Your Dispatches: July 2011 Archives

Where an uncorrupt official is big news

Colleen Schneider of Winnipeg heard Rick's interview with Mohamed Ahmed Noor, the mayor of Mogadishu, on the July 7 Dispatches program, and recalled this story of her own. 

 I was so impressed by the bravery of Mohamed Noor in taking on the most dangerous city in the world and addressing its overwhelming problems head on. This story made me think of a fellow that we encountered in a tiny customs/border office on the Zaire/Uganda border 17 years ago. We had entered Zaire through Burundi and had experienced the most conspicuous corruption I had ever witnessed. During our short time in Zaire, we had been shaken down by numerous young soldiers who had set up their own posts to get money and had our passports taken away during a domestic boat trip on Lake Kivu from Bukavu to Goma. So, when the time had come to leave, we braced ourselves for more of the same.

We entered a small wooden building that was organized, clean, and efficiently run by an older gentlemen dressed in a suit. We pulled out our passports (with our wallets at the ready) and presented them to a fellow behind a table Our passports were stamped and we were bid adieu. My husband and I were flabbergasted. Here in the middle of the jungle (literally) was the most well-run government office in all of Zaire - thanks to this man. He had obviously made a very conscious decision to run a corruption-free border office. This was another example of bravery in a corrupt and disorganized state. It really brought home the idea that one person really can make a difference, as cliche as it sounds.

U.S. space heavyweights protest shuttle demise

After Rick's essay about NASA and the end of the Space Shuttle in the June 16 Dispatches program, we received this open letter from former NASA director Christopher Kraft and Scott Spencer to the current head of NASA.


June 30, 2011

Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
National Aeronautics and
Space Administration
NASA Headquarters
300 E Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20546

Dear Administrator Bolden,
We believe that the planned retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet after the flight of STS-135 next month will create an unacceptable flight risk for maintaining safe and reliable operations of the International Space Station (ISS).  As you well know, the shuttles are the only spacecraft that can provide independent spacewalks for critical ISS repairs. 

If an incident or life support failure rendered the ISS uninhabitable, repair spacewalks to restore operations would not be possible from the space station.  In a worst case scenario, deterioration and loss of systems on an abandoned ISS could result in an uncontrolled, catastrophic reentry with risks to populated areas around the world.  This would have significant ramifications to foreign relations and liability for the United States, Russia and the other countries who participate as partners on the International Space Station.  The recent near miss of space debris, which caused the ISS astronauts to seek shelter in the Soyuz spacecraft, is a reminder that a catastrophic accident is a stark possibility.

This issue was the subject of a commentary article we co-authored, published in the June 12th edition of the New York Daily News, which is enclosed. 

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