how the world sees america

December 2007 Archives

December 4, 2007 8:00 AM

Israel's Silicon Valley

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BEIT SHEMESH - "Israel's ten thousand miles from Silicon Valley; but it takes a nanosecond to get there," says Jon Medved, one of Israel's leading high-tech venture capitalists and CEO of a new startup called Vringo, which allows users to share video ringtones on their cell phones.

Israel is a small country with seven million people, unfriendly neighbors, and relatively high taxes. So why does it have the second-largest concentration of startups per capita after Silicon Valley? Jon says the two places are more similar than one would think.

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December 5, 2007 2:58 PM

Americans Don't 'Get' Terrorism

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SDEROT, Israel - Do Americans really understand what terrorism is, what it does to a society, and how it can be defeated?

Five young Israeli soldiers -- nineteen- and twenty-year-olds stationed in Sderot, a small town bordering the Gaza Strip -- say Americans have much to learn. These members of the Israel Defense Forces should know: part of their job is to protect and comfort the traumatized youth who live here in the city where Kassam rockets fall from the sky.

The "Red Dawn" alarm bell sounds whenever a rocket has been shot into the air from Gaza, a Palestinian-controlled territory just a few kilometers away. When they hear the siren, people jump out of their cars, flee the roads, and hide behind bomb blast walls, trees, or the north faces of tall buildings. They cover their heads with their hands and wait for the homemade Kassam rocket to strike. These sirens usually go off early in the mornings or around two in the afternoon when kids are going and coming from school, or workers are commuting.

I meet with soldiers from the Home Front Command, which prepares communities for natural and man-made disasters, and the Education Corps, which tutors youth in need. In Sderot, the former mainly comfort panic struck children while the latter help educate delinquents.

I ask these young soldiers what their experience in the military working with the youth of Sderot has taught them about confronting terror tactics and raising kids not to hate. What about lessons would they share with Americans?

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December 6, 2007 1:00 PM

Little America, in Manila

All roads lead to the Starbucks Siren

MANILA, Philippines – This is the first city I’ve visited that has more Starbucks, McDonalds, 7-Elevens, TGI Fridays, and Pizza Huts per square foot than a strip mall in suburban Washington D.C. I’m actually writing this from a Starbucks on Adriatico Street. Shame on me.

My home here is in a college friend’s apartment in a somewhat seedy part of town. Storefronts below my place offer “Foot/Body and Reflexology Massages.” Outside the parlors, dozens of women wearing matching pink uniforms call out, “Hey Daddy” to business tourists passing through. Gnarled men hawk boxes of Viagra, saying, “Buy My Vitamins.” A young boy wears tattered boxers and a t-shirt that has “Fitch” emblazoned on it in red felt, under which the letters “N.Y.C.” are scrawled in what looks like ink from a black Sharpie pen.

Next to one parlor is a Tex-Mex and Steak joint called Boston Charcoal Grill. Beside the word “Boston” there’s a big neon cowboy hat. In the four years I spent in Boston, I didn’t see much connection between Boston and Tex-Mex, but who knows? This is America reinvented.

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December 10, 2007 9:00 AM

Filipino Colonel to America: Reinforcements Welcome

LtCol Pablo Lorenzo leads his 35th Batallion.

One thousand Moro National Liberation Front rebels encircled 180 of Lieutenant Colonel Pablo Lorenzo's infantrymen in the coconut groves outside Panamao, a small town in the predominantly Muslim south of the Philippines. It was February 6, 2005, and the separatist Islamic rebels violated their peace agreement, firing down on Lorenzo and his men with mortars, machine guns, and 90-millimeter recoilless rifles.

Reinforcements from the Philippines Marines were ambushed in the adjacent town of Patikul by fighters from Abu Sayyaf, a group connected with al-Qaeda that is increasingly considered simply a racketeering outfit. Air support was spread thin. So Lorenzo and his men had to wait out their attackers in trenches and foxholes.

Sound familiar? asks Lorenzo, now on a break in Manila. He says Americans in Iraq can learn from the lessons of the the Philippine military’s three decades of experience fighting insurgency on its islands. And he believes U.S. military involvement in the Philippines is essential to professionalizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), providing humanitarian assistance to the Muslim south, and hopefully ending the Islamic insurgency here.

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December 12, 2007 9:55 AM

McMinister: Playing the 'White' Card

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DAVAO CITY, Philippines - When Pentecostal missionary Darrell Blatchey brings dying kids to the public hospital here, local Filipino doctors immediately move him to the front of the line -- not because the children he brings are near death, but because Darrell is a white American.

This missionary tells me this over a 'Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese' at the local McDonald’s. He loves this American chain and eats at least six meals a week here. "Ah, McDonald’s," he sighs. For him it represents "consistent excellence, cleanliness, quality service, and kid-centered-fun."

These qualities are American, he says, and they inspire his missionary work. Twelve years ago Darrell founded "Family Circus" with his wife Sandy out of the back of a bright yellow truck in Davao City. The husband-and-wife team decided the best way to lure kids to the gospel was to reenact its dramatic scenes with clown costumes, live snakes, and music.

Darrell says his American looks made it easier for him to attract his initial audience. "When I enter a room, kids think Hollywood star -- the tall, white American -- and they pay attention right away." This extra attention has given him a leg up spreading the gospel here.

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December 14, 2007 8:04 AM

"House MD" Lures Filipino Nurses

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DAVAO CITY, Philippines - When Teri Hatcher’s character on “Desperate Housewives” said on the show she didn’t want a doctor from "some med school in the Philippines" examining her, it raised a furor here last month. Protests. A signing-campaign. Then an official apology from the show. Why so touchy?

“We’ve lost our best nurses and doctors to America…and got nothing in return,” says Brokenshire Hospital’s director Dr. Jack Estuart in a faded yellow operating room. His nurse manager led a team of 108 nurses for eight years before one day informing him she was going to Odessa, Texas.

“Odessa!” he says. “Where is that? Where? She’s gone from all this responsibility to nothing.”

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December 18, 2007 9:00 AM

Child of a Filipina Prostitute: “The Dirt of the Americans”

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OLONGAPO, Philippines - Six-year-old Shiela Maria Daet used to watch her mother strip naked and gyrate on Red Rooster’s stage. African-American servicemen hooted in the dark and threw cash in the air.

“It was disgusting,” she says. But even back then, in 1986, Shiela knew her father, Samuel Gill Barber, had once been one of those American servicemen at the bar. She knew Sam had hired her mother for a night in 1979, fell in love with her, impregnated her, and then left for America a month before Shiela was born.

So for the next two decades Shiela looked for her father Sam. She found him in 2006, broken, serving time in a Georgia jail.

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December 20, 2007 9:00 AM

Love at First Click

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OLONGAPO, Philippines - Theirs was a match made on Fifty-one-year-old Floridian Phillip Stephen Dennis was struck by 29-year-old Christina (“Tin-Tin”) Geronimo’s profile picture on this auctioning/social networking site, so in February, 2007 he typed: “Hello.”

Six months later, after hours of Yahoo! chats and staccato webcam conversations, the two proclaimed their love for one another. And just yesterday, Phil texted Tin-Tin asking for her ring size. In February, 2008, exactly one year since Phil first clicked her picture, the two plan to marry.

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December 24, 2007 10:26 AM

USAID's Promise to the Philippines

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CARMEN, Philippines - Amalia Datukan worried that if America didn’t follow through on its pledge to provide farming assistance here, she’d have to pay with her life.

That was back in 1997 when the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)'s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) project hired her, a Filipina local, to help them distribute aid to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels. The MNLF, a Muslim insurgency here in the southern Philippines, signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996. USAID wanted to make sure that peace held by giving former fighters a stake in it.

But Amalia's tough childhood memories complicated her new job. When she was fourteen-years-old, MNLF combatants blasted Amalia's hometown, forcing her family to evacuate. Amalia grew up a refugee, thinking all MNLF rebels were “violent, irrational, unreasonable people.”

So how did she feel distributing aid to these former combatants on behalf of the U.S. government?

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December 25, 2007 8:37 AM

A Lonely American Christmas in Korea

Hanging out at Friends Bar.

SEOUL, South Korea - As the holiday season approached, a U.S. army commander here in South Korea warned his men and women not to be stupid -- not to commit suicide. For the young soldiers under his command, mostly in their early twenties, this is their first holiday season abroad in a cold, distant place. It's a tough combination for anyone, military or not.

"The best present I could ask for is just to be in America," a 24-year-old-U.S. army man tells me at Friends Bar. He holds his head in one hand, and a Corona beer in the other. After five months of training in the Midwest, he spent only 30 hours at home before flying to Seoul to join over 30,000 other U.S. military personnel here who, for the past five decades, have helped deter North Korean aggression.

This non-commissioned officer, with four others under his command, hasn't seen his family for eight months. But he did get their Christmas present, and loves his Play Station III.

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December 31, 2007 10:40 AM

Dear (American) Leader

United Nations troops patrol the North-South Korean border.

As a child Kwang Soo strolled through parks in Hongwan, North Korea, read novels about her Great Leader, and stitched yarn dolls in the likeness of U.S. soldiers. Then she and her friends tossed those stuffed Americans into the air and beat them apart with sticks.

Soo’s history teacher taught her that the United States launched the Korean War. In mathematics Soo learned that if you have seven Americans and kill four of them, only three are left. At assemblies, her teachers told her to fortify herself for another great war against the U.S. and South Korea. Within her lifetime, they said, war would reunite the peninsula, which America split apart.

Yet today Soo prays that America will help save her family in North Korea.

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PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send your comments, questions and suggestions for PostGlobal to Lauren Keane, its editor and producer.