To The Point

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We’re trying to push for a unity government because even General Petraeus said the last thing we want is to be viewed in that part of the world as siding with the Shias again against the Sunnis.
Lawrence Korb, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration, talking about Iraq on today’s To the Point.

(Photo: Panorama of the Square)

Next week marks the 25th anniversary of the bloody military crackdown at Tiananmen Square. Will Chinese citizens be marking the occasion or will government censors scrub out any discussion of the events of June 4th?

New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos lived in China from 2005 to 2013. He told To the Point’s Warren Olney that many Chinese have only a vague understanding of what happened 25 years ago, but it will be discussed around dinner tables.

“Sometimes we imagine that it’s just this blank spot in their understanding, and actually it’s a little more interesting,” Osnos says. “They know there was — as it’s often described in Chinese history — ‘turmoil.’ There was a disturbance and what they’ve been taught in school is: Had those events turned out differently had there not been a crackdown by the military that China’s economic gains would have been impossible.”

Government censors have already started to isolate code words people are using to talk about Tiananmen Square and blocking them, Osnos said. The words “fire” and “troubles” for instance.

This “cat and mouse game” between Internet users and the Central Publicity Department (also called the Central Propaganda Department) is a major part of Osnos’ fascinating new book “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in new China.”

“At one point a couple years ago, I noticed that one of the code words people were using was ‘the truth.’ So all of a sudden you got this very odd message if you tried to search for “the truth.” You got a message that said ‘Information about the truth is currently unavailable.’”

Osnos said that’s just one of many examples where technological growth has outpaced political change. He tries to tell the story of this “warp speed transformation” through the lives of young bloggers, ordinary workers, dissident artists and millionaire entrepreneurs.

One of his subjects is Gong Haiyan, who founded the Chinese version of Match.com. Osnos visited her palatial home after she earned $77 million by taking her company public.   

But even her online dating clients tell the story of “New China,” Osnos said. You just have to look at the very specific demands they can make about the height, romantic history and salary prospects of their potential dates.

“After all this time in which you couldn’t demand anything in China — you didn’t deserve to demand anything as an individual — all of a sudden you can be incredibly demanding. And if you think about what that does to a country, to a society, and ultimately to a government that’s a transformative effect.”

- Evan George, producer “To the Point”

It is a question of what else are you going to do? The choice is this or nothing and if you chose nothing, Americans sometimes die.
Former White House security aid Richard Clarke on the use of DRONES on today’s “To the Point”
Look, Democrats are not joined at the hip. We all represent different states, different values, different economies, and we don’t march in lockstep. And they’re gonna fight for their position, I’m gonna fight for mine, and that’s fine. I just think it shows their independence. They’re terrific and we don’t agree on this issue but we agree on others. You can’t make politics the reason why you approve this pipeline because so many miseries follow this pipeline from the excavation to the transportation.
Senator Barbara Boxer on the Keystone XL pipeline. More on today’s To the Point. 
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(Photo Credit: Perdelsky/Wikimedia Commons)
More children than ever before are trying to cross the US-Mexico border, to escape violence back home, especially in Central America.

While the number of illegal bordering crossings is at a 40-year low, there has been a dramatic surge in the number of children being stopped by Border Patrol along the US Mexico border.

In fact, government officials estimate that in fiscal year 2014, which ends in Setpember, at least 60,000 children will be apprehended as they try to enter the country illegally. That’s 10 times the number of children stopped only three years ago.

Most of the children are from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Most are fleeing the increasing gang violence and poverty that is plaguing their communities. Most are trying to reunite with a parent or a family member in the US.

Sonia Nazario is familiar with these stories. Her 2006 book, “Enrique’s Story,” which was based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning series Nazario wrote for the Los Angeles Times, was recently updated. It tells the story of Enrique, a Honduran boy who makes the dangerous trek alone to reunite with his mother in the US. “Many of these kids have no money to take this journey, so they do it the only way they can, which is gripping for dear life to the tops and sides of these freight trains travelling up the length of Mexico,” Nazario says. 

Nazario says jumping on and off those box cars isn’t the only dangerous part of these sorts of journeys. The Mexican drug cartels often control the tops of these trains, where the children ride. “They’re kidnapping 18,000 Central Americans every year, making their way north through Mexico and they prefer children,” Nozario explains. “These kids are carrying the number of a relative in the US and they can extort these relatives for money, for $3000 to $5000. And if you don’t pay, they’ll kill the children.”

Nazario says the trauma doesn’t stop there for many of the children — the ones who get caught. Once stopped by Border Patrol, the children areed in a detention center and, ultimately, must stand before an immigration judge.

Nazario recalls seeing a 3-year-old, clutching a teddy bear, standing before a judge without even a lawyer at the toddler’s side. Nazario is on the board of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a non-profit organization that has created a network of more 6000 lawyers who represent these children pro-bono.

KIND President Wendy Young says something must be done policy wise that recognizes these children as “Children first. Immigrants second”

Soylent is a new Silicon Valley food replacement. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t taste good. Here, Warren Olney interviews Brian Merchant, senior editor of Motherboard, who lived on it for 30 days.

Today’s To the Point:

Last night, the Obama White House announced that the US would provide direct military aid to some of the Syrian rebels, because the al-Assad government crossed that “Red Line” by using chemical weapons. There won’t be boots on the ground. So far, it’s small arms and ammunition. Is a wider war possible? Is it too late for diplomacy? We hear about the available options and possible outcomes, including spillover into the rest of the Middle East.

A good backgrounder on Palestinian politics… can John Kerry really reinvigorate the peace process?

"Is it only white males who can be mentally ill? Can’t we consider the possibility that these suspects might be mentally ill? I don’t want to stigmatize mentally ill people, but that that’s a possibility here - it just hasn’t been considered, and we have rushed to the conclusion that because of a particular ancestry, that they must be terrorists." - Ali Abunimah

"Muslims are the primary victims of Al Qaeda-inspired terrorism. If there was anyone - if there was any community with the incentive to end this problem, as much as it can, it would be the Muslim-American community." - Dalia Mogahed

"We don’t profile all white males. We don’t expect all 20-something white males to be apologetic and to denounce the actions of other white males. We allow them their individuality." - Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of the website Electronic Intifada, which publishes news and commentary on Middle East issues. He wrote a column on the site criticizing President Obama and others for calling the Boston bombing terrorism just because the suspects are Muslim. 

Dalia Mogahed is CEO of Mogahed Consulting and co-author of Who Speaks for Islam?

Both of them talked about the Boston bombings and being Muslim in America on today’s “To the Point.”