The Takeaway

  • Monday–Friday noon–1 p.m.

The Takeaway delivers the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. You’re invited to learn more and be part of the national conversation, on-air and online, on topics that are important to your life. The Takeaway is hosted by John Hockenberry.

_(photo credit: MarcoAntonio.com)__

  • Dec 18

    Actor Oscar Nunez Believes The Future is Bright for Cuba

    As the United States charts a new way forward with Cuba, at least one Cuban-American is offering his take on what this moment means for him, his family members back home, and the identity of Cuba.

    Oscar Nunez starred for nine years as accountant "Oscar Martinez" on the hit comedy series "The Office." He currently stars on the USA Network comedy series "Benched," which premiered on October 28, 2014.

    For Nunez, this historic policy shift is deeply personal: He was born in Cuba and brought up in the United States, and his parents even went to school with Fidel Castro at the University of Havana.

    Though the way forward for Cuba and the United States is still uncertain, he says that a new diplomatic path means that Cuba cannot possibly get worse.

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  • Dec 18

    Sony Pictures Vs. The 1st Amendment

    If you were planning on watching Seth Rogan and James Franco assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the movie "The Interview," you'll be sadly out of luck.

    Yesterday Sony Pictures scrapped the film, which was set to release Christmas day, after major theatre chains around the country chose not to release it because of terrorist threats from suspected North Korean hackers.

    Sony has been the target of an unprecedented cyber attack—hackers have stolen emails and personal information that embarrassed top executives and shut down business at the studio. One employee told TechCrunch,"It's 1992 all over again. Some people had to send faxes."

    North Korea is believed to have carried out this cyber attack against Sony, but U.S. intelligence officials say there is still some debate about the extent of North Korea's involvement. Investigators are looking into the possibility that the attackers had inside help.

    But Peter Singer says that Sony and American cinema companies that refuse to show the movie have done everything exactly wrong.

    Singer is a strategist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation. His most recent book is "Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know," which was selected for professional reading lists of both the U.S. Army and U.S. navy.

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  • Dec 18

    The Health Concerns Behind New York State's Fracking Ban

    On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on fracking in the state on the grounds that the process poses a public health risk.

    State officials cited concerns over air and water contamination, saying that the research just isn't there to support the long term safety of fracking. So, what does the research say on the health impacts of fracking? 

    Peter Rabinowitz is an associate professor of public health at the University of Washington and the lead author on one of the health studies cited by the New York State Department of Health.

    His research found that residents less than 1 kilometer from fracking wells were more than twice as likely to report health issue, such as skin conditions and upper respiratory symptoms. But Rabinowitz says that more research is needed to determine the long term impact of this controversial issue.

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  • Dec 18

    Goodbye, Nation: A Heartfelt Farewell to 'The Colbert Report'

    Tonight, Stephen Colbert embodies his right-wing host persona for the final time.

    For nine seasons, fans of "The Colbert Report" have watched as the multitalented host left his mark on network news, campaign finance, President George W. Bush's legacy, and the future of political satire. 

    Brooke Gladstone, host of WNYC's On the Media, explores the Colbert's Comedy Central legacy. She tells The Takeaway that Colbert has the rare ability to inform and entertain, as he created Super PACs, testified on Capitol Hill and highlighted the hypocrisy of those in power. 

    "It was such a vital educational tool," Gladstone tells Takeaway guest host Todd Zwillich. Noting Colbert's recurring Super PAC bit through the 2012 election, Gladstone says, "He was able to take it to the absolute limit, as he has done with so many public educational displays that he has, using irony, using a kind of vicious sharpness."

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  • Dec 18

    Cuba, The U.S. & The Poetry of Reconciliation

    Yesterday, President Obama announced the start of “a new chapter” in U.S.-Cuba relations. For over 50 years, there have been no formal diplomatic ties between the U.S. and the island nation only 90 miles south of Miami.

    During that period a steady stream of Cubans have fled and lived in exile, apart from loved ones and familiar places.

    Richard Blanco, a Cuban-American writer and the 2013 inaugural poet, reflects on what this moment means for him, his family members back home, and the identity of Cuba.

    He says that this moment is like "the reunion of twins who’ve been separated"—those twins being the Cubans in Cuba, and the Cubans in the U.S.

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  • Dec 18

    'Serial' & The Case Against the Criminal Justice System

    Adnan Syed already faced two murder trials. His first ended in a mistrial; the second ended with his conviction for first degree murder. 

    His third, listeners might argue, ends today as the podcast "Serial" concludes its first season. 

    "Serial" has captivated millions of listeners over its 12-week run. The series focuses on the 1999 trial of Syed, who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, at the age of 17.

    Produced by This American Life and WBEZ, and hosted by Sarah Koenig, "Serial" has also exposed a number of problems in the American justice system.

    For example, in Episode 8: The Deal with Jay, Koenig speaks with jurors who served in Syed's case. Koenig tells her listeners, "Adnan didn't testify at his trial, which isn't unusual. Jurors aren't supposed to take that into consideration—the judge tells them so, that they are not allowed to hold that against a defendant when they're deliberating."

    She then asks one former juror, Lisa Flynn, whether it bothered the jury that Adnan did not testify. 

    "Yes it did," Lisa replies. "That was huge."

    As Maurice Chammah, staff writer for The Marshall Project, explains, jury bias is hardly the only flaw in the American criminal justice system "Serial" has exposed. He tells The Takeaway about additional problems "Serial" has highlighted, including racial stereotyping, police recordings (or lack thereof) and issues with eyewitness testimony and memory. 

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  • Dec 18

    What U.S.-Cuba Relations Mean for Baseball

    There's been a lot of political chatter about the dramatic shift in U.S.-Cuba relations. But what about one of Cuban's most notable exports: Baseball players?

    Cuba has had a long love affair with the sport of baseball—even Fidel Castro was a fan of the traditional American past time. But the Cold War stand off has made the path from Havana to the MLB very difficult.

    More than 50 players have defected from Cuba to play in the Majors since the communist revolution. However, new diplomatic relations could make the journey to Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium a whole lot easier.

    George Vecsey is a contributing sports columnist at our partner The New York Times. He says that Cuba's talent for baseball could be the first thing on the negotiating table as tensions ease between old Cold War enemies.

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  • Dec 18

    Today's Takeaways: North Korean Hackers, The End of 'Serial,' and Cuban Baseball

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  • Dec 17

    The U.S. & Cuba: A Historic Shift

    For the first time in decades, the United States and Cuba will start talks aimed at normalizing full diplomatic relations. The news comes on the heels of an announcement that Alan Gross, an American contractor who has been held in Cuba for the last 5 years, will be released.

    Gross was serving a 15-year-sentence—he was accused of trying to bring internet services to Cuba. In addition to Gross, 52 other political prisoners are being released by Cuba, and the United States is also releasing three Cuban spies who've been held in American prison since 1981. Officials insist this is not a prisoner swap.

    Today's deal to release Gross and move towards opening talks with Cuba has secretly been in the works for 18 months, a move reportedly encouraged in part by Pope Francis, who held a meeting at the Vatican with American and Cuban officials.

    The United States also plans to ease restrictions on remittances, travel, and banking relations, though the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will technically remain in place for now.

    Today's announcement is a major breakthrough in decades of a standoff between the two nations that are just miles away, says Carlos Eire, professor of history and religious studies at Yale University. He's also the author of "Waiting for Snow in Havana," which won the national book award in 2003, and "Learning to Die in Miami." Carlos left Cuba without his parents at the age of 11 in 1962.

    See Also: White House Fact Sheet on Charting a New Course With Cuba

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  • Dec 17

    Like Déjà Vu: Can Bush Win the GOP Presidential Nomination?

    The 2016 presidential race is shaping up to be may be quite the political throwback.

    Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced on his Facebook page that he has decided to "actively explore" a run for the Republican nomination in 2016. While Hillary Clinton has yet to formally announce her intentions for 2016, the former Secretary of State has more than hinted at a potential presidential campaign.

    Governor Bush spent most of his formative political years in Florida, a state whose politics most Americans remember quite well from his brother's first presidential campaign.

    As a reporter and columnist for the Miami Herald, Carl Hiaasen has covered the state for decades. Hiassen is the author of a number of novels, including "Skink: No Surrender," and the state often plays a large role in most of his books. Hiaasen reflects on Jeb Bush's tenure as governor of Florida, and Florida's role on the national political scene in 2016. 

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  • Dec 17

    Sony Hackers Threaten '9/11-Like' Attack Over Franco-Rogen Flick

    Over the summer, buzz began building around the new Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy, "The Interview." And not just in the U.S.

    In North Korea, the state-run KCNA news agency declared that the film was an “act of war” and promised a “merciless” retaliation against the U.S. if it was released. The film centers on a talk show host and TV producer (Franco and Rogen) that are sent to North Korea to interview Kim Jong-un. They are subsequently recruited by the CIA to assassinate the North Korean leader.

    Sony, the studio behind "The Interview," has been hacked—evidence suggests that the North Korean government could be involved. This week, the hackers promised "a bitter fate" to those who attend any screenings of the film—the hackers even threatened 9/11-like attacks on theaters that show the movie.

    “The world will be full of fear,” the message reads. “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.”

    A New York City premiere of "The Interview" scheduled to take place on Thursday has already been canceled. In a statement released Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said there is currently no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States.

    Sharon Waxman, founder and CEO of TheWrap.com, has been following the story closely. She shares her insights on the attacks, and about how the film industry is reacting. 

    Will you see the movie, or will you stay away? Leave a comment below or call 1-877-869-8253.

    *UPDATE 12/17/14 3:30 PM ET: AMC and Regal movie theaters, among others, announced Tuesday that they will not be showing "The Interview" after threats of 9/11-like attacks.

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  • Dec 17

    U.S. Creditors Worry as Oil Prices Dive

    Since June, the price of oil has fallen by nearly 50 percent, with costs plummeting to just $60 a barrel last week.

    The oil drop is an immediate stimulus to the broader economy, but the news isn’t all good. Dan Dicker, author of "Oil's Endless Bid," explores the ripple effects of oil's declining price. He says there's a real possibility that the U.S. is becoming a "petro state."

    “I believe that oil has become a major part of this economy,” says Dicker. “And we may be more like Russia than we’d like to think we are.”

    Over the last five years, Dicker estimates that the United States has added about 5.5 million jobs, with at least 1.5 million coming from the oil and gas industries. America now pumps about 9 million barrels a day, up from 4 to 5 million barrels.

    “There’s no doubt that the oil industry and oil companies in general took $100 a barrel oil very much for granted,” he says. “What’s clear is that shale oil does not work at under $60 a barrel in many, many places in the United States. That won’t be seen for months because many oil companies undertake projects that take months and sometimes years to come to fruition.”

    Dicker says that many U.S. oil companies have stopped drilling new rigs and looking fresh oil, a move that is pushing production down.

    “Despite the fact that demand keeps going up globally, we’re going to see, if prices stay down for an extended period time—and I think they will—a tremendous drop in the production here in the United States and elsewhere,” says Dicker.

    When looking globally, many believe that Saudi Arabia is refusing to prop up oil prices because it wants to force American producers out of the market.

    “It’s one of many things that have contributed to this colossal drop in the price of oil,” says Dicker. “I think the Saudis have several reasons why they might want to see oil prices drop here. Some of them are geopolitical, and some of them have to do with the viability of OPEC in general.”

    In recent months, price declines have shaken the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries or OPEC, which last held a meeting in late November. As previously reported, Saudi Arabia has been viewed as the OPEC member most likely cut petroleum production, but the oil-rich nation does not want to shoulder the burden alone.

    “They tried very hard in the weeks and months leading up to the OPEC meeting to try and find some consensus for a production drop,” says Dicker. “They could not find it either inside the cartel or outside of it...They decided to let these low prices percolate inside the market and see how many of the weak players they could force out—and now it seems clear that many are going to be forced.”

    Dicker says there are also concerns that some smaller oil companies will default on their debt obligations because of the shaky problems with the market.

    “What we’ve had over the last three or four years is Fed-inspired interest rates that are very low across the board,” he says. “Low interest rates have inspired a lot of investment at very, very good rates for otherwise very risky endeavors. As these oil and gas companies become less viable, you have the makings of a credit crisis that’s not so unakin to what we had in 2008.”

    Dicker stops short of fully comparing this so called oil credit crisis to the financial crisis of 2008, but he does say that the world should be wary.

    “There is a credit bubble in high yield right now in these small oil and gas companies,” he says. “A large percentage of high yield is held inside these very small mom and pop-type oil and gas companies. When those bonds start to default, and they will, it’s hard to know how far those ripples will go.”

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  • Dec 17

    As Ruble Plummets, Russian Media Calls For Calm

    On Tuesday, the Russian ruble hit a record low, plunging 20 percent against the dollar despite the Russian central bank's last ditch efforts to counter the fall by bumping up interest rates to 17 percent. In response, Apple halted online sales in Russia.

    Russians rushed out on Tuesday to buy imported products like fridges and cars, but if Russians are concerned, it hasn't fully manifested itself yet. President Vladimir Putin remains popular, and state television insisted that a weak ruble is good for the economy because it will stimulate domestic production and make exports cheaper.

    What options are still available to Russian authorities? Weighing in from Moscow is Dmitry Babich, political analyst for the Voice of Russia Radio.

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  • Dec 17

    Will the Taliban School Attack Spur Real Change in Pakistan?

    Pakistan is still reeling in shock from the horrific Taliban attack that left at least 145 people dead, an estimated 132 of them, children.

    Reacting to the attack, Secretary of State John Kerry said the world stands with the Pakistani government and people. "Wherever you live, wherever you are, those are our children, and this is the world's loss."

    In Pakistan, the reaction has been divided. Some, like Haidar Abbas Rizvi, senior leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Party Party, the 4th largest party in Pakistani Parliament, have called for the Taliban to be held accountable.

    "We need national unity on the subject, and we need to take Taliban to task because enough is enough," he said.

    But that response hasn't been universal. Aqil Shah is the author of “The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan” and currently a visiting professor at Dartmouth College.  He grew up in Peshawar and still has family there. He explains why he's not confident this attack will spur real change.

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  • Dec 17

    Pakistani-Americans Mourn a World Away

    The world is grieving in the wake of a terror attack in Pakistan that left more than 130 children dead this week.

    The violence at a school in Peshawar has been condemned by the Taliban in Afghanistan, who called it an outrage against Islam. India, Pakistan's long time combatant, also denounced the attack—a moment of silence was observed in Indian schools today. 

    Mohammad Razvi was once a successful business man running a small empire of family-owned stores in the Brooklyn neighborhood known as Little Pakistan. But after the attacks of September 11th, he left all that behind to become a community activist.

    Now the executive director of the Council of Peoples Organization, Razvi reflects on the attack and how Pakistani-Americans are coping. His organization is also holding a community vigil tonight to remember the victims. Click here for more information.

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  • Dec 17

    For The Netherlands, a Complicated Year of Grief

    In 2014, Russia dug itself deep into a state of economic turmoil. When looking back at the key moments that have led to the nation's fiscal troubles, it's like considering events of a lifetime ago.

    In July, Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was brought down over a Russian conflict zone in Ukraine. Of the 298 people who died in that crash, 193 were Dutch.

    Pieter Feith, a retired Dutch diplomat and former Special Representative for the European Union, says the plane attack brought the Netherlands squarely into an international crises in Europe where it's people have already become war casualties. 

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  • Dec 17

    Today's Takeaways: A Pivot Towards Cuba, The Sony Hack, and Political Déjà Vu

    1. The U.S. & Cuba: A Historic Shift | 2. Jeb Bush Stirs Political Déjà Vu | 3. Will the Taliban School Attack Spur Real Change? | 4. Sony Hackers Threaten '9/11-Like' Attack Over Franco-Rogen Flick

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  • Dec 16

    Polish Officials Under Fire for Permitting CIA Torture Sites

    Among the many consequences of the release of the Senate's torture report has been the disclosure of details surrounding Poland's willingness to play host to an American "black site" in the years following September 11th.

    At a news conference last week, former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski admitted to knowing about the CIA facility. He also claimed that the CIA denied Polish officials access to the site, and that American officials told him that detainees were cooperating and being treated as prisoners of war.

    The likelihood that Polish officials may held accountable for their cooperation during this period seems high, given that an investigation has been underway for years following a case brought by former detainees to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

    Adam Bodnar is the vice president of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Warsaw, Poland. He helped gather information for the case against Poland in the Strasbourg court.

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  • Dec 16

    Cargoland: Automation Threatens Human Dockworkers

    It's an old story: A machine steps in and replaces the hardened hands of the human worker. In day two of our look at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, we take a glimpse at the future of an industry that has a lot to lose.

    "It was just unbelievable—sitting in a tower watching a terminal work with almost no noise and no visible people," said James “Spinner” Spinosa, former International President for International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), of a trip to Rotterdam where some of the earliest examples of automated technology were developed.

    "Everything was driverless. You couldn't find people. Nobody. I mean, we were all looking at each other like oh my god, scared as hell. And the employers were saying, 'Well this is the real world guys.'"

    Independent producer Lu Oklowski spoke with Spinosa and others for her series Cargoland, a collaboration with KCRW's Independent Producer Project, and she found that nearly everyone on the waterfront agrees that automation is the menace most feared.

    See Also: Cargoland Part I

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  • Dec 16

    Taliban School Attack Kills More Than 100

    An attack carried out by the Taliban in the Pakistani city of Peshawar has killed at least 141 people—more than 132 of them children.

    At least five to six heavily armed Taliban gunmen entered the Army Public School and Degree College at around 10:00 AM local time. They opened fire on students and took some of them hostage.

    The Taliban, which has taken responsibility for the attack, said it was in response to an offensive carried out by the Pakistani military in June that cleared out many Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan.

    Joining The Takeaway to weigh in on the attack is Declan Walsh, Pakistan reporter for our partner The New York Times.

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  • Dec 16

    Russia Fails to Stop Ruble Crash

    Russian President Vladimir Putin likely wants some hard currency this Christmas season. It's not charity—Russia has raised its interest rate to a shocking 17 percent to try and stop the free fall of the Russian currency, the ruble.

    The ruble has hit an new low, experiencing its worst drop in 16 years. The crash is all related to falling oil prices and sanctions that make it very hard for Russia to refinance its formidable debt to stay afloat.

    John Authers of The Financial Times has the deails.

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  • Dec 16

    The Best 5 Versions of 'Silent Night'

    The holiday song "Silent Night" existed long before Christmas music ever was recorded.

    Originally written in German and titled "Stille Nacht" by Joseph Mohr, the song was set to music by Franz Gruber and performed for the first time ever at St. Nicholas Church in Austria in 1818.

    The organ broke during that first performance, but Mohr stepped in with a guitar and a choir. No recording exists of that very first performance, but the song quickly spread through Europe. In fact, "Silent Night" has been recorded at least 733 times over the past 36 years alone.

    John Schaefer, host of WNYC's Soundcheck, shares some of his favorite renditions of "Silent Night."

    1. Sinead O’Connor

    Across the pond, Schaefer says that residents of the United Kingdom seem to favor Sinead O’Connor’s version of the classic carol, which was released in the year 2000. Her rendition of the song remains the number one version in the U.K.

    “As we know, she’s had a somewhat troublesome relationship with religion and the Catholic Church in general,” says Schaefer. Despite her past objections, Schaefer says that O’Connor seems to love this song. The vocalist strips away the accompaniment and sings it a minimalist musical style.

    “It’s really quite unusual,” Schaefer says. “She’s going for something very stark and simple. To that extent, it’s true to original first performance of the carol.”

    2. Kathleen Battle & Christopher Parkening

    This version of “Silent Night” with soprano Kathleen Battle and guitarist Christopher Parkening is one of Schafer’s favorites. It was first released in 1996 on the album “Angels' Glory - Christmas Music for Voice & Guitar.”

    “Every year, another dozen sopranos, baritones, and tenors lineup with the orchestras to sing this song, which is why the Kathleen Battle version sticks out to me,” he says. “She’s a great soprano performing without an orchestra along with the renowned Christopher Parkening as the only accompaniment.”

    3. Low

    Formed in 1993, Low is an American indie rock group from Duluth, Minnesota that features a husband and wife at its forefront. Their rendition of “Silent Night” was first released on their holiday record, “Christmas,” in 1999.

    “This gets pretty close to what I imagine what that first performance sounded like,” Schaefer says. “It’s just two voices accompanied by an acoustic guitar. It’s a very kind of pastoral, restrained version that I find quite touching...There’s a little twang to the harmonies, which makes it very American sounding.”

    4. Al Green

    A legendary soul singer known for hits like “Let’s Stay Together,” Al Green first released “Silent Night” on his 1983 holiday record, “The Christmas Album.”

    “It’s the sound of a man trying desperately—and unsuccessfully—to not be sexy,” Schaefer says jokingly. “It’s ‘Silent Night,’ but he just can’t help himself. There’s such a smooth R&B groove and a little late night dimming of the lights there. It’s a really fun version.”

    5. Nick Lowe

    A popular English pub rocker during the 1970s, Nick Lowe is still going strong. He released his version of “Silent Night” in October 2013 on the album, “Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection For All The Family.”

    “He takes ‘Silent Night’ as sort of this blank slate to do with what he will,” says Schaefer. “What he wants to do with it is turn it into a hard charging, up beat, pub rock anthem...It’s a party.”

    Which of these versions do you like the best? Vote in our poll below.

     

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  • Dec 16

    The Best-Selling Amazon Spy Thriller? The CIA Torture Report

    Midway through last week, CNN Money reported that the best-selling "intelligence and espionage" title on Amazon.com was a PDF of the CIA torture report, beating out the likes of Ian Flemming and Tom Clancy. 

    But Amazon customers had a major complaint: The blurry text of the PDF was nearly unreadable.  As of Monday morning, readers trying to buy the $2.99 text on Amazon saw an error message that read: "This book is currently unavailable because there is an issue with its description, content, or formatting."  

    In the meantime, an independent publisher in Brooklyn has been frantically working to send a high-quality version of the 500-some page report to press.  They finally finished their draft at 9 a.m. on Monday and sent it off to the printer.

    Dennis Johnson, co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House, explains the organization's decision to put this report into print.

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  • Dec 16

    Warren, Bush & Clinton: The New Politics of 2016?

    A $1.1 trillion spending bill is now headed to President Obama's desk. Passed by the Senate over the weekend, the 2015 spending bill includes a provision that would erase a key aspect of the Dodd-Frank Act—legislation created to regulate big banks in the wake of the Great Recession.

    Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has emerged as the Senate's foremost critic of the bill. Over the weekend, she decried the Dodd-Frank rollback on the Senate floor.

    "People are frustrated with Congress, and part of the reason, of course, is gridlock—but mostly it's because they see a Congress that works just fine for the big guys, but it won't lift a finger to help them," she said.

    Sen. Warren is highlighting a rift between left-leaning progressives and the Democratic establishment, and some are hoping that she might announce a bid for the 2016 presidential election—a role former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been eyeing for sometime. 

    But Sen. Warren isn't the only high-profile politician dominating the news cycle this week. On Tuesday, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced that he is exploring "the possibility of running for President of the United States." 

    Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich examines Senator Warren's place in the Democratic party, Jeb Bush's announcement that he may run for president, and Hillary Clinton's role in it all.  

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  • Dec 16

    The High Cost of Working: Why More Women Are Opting Out

    It's been over 20 years since the federal government enacted legislation to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families.

    In 1993, President Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires certain employers to provide workers with job protections and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. It was the last piece of legislation aimed at protecting women from discrimination if they had to leave work to take care of a sick child or a sick parent.

    Since then, European countries have expanded family friendly policies like covering the cost of child care and paid maternity leave for up to one-year.

    Unlike in the United States, these policies have lead to an increase in the amount of women in the workforce in Europe. At home in America, the number of women working peaked in 1999 and is now declining.

    Claire Cain Miller is a reporter for The UpShot, a New York Times website covering policy and everyday life. She says that women are often leaving the workforce because of a lack of worker protections.  Read her piece "Why U.S. Women Are Leaving Jobs Behind" here

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  • Dec 16

    Today's Takeaways: A Deadly Taliban Attack, The High Cost of Working, and The Most Popular Holiday Song

    1. Taliban School Attack Kills More Than 100 | 2. Cargoland: Automation Threatens Human Dockworkers | 3. Why Women Are Opting Out of The Workforce | 4. 'Silent Night' Tops List of Most Recorded Holiday Songs

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  • Dec 15

    'Exodus: Gods and Kings,' 'Top Five,' Netflix's 'Marco Polo,' and The Golden Globe Nods

    Apologies. This week's Movie Date podcast is coming to you late, from an abandoned room in Rafer's office building. But there's a good explanation, we promise!

    Once you settle into the lousy sound quality and get past the tardiness, you'll hear Rafer and Kristen's reviews of Ridley Scott's "Exodus: Gods and Kings" and Chris Rock's "Top Five." You'll also hear the Movie Date team's thoughts on the new Netflix series "Marco Polo" and on this year's Golden Globe nominations. 

    And, as always, there's trivia!

    THE FULL LIST OF GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATIONS

    BEST ACTRESS IN A TV SERIES, DRAMA
    Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
    Robin Wright, "House of Cards"
    Viola Davis, "How To Get Away With Murder"
    Ruth Wilson, "The Affair"
    Claire Danes, "Homeland"

    BEST TV COMEDY
    "Girls"
    "Jane the Virgin"
    "Orange is the New Black"
    "Silicon Valley"
    "Transparent"

    BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
    "The Lego Movie"
    "Big Hero 6"
    "How to Train Your Dragon 2"
    "The Boxtrolls"
    "The Book of Life"

    BEST ORIGINAL SONG
    John Legend & Common, “Glory" ("Selma")
    Lana Del Rey, “Big Eyes” ("Big Eyes")
    "Mercy Is" ("Noah")
    "Opportunity" ("Annie")
    Lorde, "Yellow Flicker Beat" ("The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part I")

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
    Johann Johannsson, "The Theory of Everything"
    Alexandre Desplat, "The Imitation Game"
    Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, "Gone Girl"
    Antonio Sanchez, "Birdman"
    Hans Zimmer, "Interstellar"

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A TV SERIES, MINISERIES OR MOTION PICTURE
    Allison Janney, "Mom"
    Uzo Aduba, "Orange Is The New Black"
    Kathy Bates, "American Horror Story: Freak Show"
    Michelle Monaghan, "True Detective"
    Joanne Froggatt, "Downton Abbey"

    BEST TV MINISERIES OR MOVIE
    "True Detective"
    "Fargo"
    "The Normal Heart"
    "Olive Kitteridge"
    "The Missing"

    BEST ACTRESS IN A TV SERIES, COMEDY
    Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"
    Taylor Schilling, "Orange Is The New Black"
    Lena Dunham, "Girls"
    Gina Rodriguez, "Jane the Virgin"
    Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"

    BEST SCREENPLAY, MOTION PICTURE
    "Birdman"
    "Boyhood"
    "Gone Girl"
    "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
    "The Imitation Game"

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A TV SERIES, MINISERIES OR MOTION PICTURE
    Matthew Bomer, "The Normal Heart"
    Jon Voight, "Ray Donovan"
    Bill Murray, "Olive Kitteridge"
    Alan Cumming, "The Good Wife"
    Colin Hanks, "Fargo"

    BEST ACTOR IN A TV SERIES, COMEDY
    Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"
    Ricky Gervais, "Derek"
    Jeffrey Tambor, "Transparent"
    Louis C.K., "Louie"
    William H. Macy, "Shameless"

    BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
    "Ida"
    "Tangerine Mandarin"
    "Leviathan"
    "Force Majeure"
    "Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem"

    BEST ACTOR, MUSICAL OR COMEDY
    Michael Keaton, "Birdman"
    Ralph Fiennes, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
    Bill Murray, "St. Vincent"
    Joaquin Phoenix, "Inherent Vice"
    Christoph Waltz, "Big Eyes"

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, MOTION PICTURE
    J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"
    Edward Norton, "Birdman"
    Mark Ruffalo, "Foxcatcher"
    Ethan Hawke, "Boyhood"
    Robert Duvall, "The Judge"

    BEST ACTRESS, MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA
    Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"
    Reese Witherspoon, "Wild"
    Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl"
    Felicity Jones, "The Theory of Everything"
    Jennifer Aniston, "Cake"

    BEST ACTOR IN A TV MINISERIES OR MOVIE
    Matthew McConaughey, "True Detective"
    Billy Bob Thornton, "Fargo"
    Martin Freeman, "Fargo"
    Woody Harrelson, "True Detective"
    Mark Ruffalo, "The Normal Heart"

    BEST TV DRAMA
    "The Good Wife"
    "Downton Abbey"
    "Game of Thrones"
    "The Affair"
    "House of Cards"

    BEST ACTOR, TV SERIES, DRAMA
    Kevin Spacey, "House of Cards"
    Clive Owen, "The Knick"
    Dominic West, "The Affair"
    James Spader, "The Blacklist"
    Liev Schreiber, "Ray Donovan"

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, MOTION PICTURE
    Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"
    Emma Stone, "Birdman"
    Meryl Streep, "Into The Woods"
    Keira Knightley, "The Imitation Game"
    Jessica Chastain, "A Most Violent Year"

    BEST ACTRESS, MOTION PICTURE MUSICAL OR COMEDY
    Emily Blunt, "Into the Woods
    "Amy Adams, "Big Eyes
    "Julianne Moore, "Maps to the Stars
    "Helen Mirren, "The Hundred-Foot Journey
    "Quvenzhané Wallis, "Annie"

    BEST MOTION PICTURE, MUSICAL OR COMEDY
    "Birdman"
    "Into the Woods"
    "St. Vincent"
    "Pride"
    "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

    BEST ACTRESS IN A TV MINISERIES OR MOVIE
    Frances McDormand, "Olive Kitteridge"
    Maggie Gyllenhaal, "The Honorable Woman"
    Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story: Freak Show"
    Frances O'Connor, "Missing"
    Allison Tolman, "Fargo"

    BEST ACTOR, DRAMA
    Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"
    Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Imitation Game"
    Steve Carell, "Foxcatcher"
    David Oyelowo, "Selma"
    Jake Gyllenhaal, "Nightcrawler"

    BEST MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA
    "Boyhood"
    "Selma"
    "The Imitation Game"
    "The Theory of Everything"
    "Foxcatcher"

    BEST DIRECTOR
    Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"
    Alejandro González Iñárritu, "Birdman"
    Ava DuVernay, "Selma"
    David Fincher, "Gone Girl"
    Wes Anderson, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

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  • Dec 15

    Sydney Siege Ends After 16 Hours of Terror

    After holding hostages at an Australian cafe for more than 16 hours, a terrifying standoff between a gunman and police has come to an end in Sydney. After police stormed the Lindt Chocolate Cafe where Man Haron Monis, a self-proclaimed sheikh, was the holding hostages, the New South Wales Police tweeted "Sydney siege is over" at 2:45 AM local time Tuesday. Police confirmed in a statement that Monis was shot and killed in the fire fight. Two of the hostages were also killed and several more people were injured.

    As hostages ran out of the building with their hands in the air, live television programs showed heavily armed police rushing the cafe. Images of intense flashes of gunfire and the explosive sounds of ammunition dominated broadcasts. 

    Monis, an Iranian-born man in his 50’s, had several run-ins with the police. In 2013, Monis was sentenced to 300 hours of community service for writing offensive letters to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. The same year, in November 2013, he was charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. In April 2014 he was charged with sexually assaulting a woman in 2002, and he was also facing over 40 sexual and indecent assault charges. 

    Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said authorities are still working to determine the motivation behind the siege.

    "We don't yet know the motivation of the perpetrator, we don't yet know if this is politically motivated, although obviously there are some indications that it could be," Abbott said Monday.

    Michelle Innis, a reporter for our partner The New York Times, is on the ground in Sydney and explains how the city is responding.

    Also weighing in is Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and a national security expert based in Australia.

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  • Dec 15

    Cargoland: Inside America's Busiest Waterfront

    About 40 percent of everything that the United States imports comes through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Together, they are the busiest port complex in the United States.

    Independent producer Lu Olkowski examined the inner workings of these ports for more than a year. She documented this world for "Cargoland," a series produced in collaboration with KCRW's independent producer project.

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  • Dec 15

    Founding Fathers' Time Capsule Unearthed

    In 1795, as Massachusetts laid the foundation for its statehouse, three founding fathers gathered in Boston to bury a time capsule.

    Massachusetts Governor Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and William Scollay enclosed the capsule in a cornerstone of the statehouse, where it was recovered by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston last week. 

    Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin watched as the capsule was unearthed and he joins The Takeaway to discuss its contents.

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  • Dec 15

    CIA Torture: An International Warcrime?

    Many of the individuals most closely involved in the tactics disclosed and criticized in last week's Senate report on CIA torture have defended their actions. And over the weekend, former Vice President Dick Cheney did it again.

    On NBC's "Meet the Press," Vice President Cheney said he wouldn't change his stance on the use of so called enhanced interrogation techniques, and he insisted that no matter what the Senate report says, that there was no torture.

    “There's this notion that somehow there's moral equivalence between what the terrorists did and what we did," he said. "We were very careful to fall short of torture. The Senate has seen fit to label their report torture, but we worked hard to stay short of that.”

    Is one man's torture another man's self defense? That perspective may put people like Dick Cheney at odds with international law. The Obama Administration has apparently decided not to prosecute officials from the Bush Administration over torture, but could another government do it?

    Raha Wala, senior counsel for defense and intelligence for Human Rights First, weighs in.

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  • Dec 15

    In the Midst of World War I, a Christmas Truce

    On December 24, 1914, in the midst of World War I, soldiers along the Western Front put down their weapons, left their trenches, and wished their enemies a Merry Christmas.

    Journalist Alan Cleaver has unearthed letters from soldiers who fought on the front lines of World War I and collected them online for a project called Operation Plum Puddings. He tells The Takeaway that the soldiers realized "this was an astounding event: Christmas in the trenches."

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  • Dec 15

    In Seven States, Atheists Still Barred From Office

    Maryland is often considered the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States. Lord Baltimore founded the colony in the 17th century as a haven for Catholics fleeing religious persecution.

    In 1961, a Maryland lawsuit inspired the Supreme Court to end "religious tests" for public office. Some 50 years ago a Maryland bookkeeper applied to be a notary public, but his application was denied because he declined to declare belief in God. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court where they invalidated religious restrictions on holding office.

    But Maryland's legacy as a beacon of religious freedom has come into question lately. The language in the state constitution still bans non-believers from holding public office, even if it isn't enforced.

    Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state senator and professor of constitutional law at American University, is working with secular and atheist groups to remove the language from the state constitution. Raskin explains the movement to repeal the ban from the state's constitution, and why it matters to his constituents.

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  • Dec 15

    Who Are The Unemployed? A Look at The Vanishing American Worker

    The official unemployment rate is 5.8 percent, the lowest figure in six years. But what does that number mean? Since the Great Recession, there are more Americans who aren't looking for a job.

    Our partner The New York Times is exploring why people decide not to work and how they feel about it. Many unemployed people want to work but aren't willing to settle for cashier position at a fast food restaurant. The Times notes that the economy has gone through booms and bust since 1999, but the long-term rise of non-employment has outlasted every cycle.

    Binyamin Appelbaum is a reporter for The New York Times. His article, "The Vanishing Male Worker: How America Fell Behind," looks at what men do when they're not working. 

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  • Dec 15

    Today's Takeaways: Fear Grips Sydney, a Message From The Past, and a Christmas Truce

    1. Sydney Siege Ends After 16 Hours of Terror | 2. Cargoland: Inside America's Busiest Waterfront | 3. Founding Fathers' Time Capsule Unearthed | 4. In the Midst of World War I, a Christmas Truce

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  • Dec 13

    The Takeaway Weekender: Inside the CIA Torture Report

    This weekend The Takeaway explores the CIA torture report and the firestorm of debate that it has ignited among policy makers, the intelligence community, and the American public.

    After a long political fight, the Senate released its report on the CIA's use of torture during the George W. Bush Administration this week, triggering a firestorm of debate among policy makers, the intelligence community, and the American public.

    The report found that the CIA lied to the White House and Congress about the number of "black site" prisons, the intelligence derived from torture, the level of violence inflicted on detainees, and that enhanced interrogation techniques lead to information that found Osama bin Laden, among other things.

    To what extent does this deception damage the relationship with the CIA and it's overseers in Congress and at the White House? Who, if anyone, should be held accountable? And how might this information impact detainees currently held at Guantánamo Bay?

    For answers, The Takeaway turns to a panel of distinguished guests:

    Robert Baer is a former CIA Operative based in the Middle East and author of the book "The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins." He says that intelligence agencies routinely lie to Congress and the White House.

    Retired Brigadier General David Irvine, spent 18 years with the Sixth U.S. Army Intelligence School, teaching prisoner-of-war interrogation and military law. He says that far from making America safer, the CIA's misuse of power has made Americans less safe than ever.

    Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, says that President Barack Obama should prosecute or pardon President Bush and members of his administration to establish, with finality, that torture is illegal.

    David Nevin serves as lead defense counsel for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He's defended Mohammed at Guantanamo Bay since 2008, and he tells The Takeaway what questions he would ask former Vice President Dick Cheney if he were to take the stand in KSM's trial.

    Listeners in The Takeaway community also reached out to us to share their thoughts and opinions on the newly released Senate report on CIA torture. What do you think of the report? Comment or call us at 1-877-869-8253.

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  • Dec 12

    ISIS: The Inside Story

    It's taken years for Martin Chulov and his team to speak to jihadist Abu Ahmed, now a senior official with the terrorist group known as the Islamic State or ISIS. Abu Ahmed was held at Camp Bucca, an Iraqi prison, and witnessed the formation of ISIS.

    “We could never have all got together like this in Baghdad, or anywhere else,” he told Chulov. “It would have been impossibly dangerous. Here, we were not only safe, but we were only a few hundred meters away from the entire Al Qaeda leadership.”

    In Camp Bucca, Abu Ahmed met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the supposed leader of ISIS, a man now frequently described as the world’s most dangerous terrorist.

    "Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology" says Abu Ahmed.

    He agreed to speak publicly to Chulov after more than two years of discussions, over the course of which he revealed his own past as one of Iraq’s most formidable and connected militants. He shared his deepening worry about ISIS and the group's vision for the region.

    Martin Chulov, Middle East corespondent for The Guardian, explains how he got the inside story on ISIS.

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  • Dec 12

    Michele Bachmann Waves Goodbye to Washington

    After some late night drama in Washington, the spending bill that keeps the government open is expected to pass in the Senate today. The bill won approval in the House of Representatives—the final tally was 219-206.

    For the members Congress who won't be returning in January, this trillion dollar deal will be the last vote they cast. Among them is Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

    A conservative firebrand, Rep. Bachmann quickly became a force in Congress and around the nation in her eight years as representative for Minnesota's 6th District.

    Before she left the halls of Congress last night, Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich asked Representative Bachmann about the biggest lessons she's learned from her time in office.

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  • Dec 12

    How We Can Abolish Homelessness

    Inspired by prominent American abolitionists, including William Lloyd Garrison, who worked for the emancipation of slaves, Philip Mangano is a man on a mission to end homelessness.

    From 2002- 2009, Mangano served as the federal government’s “homeless czar,” under the administration of President George W. Bush and for the first 100 days of the Obama administration.

    In his position as executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, Mangano encouraged some 1,000 mayors and county executives across the country to adopt 10-years plans to reduce and end chronic homelessness, with a focus on moving homeless people into permanent housing. 

    “We know what to do and we know how to do it. We can end people’s homelessness,” says Mangano. “We have innovative ideas for every sub-population of homeless person. The difficulty and I would say the central issue in homelessness now, is to scale, to bring the ideas that we have to match in quantity the degree of the problem.”

    The Takeaway speaks with Mangano, the president and founder of The American Round Table to Abolish Homelessness, based in Boston, about progress on tackling homelessness in Massachusetts and nationwide.

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  • Dec 12

    Ridley Scott's New Film Highlights Hollywood's Race Problem

    The new Ridley Scott film, "Exodus: Gods and Kings," hits theaters today. The story is set in ancient Egypt and tells the story of the biblical figure Moses and his struggle to lead his people to freedom. If you're thinking, "Finally! An authentic film in set in Africa!," we're going to stop you right there.

    Ramses, the Egyptian pharaoh who enslaved the Jews in the Old Testament, is played by a white actor. In fact, the entire lead cast of "Exodus: Gods and Kings" is white. Moses is white. Moses' mother is white. The Egyptian prince is white. The African queen is white, too.

    There are some black actors in this movie set in Africa. Supporting characters like "Egyptian Lower Class Citizen," "Assassin," "Egyptian Thief," and "Royal Servant" are all played by black actors.

    Writer David Dennis Jr. says that this casting pattern is racist and reflects a race-based hierarchy.

    “I can’t believe we’re still whitewashing these characters in 2014,” says Dennis Jr. “On top of that, the fact the people of color are slaves, assassins, and thieves adds another layer to it—this film is up there in terms of being infuriating.”

    Some argue that Scott picked the lead actors—Christian Bale, Sigourney Weaver, and Aaron Paul, just to name a few—because they draw box offices dollars. But that’s an argument that Dennis Jr. doesn’t quite buy.

    “The highest grossing actor of 2013 was a half black, half Samoan guy who used to wrestle named Dwayne Johnson,” he says. “There are people of color that are stars. Ridley Scott himself directed ‘American Gangster,’ which has a black ensemble cast with Idris Elba and Denzel Washington. It grossed $266 million. The idea that you can’t have a movie with people of color that can bring box office stardom, that just doesn’t fly anymore.”

    Dennis Jr. doesn’t think that the lead cast should be all black, but he doesn’t think it should be all white, either. And he isn’t the only one who feels this way—the Twitter hashtag #boycottexodus has received over 10 million impressions in the last month.

    “Somewhere along the line, someone should have said that these people don’t look what we’ve been taught people in Egypt look like,” he says. “Somebody should’ve sat [Scott] down and said, ‘Maybe we should rethink this cast.’ Maybe that happened and he said, ‘I don’t care. I want to make the movie.’ I don’t know exactly where his mindset was, but there should’ve been some sort of discussion and rethinking about what was going on.”

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  • Dec 12

    School Discipline: It's Different For Black Girls

    There's been a lot of discussion about how black men and black boys are treated by the justice system. But today we bring you a story about how black girls—elementary and high school students—fare.

    According to the Department of Education's Office For Civil Rights, black girls in public elementary and high schools are suspended at a rate of 12 percent. When comparing stats with their white counterparts, the suspension rate drops to 2 percent.

    And as reporting from our partner The New York Times found,  the situation is all the more stark in Georgia. There, a black girl is five times more likely to be suspended than her white classmate.

    Weighing in on the racial discipline gap is Michael Tafelski, supervising attorney with the Georgia Legal Services Program. He advocates for students punished at school.

    Sakinah White is a teacher at Roberta Smith Elementary School. She's also a parent who says her 17-year-old daughter has been treated unfairly by her high school.

    The Takeaway reached out to the State Superintendent of Schools in Georgia, but did not get a response to our request for an interview.

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  • Dec 12

    Thanks, Internet: Five Things You Had to See Online This Week

    Every Friday, Sean Rameswaram, a producer with Studio 360 and host of the podcast Sideshow, rounds up the week in internet phenomena. 

    This week in "Thanks, Internet," Sean talks to John Hockenberry about the online treasures you may have missed.

    1. A GRAPHIC NOVEL IN GIFS

    The English indie-rock band Wild Beasts and the visual artist Mattis Dovier teamed up to create the first graphic novel in GIFs. There are actually two of them. One’s about a robot exploring a human’s world, and the other’s about a human exploring a robot world. It’s anime-inspired animation and it might just be THE FUTURE.

    2. HERZOG INSPIRATIONALS 

    Our favorite new Tumblr is Herzog Inspirationals – send-up of inspirational posters featuring the bleak, lifeless quotes of Werner Herzog on otherwise innocuous images. For example, a just-born chicken with the quote:“You look into the eyes of a chicken and you lose yourself in a completely flat, frightening stupidity.” Or a “Friendship” poster featuring a little girl and her puppy with the quote, “I did not love him, nor did I hate him. We had mutual respect for each other, even as we both planned each other’s murder.”

    3. STEPHEN COLBERT'S DESK OF TRICKS

    Stephen Colbert’s show is ending in a week, and he’s going out in style. This week, he once again took his show to D.C. and interviewed President Obama, while having lots of fun with him. As a tribute to him, his show put up a web exclusive of everything he’s ever pulled out from behind his desk, from food, to small animals, to bigger animals, to people, to groups of people, to an entire family. It’s a fantastic tribute to his work and a character we’ll all miss.

    4. 'LOVE ACTUALLY' AS 'PEANUTS' COMICS

    Love or hate "Love Actually", the film has become a Christmas classic for a whole lot of folks. Well aware of what the people want to see, BuzzFeed’s Jen Lewis took quotes from the movie and tacked ‘em onto "Peanuts" comics. It works really well.

    5. CHRISTOPHER LEE & CHRISTMAS METAL

    Christopher Lee, the 92-year-old English actor from "The Wicker Man," "The Lord of the Rings trilogy," and the "Hammer" horror films, has released his third annual metal Christmas song.  It’s called “Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing,” and it’s badass. We can only hope to be so productive at 92. Or 52 for that matter.

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  • Dec 12

    12/13/14: The Last Sequential Date of The Century

    This Saturday is the last sequential calendar date of the century: 12/13/14. The next one doesn't arrive until 89 years from now 01/02/03, or January 2, 2103.

    Because this date falls on a Saturday, more people are getting married—Las Vegas wedding packages are sold out, and according to a poll done by David's Bridal, more than 20,000 couples plan to marry on 12/13/14. Last year just 7,000 people married on 12/13/13.

    One of those people getting married on Saturday is Zila Acosta. She says a close friend persuaded her to tie the knot on a significant day and that the challenges in finding a venue, picking out linens, and even inviting guests—one guest told her they'd been invited to three other weddings—are all because of this sequence in the calendar.

    But what other days are coming up in the next 89 years that are sequential but have significant meaning? Victoria Jaggard is online editor for Smithsonian Magazine. She says that there are many dates coming up that have mathematical significance like 08/25/43—a Recaman sequence wedding in 29 years perhaps?  

    Read Victoria's piece 'After 12/13/14, What Are the Next Fun Dates for Math Lovers?' here.

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  • Dec 12

    Today's Takeaways: Ending Homelessness, Hollywood's Racial Bias, and Lucky Numbers

    1. ISIS: The Inside Story | 2. Michele Bachmann Waves Goodbye to Washington | 3. How We Can Abolish Homelessness | 4. Ridley Scott's New Film Highlights Hollywood's Race Problem | 5. 12/13/14: The Last Sequential Date of The Century

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  • Dec 11

    The Cross Examination of Dick Cheney

    Attorney David Nevin serves as lead defense counsel for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and he's defended Mohammed at Guantanamo Bay since 2008. Here he tells The Takeaway what questions he would ask former Vice President Dick Cheney if he were to take the stand in KSM's trial.

    Check out our full interview with Nevin here.

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  • Dec 11

    KSM's Defense Has Questions For VP Cheney

    Michael Hayden served as CIA director from 2006 to 2009. During that time, he consistently defended the Agency's use of waterboarding, a technique he described as effective in preventing further attacks on American soil.

    In February 2008, he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee and explained why CIA agents waterboarded terror suspects Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Abu Zubayda, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. 

    "We used it against these three high value detainees because of the circumstances of the time," he said. "Very critical to those circumstances was the belief that additional, catastrophic attacks against the homeland were imminent."

    According to the Senate's recent report on the CIA's torture program, Hayden and his predecessors exaggerated the effectiveness of waterboarding against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other suspects.

    David Nevin serves as lead defense counsel for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He's defended Mohammed at Guantanamo Bay since 2008, and he tells The Takeaway what questions he would ask former Vice President Dick Cheney if he were to take the stand in KSM's trial.

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  • Dec 11

    Why Elizabeth Warren Is Picking a Spending Fight With Democrats

    A $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill is at stake in Washington D.C. Lawmakers are attempting smooth out the details in this bill—a law they hope to pass today to avoid another government shutdown.

    The bill doesn't just fund government. There are dozens of policy proposals attached including $5.4 billion to fight Ebola; repeals on some trucking safety rules; an initiative to get white potatoes back on the list of nutritious foods for women and children; a proposal to keep sage grouse off the endangered species list; and essentially blocking the legalization of marijuana in D.C., which voters there approved by a margin of 70 percent in November.

    But there are two far more controversial provisions that has the House tied in knots again—and could prove to be a big political moment for Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren.

    Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington Correspondent, has the details.

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  • Dec 11

    The Worst New Words of 2014

    Remember those glorious days, back when we didn't say things like "wearables" or know the meaning of "YOLO"?

    Every year, new words take off and old ones die. Some words are preposterous, and some might actually make sense. Have you stayed on top of this year's newest words? Don't worry if you haven't—we have someone here to give us a vocabulary lesson.

    Ben Schott is the author of the "Jargonator" column in Inc. Magazine. He weighs in on the best and worst new words of 2014, and shares his least favorite in the list below. 

    The Most Ridiculous Words of 2014

    ACTIVE NUTRITION
    “Active nutrition” is “sports nutrition” for people who don’t exercise. This seems to involve selling sport-themed snack bars, chews, gels, and “ready to drink” beverages to the folks who order Diet Coke (0 calories) with their Big Mac and fries (760 calories). In other words: Genius.

    SACRIFICIAL ARCHITECTURE
    Computer code written in the full knowledge that, if successful, it will be discarded and supplanted. This usefully empowers coders to consider future changes as they work. It’s also how I describe my New Year’s resolutions—which are as good as abandoned when pledged.

    APP POVERTY LINE
    Because “just 1.6 percent of developers generate most of the app store revenue … as many as 98.4 percent of mobile app developers may be living below the app poverty line.” The “app poverty line” is similar to the regular poverty line. Except that it costs $1.99, constantly crashes, drains your battery, and demands to be updated every 36 hours.

    CHATVERTISING
    “People conversing directly with brands via bots.” Yup. Normal human beings voluntarily interacting with “chat bots” programmed to interact like a friend … but a friend who represents the advertising interests of a brand. Come to think of it, it’s rather like striking up a conversation with someone who tells you, “I’m in P.R.”

    UP-GAUGING
    Airline code for “increasing capacity without increasing fleets.” This profit-maximizing magic is achieved in two ways: replacing smaller planes with larger ones, and (sneaky, sneaky) adding extra seats to existing vessels. We are promised that “thinner seat” technology will ensure no reduction in legroom or comfort. But you don’t need to be a wordsmith to spot the similarity between gauging and gouging.

    OMNI-CHANNEL BANKING
    "Delivering a consistent and seamless [banking] experience across various touch points.” A.K.A. confirming you’re broke on a variety of technologies you can ill-afford.

    OVER-TRACKING SYNDROME
    When the act of monitoring a behavior becomes distractingly obsessional. The term relates specifically to our unhealthy preoccupation with the data collected by fitness trackers. You know – those sporty wristbands that count every step you take, every move you make, every smile you fake, every claim you stake, every bond you break. Oh, wow, I see what they mean about distraction.

    BLENDED FAMILY BUSINESS
    A “family firm that has invited members of a second family into senior positions.” As social structures evolve, family businesses are increasingly incorporating step-relations and in-laws into management. A classic example of the “blended family business” is, apparently, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Which may or may not be a selling point.

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  • Dec 11

    Why It's So Hard to Discipline a Police Officer

    What does it take to hold the police accountable? The process by which police are disciplined here in New York City provides a good case study. 

    The board responsible for fielding complaints against the NYPD is New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. The CCRB handles 5,000 complaints a year with a small, inexperienced staff.

    Records on individual cases are confidential, but WNYC's Robert Lewis managed to get the story about one complaint last year, and it sheds new light on why disciplining police is so difficult.

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  • Dec 11

    The Chinese Government is Making Millions Selling Cigarettes

    Consider these numbers: In 2013, the China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC) manufactured 2.5 trillion cigarettes. By comparison, Philip Morris International, it's biggest competitor, produced just 880 ?billion last year.

    The revenue generated by China National—$170 billion in 2012—was more than the revenue brought in by Apple that year.

    Cigarettes are everywhere in China. Slogans over the entryways of sponsored elementary schools read: “Genius comes from hard work. Tobacco helps you become talented.”

    Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Andrew Martin investigates China's tobacco industry for the latest issue of the magazine.

    “[CNTC] was started by the government in 1982 as a way to corral black market cigarettes,” Martin says. “It’s just exploded in growth along with the Chinese economy. Currently, the tobacco industry in China accounts for seven percent of all of the government’s revenue.”

    In addition to generating income for the government, the Chinese tobacco industry employs about half a million people directly, and an additional 20 million people work at retail stores selling cigarettes.

    Though the tobacco industry’s work force spans the gamut, Martin says that there is a gender gap when it comes to tobacco use in China.

    “It’s exclusively men,” he says. “More than half the men in China smoke, but only two percent of the women smoke, and that’s been fairly consistent. It’s also cultural—men exchange [cigarettes] as gifts.”

    Meanwhile, lung cancer is on the rise in China. This year alone, smoking-related diseases are expected to kill more than one ?million people in the country.

    “Unless the Chinese government is able to get a handle on this and reduce the prevalence of smoking, the authorities estimate that there will be three million smoking-related deaths by 2050,” Martin says.

    Fighting those numbers will likely be difficult. As mentioned previously, CNTC starts marketing tobacco products early on—even to elementary school students.

    “The subsidiaries of the national tobacco company sponsor elementary schools,” Martin says. “They give them money, and some of them are named after local tobacco companies...They’re very much ingrained in the local culture.”

    Though China is still decades behind the U.S. when it comes to anti-smoking efforts, Martin says that Chinese officials are taking steps to change the culture.

    “In the last year there has been some movement from the Chinese government, at least in terms of rhetoric,” he says. “There has been some pretty strong legislation that’s been introduced, and Beijing recently became a smoke-free city. That has created some optimism among anti-smoking advocates—they may finally be able to address this issue.”

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  • Dec 11

    Meet The Man Who 'Saved' The Motor City

    In July 2013, Detroit entered bankruptcy with more than $18 billion in liabilities—it became the largest municipality to file for Chapter 11 in American history. After traveling down a long and difficult road, the Motor City is finally getting back on its feet.

    “We have the city poised for a new chapter that is about growth after decades of decline—and that's extremely exciting,” Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said when announcing the news that city is officially out of bankruptcy. 

    The Takeaway speaks to Kevyn Orr, the former emergency manager, a man who many credit for turning the city around.

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  • Dec 11

    America: Kicking an Addiction to Mid East Oil?

    After Hurricane Katrina destroyed oil refining capacity in the gulf of Mexico in 2005, the price of a barrel of oil hit $60.00 a barrel, then a record high, pushing gas prices above $3.00 per gallon. In January 2006, President George W. Bush called for an end to America's dependency on Middle Eastern oil.

    “Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy," President Bush said. "And here we have a serious problem. America is addicted to oil which is often imported from unstable parts of the world."

    On Wednesday, the price of a barrel of oil fell to a five year low, once again nearing the $60 dollar mark. For the first time in years, gas prices across the country are below $3.00 a gallon.

    With increased shale oil production and lower demand in the United States, has America finally broken its addiction to Middle Eastern oil?

    Dr. Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin, says despite what analysts say, the price could be low for the next several years. 

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  • Dec 11

    Today's Takeaways: Cross Examining Dick Cheney, Elizabeth Warren Takes on Dems, and The Best & Worst Words of 2014

    1. The Cross Examination of Dick Cheney | 2. Elizabeth Warren Takes on Dems in Spending Fight | 3. Why It's So Hard to Discipline a Police Officer |  4. Meet The Man Who 'Saved' The Motor City | 5. The Best and Worst New Words of 2014

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  • Dec 10

    The CIA Torture Report: Your Conversation

    Everyday, The Takeaway team strives to make sure your voice is included in our discussions. Whether it's the conflict in Syria, stories about your favorite songs, or the struggles in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, your contributions matter a great deal to us.

    Listeners in The Takeaway community reached out to us to share their thoughts and opinions on the newly released Senate report on CIA torture. Click on the audio player above to hear what they had to say. What do you think of the report? Leave a comment below or call us at 1-877-869-8253.

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  • Dec 10

    Torture Report: Past Mistakes & Future Prosecutions?

    Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee's released a report that shows the CIA deceived the White House and Congress in order to use enhanced interrogation methods.

    The CIA lied to the White House and Congress about the number of "black site" prisons, the intelligence derived from torture, the level of violence inflicted on detainees, and that enhanced interrogation techniques lead to information that found Osama bin Laden.

    To what extent does this deception damage the relationship with the CIA and it's overseers in Congress and at the White House?

    Robert Baer is a former CIA Operative based in the Middle East and author of the book "The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins." He says that intelligence agencies routinely lie to Congress and the White House.

    Retired Brigadier General David Irvine, spent 18 years with the Sixth U.S. Army Intelligence School, teaching prisoner-of-war interrogation and military law. He says that far from making America safer, the CIA's misuse of power has made Americans less safe than ever. 

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  • Dec 10

    Torture & The Law: Justifying the Unjustifiable

    In light of the newly-released CIA torture report, many are wondering how the nation can forge better policies to stop torture while also ensuring that officials have the ability to gather intelligence information.

    We already have the legal framework for preventing torture, but it hasn't worked. What new policies should be put in place? And how can existing policies be enforced?

    For answers, we turn to Jennifer Daskal, a professor at American University Washington College of Law, as well as a former counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice. She focuses on issues of terrorism, criminal law, and constitutional law.

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  • Dec 10

    How the Supreme Court Became an 'Echo Chamber'

    Former United States Solicitor General Paul Clement has argued some of the most recent high-profile cases before the Supreme Court, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Cases (on the constitutionality of Obamacare) and U.S. v. Windsor (on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage). 

    Since the year 2000, Clement has argued 75 cases before the nation's highest court, more than any other attorney. According to a new investigation from Reuters, Clement is part of a small, highly elite group of attorneys—the lawyers most likely to have their cases heard before the Court. 

    Joan Biskupic, the editor overseeing legal affairs at Reuters and a co-author of the investigation, explains that Reuters examined all Supreme Court petitions filed between 2004 and 2012. They found that just 66 attorneys, including Clement, were six times more likely to have their petitions accepted—that's 66 attorneys out of the 17,000 who filed petitions.

    These attorneys, and the firms that employ them, were also three times more likely to represent corporate interests.

    Biskupic, the author of "Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice," tells The Takeaway that the Supreme Court has become increasingly pro-business since Justice Roberts became chief in 2005.

    Her Reuters investigation finds that in the first nine years of the Roberts Court, the Court ruled for big business 60 percent of the time, compared to 48 percent under the previous nine years of Chief Justice Rehnquist.

    The investigation also notes that, as these elite attorneys and their firms increasingly represent corporate interests before the Court, employees and consumer groups have a smaller pool of experienced lawyers to represent their interests.

    As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told Biskupic, "Business can pay for the best counsel money can buy. The average citizen cannot...That’s just a reality."

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  • Dec 10

    AFI Cranks it Up to 11 with Their List of Best Pictures of the Year

    We're only weeks away from Oscar nomination voting time, and the tastemakers have begun compiling their lists of the best films of 2014 en masse.

    Standing out among these lists is an unusual offering from the prestigious American Film Institute. In a move channeling Spinal Tap, they've cranked things all the way up to eleven. That's right. Instead of offering a top 10 list, as they've done every year, they've compiled a top 11 list of the best films of 2014.

    Their full list: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Nightcrawler, Selma, Unbroken and Whiplash.

    Weighing in on why they've made this move, and what it means about this years movies, is Kristen Meinzer, co-host of the Movie Date podcast.

    Subscribe to The Movie Date Podcast here.

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  • Dec 10

    Kerry Asks Congress for Unfettered War Against ISIS

    Yesterday, much of the focus on Capitol Hill centered on the Senate's report on CIA torture, and the testimony of Jonathan Gruber, a health economist and alleged Affordable Care Act architect who said a lack of transparency helped pass the law.

    But while everyone was watching news unfold about the torture report and Gruber, Secretary of State John Kerry testified before Congress and said that the president wants virtually no restrictions to fight ISIS—a move that Sec. Kerry says would allow the Obama Administration and future presidents the freedom to fight the terrorist group beyond Syria and Iraq, and even with ground troops.

    “We don't anticipate conducting operations in countries other than Iraq or Syria," Sec. Kerry said Wednesday. "But to the extent that ISIL poses a threat to the U.S. and U.S. personnel in other countries, we would not want an AUMF to constrain our ability to use appropriate force against ISIL in those locations if necessary. In our view, it would be a mistake to advertise to ISIL that there would be safe havens for them outside of Iraq or Syria.”

    As Congress flexes its muscle over the newly released report CIA torture, calls for better congressional oversight for the use of military force may create another kind of showdown between the White House and Capitol HIll. 

    Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington Correspondent, explains.

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  • Dec 10

    Want to Be an Armed Security Guard? It's Terrifyingly Easy

    With the release of the Senate report on CIA torture during the Bush Administration, many Americans have been reflecting on the American experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

    While the U.S. military led the fight in both countries, they had plenty of civilians at their side—at least as many contractors served in Iraq and Afghanistan as deployed troops. And a new investigation from the Center for Investigative Reporting and CNN finds that the civilian security force abroad has a parallel at home: The armed security guard industry.

    About one million Americans work as security guards, twice the number of those serving as police officers. While the data does not include the number of guards who carry arms, Shoshana Walter, public safety reporter at the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), says that the security guard industry is a parallel universe where the expected norms of policing simply don't apply.

    “The security industry is very different from the law enforcement profession,” says Walters. “They have limited powers, they don’t have the same ability to detain or arrest, or as it relates to search and seizures. But they’re often taking on the same types of roles as law enforcement officers.”

    Walters says that guards often have a small fraction of the training that police officers usually get. In the state of California, for example, a police officer is required to get a minimum of 600 hours of training—an armed guard gets about 54 hours.

    “The difference there is huge,” she says.

    In addition to training, regulations regarding background checks for armed guards also vary widely by state.

    "We found that 27 states are not checking armed guard applicants through the prohibited possessor database—that's a database of people who are prohibited by federal law from possessing guns," Walter says.

    According to Walters’ research, many security guards are explicitly prohibited from owning a weapon for personal use, for several reasons: Some have been committed for mental health issues, others may have restraining orders against them, they may have been dishonorably discharged from the military, or have misdemeanor domestic violence convictions.

    “These are people that who are prohibited, by law, from carrying guns,” she says. “They can’t buy guns and they can’t possess guns, and they’re getting jobs as armed guards.”

    Walters says that the security guard profession is also used as a “backup” for law enforcement officers that were fired for issues of misconduct or excessive force, or for civil rights abuses.

    “There’s only one state that actually checks for that—the state of Oregon,” she says. “But the state has actually never rejected an armed guard applicant who previously was a law enforcement officer.”

    Though many studies show that the presence of a security guard can lead to a decrease in crime, CIR did an analysis of the FBI’s bank robbery database, which includes information about every bank robbery in the U.S., and came to a different conclusion.

    “What we found was that when an armed guard is present during a bank robbery, the chance of violence happening triples,” says Walters. “One of the problems with the way armed guard industry is regulated is that, for the most part, there’s no one monitoring when a security guard shoots his or her gun.”

    Across the country, Walters says a lack of oversight has produced situations in which security personnel have acted recklessly with a firearm and are still able to hold on to their armed guard licenses.

    “People who work in the security industry, even some security executives, want to see more uniform standards across the states,” she says. “There are some states that do some things really well. Florida, for example, while they don’t require mental health evaluations for armed guard applicants, they do require that guards or their employers file reports whenever they use their guns.”

    In most of the United States, Walters says that no entity tracks, monitors, or investigates armed security guard shootings—there are only 12 states that require those reports to be filed.

    “Even among those 12 states, there’s massive underreporting,” she says. “Regulators receive the reports and rarely do anything with them. There’s a huge lack of oversight into security guards and what they do with their guns.”

    Though Walters says the state of Florida investigates security guard shootings and takes action if a shooting does take place, she does bring to light one tragic example in Miami.

    “An armed guard who was later diagnosed with severe mental health problems—psychotic disorders, delusional disorders—was working at a strip club and spotted these two men sitting in a car,” says Walters. “He said they looked menacing and that they were rolling a joint. As he was walking towards them, he said they both got out of the car simultaneously.”

    She continues: “He interpreted that as a threat, and he shot both of them. One of them is now paralyzed from the waist down and the other was killed.”

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  • Dec 10

    Today's Takeaways: Torture & The Law - Justifying the Unjustifiable

    1. Torture Report: Past Mistakes & Future Prosecutions? | 2. Torture Report May Complicate Fight Against ISIS | 3. It's Terrifyingly Easy to Be an Armed Security Guard | 4.Torture & The Law: Justifying the Unjustifiable

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  • Dec 09

    ACLU Director: Prosecute or Pardon Bush for CIA Torture

    The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has released its report on the CIA's use of torture and rendition during the George W. Bush Administration.

    The report, which includes several disturbing findings, finds that "the interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others."

    Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, says that President Barack Obama should prosecute or pardon President Bush and members of his administration to establish, with finality, that torture is illegal.

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  • Dec 09

    The CIA Torture Report: A 'Gut Check Moment' for U.S. Democracy

    Today, after a long political fight, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has released its report on the CIA's use of torture and rendition during the George W. Bush Administration.

    The report includes several disturbing findings, including that at least five detainees were subjected to forced "rectal feeding" without any documented medical need. Interrogators also threatened to sexually abuse the family members of detainees, and at least one detainee died at a detainment facility after a junior officer with no relevant experience was put in charge. 

    As Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich explains, Secretary of State John Kerry tried to delay the Senate report. When the Committee refused, the Obama Administration relented, claiming to "welcome" the release of the report while warning that it could damage U.S. relationships abroad.

    As Zwillich explains, President George W. Bush continues to defend the CIA's actions during his Administration, describing the operatives involved as "patriots."

    But not all lawmakers feel the same, including Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    “[The report] exposes what the world already knows and that is that the United States engaged in torture, but my feeling about this is that this is a gut check moment for our democracy,” McCaskill told CBS This Morning. “The world knows we tortured. But does the world know yet that we’ll hold up our values and hold our government accountable?”

    Last week, Secretary Kerry called Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to warn her that the committee's report on CIA torture and rendition programs could have severe foreign policy consequences.

    House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers echoed Kerry's concerns, telling CNN's Candy Crowley that releasing the report is a "terrible idea" that will "cause violence and deaths."

    David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for Takeaway partner The New York Times, examines the potential fallout from the Senate report on CIA torture and rendition during the Bush Administration. He explains that the U.S.'s legacy of torture has been used to fight terrorism abroad.

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  • Dec 09

    Building a Case for Life on Mars

    Today, Mars is a frozen wasteland that gets a deadly bombardment of cosmic and solar radiation on a daily basis. But that might not have always been the case.

    NASA's Mars rover, Curiosity, has been hard at work exploring the Red Planet, and new evidence from the rover suggests that Mars once had lakes, rivers, and even oceans.

    “What they’ve found is a hint that Mars was habitable at one point in time.” says Tariq Malik, managing editor of Space.com. “This new discovery suggests that [conditions for life] were stretched out not only over a few million years, but for tens and tens of millions of years. Life could have flourished in a wet, warm environment on Mars.”

    Malik says that scientists have never seen evidence like this before. Curiosity, which functions as a sort of mobile laboratory, has detected a 96-mile depression that formed more than 3.5 billion years ago when a meteorite slammed into the planet.

    And now new evidence from Curiosity suggests that the 96-mile crater might have once held a lake. It appears that the aquatic sediment from that lake has transformed over time into an 18,000-foot mountain.

    “It’s called Mount Sharp and it rises three miles up from the floor of this crater,” says Malik. “What they had hoped to see when they got [to the mountain] were different sediment layers all the way up that would tell the story of this crater over the 3 billion years or so that it’s been around. And that’s what they’re seeing now.”

    Malik says that the evidence suggests that the crater once held a massive amount of water the ebbed and flowed, and was sustained by the environment of Mars.

    “Today there is no liquid water on the surface itself,” he says. “This evidence says that Mars was a different place for a long amount of time.”

    Though the idea of Mars as a wet planet seems more closely tied to a science fiction novel than it does reality, Malik says that scientists plan to study the sediment layers to get a better picture of how the planet’s climate and environment changed over time.

    “That’s what they’re looking at—they want to see the evolution of this lake in the crater,” he says. “They want to see how full it got, when it might have dried out to allow the winds to sculpt a three mile mountain at its core, and then where that water went….it’s perplexing to them right now.”

    Malik points out that NASA’s findings are only the beginning—the evidence uncovered by Curiosity and the theories scientists are pursuing have yet to be published in scientific journals. But Curiosity is equipped with a series of high-powered instruments, including microscope cameras and lasers to break through rock.

    “Curiosity has only been on Mars for two years and only at the base of this crater for the last few months,” he says. “They’ve got a big job ahead of them because they want to actually climb that mountain with the rover to get even deeper into this story.”

    In addition to learning more about the planet’s environment and geological history, many are hoping that Curiosity might find some concrete signs of life.

    “There’s always the possibility,” says Malik. “Water on Earth is one of the cornerstones of life, so that’s kind of the going theory for scientists exploring Mars—if they find the water, there’s a chance that there could be life there. That’s kind of like the Holy Grail, if you will. It doesn’t say that there was life actually there right now or in the past, but if all the conditions are right, you’d expect that something could happen.”

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  • Dec 09

    U.S. Bogged Down With Too Many Cranberries

    The holiday season is the golden hour for cranberries—Americans dollop cranberry sauce on turkeys and even decorate Christmas trees with strings of the fruit.

    But the cranberry industry is facing a major crisis this year. There's not a lack of cranberries, and distribution isn't an issue, either. Rather, there are too many cranberries.

    And not just a few too many. Americans typically consume about 800 million pounds of cranberries per year, but total supply currently sits around 1.6 billion pounds—that includes this year's fruit crop and what's been left unsold from 2013. 

    Scott Soares, executive director of the Cranberry Marketing Committee, says all those extra berries are painting a less-than rosy picture for the industry.

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  • Dec 09

    South Africa 'Devastated' by Al Qaeda Hostage Death

    When a U.S. special forces mission to rescue photojournalist Luke Somers from Al Qaeda failed over the weekend in Yemen, U.S. officials reported that they knew nothing of the identity or details surrounding Al Qaeda's second captive, South African teacher Pierre Korkie.

    What the U.S. did not know was that Korkie was just hours away from being rescued. A South African charity, Gift of the Givers, had been working for months to free Korkie, after successfully freeing his wife in January. On Sunday, the charity confirmed that Korkie would be let go in exchange for a $200,000 ransom.

    As a result, and because the surprise element of the raid was thwarted, Korkie was killed mere hours before he was set to be released. Somers also lost his life during the failed rescue attempt.

    Imtiaz Sooliman, the director of Gift of the Givers, says that people across South Africa are devastated by Korkie's death.

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  • Dec 09

    Energy Firms and State Officials: A Secret Relationship Worth Millions

    The 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has transformed the way our elected officials campaign and fundraise.

    While much of the campaign finance coverage since 2010 has focused on federal officials, state candidates also need deep pockets to run for office.

    A new investigation by Takeaway partner The New York Times finds that at least a dozen state attorneys general have found a well-funded source of campaign donations: Energy firms. In the 2014 midterm elections, oil and gas companies spent at least $16 million to help their attorneys general of choice get elected.

    Eric Lipton, an investigative reporter in the New York Times Washington Bureau, led the investigation into the relationships between state attorneys general and energy firms. He tells The Takeaway that these firms have invested in Republican state officials with the hope of challenging federal environmental regulations. 

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  • Dec 09

    The CIA Torture Report: The World Reacts

    Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry called Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to warn her that the committee's report on CIA torture and rendition programs could have severe foreign policy consequences.

    House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers echoed Kerry's concerns, telling CNN's Candy Crowley that releasing the report is a "terrible idea" that will "cause violence and deaths."

    David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for Takeaway partner The New York Times, examines the potential fallout from the Senate report on CIA torture and rendition during the Bush Administration. He explains that the U.S.'s legacy of torture has been used to fight terrorism abroad.

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  • Dec 09

    Today's Takeaways: CIA Torture, Life on Mars, and Secret Alliances

    1. The CIA Torture Report: A 'Gut Check Moment' for U.S. Democracy | 2. Building a Case for Life on Mars | 3. South Africa 'Devastated' by Hostage Death | 4. The Secret Government Relationship Worth Millions | 5. ACLU Director: Prosecute or Pardon Bush for CIA Torture

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  • Dec 08

    Engage or Unfriend? What to Do When Facebook Gets Racist

    In the first 24 hours after the Ferguson grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the August killing of teenager Michael Brown, Facebook exploded with more than 11 million posts on the issue.

    Though the justice system has acted, for many Americans, a difficult dialogue is just beginning. And nowadays, that dialogue happens not at town hall meetings, but online.

    Author and commentator Ibrahim Abdul-Matin confessed to watching the back-and-forth erupt on his own Facebook page days after the grand jury decision was announced.

    “I have a lot of white men on my Facebook feed that feel justified in telling black people how to react to murders by police and who also vehemently defend the officers' actions," Abdul-Matin recently told Manoush Zomorodi, host and managing editor of WNYC's New Tech City.

    He continued: "On their own pages they have some of the most vile and racist posts and propaganda. I went to school with some of these individuals, and as such, they are part of the tapestry of my life and community. I will not erase them from my feed. If you are my friend and want to know how pervasive the ignorance is amongst white men in this country, I suggest you read some of the things they are posting.”

    To engage or unfriend—though it’s not quite Shakespearean, that is the question facing many in the digital age.

    “It’s very rare to win an argument on Facebook, and social psychologists know this,” says Zomorodi. “People just sort of buckle down and stay with their point of view.”

    Online, conversations about race, police brutality, and the justice system can often float between insensitive and overtly racist.

    “This sort of goes to the question of where Facebook fits in to this conversation in general,” says Zomorodi. “Sometimes this is an unwelcomed surprise—we don’t always talk about race with our family members or with people we see everyday. It can sort of come as a shock that Auntie Edna feels a certain way and you have to see her next week at that family dinner.”

    Zomorodi says that because these conversations are happening online and not face-to-face, individuals often feel more freedom to push the limits of their dialogue and possibly say things they would never say in person.

    “You look for something witty or you want to say something brilliant or smart, you want to say something cutting or the right thing,” Abdul-Matin told Zomorodi. “But then what ends up happening on Facebook is you just kind of vomit—it's an unedited emotional barrage. Spiritual people will tell you that when you’re about to get into an argument, that's when you should stop talking, that's when you should sit down and stop screaming and collect your thoughts and collect your breath. But Facebook just gives you the space to just let it out.”

    Even researchers are acknowledging that social media can open the floodgates of heated political rhetoric. Zomorodi spoke with Shannon Rauch, a social psychologist at Benedictine University who studied how people respond to racist messages on Facebook. Rauch sent different messages from a fake white man’s account to a group of white Facebook users.

    “They will kind of reject very extreme messages, but when messages are kind of more subtle and more in line with what they would already agree with, they can be pretty powerful,” says Rauch. “Even if they have kind of a racist component to it, if it helps give fuel to their original existing attitudes, they can be very influential.”

    Though conversations can become heated, they also can be productive, at least according to DeWitt Campbell, a social service worker with the National Conference for Community and Justice in St. Louis.

    “[Campbell] told me that finding and affirming common ground is the only way to move these debates forward,” says Zomorodi. “And the beauty of social media is you can take a break, you can walk away, and you can calm down—unlike at the family dinner table. Don’t respond immediately online, and try to really listen.”

    Subscribe to the New Tech City podcast here.

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  • Dec 08

    Luke Somers: What Went Wrong?

    This weekend in Yemen, the United States military attempted to save American photojournalist Luke Somers, who was being held hostage by the terrorist group known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP. It was an attempt that failed and resulted in not only his death, but the death of eight other civilians.

    American officials believed Somers was in imminent danger after his captors released a video last week warning that he would soon be killed.

    President Barack Obama gave the okay to Navy SEAL Team 6, but the rescue attempt ended in gunfire—Somers was killed, as was South African Pierre Korkie. Korkie's release had been negotiated for months by a South African civilian team, but just hours before he was due to be released on Saturday, it was all over.

    Luke's father, Michael, expressed anger over his son's death.

    "[If] there had not been a rescue attempt, he would still be alive," he told reporters.

    It is still unclear went wrong during the rescue operation. The United States says they were not aware of Pierre Korkie's negotiated release.

    Rukmini Callimachi, foreign correspondent for our partner The New York Times, has more details on the situation.

    "Part of the tragedy here is that this is a business for AQAP—and these are first hostages that I know of who have been executed," says Callimachi.

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  • Dec 08

    The Beginning of The End for Guantánamo Bay?

    The Pentagon has transferred six Guantánamo Bay detainees to Uruguay. It's the largest group transfer in five years, and the first relocation to South America. 

    Some 136 detainees remain at the detention center, even though half have been cleared for release. If the military could move out all of the remaining detainees recommended for transfer, 69 would still remain—the Obama Administration hopes that group could be transferred to facilities on American soil, a move that would close Guantánamo Bay for good.

    But a House version of a defense spending bill prohibits the transfer of detainees to U.S. soil, making it nearly impossible to fulfill the president's promise to close Gitmo.

    Will President Obama be able to keep his promise to finally close the notorious prison? Who are the six freed detainees, and how did the Obama Administration settle on Uruguay for the transfer?

    Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, examines these questions for The Takeaway.

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  • Dec 08

    Undercover Teacher: The True Story of North Korea's Future Leaders

    Writer Suki Kim's new memoir, "Without You There is No Us: My Time With the Sons of North Korea's Elite," provides an inside view of life as a student at an exclusive North Korean university.

    Kim's work details the lives of young men attending Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a college funded and run by Western Christian missionaries. These young men, destined to become future leaders of their country, are all sons of North Korea's elite.

    Kim, a Korean-American, went undercover as an English teacher at this private university. And her startling revelations are certain to anger the North Korean government.

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  • Dec 08

    Amanda Palmer: Making Money Off Music in the Digital Age

    From the days of Napster to the rise of Spotify, the ways musicians market their art, and the ways they get paid and get noticed, has changed dramatically. 

    Amanda Palmer, the lead singer of The Dresden Dolls, knows this first hand. She's also a vocal music activist, and the author of the new book “The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.”

    The book expands on her hugely popular TED Talk about how she appealed to her fans for money—and received over a million dollars in donations—by asking for help.

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  • Dec 08

    How Napster Birthed the Free Content Revolution

    In 1999, the free MP3 file-sharing service "Napster" launched. The program threatened the extravagant wealth of the record industry—billions of dollars in revenue vanished overnight as consumers got used to the idea of free music.

    The Recording Industry Artists Association says that revenues have fallen more than 40 percent from their peak in 1999. The program's creator, 19-year-old Shawn Fanning, was ultimately sued by the record industry.

    Even though he lost in court, Fanning's creation set into motion a cultural change that couldn’t be stopped. This story of business, culture, and copywrites is the subject of this week's Retro Report.

    Lagan Sebert, producer for Retro Report, explains how Napster birthed the free content revolution.

    Check out a video of Retro Report's findings below.

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  • Dec 08

    How to Rebuild Police-Community Trust

    Protests across the country continued over the weekend, in the wake of the Ferguson and Staten Island grand jury decisions not to indict the police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

    President Obama addressed the racial divide in Americans' perceptions of police last week. "Too many Americans feel deep unfairness when it comes to the gap between our professed ideals and how laws are applied on a day-to-day basis," he said. 

    To address that widening divide, the president appointed a Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Led by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, along with Professor Laurie Robinson, the task force has 90 days to study local departments and make recommendations to improve community trust, while reducing crime.

    Commissioner Ramsey tells The Takeaway about his goals for the task force, what he's done to rebuild community trust in Philadelphia, and whether new technology, such as body cameras, might help mend relations between local police departments and their surrounding communities. 

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  • Dec 08

    Today's Takeaways: A Raid Gone Wrong, Rebuilding Trust, and Music in The Digital Age

    1. What Went Wrong in the Luke Somers Failed Hostage Rescue | 2. How to Rebuild Police-Community Trust | 3. The Birth of the Free Content Revolution | 4. Making Money Off of Music in the Digital Age | 5. Engage or Unfriend? What to Do When Facebook Gets Racist
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  • Dec 06

    The Takeaway Weekender: Christmas Trees, Internet Phenomena, and Jargon

    1. How Much Did You Pay For That Christmas Tree? | 2. Thanks, Internet: The Best 5 Things Online This Week | 3. The Jargonator
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  • Dec 06

    'Wild,' 'Life Partners,' 'She's Beautiful When She's Angry,' Movie Therapy, and Listener Mail

    In a Movie Date first, Rafer and Kristen review three films starring and co-starring women. "Wild," starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, is based on Cheryl Strayed's memoir about walking over 1000 miles on the Pacific Coast Trail. "Life Partners" stars Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs as two best friends, one gay and the other straight, grappling wiht growing up and finding love. And "She's Beautiful When She's Angry" is a documentary that looks at the achievements of Marilyn Webb, Rita Mae Brown, Fran Beal, and other women involved in the American feminist movement during the 1960s and 1970s.

    There's also Movie Therapy this week, administered to a listener who's about to go through some major life changes, as well as some listener mail and fun music.

    And, as always, there's trivia! 

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  • Dec 05

    News Quiz | Week of Dec. 05, 2014

    Are you a newsie? Do you know what's happening from Washington to Hollywood to Pyongyang? Be smarter than your pals. Prep your dinner party factoids. Gauge your knowledge about what happened this week, as heard on The Takeaway.

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  • Dec 05

    Calls For Reform As Military Sexual Violence Persists

    A new report from the Pentagon has emboldened senators to take another pass at pushing through the Military Justice Improvement Act, which fell five votes short earlier this year. If adopted, the law would strip military commanders of their authority to decide whether or not to prosecute sexual assault cases.

    As the law stands today, if a member of the military is sexually assaulted, they have to report it up the chain of command. In some cases, commanders can veto sanctions and punishments.

    The new Pentagon report runs more than 1,000 pages and reveals that there's been an 8 percent increase in sexual assault reporting—a sign that more victims are comfortable with coming forward.

    Though more people are coming forward to report sexual assault, the number of troops reporting unwanted sexual contact is actually on the decline: About 19,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2014, down from 26,000 in 2012.

    While these numbers are on the decline, the report found that about 62 percent of people who did report sexual assault or rape were retaliated against.

    New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand feels these stats are still too high, which is why she's pushing to overhaul the military's sexual assault policies. She spoke with Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich about the reforms she hopes to see.

    “One of the things that this report showed is there were some signs of major progress,” says Zwillich. “Reports of sexual assaults were up, but the Pentagon said that’s a good thing because it means more victims are reporting.”

    According to the Pentagon’s report, about one in 10 victims reported sexual violence crimes just two years ago, a rate that has now increased to one in four.

    Part of the reason reporting is up is due to the reforms included in the 2013 annual defense spending budget and a bill pushed through by Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

    In March, both Senators Gillibrand and McCaskill attempted to push through military sexual assault reforms. Sen. Gillibrand’s were stricter, and though the two women went head to head, Gillibrand ultimately lost.

    The reforms included in Sen. McCaskill’s bill, known as the Victims Protection Act, allow victims formal input on whether their case is tried in military or civilian court, and allow survivors to challenge their discharge or separation from service, among other things.

    “There are high levels of satisfaction with command climate,” Sen. McCaskill told reporters yesterday on the heels of the Pentagon report announcement. “High levels of satisfaction with their special victims counsels and victim advocates. And I think 73 percent of [reporting victims] saying that they would recommend that others report is a very important number."

    Though Sen. McCaskill is taking credit for some of the progress made on the military sexual assault front, Zwillich says that Senators McCaskill and Gillibrand remain divided with how to proceed, specifically when it comes to victim retaliation.

    “In the report that was just issued today, 62 percent of people who have experienced sexual assault and rape were retaliated against because they reported that they were raped,” Sen. Gillibrand told Zwillich. “That is unacceptable. That is not a measure of justice.”

    Lawmakers like Sen. McCaskill and other supporters of existing reforms say that while they agree that retaliation remains a problem, the majority of retaliations come from peers and not commanders.

    Despite the pushback, Zwillich says that Sen. Gillibrand is now trying to revisit some of the reforms that failed to pass in March.

    “The key part of her reform, which a lot of the military did not want and which Claire McCaskill did not want...is to take reporting of sexual assaults out of the chain of command entirely,” says Zwillich.

    Sen. Gillibrand says that the reports of retaliation show that the military has not made progress on the issue of retribution. By removing sexual assault reporting from the chain of command, Sen. Gillibrand argues that victims have a higher level of protection from retaliation.

    “That’s Gillibrand’s argument, the question is whether she’ll get it,” says Zwillich. “The Defense Authorization Bill is back up on the floor next week. Gillibrand is pushing for a vote, but she probably won’t get it—leaders don’t want to open that vote up to amendments because it’s the end of the year.”

    Zwillich says that since Sen. Gillibrand is unlikely to see a vote come up next week, the senator is pushing for a separate vote to bring up the issue. If that effort fails, Zwillich says that Sen. Gillibrand may use the nomination of Ashton Carter, the Obama Administration’s pick to replace outgoing Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel, as a platform to shine a new spotlight on military sexual assault.

    “The military said, ‘Give us a year, give us a year and we’ll show you we take this seriously,” Sen. Gillibrand told Zwillich on Thursday. “The one measure about whether commanders take this seriously is whether they’re allowing victims to be retaliated against for reporting. For that number to not budge, for that number to be exactly where it was last year, that shows complete failure.”

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  • Dec 05

    Economic Forecast is Bright, But Not for All Americans

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its monthly jobs report today. Employers added 321,000 jbs in the month of November, but the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent.

    Charlie Herman, business and economics editor for Takeaway co-producer WNYC, breaks down the numbers.

    And with good news out of Washington, what does economic recovery really look like to the average American? Does it look like anything at all? 

    Tim Wood is the editor of a weekly newspaper in a resort town in Massachusetts. He's married and the father of two kids, and he says national economic growth hasn't quite trickled his way into his pockets yet.

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  • Dec 05

    Race and Criminal Justice: NYC, Ferguson, and Cleveland

    Protests continue in the streets of New York today, as the city contends with a grand jury's decision not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. 

    The New York decision arrived just a week after a similar decision came down in the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. 

    Over in Cleveland, Ohio, there's an ongoing investigation into the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, an African-American boy who had a toy gun and was shot by police. Cleveland's police force is also under investigation by the federal Department of Justice.

    Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder released a scathing review of the department's use of force practices, stating that the Cleveland Police engage "in a pattern and practice of using excessive force," citing "systemic deficiencies, including insufficient accountability, inadequate training and equipment, ineffective policies and inadequate engagement in the community."

    These incidents have sparked a discussion about the realities of race and criminal justice across the country. Today The Takeaway speaks with the communities at the heart of the conversation: Ferguson, New York and Cleveland. 

    Renee Romano, author of "Racial Reckoning" and professor of history at Oberlin College, examines the long, problematic history of race and criminal justice in the United States, and reflects on her personal story as the mother of a biracial son.

    Gregory Carr, instructor at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, tells The Takeaway how his African-American son and daughter have reacted to the news in Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York, and examines how his community is coping. 

    Nick Casale, a former detective with the NYPD, reflects on the Eric Garner case and New York's response. 

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  • Dec 05

    Thanks, Internet: Five Things You Had to See Online This Week

    Every Friday, Sean Rameswaram, a producer with Studio 360 and and host of the podcast Sideshow, rounds up the week in internet phenomena. 

    This week in "Thanks, Internet," Sean talks to John Hockenberry about the online treasures you may have missed.

    1. Lucasfail

    The Star Wars: Episode VII trailer dropped over the weekend and was instantly a megameme. We got a LEGO version, a Wes Anderson version, a Spaceballs version, and – best of all – a "George Lucas" version that lambastes his additions to the original three films with superfluous CGI and nonsense cameos. It also takes a few digs at those terrible prequels we don’t like to talk about. 

    2. Thank Jesus For Yeezus

    Last year it looked like Kanye West was going to release a Hype Williams-directed concert film of his headline-grabbing “Yeezus” tour. The film never materialized, but this week a super fan named John Colandra uploaded a two-hour version compiled of fan footage from all 38 stops. It took the dude seven months to make and is the ultimate tribute to the only tour to feature a rapper preaching to a Jesus on top of a massive fake mountain. 

    3. Kanye West vs. Sam Smith

    It's easy to forget these days, but Kanye West used to make really sweet uplifting music. Carlos Serrano reminded us by mashing up Kanye’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” with Sam Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One.” The result is appropriately titled “Tell Me I’m The Only One." It's a little weird hearing Kanye rap about buying bling between Smith's heartbreaking hook, but it's super irresistible, too. 

    4. The Rock Is in the Building

    Chris Rock has been everywhere promoting his new movie, Top Five, in the last few months, but the internet has yet to feel much fatigue. For evidence, we have the comedian's interview with Frank Rich for New York Magazine this week. Rock discusses the mechanics of stand-up, Bill Cosby, directing movies, and America's unending racial tension with a candor we seldom see from big deal celebrities promoting a movie. Twitter was quoting the interview all week but, amazingly, everyone seemed to find a different insight to highlight. 

    Here's Sean's favorite:

    So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

    5. NPR Known to Let The Beat...Drop

    No one knows who Breakmaster Cylinder is. What we do know is that he's a master mashup musician and he loves public radio. Cylinder created the theme music for the TLDR and Reply All podcasts and, now, "The NPR drop" — a wonderfully bizarre amalgamation of dubstep, Lakshmi Singh, and the All Things Considered horns. Public radio has never sounded as dope as it does here. 

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  • Dec 05

    The View from Monrovia: Reporting From The Front Lines of The Ebola Crisis

    When the Ebola virus first spread from the remote wilderness to population centers in West Africa, the Liberian capital city of Monrovia found itself at the center of a crises

    There have been more than 7,000 cases of Ebola in Liberia and more than 3,100 deaths. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, there are 50 new cases emerging every day—more than any other West African country. 

    That’s why On The Media Host and Managing Editor Brooke Gladstone is there this week. She’s following the journalists at Front Page Africa to see the situation on the ground through the eyes of locals—people who have covered this crisis from the very beginning, and who will keep covering it months after the parachute journalists have packed up and gone home.

     

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  • Dec 05

    Today's Takeaways: Race and Criminal Justice, The Front Lines of the Ebola Crisis, and A New Gilded Age

    1. Round Table: Race & Criminal Justice | 2. Reporting From The Front Lines of The Ebola Crisis | 3. Calls For Reform As Military Sexual Violence Persists | 4. Economic Forecast is Bright, But Not for All Americans
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  • Dec 04

    The Movie Date Gift Guide for Film Buffs 2014

    We love movies. You love movies. But there's a lot more than movies that you can give yourself and the other film buffs in your life this holiday season. Kristen Meinzer, of the Movie Date podcast, has picked out some gifts she'd be happy to receive this year (hint hint) and proud to give. Click on the headings of each gift item for links to the pages where you can make your purchases. Happy holidays and happy shopping, from Movie Date!

    Bond 50

    James Bond celebrated his 50th anniversary on film in 2014. For die hard 007 buffs, what better time to give EVERY James Bond movie ever made?

     

    Psycho Shower Curtain 

    A perfect gift for your mother. Or your son. Or that special lady who dares to shower in your bathroom.

     

    Mockingjay Pin

    "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1" was the highest opening film of 2014, and no doubt, you know some mockingjays of your own. Give them this revolutionary pin, that looks just like the one Katniss wears.

     

    Vintage Movie Theatre Style Popcorn Maker 

    There are a lot of advantages to watching a movie on the couch. But there are also disadvantages...like the lack of real movie theatre popcorn. No more! Now the movie lovers in your life can experience all the joys of cinema-style popcorn (including the fun of watching it pop) at home.

     

    Sex Panther Cologne 

    When the extended and R-rated "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" came out earlier this year, fans were reminded of why Sex Panther Cologne's motto is: 60% of the time, it works every time." Treat your mustached man to some Sex Panther and see if you can resist his powers.

     

    Movie Classics A to Z print

    Too often, movie posters look like college dorm room décor. But not in this case. Featuring top-notch design, this print showcases 35 of the most iconic films ever made, in a manner even your elderly Aunt Hilda would appreciate.

     

    Not-A-Camera

    Challenge your movie lover to make his or her own movie with a spy camera up to James Bond's standards. The Not-A-Camera can be worn as a stylish pendant or even slipped between the pages of a book, but it's actually a functional digital camera perfect for shooting videos, as well as stills. 

     

    Moviepass Membership 

    For $30 per month, Moviepass members can see one movie a day, every day. In a way, when you give Moviepass, you're giving the gift of time travel, back a time when movies didn't cost an arm and a leg.

     

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  • Dec 04

    Eric Garner: Real Voices of Protest

    This narrative has become all too familiar: A white cop kills an unarmed black man, and a community feels that justice is out of reach.

    Here you'll find reactions from New York City residents about the grand jury's decision to not indict the NYPD officer that placed Eric Garner in a deadly chokehold. These voices, which were collected by the WNYC News Team, show that feelings are strong on both sides of the issue.

    This audio segment paints a small picture of the protests and fresh emotions from December 3, 2014—the night of the indictment news—all around New York City.

    Reporting by WNYC's Jim O'Grady, Kathleen Horan, Annmarie Fertoli, Fred Mogul, Stephen Nessen, Robert Lewis, Brigid Bergin, Alec Hamilton. Music by John Toronto. This segment was produced by Takeaway Director Jay Cowit.

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  • Dec 04

    America: A Place of Liberty and Justice for Some?

    The death of Eric Garner and the failure to indict New York Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo, who used a chokehold to restrain Garner, feels painfully similar to the recent events that played out in Ferguson, Missouri.

    The narrative has become all too familiar: A white cop kills a black man, and a community feels that justice is out of reach. In this case, the death was even ruled to be a homicide by the coroner, but no one is held accountable.

    In the case of Eric Garner, it's not a question of murky details (the entire episode was caught on video) or of an officer whose life was threatened (his wasn't). It has instead inevitably become a much larger conversation about race, law enforcement, and the justice system at work.

    Garner's widow, Esaw, vowed to press on for justice.

    “My husband's death will not be in vain—as long as I have a breathe in my body, I will fight the fight to the end," she said.

    Shortly after the grand jury's decision was announced, the Justice Department announced that it will proceed with a federal civil rights investigation into Mr. Garner’s death.

    See Also: Eric Garner & The Real Voices of Protest

    President Obama said the events in both Ferguson and Staten Island represent larger issues that affect all Americans.

    "I’m not interested in talk, I’m interested in action," Obama said. "And I am absolutely committed as president of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everybody believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law."

    Weighing in on the way forward in New York and around the country is WNYC's Brian Lehrer, the host of The Brian Lehrer Show, and Kai Wright, editor-at-large for ColorLines.

    Check out the video of Garner's interaction with the officer below. 

    *WARNING* Some may find the footage in this video disturbing.

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  • Dec 04

    UAB Shuts Down Football Program

    The University of Alabama-Birmingham is shutting down it's football program after a review of the schools finances.

    School President Ray Watts broke the news to the team and the emotional reaction to his announcement was posted to YouTube.

    UAB says that annually, it subsidizes $20 million of the athletic department's $30 million operating budget. The school says that both those numbers rank fifth in Conference USA.

    UAB believes that, over the next five years, $49 million will be needed for football, including a projected $22 million needed for football facilities and upgrades.

    The decision to shut the program down has angered the people of Birmingham and united a divided community. Republicans and Democrats, blacks and whites all believe that despite the finances, this bad for the community.

    Joseph Bryant is a reporter for The Birmingham News and he says this decision will have far reaching consequences. 

     

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  • Dec 04

    Al Qaeda Group Holds American Journalist Hostage

    In Yemen, ISIS-like tactics are beginning to surface from the terrorist group known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP.

    The extremist group has released a video of a man pleading for his life. The man in the video identifies himself as Luke Somers and said he had been kidnapped over a year ago. Somers, who has dual citizenship in the U.S. and U.K., worked as a freelance editor and photographer in Yemen.

    Last week U.S. commandos and Yemeni troops raided a remote mountain cave in Yemen where Somers was believed to be held.

    Weighing in from Istanbul is Gregory Johnsen, a writer-at-large for BuzzFeed that escaped a kidnapping attempt in Yemen. 

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  • Dec 04

    Mapping the Way to a More Equal World

    All this week, we've been talking about the exploding gap between the rich and the poor, and how this glaring inequality eventually has the potential to be explosive, and not just in the figurative sense.

    We continue our conversation about inequality with a look at the one place where it can be seen most vividly: Maps. Many of us turn to Google Maps or the old Rand McNally and see most of what we need and want to know—everything from rivers and mountains to roads and cities.

    But in poorer parts of the world, poverty exists not isn't just in terms of money, but in terms of data. Towns and cities are often absent from maps. Miles of landscape aren't tracked in a reliable way. And that lack of data feeds the cycle of poverty, making aid efforts a challenge, and making communities less aware of where they stand.

    Dave Imus knows the art and science of creating truly usable maps. He is a mapmaker who's credited with creating the greatest and most detailed U.S. map ever made.

    Dale Kunce is a senior geospatial engineer at the American Red Cross. He's also the U.S. lead for Missing Maps project. The project aims to plot complete data on streets, rivers, and other geographical features around the world, with the help of a global network of volunteers, and with the hope of improving the response of humanitarian groups.

    He says he's already seeing a difference in the figurative and literal landscape.

    “In the last eight months, we’ve worked really hard to put major cities of Freetown and Monrovia on the map,” says Kunce. “They’re cities that, if you were to go look at in Google Maps, Bing Maps, or Open Street Maps before the Ebola outbreak, they were basically blank—there was no information about these places.”

    In the months since the Ebola outbreak, Kunce says that almost 3,000 volunteers with the Missing Maps project have made about 13 million edits to map streets, rivers, buildings, and more.

    “They’ve built out the fabric of these cities,” says Kunce “It’s all of that important information that allows you to get an understanding of the geographic place, which allows us to fight Ebola a little bit better. We see towns that we didn’t know existed two weeks ago.”

    By mapping cities and smaller towns in Ebola-stricken nations, Kunce says that medical professionals can better combat the outbreak by knowing the exact origins of new infections. Though Google and its mapping system is incredibly powerful, Imus says that they don’t serve the globe’s most vulnerable sectors.

    “I accept Google maps for what they are—they’re geared towards people with money in their pocket who are travelling or looking for real estate,” he says. “I get frustrated at times with maps of that genre because I like to stray outside of the places that have shopping mall where their coverage really drops off rapidly.”

    Imus says America’s heavy reliance on things like Google Maps is making many people geographically illiterate.

    “I think that if every social studies classroom in the United States had maps that were expressions of basic geography—maps that made geography observable and accessible to students—that we would develop into a country where people are aware of geography and their surroundings,” he says. “Once we get a handle on what the geography of our own country is, perhaps we’ll become more interested in what others are doing around the world.”

    Kunce says that literally putting places on the map can help instill a deep sense of pride in local communities that have historically been excluded from global geography systems.

    “I think it has a huge psychological effect,” he says. “[Missing Maps] wants to instill that pride. And we want to be able to get the community to sort of build the map themselves so that the data is free and open for anyone to use.”

    Empowering people with knowledge of their surroundings can have deep effects. If a community in Eritrea wants a new school, for example, Kunce says awareness of land and road systems and the surrounding physical context will allow them to better advocate for themselves.

    But empowering communities in the developing world is easier said than done.

    “In the places that we work, they’re not as data rich as the United States” says Kunce. “There’s not a diennial census in most African countries. Some of the last censuses that were done were in Africa were in the 1960s or the 1950s.”

    In order to determine the population in the absence of census data, Kunce says that his team will map every building within a community and estimate how many individuals may be occupying each household.

    “I think it’s a highly appropriate way to do it because you’re gaining data from on the ground observation,” says Imus. “That is infinitely more reliable than remotely sensed things. A geographer from Europe or the United States that is making a map of somewhere they’ve never been to has no chance of reflecting reality as accurately as a map that is produced from data that is crowdsourced.”

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  • Dec 04

    Why the GOP Doesn't Want Another Shutdown

    The federal government’s funding expires on December 11th, and passing a new spending bill could potentially lead to another major legislative fight. Will the GOP attempt to shut down the government again?

    House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wants to avoid a shutdown, but some hardliners are eager for a budget fight. They want to use a battle over the budget to retaliate against President Obama's new plan to offer protection to millions of undocumented immigrants.

    Republicans say the president overreached his authority by bypassing Congress to enact immigration reforms, and they want to stop him with the Congressional power of the purse.

    Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich explains the GOP plan for the budget.

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  • Dec 04

    Turkey: The Heart of Syria’s War & Refugee Crisis

    This week, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) announced that it could no longer provide some 1.7 million Syrian refugees with food assistance. The WFP said that it had reluctantly suspended its food voucher program because it had not received sufficient financial support from donors.

    The organization warned that “the move [would] have a devastating impact on families who are already facing a dire situation as the harsh winter months approach.” The WFP has now launched a new fundraising campaign to help Syria's refugees.

    Syria’s civil war has dragged on for three and a half years. About 10 million Syrians have fled their homes or the country, and many have ended up in neighboring countries, including Turkey.

    In the latest edition of The New Yorker, journalist and author Robin Wright explains how Turkey is at the heart of Syria’s war and refugee crisis, and U.S. aid operations. 

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  • Dec 04

    Today's Takeaways: Liberty & Justice For Some, Geo-Inequality, and Government Shutdown Fears

    1. America: A Place of Liberty and Justice for Some? | 2. Why the GOP Doesn't Want Another Shutdown | 3. Real Voices of Protest in NYC | 4. Turkey: The Heart of Syria’s War & Refugee Crisis | 5. Mapping the Way to a More Equal World
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  • Dec 03

    A Fight to End Pregnancy Discrimination at Work

    Across America, issues of inequality often find themselves playing out in the workplace. Today, the Supreme Court will consider an issue that many associate with gender equality: The way pregnant women are accommodated by their employers in the workforce.

    The case before the nation's highest court, Young v. United Parcel Service, focuses on Peggy Young, a UPS driver who sued the company under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

    When Young became pregnant, her doctor advised her, as most women are advised, not to lift more than 20 pounds. Young asked for a light duty assignment under a program UPS has in place for other workers, but the request was denied.

    At just 14 weeks pregnant, and unwilling to disregard her doctor's orders, Young was forced to take leave without pay for the next six months. She also lost her medical coverage before having her baby.

    Gender and pregnancy discrimination are not new issues to crop up within the workplace, but Gillian Thomas, an attorney and author of the forthcoming book "Because of Sex," says they are becoming more commonplace as more women enter and remain in the workforce, increasingly in roles otherwise reserved for men.

    According to Thomas, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act has a clause that requires employers to treat pregnant women who need accommodation the same way that they treat employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.

    “Employers have sort of fumbled with this requirement,” she says. “The issue that has been brought forward by this case is what exactly is a worker who is similar to a pregnant worker?”

    In the case of Peggy Young, UPS policy did allow accommodations for three different categories of workers—but none of these categories included pregnant women.

    “Employers consider [pregnancy] a cost issue and certainly cite the potential burden on other employees,” says Thomas. “I think that’s a human concern—most people have had the experience of being in a workplace and feeling, in one way or another, like they’re being asked to ‘pick up the slack’ for someone else.”

    Thomas says that the American workforce fundamentally believes that the optimal employee adheres to a certain set of norms.

    “It’s a place where the ideal worker is the only kind whose welcomed,” she says. “It’s someone who is able to come in at 9:00 and leave at 5:00; never needs to take time off for kids; never has a need for their work space or their work hours to be altered in anyway. Employers view any deviation from that—whether it’s people with caregiving responsibilities or physical impairments—as burdensome.”

    This stance, Thomas argues, is counterintuitive. According to available research, providing accommodations for workers that make it possible for individuals to stay on the job actually increases retention rates, increases morale, and productivity.

    “I think what we’re running up against in this case are stereotypes about pregnant women that are deep seated and go beyond the physical repercussions of pregnancy,” she says. “There’s a notion that having a child makes you a less committed worker, both in terms of your commitment to putting in the hours and staying in the workplace for many years.”

    Though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed to eradicate these stereotypes, they are still alive and well. This is something that is likely troubling for many families since about 85 percent of women will be pregnant at some point in their working lives

    “Women experience a vast array of physical complications from pregnancy, even a ‘healthy’ pregnancy, that are going to be interfering with job responsibilities,” says Thomas. “It’s a conflict between stereotypes that we have about mothers and their abilities, and the reality of a physical event that is major and one that most women will experience.”

    Thomas says that a societal shift needs to take place when it comes to pregnancy and the workforce. She points to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) when looking for models of progress.

    “I think that thinking and that shift needs to occur with pregnancy,” Thomas says. “The best hope that the litigants have in this case—the petitioner, Ms. Young, and her lawyers, and advocates supporting her—is to focus the court on the legislative history of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which was passed 36 years ago. Its promise has never been fulfilled.”

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  • Dec 03

    Good News, Lovers. The Divorce Rate Is Declining.

    Most Americans have heard that 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. The statistic is often reported in celebrity break-ups or reports on the supposedly-splintering American family.

    But the truth is that the state of American marriage is strong. Justin Wolfers, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, has studied marriage and family data for years.

    He and his partner in life and work, Professor Betsy Stevenson, have consistently found that, while the divorce rate spiked in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it has steadily declined over the last 30 years. 

    As Wolfers tells The Takeaway's John Hockenberry, his theory behind the divorce peak and decline is an economic one. Couples who wed in the 1950s and earlier, like Wolfers's own grandparents, often abided by the "opposites attract" mantra: While one spouse, usually the husband, specialized in work outside the home, the other, usually the wife, specialized in housework. 

    Today, Wolfers says, the economy has upended the traditional, specialist marriage. Modern technology and conveniences like prepared food and ready-to-wear clothes have rendered homemaking unnecessary. Most households require two incomes, and outward workplace discrimination against women continues to erode.

    The result, Wolfers explains, are modern couples like him and his wife: Partnerships made up of two professionals who bond over shared interests and time spent together. 

    In sum, when it comes to marriage, opposites no longer attract.

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  • Dec 03

    An Elusive Problem Solved: Robert Shiller Explains How We Can Fix Income Inequality

    All this week, we're talking about the exploding inequality between the rich and the poor and the very real consequences of waiting too long to address this increasingly engrained economic divide.

    Today we're joined by Robert Shiller, a Yale economist and a recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics.

    Schiller has given a lot of thought to income inequality over the years, and he's even come up with an idea of how to fix it. His solution: An income inequality index, which would kick in to raise taxes on the rich anytime the gap between rich and poor becomes too vast.

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  • Dec 03

    Anger in Mexico Grows Against President Enrique Peña Nieto

    In Mexico, the case of the 43 missing college students who were last seen in late September has ignited a firestorm of protest in and around the country.

    And much of that anger is now being directed against President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose approval ratings have plunged to 39 percent—the lowest of any Mexican president since the mid 1990s—because of his handling of the crisis.

    Will Grant, the BBC's Mexico and Central America correspondent, brings us the latest from Mexico City, along Reforma Avenue where protests escalated on Monday night.

    Ricardo Perez has the unique perspective of both being both an insider and an outsider to the tragedy unfolding in Mexico. Ricardo is a Mexican-American who grew up in Guerrero, but he has lived in U.S. for 10 years. He says that he finds himself torn between the fear of his homeland and a hope for a brighter future.

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  • Dec 03

    Nuclear Accident at Europe's Largest Plant

    Ukrainian officials are downplaying reports of a nuclear accident in southeast Ukraine. The accident happened at the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant—the largest in Europe—and caused a drop in power output.

    The power plant is five hours east of Donetsk, an area where Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists are still fighting, despite a truce agreed to in September.

    Joining us from Moscow to talk about the accident and the specter of nuclear accidents in Ukraine is Andrew Kramer, a reporter for our partner The New York Times.

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  • Dec 03

    Today's Takeaways: Pregnancy Discrimination, Divorce on The Decline, and Christmas Tree Prices

    1. A Fight to End Pregnancy Discrimination at Work | 2. Good News, Lovers: The Divorce Rate is Declining | 3. The Takeaway Christmas Tree Index | 4. Anger in Mexico Grows Against President Peña Nieto | 5. An Elusive Problem Solved: Robert Shiller Explains How We Can Fix Income Inequality
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  • Dec 03

    How Much Did You Pay For Your Christmas Tree?

    Last year, Americans bought a little more than 33 million trees at a total cost of $1.16 billion, spending, on average, $35.30. Those are real trees, not fake plastic trees.

    Remember when buying a real tree was seen as wasteful? That was before Christmas tree recycling programs turned Douglas Fir's and Scotch Pine's into mulch, soil erosion barriers, and even fish feeding habitats in ponds and lakes.

    Mary Jeanne Packer, executive director of Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York, joins us from the Elms Family Christmas Tree Farm in Ballston Spa, New York to discuss the most wonderful time of the year for her business.

    Help us map the price of American Christmas trees by filling out our survey below. Special thanks to Jody Avirgan and The Brian Lehrer Show for creating this mapping tool in 2013.

     

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  • Dec 02

    The NFL: A New Forum for Social Issues?

    Last weekend, five Saint Louis Rams players made use of the NFL's national spotlight. During a game against the Oakland Raiders, they raised their arms in the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture made famous by protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.

    The St. Louis Police Officers Association demanded an apology and a fine, but the NFL refused. The football league simply issuing a statement that read, "We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation."

    Is the NFL ready to address the social and political consequences of its enormous success and visibility? ESPN's Jane McManus weighs in.

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  • Dec 02

    Hollywood Taps Into Fears of Income Inequality

    All this week, we’re talking about income inequality. The 99 percent is reaching a boiling point—a point not just of suffering, but of taking up pitchforks and demanding change.

    Today we explore how the country’s growing anxiety about income inequality is finding its way to the big screen.

    It’s a topic that Rafer Guzman has been thinking about a lot lately. Rafer is Film Critic for Newsday and co-host of The Movie Date Podcast.

    Whether it's "The Hunger Games" or the new indie film "Snowpiercer,” divisions between a powerful ruling class and society's poorest continue to dominate Hollywood dialogue. 

    Subscribe to The Movie Date Podcast here.

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  • Dec 02

    Family Members of Islamic State Leader Detained

    Lebanese security forces may have made a breakthrough in the fight against the radical militant group known as the Islamic State or ISIS.

    Officials have reportedly detained a child and a woman at the Lebanese border that were traveling on forged papers—the woman is reportedly a wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

    Has Lebanon suddenly joined the fight against ISIS? Does the West finally have some leverage against the most dangerous man in the world? Ben Hubbard, Middle East correspondent for our partner The New York Times, weighs in.

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  • Dec 02

    Why the White House Isn't Fighting Police Militarization

    Following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, police clashed with protesters in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Law enforcement officers used tear gas and rubber bullets, and rolled out armored vehicles and assault rifles. 

    Since 2006, state and local law enforcement officials have acquired 432 mine-resistant ambush protected armored vehicles (MARPs), more than 93,000 machine guns, and nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines—leftover gear from America's "long season of war."

    See Also: Police Departments See Influx of War Gear

    In the wake of events in Ferguson, the Obama Administration called for a review of police militarization. That review came to an end on Monday, but it concluded with no major changes to programs that send military equipment to local police. 

    Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington Correspondent, takes a closer look at the White House's apparent reluctance to revise a policy that puts military weapons into the hands of municipal leaders. 

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  • Dec 02

    Mentally Ill Inmate Set to be Put to Death in Texas

    On Wednesday at 6:00 P.M. central, a 56-year-old Texas inmate named Scott Panetti is scheduled to be put to death by the state. It's the final step in a long, winding, legal journey that began in 1992 when Panetti killed his mother-in-law and father-in-law and with a hunting rifle.

    Before the murders, Panetti had been hospitalized over a dozen times for schizophrenia-related symptoms, including delusions and hallucinations.  But that didn't stop the court from letting him serve as his own attorney in his 1995 trial.  As part of his defense, he called figures like President Kennedy, Pope John Paul II and Jesus Christ to the stand to testify.

    Panetti was convicted of capital murder, but after a series of appeals, his case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. In 2007, after hearing his case, the Supreme Court ruled that a mentally ill person must have a "rational understanding" of why he is being executed in order for the state to take his life.

    The question of whether Panetti possesses that "rational understanding" has taken another seven years to settle. But now, the state of Texas says Panetti does meet the Supreme Court's criteria of "rational understanding," so he's once again been scheduled to be put to death. 

    Alisa Roth, a reporter researching mental illness and the criminal justice system through a Soros Justice Fellowship, explains why Panetti's execution would represent so much more than one man's fate.

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  • Dec 02

    Global Leaders Confront Climate Change at Home and Abroad

    Global leaders are gathering in Lima, Peru for United Nations-sponsored climate change talks. It will be the last major gathering before a new climate pact is finalized in Paris at the end of 2015.

    Though representatives from nearly 200 nations are in the Peruvian capital, much of the focus is on China and the United States. In early November, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached a landmark deal to cut carbon emissions by 2030—the first such deal China has ever agreed to.

    Jody Freeman, the director of Harvard University's environmental law program and the former White House Counselor for Energy and Climate Change, says that having two of the world’s biggest polluters at the negotiation table makes all of the difference.

    “The terrible air pollution problem in China may be driving them even more than the problem of climate change,” says Freeman. “Either way, the U.S.-China deal is a game changer and it adds tremendous momentum to these talks in Lima. The U.S. and China are the two indispensable nations on this problem. Together, they’re responsible for 40 percent of global emissions.”

    Freeman adds that the deal struck in November has effectively “set the tone for the rest of the world” when it comes to climate change.

    “China can definitely learn from our technological developments,” she says. “Part of what the [U.S.] president has been negotiating, really starting in the first term, were a bunch of deals, exchanges, and collaborative efforts on technology sharing and learning. That’s a huge step on how you make progress on controlling these dangerous pollutants.”

    According to Freeman, when it comes to carbon-emitting plants, no inexpensive or widely available technology currently exists to capture carbon. Though it may be developed in the next several years, she says that nations like the U.S. and China need to be focusing on improving the efficiency of carbon-polluting power plants, in addition making a switch from coal to natural gas and eventually renewable energy.

    “That’s actually what China has committed to do,” says Freeman. “It’s kind of an amazing commitment they made in this deal with the U.S.—to achieve 20 percent non-fossil fuel based energy by 2030. That’s a big commitment and a sign of what’s possible.”

    As rich and poor nations in Lima attempt hash out key elements of this U.N.-sponsored agreement, at home President Obama is pressing an aggressive environmental agenda of his own.

    “The Clean Air Act is the reason we don’t look like China today,” Freeman says of U.S. policy. “We have relatively clean air despite population growth and industrial development.”

    Freeman says the Clean Air Act is a great model for the negotiating parties in Lima. American lawmakers designed the law to be a “living” document much like U.S. Constitution.

    “What’s beautiful about the Clean Air Act is Congress wrote it in a way that gives the Environmental Protection Agency flexibility to deal with new problems, risks, hazards, and dangers to public health and the environment,” she says. “That is why it gives the flexibility to also regulate greenhouse gas emissions.”

    According to Freeman, President Obama is using the Clean Air Act far more aggressively than other American presidents in the past. Additionally, Freeman says that President Obama’s unilateral action on climate change is also folded into the agreement with China.

    “He’s made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by up to 28 percent of 2005 levels by 2025,” she says. “He’s relying on executive authority and using the Clean Air Act and some other laws on the books to fulfill the commitment that he’s made.”

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  • Dec 02

    Under Her Skin: Cancer, Family, and Faith

    The end of another year brings even more closure for our next guest.

    The Takeaway has been following 28-year-old Crystal Miller for a little over five months now—her story has been chronicled in our audio storytelling series "Under Her Skin: Living With Breast Cancer." The series documented her diagnosis, her treatment, and what looks like will be her victory over breast cancer. Crystal's final treatment is just weeks away.

    And in sharing her story with us, Crystal has also introduced us to one of the leading figures in her life: Her father, Keith Miller

    For both Crystal and her dad, who is a licensed minister, faith has been the driving force behind their experience.

    “When things are out of your hands and there's nothing you can do or you've done all that you could do, where do you turn?" says Keith. "Well, I turn to my faith ”

    It's a personal story for Keith, but he remains determined to keep things in perspective and to see Crystal's story as one of many women.

    “You know it's not unique to anyone," says Keith. "I think a lot of people go through the same thing and it's very important people know that they are not alone. That there are others out there that may not have had the same experience, but they understand.”

    Now, Crystal and her dad are approaching the one year mark since she was first diagnosed. They hope 2015 will be the start of a new year that is cancer-free.

    To hear more from Crystal or the other women of "Under Her Skin," visit www.livingwithbreastcancer.org or join the "Under Her Skin" Facebook group.

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  • Dec 02

    Today's Takeaways: Inequality on The Big Screen, The NFL and Ferguson, and Cancer, Family, and Faith

    1. Global Leaders Confront Evidence of Climate Change | 2. Why the White House Isn't Fighting Police Militarization | 3. The NFL: A New Forum for Social Issues? | 4. Under Her Skin: Cancer, Family, and Faith | 5. Hollywood Zooms In on Income Inequality
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  • Dec 01

    The Pitchforks Are Coming For the 1%

    Nick Hanauer isn't just part of the 1 percent. He's part of the 1 percent of the 1 percent. His family owns a bank, and he personally owns a plane and homes around the world.

    And yet, contrary to what you might presume, he thinks that income inequality is an enormously pressing issue that must be taken seriously by those on top.

    Though he's a proud and unapologetic capitalist, he says we must address the income gap before the other 99 percent rise up with pitchforks.

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  • Dec 01

    OPEC Swings The Oil Pendulum

    The oil pendulum is swinging in the home stretch of 2014. For years, oil has been roughly priced at $100 a barrel, down significantly from the terrifying levels of 2008 when prices were expected to hit $200 a barrel.

    Oil production is up all across the world, rates are falling and stable, and analysts are confidently saying that prices could dip as low as $60 or $50 a barrel.

    The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) could stop this slide and halt the temporary contentment at the gas pumps. But last week, the 12-member group said they would keep pumping.

    Are they trying to stimulate the global economy, or squeeze the Russians and Iranians, and maybe force some kind of breakthrough in Ukraine and Syria? Jason Bordoff, the director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, says that industry watchers aren’t speculating about OPEC’s motives.

    “I think we should avoid ascribing intent to OPEC’s inability to reach a decision,” he says. “Many members of OPEC do want to cut production—they’re facing very significant strains on their budgets and they would like higher prices. But because they’re facing strains on their budget, they don’t want to be the ones to cut.”

    Bordoff says that Saudi Arabia is the OPEC member most likely cut petroleum production, but he adds that the oil-rich nation does not want to shoulder the burden alone. In recent months, price declines of more than 30 percent have shaken the group.

    “Everybody sort of looked at someone else and said, ‘You do the cutting, I don’t want to,’” Bordoff says of OPEC. “The Saudis are happy to a bit of cutting to support prices, but want the pain to be shared equally. They were unable to reach an agreement.”

    Bordoff says that OPEC players like Venezuela, Iran, and Libya are currently under severe fiscal strain and refuse to cut petroleum production. In addition to OPEC members, Saudi Arabia also wants non-members like Russia to cut production.

    “The Russians, depending on how you measure it, are the world’s largest crude oil producers,” says Bordoff. “But they’ve seen a sharp collapse in the rubel...in part because of economic sanctions, among other things. They’re under severe fiscal strain right now.”

    Though predicting oil prices can be a slippery slope, Bordoff expects that rates will remain low (between $60 and $80 a barrel) over the next several months.

    “Every $10 drop in the price of oil adds maybe 0.1 or 0.2 percentage points to the growth of GDP, so this is a huge tax cut that American consumers have just gotten,” he says. “It’s also a big deal for producers. The U.S. is now a major producer, too. So when you see prices closer to $60 and then $80 or $90, on the margin, that’s going to affect investment in U.S. shale production. I still think U.S. shale production will grow, but we would expect to see the growth rate decline.”

    U.S. oil booms in Texas and North Dakota have come from fracking shale formations, a technology that has also led to a natural gas boom in the states. In addition to an increase in U.S. oil production, prices are also declining because overall energy consumption is changing.

    “The oil intensity of the economy continues to decline and the economy continues to get more energy efficient, partly because people have an economic incentive to reduce their consumption,” says Bordoff. “It makes good economic sense for businesses and for consumers.”

    Though the U.S. is producing more oil, Bordoff doesn’t foresee OPEC’s decision having any impact on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would stretch from Canada, across the U.S. and all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.

    “If you think about a pipeline investment, it’s a very long-term investment that will be an operation that takes place over decades and decades,” says Bordoff. “I don’t know how much a near-term drop in the price of oil affects how one should think about it, whether you’re a supporter or not.”

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  • Dec 01

    All Charges Dropped Against Hosni Mubarak

    In a move that has caused outrage, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced over the weekend that all charges have now been dropped against former President Hosni Mubarak and his two sons. Mubarak, a discredited dictator, has been sick and humiliated in an Egyptian prison.

    President al-Sisi says he is also considering the release of one of three Al-Jazeera journalists jailed in Egypt for more than 300 days. The journalists have been accused of spreading false news.

    The parents of one of the jailed journalists, Peter Greste, are in Cairo making a personal appeal to President al-Sisi—they say they're hopeful their son will be released and home before Christmas.

    David Kirkpatrick, Cairo bureau chief for our partner The New York Times, explains how Egyptians are reacting to these events.

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  • Dec 01

    New 'Star Wars' Film Brings Mystery Back to Big Screen

    The new trailer for the upcoming film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" has hit the web. If you managed to see it, you know that the Star Wars future world of the 1970's is back and revised.

    The new Star Wars flick is a Disney film directed by the Star Trek dude J.J. Abrams. And some superfans are happy about that—they say the new film has some mystery again.

    Kwame Opam, news editor at TheVerge.com, says that with "The Force Awakens," Star Wars has something new for a galaxy that was all but mapped out across 35 years of filler material.

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  • Dec 01

    How to Close the College Graduation Gap

    For most high school seniors, today isn't just December 1st—it's also the college application deadline for most students entering universities in the fall of 2015.

    While most universities tout their diversity along with their campus facilities, the truth is that race and class gaps remain a large factor in who gets to go to college and who gets to graduate.

    Around 40 percent of African-American students graduate college in six years, versus 60 percent of white students. The gap is even starker in terms of class: About 90 percent of students who come from the top income quartile graduate, versus 25 percent of students from the bottom half of the income spectrum.

    Jacques Steinberg, senior vice president at Say Yes to Education and author of "The Gatekeepers," and Debbie Bial, president and founder of the Posse Foundation, have spent their careers researching and implementing programs to close these gaps. They tell The Takeaway about the most successful strategies to provide access to higher education and ensure that students graduate.

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  • Dec 01

    Electromagnetic Fields & The Cancer Scare That Wasn't

    In the late 1980s, the biggest health story was about a potential public health threat that was everywhere: Electromagnetic fields around power lines.

    In 1987, a study found that children in Denver who lived near higher electro-magnetic fields were twice as likely to have cancer. David Savitz, now an epidemiologist at Brown University, was an author on that study and observed that "in the absence of a large body of research, each study is a break-through. It's dramatic."

    At the time, news coverage was totally consumed by this new health scare. But it was still a new area of research, where only a relatively small correlation was found.

    Hundreds of studies later found that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) had no effect on human cells, and without any noticeable effect, EMFs could not cause cancer. But those findings have done little to abate fears about living close to power lines.

    Here to explain why the cancer scare over power lines persists is Erik German, producer at Retro Report.

    Check out a video of Retro Report's findings below.

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  • Dec 01

    U.S. May Change Blood Donor Policy for Gay & Bi-Sexual Men

    On World AIDS Day, we're looking back at a policy that has barred men who have sex with men anytime from giving blood.

    In 1983, months after researchers discovered the frightening AIDS virus, health regulators in the U.S. decided that blood banks should ban gay and bi-sexual men from donating.

    Now, for the first time, a Health and Human Services committee has voted to revise the 31-year-ban. That recommendation will go before the Food and Drug Administration for consideration tomorrow.

    But it wouldn't be a complete elimination of the policy. The committee recommends replacing the existing policy with a one-year deferral period, meaning that men who have had sex with other man within the past 12 months would not be permitted to give blood.

    Many view the change as a step in the right direction, but a resolution that could perpetuate the stigma that has prevented gay men from giving blood for the past three decades.

    Weighing in on the policy is Jason Cianciotto, the director of public policy at Gay Men's Health Crisis, an HIV/AIDS service organization based in New York.

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  • Dec 01

    Today's Takeaways: The College Gap, The Return of Star Wars, and Challenging the One Percent

    1. How to Close the College Graduation Gap | 2. U.S. May Change Blood Donor Policy for Gay & Bi-Sexual Men | 3. The Truth About Electromagnetic Fields | 4. New 'Star Wars' Film Brings Big Screen Mystery | 5. The Pitchforks Are Coming For the 1%
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  • Nov 28

    Today's Takeaways: Stories From Our Listeners

    This episode of The Takeaway podcast is all about you—our listeners. Today we're handing over the show to you to give you a chance to tell your stories. All this hour we explore the joys and complexities of the simple expression of "thank you," a phrase that you'll no doubt be hearing a lot of this weekend.
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  • Nov 27

    Today's Takeaways: A Thanksgiving Day Special

    Happy Thanksgiving from The Takeaway! Whether you're travelling, prepping a meal, or spending the day with family and friends, we're here to say thank you and wish you a great holiday. Today's special Thanksgiving episode features a litany of great stories that caused you to reach out to us—we've compiled a lineup of some of the best Takeaway moments heard on the airwaves this year.
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  • Nov 26

    'Penguins of Madagascar,' 'Horrible Bosses 2,' 'The Imitation Game,' and More!

    This week, Rafer and Kristen review 'Penguins of Madagascar,' 'Horrible Bosses 2,' and 'The Imitation Game.' They also read some listener mail, make Sweatpants suggestions, and offer up some code-breaking trivia. Don't suffer in the Black Friday lines. Listen to Movie Date instead! 

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  • Nov 26

    The Politics Behind Your Thanksgiving Meal

    The price of some foods on the Thanksgiving table have fluctuated, but political pull is just as costly as ever. It is becoming a kind of a tradition on The Takeaway for us to take a look at the fat in Washington, which comes courtesy of the companies that bring you Thanksgiving. 

    The National Turkey Federation and Ocean Spray Cranberry to the potato growers and the NFL, everyone has a little skin in the game. The Takeaway's Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich tells us about the Thanksgiving political cash extravaganza. 

    You can find out more from the Center for Responsive Politics on their web site OpenSecrets.org.



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  • Nov 26

    The Unusual Story of WWII Code-Breaker Alan Turing

    This week, on Thanksgiving, movie lovers will have the chance to see one of this year's frontrunners in the race to the Oscars. "The Imitation Game" tells the story of famed World War II code-breaker Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

    Winston Churchill credited Turing with winning the war. Yet despite his contributions, Turing's accomplishments were kept from the world. In 1952, Turing was convicted of gross indecency (for being gay) and chemically castrated.  

    The film "The Imitation Game" was inspired by the biography "Alan Turing: The Enigma," by Andrew Hodges. In addition to being a biographer, Hodges is a mathematician and gay rights activist. He joins The Takeaway to explain Turing's legacy and the injustice he suffered.

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  • Nov 26

    Is Ferguson as Much About White Rage as Black?

    The rioting in Ferguson, Missouri and across the country is about more than just a grand jury's decision not to indict white policeman Darren Wilson, says Professor Carol Anderson.
     
    "What we’ve actually seen is the latest outbreak of white rage," writes Anderson, who teaches in the African-American Studies Department at Emory University. "For every action of African-American advancement, there’s a reaction, a backlash."
     
    According to Anderson, white rage typically is not expressed in street protests but rather in courtrooms and capitols and has an even larger and lasting impact.
    She joins The Takeaway to discuss how Ferguson should be understood in the context of American history.
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  • Nov 26

    School Lunch in Oregon Depends a Lot on Where You Live

    This day before Thanksgiving, there's another national protest playing out across the country, off the streets and in the schools. Students are pushing against healthy school lunch standards.

    Using the #ThanksMichelleObama hashtag, students have been been sharing pictures of some of the unappetizing gruel that now passes for a school lunch. Back in 2010, Congress passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which requires less sugar and fat in school meals. The first lady pushed hard for the act and has since come to its defense.

    Reporters Rob Manning and Amanda Peacher from Oregon Public Broadcasting give two different looks at the program. Manning says the program is working well, but Peacher says that a number of rural districts in Oregon have dropped out of the federal program altogether. The new federal regulations are proving to be too much of a logistics headache for those outside of urban areas. 

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  • Nov 26

    How to Build Trust in the Justice System

    Thousands around the nation took to the streets this week to demand justice after the grand jury decision in Ferguson. What about our justice system do they want to change?

    The phrase 'Equal Justice Under Law' is engraved about the entrance to the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC. But when the courthouse was constructed in 1935, Jim Crow still ruled the South, a region where African-Americans faced mob violence and lynching.

    Today, the U.S. justice system looks very different, but for many Americans, the law has yet to live up to the motto carved into the nation's highest courthouse. Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Michael Brown's family, reflected this sentiment as he told the press, "We should be able to expect that the police will treat our children just like they treat any other children in any other community."

    Judge Nancy Gertner says the Darren Wilson case likely has less to do with race than what she sees as the law's overly broad protection of state officials, who she believes receive far too much leeway for their errors and misconduct. Judge Gertner served on the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts for nearly two decades and is now a senior lecturer at Harvard Law School.

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  • Nov 27

    The Sporkful's Tips for Eating Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving is meant to be enjoyed. And we here at The Takeaway want to help you make the day as stress-free as possible.

    And so, all week, we're bringing in our friend Dan Pashman, host of WNYC's Sporkful podcast and author of "Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious." We've talked hosting and cooking Thanksgiving earlier. Today, the topic is eating at Thanksgiving.

    Dan's one-hour Thanksgiving special, "A Very Sporkful Thanksgiving," will be airing nationwide the week of Thanksgiving on your local public radio station. It's produced by The Takeaway's own Kristen Meinzer.

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  • Nov 26

    Thanksgiving Movie Trivia Quiz

    This week, communities across the country will come together to celebrate Thanksgiving. If you need to pass the time in between family photos and the big meal, take our Thanksgiving movie trivia quiz.

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  • Nov 26

    Today's Takeaways: Justice After Ferguson, WWII Hero Alan Turing and Eating Thanksgiving

    1. How to Build Trust in the Justice System |  2. Is Ferguson as Much about White Rage as Black? | 3. The Unusual Story of WWII Code-Breaker Alan Turing | 4. The Politics Behind Your Thanksgiving Meal | 5. The Sporkful's Tips for Eating Thanksgiving

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  • Nov 25

    Rebuilding Community Trust in Ferguson

    The citizens of Ferguson, Missouri responded with anguish yesterday after a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. 

    The long-awaited decision brought out an anger that has been simmering for more than 100 days in Ferguson. On the streets in the community, it seems as if there's a collective feeling of betrayal.

    Now, a city reeling in pain is forced to look for answers for what's ahead. How do you build a bridge between officials and a community that is so angry and so disenchanted with their leadership? What is the road ahead for Ferguson, Missouri?

    For answers, we turn to a voice that has represented the St. Louis area for nearly a decade. Don Marsh is the host of St. Louis on the Air on St. Louis Public Radio.

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  • Nov 25

    Feeling Insecure About Your Turkey? Tips From Dan Pashman

    John Hockenberry and Dan Pashman, host of WNYC's Sporkful podcast and author of "Eat More Better: How To Make Every Bite More Delicious," chat about their favorite ways to make a Thanksgiving dinner.

    There are many ways to cook a bird. But if you're feeling a little insecure about your turkey this Thanksgiving, Dan says to brine it. A brine, he says, leaves a lot of room for error. And one secret to keep vegetarians happy? Dan recommends the "veggieducken." 

    Dan Pashman's one-hour Thanksgiving special, "A Very Sporkful Thanksgiving," will be airing nationwide the week of Thanksgiving on your local public radio station. It's produced by The Takeaway's own Kristen Meinzer.

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  • Nov 25

    A New Secretary of Defense, a New Military Strategy?

    The departure of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel comes as America's war strategy in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan is in the midst of total upheaval.

    A few weeks ago, the Obama Administration reversed itself and decided to expand the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan. And though some 3,000 troops are being deployed to Iraq to fight ISIS, Obama insists the U.S. has no combat mission there.

    Hagel's resignation follows criticism from both parties that the Obama Administration has not set out a clear military strategy. Could new leadership of the Defense Department help establish a new approach?

    Professor Andrew Bacevich is a Vietnam veteran and professor emeritus at Boston University. He is working on a book about the history of U.S. military and its involvement in the greater Middle East since 1980. 

     

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  • Nov 25

    FDA to Require New Calorie Count Rules

    Today the F.D.A. announced that it will require chain restaurants, movie theaters, and vending machines to post calorie counts on all their food items, including alcoholic beverages.

    Health experts say that the changes are one of the most important health policies to be implemented nationally, though the new rules have been years in the making. The new menu labeling is part of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. 

    Keith Ayoob, an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, joins us today to talk about how effective the new labeling rules might be.

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  • Nov 25

    Why is it So Hard to Indict a Police Officer?

    There is no uniform data on officer-involved shootings and indictments, but most criminologists agree that that few police officers are ever indicted, much less convicted, in shootings or other violent crimes.

    That proved to be the case for Officer Darren Wilson, the police officer involved in the shooting death of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown. After deliberating for days, a 12-member grand jury had not found probable cause to indict the officer.

    Statistics show that even the low bar of probable cause is difficult to meet when it comes to police misconduct. According to the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project, which tracked cases of alleged police misconduct between April 2009 and December 2010, of the nearly 430 officers accused of killing a person using excessive force, only 30 were charged. Just half of those 30 were convicted.

    William Yeomans, a former attorney for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, tells The Takeaway that we empower police to protect us, so the law gives them leeway. In the wake of the Ferguson decision, he says, some wonder if the law cuts officers too much slack. 

    Yeomans, now a fellow in law and government at American University's Washington College of Law, explains that certain officer-involved crimes—such as the beating of Rodney King, prosecuted in federal court—are easier to convict than others.

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  • Nov 25

    Today's Takeaways: Democracy on Fire in Ferguson

    1. Democracy on Fire in Ferguson | 2. Why It's So Hard to Indict a Police Officer | 3. A New Secretary of Defense, a New Military Strategy? | 4. Rebuilding Community Trust in Ferguson
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  • Nov 25

    Democracy on Fire in Ferguson

    Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American teenager from Ferguson, Missouri, was shot and killed on August 9th by officer Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the police department. Yesterday, a grand jury that was deliberating Wilson's fate decided not to indict him in Brown's death.

    "The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction," St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Mulloch said Monday evening during a press conference announcing the decision. "It is important to note here and say again that they are the only people—the only people—who have examined every witness and every piece of evidence. They discussed and they debated. They determined that no probable cause exists and returned a no true bill on each of the five indictments."

    After days of deliberating, the jurors determined there was not enough evidence to Wilson.

    Over the summer, protesters took to the street demanding that Wilson be held responsible for Brown’s death. Demonstrations turned violent after police officers attempted to disperse people with rubber bullets, tear gas, and armored vehicles.

    Last night after the jury's decision was announced, Ferguson grew chaotic after hundreds of protesters took to the streets. While demonstrations in some parts of the city remained peaceful, things grew violent in other neighborhoods. Storefronts were set on fire, bottles and rocks thrown, and the windows of businesses were smashed. The streets were filled with police in riot gear and shortly after 1:00 AM the National Guard was deployed.

    In a rare move, President Barack Obama made a statement from the White House after the verdict came down. He called for calm and asked protesters to respect the wishes of Michael Brown's parents. There is no excuse for violence, the president said.

    "We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation," President Obama said. "The fact is that in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this county. And this is tragic because no one needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime results.”

    Reverend Osagyefo Sekou grew up in St. Louis and is leading non-violent protest training in Ferguson. He says that democracy is on fire in the community.

    What do you think the Ferguson verdict says about America in 2014? Leave your comment below or give us a call at 1-877-869-8253.

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  • Nov 24

    Retro Report: The Film That Birthed Multiple Personality Disorder

    This week, the Retro Report documentary team looks back at the case of Shirley Mason, a psychiatric patient that was said to have 16 different personalities.

    Shirley's controversial story introduced much of the nation to multiple personality disorder after her struggle was famously fictionalized in the 1976 film "Sybil," which starred Sally Field. "Discovered" by psychiatrist Cornelia Wilbur, Shirley's story first became an object of national fascination when, with Dr. Wilbur's encouragement, novelist Flora Schrieber wrote the 1973 best-seller "Sybil."

    "Sybil," which sold 6 million copies, led to the official recognition of multiple personality disorder by the DSM and sparked thousands of diagnoses of the disorder in the 1980s. But the techniques Dr. Wilbur used to elicit her patient's testimony were questionable, and today, multiple personality disorder, now called dissociative identity disorder, is no longer a legitimate diagnosis.

    Barbara Dury, a contributing producer for Retro Report, joins The Takeaway to explain.

    Check out a video of Retro Report's findings below.

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  • Nov 24

    Facing Pressure, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Resigns

    After less than two years on the job Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has stepped down amidst growing pressure from the Obama Administration.

    Hagel, who came into the post on Feb. 27, 2013, is a Republican and the first enlisted combat veteran to lead the Department of Defense. He was tasked with managing the Pentagon's defense budget and winding down U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

    But, according to White House officials, Hagel is not well equipped to take on the threats currently confronting the United States—most notably the Islamic State.

    Sec. Hagel will reportedly stay on in the job until his replacement is announced.

    Joining us to reflect on this announcement is Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington Correspondent.

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  • Nov 24

    Thanksgiving: What It Means for Native Americans

    Suzan Shown Harjo, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, has spent her life as an activist and voice for the Native American people.

    Shown Harjo is dedicated to preserving and reminding the U.S. that the native peoples of North America are a living part of American culture—something that this week's feast of Thanksgiving is supposed to commemorate.

    President Lincoln established Thanksgiving, an important part of his legacy, but a far cry from any emancipation for the ravages wrought on the native peoples of North America.

    Today, Shown Harjo discusses the Native American perspective on Thanksgiving. Suzan Shown Harjo is also one of 19 individuals receiving the nation's highest civilian honor today, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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  • Nov 24

    Canada Makes the Case for the Keystone XL

    Many supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline argue that the project will create jobs and supply North America with a home grown energy source, something that will eventually end the continent's energy reliance on rich Arab nations in the Middle East, Nigeria and Russia.

    With a Republican House and Senate convening next year, it's quite possible the Keystone XL pipeline will advance. It has support in both parties, but has become a symbol of the environmental movement's determination to slow the production of carbon-based fossil fuels.

    Much of the Keystone oil would come from central Canada's vast tar sands. Ambassador Gary Doer, Canada's ambassador to the United States and a key salesman for Keystone, has another argument. Keystone, he says, makes environmental sense because it is less polluting than the alternatives for transporting oil that the Ambassador says will be used no matter what.

     

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  • Nov 24

    The Sporkful's Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving is almost here, and between the prepping, the cooking, and the hosting, it seems that there's never enough time to do it all. Ahead of the holiday this Thursday, Dan Pashman of WNYC's podcast The Sporkful, joins us to share his tips for hosting, eating, and cooking the year's biggest meal. 

    Today, he offers some advice on hosting Thanksgiving dinner. He explores the tricky etiquette of dealing with drunk guests, and what to do if uninvited pets show up at the dining room table.

    Dan Pashman's one-hour Thanksgiving special, "A Very Sporkful Thanksgiving," will be airing nationwide the week of Thanksgiving on your local public radio station. It's produced by The Takeaway's own Kristen Meinzer.

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  • Nov 24

    With No Deal In Sight, Iran Deadline for Nuclear Talks Postponed

    Today's deadline to reach a deal on Iran's nuclear program has been extended.

    Negotiations between Iran and the West, which are expected to resume in about seven months, center on how much nuclear fuel Iran can produce, what kind of sanctions relief they'll receive, what weapons inspections will look like, and how long such an accord will last. 

    President Obama has said the two sides are still far from a deal, adding that it's unclear what the new deadline for an agreement will be.

    Thomas Erdbrink, Tehran Bureau Chief for our partner The New York Times, explains why the deadline has been postponed, and what to expected as negotiations move forward.

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  • Nov 24

    Uncertainty Swirls in Ferguson Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

    In Ferguson, Missouri, the mood is tense ahead of a grand jury decision on whether officer Darren Wilson will be indicted for the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The grand jury will reconvene today, but it's unclear when exactly a decision will come down.

    "It's an emotional roller coaster for Michael Brown's parents as they wait on pins and needles to find out whether the killer of their son will be indicted," Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing Brown's family, said Monday.

    F. Willis Johnson, pastor at the Ferguson-based Wellspring Church, says his church is offering meals, counseling, and children's activities for community members grappling with the anxiety of waiting for a decision. Timothy Lloyd, a St. Louis Public Radio reporter, says that the entire region is holding its breath.

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  • Nov 24

    Remembering D.C. Mayor Marion Barry

    The former Mayor of Washington D.C., Marion Barry, Jr. is one of American history's most flamboyant and complicated political figures. He died Sunday at the age of 78 from problems caused by high blood pressure and kidney disease.

    Mayor Barry leaves behind a complicated legacy. He faced personal scandals and a notorious drug episode that made him a national laughingstock. But he was also known for taking on the federal government to gain more autonomy for the mostly black national capital, and he's remembered as a civil rights leader that was elected four times. 

    Takeaway Washington correspondent and long-time D.C. resident Todd Zwillich sorts out Mayor Barry's historical legacy from the personality flaws in this remembrance.

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  • Nov 24

    Today's Takeaways: Defense Sec. Hagel Resigns, Uncretainty Swirls in Ferguson, and Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving

    1. Facing Pressure, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Resigns | 2. Uncertainty Swirls in Ferguson | 3. Iran Deadline for Nuclear Talks Postponed 4. Retro Report: The Sixteen-Sided Woman | 5. What Thanksgiving Means for Native Americans | 6. The Sporkful's Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving
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  • Nov 22

    The Takeaway Weekender: Tips For Hosting, Cooking & Eating Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving is almost here—a holiday that can be both disastrous and celebratory.

    We here at The Takeaway want yours to be more fun than stressful. So today we're discussing the three main components of Thanksgiving—hosting, cooking, and eating—with resident food expert Dan Pashman.

    Dan is the host of WNYC's food podcast, "The Sporkful," and the author of "Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious." He's also the host of an hour-long special that will be airing on public radio stations throughout the country. It's called "A Very Sporkful Thanksgiving," and it was produced by our very own culture producer, Kristen Meinzer.

    What are your favorite Thanksgiving tips? Share them in the comments.

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  • Nov 22

    'Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1,' 'Pulp,' Thanksgiving Sweatpants & Movie Therapy

    Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and Rafer and Kristen are rubbing their stomachs. Fortunately, there's both hunger and supermarkets on the big screens, vying for some attention. The hunger, of course, is in the form of "Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1." The supermarkets come in the form of the pop music documentary "Pulp: A Film About Life, Death, and Supermarkets." 

    There's also a special edition of Sweatpants, for the sweatiest pantiest day of the year: Thanksgiving. And on the Movie Therapy front, there's a more serious question than usual. 

    Last but not least, trivia!

    Happy Thanksgiving, Movie Daters! We're very thankful for you!

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  • Nov 21

    News Quiz | Week of Nov. 21, 2014

    Are you a newsie? Do you know what's happening from Washington to Hollywood to Pyongyang? Be smarter than your pals. Prep your dinner party factoids. Gauge your knowledge about what happened this week, as heard on The Takeaway.

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  • Nov 21

    Mexico's Dia de la Revolución Turns Into Day of Violent Protest

    November 20th marked the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, known as Dia de La Revolucion. It's usually a festive day, but this year the holiday fell amid a rising tide of anger and hostility in the country.

    On Thursday, protesters threw Molotov cocktails and clashed with riot police outside Mexico City's National Palace. Thousands took to the streets to protest against national corruption and the government's handling of the apparent massacre of 43 students who went missing nearly two months ago in the southern city of Iguala. 

    Authorities in Mexico City canceled the annual military parade, but protesters in the streets raised their voices and waved black flags to call for President Enrique Pena Nieto’s resignation.

    The feeling of outrage is not just confined to the streets of Mexico City—the sentiment is increasingly being echoed across the country.

    Fronteras reporter Lorne Matalon traveled to the city of Ojinaga in the state of Chihuahua. Chihuahua's residents, who have long been used to living in a brutally violent state, are happy that the problems they've long dealt with are starting to get national attention.

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  • Nov 21

    From the Ball Field to Bill Cosby: Are We Finally Taking Rape Seriously?

    While the media storm around Bill Cosby has picked up in recent weeks, the comedian first faced rape allegations in 2005 when a former Temple University employee, Andrea Constand, filed a lawsuit against Cosby, alleging that the comedian drugged and raped her in 2004.

    Tamara Green was the second woman to come forward. At the time, she told The Today Show that Cosby's M.O. had hardly changed, that the actor did the same thing to her, back in the 1970s.

    "I heard reported that the district attorney had said that the story was weak, that [Constand] had not come forward in a timely fashion," she told Matt Lauer. "That was, for me, DA speak that they were not going to file the case and that they didn't believe her. And it was at that time I decided that if there were only two of us, one a long time ago and one right now, that's two too many."

    New allegations against Cosby have surfaced this week, but while the 2005 charges hardly made a dent in the actor's career, this week, Netflix postponed a Cosby comedy special, NBC halted development on a new Cosby show, and TV Land pulled all "Cosby Show" reruns from its line-up.

    Bill Cosby isn't the only high-profile man to face fall out from accusations of rape. Public radio host Jian Ghomeshi was fired from the CBC in October after sexual assault allegations were made public by several women.

    The firestorm around Cosby and Gomeshi happens as universities from Virginia to California are changing the way they handle rape allegations on campus, particularly in fraternities. These problems have plagued schools for decades, but have only recently been addressed. 

    Jill Filipovic, an attorney, political writer for Cosmopolitan.com, and co-creator of the blog Feministe, says that online feminism has galvanized a renewed fight against rape culture. She tells The Takeaway that while her feminist foremothers laid the necessary, and important, legal groundwork for women's rights, her generation of activists has largely focused on cultural change—and they're seeing results. 

    "We do tend to look the other way, especially when it's male celebrities, male athletes, or men whose art we admire," says Filipovic. 

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  • Nov 21

    Immigration & A Changing America: Your Conversation

    The United States has grappled with a broken immigration system for years. But last night, President Obama offered hope to millions when he finally outlined his long-awaited plan to change the nation's immigration policies.

    The president announced that the federal government will stop deporting undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for at least five years and are parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. It will also expand the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to apply to any child who arrived before January 2010.

    The plan is expected to apply to up to 3.7 million undocumented immigrants.

    Before the plan came out, Republicans were calling President Obama's actions unprecedented. Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz invoked the words of the Roman politician and philosopher Cicero on the Senate floor yesterday: "When, President Obama, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us?"

    And again harkening back to over 2,000 years ago, Obama's speech last night quoted Scripture: “We shall not press a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.”

    House Speaker John Boehner said Friday that the president's actions were “damaging the presidency itself” and vowed to take action against the measure. Similarly, Republicans filed a lawsuit against the White House for the use of executive powers and on how the Obama Administration has handled the Affordable Care Act.

    Both sides relied on the grandest forms of rhetoric in the always passionate debate about immigration. The Takeaway's Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich unpacks the political repercussions of the president's announcement.

    Though millions will now be able to come out of the shadows, they will not have a path to citizenship, nor will they be eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. And President Obama's plan still leaves out more then 6 million undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S. 

    Joining The Takeaway to give some context for the president's executive action is Monica Campbell, Global Nation Editor for PRI's The World.

    The politicians have had their say—how do you feel about the president's action? Leave a comment below, tell us on Twitter or Facebook, or call us at 1-877-869-8253.

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  • Nov 21

    Better Than Buffy: A Girl Vampire Takes Iran in New Film

    As a film, "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" takes pride in defying expectations.

    Set in the fictional Iranian town of "Bad City," it is shot completely in black and white, and is entirely in Farsi. It's a vampire movie, but it's also a spaghetti western. And its main character is a shy girl who looks more like Amelie than a blood-sucking monster. When she's not terrorizing the town's junkies, pimps, and creeps, she listens to brooding music in her bedroom and skateboards around town.

    Shooting a genre movie in black in white and in a foreign language all sound like bad business decisions, but the film's producer, Elijah Wood, said they were precisely what attracted him to the project.

    “All of these elements were maybe things that would have scared other people looking to invest in something from a commercial standpoint but for us, it was absolutely everything that we wanted to be a part of," Wood told VICE.

    Throughout the film, director Ana Lily Amirpour features oil fields and drills—a symbol that takes on several meanings.

    “The [oil] industry is something that I find extremely seductive, familiar, and parasitic, but not in a negative way,” says Amirpour. “We seem like ants so often, and there’s something about these ever-churning oil rigs, refineries, and smokestacks—it’s almost like they’re consuming the Earth like it’s food.”

    Like an oil rig, a vampire needs to sink its teeth in to its food and drink a thick dark liquid. An Iranian-American herself, Amirpour says that she’s loved vampires since she was 12-years-old.

    “A vampire can be so many things, and it’s a really powerful mythical character,” she says. “It’s life eternal, darkness, it kills as part of its instincts. It’s also a historian, observing decades of human history.”

    Amirpour says that the main character of “The Girl,” who is played actress Sheila Vand, is an outsider because she’s a vampire that is living a life that is unique and independent from the rest of the culture.

    “I’m very intimate with and close to loneliness,” she says. “I think loneliness gets a bad rap. I think solitude is extremely useful for a person to think about themselves and find things. Certainly for creativity it’s key, and it also makes those moments of connection really jump out and feel undeniable.”

    The film relies heavily on the use of music to help support and tell the story laid out in “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” and the soundtrack was composed of mostly Farsi and English songs by Federale, Kiosk, White Lies, Bei Ru, Radio Tehran, and others. (Click player above to hear some clips of the music used in the film.)

    “Each character wants a different sound and a different kind of music,” says Amirpour.

    Check out a trailer for the film below.

     

    Check out some stills from the movie below.

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  • Nov 21

    Thanks, Internet: Five Things You Had to See Online This Week

    Every Friday, Sean Rameswaram, a producer with Studio 360 and host of the Sideshow podcast, rounds up the week in internet phenomena. 

    This week in "Thanks, Internet," Sean talks to John Hockenberry about the online treasures you may have missed.

    1. Benedict's First Big Hit

    Benedict Cumberbatch is a walking meme who has never even starred in a hit movie. He's hoping that will change with The Imitation Game, and he's going the extra mile to promote his Alan Turing biopic. During an interview with MTV, Cumberbatch was asked to do as many celebrity impressions as he could in under a minute (get it?). He didn't disappoint.    

    2. Mr. and Mrs. Smith

    Jayden and Willow Smith at the beach


    Some adolescents attempt to save the world with next to nothing. Others, like "musicians" Jayden and Willow Smith, have everything and boldly choose to do next to nothing with it. T Magazine published an extended interview with the teenage children of Will and Jada early this week (Jayden is 16, Willow is 14) and the quotes were so outlandish that several philosophers were enlisted to break it all down. 

    Here are actual things they said: 

    "I mean, time for me, I can make it go slow or fast, however I please, and that’s how I know it doesn’t exist." (Willow)

    "Right, because you have to live. There’s a theoretical physicist inside all of our minds, and you can talk and talk, but it’s living." (Jayden)

    "And the feeling of being like, this is a fragment of a holographic reality that a higher consciousness made." (Willow)

    "Exactly. Because your mind has a duality to it. So when one thought goes into your mind, it’s not just one thought, it has to bounce off both hemispheres of the brain. When you’re thinking about something happy, you’re thinking about something sad. When you think about an apple, you also think about the opposite of an apple. It’s a tool for understanding mathematics and things with two separate realities. But for creativity: That comes from a place of oneness. That’s not a duality consciousness. And you can’t listen to your mind in those times — it’ll tell you what you think and also what other people think." (Jayden)

    3. SNL vs. Twitter

    This past weekend's episode of Saturday Night Live (hosted by Woody Harrelson and featuring the music of Kendrick Lamar) was exceptionally good and funny. Maybe that's why "Tweet" didn't make it into the show. A dress rehearsal version of the sketch, uploaded Wednesday, takes some very easy swings at Twitter before turning into a musical number that features President and First Lady Obama, God, and the real Edward Norton. Dissing Twitter isn't the most original concept, but it has never been dressed up quite like this. 

    4. Poop Emoji 101

    Poop Emoji


    How did our phones, tablets, and instant messaging apps all end up with little poop graphics on them? The answer was explained in great detail this week at Fast Company, where Lauren Schwartzberg presented "The Oral History of the Poop Emoji (or, How Google Brought Poop to America)." It's a fascinating story that starts with Japanese graphic design in 1999 and ends with smiling poops being recognized by every mobile and desktop operating system in the world.

    5. China's "Chick Chick"

    Two years ago we had “Gangnam Style,” last year brought us “What Does The Fox Say?”, and now we have "Chick Chick"  — the latest international music video to beguile the entire internet. The video features an inexplicable stream of visuals from Chinese pop star Wang Rong Rollin, including women in bird suits line dancing, animated chickens in bikinis, and half-naked men in various animal masks. It's a startling experiment in surrealism with a beat that dares you to stop listening. Good luck.  

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  • Nov 21

    Today's Takeaways: A Changing America, a Brewing Revolution, and Fighting Rape Culture

    1. Immigration & A Changing America: Your Conversation | 2. Mexico's Dia de la Revolución Turns Into Day of Violent Protest | 3. The Movie Date Podcast Reviews The Big New Releases | 4. From the Ball Field to Bill Cosby: Are We Finally Taking Rape Seriously?
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  • Nov 20

    Ferguson & Gov. Jay Nixon's Leadership Crisis

    A Missouri grand jury is deliberating over whether to press charges against Darrell Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this summer. Governor Jay Nixon called in the National Guard to Ferguson in August, and just this week he declared a state of emergency ahead of the grand jury's announcement.

    It's the latest move in what's been a bumbling response to the crisis growing in the center of his state. During the height of the violence this past August, the governor was nowhere to be found.

    Missouri state Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal represents an area that includes Ferguson, Missouri. She has been actively engaged with the protests in the aftermath of Brown's death—on the night of August 10, she was even tear-gassed by police.

    Chappelle-Nadal was the only elected official present at the protests that night, but she says that didn't do much to get Gov. Nixon's attention. Gov. Nixon, like Chappelle-Nadal, is a fellow Democrat, but that hasn't restrained the state senator from criticizing him harshly.

    See Also: Beyond Ferguson: America's Struggle for Racial Equality

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  • Nov 20

    Giving Up On Congress: Prepare For a Presidential Push on Immigration

    Tonight, President Obama will announce a new executive order on immigration. According to the White House, the president's plan will prevent the deportation of as many as four million undocumented immigrants if they have lived in the United States for five years and have no criminal record. An additional one million will be granted protection through additional, unspecified parts of the president's order.

    While many supporters are in favor of the president's plan, there was one blow to immigration advocates: The parents of dreamers—those who fall under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—will not be granted deportation reprieve.

    Republicans are up in arms over this announcement, with some of the far right calling for impeachment and more moderate voices claiming the president is over reaching. But this is not the first time an American president has taken executive action on immigration.

    Both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush issued similar executive actions, in 1987 and 1990, respectively, though their orders affected far fewer undocumented immigrants.

    Cyrus Mehta, a New York-based immigration attorney, discusses President Obama's plan and its potential impact on his clients. Mayra Rubio Limon gained legal status under DACA, enacted by the president in 2012. A member of the group Homestead Equal Rights for All, Rubio Limon tells The Takeaway about her experience, and how the president's plan may impact the lives of her family and friends.

    Interested in hearing President Obama's address tonight? Don't be surprised if you don't catch the speech. The four major networks—ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox—are not carrying his prime time address. Our co-producer WNYC will be—it can be streamed online tonight at WNYC.org.

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  • Nov 20

    Slow Your Roll, Bro: Uber Scandal Spotlights Tech's Dude Problem

    Uber, the ride-sharing service which operates in more than 200 cities across 45 countries, has come under fire following remarks by the company's senior vice president of business, Emil Michael, at a private dinner late last week.

    In what he believed was an off-the-record conversation, Michael suggested spending a million dollars to hire researches who would help Uber fight back against the press by looking into the personal details of reporters' lives.

    Sarah Lacy, a tech reporter for PandoDaily, was singled out as a journalist to target.

    And it's not the first time the company has come under attack. Uber has also gotten in trouble for strong-arming its relationship with drivers, trying to undermine competitors like Lyft,and for sexist comments made by CEO Travis Kalanick.

    But will the bad press really affect the bottom line of a company valued at more than $18 billion?

    Weighing in is Elissa Shevinsky, the CTO of Glimpse, a private photo-sharing app.

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  • Nov 20

    Forget Eggs—The NYT Gets Grape Salad on Its Face

    Next week we'll be spending a lot of time with The Sporkful's Dan Pashman—he'll be dishing out strategy tips to help you tackle Thanksgiving.

    But we wanted to get an early start by looking at a particular Thanksgiving snub that came at the hands of our partner The New York Times.

    The Times recently assigned each state in the union and the District of Columbia a Thanksgiving recipe. There are some really delightful recipes in the line-up: D.C. gets a garam masala pumpkin tart. Idaho gets hasselback potatoes with garlic-paprika oil. New Mexico was assigned a slow-cooked red chili turkey.

    But the fine state of Minnesota has the great misfortune of landing “grape salad” as its state Thanksgiving recipe.

    Rachel Hutton, editor-in-chief at Minnesota Monthly, has written about food for various Minnesota publications for the last decade. As a Minnesota foodie, she explains why New Yorkers have such a hard time understanding the food of the Midwest.

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  • Nov 20

    Audio Essay: A Heartfelt Goodbye to The Genius of Mike Nichols

    On and off screen, the life of Mike Nichols was legendary. 

    Nichols knew America. He knew love, and he knew actors and what they could do even better than they did. He made Dustin Hoffman a star in "The Graduate." In the film "Carnal Knowledge" he made fun of America's sexual revolution and got Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel to share the silver screen.

    From "Catch-22" and "Working Girl," to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" and "Annie," Nichols was a genius artist.

    Nichols, the husband of Diane Sawyer, died on Wednesday at the age of 83. He won an Oscar, a Tony, a Grammy and an Emmy for his work—a feat very few have ever done. 

    Here, The Takeaway remembers Mike Nichols and his incredible influence on entertainment and America.

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  • Nov 20

    West African Musicians Battle Ebola with their Songs

    The newly recorded version of the Band Aid charity single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” has been selling fast this week. The proceeds from the song will be used to fight the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 5,000 people, almost all from West Africa. The original single came out 30 years ago and raised millions to help with famine relief in Ethiopia.

    In spite of their commercial success, well intended Western charity campaigns such as Band Aid’s are not always well received on the ground. The Ebola crisis has deeply affected West African culture—the deadly virus has disrupted burial and mourning processes, displays of affection are avoided, and family life has been thrown into a state of disarray.

    While Western musicians try to fight the virus from recording studios a world away, West African musicians are stepping up to help the people and the culture they know and love.

    The Takeaway talks with the host of PRI’s The World, Marco Werman, about how musicians from some of the countries most ravaged by Ebola, including Liberia and Sierra Leone, have been raising awareness about the deadly virus through song.

    Werman examines how songs like "Africa Stop Ebola," which features a line-up of successful West African music stars; “Ebola is Real,” by F.A., Soul Fresh and DenG; and “State of Emergency” by Tan Tan B, are rallying people to fight the virus.

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  • Nov 20

    Today's Takeaways: A Test of Powers, A Genius Filmmaker, and A Battle Against Dude Culture

    1. Prepare For a Presidential Push on Immigration | 2. Slow Your Roll, Bro: Uber Scandal Spotlights Tech's Dude Problem | 3. Forget Eggs—The NYT Gets Grape Salad on Its Face | 4. A Heartfelt Goodbye to The Genius of Mike Nichols | 5. Ferguson & Gov. Jay Nixon's Leadership Crisis | 6. West African Musicians Battle Ebola
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  • Nov 19

    A Call For Boots on The Ground in Iraq

    On Tuesday, reports surfaced that Kurdish fighters captured ISIS weapons and ammunition in the northern Syrian city of Kobane. 

    Meanwhile, airstrikes from U.S. and allied forces are ongoing—Central Command has reported that U.S. military forces have conducted 31 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria between Friday and Monday alone.

    But from the G20 Summit in Australia, President Obama insisted that he has no plans to deploy U.S. ground forces, despite Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey's suggestion that the recommendation of boots on the ground could come.

    In a new op-ed pieceAmbassador Paul Bremer calls for boots on the ground in Iraq to combat ISIS. Bremer was tapped by President George W. Bush as the Presidential Envoy to Iraq in 2003-04, and served as the top civilian administrator for the former Coalition Provisional Authority.

    Since his departure from the military and the administration, Bremer has been critical of President Obama and his strategy in Iraq, calling the withdrawal of troops a "serious mistake."

    Now with the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Bremer says it is time for another Bush-style surge in the region, adding that is is up to President Obama to convey to the war-wary American people why such a move is necessary for our national security. 

     

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  • Nov 19

    Here's the Crime-Drama Recipe that Makes 'Serial' So Successful

    In 1999, high school senior Hae Min Lee was murdered in Baltimore County, Maryland. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of the murder and has spent the last 15 years in jail. 

    But This American Life producer Sarah Koenig isn't so sure that the state got the right guy. In a new podcast called Serial, she goes through old police reports, hunts down witnesses, and attempts to find out for herself what really happened. 

    According to iTunes, Serial has been downloaded and streamed more than 5 million times, making it the fastest podcast ever to reach that level of popularity on iTunes.  

    Just what has made this podcast so successful? And how does it conform to—and break—the conventions that have long made crime fiction so successful in novels and on television?   

    Weighing in is writer Megan Abbott, the author of several crime fiction novels and something of an expert on the genre. Her most recent novel is "The Fever," and she is also the author of "The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir"

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  • Nov 19

    ISIS Fears Sink NSA Reform

    On Tuesday, Senate Republicans blocked a sweeping overhaul to the NSA's surveillance program. The bill needed 60 votes to move forward, but was defeated 58-42. With little time remaining in the current session, the bill, called the USA Freedom Act, is unlikely to pass this year.

    The White House and civil liberties groups like the ACLU support the bill, which would have curtailed the government's bulk collection of metadata on communications made by persons in the U.S.—a program that first came to light largely because of revelations by Edward Snowden.

    The White House says the bill would have gave Americans more "confidence" in the government's intelligence gathering. But as the Islamic State continues to terrorize Iraq and Syria, opponents say that it is not the time to curtail the NSA's ability to collect information. 

    Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sponsored the bill, along with Tea Party favorite Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). But Republicans largely voted against the bill, with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) as the lone Democratic vote in the "No" camp.

    Also opposing the bill were former officials from the intelligence community, including General Michael Hayden, who was director of the NSA and CIA. He explains why he thinks the USA Freedom Act is a mistake.

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  • Nov 19

    The Hard Truth About 'All Natural' Labels

    It's been a busy year for food labels. In May, Vermont legislators voted to make GMO labeling mandatory in the state. The new law was met with some resistance—a coalition of companies came together to file a lawsuit to stop the initiative from taking effect.

    This week, rock legend Neil Young announced that he will no longer be getting his morning fix at Starbucks because the company has thrown its hat in with 300 other organizations that are suing to block Vermont's new GMO labeling laws.

    Meanwhile, during the midterm elections earlier this month, ballot initiatives to require mandatory GMO labels failed to pass in Oregon and Colorado.

    But GMO's aren't the only big labeling questions—the question of whether food is "natural" is also coming before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). How do labeling rules get made, and when something is "natural," really?

    “The law is pretty clear about what has to be on the food label,” says Richard Williams, former FDA director for social sciences at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Congress passes the laws and the FDA passes regulations that require information to be on the food label. In general, the information that they require is based on science.”

    Though Congress and the FDA ultimately determine what information goes on a food label, Williams, who is the current vice president for policy research at George Mason University's Mercatus Center, says that food companies also have some input in these decisions.

    “Anybody can petition the Food and Drug Administration for a change they want to see on the label,” he says. “The FDA then goes through the process of taking in all of the comments, ensuring that it’s consistent with the law, and then they can choose to either require it or not require it.”

    See Also: GMO-Related Lobbying Skyrockets

    Americans are increasingly looking for natural foods—according to a 2013 survey conducted by our partner The New York Times, about three-quarters of Americans are concerned about genetically modified organisms in their food. But from a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product as “natural.”

    “The problem with ‘natural’ is that it’s not a science issue,” says Williams. “It’s definitely a marketing statement.”

    In addition to statements like “all natural,” food companies also publish several scientifically-meaningless statements on products—things like “Supports Bone Health,” for example.

    “Certainly people are going to try to market foods and sell foods in whatever way they can,” says Williams. “The fact of the matter is, all foods have risks and benefits. It’s very difficult for consumers to make a choice, even a simple choice between any two foods.”

    It is difficult to tell if a packaged product is ever “natural” because many foods are processed in some way, which means it “is no longer [a] product of the Earth,” according to the FDA, which is why the government agency has not yet developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives.

    “It’s a non-scientific issue,” Williams says. “Do we really want the Food and Drug Administration to certify sugar as natural but then hold high-fructose corn syrup as artificial? Both are nutritive sweeteners, both are manufactured...I think the FDA has a hard enough job just trying to get the food label and the science right without taking on these issues.”

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  • Nov 19

    The Hostage Question: Time to Talk to the Enemy?

    A third American, Peter Kassig, died at the hands of the Islamic State earlier this week. In the aftermath of his death, the Obama Administration announced that it will conduct a full review of the U.S. policy on negotiating with terrorists in hostage situations.

    The review was disclosed in a letter from Christine Wormuth, the undersecretary of defense for policy, addressed to Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter. Wormuth calls for a "specific emphasis on examining family engagement, intelligence collection, and diplomatic engagement policies."

    Unlike European governments, which have paid millions of dollars in ransoms, the U.S. government has a strict rule of not negotiating with captors. That does not preclude private firms from negotiating on behalf of hostages with insurance, however, something the White House has advised against.

    “Our views on this are clear, and the president continues to believe, as previous presidents have concluded, that it's not in the best interest of American citizens to pay ransoms to any organization, let alone a terrorist organization that is holding an American hostage," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during a briefing yesterday. "The reason for that is simple: We don't want to put other American citizens at even greater risk when their around the globe.”

    Christopher Voss is a 24-year veteran of the FBI that served as the lead international hostage negotiator. Currently the CEO of the Black Swan Group, a negotiation advisory firm, Voss says that America’s current policy is riddled with nuance.

    “The policy is not that we won’t negotiate with terrorists, the policy is that we won’t make concessions to terrorists,” he says. “You shouldn’t be afraid to communicate with anybody, and sometimes the policy is misconstrued to make it sound as if we’re afraid to talk to people, and sometimes it’s enacted in that way also—the government acts like it’s afraid to talk people. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk to anyone.”

    In the aftermath of the horrific beheadings carried out by the Islamic State, there have been complaints from some of the victims’ families. They say that the U.S. government seemed concerned, but it also appeared that there was a lack of urgency when it came to hostage negotiations.

    “[Families] probably had reason to feel that the government wasn’t particularly involved in helping them,” says Voss. “I think that recently, the government has not known what to do and has not supported the families well.”

    Voss says that the government views these hostage situations as black and white—if officials cannot conduct a rescue immediately, they often feel that they can’t help.
    When it comes to independently paying a ransom to a terrorist group, Voss says that families can do so at their own risk, but he says that the government may attempt to stop them with the threat of prosecution.

    “They can’t stop the insurance companies from having consultants that support the families in other ways,” he says. “It’s kind of like watching a robbery happen to someone. These families are victims of crimes, it’s not just their family members that are being killed—the entire family is being victimized.”

    Voss says that government officials should communicate with terrorist groups even if a clear avenue to rescue is unavailable because a dialogue may support other outcomes.

    “For the government to stand back and say, ‘We’re not going to help you and we’re not going to let anyone else help you either,’ it’s just not good for its citizens,” he says.

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  • Nov 19

    Today's Takeaways: Boots on The Ground in Iraq, Negotiating With Terrorists, and a True Crime Drama

    1. A Call For Boots on The Ground in Iraq | 2. The Hostage Question: Time to Talk to the Enemy? | 3. ISIS Fears Sink NSA Reform | 4. The Crime-Drama Recipe that Makes 'Serial' So Successful
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