Magazine article The Christian Century

Century Marks

Magazine article The Christian Century

Century Marks

Article excerpt

BORN AGAIN? Mayor Rudolph Giuliani seemed to almost walk on water during his deft handling of the World Trade Center crisis. So what happened to that other Giuliani, the one who didn't just mount a bully pulpit, but acted the bully part? Did he experience a personality change in the context of this crisis? Not so, say researchers James w. Pennebaker and Thomas C. Lay, who remind us that William James said it was virtually impossible and Sigmund Freud said it was very, very difficult for anyone to change his personality after early childhood--and Freud was the optimist! Pennebaker and Lay point out that there was at least one other time in Giuliani's public life when he showed a softer, more tender side, a time when he faced multiple personal crises: in a two-week stretch in the year 2000, he discovered he had prostate cancer, he withdrew from the Senate race with Hillary Clinton, he separated from his wife, and he openly acknowledged being in a relationship with another woman. The researchers' conclusion: we all can draw on different parts of our personality. Giuliani didn't change his either: through these crises, both personal and collective, a different part of his persona came to the surface. Under other circumstances--let's say he gets back into politics--he may well go back to "type" (Journal of Research in Personality, June).

CNN FOR ARABS: The independent Arabic TV news network Al-Jazeera rocketed to international prominence last year with its exclusive coverage of the war in Afghanistan and its broadcast of taped messages from Osama bin Laden. It is also known for its intense coverage of the Palestinian intifada, colored by clear sympathies for the Palestinian cause. Considered the Arabic version of CNN, Al-Jazeera helps shape political sentiments in the pan-Arabic world. In a new book on the network, Mohammed El-Naway and Adel Iskandar argue that Al-Jazeera is far from being a propaganda tool. Its devoted viewers are excited by a range of views presented by the network. Nowhere else in the Arabic world can one see Muslim fundamentalists arguing with secularists, or Israeli officials arguing with Palestinians. In a region where news is often tightly controlled by the government, Al-Jazeera has "revolutionized the media environment by broadcasting what no other Arab news organization dared to: the hard, often harsh truth of Arab life, culture and politics." Al-Jazeera touches on government corruption, polygamy, Islamic fundamentalism and women's rights, topics that are generally off limits in Arab societies. The authors conclude that the network is a force for democracy and political openness, and that the Arab world needs more news services like it (Al-Jazeera, published by Westview Press).

DEPRESSED AND DEPRESSING: David Batstone of the University of San Francisco recently took 22 of his students on a trip to South Africa where they came face-to-face with an economy in the dumps and a rampant AIDS epidemic. Unemployment overall is running at about 40 percent. It is much worse in certain sectors. In antiapartheid martyr Steve Biko's home township of Ginsberg, for example, unemployment of youth runs at 90 percent. What was very disturbing to this group of Americans was the government's seeming denial of the AIDS crisis. "President Mbeke has rejected an infusion of medical aid, casting doubt on the fatal gravity of the HIV virus and saying that South Africa will deal with HIV in its own African way," says Batstone. One of his students asked "a respected South African professor and UNESCO representative how the nation could hope to boost its economic productivity with the prospect of losing one out of three of its people in the next decade. His reply: `With 40 percent unemployment and scarce resources, perhaps the HIV virus is actually a blessing.'" Batstone pondered the unthinkable: "Can it be that Mbeke and his ruling coalition have reached the same cold, calculated decision, to force euthanasia onto the nation's poor, all in the name of the common good? …

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