a memorial at MASS MoCA on Saturday night, friends and former
coworkers remembered Daniel Pearl, the former North Adams
Transcript, Berkshire Eagle and Wall Street Journal reporter
who was slain in Pakistan earlier this year. Following are
excerpts of speeches made at the service.Writing about friendship,
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A friend may well be reckoned the
masterpiece of nature.” Choose a single word to describe Danny
Pearl, and it would have to be “friend.”
and I met when he came here to work at the North Adams
Transcript. He stood out at once. For one thing, back
in those days, hardly anyone was fleeing sunny California
to work in North Adams. But more than that, in no time he
seemed to know everybody in northern Berkshire, and had amassed
this huge circle of close friends. He was forever introducing
me to new local people, and I’d been living here for years.
It takes a lot of work to sustain friendships the way Danny
did. Most of us are lucky if we can really be friends with
more than a handful of people over a lifetime.
The Transcript was Danny’s first real newspaper job.
At the time, I had a house in North Adams where Danny, other
journalists and I hung out. We called it Nick’s Bar and Grille.
It was sort of a bachelor place. There were several pinball
machines, and a full-size Asteroids arcade video game—that
was just the living room.
It was always fun when Danny arrived at Nick’s Bar and Grille—he
always had some story to share, some wild adventure to tell
us about. I love remembering the way Danny played that Asteroids
game. No frantic zooming around the screen, firing wildly,
for him. No, it was always easy does it. . . . Somehow, despite
what I will call his leisurely style of playing, Danny attained,
and still has, third-highest score on the Asteroids game.
His name and score—42,880—is still written on the glass in
grease pencil and has survived on the machine for 17 years.
. . .
I have learned a lot over the last two months. For one thing,
I talked to friends who had never met Danny, and didn’t know
I had any connection with him, who said they had been praying
for him. I guess I didn’t know people did that—regularly pray
for people they didn’t know—or I’d never really thought about
it. I realized that sometimes you don’t know who your friends
are. In some cases, you’ll never know.
More than that, I learned that we shouldn’t take our friends
Friends like Danny who give us their unconditional friendship
are incredibly rare. But they do it with such grace that it’s
easy to forget what a treasure, what a “masterpiece of nature”
If I leave you with one idea from what I have learned, it
is to take a moment to think about your friends. Do you have
a friend like Danny, someone who’s there for you when you
need them, a person who always puts you first? If you do,
then give that friend a call, tell that person how much they
mean to you. I can’t think of a better way to honor Danny
former chief photographer,
the North Adams Transcript
the rest of you, I have had at least a thousand thoughts and
insights about Dan Pearl since his abduction and savage death.
One of them will surprise you, as it surprised me.
I never called him Danny. To me, he was always Dan.
Among those thousand thoughts in the days after his kidnapping,
I found myself wondering how come I had never called him Danny.
I now know. It was because in the late 1980s, when we worked
together on The Berkshire Eagle, I considered we were
engaged in serious stuff. We covered the business community.
Instinctively, I thought the name Danny was a throwaway name
and would not cut it in the business community. Dan was not
a throwaway reporter. In my stuffed-shirt mind, he deserved
the more dignified name of Dan.
I tell this story because his experience on the Eagle
foreshadowed an astonishing career as a newspaperman. I use
the term newspaperman with reverence. There are a lot of reporters
and editors in the field of journalism, but there are only
a few newspapermen and newspaperwomen. Dan, unquestionably,
was a newspaperman.
Dan’s later career was about understanding cultures unfamiliar
to the rest of us, and then writing about them in a way that
compelled serious readers to understand. It is already clear
that his legacy will be through efforts in his memory to foster
understanding of cultures, particularly those represented
by Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus, with each
tormented by its own conservative, liberal and radical factions.
. . .
There are so many things to be said in praise of his work
and his persona. Above all, Dan had an understated style,
one that was strong and also laced with enormous civility.
His writing reflected thought and understanding of the shades
of gray behind every story. In his personal life, he was a
renaissance man, a musician, an appreciator of fine wine and
food, and a raconteur. He was on the cusp of a magnificent
career when he was murdered, one that would have included
the writing of important books. It is already clear that his
brave and talented wife, Mariane, will carry on their work.
But what is the meaning of his awful, uncivilized and savage
death? In the hours following the news we all had dreaded
for so many weeks, I thought his murder was so senseless,
so unnecessary. Yet it happened. . . .
Dan’s life and brutal death have forced us to look at the
world in a different way. For me, and I hope for all of you,
the message he sends is that we must commit ourselves to understanding
other cultures and searching for such common ground as improving
the quality of life throughout the world. We must embrace
peace and outreach. There is no other way.
Dan. Friend. Colleague. Newspaperman. Renaissance Man. Music
Man. As the song goes, “We hardly knew ye.” Now we must vow,
each in our own way, to continue to make your music.
former business reporter,
The Berkshire Eagle
remarkable and lucky that in the vast flurry of our lives,
a single tragic event can bring back the memory of someone
who was around for just a short time before moving on to the
next life step. In recent months I have been greeted with
a slow, unfolding series of memories about Danny.
I sat between the two Dans, Danny Pearl and Dan Bellow, for
two rather high-pitched years at the old Eagle office.
I remember Danny rolling in later than everyone else on the
day shift, usually with an armload of flapping papers. While
the rest of us were getting ready for the day, Danny was already
deep into some scoop or other.
He would smile to everyone, say hello, check in with Lew Cuyler.
They were an intense team, good-humored and tremendously productive.
Danny would drop his pile of stuff on top of the other piles
of stuff on his desk. Then he would lean down under his desk
to get his own personal coffeepot brewing. The scent of hazelnut
floated up. The floor beneath his desk was a lethal place
none of dared to look at for long.
Danny worked late, long after the rest of us day people had
left. He was fearless of analyzing documents, statistics and
fearsome mathematical calculations. He was calm, but full
of vigor. He was a workhorse. He knew shorthand. The chaos
of his desk, his falling piles of papers and messy coffee
setup included a meticulous scrapbook of clips. He offered
to help me organize mine once, and I went to his apartment
to cut and paste. There wasn’t much there. He was clearly
moving on. He did. I stayed.
I was surprised to learn that a guy as focused as he was found
time to play violin in the Berkshire Symphony Orchestra and
to teach English to new immigrants in Pittsfield.
Soon he was gone, and now he’s back in a new way for all of
us. We are all so lucky to have had a few years with him.
Some had sustained friendships. What a fine man, what a fine
memory he’s left us, what fine stories in the archives of
Heaven’s arms have opened wide for this good man.
The Berkshire Eagle
Pearl breezed into the North Adams Transcript newsroom
in June 1986, notebook in hand and precious violin packed
carefully in the back of his brand new four-wheel-drive Toyota
pickup. His infectious, perpetual grin and sleepy-eyed, laid-back
manner instantly won over the entire staff, but some of us
wondered how this mere lad of 23 would cope with small-town
Not to worry. On his first day, he unveiled a snappy, tight
writing style that some reporters work years to achieve, and
some never reach. Within two weeks, he showed an uncanny grasp
for local politics, how government functioned, even how to
decipher budgets and where to find the buried treasure of
His time at the Transcript and later the Eagle
wasn’t all a honeymoon. He drove some editors crazy because
he liked to use every possible second of time before deadline,
reworking and polishing his articles as if they were precious
jewels. “Pearl!” a scowling copy editor would bellow, “I need
that story NOW!” With a glance at his watch, Danny would bellow
back, “I’ve got three minutes!” Precisely three minutes later,
his story would arrive in its proper queue, and the editor’s
glares would turn to smiles as he scrolled the spare, accurate,
often compelling prose—not a comma out of place, perfect grammar,
not a word misspelled. And this long before spell-check. .
Not much could stop Danny from getting a story he wanted.
Witness the time a North Adams club decided to host a charitable
fund-raiser featuring, of all things, male strippers. It was
a risqué idea at the time, and you-know-who wanted the story.
But he was thwarted at first by the owner’s edict that no
men other than the strippers would be allowed inside the building.
So, of course, he got a wig and a dress, shaved his legs,
donned his disguise and went to the club. “Danielle” Pearl
got inside, and he got the story:
Headline: “Dedicated reporter dons drag to get story on male
NORTH ADAMS, Feb. 14, 1987—“I’ve been dancing for five years,
and I’ll tell you one thing. I love North Adams!”
The dancer, wearing a G-string that is barely wider than his
moustache, leaves the microphone amid a chorus of high-pitched
shouts and gets back to loving North Adams. He moves from
table to table as feminine hands clap together. Some of the
hands contain dollar bills, for which he makes his G-string
a safe deposit box. Each depositor is rewarded with a kiss,
a hug or something halfway between a hug and a reenactment
of the Death of Marcus Brutus, who embraced Strato’s sword
on the field of battle and succumbed with a smile.
do they always get him on that side of the room?” a girl near
me laments. I smile weakly. I’m praying for the dancers to
stay on the other side of the room. I’m thinking there must
be 10,000 harder ways to make money than the way he’s making
it—flexing his mostly naked body before 350 women for half
an hour. I’m thinking there must be 10,000 easier ways to
make money than the way I’m making it—standing camera and
notebook in hand, make-up and eye shadow on face, wig on head,
pretending to be one of the 350 women. . . . Luckily most
of the ladies were too engrossed in the boys with the bare
bottoms on stage to take heed of the “girl” with the razor
shadow among them. I tried to respond in lady-like fashion
to those who did notice.
make a terrible girl,” said one.
make a wonderful girl,” said I.
many people have noticed you’re a guy?” smirked another.
if I were an ugly girl?” I said.
be pretty embarrassed,” she said.
A girl next to me felt my fake hair. I felt her hair. She
squeezed my flat chest. I put my hands in my pocket.
Over the past few weeks, the best description I’ve heard of
Danny Pearl came from his family. “Walking sunshine,” they
called him. That’s the way I remember him. And the way I will
always remember him: Mourning his death, but celebrating his
life with a perpetual smile.
The Berkshire Eagle
Friday, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and U.S.
Rep. Michael McNulty (D-Green Island) were in Albany to announce
support for a new Homeland Security Block Grant bill that
would provide $3.5 million in federal aid to communities dealing
with increased security needs as a result of Sept. 11.
According to projections, cities across the United States
are expected to spend an additional $2.6 billion by the end
of 2002 alone. Overtime pay for firefighters, police officers
and emergency-response workers is expected to skyrocket as
cities continue to beef up security at public places and major
events. The money provided under the proposed bill would be
distributed through grants to local governments that establish
plans to increase fire, police and emergency-response personnel;
refurbish aging law-enforcement and safety equipment; improve
cyber infrastructure, including cyber- security systems that
protect public water supplies, transportation corridors and
chemical-manufacturing facilities; improve disaster-response
programs; and coordinate efforts to track down possible terrorist
The notion of increased homeland security has alarmed civil
libertarians and government-watchdog groups who fear that
national, state and local governments already have too much
potential to abuse law-enforcement opportunities. They say
that Sept. 11 has given the federal government an opportunity
to further erode individual freedoms and civil liberties,
and that increased security has already begun to be enforced
well beyond so-called antiterrorist measures. However, supporters
of increased homeland-security measures say that underfunded
municipal law enforcement may be the weakest link in preventing
future terrorist attacks.
groups end infighting by joining together to support downsized
Lark Street renovation plan
there is no upside to losing $6 million. But for the Lark
Street Business Improvement District and neighborhood associations
in the Lark Street area, there’s a silver lining to the cloud
that rolled over the area when Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings
announced that the street might not get the $6.5 million streetscape
renovation its business and neighborhood proponents had hoped
for: The groups have finally found an issue on which they
have enough common interests that they can work as a united
front to better the neighborhoods they share.
do have some competing interests,” acknowledged Chris Burke,
president of the Lark Street BID. “But we’re not going to
go away, the neighborhood associations aren’t going to go
away, and we’re stronger if we work together.”
Two weeks ago, when the Lark Street BID and members of the
area neighborhood associations met to discuss options for
the future of Lark Street, the Lark Street Revitalization
Committee members—including the presidents of the Park South,
Hudson/Park, Center Square and Washington Park neighborhood
associations, Burke and 6th Ward alderman Richard Conti—drafted
a letter of support for Jennings’ scaled-back, $2 million
version of a Lark Street renovation plan.
In the letter, dated March 20, the committee told Jennings
that it “has agreed to support the proposal to use city funds
for the rehabilitation of Lark Street, with the understanding
that the undersigned organizations and individuals will work
in partnership with the city and its agents throughout the
design phase of this project.”
At the end of February, when Jennings held a public meeting
to address the community about his intent to shift the request
for $6.5 million in federal aid from Lark Street to New Scotland
Avenue, it was clear that the community was divided about
how it should receive the news. While some merchants, such
as John Wagner, proprietor of Waldorf Tuxedo at the corner
of Lark and Lancaster streets, were relieved that their businesses
would be spared the disruption of massive construction outside
their doorsteps, others felt slighted. Elda Abate, owner of
Elda’s on Lark Street, engaged the mayor in a heated public
debate about his commitment to the area.
should give us the money, the $6.5 million,” she chided the
mayor. “Without your project and your help, you know we’re
going to die.”
Members of the committee that had worked for years on the
rehab project expressed their dismay, and Alice Oldfather,
president of the Center Square Association, said at the time
that many association members found the turnaround “baffling”
and were concerned that the mayor seemed to have made his
announcement with minimal public input.
Oldfather said this week that she and her fellow neighborhood-association
representatives have since explored their options and found
the mayor’s plan to be the “best course” for the street. “I
think some people are disappointed that we weren’t able to
keep the federal funds,” Oldfather said. “But I think most
people are being realistic. We’re getting most of the things
we were concerned about.”
Burke said that from the BID perspective, the biggest concern
has been that massive construction could close Lark Street
down for up to a year. “That would be a big hardship on merchants,”
Though details of the previous, more ambitious plan never
were finalized, the proposals included a major dig and reconstruction
of the street and sidewalks, with all power lines buried underground.
In the smaller version, the city has tentatively agreed to
resurface the street, rebuild the sidewalks, add textured
traffic-calming crosswalks, and install historic lighting
fixtures with increased illumination.
Burke said the new plan is favorable from a business perspective
because it doesn’t call for major disruption of the street,
it does call for better lighting, and it can begin as early
as spring 2003. Oldfather said that the plan also addresses
most of the concerns of residents, such as making the street
more pedestrian-friendly, safe and attractive. So the groups
decided it was time to put their ideological differences behind
them and sign off on the mayor’s proposal.
Further, both Oldfather and Burke said, it seemed wiser to
get on board with the mayor’s plan and be part of the planning
phases of the project than to waste more time fighting with
the city—or each other—over the details.
so many common concerns between residents and merchants,”
Oldfather said. “It really doesn’t make sense to divide and
found growing wild in Mexico lends credence to worries that
GMOs can contaminate the environment
fall, a University of California, Berkeley researcher announced
the discovery of genetically engineered corn in the remote
highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico. The corn was popping up along
roadsides, out of cracks in the sidewalks and seemingly anywhere
else it could find soil, in scores of mountain settlements.
The discovery sent alarms through the scientific community:
Mexico banned the use of such corn in 1998. Scientists say
it provides yet more evidence that genetically modified organisms
cannot be controlled once they are released into the environment.
The discovery is especially significant because the contamination
occurred in the ancestral homeland of corn. Crop homelands
must be preserved because they contain important genetic information
scientists return to for developing blight-resistant crop
strains when catastrophic pests or diseases strike. Oaxacans
speculate that the transgenic varieties sprouted after falling
off government trucks that brought subsidized bioengineered
corn as food aid to local communities. “Genes flowing from
genetically modified crops can threaten the diversity of natural
crops by crowding out native plants,” Ignacio Chapela, the
Berkeley scientist who discovered the contamination (published
in Nature in September), said in a statement.
GMO contamination like that in Mexico is one reason many countries
have strongly resisted the introduction of GMOs, especially
in the genetically diverse developing world. In January 2000,
more than 130 developing nations led the fight for an international
treaty, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which would permit
a country to refuse transgenic imports if it believes the
shipment would endanger its population.
The United States has long argued there is no reason for such
a protocol at all, and successfully weakened the accord, which
is currently being ratified by signatories, with help from
a handful of other grain-trading nations. According to Ben
Lilliston of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy,
the United States has not yet ratified the protocol, nor is
it expected to do so anytime soon.
Last year, an estimated 130 million acres of biotech crops
were grown by 5.5 million farmers in 13 countries. In the
United States, which planted 88.2 million acres of bioengineered
crops last year—68 percent of the global total—genetic pollution
is already rampant. Virtually all Midwestern organic corn
samples tested in 2000 showed some degree of transgenic contamination,
says Fred Kirschenmann, executive director of the Leopold
Center for Sustainable Agriculture. “It’s becoming clear that
transgenic contamination can only escalate.”
Conventional corn farmers who grow non-GMO varieties are suffering
as a result of the introduction of GMO crops. International
markets for U.S. corn have shriveled, if not evaporated, since
a global consumer revolt against bioengineered foods began
in Europe in 1998. Bill Cristison, president of the National
Family Farm Coalition, says the market disruption due to biotech
corn has slashed nonorganic corn prices about 30 cents a bushel,
or roughly 15 percent. It is a drop growers can ill afford,
since it costs them more to produce their crop than the market
Aside from market trouble, farmers are being targeted by biotech
companies—especially Monsanto—when bioengineered seeds show
up on their land. Biotechnology companies hold patents on
their seeds, and Monsanto is currently suing more than a dozen
farmers across Canada and the Midwest for “patent infringement.”
Many more farmers are reported to be under active investigation.
Considering that transgenic contamination is proving impossible
to prevent, such legal action may eventually force farmers
to buy bioengineered seeds whether they—or their customers—want
it or not.
Though transgenic contamination threatens the lucrative and
growing international and domestic markets for organic produce,
the U.S. government doesn’t seem to care. Last November, the
Food and Drug Administration warned organic food manufacturers
not to label their products “GMO free,” because organic manufacturers
likely could not substantiate the claim—which the agency views
as misleading, in any case, since it insists genetically modified
foods are safe.
But legislation opposing or regulating genetically modified
products is appearing around the country. Last year, Maryland
banned genetically engineered fish in its waters, and Oregon
has a similar measure in the works. New York and Vermont are
considering GMO-crop moratoriums, and Massachusetts, North
Carolina and Hawaii are considering laws that regulate growing
and marketing certain GMO crops. Grassroots farming organizations
are also pushing legislation to protect them against lost
markets, transgenic contamination, and liability resulting
But of the 11 states that have introduced labeling laws, only
Maine’s—which is voluntary—has passed. On the other hand,
according to the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology,
as of October 2001, two-thirds of the state laws related to
biotechnology enacted last year were promoted by biotechnology
companies and targeted activists vandalizing genetically modified
crops or animals.
Meanwhile, the United States has embraced biotechnology as
one of the pillars of economic growth. The federal government
continues to operate as the biotech industry’s principal cheerleader
and bully, and calls for moratoriums on future GMO releases
from scientists and the public are ignored or vigorously fought.
Despite the demands of foreign governments and consumers in
the United States and abroad to label bioengineered food,
the feds continue to refuse, working hard to prevent anything
that might hinder the technology’s acceptance.
The Bush administration has inserted a provision into “fast
track” trade legislation that would deem labeling genetically
modified food by other countries an unfair trade barrier and
make violators liable for costly trade sanctions. The administration
also is preparing to challenge the European Union’s requirement
for labeling transgenic food at the World Trade Organization.
Charman is a New York–based journalist specializing in agriculture,
the environment and health.