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'Frontline': snapshots of a troubled world

June 12, 2003|Josh Friedman | Times Staff Writer

If you're planning to catch the latest "Frontline/World" (9 p.m., KCET), you might want to break out the Haagen-Dazs. Tonight's show -- which looks at SARS in Hong Kong, political unrest in Venezuela and anti-Americanism in India -- is informative and interesting as ever, but it leads to an inescapable conclusion: The world is a depressing place.

Researcher David Ho, who helped develop drug cocktails for treating HIV patients, is leading a team battling SARS in Hong Kong, where the virus has had a devastating impact. Ho and his team are trying to use pieces of protein to block the SARS virus from attaching to healthy cells.

The lab process has yielded promising results, but as the epidemic's toll mounts, Ho makes it clear that his experiments are in the early stages.

"Frontline/World" returns to Venezuela on the anniversary of last year's coup attempt to examine why a nation once so stable and rich is on the verge of chaos. Detractors fear President Hugo Chavez is another Castro who will "Cubanize" Venezuela, while one backer calls him "more important than God, because he is the hope of the people."

Chavez -- who survived a briefly successful coup and a prolonged oil strike but faces a referendum fight this summer -- is clearly resilient. Venezuela's political issues, however, could have been spelled out more clearly in this segment.

India has good relations with the U.S., but a successful street opera puts a disturbing spin on Sept. 11, portraying President Bush and his advisors as terrorists and Osama bin Laden as a sensitive hero.

The inane opera is all the more disturbing for the enthusiastic reaction it gets from the Calcutta audience. Americans may still be shocked at how they are perceived abroad.

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