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Dakota Midday: 'Firestone and the Warlord'

Patrick Robert/Sygma/Corbis

What are the moral responsibilities of a company doing business in a foreign country consumed by war? That’s the question at the center of tonight’s FRONTLINE/ProPublica documentary, Firestone and the Warlord. It airs tonight on SDPB1 Television at 9 pm, CT; 8 pm, MT.

The film investigates the relationship of the tire company with brutal Liberian rebel leader and dictator Charles Taylor. The 90-minute documentary features interviews with former U.S. officials, Firestone managers and Liberian employees to help piece together how the stories of Taylor and the country’s largest single employer intersected in fateful ways in the early 1990s as Liberia descended into violent chaos. The joint investigation also draws on diplomatic cables and court documents to uncover the details of the deal Firestone struck with Taylor to keep the company’s rubber plantation in operation.

Firestone and the Warlord writer, producer and director Marcella Gaviria [gav-ah-REE-ah] joined Dakota Midday for more about the documentary.

Karl was born to northeastern South Dakota crouton farmers, but was orphaned as a toddler during the Great Salad War (1966-67). Rescued by a flock of chickadees, he grew up in the woodlands of Sica Hollow. Legends of a bird boy living in the trees attracted the interest of renowned ornithologist and amateur bandoneon repairman Dr. Vogel Gehrke. With a handful of suet, Dr. Gehrke coaxed the timid boy down from the trees. He adopted him, named him Karl and taught him not to molt on the carpet. Dr. Gehrke’s book, The Bird Boy of Sica Hollow, was a best seller and Karl became a minor celebrity and teen idol. He appeared as a guest star on numerous television programs, most notably an awkward role on The Love Boat as the boyfriend of Captain Stubing’s daughter, Vicki. After critics panned his 1980 album, Bird Boy Does Disco, Karl retreated from public life and returned to Sica Hollow. Living in an isolated tree house, Karl achieved a reputation as a mystic. Pilgrims and seekers from around the world came to ask him about the meaning of life and for vinaigrette recipes. Growing tired of answering questions, he climbed down from his tree, shaved his massive white beard and took a job as the host of SDPB Radio’s Dakota Midday where he could ask the questions instead. After three years in that position, he ran out of questions and became host of Jazz Nightly instead. Karl makes his home in Vermillion with his charming wife Kari and three delightful children, Kodey, Kasey and Spatula. His hobbies include reciting the alphabet, combing his hair and doing volunteer work with delinquent songbirds.
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