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April 16, 2010

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A pop star avoids the hit parade. In Bangkok, a daring escape by a singer-turned-protest leader marks another big day for Thailand's Red Shirts.

Three ringleader circus. British voters endure their first-ever televised election debate -- from which a surprise contender emerges the victor.

Opening a border behind closed doors. The U.K. arranges a secret deal to grant refugee status to beleaguered Jews in Yemen.

The only-ness of the long-distance runner. Comic, actor, philosopher and marathoner Eddie Izzard is a man like no other -- as you'll hear in our feature interview.

Quantum of soulless. When they're to busy to read the fine print, thousands of shoppers wind up selling their souls to a British online store.

And...he ran a grass-roots campaign -- from underneath. A Tennessee town elects a dead man mayor.

As It Happens, the Friday edition. Radio that pays its respects to the body politic.


RED SHIRT PROTESTER Duration: 00:08:08

His name is Arisman Pongurangrong -- a popular pop singer in Thailand. And today, to Red Shirt protesters in Bangkok, he's also something of a hero.

Today, Mr. Pongurangroung was inside a hotel when it was surrounded by government security forces. Just as they were about to arrest the pop singer-turned activist, he pulled off a daring escape.

It's the second victory this week for the Red Shirt protesters. The first came on Monday, when the country's Electoral Commission ruled that the government should be dissolved. But Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is still refusing to step down.

And watchers are hoping that this weekend won't be a repeat of last weekend -- when more than twenty people were killed, and more than eight hundred were injured.

Sean Boonpracong is the spokesman for the Red Shirts. We reached him tonight in Bangkok.


FLAX Duration: 00:00:15

Album:TRILOGI/FREDRIK

Label:THE KORA RECORDS

Persons/Roles:
FREDRICK - COMPOSER
FREDRICK - POP GROUP

SECRET YEMEN DEAL Duration: 00:06:43

Yemen's Jewish community is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Middle East. And for a long time, it has been under attack.

This year, violent attacks on Yemen's Jews have dramatically increased in frequency, after the United States launched air raids against Al-Qaeda. Now, there's talk of a secret deal between the British and Yemeni governments to allow Yemeni Jews with family in the U.K. to seek refugee status.

Diane Abbott is a Member of Parliament in Hackney, East London. She has been pushing for that refugee status to be granted. We reached her at her home.


SMALL TOWN Duration: 00:00:15

Album:DISFARMER/FRISELL, BILL

Label:NONESUCH, 478524-2

Persons/Roles:
BILL FRISELL - COMPOSER
BILL FRISELL - GUITAR
VIKTOR KRAUSS - DOUBLE BASS
GREG LEISZ - GUITAR
GREG LEISZ - MANDOLIN
JENNY SCHEINMAN - VIOLIN
LEE TOWNSEND - PRODUCER

FTR AUSCHWITZ CENTENARIAN Duration: 00:04:00

This has been a very big week for Montrealer Léo Zelikowksi.

Yesterday, he turned one-hundred years old. Joining the centenarian's club is a significant moment for anyone. But it pales in significance to one other day in Mr Zelikowski's life. The day, sixty-five years ago, when he and thousands of other Jews imprisoned at Auschwitz learned the concentration camp would be evacuated. He and other inmates were forced to go on a so-called death march.

But that turned out to be his path to freedom. After leaving the camp, he managed to escape. He made his way to a small town in northern Italy, where he married and raised a family. A few years ago, he moved to Montreal to live with his stepdaughter.

But it's only in the past ten years that Léo Zelikowksi has begun to tell the story of his experience in Auschwitz. Yesterday, as friends and family gathered to celebrate his one-hundredth birthday, CBC reporter Shari Okeke sat down with Mr. Zelokowski. Here is a part of their conversation, for the record.


LES BEAUTES DU DIABLE Duration: 00:00:16

Album:IL ETAIT UNE FOIS/DUBEAU, ANGELE

Label:ANALEKTA, AN 2 8719

Persons/Roles:
FRANCOIS DOMPIERRE - COMPOSER
ANGELE DUBEAU - VIOLIN
LA PIETA - INSTRUMENTAL ENSEMBLE
MARIO LABBE - PRODUCER

ONLINE SOULS SOLD Duration: 00:06:16

In a story by French poet Charles Beaudelaire, about an encounter with the devil, the narrator laments that "the soul is a thing so impalpable, so often useless and sometimes so embarrassing that I suffered, upon losing it, a little less emotion than if I had mislaid, while out on a stroll, my calling-card." And later in the story, his otherworldly host tells him, "The loveliest trick of the devil is to persuade you he doesn't exist".

Well, there was a bit of the devil in a trick played by a British computer game retailer on April Fool's Day. Thanks to a clause inserted into the purchasing terms and conditions on its website -- you know, that stuff you never read -- the company claimed option rights to the souls of thousands of online shoppers. With little more than the click of a mouse.

Steve Wind-Mozley is the general manager of Gamestation's online department. We reached him in Newbury, England.


CLOSING

We're going to take a short break now so that you can hear the latest news, but there's more As It Happens to come in a little more than six minutes. When we return:

Not-so-gentle Ben. Remembering a powerhouse leader of the NAACP -- activist Benjamin Hooks.

A stand-up guy sits down. A feature interview with Eddie Izzard, on the subjects of politics, marathons, and whatever else he wants to talk about.

Ghost written. A letter is about to be delivered in a French town -- after being held up for more than two hundred years.

Stay tuned. I'm CO.

And I'm BB.


FTR: OBIT BEN HOOKS Duration: 00:03:03

A man who changed the world died yesterday, at the age of eighty-five.

Benjamin Hooks was one of America's most vocal civil-rights activists and -- as anyone who ever heard him speak will tell you -- one of fieriest orators to step up to a public podium.

In one of his typically powerful turns of phrase, he once said:

"If anyone thinks that we are going to stop agitating, they had better think again. If anyone thinks that we are going to stop litigating, they had better close the courts. If anyone thinks that we are not going to demonstrate and protest, they had better roll up the sidewalks."

That was circa 1977, when he became leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People -- the NAACP. Ben Hooks served as the organization's president for fifteen years. When he took that job, he gave up a prestigious post with the federal government, as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission -- the first African-American in that role. He increased media ownership by minorities, and quintupled the number of minorities hired, from three to fifteen per cent.

During his lifetime of activism, Benjamin Hooks fought Jim Crow laws, marched on Washington with Martin Luther King, and took part in countless civil rights challenges. He was always known for commanding a crowd.

In 1980, the CBC Radio program Sunday Morning covered the annual meeting of the NAACP. Here's part of the speech delivered at that meeting by Benjamin Hooks, from our archives.


SPEED DIAL NO 2 Duration: 00:00:14

Album:ZERO7: WHEN IT FALLS

Label:UD, 2 61562

Persons/Roles:
HENRY BINNS - DESIGNER
NIGEL GODRICH - DESIGNER
SAM HARDAKER - DESIGNER
SIA - DESIGNER
ZERO 7 - ENS IN-V

UK ELXN DEBATE Duration: 00:01:04

Remember how you felt the morning after the 1984 Canadian election debates? When patronage appointments were suddenly the worst thing ever, and children giddily hollered "You had an option, sir" at each other? Remember the thrill of the thrust and parry you had witnessed the night before?

If you answered "sort of," then you understand how the British are feeling today. Because last night, the United Kingdom held its first-ever live, televised election debate. Current Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats, squared off against one another in front of the watchful eyes of the nation's electorate.

Matthew Parris is a former Conservative politician -- and is now a columnist with the Times newspaper. We reached him at his home in Bakewell, England to get his take on the 90-minute political cage match.


MAGIC WAND OF LOVE Duration: 00:00:20

Album:UNITED FUTURE ORGANIZATION: NO SOUND IS TOO TABOO

Label:VERVE, 314 526722-2

Persons/Roles:
EARL DEROUN - COMPOSER
EARL DEROUN - WRITER
LINDA MURIEL - SINGING
UFO - ENS INSTR

DEAD TENNESSEE MAYOR Duration: 00:00:25

An outside observer might have expected Robin Geary to come in dead-last in this week's election for mayor of Tracy City, Tennessee.

But, instead, Mr. Geary won -- with three times as many votes as his rival -- even though he won't be able to take the job.

To explain, we reached Chris Rogers, the owner of The Lunch Box restaurant, in Tracy City.


THE CANALS OF OUR CITY Duration: 00:00:17

Album:BEIRUT: GULAG ORKESTAR

Label:DA DA BING

Persons/Roles:
REALPEOPLE - COMPOSER
REALPEOPLE - WRITER
BEIRUT - ENS IN-V

DA: 220-YEAR-OLD LETTER Duration: 00:02:59

Dateline: Seix, France. That's S-E-I-X, not S-A-I-X. This is important. Trust me.

A long time ago -- two hundred and twenty years ago, to be exact -- the people of Seix -- that's S-E-I-X -- had what they thought was a really good idea. They wanted their town to be declared the capital of the municipality. It was a big dream. But they were pretty sure they were ready to take on the responsibility. And they felt confident that authorities in Paris would agree. So they pitched the idea to the bigwigs, and then townsfolk waited, with hopeful hearts, for a reply from Paris.

And waited. And waited. And then, continued waiting. But no reply came.

The thing is, the missive was sent during the French Revolution. So the good people of Seix -- that's still S-E-I-X -- assumed, at first, that those Parisian authorities might have been a bit preoccupied trying to keep their heads firmly attached to their shoulders. And it is possible that the aspirations of a few dozen people living in the southwest of France might not have been top of the agenda for Robespierre et al. So, undaunted by the delay, the townsfolk kept a watchful eye on the roads, expecting any day to see a rider appear with the letter that would change the town forever.

Unbeknownst to them, some hundred and fifty miles away in the village of Saix -- that's S-A-I-X -- a letter arrived. Yep. You guessed it. A likely harried, and obviously distracted, postal worker mistook an "e" for an "a" -- and sent the much-anticipated letter to the wrong town.

There, after it was determined that the addressee could not be found, it was placed in a drawer at the local sorting office. And that's where it remained. For more than two centuries.

In 1999, an archivist found the letter. But it still took a decade before a motion was passed to finally get the correspondence to its rightful recipients. This will happen in June, when officials from Saix -- that's S-A-I-X -- makes the two-hour drive to Seix -- that's S-E-I-X -- to return the letter. I guess they decided not to take a chance with the post office this time around.

Oh, and as for that request to have the town of Seix -- that's S-E-I-X -- declared the capital? It was denied.


NO LETTER IN THE MAIL Duration: 00:02:10

Album:WHEN THE GOLDEN LEAVES BEGIN TO FALL/SPINNEY BROTHERS

Label:CUSTOM, SBI 0007

Persons/Roles:
BILL CARLISLE - COMPOSER
SPINNEY BROTHERS - BLUEGRASS GROUP
RON STEWART - PRODUCER

LITTLE FLUFFY CLOUDS Duration: 00:00:15

Album:INSTRUMENTAL/ACOUSTEK

Label:BIG CHILL

Persons/Roles:
M GLOVER - COMPOSER
A PATERSON - COMPOSER
S REICH - COMPOSER
INSTRUMENTAL - STRING SEXTET

FTR: EDDIE IZZARD Duration: 00:27:23

As Britain prepares itself for a general election, the polls and the bookies are all predicting victory for David Cameron's Conservatives -- maybe as a minority government, but victory nonetheless. Few hold out much hope of present Prime Minister Gordon Brown maintaining office. But not everyone has given up on Mr. Brown. One of his most ardent supporters and campaigners is internationally-renowned comedian and actor Eddie Izzard.

Mr. Izzard is campaigning for Mr Brown's Labour Party during this election campaign -- just before he begins a nationwide tour of Canada at the end of this mont,h with his one-man show "Stripped".

As well as a political proselytizer and stand-up comedian, he's an accomplished film actor -- and a remarkably accomplished long-distance runner. Mr. Izzard recently made headlines for running forty-three marathons in fifty-one days. Which will be good preparation for another career he's expressed interest in: running for political office himself.

He'll have no problem with the the oratory -- as you'll hear in this clip of Eddie Izzard's stand-up.

Comic, actor, clothes-horse and potential politician Eddie Izzard dropped by the As It Happens studio earlier this week to talk about politics, life and laughs.





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