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January 21st, 2010
04:29 PM ET

Hope in Haiti

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

I’ve never heard Dr. Sanjay Gupta despair. Which is why it was so upsetting to hear him last night on AC360. Here’s what he told Anderson.

“I feel a little hopeless,” said Sanjay. “And I hate saying that. I just hate feeling that way.” What to do when you start to lose hope is a critical question almost everyone confronts at one time or another.

Sanjay, and through him, many of us, are feeling hopeless after witnessing so many preventable deaths.

He had just finished a story on two Haitian doctors, twin brothers, who’ve been trying to save life after life at their hospital. But they don’t even have enough supplies to dress a child’s wound without causing severe pain. And there’s no place to send the injured even when they can be saved.

Sanjay had also just finished a story on what’s become a hallmark injury in Haiti – crush injuries. He explains how a crushed muscle can break down and release particles into the bloodstream which can cause kidney failure. A lack of supplies means amputation after amputation that would be unnecessary with the right medicine and equipment.

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Filed under: Haiti Earthquake • Michael Schulder • Opinion
January 6th, 2010
03:50 PM ET

Ahmadinejad’s boring resume


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the construction site of a tunnel on the road between Tehran and Chalus, northwest of Tehran, on June 29, 2009.

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

I learned something new today about Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s resume. I now know which line item most intrigues me.

1998: Co-Founder, Iranian Tunneling Association

I did not know Mahmoud Ahmadinejad helped found the Iranian Tunneling Association.

I did not know Iran had a Tunneling Association.

I did not know the Iranian Tunneling Association holds an annual conference that attracts some of the world’s leading tunnel engineers and engineering professors.

I did not know any of this until I read The New York Times story about Iran’s increasing use of deep tunnels to hide its nuclear program.

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Filed under: Iran • Michael Schulder
December 25th, 2009
06:48 AM ET

The magic stick

THE ACTUAL STICK

THE ACTUAL STICK

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

My son's most treasured possession these days is a stick. It's an ordinary looking stick. But I’m told it has extraordinary powers.

Can you imagine what powers this stick possesses?

My son can.

He's adept at wielding that stick.

He leaps with it in hand from the couch, to the coffee table, to the chair.

If you're near him (and he knows not to swing the stick when anyone else is too near) you can faintly hear sound effects and dialogue that you can't quite make out. An action movie in whispers.

At one point the other night, in the middle of the action, he paused for a second and declared: "This stick is amazing!"

Why is it amazing, I asked him.

"It can do like 20 things at the same time."

Like what?

"It can be a knife. Or a gun."

But it was number three that thrilled me.

"Look," he illustrated with the fingers of his left hand - "You can even practice cello positions on it!"

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Filed under: Michael Schulder • Parenting
December 24th, 2009
12:11 PM ET

Gift #1: Holiday gifts from the land of a thousand hills

Janet Nkubana, a former refugee from Rwanda, sells baskets for a company she founded that now employs more than three thousand Rwandans.

Janet Nkubana, a former refugee from Rwanda, sells baskets for a company she founded that now employs more than three thousand Rwandans.

HOLIDAY GIFTS FROM THE LAND OF A THOUSAND HILLS

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

I love receiving holiday gifts.

Especially when they’re gifts of knowledge.

I feel like I received at least five gifts of knowledge when I met Janet Nkubana on a recent night.

I hope you’ll let me share them with you one at a time.

Gift #1: A Basket of Security

Janet Nkubana had travelled from her home in the country they call The Land of a Thousand Hills to The Land of a Thousand Malls.

She was here, at Macy’s, to sell her company’s traditional Rwandan baskets.

It’s unusual to have a conversation at a department store that begins with the phrase "When I was growing up in the camp..."

Janet's camp was a refugee camp in Uganda, across a border from her homeland.

In that camp where she grew up "the population was very concentrated. It was easy for a child to get lost."

And so, as Janet describes it, the mothers would do their best to keep their children close to them. One way they did that was to have the children gather nearby grasses that their mothers could use to weave baskets. Not just baskets. Woven mats too. There were no mattresses. So everyone slept on mats.

The mothers were always weaving mats so "the children didn't have a wet sleep."

FULL POST


Filed under: Africa • Beyond 360 • Michael Schulder • Refugees • Women's Issues
December 24th, 2009
11:48 AM ET

Gift #2: Quality takes time

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

When Rwanda's master basket weaver Janet Nkubana walked me through the symbolism of her basket's designs, the image you see here left a big impression.

I asked her how long it took a weaver to get from the center knot at the bottom of that basket to the spot she's pointing to. A couple of inches of weaving.

"It may take a whole day to get from here to here," she said.

Janet is the master in charge of the masters. Her company employs 32-hundred women to weave baskets. Women who would otherwise have no way to support themselves and whatever family members might have survived the genocide in 1994.

How many of those women are master weavers?"

About 300.

300 masters out of more than 3-thousand weavers. Only one out of ten. Judging from the selection of baskets, the other nine weavers are just really good.

FULL POST


Filed under: Africa • Beyond 360 • Michael Schulder • Refugees • Women's Issues
December 24th, 2009
11:46 AM ET

Gift #3: Don't spill the words

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

I've been to Rwanda before. But I was never invited into a backyard. Now I know why.

Janet Nkubana, Rwanda's master basket weaver, tells me the backyard is where the women of Rwanda gather. It's where they talk. It's where they share their secrets.

No men allowed.

As a journalist, it was my responsibility to convince Janet that it would be a good thing to reveal just a few secrets from the backyard.

I don't have a very large audience, I told Janet. Your secrets will be safe with me and these readers.

Janet ignored my plea, picked up a basket, and walked me through the symbolism of the design.

"In Rwandan culture," Janet explains, "women are not allowed to sit with the men and talk. They are normally in the backyard cooking. But inside the backyard, should other women come to visit, you sit there and talk a lot of secrets.”

FULL POST


Filed under: Africa • Beyond 360 • Michael Schulder • Refugees • Women's Issues
December 24th, 2009
11:44 AM ET

Gift #4: Weaving man

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

I picked out a basket at Macy's and read the name of the artist to Rwanda's master weaver, Janet Nkubana.

The weaver's name was sewn to the inside of the basket.

Who is the woman who wove this, I asked?

Janet looked at the name and laughed.

The weaver of this basket was not a woman. It's a man.

"We had men who had no jobs,” she tells me. “A few men said can we join the women?" This weaver, this man, said: "I don't mind. I'm a very poor person. I want to be a part of your group."

I liked the man’s basket. The weaver was not a master weaver. BUT …

“We do have one man who's a master weaver," said Janet. One out of 300.

FULL POST


Filed under: Africa • Beyond 360 • Michael Schulder • Refugees • Women's Issues
December 24th, 2009
11:15 AM ET

Gift #5: Weaving unity

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

To repair a country after a genocide, in a nation like Rwanda, where the killers and the survivors still live in the same neighborhoods, takes a lot of time, to say the least.

It takes longer than the hundred days that it took the men with machetes to kill at least 800-thousand people in the spring of 1994.

Remember what Janet told us about master basket weaving. It takes time too.

"Through weaving,” says Janet, “we've brought back our culture. We've restored talking. Families are forgiving each other."

I was skeptical that weaving could foster such reconciliation.

“It was difficult at the beginning, to have both aisles of the genocide under one roof. At first," says Janet, "some were not talking to each other."

Janet recalls moving to Rwanda after the genocide and visiting the town her parents came from. One of her former neighbors remembered how Janet's mother used to invite her in for milk. That woman's brothers are now in prison for their role in the genocide.

FULL POST


Filed under: Africa • Beyond 360 • Michael Schulder • Refugees • Women's Issues
December 22nd, 2009
04:40 PM ET

Forgetting Tiger

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

The Tiger Woods story has triggered a memory that led me to two old photos. One photo is real. One is doctored.

The Book of Laughter & Forgetting Tiger

I read about the photos 30 years ago in the Czech author Milan Kundera’s “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.”

The original photo, on the left, was taken in February of 1948.

In Kundera’s account, this moment represented the birth of communism in Czechoslovakia.

The Czech Communist leader, Klement Gottwald, [the man on the right of the photo] had just stepped out on the balcony of a Baroque palace in Prague, before “hundreds of thousands of citizens massed in the Old Town Square. Gottwald was flanked by his comrades, with (Vladimir) Clementis [two faces to the left] standing close to him. It was snowing and cold, and Gottwald was bearheaded.”

Kundera continues:

“Bursting with solicitude, Clementis took off his fur hat and set it on Gottwald’s head.”

So, that fur hat you see on Gottwald’s head was given to him by comrade Clementis, who sacrificed his own warmth for his comrade’s.

That gesture of communist solidarity caught the attention of the Communist Party propaganda machine.

They “made hundreds of thousands of copies of the photograph taken on the balcony, where Gottwald, in a fur hat and surrounded by his comrades, spoke to the people.

Every child knew that photograph, from seeing it on posters and in schoolbooks and museums.

Four years later, Clementis was charged with treason and hanged.

The propaganda section immediately made him vanish from history and, of course, from all photographs.

Ever since, Gottwald has been alone on the balcony. Where Clementis stood, there is only the bare palace wall.

Nothing remains of Clementis but the fur hat on Gottwald’s head."

The doctored photo on the right is all that remained – until the age of the internet brought back the original.

Those photos make me think of Tiger.

Airbrushing Tiger

Tiger Woods’ acknowledgment of “transgressions,” has spurred a similar reaction to his omnipresent images from some free enterprise business comrades.

The huge consulting firm Accenture has treated Tiger the way so many felt: as if he’d committed treason against the brand. It dropped its sponsorship of Woods, saying he “just wasn’t a metaphor for high performance anymore.”

The New York Times describes how, “hours after Accenture ended its sponsorship deal, the golfer’s face was replaced by an anonymous skier on the company’s home page. His name was scrubbed almost completely from the rest of the web site.”

But images of Tiger endorsing the Accenture brand survive. So many airport terminals. So many corporate tchotchkes. So many web sites. It’s harder to make people disappear in the age of the internet than it was back in the 20th Century.

Tiger on Newsstands Today

I just picked up the Golf Digest January 2010 cover story headlined “10 Tips Obama Can Take From Tiger” (pre disclosure.) The issue is irresistible.

And Tiger’s words in that issue before his transgressions were acknowledged, are extremely valuable lessons for a large segment of the population. His advice in that piece convinces me that Tiger Woods will never be out of the picture. Here’s a brief excerpt.

(Editor’s note: please resist the urge to read double meanings into every sentence that follows.)

“AS a result of recent swing changes, it’s easier for me to shape tee shots, even my natural draw. I’m letting the club release along the line of my setup instead of muscling the ball with my upper body, which I did at times when my bad knee prevented a good shift into impact.”

Tiger continues:

“At the tour level you have to be able to hit different sand shots, because the bunkers are so varied and a stroke saved can make all the difference.” (please! You weren’t paying attention to the editor’s note on that last phrase.) “To hit a longer bunker shot, I rotate my body faster to the finish.”

OK – enough.

The point is this.

If you’re serious about golfing, you’ll want to see and hear from Tiger again.

Closeup shots of his back swing. And his short game. And his putts. And his body alignments.

Even if you’re not a golfer, you’ll probably want to hear from him. Golf is a mind game. And who’s not rightfully curious about whether he’ll get his mind back in the game.

Tiger Woods’ each individual twist and turn is not of great consequence.

But the universally fascinating question, in his tragic fall, is this.

Will Tiger be back in the picture again?

I think the answer is this.

Tiger Woods will be back in the picture if Tiger Woods chooses to be back in the picture.

But I don’t expect we’ll ever see the same image.

December 17th, 2009
11:00 AM ET

50on50: Birthday cake at 50 or life until 100? Must I choose, Dr. Gupta?


_________________________________________________________________________________

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

I believe the sequence of events I’m about to recount happened for a reason. It started with a surprise birthday cake from my CNN friends and colleagues for my 50th. I ate a piece. Then I started reading the book I ordered this week from Amazon.com – Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s “Chasing Life.” I immediately turned to the chapter entitled “Living to 100.” I felt like I started reading a few bites too late.

Living to 100

Dr. Gupta was trying to get to the bottom of why there’s a larger percentage of the 100+ year-old demo living on the Japanese islands of Okinawa than anywhere else on earth. It’s not genetic, reports Dr. Gupta. Low calorie diets are partly responsible for Okinawan longevity.

At that very moment, I was interrupted by another birthday celebration here in the newsroom. A colleague visiting from New York was celebrating his 56th. A cake had just arrived for him too. “Cheese cake and red velvet cake with graham crackers in the middle and icing,” relayed 56 year-old birthday boy Joe Von Kanel, with a veteran writer’s precision. I didn’t want to be rude. But that small taste of Gupta on Okinawa gave me pause. Longer life. Fewer calories. I’ll pass.

FULL POST


Filed under: Michael Schulder
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