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Friday, March 31, 2006

Guinea Worm Disease on Verge of Oblivion
As reported in the International Herald Tribune, thanks to a relentless, 20-year campaign led by former President Jimmy Carter, Guinea worm is poised to become the first disease since smallpox to be pushed into oblivion. Fewer than 12,000 cases were found last year, down from three million in 1986.

The campaign to eradicate Guinea worm has been one of the most important international public health successes of the 20th century. The documentary GUINEA WORM takes us inside the multi-pronged fight against the disease. From the strategic planning level involving the World Health Organization and President Jimmy Carter; to governments' involvement in implementing plans for their countries; to the actual field doctors and villagers who are the "last battleground," GUINEA WORM is a case study of a hugely successful, major health initiative at work in the third world.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Muslim Pilgrims Face Attack in Iraq
Shia Muslim pilgrims on the road to the holy city of Kerbala faced a highway of bullets and bombs for intended for them on Friday, as reported on Yahoo News and elsewhere. Why do the pilgrims risk their lives to make this journey? What are the roots of these religious sojourns? And what is it like to make this pilgrimmage?

In 2004, following a 30-year moratorium during Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, Iraq's Shiite Muslim population were free to commemorate Ashura, the most important holy day on the Shiite calendar. Shia adherents from throughout the Mideast made the pilgrimage to Kerbala, Iraq's Holy City, to visit the tomb of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas. In THE ROAD TO KERBALA, filmmaker Katia Jarjoura joins the procession with Hamid el Mokhtar, a Shi'ite poet and novelist imprisoned during Saddam's regime.

SHI'ISM: WAITING FOR THE HIDDEN IMAM illuminates the historical roots of this branch of Islam with a blend of contemporary and historical footage, interviews with Muslim scholars, philosophers, writers, politicians and religious leaders in Iran, Lebanon and Iraq, and visits Shia holy sites, including the Tomb of Imam Hussein in Kerbala.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

U.S. Troop Increase in Iraq During
Shi'ite Holiday Pilgrimage Surge
As reported in today's New York Times and elsewhere, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld gave a strong hint that American troop levels in Iraq might be increased in coming days to help protect a surge of Shi'ite pilgrims expected to visit Muslim shrines in coming weeks. The holiday pilgrimages are to holy sites in Najaf and Kerbala, predominantly Shiite areas where the potential for sectarian violence would be of great concern.

Two recent releases provide crucial background information about Shi'ite muslims: their beliefs (including holidays) and motivations. SHI'ISM travels across Iran, Lebanon and Iraq a cross-section of major contemporary Shiite figures discuss and debate the history, theology and values of this minority branch of Islam. In THE ROAD TO KERBALA filmmaker Katia Jarjoura joins pilgrims on the 100-kilometer walk from Baghdad to Kerbala.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

President Bush in India, Mass Protests Ensue
As reported on CNN: 100,000 protestors chanted anti-U.S. slogans and burned American flags in New Delhi to protest President George W. Bush's first trip to the nation. "Whether Hindu or Muslim, the people of India have gathered here to show our anger. We have only one message, killer Bush go home," one of the speakers, Hindu politician Raj Babbar, told the crowd.

The Oxford Press reports that, in some strange irony, Bush will stop at Rajghat, the site of the cremation of Mahatma Gandhi, and during this same trip the two countries are working out under which India would buy nuclear fuel from the U. S. Our epic film WAR AND PEACE, the most recent film from Anand Patwardhan (India's leading documentarian), is framed by the 1948 murder of Gandhi. As a child, Patwardhan was immersed in the non-violent Gandhian movement, and because of this WAR AND PEACE examines India's militarism with sorrow, although along the way the film captures joyful stories of courage and resistance.

In today's Guardian, Booker Prize winning writer Arundhati Roy has a piece "Baby Bush Go Home" in which she addresses this visit. In DAM/AGE, our film about Roy's bold campaign against the Narmada dam project, she challenges the idea that only experts can speak out on such urgent matters as nuclear war, the privatization of India's power supply by Enron and issues like Narmada.

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