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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Alternatives for Your Eyes and Ears

If you are worn down by the media’s endless focus on the election and dreading the almost three months until it’s over, let me suggest that you turn the TV channel or radio station to BBC, the British Broadcasting Company (or if you can find it, CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Our PBS (Public Broadcasting System) is fairly good about taking a wider view, but other English-speaking networks are even better.

They will cover our election, but unlike the commercial (profit-making) news channels in the US -- CNN, MSNBC, and especially Fox – these outsiders can put American politics into its proper perspective. It is, after all, just one of many things happening in the world, and we don’t need to rehash all the details of Donald Trump’s latest idiocy.

For your ears, WUSF Radio (89.7) is the best local option. WMNF (88.5) used to provide a good choice, but it has given up its original mission as an alternative news source to focus instead on music (pretty mindless music, to my mind). I still dedicate a radio button to WMNF, but rarely click on it anymore. If WUSF Radio goes on too long on a narrow topic (a major fault of “On Point,” the afternoon show that drags a single information point to the point of exhaustion), I click on WSMR (89.1) in Sarasota, where classical music went when it left WUSF in Tampa. In addition to great music, WMSR also covers the local cultural news. Even if I can’t afford to go to the theatre, opera, and all of the other events that are announced, it makes me happy to know that I live in a community where they are available.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t know what happened locally to Pacifica News, which WMNF Radio used to carry and which did an ordinary job of finding truly new news. I checked online and see that it is the nation’s oldest such non-profit, having begun in Berkeley, California, in 1949. It still concentrates primarily on the West Coast and Canada, and the only Florida stations I saw on its Wikipedia page were in Tallahassee and Venice (in low-powered Spanish).

It would be nice if someone would bring back Pacificia to our area, but meanwhile, WMNF’s terrific news director, Rob Lorei, has moved to television’s WEDU (always and forever Channel 3). His show, “Florida This Week,” features politics, and his roundtable discussions always include one Democrat, one Republican, and two representatives of other media. It runs on Friday nights, and you can find its old discussions online, too. WEDU, of course, is a PBS affiliate, as is WUSF TV (Channel 16). The call letters of the latter are clear, while WEDU, founded in 1958, denotes EDUcation.

And on the National Scene

Despite occasional gripes from some members of Congress, PBS remains our best source for objective national news. Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill on the PBS News Hour have set a standard unmet by anyone else on the current scene. That scene is different from my youth, when commercial networks drew a line between news departments and advertising departments, and we had journalistic heroes such as Edwin R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. I grew up trusting the anchors on CBS, NBC, and ABC – the only major networks back then – to tell me the truth.

Those days sadly are gone, especially since Rupert Murdoch – an Australian billionaire – took over brainwashing American minds with Fox Fake News. Like The Donald, Murdoch personifies the family values that he preaches by having married four times. The last was just this year, when he was 85, and the new wife is Jerry Hall, who once was married to Mick Jagger. Murdoch has ten children by his three ex-wives – and the second was of Estonian heritage, while his third was Chinese. What is it with these guys and their fondness for non-American women?

But back to the point. If you only have time (or endurance) for one national television news program per week, make it the PBS News Hour on Friday nights. If you go out on Friday nights, set your DVR and watch it later. In the segment that Hubby and I prioritize, David Brooks will offer the Republican perspective on that week’s news, while Mark Shields does the Democratic side. Even if they happen to be off that week, their surrogates will not yell at each other, but instead present truly balanced views backed up by decades of experience.

The same is true of “Marketplace,” the business show that runs on WUSF Radio at 6:00 on weeknight evenings, just after its excellent programs, “The World” at 3:00 and “All Things Considered” at 4:00. As its name reflects, “Marketplace” concentrates on Wall Street – but also the wider economy and the global politics affecting it and everything else. The male hosts do such a good job of holding down egocentric showmanship that I have to admit I don’t recall their names. But they are witty and fun, and even if you aren’t particularly interested in economics, you will find it entertaining -- and accidentally learn a great deal.

“Marketplace” is followed by the BBC News in the evening; a longer version runs in the morning. I’m regularly surprised by BBC’s rendering of American news from a British perspective. Our perception of ourselves is not always that of others, not even that of our near cousins, the Brits. And hence to my real point: If not for hearing the BBC News as I drove home from a recent bridge game, I would not have known about the next topic. I watch, hear, and read (both online and in print) a lot of news, and no other source has mentioned this. The most serious of media crimes, or at least the most difficult to detect, are the sins of omission.

Another Election: One for the World

Before the year is out, we will have a new secretary general of the United Nations. This is the top post that I trust, a century from now, will be the true leader of free world, with all of the world being free to vote. While we concentrate on our national silliness that will, I trust, end with the election of the first woman as president of the United States, this other important election campaign is quietly taking place – and it also may well end with the first woman in charge.

The UN has had only nine chief executives in its post-World War II history, all of them male and from smaller nations. The ten-year term of Korea’s Ban Ki-moon expires on December 31, and several candidates are quietly jockeying for the position. The UN charter makes almost no requirements for the selection, and no date has been set, but all candidates have some current role in the UN. In alpha order by surname, they are:

• Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, currently director of UNESCO

• Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand

• Christina Figueres of Costa Rica; UN climate change task force

• Natalia Gherman of Moldova; its acting prime minister last year

• Antonio Guterres of Portugal, until recently in charge of UN refugees

• Vuk Jeremic of Serbia, who held the primarily ceremonial post of UN General Assembly president in 2012-13

• Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia, another former General Assembly president

• Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia, who also has experience in Bosnia and Herzegovina

• Igor Luksic, former prime minister of Montenegro

• Susanna Malcorra, Argentina’s foreign affairs minister

• Danilo Turk, former president of Slovenia

So, to analyze: Five of the ten are women (the first four plus Susanna near the end). Two are from Latin American countries, Argentina and Costa Rica, and one is from a former British colony, New Zealand. Three are from European nations not particularly known for democracy: Macedonia, Montenegro, and Portugal. Five of the ten are from Eastern Europe and former provinces of the USSR (Bulgaria, Moldova, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia). As you see, none are from the big continents of Africa or Asia, and the general feeling is that it is time for someone from Eastern Europe, which never has had anyone in this position. (Neither have we, of course, but most Americans seldom focus on internationalism of any sort and are so arrogant that we don’t really care who is in ostensible charge of the world.)

I’m by no means certain, but if I had to cast a vote on what little I know, I think I’d go for the first one, Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova. That’s primarily because she has held a big job in heading UNESCO, the acronym for the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. I remember when I was a kid at Halloween and someone in our small Minnesota town handed out collection boxes and urged us to gather money for UNESCO instead of candy. I’ve gotten over my resentment of that, though, and admire Bokova for her seemingly exceptional administrative experience. What little I’ve seen of her native Bulgaria is pretty depressing, but then that background would help her understand world needs, even those of longtime Christian nations.

And Another Woman You Should Know

Perhaps the reason that the Minnesota woman of my youth (I’m sure it was a woman) handed out the UNESCO boxes was because Eugenie Anderson was from Minnesota. Anderson was America’s fourth female ambassador, having been appointed as minister to Denmark by President Harry Truman in 1949. She was the first such who did not come from a prominent political family, and was not a career diplomat, but rather an activist in the League of Women Voters. She received no other appointments while Republican Dwight Eisenhower occupied the White House, but in 1962, Democrat John F. Kennedy appointed her to the dangerous post in Bulgaria. She was the first woman to represent America in a communist nation, and here’s a paraphrase of what I said in my Women in American Politics:

“One of the poorest of the poor countries in southeastern Europe, Bulgaria’s history is ridden with violence. It still had a king at the beginning of World War II, and he sided with Hitler. Therefore the Soviet Union [an ally of the US in WWII], successfully invaded. Soviets continued their occupation after the war ended, and Bulgarian politicians in the 1950s were Soviet puppets who often executed their opponents…

President Kennedy demonstrated great respect for Eugenie Anderson by appointing her to this turbulent position… She defied local authorities who tried to stop her from distributing information on democracy, even though the Bulgarian government sent thugs to physically attack the embassy. Ambassador Anderson returned to the United States after Kennedy’s assassination, but President Lyndon Johnson then appointed her to positions with the United Nations.”

It’s time for women such as her to take charge.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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