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Monday, April 23, 2012

On today’s show: Michael Moran of the Council on Foreign Relations takes a look at the challenges that are aligning to challenge U.S. leadership and influence around the world. Loung Ung describes her experience as a child during the murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge. A History of the World in 100 Objects takes a look at one of Albrecht Dürer’s prints of a rhinoceros. Actor and writer Michael Tucker talks about his debut novel, After Annie. Plus, journalist Ben Anderson gives an inside look at the war in Afghanistan and the violence in Helmand province.

Debt, Democracy, and the Future of American Power

Michael Moran, Editor-in-Chief of Renaissance Insight and author of Slate's blog "The Reckoning," explores the variety of forces converging to challenge U.S. leadership—including information technologies, the growing prosperity of countries like China, India, Brazil, and Turkey, and the diminished importance of Wall Street in the face of global markets. His book The Reckoning: Debt, Democracy, and the Future of American Power, looks at the serious consequences this shift will have for the wider world.

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Lulu in the Sky

Loung Ung talks about coming to terms with her violent childhood in Cambodia's notorious killing fields. Her new memoir, Lulu in the Sky: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing, and Double Happiness, is the final in a trilogy that started with First They Killed My Father, about being forced by the Khmer Rouge, and continued with Lucky Child, about her life as a refugee in Vermont. Lulu in the Sky is about her daily struggle to keep darkness and depression at bay while pursuing a life in America.

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Michael Tucker on His Novel, After Annie

Actor and writer Michael Tucker discusses his debut novel, After Annie, a tale about love and the theater. It tells the story of a man off the rails after his wife’s death, battling through the middle-aged wilderness days he hoped never to face alone.

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The Inside Story of the Chaotic Struggle for Afghanistan

Journalist and documentary-maker Ben Anderson discusses the war in Afghanistan, and his experience reporting on front lines in Helmand province. His book No Worse Enemy: The Inside Story of the Chaotic Struggle for Afghanistan is based on five years of unrivalled access to the US Marines and UK Forces, often for months at a time and amidst the worst violence the conflict has seen. It details the daily struggles facing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and raises urgent questions about our strategies in there.

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Afghanistan in Film

Documentary filmmaker Ben Anderson  was in our studio Monday where he discussed his takeaway from the front lines in Afghanistan. In his reporting, Anderson shadowed three different battalions of NATO forces over the course of four years. He documented his experiences in his new book, No Worse Enemy, which draws from the more than 300 hours of footage he captured during his time there. Much of that footage was even used in a documentary he produced for HBO in 2010, The Battle For Marjah.

Both documentary and commercial filmmakers have used our ongoing conflicts in a number of feature films released in the last few years: Stop Loss, The Hurt Locker, No End In Sight, In The Valley of Elah, Generation Kill, Green Zone, and Lions for Lambs all centered on the operations in Iraq. But The Battle for Marjah is one of only a few films that focus specifically on Afghanistan (Sebastian Junger and the late Tim Hetherington’s chilling documentary Restrepo is another).

This got me wondering about our relationship with Afghanistan in cinema. Recent films about the Iraq War have largely been box office blanks, even the ones that were well reviewed—Bob Tourtellotte wrote about this on Reuters' Fan Fare blog. Has that kept studios and filmmakers from focusing on the important subject of Afghanistan? Are there films about Afghanistan worth looking into that we’ve missed? Do you think filmmakers will revisit the subject in years to come?

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