have been killing and eating them for generations. And as far as they're concerned, the Japanese are saying, "Well, look, you stop killing cows to eat beef, like you've been doing for generations -- we'll stop eating dolphin." I mean it's as simple as that. They go, "Who are you to tell us what to eat?"
REHMAll right. To Jason in Dallas, Texas. You're on the air.
JASONYes. Thank you for taking my call. I love the show. I wanted to point out that that's sort of a false equivalency about the dolphins and the lambs. And I understand cultural distinctions, but the mammalian intelligence of dolphins is on par with, you know, low-level human intelligence, is it not? I mean, is it okay to justify, you know, behaviors of cultures that maybe are very demeaning to women and, you know, sort of make that false equivalency? I'm not sure that -- I think that Ms. Kennedy did a great thing. And...
DANAHARI think that, I mean, if you look at the, when you talk about sort of cultural equivalents, many people in the Muslim world and in South Asia and across the Middle East, will look at the way that women are portrayed in the West and say, "That's demeaning. It encourages aggression towards women." They look, a lot of the kind of -- the modern culture today, the music culture, and say, "You know, these are cultural things that we think are wrong." So there is -- there are different interpretations, different ways of looking at things.
REHMI've just gotten a note that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 200 points, extending a global route on emerging market woes. What's this all about, Yochi?
DREAZENSo, on the emerging markets, a colleague of mine did a good story about that, you know, plug. It's on the foreign-policy site right now, because it's been a theme of Davos. You've had the emerging markets -- the fear had been that because the emerging markets are slowing and the U.S. economy had been improving, that money that had been going to India and to Brazil, would now stop going there and start going back to the U.S.. So those countries in Davos have ads on busses. They have ads on -- South Korea has a South Korea night, even though it's obviously a wealthy country.
DREAZENBut you have these emerging markets trying to publicly in Davos say, "Our economies are fine. Keep coming. We're still a place where you should invest." And it's because this weird dynamic of, the U.S. economy improves. Money starts to go back to the U.S. economy from overseas. And then these countries fear that money will not come to them.
KUBEYeah, I had -- speaking of Davos -- I saw an interesting comment from Prince Turki al Faisal this morning that really struck. There have been so many interesting speeches given there. It's a shame that we have -- that, you know, this country doesn't pay as much attention to it -- but Turki al Faisal said that he really was critical of the U.S. and U.S. foreign policy. And he said that since the U.S. has begun these "secret talks" with Iran, these nuclear talks with the rest of the world -- doesn't know what's in them -- that U.S. foreign policy has no sense of direction. And, I mean, I found that just fascinating.
DANAHARI think what's really fascinating at the moment is the way the Saudis are going around the city whining to everyone that will listen that America has basically given up on them. It's given up on the Gulf. It's given up on the Middle East. I mean, I don't think -- the sense I get from talking to people in the city is, they are sick to death of listening to the Saudis complaining and complaining and complaining. And they really think that this, you know, at the end of the day, they're kind of getting to the point where they just think they need to just pack it in, because they're losing patience with them.
KUBEAnd he also invoked other Saudi -- other Gulf nations, too. He talked about Qatar and all these allies, these U.S. allies. And they don't understand why the U.S. is turning their back on them. And he said that the U.S. has abandoned Syria and whatnot. I mean it's a fascinating conversation.
REHMAnd let's talk about the Internet crash in China. What happened there, Courtney?
KUBEWell, there were about 500 million Internet users in China who had no service for much of the day on Tuesday. And they didn't know why. Well, it turns out that they had all been rerouted from this internal Internet system in China to this tiny company that has -- basically has a front in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Well, 500 million users going to this teeny little company -- of course, it crashed...
KUBEYeah. I think their -- I think their servers crashed in about a millisecond. So they -- so there was no Internet service for people in China. And the ironic part about this, there's this thing called the great firewall in China. And basically it's a way of the Chinese government monitoring everything that's going on in the Internet. Essentially, if you're on the Internet in China, you never really leave China. Everything is within the country.
KUBESo they watch everything that's going on, if there's anti-government talk -- if there are journalists who are reporting things that are against the Chinese government, and whatnot. Well, in this case, the great firewall is supposed to block certain outside sites, sites like this one that it rerouted everyone to, which is intended to tell people how to get around the great firewall. So there was all this speculation. Oh, you know, it was a hacker. Hackers got in and they brought down the Internet.
KUBEAnd, you know, and then, ironically, one of the sites that people were redirected to was actually founded by a member of Falun Gong, which is, of course, the Chinese government has found illegal. So it's sort of this strange story. In the end, it seems less likely that it was hackers or any kind of an inside job and more likely that it was some sort of, like, an engineering or a technology problem that, rather than blocking these sites, it sent all the Chinese people to them.
REHMAll right. To David in Jacksonville, Florida. You're on the air.
DAVIDYeah. Thank you, Diane. It seems what we're talking about is common humanity, when we talk about things in other countries. We need to look in the mirror ourselves and think about the Hispanic women who have none of the human rights -- us complaining about rights. And when they are arrested as illegal immigrants, the children are separated and god knows where they are. We need to look at a mirror when we say the other, and say we.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for your call.
DREAZENI mean, it's interesting, Diane, that so far we've had two calls that are on sexual violence in the U.S., when, you know, I think, given the work we all do, we're so focused on events outside the U.S. There was a really heartbreaking case this week that I think is just worth flagging briefly. A reporter for a website called Grantland, a sports website, had done a story about an inventor of a golf club. In the course of the reporting, he discovered that he was a transgendered woman, and asked her about it. And she then killed herself.
DREAZENAnd this has been in the world of media, this gigantic scandal of why would you (a.) do that? Do you bear any responsibility, (b.) And (c.) shouldn't you have, in the story, made more of the tragedy of it? But it does raise attention to, oh, your previous caller about transgendered, sexual violence towards them. And also the mental toll that having to hide their identity takes on them. But, again, it's just very interesting to me sitting here in the studio with you and these brilliant other journalists, that these are two calls on an issue that no one really ever talks about.
DREAZENAnd I think it's good the callers raised them.
DANAHARAnd I think, I was talking to a colleague of mine, and she was saying that she has a friend who is transgender. And this woman said to my friend, "When I was a man and I went to a garage, I got treated entirely different to how I do now I'm a woman going to a garage. When I go -- in my workplace, I get treated entirely different." And this is a person who knows what it's like to live in a man's world and knows what it's like to live in a woman's world and can see the massive difference.
DANAHARAnd this is, you know, someone who is a high-powered executive and is seeing the way society completely changes when it's dealing with different people's sexes.
REHMAll right. To Yellow Springs, Ohio. And you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Henry, you're on the air.
HENRYYes, please. Along the same lines, I would just remind everyone that a little more than 50 years ago in this country, we were lynching, castrating and burning men for crossing an ethnic line to court or woo a woman.
REHMQuite right, Henry. And the question becomes, Paul, do you see any evolution in this kind of attitude or behavior in these areas of India?
DANAHARI think there's been a massive change in India because there's been a massive change in their media. Over the last ten years, the independent media in India has just grown exponentially. And, in the old days, when it was a state broadcaster, they kind of kept a lid on things. Now, you have a lot of people and a lot of young people and a lot of young women in the Indian media. And they're driving a lot of these new issues.
DANAHARSo I think the reason why we're seeing these things coming out now is that there is a generation of young, empowered and educated women that are saying, "These issues matter to me, they matter to my mother, to my sister, to my aunt, and I want to get them out there for people to discuss."
REHMSo we need to keep talking about them.
DREAZENWe should. I mean, these are parts of our history that we would like to pretend didn't happen or would like to look past. You know, the movie that is the frontrunner for the Academy Award is this wonderful but very violent movie about slavery.
REHMTwelve Years a Slave.
DREAZENAnd it's almost difficult to watch because of the level of gore and carnage, but something we should watch precisely for those reasons.
REHMTo Bradenton, Florida. Hi, Gaylord.
GAYLORDGood morning. Good to talk to you people. I wanted to comment about three or four things quickly. One was they were talking about the eating the dolphins. Well, and how it's mistreating them and so forth. And somebody talked about lambs here in the United States. Keep in mind that unless the government has changed the rules lately, that calves are kept in very tiny wooden crates, tied -- prisons, if you want to call it that -- and force fed until they get to the right weight. And then they take them out and kill them.
REHMAll right, Gaylord.
GAYLORDHow humane is that?
REHMAll right. Thanks for your call. I mean, clearly, this country has a lot that we need to think about.
KUBEAnd, you know, Gaylord makes an excellent point. You know, this dolphin hunting, this killing, is not illegal. The Japanese -- they're not doing anything illegal. They've been fishing this way for thousands of years. Now, you could make an argument that the way that the dolphins are killed is inhumane. They have a pole jammed into their spinal cord. And the Japanese maintain that it's humane, that they die quickly. There are animal rights groups that say it can take up to 30 minutes, that sometimes they actually suffocate and bleed to death, is the way that they die.
KUBEBut, that being said, if there's going to be any change in this, it would actually have to be a change to the international law, because this is the way Japanese have been fishing for thousands of years.
REHMFinally, the fact that Caroline Kennedy tweeted about this in her early months as ambassador, what do you think this portends about her relationship with the Japanese during her time there, Paul?
DANAHARI think she's probably used the fact that she has this enormous celebrity to talk about something that she cares about. I don't think it will particularly damage her, because I think it's an issue that the Japanese are used to getting grief over. But I think there is a real cult of celebrity in Japan. I think she'll ride this through. And I think she'll be a very good ambassador for America.
DANAHARAnd I think it will only improve the relationships between the two countries, which are strong anyway, because this pivot towards Asia, which hasn't really happened, but it has in many people's eyes, in the Asian world, said well at least they're waking up to the fact that we have an issue with China that does have to be addressed.
REHMPaul Danahar of the BBC; Courtney Kube of NBC; Yochi Dreazen of Foreign Policy; have a great weekend, everybody.
DANAHARThanks very much.
KUBEThank you, too.
REHMThank you. And thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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