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)__

  • Mar 03

    Building The Next Generation of Female Leaders

    How did Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, Mary Barra of General Motors, Ginni Rometty at IBM and Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo get to the top of their companies? Were they groomed for management and designated as the heir in an orderly process of succession? Or did they fight tooth-and-nail against an entrenched boy's club?

    There are a record 26 women who head Fortune 500 companies right now, and as the next generation of female business leaders emerge, there needs to be new models other than the traditional "renegade" and "pioneer," says Herminia Ibarra.

    Ibarra is a professor at the French business school INSEAD and author of the new book: "Act Like a Leader. Think Like Leader." She says there needs to be a new philosophy around confidence and leadership.

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  • Mar 03

    DOJ Accuses Ferguson Police of Racial Bias

    This week, the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) has released a report on racial bias and policing in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed African-American teenager, Michael Brown, was fatally shot and killed last August by a white police officer, Darren Wilson.

    The DOJ has found evidence of racial bias in routine police stops in Ferguson. Though African-Americans make up 63 percent of the city's population, they accounted for 86 percent of all traffic stops in 2013, according to the most recent data published by the Missouri attorney general. Now the city will either have to settle with the DOJ or face civil rights charges.

    A number of other cities across the country have gone through this process in recent years, including Portland, Oregon, where the DOJ found that Portland police routinely used excessive force against citizens with mental illness or those perceived to have mental illness.

    City officials in Portland settled with the Department of Justice last summer. Part of the settlement required outside monitoring of the Portland Police Bureau, and Dennis Rosenbaum applied for the job.

    Rosenbaum, professor and director of the Center for Research in Law and Justice at the University of Illinois, Chicago, has worked with a number of police departments and on training programs for police officers. He tells The Takeaway how the Department of Justice settlement is changing the Portland Police Bureau, and what Ferguson officials can learn from Portland's example. 

    Editor's Note: The audio portion of this interview incorrectly identifies the Portland Police Bureau as the Portland Police Department.  

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  • Mar 03

    Justice Department Taskforce Recommends Criminal Justice Reforms

    ?On the streets of Los Angeles, a homeless man fatally shot by police has stirred familiar emotions of shock and disbelief. The incident was captured on video, but details about exactly what led to the shooting are still not clear. 

    This latest death comes just as the federal government is in the midst of two initiatives that aim to address growing discontent about police tactics in the wake of the death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

    Later this week?, the Justice Department will release the results of an investigation into the policing practices of the Ferguson police department.  

    Meanwhile, on Monday, a separate Justice Department taskforce announced a series of recommendations to reform law enforcement nationwide. Among them:

    1. Embrace a guardian mindset to build public trust and legitimacy.

    2. Acknowledge the role of policing in past and present injustice and discrimination and how it is a hurdle to the promotion of community trust.

    3. Establish a culture of transparency and accountability in order to build public trust and legitimacy.

    4. Law enforcement agencies should promote legitimacy internally within the organization by applying the principles of procedural justice.

    5. Proactively promote public trust by initiating positive nonenforcement activities.

    Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, says it often seems like police departments are at war with communities. She welcomes the reforms being recommended by the DOJ.

    “You’ll recall that in Darren Wilson’s testimony before the grand jury in Ferguson, he described the community where he encountered Mike Brown as being a kind of ‘anti-police’ community, at least in his mind,” says Ifill. “I think this [guardian mindset] recommendation from the taskforce is important because it’s a reminder to police that they are to regard themselves as the guardians of safety for all communities.”

    Ifill says that police-community relations have long been strained around the nation, adding that officers are often looked at and behave as a “kind of hostile occupying force” in communities of color.

    “One of the great problems of dealing with racial discrimination is the insistence by so many that it doesn’t exist,” says Ifill. “This idea of truth and transparency is critically important.”

    Up until recently, Ifill says that certain parties have doubted the extent of racial discrimination. However, she says the rise of smartphones enabled with cameras and other technologies have captured discrimination as it happens, something that’s helped to change the dialogue about discrimination.

    “The proof that we’ve been able to see in the killing of Tamir Rice and some of these other police encounters over the last year have captured the national imagination,” she says. “It’s not as though these incidents were not happening before, but we were not believed.”

    Ifill argues that a lack of transparency directly fueled tensions in the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which is why she’s supportive of the DOJ recommendation encouraging openness. In refusing to release the name of the office involved in Brown’s death, she says that the police department “created the tensions that roiled that community.”

    Though transparency is an important step forward, Ifill says things need to go farther.

    “We’re talking about accountability—we’re talking about unarmed African-Americans being killed and no one being held responsible,” she says. “That’s the source of the statement ‘Black Lives Matter.’ If black lives matter, then when someone takes a life wrongfully, there will be some accountability for it. But we haven’t seen that.”

    Click on the audio player above to hear more form Sherrilyn Ifill.

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  • Mar 03

    I Parasailed Planet KOI 314.02 And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

    All this week, The Takeaway is exploring distant worlds light years away from Earth in our new series, “Brave New Worlds: Looking for Life in The Goldilocks Zone.”

    For an exoplanet to be "Earth-like," astronomers typically mean that it's roughly the same size as Earth and is made of rock instead of gas. But that doesn't mean the planet will look and feel anything like home.

    KOI 314.02 is a planet that is roughly the same mass as Earth, but it's much less dense. Sarah Ballard, NASA Carl Sagan fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle, helps us imagine what it might be like to stand on the surface of this planet.

    Ballard says that on Earth, mountains can only become so tall before our planet's gravity drags it back down. Because KO1 314.02 is so much less dense, its gravity is also far weaker, and mountains and canyons would reach extremes that would be impossible on Earth.

    And because KOI 314.02 is close to its star, Ballard says it's likely that it would only ever have one side of the planet facing the star. The heat gradient between the day side and the night sight of the planet would set up tremendous winds all around KOI 314.02 that might carve smooth mountain faces.

    Ballard says the extreme topography and climate might not make KOI 314.02 the best place to live—but it sure would be spectacular to see. 

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  • Mar 03

    No Remorse, No Signs of Change: How Sexual Violence Thrives in India

    In 2012, a 23-year-old Indian woman alleged she was gang-raped as she returned home from watching "Life of Pi" at a movie theater in South Delhi.

    She died from internal injuries 13 days later, and the crime set off of waves of outrage across the globe. In Delhi, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the on-going problem of sexual assault and rape in India. 

    In a stern op-ed, our partner The New York Times declared that "India must work on changing a culture in which women are routinely devalued." The United Nations called on India's government to "to do everything in their power to take up radical reforms, ensure justice and reach out with robust public services to make women's lives more safe and secure."

    In the aftermath of the assault, Indian officials did revise the country's laws on rape, even allowing for the death penalty to be applied in certain cases of rape.

    Perhaps because of all this, it was all the more shocking when, two years later, headlines announced that a  20-year-old woman in a remote village in West Bengal had been gang raped by 13 men on the orders of her village's tribal council. 

    Sonia Faleiro is the author of "Beautiful Thing," and co-founder of Deca, a digital publisher. She recently investigated what really happened to the 20-year-old victim known by her friends as "Baby," and what this case tells us about the Indian justice system. Her story is called "Thirteen Men."  

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  • Mar 03

    Iraqi Military Moves to Reclaim City from ISIS

    In what looks like a precursor to the planned U.S. offensive in Mosul scheduled for this spring, the Iraqi military began a large scale operation on Monday to retake the city of Tikrit from the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

    The fighting is a test for the Iraqi military, comprised mostly of Shiite militia fighters, which will be working to secure the Sunni stronghold.

    Tim Arango, Baghdad bureau chief for our partner The New York Times, joins us with the latest. 

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  • Mar 03

    Netanyahu's Speech: An Israeli Perspective

    On the invitation from House Speaker John Boehner, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will addresses Congress today against the wishes of President Obama. The prime minister will discuss Iran and the White House's proposal to ease sanctions in return for Iran giving up its nuclear program.

    The speech has already exposed divisions in and between Congress, the White House, American Jews and even the state of Israel, says Dan Diker, host of the program "National Security" at the English-language Israeli radio network Voice of Israel.

    Diker, also a foreign policy fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, believes that the prime minister's wariness on Iran stems from Israel's unique position in the Middle East. He also notes that Netanyahu may have access to intelligence unavailable to American authorities.

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  • Mar 03

    Sexual Assault on Campus: A Panic?

    The Obama Administration has made tackling sexual assault on university and college campuses a top priority.

    Last year the White House created a task force to focus on the problem and later announced recommendations and guidelines about how schools should address sexual assault cases. The Department of Education also released the names of colleges under investigation for not complying with federal rules concerning the handling of sexual violence complaints.

    While the efforts to bring reform to campuses have been welcomed by many, including victims of rape, others have been critical of the response and have raised concerns about potentially denying the right to due process for those accused of sexual assault.

    Harvey Silverglate, a criminal defense and civil liberties attorney and author, expressed his worries in a recent opinion piece in The Boston Globe. Silverglate wrote that “college bureaucrats have taken to adjudicating felonies with a vengeance, largely out of fear of losing federal government funds.”

    The Takeaway talks with Silverglate about efforts to aggressively confront sexual violence on college campuses. As an attorney, Silverglate often represents students in college disciplinary cases, including some facing allegations of sexual assault.

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  • Mar 03

    Today's Takeaways: Law Enforcement Reform, Campus Due Process, and Other Worldly Exoplanets

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  • Mar 02

    Obamacare Heads Back to the Supreme Court

    Can the federal government help pay healthcare insurance premiums for needy Americans? The 11 million people who have enrolled in coverage plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) seem to think this is a good idea.

    But most of them could get some jarring news depending on the outcome of a Supreme Court case being heard this week. The case, King Vs. Bruwell, challenges the federal exchange that has helped more than 9 million people get low cost health insurance.

    Julie Appleby, a reporter for Kaiser Health News, has the details.

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  • Mar 02

    Masha Gessen: Russia Today Is a 'Totalitarian State'

    Yesterday, tens of thousands of protesters marched in Moscow to honor deceased politician Boris Nemtsov, who was fatally shot on Friday.

    Nemtsov, the nation's former deputy prime minister, was an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and was planning to release a pamphlet detailing Putin’s connection to the conflict in Ukraine.

    Supporters of Nemtsov took to the streets chanting "Russia without Putin!" and "We'll not forget, we'll not forgive!" The protesters insist that the Russian government had something to do with Nemtsov's death, but President Putin has condemned the killing and vowed to find out who was responsible.

    Masha Gessen is a Russian Journalist based in New York. Her most recent book is called "Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot." Gessen says that Nemtsov’s assassination is symbolic of something else.

    "Russia is on its way to becoming a fully totalitarian state," she says.

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  • Mar 02

    Red Baraat Live at The Takeaway!

    It's not everyday that we have a live soundtrack for the news. But today, The Takeaway is thrilled to have Red Baraat as our in-studio house band.

    This innovative music group has played Bonnaroo, Austin City Limit, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and a cozy little music venue in D.C. called The White House.

    Their last album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard World Music Charts, and they've been touring all over since they dropped their new album, Gaadi of Truth.

    If you don't speak Hindi, Gaadi loosely translates to journey or vehicle, or more literally train. And that's a little what Red Baraat feels like—a rumbling Punjabi train ride with an amazing view.

    Today the band joins us to perform live in the studios of WNYC Radio, and to talk about their new album, their tour, and how their Festival of Colors is bringing the Hindu tradition of Holi to a new audience.

    Check out some photos and videos of their time in the studio below.

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  • Mar 02

    Looking for Gold in the Mountains of Maine

    Far underneath the snow in the state of Maine sits potential riches of gold and copper. These precious metals have some people arguing about mining rights and environmental worries.

    This old debate is resurfacing in Maine because J.D. Irving, an oil and forestry company, has its eye on these metal deposits that sit in the rocks of Bald Mountain, in the north western part of the state.

    An estimated 33.8 million tons of ore lies within Bald Mountain, and in order for it to be extracted, the state must first deal with an overhaul of mining laws from 1991.

    Mal Leary, chief political correspondent for Maine Public Broadcasting, has the details on this story.

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  • Mar 02

    Could Humans Survive On Kepler-438b?

    All this week, The Takeaway is exploring distant worlds light years away from Earth in our new series, “Brave New Worlds: Looking for Life in The Goldilocks Zone.”

    Of the hundreds of planets that the Kepler Spacecraft has confirmed, only a handful have been considered very "Earth-like." One of these planets is Kepler-438b, about 470 light years from Earth.

    What would it take for Kepler-438b to be habitable? For answers, we turn to Dr. Natalie Batalha, an astronomer at NASA’s Ames Research Center and a Kepler Mission scientist.

    “At first glance, this appears to be a planet very much like Earth,” says Batalha. “It’s about the same size—it’s only about 10 percent larger than the Earth in its radius. It receives about the same amount of energy from its star that Earth receives from its sun. So, you might think that it’s going to be very Earth-like, but as we travel there and take a closer look, we start to notice some big differences.”

    For starters, Batalha says that Kepler-438b's star is very different from our sun—it's an M-class dwarf star that's small, dim, and ruddy. It's these properties that dictate the conditions on Kepler-438b.

    “It’s about half the size of our sun and it’s about 2,000 degrees cooler than our own sun,” she says. “It’s emitting mostly red and infrared radiation as opposed to the yellow, visible light that our own sun emits. As we’re flying towards it, if you can imagine that, we won’t see it as being this really deep red star—we’d see kind of an orangish, yellow hue just because of the response from our eyeball and how that’s evolved on our own Earth.”

    Batalha says M-class dwarf stars have intense magnetic fields that give rise to sunspots and coronal mass ejections—those are massive bursts of magnetically charged gasses similar to what we can see from our own sun. But with M-class dwarf stars, things are exaggerated tenfold.

    If a human were to theoretically stand on the surface Kepler-438b, a viewer would see a spectacular light show in the sky because of the intensity of the planet’s star.

    “If [Kepler-438b] itself has magnetic fields like our own Earth does, then the wind of charged particles that’s coming out of these coronal mass ejections are going to slam into the planet but be funneled by the magnetic fields towards the poles,” says Batalha. “When these charged particles get funneled, they start colliding with the atmosphere. That creates an emission that we know [on Earth] as the northern and southern lights.”

    Though it might be beautiful, Batalha says that if humans were to theoretically homestead on Kepler-438b, rotation would be necessary to generate magnetic fields. But that may not be an option 470 light years away.

    “What we know is that all life is carbon-based, and carbon-based chemistry requires water for its survival,” she says. “We’re looking for planets where water can pool on the surface. But if you’ve got a central start with such a low luminosity—only four percent of the sun’s luminosity—you’re going to have to cozy up close to that star to create those conditions.”

    Because of the size and dimness of an M-class dwarf star, Kepler-438b or any potentially habitable planet would need to be very close in order to get the right amount of energy to have liquid water on the surface, subjecting it to strong tidal forces.

    Batalha says that's likely to lock the planet into a synchronous rotation, meaning only one side of the planet ever faces the star—something that’s similar to the way Earth's moon faces our planet. And that could create some very alien environments on Kepler-438b.

    “The Earth is kind of like a rotisserie chicken—it’s spinning on its axis and it gets nicely toasted on all sides,” she says. “If you have a planet that’s locked in a synchronous rotation, than that rotisserie chicken is only getting cooked on one side. But it’s not quite so dire. Kepler-438b has an atmosphere. That atmosphere can be heated on one side, but then it’s free to circulate through these extreme temperature gradients to the other side. You could end up with a more temperate situation where the atmosphere is redistributing from the day side over to the night side, thereby making it more amenable to life.”

    Batalha says it’s likely that Kepler-438b didn’t always have a synchronous rotation, but it’s unknown how long it might it’s been that way.

    “I would think that, with time, this kind of dramatic weather, just like in a convection oven where you’re circulating air, you’re going to set up tremendous circulation patterns—global circulation or convention cells that are going to create tremendous winds,” she says. “You might imagine, initially, that you’d heat up the surface at that substellar point dramatically, and if there were oceans there you might evaporate a large quantity of water, which will create huge, thick clouds.”

    Initially, the clouds on Kepler-438b might work to cool the surface of the planet, blocking the heat and radiation from its star. But that model would not be sustainable in the long term.

    “You’d be kind of OK for a while, but it would continue to heat,” says Batalha. “You would start getting that circulation and you’d push that warm air over to the back side. And then what’s going to happen? It’s going condense, rain out—maybe even freeze. With time, slowly but surely, what I imagine might happen is the oceans on the dayside might gradually evaporate away and you would start piling up all of that water in a frozen state on the backside.”

    Though building a life in the “sweet spot” between the dark side and light side might be a human’s best bet, it seems that Kepler-438b is no home-sweet-home.

    “For us, if we were to be airlifted in to Kepler-438b, we’d have a hard time,” says Batalha. “But you know, life is prolific, robust and creative, and I could imagine that there would be life on that planet that’s adapted just fine.”

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  • Mar 02

    Missing WWII Airmen Buried After 70 Years

    In the midst of World War II, on April 10th, 1944, a B-24D Liberator carrying twelve U.S. crew members took off from Nazbab Air Field in New Guinea.

    The flight was shot down soon after. The military found the remains of three of the men after the war, but the remains of nine others have missing for more than 70 years—until now.

    The remains of the missing men are coming home and are being returned to their families. One of these airmen, Tech. Sgt. Charles L. Johnston, is being buried today at Arlington National Cemetery. All nine men will be honored at a March 18th service at the cemetery.

    Wil S. Hylton, author of "Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II," explains how these missing men were discovered and identified.

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  • Mar 02

    Washington Divided Ahead of Netanyahu Visit

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress tomorrow. Despite protests from Democrats, House Speaker John Boehner said he expects a full house.

    Netanyahu will outline his concerns regarding Iran's nuclear program and the negotiations between Iran, the U.S. and Western allies. Israel is concerned that any deal allowing Iran to enrich uranium is unacceptable, a position the West has shown more flexibility on.

    The speech puts many Democrats who strongly support Israel in an awkward position. Netanyahu will not meet with President Obama during his stay in Washington D.C. The White House cited a long held policy of not meeting with heads of state so close to an election—Israeli elections will be held on March 17th.

    Meanwhile, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are upping the pressure on the Obama Administration by putting forward new bill that will give Congress final say over any deal with Iran and prevent the White House from altering sanctions. Obama says he'll veto the legislation if it passes.

    Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington Correspondent, weighs in the climate in Washington ahead of Netanyahu's speech.

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  • Mar 02

    Today's Takeaways: Outrage in Moscow, Exoplanets, and A Soundtrack for The News

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  • Feb 28

    The Takeaway Weekender: The Music Edition

    The latest Takeaway Weekender Podcast is all about the music! Robin Thicke goes to court with the Marvin Gaye estate over "Blurred Lines," and we ask our listeners and WQXR's Elliot Forest for more examples of stolen songs.

    Shorefire recording artists Kitty, Daisy, and Lewis join us to talk about how you manage to rock and roll with your siblings.

    Plus, there's a preview of our upcoming live house band, Red Baraat, who joins us next week for live bumper music.

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  • Feb 27

    Con Artists, Bringing Back the Dead, and Vampires in their Downtime

    In this week's Movie Date podcast, there are a lot of heavy topics and lousy movies. 

    The dark topics include theft ("Focus"), death ("The Lazarus Effect" and "Farewell to Hollywood"), and rape ("The Hunting Ground")

    The lousy movies include most of the above.

    But on the bright side, Jemaine Clement, of Flight of the Conchords fame, stops by to talk about his new film, "What We Do in the Shadows." It's a vampire horror comedy mockumentary, and yes, you read that correctly. 

     

     

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  • Feb 27

    Jemaine Clement on Vampires, IT Guys, and Peter Jackson

    Jermaine Clement is best known as one half of the comedy music duo Flight of the Conchords. But he's also starred in a number of films, including "Muppets Most Wanted," "Rio," "Men in Black 3," and "Dinner for Schmucks."  

    His newest film is a comedy mockumentary that focuses on the less glamorous side of vampire life. It's called "What We Do in the Shadows," and he co-wrote, co-directed and stars in it with Oscar nominee Taika Waikiti.

    Clement talked with Rafer Guzman and Kristen Meinzer, co-hosts of the Movie Date Podcast, about casting the film with regular people, working on a tight budget, and enlisting the help of fellow Kiwi Peter Jackson.

     

      

     

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  • Feb 27

    Sen. Thune: FCC Ruling on Net Neutrality 'Smacks of Big Government'

    On Thursday, a historic vote by the Federal Communications Commission upheld net neutrality and determined that broadband internet serviced must be regulated as a public utility.

    Just hours after that vote, Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich sat down with Republican Sen. John Thune. Thune is the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and the architect of the draft legislation to override the FCC. Thune said that while he's not surprised by the FCC's decision, he is disappointed. 

    "I guess the question I would ask is: Why do you have to change something that's worked so well?" Thune said. "This was a very abrupt change and it does smack of big government intervention into an area of our economy that has really prospered and thrived...I don't know why you would go away from what has worked when there is a better way."

    Thune drafted a six-page net-neutrality bill that would overrule the FCC. 

    “Can we get enough Democrats on board to actually pass something? I don't know," he said. "But I think we ought to try.”

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  • Feb 27

    ISIS Militants Capture Hundreds of Assyrian Christians

    In northeastern Syria, the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State has kidnapped Assyrian Christians from a dozen villages. Though it's been difficult to get exact numbers in the chaos, several hundred people are now believed be in captivity.

    Assyrians are a long-persecuted religious minority in the Middle East and consider themselves the last indigenous people of Syria and Iraq, with roots in those countries going back some 7,000 years.

    A number of Assyrian organizations have reported that negotiations are underway. The hope is that the Islamic State will release kidnapped villagers in exchange for ISIS fighters. There are reports that thousands of other Assyrians have since taken refuge at churches and nearby Kurdish towns.

    As of Friday morning, Assyrian leaders believed that about 287 people were taken captive, including 30 children and several dozen women. But an Assyrian militia group known as the Syriac Military Council estimates that the number is higher, around 350.

    George Stifo, U.S. branch president of the Assyrian Democratic Organization, has been getting updates on the situation from contacts in Syria.

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  • Feb 27

    Former DHS Chief to GOP: You've Picked The Wrong Battle

    There are just hours to go before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) begins furloughing some 30,000 employees and asks another 200,000 to continue working without pay—that is unless members of Congress can pass a bill to keep the agency funded.

    When Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich asked House Speaker John Boehner what the House would do, Speaker Boehner blew kisses at Todd as a way to avoid the question.

    Tom Ridge, is the nation's first director of Homeland Security and the former governor of Pennsylvania. He is urging members of Congress to pass a clean bill and keep DHS funded.  

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  • Feb 27

    U.S. Troops Leave Liberia As Epidemic Slows

    According to the Centers for Disease Control, since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa began, health officials have confirmed more than 9,265 cases and at least 4,057 have died. Many more have been affected by the disease in other ways, losing friends, family members and a way of life.

    But the outbreak has finally slowed: The World Health Organization found only one new case of Ebola in Liberia during the week of February 22, 2015, and the United States is wrapping up its Ebola mission in the West African country. Today, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf visits with President Obama at the White House to discuss the country's progress.

    As Vice President of Emergency Response at AmeriCares, Garrett Ingoglia manages a team of disaster relief and global health workers in Liberia. He traveled to the nation as the disease broke out, at the height of the epidemic, and again just recently. He tells The Takeaway about Liberia's progress against the disease, and how the country is trying to return to normal.

    “I think calling it a victory would be a little premature, but there’s certainly been a lot of great progress,” says Ingoglia. “When I was in Liberia in September, the situation was really dire—there were reports and projections that there could be 1 million people dying of Ebola by the time it was through. That has not happened, and a lot of the credit goes to the government of Liberia and the government of the U.S.”

    The key to turning the tide on the Ebola epidemic, Ingoglia argues, was changing the attitudes and behaviors of the communities directly affected by the spread of this deadly disease.

    “People really did, in Liberia particular, change their behavior,” he says. “If you go to Liberia now, you don’t see people shaking hands and being physically affectionate on the street, which was a big part of the culture before. People are washing their hands and being very careful about taking precautions.”

    In addition to warm greetings, burial rituals have also been disturbed in Liberia. Ingoglia says he does foresee a cultural return to normalcy in the future.

    “I don’t think that the way people are behaving now is truly sustainable,” he says. “You’re not going to have a situation where nobody hugs or shakes hands in the street. I think those things will change, but I think that there’s going to be a heightened awareness of the threat of this kind of disease. Critically, the health systems itself in these countries has got to improve.”

    Before the disease took hold, Ingoglia says that many of the Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa had a weak medical infrastructure that contributed to the spread of the virus. As nations like Liberia recover, he says that investment must be focused to ensure that healthcare workers are well equipped to deal with threats in the future.

    “In Monrovia, where there were the majority of cases [in Liberia], there are now signs everywhere and lots of attention placed on infection prevention and control,” says Ingoglia. “You can’t walk 10 feet without seeing a billboard or sign warning of the dangers of the disease...You’d be surprised at how widely the message has been spread.”

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  • Feb 27

    Thanks, Internet: The Best Five Things 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. What's the deal with Bizkit?

    Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff" over the bouncy jazz bass-heavy Seinfeld theme is either the song you hear as you descend into hell or a really smart mashup that perfectly captures the show's comedy of "he-said, she-said bull shit." Or both. You'll have to decide for yourself. 

    2.  Football Fantasy

    Walt talk Thai


    This week, Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight rolled out the most extensive analysis of sports video games the internet has ever seen. To figure out how the people at EA Sports determine player agility and superiority in games like the immensely popular Madden series, FiveThirtyEight sent its lifestyle writer Walt Hickey on a mission to become an actual digitized player in the game.

    After going through a series of time trials and skill tests (beautifully presented with GIFs, graphs, and video), Hickey becomes his best pixelated self and faces-off against the game's stars. It doesn't go well. Football season is over, but FiveThirtyEight doesn't care.

    3. Power/Rangers

    Van Der BACK


    Fan films are supposed to suck, so what happens when one is even better than the source material? It gets pulled from the internet. For proof, we have the case of Power/Rangers, a fourteen-minute fan film made by "Blank Space" director Joseph Kahn and starring James Van Der Beek (Dawson) and Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck). 

    Power/Rangers arrived on Tuesday. By Thursday it had been pulled from Vimeo and, after racking up at least 12 million views on YouTube, disappeared from the internet altogether. What makes this fan film different than all the rest, other than quality, is that Power Rangers creator Haim Saban wants to make a (presumably bad) movie in the near-future. Knowing the internet, the one that offered Saban a few pointers won't be gone for long. 

    4. #HashTigOscars

    Tig Notaro performs live on Soundcheck from WNYC's Greene Space.

     
    The best way to get something is to ask. Tig Notaro is well aware, hence her asking to host the next Academy Awards in a funny blog post this week:

    An open letter to the people looking for a new Oscar host, 
    Now, let me start by saying that I don’t have a problem with Neil Patrick Harris. This letter is STRICTLY an attempt to procure work for myself and if that means bumping this dude out of the way next year, then so be it. 

    Tig proceeds to list 11 reasons she'd make a better host than NPH or anyone else next year, including the fact that she looks like Ellen, lives close to the venue, and that she'll gladly promote the show on her podcast. Sold!

    5. Warren and Kenny G. Regulate

    A.K.A. Jimmy Kimmel producer understands internet.

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  • Feb 27

    Think Our Voting System is Color Blind? Think Again.

    When Congress passed the 1965 Voting Rights Act, non-white voters in the South and urban areas across the country had been facing racial discrimination at the polls.

    “Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically,” Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the 2013 The Shelby County v. Holder decision, which struck down the heart of the law. Has the “extraordinary problem” of voter discrimination really disappeared? 

    New political science research suggests that our voting system has simply traded one form of racial discrimination for another. Ariel White and Noah Nathan, two co-authors of the first political science experiment to test implicit bias in the voting system in the modern era, conclude that local election officials exhibit racial bias in how they implement election regulations and distribute registration requirements to voters.

    The spate of new voter ID laws passed before the 2012 presidential election prompted the study, which was conducted in the run up to the Shelby decision.

    “We have a lot of relatively confusing laws being passed, often relatively near to the election or being implemented at the last minute,” White says. “That’s where we worry that people who contact their local election officials may have a hard time getting information about these laws, and may then go on to not fully know how to go vote.”

    While the study doesn’t establish that voters are actively being suppressed, it does definitively show that, across the country, officials in charge of election law discriminate against voters based on ethnicity.

    “Different types of voters have different types of hurdles to overcome to get accurate information about what’s actually going to be required,” Nathan says. “Just because a law might in theory apply equally to everyone, in practice, when people interact with the bureaucrats implementing election laws, they might have very different experiences, and that might trickle down into whether or not they have the right information they need when they go to the polls.”

    Electoral discrimination brings to mind Ava DuVernay’s recent film "Selma," which opens with a sneering white registrar denying civil rights activist Annie Lee Cooper’s (Oprah Winfrey) application for voter registration on the basis of a twisted civic quiz—the kind of practice later outlawed by the Voting Rights Act.

    While the Voting Rights Act effectively prevented this kind of bald-faced discrimination in targeted areas, the study uncovers implicit bias throughout the entire electoral system.

    “What we’re showing in this experiment is not the county clerk in the first scene of 'Selma' turning away Oprah Winfrey with that explicit, overt racism,” Nathan says. “What we’re actually finding is a much more subtle and implicit bias that is similar to bias that’s been found in all sorts of other experiments similar to ours in other fields—with loan officers, HR workers, doctors, real estate agents—that show that when people make discretionary decisions about others, they can be implicitly biased against minorities in how helpful they’re going to be even if they don’t actually intend ill to those people.”

    White, Nathan, and their co-author Julie Faller—all of whom are PhD candidates in government at Harvard—sent e-mails to over 7,000 local election officials in 48 states asking for basic information about voter registration and whether identification was needed on election day. They sent identical e-mails from names that sounded ostensibly white, and names that sounded ostensibly Latino.

    While some officials did send correct information to both white and Latino voters, a disturbing pattern began to emerge.

    “When we sent those e-mails—the same text of the same e-mail—from a Latino-sounding name we got fewer responses overall. We more often heard radio silence. And we got slightly less thorough responses,” says White.

    “The aggregate effects of this in the population are that people from minority groups might be getting less informative information when they ask questions to these officials,” Nathan says.

    With the patchwork of new voter ID laws in 31 states, this kind of unconscious bias shifts the discriminatory burden from the poll site on election day to the weeks and months leading up to an election, when voters get the majority of their information on voting requirements.

    “With an experiment like this, you can’t explain this bias away based on anything else," Nathan says. "These are exactly the same e-mails sent to thousands of people. Everything about them is the same. The ethnicity of the person sending them is the really only thing that could plausibly be causing these differences.”

    In the wake of the Shelby County v. Holder decision, White says that their study, far from settling these issues, is a call for more research on how implicit bias impacts voter behavior and election outcomes.

    “We do need a critical mass of social science research that can address this question,” White says.

    Surprisingly, the mostly Southern and urban areas covered by the Voting Rights Act actually treated voters more fairly than other areas of the country.

    “In these areas the officials didn’t discriminate in their responsiveness or in the accuracy of their responses to our questions,” Nathan says. “It’s suggestive evidence that when you have people looking over your shoulder and making sure that you aren’t biased, you aren’t biased.”

    In a post-Shelby County v. Holder America, whether this pattern will hold is still anyone’s guess.

    “I think the best analogy here comes from Justice Ginsburg in the Shelby decision,” Nathan says referring to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s well-known oral dissent from the bench. “She argued, ‘You’re not getting wet. Is that because it’s raining, or because you’re holding up an umbrella?’ And the question is, should you close the umbrella?”

    “And the decision that they made was to close the umbrella,” Nathan adds.

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  • Feb 27

    Today's Takeaways: A Security Showdown, Racial Bias, and Jemaine Clement of Flight of The Conchords

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  • Feb 26

    John Boehner Blows Kisses at The Takeaway's Washington Corespondent

    House Speaker John Boehner isn't typically thought of as a warm and fuzzy guy. But today during his weekly briefing, Speaker Boehner blew kisses at Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich when he asked him a question about funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

    Check out the 30 second video below. Warning: You can't unsee this.

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  • Feb 26

    Modern Living Is Making Us Allergic to the World

    We live in great times: Machines wash our dishes, and the food we eat off those dishes can be anything we like (and nothing we don't).

    But two new studies suggest that the wonders of modern living and the control we have over our environments may actually be hurting us.

    One study found a link between peanut avoidance in early childhood and the development of peanut allergies in children. The other study found a link between households that use dishwashing machines and, again, the development of allergies in children.

    None of this surprises Juan Enriquez, the co-author of the forthcoming book “Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth.”

    In addition to being a co-author of "Evolving Ourselves," Enriquez was founding director of the Harvard Business School Life Sciences Project.

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  • Feb 26

    Why Young Women Join ISIS & How to Stop Them

    Last week, three Muslim girls in the U.K. left London and traveled to Istanbul. From there, they were smuggled into Syria, to join the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

    Two of the girls are just 15-years-old, the other is only 16. Despite appeals from their parents and other leaders, they have yet to return. The young women follow about 550 other Western women who are believed to have joined ISIS's ranks. This week, three men in Brooklyn were arrested before they could leave: They have been accused of planning to travel to Syria, also to join ISIS.

    Sara Khan, director of Inspire, a counter-extremism and women's human rights organization in the U.K., explains that the motivation to join the Islamic State often varies from recruit to recruit. For some it's response to a "clash of civilizations" narrative—the feeling that the West is at war with Islam. For others, it's about filling a void in their personal lives.

    Khan recently wrote an open letter to young Muslim women urging them to think twice before joining ISIS, a group that she says has taken recruitment to a whole new level. 

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  • Feb 26

    As Wisconsin Debates Right-to-Work, Gov. Walker Looks Ahead to 2016

    This week, Wisconsin state lawmakers began debating a right-to-work law, as thousands of union leaders and their supporters protested at the state capitol.

    It's a familiar scenario for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has promised to sign the right-to-work legislation. Back in 2011, just six weeks after Walker took office, the legislature passed a similar bill for public sector employees. After weeks of protest, Walker eventually signed the bill into law—a move that prompted a recall election that he eventually won.

    The new bill would exempt private sector workers from paying the equivalent of union dues if they decide not to join a union. While protests have again attracted supporters in Madison and Milwaukee, the right-to-work bill is likely to pass since Republicans control both the state senate and assembly. 

    Patrick Marley, Madison bureau chief for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and co-author of “More than They Bargained For: Scott Walker, Unions, and the Fight for Wisconsin," tells The Takeaway that in 2012, the governor promised he would do everything in his power to block right-to-work legislation. He now tells the Journal-Sentinel that he always supported right-to-work legislation—he just wanted to wait for the right time to advocate for it.

    As Marley explains, the debate over right-to-work has given Governor Walker a national platform as the governor looks ahead to 2016. This month, Governor Walker became the first GOP presidential hopeful to open an office in Iowa, where a Quinnipiac poll finds him leading the Republican field among caucus-going Republicans. The governor has also hired advisors in New Hampshire.

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  • Feb 26

    The Fight Against Digital Dead Zones

    This week, we've heard from many people who are basking in to glow of their screens as they enjoy a sort of internet utopia. Some have access to state of the art internet services that makes everything from streaming "Orange is the New Black" to uploading massive digital packages happen faster than you can say "Google it."

    But not everyone is so lucky. In fact, there are many people in the United States, especially in rural areas, who live in digital dead zones. Though you may think of Massachusetts as a leader in technology, residents in Western Massachusetts are living in the digital Dark Ages.

    Monica Webb is the chairman and spokesperson for WiredWest, a coalition of communities who seek to form a regional municipally owned fiber optic network. She explains the private sector's lack of interest in the area, and why universal web access is an important goal to aim for beyond net neutrality.

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  • Feb 26

    Jihadi John Unmasked

    Last week, three young girls in the United Kingdom left London and traveled to Istanbul. From there, they were smuggled into Syria, to join the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS).

    Though the precise whereabouts of these three young British girls remains unknown, the identity of one ISIS fighter has finally been made public.

    "Jihadi John"—the British executioner who has appeared in videos distributed by ISIS—has been unmasked and identified as Mohammed Emwazi. In the brutal videos, Emwazi is depicted killing American journalist James Foley among other Western hostages.

    Adam Goldman, a reporter for The Washington Post, has the details on this story.

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  • Feb 26

    Today's Takeaways: Jihadi John Unmasked, When The Internet Goes Bad & Our Allergic World

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  • Feb 25

    Municipally Owned Networks: The Future of The Open Web?

    In the lead up to a historic vote expected from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) tomorrow on net neutrality, we're hearing from places in the United States. with some of the best and some of the worst internet service. Today we go to Wilson, North Carolina.

    In addition to tomorrow's vote on net neutrality, the FCC will also decide whether or not to intervene in Tennessee and North Carolina—two states that have laws that limit the ability of municipally owned internet providers to expand.

    Will Aycock is the general manager of Greenlight Community Broadband in Wilson, North Carolina. And Brad Kalinoski, a visual effects supervisor for ExodusFx, moved his business to Wilson for the fast affordable internet service. 

    They explain how the FCC's ruling on municipally owned internet networks may impact their businesses.

    UPDATE 2/26/15: The FCC has voted to override laws preventing municipal broadband expansion.

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  • Feb 25

    Striking Back Against Banks: Student Loan Holders Go on Strike

    This year, student loan debt reached a new high in the United States, inching up to a whopping $1.16 trillion. And now some are pushing back.

    This week, 15 students who took out loans to attend a number of for-profit institutions owned by Corinthian Colleges, Inc. announced that they are going on a "debt strike."

    Their action, which is being led by a national group called the Debt Collective, is a statement specifically against Corinthian. They say the educational outlet uses dubious legal and ethical techniques to attract students to its colleges and rope them into mounds of debt.

    But they're also making a broader statement about student debt across the board. Ann Larson, organizer with the Debt Collective, explains what the strikers hope to achieve.

    “They were led into a debt trap,” Larson says. “They owe tens of thousands of dollars in some cases, for a degree that didn’t lead to a job and for an education that was substandard. This institution is well known for praying on people who are low income...people who don’t have a lot of support networks in their lives and are looking for a way to improve their circumstances.”

    Larson calls Corinthian Colleges a “predatory institution” that intentionally markets itself to potentially vulnerable people seeking new avenues for success. She adds that the for-profit education company is currently being sued by the federal government and several state agencies.

    “Our argument is that their student debt should be completely cancelled,” Larson says of the Corinthian 15. “There’s a [$1.16] trillion debt problem in the United States. These students are on the leading edge of taking the offense and saying, ‘We need to do something about this, we’re not going to wait for policy makers and elected officials to do the right thing, we’re going to demand justice.’”

    According to Larson, Corinthian Colleges, Inc. is mostly funded by the public—the institution derives about 90 percent of its funding from tax dollars and the federal student loan program.

    “For over two decades, they’ve taken money from a public source—student loans—and used it to enrich themselves, to enrich investors, and then the students were left holding the bag,” she says.

    Larson says that similar trends can be seen in public higher education as state education budgets are slashed and grants and endowments dry up. Without support, public colleges and universities shift the cost directly onto students, ultimately forcing many to take out larger loans.

    “For more and more middle and working class families, going into the debt is the only way to get a college education,” says Larson. “It didn’t used to be that way and it certainly doesn’t have to be that way. It’s a matter of priorities and how we want to fund higher education in America. We’ve gotten into this mindset where it seems perfectly acceptable to spend tens of thousands of dollars and go into decades of debt to get a college degree. We really need to start rethinking that system.”

    Many argue that taking on college debt will ultimately pay off in the long run—that it’s a sound investment that can spur success in the future. But Larson is skeptical of that argument.

    “Who is successful in this case? A few investors? The Department of Education also makes a lot of money servicing student loans,” she says. “But the students are left with nothing—they are worse off than when they began.”

    More and more young people continue to take on debt. In 2012, 71 percent of all students graduating from four-year colleges had student loan debt. That represents 1.3 million students graduating with debt, up from 1.1 million in 2008 and 0.9 million in 2004.

    Comparatively, in 1984, about 410,000 college graduates of four-year institutions completed college with education debt, a number that represented about 43 percent of all graduates of four-year institutions.

    And as student loan debt continues to mount, financial experts say we're starting to see the strain of all these loans elsewhere in the economy. The rate of homeownership among twenty-somethings is falling, and student loan debt seems to be dampening overall spending among recent graduates too.

    “People who have a lot of student debt don’t buy houses, they don’t buy cars, they’re very slow to start their own families, and thats a problem,” says Larson. “This is really a moral and ethical question also: Is it right to allow young people just starting out in life to take on more debt than they can ever repay?”

    A strike is a bold way to challenge this situation. But beyond the Corinthian 15, how much leverage do millions of other students across the country have?

    “There are risks to not paying your debt, and we wouldn’t suggest that anyone do that on their own, that’s why we’re trying to create unions, collectives and communities for people to support each other,” she says. “If you owe the bank $1,000, the bank owns you. But if you owe the bank $1 trillion, you own the bank.”

    Listen to the full interview above to hear listeners share their student debt stories.

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  • Feb 25

    Ex-Marine Guilty in 'American Sniper' Murder Trial

    A jury has handed down a guilty verdict in the murder trial of former U.S. Navy Seal Chris Kyle—the man that wrote the memoir "American Sniper," a book that was turned into a major motion picture by Clint Eastwood.

    Two years ago, Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were killed on a shooting range by ex-Marine Eddie Ray Routh. Routh was convicted of murder yesterday and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

    The court case showcased some of the disturbing post-combat issues veterans often experience, and it highlighted a national tragedy for a veteran who has been made a household name by the success of "American Sniper."

    Doualy Xaykaothao, a senior reporter for KERA in Dallas, Texas, has the details on this case.

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  • Feb 25

    An Intimate & Complicated History of Women in Pakistan

    The contemporary struggle for women's rights in Pakistan has largely been told through the story of Malala Yousafzai, the young Nobel Peace Prize winner fighting the Taliban and demanding equal access to education for young girls and women.

    But for women in Pakistan, Malala is an important but very small part of the story.

    Rafia Zakaria is a Pakistani-American attorney, activist and author. In her new memoir, "The Upstairs Wife," Zakaria takes an in-depth look at the role of women in Pakistan, beginning with the women in her family, and what her family's story means for the story of modern Pakistan.

    From a young age, Zakaria was raised in a culture where her value as a woman was intrinsically tied into marriage, her future husband, and the children they would have together. She started to question that mindset when her aunt's husband took a second wife without her aunt's consent.

    As she tells The Takeaway, "What value is having children going to have in your life? What do you do if you fall in love with a man and he doesn't love you back? Is that a defeat in terms of being a woman? These are universal questions that draw all human experience together."

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  • Feb 25

    Today's Takeaways: Yellen Before Congress, A Student Loan Debt Revolt, and Women in Pakistan

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  • Feb 24

    An Interactive Guide to Net Neutrality

    The principle of the open internet is often referred to as "net neutrality." Under this principle, all internet traffic must be treated equally. Adopting laws that reinforce the net neutrality principle would mean that companies cannot charge more money for faster service.

    Want to know more about net neutrality? Check out the timeline from the group Public Knowledge.

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  • Feb 24

    The Blurred Lines Between Theft and Artistic Inspiration

    Almost exactly two years after the song "Blurred Lines" was released in March 2013, a trial begins today to determine if the hugely popular song by Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and T.I. is actually a rip-off of the song "Got to Give it Up," by Marvin Gaye. 

    Though a federal judge has ruled that the Gaye's legendary song will not be played in court for jurors, Gaye's children say Thicke and Williams illegally copied their father's work and are claiming copyright infringement.

    But this certainly isn't the first time that musicians have borrowed, been inspired by, or flat-out stolen from each other. In fact, Pharrell is in the company of some of the most respected musicians out there, even classical master like Bach.

    Elliott Forrest is midday host on WQXR and says there's a long history of "borrowing" content—and sometimes blatantly stealing content—in the world of classical music. 

    What do you think? Listen to the songs and tell us in the comments.

    Marvin Gaye "Got to Give It Up"

    Pharrell & Robin Thicke "Blurred Lines"

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  • Feb 24

    The Conspiracy Theories Behind the Malaysian Flight 370 Disappearance

    In the days after Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 suddenly went missing somewhere between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, CNN posted a poll on its website asking readers what they thought happened to the plane.

    In total, 9 percent of respondents thought it was either very or somewhat likely that the plane was abducted by aliens—"time travelers, or beings from another dimension," as the poll put it.

    That one earned the mockery of Perez Hilton and was soon taken off the site. But the fact remains that nearly a year after flight MH370 vanished, no one has a clear explanation of just what happened on that flight that day in March. 

    Last year, science journalist Jeff Wise joined the cadre of "experts" paid to have some ideas about what happened to the flight when he became an "aviation analyst" for CNN.  

    He writes about his experience as an aviation analyst in a story titled, ”How Crazy Am I To Think I Actually Know Where the Malaysia Airlines Plane Is?” published in this week’s issue of New York magazine.

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  • Feb 24

    Rest Easy, America. Coffee is Good for You.

    Coffee: Many of us can't imagine life without it.

    But is there a limit to how much we should drink? With a Starbucks on every corner, pots brewing in every office, and plenty of coffee being consumed at home, is it possible that Americans might be consuming too much coffee?

    Rest easy, America—the answer is no. In fact, the nation’s top nutrition panel says coffee isn’t just okay to drink, but that maybe we should drink more of it.

    Miriam E. Nelson is a professor of nutrition at Tufts University. She's also a member of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which produced this new report and advises the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    “We were looking at coffee because of the increase of all these different types of caffeine products that are out there,” she says. “We really wanted to do a thorough review in case there was really some negative health impact from some of these products.”

    In their newest report, Nelson and her colleagues had great news for all the coffee lovers out there.

    “What we saw when we looked at all the evidence is that in fact, two, three, four, or five cups of coffee a day—and I’m talking about eight ounce cups of coffee, not huge coffees—that in fact there’s a health benefit,” says Nelson. “Drinking coffee reduces your risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver and endometrial cancer, and also probably Parkinson’s disease. It’s good news.”

    Nelson says that the average coffee drinker has about two to three cups of coffee everyday. Though coffee connoisseurs may want to jump and put on a second or third pot, Nelson stresses that coffee drinking only has positive benefits in moderation—she warns against “excessive” caffeine intake, which can be detrimental one’s health. Additionally, Nelson also suggests that high caffeine shots or beverages can be dangerous.

    “We need more research on this to really understand it, but the number of emergency room visits—especially in teenagers or young adults that might be adding these caffeine shots to alcoholic beverages—that’s a serious problem,” she says. “The good news here is really around plain old coffee drinking.”

    Though upping your coffee intake from two cups to four cups could have health benefits, Nelson says that consumers must be wary of what they’re putting in their coffee. Adding creamers loaded with fat and sugar adds on extra calories that can negatively impact a person’s health.

    “We do need to worry about the calories,” she says. “But coffee is a whole food and it’s a great food.”

    Will Nelson be adding an extra cup of coffee into her morning routine? Don’t count on it.

    “I’m actually a tea drinker,” she says.

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  • Feb 24

    How Kansas City Became an Internet Powerhouse

    In 2011, Google announced that Kansas City, Missouri would join it's sister city in Kansas to become the first test site for Google Fiber, which offers a connection that's up to 100 times faster than today's basic broadband speeds.

    Four years later, many tout the successes of this project including, Kansas City Mayor Sly James. He believes it's done a lot for entrepreneurs in the city.

    "It attracts people who are entrepreneurial and innovative into the city so that they can play with it, experiment with it, twist it up and put things together with it," he tells The Takeaway. 

    However, the project hasn't been without criticism. One of the biggest issues, according to Mayor James, has been closing the digital divide.

    "One of the things that Google coming in to Kansas City certainly made crystal clear is that there is a very real digital divide," he says. "[Google] incentivized neighborhoods or parts of neighborhoods that they called 'fiberhoods' to actually compete for the roll-out of the product, and as those neighborhoods reached the percentage goal of people who wanted to subscribe, then they would turn green. Well we saw that most of the green was in conjunction with the historic racial divide in the city, Troost Avenue. So on one side of Troost it was green and on the other side it was yellow."

    This is an issue Kansas City, Missouri—a member of the Next Century Cities program—has been trying to address ever since. 

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  • Feb 24

    How the King of Kombucha Built a Beverage Empire

    Before GT Dave got into the business of selling kombucha as a teenager, there was no such thing as commercial kombucha, a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. 

    But this year consumers will by $600 million of kombucha, and at least half of it comes from GT Dave's company, Synergy Kombucha.

    GT Dave is the subject of a profile in the March issue of INC magazine. He joins The Takeaway to explain how he built a beverage empire.

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  • Feb 24

    U.S. and Iraqi Forces Plan to Seize City from ISIS

    Throughout the American occupation of Iraq, Mosul was known as a hotbed of opposition to U.S. troops. When the U.S. invaded, the Sunni-dominated city was home to thousands of former Saddam Hussein loyalists and soldiers, expelled from Baghdad during de-Baathification. 

    Once Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki consolidated his power, he targeted Sunni opposition leaders, which fed a growing resentment to the Shiite leader.

    Last June, the resentment helped ISIS overrun Mosul in a four-day battle with Iraqi troops. As Mitchell Prothero, Baghdad bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, then reported, the city's capture gave ISIS access to a civilian airport, a military airport, a border crossing with Syria, a weapons depot and more. 

    Once a city of 1.8 million, at least 500,000 citizens fled Mosul after the ISIS invasion, including the city's entire Christian minority population. Prothero discusses Mosul's recent history and life in the city today, under ISIS.

    Up to 25,000 Iraqi and Kurdish military fighters are being readied to retake Mosul with support from U.S. and allied air support and intelligence. A CENTCOM spokesperson told The Washington Post that U.S. troops on the ground will continue to train Iraqi soldiers for battle. There are about 2,000 troops that have graduated from the U.S. program and another 3,400 are currently training.

    But could an attack on Mosul lead to even more bloodshed and renewed sectarian violence?

    For answers, we turn to Retired Col. Peter Mansoor. He served as the executive officer to General David Patreaus during the Iraq surge in 2007-2008. He's now professor of military history at Ohio State University.

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  • Feb 24

    Today's Takeaways: Taking Back Mosul, The Benefits of Coffee, and Conspiracy Theories

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  • Feb 26

    Join The Takeaway For a Net Neutrality Twitter Chat

    Should all internet traffic be treated equally? That was the question before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week. In a 3-2 vote, the FCC voted to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility.

    What do you think of the decision? Join Takeaway Host John Hockenberry and Marvin Ammori, a thought leader on internet law and a net neutrality advocate instrumental in organizing actions around the FCC vote, for a Twitter chat today

    We'll discuss the FCC's vote and the internet access issues important to you. Today at 5:00 PM Eastern follow the hashtag #TTChat and @TheTakeaway, @JHockenberry and @ammori to participate. Have a question you'd like addressed in the chat? Leave it in the comments below.

    Confused about net neutrality? Check out this timeline from Public Knowledge below.

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  • Feb 23

    At the Heart of ISIS, a Battle Over Islam

    Millions of Muslims across the world reject the self-proclaimed Islamic State's claim to religious legitimacy.

    "These terrorists are desperate for legitimacy," President Obama told reporters at the State Department last week. "And all of us have the responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam because that is a falsehood that embraces the terrorists' narrative."

    While Graeme Wood acknowledges that most Muslims refute the Islamic State's claim to religious truth, he argues that to effectively combat the terrorist group, the Obama Administration and leaders across the world need to recognize ISIS's commitment to its own interpretation of Islam.

    Wood, author of the column "What ISIS Really Wants" in the March 2015 issue of The Atlantic, where he's also a contributing editor, claims that if President Obama refuses to acknowledge ISIS as fundamentally religious, the U.S. won't be able to defeat the terrorist group.

    Haroon Moghul disagrees. An author and commentator on Muslim affairs and Islamic thought, he refuted Wood's piece in Salon, writing, "Though ISIS assembles its rhetoric with bits and pieces of religion, its relationship to Islam is like Frankenstein to a human being, or a zombie to a living person."

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  • Feb 23

    A Slow-Moving Natural Disaster Overcomes Boston

    More than seven feet of snow has crippled the city of Boston. Public transit systems have shutdown, thousands have been forced to miss work, and the city has already spent $35 million on snow removal—more than double what it had budgeted.

    The snow has also collapsed roofs, destroyed roads and sidewalks, shut schools and businesses, closed highways, and trapped people inside.

    Some like E. J. Graff, a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, have called it a slow-moving natural disaster.

    "Sure, it’s not the same as an earthquake: The snow will melt, eventually. But that will bring more woes," Graff wrote in a recent New York Times column. "Where are the federal disaster funds, the presidential visit, Anderson Cooper interviewing victims, volunteers flying in, goods and services donated after hurricanes and tornadoes? The pictures may be pretty. But we need help, now."

    Craig LeMoult, a reporter with our partner station WGBH, weighs in on Boston's "winter from Hell."

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  • Feb 23

    An Identity Shaped by The 'War on Terror'

    When it comes to the "War on Terror," much of the collateral damage has taken place in Pakistan. After 2003, Pakistan's annual death toll from terrorist attacks rose sharply, and between 2003 and 2013, some 35,000 Pakistanis were killed in terror attacks and counter-terror violence.

    Novelist Mohsin Hamid was born in Lahore, and while he spent many years as a young adult in London and New York, he now lives in Lahore with his wife and children.

    His novels, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" and "How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia," explore Pakistan's relationship with the west as a booming economic force, and as the home of some 180 million Muslims. 

    In his latest book, a collection of essays called "Discontent and Its Civilizations," he reflects on how his identity as a Pakistani has changed in the years since 9/11 by the ongoing “War on Terror” forged by the west. 

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  • Feb 23

    Web Utopias & Dial Up Dead Zones: The Fight for Net Neutrality

    Should all internet traffic be treated equally? That's the question before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week as they prepare for a historic vote on net neutrality.

    But net neutrality isn't necessarily a magic bullet—there’s more to ensuring all citizens have access to reliable affordable internet. From fiber utopias to dial up dead zones, all this week The Takeaway is exploring the best and worst of the internet in the U.S.

    This Thursday: Net Neutrality Twitter Chat 

    In part one of our internet access series we talk to Professor Tim Wu of Columbia Law School. Wu is the author of the "Master Switch" and "Net Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination," among other works, and the man who coined the term "net neutrality" in 2003. 

    “At its most original form, net neutrality was a principle of how companies carrying information should act,” says Wu. “It was like an ethical rule—like don’t lie or don’t degrade. What we’ve seen now is [a push for] a legal enforcement by the government of the net neutrality principle.”

    Wu believes that the FCC will rule in favor of net neutrality this week—a ruling that would be reflective of public desire: As of January 2015, advocates supporting net neutrality have sent more than 1 million messages to the FCC or Congress.

    “They’ve changed their tune over the year and have gone, basically, full bore for the net neutrality approach—I think they’re not going to compromise,” Wu says of the FCC.

    FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is not likely to support net neutrality. Earlier this month, he penned an essay that outlined his plan to reclassify the internet as a public utility.

    So why is this such an issue in the United States? When looking around the world, Wu says that South Korea currently has the best internet service in the world, but The Netherlands is also close behind. He says that there is a simple reason why internet service quality varies nation to nation.

    “It’s the product of government infrastructure spending,” he says. “Some governments think of the internet as a public infrastructure like highways or bridges. And governments outside the United States spend a lot of money on infrastructure. We spend some, but other countries spend more, and those countries tend to have the fastest internet service.”

    Outside of Asia and Scandinavia, Wu says that Kansas City currently boasts the fastest internet in the United States.

    “Google has wired Kansas City, and as a consequence, the cable and phone companies have felt that they have to offer better service,” he says. “They’re racing to the top in Kansas City, not just in barbecue but in bandwidth.”

    Will the rest of the nation get there? Wu says the U.S. is well prepared. Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, the cable industry wired most homes in the United States—something that has actually given America an advantage.

    “The problem in the United States is not so much our infrastructure as much as the insistence on ringing every single last cent of profit out of those pipes,” says Wu. “When people say, ‘Why don’t they offer more bandwidth?’ Companies are saying, ‘Well, how are we going to make money out of that?’ as opposed to, ‘Why would that be good for the country?’”

    The owners of internet infrastructures can profit from congestion, and one of the goals of net neutrality, Wu says, is to ensure that congestion is not an attractive business model.

    “It’s a little bit like the way boarding an airplane has become terrible,” he says. “It’s in part so the airplane can sell you an upgrade to get past the big crowd getting on the airplane. That’s a little like what could happen on the internet—net neutrality says you can’t start selling slow lanes and fast lanes and make money off congestion.”

    Wu says that the impending FCC vote will be historic and is the most important FCC decision in recent memory.

    “It marks a return to an idea that maybe the private sector doesn’t always do everything we want,” he says. “We have public values at stake here, and the open internet is a big part of that.”

    Do you think the internet should be a public utility? Vote in our poll below.

     

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  • Feb 23

    How Much Does It Cost To Buy A Climate Scientist?

    Dr. Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon is a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a darling of climate change skeptics like Senator Inhofe (R-OK). But documents uncovered in a FOIA request from Greenpeace reveal that Soon has deep connections to the oil and gas industry, the primary funder of his research. 

    Soon is a part-time employee at the Smithsonian Institution, but receives little government funding and is responsible for raising his own funds for his research and salary. Since 2001, Soon has received over $1.2 million from sources including Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Charles G. Koch foundation. However, this funding has not been disclosed as a potential conflict of interest on at least 11 research articles Soon authored since 2008.

    The Smithsonian Institution is also conducting their own review into Soon, and said in a statement to The Takeaway that the institution "does not support Dr. Soon’s conclusions on climate change. The Smithsonian’s official statement on climate change, based upon many decades of scientific research, points to human activities as a cause of global warming." (Full statement below.)

    Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science and an affiliated professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, joins us today to talk about Soon's work. She says industries have long turned to scientists like Soon to create an illusion of scientific debate around controversial issues like tobacco in the 1960s or climate science today. 

    Check out the full statement from the Smithsonian Institution below.

    "The Smithsonian is greatly concerned about the allegations surrounding Dr. Willie Soon’s failure to disclose funding sources for his climate change research. The Smithsonian is taking immediate action to address the issue: Acting Secretary Albert Horvath has asked the Smithsonian Inspector General to review the matter.

    "Horvath will also lead a full review of Smithsonian ethics and disclosure policies governing the conduct of sponsored research to ensure they meet the highest standards. Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon is a part-time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. He was hired to conduct research on long-term stellar and solar variability.

    "The Smithsonian does not fund Dr. Soon; he pursues external grants to fund his research. The Smithsonian does not support Dr. Soon’s conclusions on climate change. The Smithsonian’s official statement on climate change, based upon many decades of scientific research, points to human activities as a cause of global warming."

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  • Feb 23

    Why The College Campus is a 'Hunting Ground' for Rapists

    About 20 to 25 percent of women will be the victims of rape or attempted rape during their time in college. It's a shockingly high number, and for many colleges it's easy to cover up.

    The new film "The Hunting Ground" looks at the rape epidemic on college campuses, and how colleges contribute to the issue by deliberately silencing victims, overturning the convictions of rapists, and erasing the truth about how often assaults happen.

    The film is directed and written by Kirby Dick and produced by Amy Ziering, the Oscar nominated team behind "The Invisible War." After spending time documenting the military—one of the most difficult institutions to access—Kirby and Amy were surprised by how similarly closed off colleges seemed to be.

    Check out a trailer for the film below.

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  • Feb 23

    Today's Takeaways: Battles Over Net Neutrality, Islam, and Rape on Campus

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  • Feb 21

    The Weekender: How The Takeaway is Made (R)

    Have you ever wondered how The Takeaway is made? Now's your chance to find out.

    We're delivering a special edition of The Takeaway Weekender podcast to give you an up close look at how we create the program. Since the show launched in April 2008, two critical members of The Takeaway family have been around for almost every episode—Jay Cowit, The Takeaway's technical director, and Vince Fairchild, our broadcast engineer.

    Here, different members of The Takeaway staff weigh in on their good days and bad, their triumphs and struggles, to provide you with a candid portrait of how the program is made.

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  • Feb 20

    'The Duff,' 'Hot Tub Time Machine 2,' 'McFarland USA,' and Interviews with the Oscar Nominees

    It's a jam-packed Movie Date, with reviews of 'The Duff,' 'Hot Tub Time Machine 2,' and 'McFarland USA,' as well as interviews with the Oscar nominees!

    Among the nominees: 

    • Damien Chazelle, the director and writer of "Whiplash"
    • James Marsh, the director of "The Theory of Everything"
    • Director Moreten Tyldum and writer Graham Moore, the team behind "The Imitation Game"

    And, as usual, there's trivia!

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  • Feb 20

    Talk Dirty to Me: Audio Porn is Making a Comeback

    Editor's Note: This segment contains content that some might find offensive. Listener discretion is advised.

    It's not news that pornographic material is readily available online.  

    But in an era where we are all increasingly saturated with graphic images—a world where where "Fifty Shades of Grey" dominates at the box office—we've all become a bit numb to visual over-stimulation. As a result, there's a growing subculture devoted to producing and sharing sexually explicit material that's entirely auditory. 
     
    "Raven Fox" is the online persona of a 40-year-old erotic audio performer. She supports her family by selling personalized audio to clients through her website. Raven's business is a thoroughly modern one, but she's hardly the first person to discover audio's power to arouse. Audio porn is as old as the phonograph itself. Some of the earliest "dirty" recordings are believed to have been made by Thomas Edison’s chief engineer, Theo Wangemann. 

    Nona Willis Aronowitz, writer and editor at Talking Points Memo, recently investigated the history and modern resurgence of audio porn for an article in Playboy.

    Listen to the audio interview above to hear Raven and Nona discuss the resurgence of audio porn.

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  • Feb 20

    CDC Director on America's Battle Against Deadly 'Superbugs'

    An outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center has infected seven patients. Two have died of complications related to the bacteria; at least 179 were exposed.

    Scientists have long warned the public about the deadly potential of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that antibiotic-resistant bacteria kills at least 23,000 people every year in the U.S. and infects at least two million people annually.

    Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, discusses the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, why this problem has become so wide-spread and the measure the Obama Administration is taking to address the issue.

    “The UCLA situation is really the latest example of what we’ve been talking about for the past several years—a nightmare bacteria,” says Dr. Frieden. “CRE as it’s called really is scary. It’s a type of resistance that spreads between many different types of bacteria, it can resist virtually all of our antibiotics, and the fatality rate can be quite high.”

    Due to this “very concerning situation,” Dr. Frieden and the CDC have launched the “Detect and Protect” program, which funds some states who are testing strategies to find germs that are causing healthcare-associated infections (HAI) and prevent their spread.

    Detect and Protect strategies include tracking CRE, which stands for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, and using the National Healthcare Safety Network and prevention activities found in CDC guidelines and HAI prevention toolkits.

    “We’re confident that it is still possible to control these organisms, difficult as they are to treat,” he says. “They’re here, and if we don’t do a better job of controlling them, they’ll be in not just hospitals but communities. That’s what has us most concerned.”

    Dr. Frieden says that if these so-called “superbugs” leave medical environments and begin spreading throughout the public at large, the U.S. could be facing a disastrous situation.

    “We’re very concerned about this,” he says. “About two years ago, my top scientists came to me with exactly that concern—they said, ‘We have to sound the alarm. We have to stop this before it gets out.’ These are organisms that are resistant to virtually every antibiotic that we have.”

    According to the CDC, healthy people usually do not get CRE infections—the germs normally surface in patients in healthcare settings like hospitals or nursing homes. Patients who requires devices like ventilators, bladder or intravenous vein catheters, and patients who are taking long courses of certain antibiotics are most at risk for CRE infections.

    “Currently, they’re largely associated with procedures...or intensive care units where people are very sick,” says Dr. Frieden. “In those situations we’ve been able to control it in several states, and some countries have done a good job at that. But in the U.S. as a whole, it has spread and spread, and is now in about 44 states. The concern is that if it gets out into the community than routine things like a urinary tract infection or a cut could become life-threatening.”

    There are several steps being taken by the CDC and broader medical community to prevent these superbugs from spreading. Strategies include tracking and controlling outbreaks, preventing antibiotic resistance by improving prescribing practices, and isolating patients that do become infected with CRE.

    Last September, President Obama heeded the alarm, issuing an executive order to address this growing problem. The Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Defense and Agriculture created a task force to combat drug-resistant bacteria, and their recommendations are supposed to arrive this month. The president also proposed a $1.2 billion investment to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria in his FY 2016 budget. 

    “We think we can actually cut the level of CRE—this nightmare bacteria—by 60 percent over five years based on what we’ve done in specific areas when we’ve used this ‘Detect and Protect’ strategy,” he says. “If we get the support we’ve asked for, we think we will be able to turn back the clock on this nightmare bacteria.”

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  • Feb 20

    The 2015 Oscars: Who Will Win & Who Should Win

    The 87th annual Academy Awards are on Sunday, and before you watch, you might want to brush up on some of the movies you missed — or saw so long ago you forgot.

    Best Picture

    Rafer Guzman, film critic for Newsday, and Kristen Meinzer, culture producer for The Takeaway, both think “Boyhood” and “Birdman,” with nine nominations each, are the clear frontrunners for Best Picture.

    “I don’t think you could ask for two more interesting and unusual films,” Guzman says.

    Meinzer says that while “Birdman” may be innovative, it doesn’t deserve the Oscar.

    “I think that Birdman is very overrated and that the industry loves a film about itself,” she says. “And why it is tied for the most nods this year with nine, I’m not quite sure.”

    Her money is on “Boyhood.”

    “Frankly, I think boyhood deserves to win,” Meinzer adds. “I think it’s a bigger accomplishment. It took 12 years. We’re checking in every year with this family, telling a story that’s pretty ordinary, but in a way that’s never been done before.”

    Best Actor

    Guzman was gunning for Benedict Cumberbatch, but then Eddie Redmayne changed the game.

    “I just think like [Cumberbatch] seemed like the obvious choice,” he says. “It’s a very good role, and his movie “The Imitation Game” had done a lot better than “The Theory of Everything” at the box office, and everyone loves Benedict Cumberbatch. But then Eddie Redmayne won for playing Stephen Hawking at the Golden Globes, he won the SAG, and now it looks like he’s a sure bet for the Best Actor Oscar.”

    Meinzer says Redmayne blows the competition out of the water. Michael Keaton’s role in “Birdman doesn’t stand a chance.

    “The accomplishment of this role is unbelievable,” she says. “I mean, [Redmayne] can barely use one quarter of his face to play the role, and yet he’s somehow playing this role in a convincing, amazing way. He’s a fully forged person.”

    Best Actress

    Both critics view Julianne Moore as the likely winner for Best Actress.

    “Julianne Moore in “Still Alice” is unbelievable,” Meinzer says. “She’s playing somebody who is dealing with early onset Alzheimer’s in a really unbelievably convincing way … She really brings you along for it where you feel what she’s feeling.”

    If there’s any upset at all, Meinzer says the Oscar will go to Felicity Jones who played Hawking’s wife Jane Wilde in “The Theory of Everything”.

    Guzman says that while Moore is amazing in “Still Alice,” there wasn’t much to choose from in the category.

    “It happens to be the strongest performance in kind of a weak category,” he says. “Not that these actresses themselves are weak, I just think that all of their roles are a little underwhelming, and I think Julianne Moore’s role just allowed her to do the most with what she has.”

    Best Director

    This Oscar is going to Richard Linklater for “Boyhood,” Meinzer says.

    “Don’t get me wrong,” she says, “‘Birdman,’ as much as I make fun of it and say it’s overrated, it really is an unusual looking film. It looks like it’s done in a single take. And that’s unbelievable for a feature length film to look like that.”

    While this might get “Birdman” a win for cinematography, it’s not going to win over “Boyhood.”

    Best Supporting Actor and Actress

    The two critics are in agreement about who is going to win in these categories.

    “Patricia Arquette for ‘Boyhood’,” Guzman says. “She’s marvelous in it. [It’s] kind of a role that you don’t realize is really great until the movie wraps up and ends and she delivers this terrific speech at the end and you really realize what a terrific thing she’s been to that movie.”

    On the actor front, even though Robert Duvall received a legacy nomination for “The Judge,” Guzman and Meinzer say there's no way he wins.

    “J.K. Simmons for ‘Whiplash’,” Guzman says. “He’s great, he plays an abusive music teacher, he steals the show, he’s terrific, been around for years, and I think it’s great that he’s going to get the Oscar for this.”

    Best Documentary

    This category is a little up in the air, but Guzman and Meinzer say the frontrunner is Laura Poitras’s “Citizenfour.”

    “I think everyone was really impressed by that,” Guzman says. “I thought it was OK, but I think the Oscar’s definitely going to go to that.”

    Oscar Misses

    Even though this is a big indie year for the Oscars, Meinzer says the Academy overlooked a lot of smaller films like “In Secret” and “Belle.”

    “There were so many movies I just loved this year that nobody was even going to notice,” she says. “[They] didn’t get all the love that I wish they would have.”

    Even though it was nominated for Best Picture, the pair agree that “Selma” should have been nominated in more categories.

    “I really think David Oyelowo who plays Martin Luther King in ‘Selma’ should have at least gotten a Best Actor nomination, and I think Ava Duvernay who directed it should have gotten a Best Director nomination as well,” Guzman says.

    Subscribe to The Movie Date Podcast here.

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  • Feb 20

    Half a Million Walmart Workers Finally Get a Raise

    America's biggest private employer announced this week that nearly half its workforce is getting a raise.

    On Thursday, Walmart announced that it will bump up the salaries of about 500,000 of its employees—about 40 percent of the company's workforce. By April, all of the company's workers, including those at Sam's Club outlets, will be making at least $9.00 an hour. Walmart aims to push that to $10.00 an hour by 2016.

    How much of an economic indicator is Walmart? Danielle Kurtzleben, economics correspondent at Vox.com, explains what these wage increases tell us about the health of the economy.

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  • Feb 20

    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. Beckyoncé

    Kanye and a whole lot of other people thought Beck robbed Beyoncé of a very important Grammy last week. No matter which side you're taking, you still get to enjoy a pair of fun, unlikely mash-ups. Beck meets Beyoncé for "Single Loser (Put a Beck on It)" and, thanks to Arcade Fire's Win Butler (who sometimes goes by Windows 98), Kanye raps all over Beck in "Jesus Walks, Loser."

    2. Steel Whiplash

    Whiplash was easily one of my favorite movies of 2014, but it didn't really have a sense of humor about itself. The film has finally received the parody treatment thanks to a comedy squad known as Above Average. What the calypso-themed Steel Whiplash lacks in intensity, it makes up for in good vibes. 

    3. Bad Advice from a Master 

     

    Murakami-san, hello. Being that I’m a graduate student, I need to write a lot: reports, presentation speeches, emails to professors, etc. I’m not that great in writing, but if I don’t, I won’t be able to graduate. I struggle with it every day. How will this get easier? If you have any composition 101 techniques, can you let me know?
    —Sakurai, female, 23 years old, graduate student

    His answer: Writing is similar to trying to seduce a woman. A lot has to do with practice, but mostly it’s innate. Anyway, good luck.

    4. Billy in the Store

    This week, Billy on the Street hit a grocery store. Being inside such a sterile environment stifles Billy's comedy, but to make up for it, he is joined by Big Bird, Michelle Obama, and his old friend, Elena. There’s a lot of fun to be had, including Billy’s calling card improvised games, like “Arianna Grande or a Carrot,” and the grand finale, in which Billy has FLOTUS push him through the store in a shopping cart while he reads Gwyneth Paltrow's Oscar acceptance speech from 1999. Billy for president! 

    5. Norm Macdonald on Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, and Lorne 

    From time to time, Canadian national treasure Norm Macdonald will write an essay on Twitter. This week, he tackled the SNL 40th anniversary show and had more refreshing things to say about it than any of the legion bloggers who provided hot takes in the echo chamber. Eddie Murphy’s awkward air time becomes especially poignant in Norm’s eyes:

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  • Feb 20

    Ships Head East as West Coast Port Dispute Continues

    The port dispute on the West Coast could be a boon for East Coast ports. With a widened Panama canal expected to open next year, and increasingly clogged rail lines crossing the country (all that Bakken crude they're carrying), shipping companies are looking to rely less on West Coast ports and more on ports in New Jersey, Georgia, and Texas.

    It will take some time for the shipping industry to realign their fleets to move from West to East, but with a backlog of ships—at least 30 waiting to get into the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as of Thursday morning—is pushing the industry to find alternatives.

    Here to explain is Stan Payne, a long-time senior executive with broad experience in both the public and private sides of the port industry. He's now a principal with the management consulting firm Summit Strategic Partners.

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  • Feb 20

    Today's Takeaways: Deadly Superbugs, The Best of The Web, and Audio Porn

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  • Feb 19

    At New Year’s Tables Across China, An Unlikely Slice of Americana Joins the Feast

    Dumplings, red packets of money, long noodles symbolizing long life, fireworks at midnight—all of these are traditional Chinese trappings of Asian Lunar New Year celebrations happening around the globe. However, this year, many Chinese tables will feature a new, unlikely addition to their traditional meals: Maine lobster.

    China's hunger for this storied slice of Americana has been growing over the past decade. Stephanie Nadeau, owner of The Lobster Company wholesaler in Kennebunkport, Maine, says that in 2009, China bought virtually no lobster from Maine. Now, the Chinese New Year is the busiest time of year—even busier than Christmas.

    "With Christmas, it's only one day," Nadeau says. By contrast, she says she'll spend four weeks this year filling her Chinese New Year orders.

    “It’s my busiest year ever,” she adds. “The Chinese are very fond of live seafood.”

    And how much does the New Year’s bounty weigh in at? “Probably 400,000 pounds,” Nadeau says.

    “In Hong Kong, they use—almost exclusively—small one pound lobsters,” she says. “Maybe 40 miles away in Guangzhou, which used to be Canton, they prefer a two or three pound lobster.”

    As China's middle class has developed increasingly cosmopolitan tastes, their presence has been felt in unlikely areas of the global economy. The majority of Maine lobster exports still go to Canada, and even with record catches, wholesalers say they haven't anticipated this much demand from a country so geographically distant—a major concern when shipping live seafood.

    Flying nearly half a million pounds of lobster to China has proven challenging in this harsh winter.

    “There’s been [a lot] of difficulty this year because of all the bad weather we’ve had in Boston and New York,” adds Nadeau. “This time of the year, because the water’s so cold, we harvest very few lobsters—they pretty much hibernate in the winter. All the lobsters that we’re shipping now were caught mostly in December and early January.”

    In order to accommodate the new demand, Nadeau says her business has built a new facility in Canada that holds about 120,000 pounds of live lobster.

    Like other Maine lobster companies, Nadeau’s business is ticking up because Chinese lobster eaters are looking abroad to revive old traditions in new ways. Spiny lobsters used to abound in the South China Sea, but overfishing has destroyed their Chinese habitat and driven up prices. Even though they’ve logged more air miles, American lobsters are a bargain in China.

    “Our Maine lobsters are filling the middle-class void,” Nadeau says. “We’re working round the clock to get lobsters into China for the holiday.”

    Maine lobster offer softer meat and a finer flavor and allow Chinese consumers to return to old recipes—lobster is often steamed and dipped in wasabi and soy sauce, or eaten with noodles in a garlic sauce.

    Maine lobster is often called "Boston Lobster" on Chinese menus. Nadeau, a native Mainer, says she doesn’t mind being upstaged by her metropolitan neighbor to the south—as long as the orders keep coming in.

    Aside from providing the perfect combination of flavor, value, and American cachet, Nadeau says that Maine lobster—possibly the most typically New England food after clam chowder—has one decisive advantage in China.

    “They like ours because they look like a dragon,” she says.

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  • Feb 19

    Assimilated Me: Why is it So Hard to Celebrate Lunar New Year?

    The following blog post is by Takeaway Producer Angus Chen. Follow him on Twitter: @angRchen

    It’s strange for me to think that my very first Lunar New Year memory starts not with my own family or even with people of my own race and ethnicity. It’s in my elementary school classroom in a majority white New Jersey town.

    The picture looks something like this: Chris, my classmate, and his mother are standing beside a table laden with candied lotus slices and pineapple cakes. Their family owns a Chinese restaurant in town. Chris’ mom had somehow convinced the school to let us stage a New Year’s celebration. My mother is probably somewhere on the sidelines, and I am in a sea of uncomprehending faces that are surveying the spread.

    Looking back on this as an adult, there are a lot of things that trouble me about this picture, but nothing seems so absurd other than the fact that one of those uncomprehending faces is mine.

    My parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan, a Mandarin-speaking Pacific island that China has an epic grudge against. If there’s anything that those two countries can agree on (along with Mongolia, Vietnam, Korea, and Tibet), it’s that the Lunar New Year is awesome and needs to be respected.

    That’s why this time of year is considered the moment of the world’s largest annual migration—literally billions of Asians hitch, fly, drive, and ride their way home no matter what it takes. Lunar New Year celebrations are boisterous, drunken, and loving. They’re dominated by an unending stream of food and the crackle of fireworks. Dollar bills go flying everywhere as kids slap each other in the face with enormous wads of gifted cash. (My brother’s girlfriend actually did this last bit.)

    Or that’s how I imagine it to be. My parents never made much fanfare over the holiday when I was growing up. My siblings and I got a red envelope stuffed with cash and ate maybe one or two traditional New Year’s foods. I realized this is the most significant cultural tradition of my heritage, but that was knowledge told to me—it’s not an understanding I’d gained through the experience of celebration.

    When I was a kid I had all sorts of ethnic complexes. I felt inferior or ugly or rejected or marginalized because of my race and culture. When I got older and learned to become proud of my heritage, I tried to exhume the tradition of “Asian Peoples’ New Year” and discover parts of myself I’d missed as a youngster.

    But it didn’t always come so naturally. There were years, after I had gone to college or graduated, when I vainly tried to gather friends for a celebration. People were too busy or preoccupied. Sometimes, I got a statement like: “To be honest, I forgot it was the New Year.”

    I get frustrated with the level of apathy from some of my fellow Asian-Americans, until I remember there were years when I would turn to my computer in the morning and be shocked to find a “Happy New Year, Family!” subject line in my inbox. It’s the Lunar New Year already? I’d ask myself. #*&$.

    Questions that would run through my head included: Should I do something? Should I wear red? Will I do anything? Sometimes the answer was just no. Nothing happens—I spend the night on my computer, probably working, maybe Netflixing, etc. I usually don’t mind being alone, but then I feel a hard sense of isolation as anyone might when they are meant to be among kin and are not.

    I don’t want to give the impression that Asian-Americans don’t celebrate the holiday. Many of us most certainly do, and in great style. Some families take the holiday very seriously, and I have peers who also try to lasso in their friends for dinner and a firecracker. It depends on the kind of household you grew up in. If you live in an ethnic enclave like Chinatown or in Flushing, Queens, you’ll even get a parade. But in my singular experience, it gets more difficult with each passing year.

    There is a perception about Asianness that we are perpetual foreigners here, and our holidays are spectacles. Perhaps this is the reason why it continues to be so difficult for some schools in New York City to provide a day off, despite recording absence rates of near 80 percent in the past.

    Perhaps this is the reason why, when I try to celebrate the Lunar New Year in my own way, it’s a struggle for me to hold up the banner and for others to flock to it. In some sense, I think, maybe this isn’t my banner. Maybe it belongs to those who came before me.

    At the same time, I feel compelled to celebrate because I want to celebrate where I come from. But if a holiday when I should feel the greatest communion with my culture and community is a day when I feel the most alone out of the year, then what does it mean to be us? What does it mean to be Asian in America?

    My father told me recently that he always tried to find a way to celebrate the holiday here like they do in Taiwan. He wanted us to experience our culture in a way that would be meaningful. But he said that was impossible here. The whole system of work, school, and vacation days, along with the logistics of travel and family, made it too difficult. How the Lunar New Year ought to be celebrated, he said, can’t be done in this country right now. Eventually, he settled for a subdued, shadowed form of the holiday.

    I want to preserve, to stave off the generational attrition of culture. I want to celebrate loudly, bombastically, and unapologetically. But here we are cogs in a machine. We are asked to fit into a system, and silently we do.

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  • Feb 19

    Lunar New Year: Fighting to Keep Tradition Alive

    Say goodbye to the horse. It's the Lunar New Year and we're officially entering the year of the goat (or depending on who you ask, the ram or the sheep—all three words are derived from the same Mandarin character).

    To ring in the Lunar New Year, huge celebrations are taking in China and large parts of East Asia this week, with hundreds of millions of people traveling in one of the world's largest annual migrations to get home in time to celebrate with loved ones. 

    For many East Asians, it's the most auspicious day of the year. But for Angus Chen, a first-generation Taiwanese-American living in New York City, he says he's starting to have some serious New Years apathy.

    See Also: Losing Your Culture: An Asian-American on The Act of Forgetting

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  • Feb 19

    Bomb Trains: The Dangerous Business of Hauling Oil

    On Monday, a 109-car freight train carrying more than three million gallons of crude oil from North Dakota derailed in the rural town of Mount Carbon, West Virginia.

    Hundreds were evacuated as a fire burned for more than a day and oil seeped into the nearby Kanawha River.

    Accidents involving these "bomb trains" are not uncommon. They are happening North Dakota, Oklahoma, Alabama and parts of Canada, on routes that criss-cross the United States. 

    In 2013, 43 times more oil was being hauled across American rail lines than in 2005, but safety regulations haven't kept pace with demand.

    Weighing in on the state of energy and the rails is Russell Gold, Wall Street Journal energy reporter and author of "The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World."

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  • Feb 19

    One Nation, Under ISIS?

    For a typical resident of the city of Raqqa, Syria, everyday life is a series of hardships, small and large. Under the self-declared Islamic State, basic utilities have ceased to function, and both businesses and ordinary citizens are suffering.

    “Electricity is down to maybe an hour a day, or perhaps less. Water quality is deteriorating. People are living under severe repression,” says Torbjorn Soltvedt, principal analyst for Middle East and North Africa at the risk analysis group Verisk Maplecroft.

    What is it like to live under the Islamic State? Soltvedt paints a grim picture of a ragtag group of fighters whose social ambitions have crumbled under international pressure, making life a nightmare for citizens and business owners.

    “In Raqqa, we’ve seen the Islamic State enforce religious seminars for pharmacists—they have to attend in order to be allowed to carry on operating their businesses,” he says. “It’s really an extreme interpretation of Islamic law and an extreme enforcement of it. It reaches every single aspect of people’s everyday lives.”

    The terrorist group initially took on a variety of governing responsibilities, and citizens were even provided with bread and fuel at reduced prices. However, as the months past, the Islamic State has started to struggle with its role as governing body, Soltvedt adds.

    In recent months, international military action—especially airstrikes from coalition countries such as Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States—has degraded municipal infrastructure in Islamic State territory, turning the fighters in charge on their citizens.

    In Mosul, Iraq, ISIS “imposed taxes on local people. Businesses that are allowed to operate have to pay a tax. Trucks and cars coming in have to pay a tax. Religious minorities, Christians for instance, have to pay a tax. Even seizing bank accounts” became a favored tactic in this city of over a million people, according to Soltvedt. The Islamic State also threatens bank account holders and forces them to stay in business so that services are not shut off.

    Soltvedt claims that Islamic State’s degraded position stems from its failure to learn two key historical lessons. The first is that of the Ottoman Empire, whose late medieval Sunni caliphate would tap into the regional cultures and social systems. The Islamic State, on the other hand, razes everything to the ground, and is attempting to build a new society from scratch.

    “They call themselves a state, an ‘Islamic State,’ but it bears very little resemblance to the historic caliphate, or even any modern state,” says Soltvedt. “There’s very little in the way of incorporating existing structures. It’s bringing in foreign fighters. In Syria, there might be Tunisians or Iraqis that are running businesses and overseeing the production of oil.”

    The militant group’s second failure was forgetting how the military destabilization of civil government in Iraq and Syria enabled their rise in the first place.

    “When you look at the Islamic State’s ability to rapidly seize territory in Iraq, a lot of that was done due to the Iraqi government’s marginalization of the Sunni community,” Soltvedt explains. “Now, the Islamic State runs the same risk as in the mid-2000s, when the U.S. troop surged alongside the Sunni tribal movement and was able to more or less defeat or push back these types of groups.”

    He continues: “If you look back at Al Qaeda in Iraq, it was more or less defeated until the conflict in Syria emerged. The Islamic State in Iraq was able to evolve into what is today the Islamic State. But they don’t seem to have learned many of those lessons, which led to [Al Qaeda’s] initial downfall in Iraq.”

    Citing the recent spate of foreign fighters returning from IS territory, Soltvedt says that morale has dropped as the group has lost mobility.

    “Initially, when they had a lot of momentum, they were moving around in large convoys, almost a sort of Blitzkrieg without the air support, quickly seizing territory,” he says. “They’ve lost that momentum now, and they’re struggling to govern these cities. It’s become an occupation force.”

    Soltvedt continues: “People turn up from European countries to join the Islamic State…They see the severe repression and brutality, and also the lack of momentum at the moment, and that’s had a very negative impact on the group’s morale.”

    But despite the brutal realities of life under IS control, Soltvedt says that most citizens won’t leave their homes.

    “This is where they live. This is where they have their lives,” says Soltvedt.

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  • Feb 19

    Best Picture Preview: 'Selma'

    All this week, in the lead up to the Oscars, The Takeaway is taking a closer look at some of the films that are nominated for best picture, with the films’ directors, writers, and targeted audience members.

    We continue our coverage with a look at "Selma," which centers on Martin Luther King Jr.'s efforts to secure equal voting rights in Alabama in 1965. To make sure that young people could see the film, Paramount teamed with cities across the country to offer free screenings of "Selma" to 90,000 students.

    Among those students were three 8th graders from Brooklyn, New York named Amaiya WilliamsNia Johnson, and Timothy Corion.

    Williams, Johnson, and Corion share their thoughts on "Selma," from what surprised them about the film to how they see racism in the world today. 

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  • Feb 19

    'Green on Blue' Imagines Afghan War Through The Eyes of an Orphaned Soldier

    At the end of 2014, the U.S. officially ended its war in Afghanistan with a somber flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul. But the fighting goes on, and continues to take a brutal toll on civilians, particularly now that U.S. troops have all but left.  

    On Wednesday, the United Nations reported that 2014 was the deadliest year yet for civilians in Afghanistan, with 3,699 documented civilian deaths. The hardest hit were Afghanistan's children—the number of children killed rose by 40 percent last year to a total of 714.  

    The lost children of Afghanistan are featured front and center in Elliot Ackerman's new novel "Green on Blue." The novel tells the story of an orphaned Afghan villager who enlists to serve with Afghan special forces fighting the Taliban after his older brother is severely wounded in a bombing attack in the local bazaar. 

    Ackerman served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also holds degrees in literature and international affairs from Tufts, writes for publications like The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and recently served as a White House fellow.

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  • Feb 19

    Today's Takeaways: Child Soldiers, The Lunar New Year, and 'Selma'

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  • Feb 18

    Keeping Iran Rogue: Trust Tested Between The U.S. & Israel

    Republican House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make his case against Iran before a joint session of Congress. Many argue that this is a way of stifling the Obama Administration's momentum on sensitive nuclear talks with Iran.

    Congress wants new sanctions on Iran, and Israel's friends in Congress say Iran's nuclear program is too dangerous to make a deal. 

    For a look at what's at stake, The Takeaway is joined by David Sanger, national security correspondent for our partner The New York Times.

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  • Feb 18

    A Best in Show Beagle and Plenty of #WestminsterRejects

    It's that time of year when the top dogs are separated from the under dog, and only one canine wins Best in Show.

    We speak, of course, of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. At the 139th annual competition, there were nearly 3,000 entrants. And, as usual, there was some RUFF competition, but only one winner: A 15-inch beagle named Miss P. 

    Sharing news on the winner, the losers, and the headline makers is Sarah Montague, resident dog expert and senior producer here at The Takeaway's partner station WNYC.

    While your pooch might not be Miss P, we'd still like to see them. We’re collecting your dog photos for our Westminster Reject project, because all good dogs deserve a day in the limelight. Tweet us a photo of your pup with the hashtag #WestminsterReject, or post a picture to our Facebook page. We've already got over 100 submissions—you can check out our photo album below.

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  • Feb 18

    Best Picture Preview: 'The Imitation Game'

    All this week in the lead up to the Oscars, we're taking a closer look at some of the films that are nominated for best picture...with the films’ directors, writers, and targeted audience members.

    Today, we look at "The Imitation Game," which tells the story of legendary codebreaker Alan Turing, and the persecution he faced for being gay.

    Kristen Meinzer and Rafer Guzman, co-hosts of The Movie Date Podcast, interviewed director Moreten Tyldum and writer Graham Moore, the team behind "The Imitation Game." Moore explained that he'd been a fan of Alan Turing's work, even in childhood.

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  • Feb 18

    The Smugglers, Dealers and Buyers of Antiquities Stolen by ISIS

    As the self-declared Islamic State expands its terrorist network across the Middle East, the organization has also found a steady source of funding in stolen antiquities that have been looted from museums and excavation sites throughout Syria.

    After oil, the stolen cultural treasures are ISIS's second-biggest source of funding, which lead the United Nations Security Council to ban all trade in Syrian artifacts last week.

    In a new documentary, Simon Cox, investigative reporter and presenter for the BBC World Service and the BBC Radio Four, traces these stolen antiquities from the smugglers on the Lebanese-Syrian border to the markets in Western Europe.

    As one smuggler known only as Mohammed told Cox, "I know for a fact these militants have connections overseas, and they've already made the connection overseas and they talked ahead of time and they shipped it overseas using their connection abroad."

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  • Feb 18

    9/11 Attorney Moves to Hold Saudi Arabia Accountable

    Representatives from 60 countries are flooding the U.S. capital today for the White House's Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. The event will include three days of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. It all comes less than 24 hours after the self-proclaimed Islamic State burned to death 45 people in the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi.

    A representative of Saudi Arabia is expected to be among those in attendance, which comes as a surprise to Jerry Goldman. Goldman is a shareholder at Anderson Kill law firm and a lawyer to the families of September 11th victims.

    In 2002, a suit was filed in federal court on behalf of the families against the government of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi elite for their alleged role in funding and supporting Al Qaeda. That lawsuit floundered in 2013 amidst delays and a lack of substantial evidence.

    But now, further testimony has emerged that may hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its involvement. Statements from former Al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui suggest that members of the Saudi royal family had been major donors to the terrorist group in the late 1990s.

    Moussaoui gave his account to Goldman and other lawyers last October from the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, where he is serving a life sentence.

    “He has absolutely nothing to gain from this testimony, except for telling the truth,” says Goldman.

    The Saudi government has rejected Moussaoui’s 100-page testimony, which describes a close relationship between the government of Saudi Arabia and the Al Qaeda operatives that planned the 9/11 attacks. But Goldman says that Moussaoui’s testimony fits within a broad historical pattern.

    “The bad behavior that we allege of the Saudi royal family goes back a considerable period of time, and perhaps it’s still continuing,” he says. “That relevance is important, and most importantly, it’s relevance that the American people as a whole—not just the victims of 9/11—need to understand what happened and [to know] that people are finally held accountable for the wrongs that they caused.”

    In light of Moussaoui’s testimony, some may believe that the lawsuit will go on at full speed. But that’s not the case. Goldman says that it appears that the U.S. government is shielding the Saudis.

    “In our view, all of the information has not been release,” he says. “We’ve been working at this for 12 years and we’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s more progress to be made.”

    Goldman says that he is waiting for the government to release the 28 pages redacted from the 9/11 Commission Report and the papers seized from Osama bin Laden's home in Pakistan several years ago—something federal officials have yet to do.

    “We are confident at this point that when all of the evidence is revealed that our theory of the case linking the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to 9/11 will be found in a court of law,” he says. “The American people and the victims will then have justice.”

    More than a decade after the Twin Towers collapsed, some are asking why this testimony hasn’t come out sooner. Years ago, Moussaoui gave his account to an attorney representing the family of former FBI counterterrorism chief John O'Neill, who died in the 9/11 attacks. John O'Neill was believed to be among the most knowledgeable U.S. officials on the connection between the late Osama Bin Laden and the Saudi royal family.

    “I think John O’Neill would have been happy that people were finally asking Zacarias Moussaoui questions,” says Goldman. “I think the question that really arises is why didn’t the government really ask Zacarias Moussaoui the questions that we did? It’s clear that they didn’t during the course of his trial, and the judge at that trial raised that in a recent book: Why didn’t they try to flip him?"

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  • Feb 18

    Judge's Immigration Ruling Leaves Millions in Limbo

    Today, the Department of Homeland Security was supposed to start accepting applications for the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, designed for undocumented immigrant children to avoid deportation.

    Originally created by President Obama in 2012, the president expanded DACA last November as part of his executive action on immigration. The Obama Administration sought to ease the threat of deportation for millions of young, undocumented immigrants.

    Judge Andrew Hanen, a U.S. District Court judge in Texas, issued an injunction on the expanded DACA program yesterday, forcing Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to halt DACA applications. The Administration does plan to appeal.

    The injunction leaves Juan Carlos Ramos, a 21-year-old undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, in a precarious position. Ramos would have been eligible and planned to apply for the expanded DACA program, and he tells The Takeaway about his plans now that the program has been suspended.

    The injunction against DACA comes in the midst of an intense debate on Capitol Hill over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is set to expire on February 27th.

    Republicans want to strip President Obama's expanded executive action on immigration and have vowed to let the Department of Homeland Security shut down if language to strike out what they call "amnesty for illegal immigrants" is kept out of the spending measure.

    Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich examines the impact of the court's injunction, and the fight over immigration on Capitol Hill.

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  • Feb 18

    Today's Takeaways: Legal Limbo, Oscar Contenders, and Stolen Treasures

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  • Feb 17

    We Want to See Your Westminster Reject

    The 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show began this week in New York City. The prestigious competition is designed to show case dogs of high pedigree. Ultimately, one lucky pooch will walk away with the title "Best in Show."

    Your pups might not make the cut, but we'd still love to see them. We want you to share a photo of your dog with the PROUD hashtag #WestminsterReject—post the photo to our Facebook page or tweet us @TheTakeaway. Check out our Facebook album below.

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  • Feb 17

    Judge Blocks White House on Immigration

    In an ruling delivered late Monday night, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked key parts of President Obama's executive action on immigration.

    Last November, the president said his administration would not deport millions of undocumented people who are the parents of children who are U.S. citizens. He also expanded a program called DACA, which protected many undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

    That last measure was supposed to take effect on Wednesday, but U.S. District Judge Andrew Harlan ruled that the White House is basically trying to create new law—an authority it doesn't have.

    The ruling comes right when Congress is in a fight over this very issue. The Department of Homeland Security could shut down at the end of the month, and Republicans want the new immigration policies repealed.

    Here to discuss how this ruling will play out in Congress is Fawn Johnson, a correspondent with National Journal.

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  • Feb 17

    A Spy Breaks His Silence: Imprisoned CIA Whistleblower Speaks Out

    Listen to the full interview above or read a condensed version of this story below.?

    After serving almost two years in a federal prison in Pennsylvania, John Kiriakou is back at home in Virginia, where he is completing the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

    In 2007, Kiriakou became the first CIA official to publicly confirm and detail the agency’s use of waterboarding. Kiriakou was imprisoned for leaking classified information, making him the first CIA officer to be imprisoned for leaks. He's also the only person to be held accountable for any kind of wrong-doing linked to the CIA's torture policies.

    He says those charges were just an excuse to punish him for publicly confirming and criticizing the Bush Administration's ?use of waterboarding and other methods of torture.

    “I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world: The United States does not torture," President Bush said in 2006. "It's against our laws and it's against our values. I have not authorized it and I will not authorize it.”

    The Takeaway spoke to Kiriakou from his home in Virginia and asked him why he was the only CIA employee to be imprisoned during Obama's presidency.

    “My case was not about leaking. It was about torture,” says Kiriakou. “The CIA never forgave me for going public with the torture program, and they investigated me over the course of four years and just waited until I made a mistake."

    Kiriakou was locked up for leaking the name of an operative to a reporter, even though the journalist never published that information. But Kiriakou says that the leak has nothing to do with his incarceration.

    “Washington runs on leaks—whether they’re authorized or unauthorized,” he says. “The last three CIA directors have not just leaked classified information, but they’ve leaked the names of covert operatives. There was no harm to national security, and there certainly was no criminal intent. And neither was there harm to national security or criminal intent in my case, yet I was prosecuted and they weren’t. That leads me to believe that my case was not about leaking.”

    When President Obama took office in 2009, he was questioned directly about this issue and said the Justice Department would not prosecute CIA officers who believed they were following lawful policies. But three years later, Kiriakou was convicted of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

    “What about those officers who did not follow the law?” says Kiriakou. “What about those officers who went over and above the techniques that had been approved for interrogations? We have several cases of CIA officers involved in interrogations where the prisoner died in CIA custody. Yet, no one’s been prosecuted.”

    Kiriakou was part of the team that captured and interrogated Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, who was subject to waterboarding—a practice Kiriakou didn’t participate in but later heard about from his colleagues at the CIA. After he heard that Zubaydah was waterboarded, he said he felt conflicted.

    “Al Qaeda had promised at the time that they would initiate an attack on the United States that would dwarf September 11th,” he says. “I thought that if this was the only way to save American lives, it’s something that we probably needed to do. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, ‘No. This isn’t what we need to do.’ We were able to get Nazi war criminals to talk just by engaging them. I thought that as Americans, we shouldn’t be carrying out these so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’”

    Individuals like former Vice President Dick Cheney and many others still argue that waterboarding yielded actionable intelligence vital to the so-called “War on Terror.” But Kiriakou says that is simply not true—a fact that can be seen in the 6 million documents provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    In December 2014, the Senate released its findings in a lengthy report, which found that the CIA went out of its way to lie to the White House and Congress about the intelligence derived from torture. When the Senate’s report came out in December, Kiriakou was in prison. He says he was stunned by the report and how many times CIA interrogators crossed the “legal line.”

    “For example, this rectal hydration or rectal feeding—there was nothing in the president’s signed order to allow CIA officers to do such a thing,” he says. “I’m not a doctor, but I’ve never heard of forcing hummus up a prisoner’s rectum as some form of hydration or feeding.”

    Though Kiriakou denounces these Bush-era torture tactics, he says he’s also concerned about the policies being pushed by the Obama White House.

    “I’ve been shocked by the number of Espionage Act prosecutions under [the Obama] Administration,” he says. “In the entirety of American history, from the very beginning of the Espionage Act in 1917, there had only been three prosecutions. Since President Obama has become president, there have been an additional eight prosecutions. Almost every one of those has been for leaking to the press. I’ve never been of the belief that leaking information to the press is espionage.”

    So what can be done? Kirikaou is now a convicted felon, but he hopes that President Obama will give him a pardon as he leaves office in 2016.

    “I’ve got my fingers crossed that something good will happen,” he says. “I’ve lost the right to vote. I’ve lost the right to own a firearm, and I’ve even lost my federal pension. The cost has been very high for me.”

    Listen to the full interview above for more analysis from Kiriakou.

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  • Feb 17

    Israel Is Your Home? Rabbi Urges European Jews To Stay Put

    Recent attacks at a Kosher market in Paris and outside of a synagogue in Copenhagen have many European Jews worried about rising anti-Semitism across the continent.

    Some have already left: Last year, more than 7,000 French Jews migrated to Israel—double the number of the year before. And Israel is preparing for another influx.

    This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a $46 million special budget for the cost of absorbing new immigrants from France, Belgium, and Ukraine. Prime Minister Netanyahu directly addressed the European diaspora at this week's cabinet meeting.

    "Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country, but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters, Israel is your home," Netanyahu said. "We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe. I would like to tell all European Jews and all Jews wherever they are: Israel is the home of every Jew."

    Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association, sees opportunism in Netanyahu's remarks. He argues that European Jews should remain in their home countries with more protection, and fight anti-Semitism where they live.

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  • Feb 17

    Libya: A New Frontier in the Global Fight Against ISIS

    The Islamic State's beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya on Sunday shocked the world with its brutality, and opened up a new frontier in the fight against the militant group. Still images from the video of the beheading circulated around the globe, showing a row of prisoners in orange jumpsuits, each with a jihadi executioner standing behind.

    Geoff D. Porter, founder of North Africa Risk Consulting and assistant professor with the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, says that this imagery plays on images of U.S. detainees in CIA black sites, Abu Ghraib, and Guantánamo Bay.

    They have two audiences, he says. The first is the west, where news and social media transmit these images and raise consciousness of a new IS affiliate in Libya. The second audience is potential recruits to IS in Libya. Of the same image, one sees a horror—the other sees victory.

    "You had a civil war that evolved into a proxy war, and the Islamic State is taking advantage of that chaos to carry out attacks, which will then serve both as a way of advancing its message, but also as a recruiting tool," Porter says.

    "To potential supporters of the Islamic State, the message is: Get off the fence, join us, we're doing something," he adds.

    Yesterday, Egypt launched two waves of retaliatory airstrikes against Islamic State territory in Libya, and called upon the U.S.-led coalition to fight IS in North Africa, broadening the geographic scope of the global fight against the militant group.

    This territory is concentrated around Derna, a port city on the Mediterranean close to the Egyptian border. Once a prosperous trading center, Derna has been under the thumb of a network of jihadis called the Shura Council of Islamic Youth.

    In response, the dominant political factions in Tripoli have been split over this issue. Porter says that while no Libyan political parties support the Islamic State, but the foreign powers that prop them up—such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey—differ over how to fight IS, exacerbating tensions over the response to this massacre. Porter says that the only way to restore political functionality might be to stem the flow of outside resources into the political struggles in Tripoli.

    "If you can stop the money flow to both parties (Libya Dawn and Libya Dignity) then maybe you get them to sit down and talk," he says.

    Porter adds that the brutality of Sunday's executions have the potential to realign political power in the region, though it remains an open question whether Tripoli's political factions will put aside their differences to fight the Islamic State, or whether political infighting will intensify as regional powers struggle to gain control of the embattled region.

    But one thing is certain: The brutality of the event and the swift military response has opened up a new front in the global struggle against the Islamic State. Listen to the full interview above to hear more analysis from Porter.

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  • Feb 17

    Using Science to Resurrect Endangered Species

    When an endangered species dies at the San Diego Zoo, researchers quickly harvest and freeze the animal's genetic material. Then they file it away in a lab that they call the frozen zoo.

    The researchers there hope to use the genetic material to save species that are on the brink of extinction.

    Dr. Barbara Durrant, director of Reproductive Physiology at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, explains the importance of this preservation. 

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  • Feb 17

    Congressman Steve Israel on Satire, Politics & Fighting Terrorism

    Satire came under attack again this week when a gunman opened fire on a cafe in Copenhagen on Saturday. The cafe was hosting a discussion on caricatures and freedom of speech.

    The readiness to push back against the fear of extremism with words and pictures may be strong, but how do we respond to our government's answers to terrorism? Sometimes it comes in the form of whistleblowers, but sometimes the medium that is trying to assert itself against terror is also the medium that keeps our political response in check. It's humor—satire.

    It's a tool our next guest is not afraid to acknowledge. Congressman Steve Israel is a Democratic representing New York's 3rd congressional district. He's also the author of "The Global War on Morris," a political satire about the government's top-secret surveillance program going out of control.

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  • Feb 17

    Best Picture Preview: 'The Theory of Everything'

    All this week in the lead up to the Oscars, we're taking a closer look at some of the films that are nominated for best picture...with the films’ directors, writers, and targeted audience members.

    Today we turn to a film that tells the story of Stephen Hawking. "The Theory of Everything" portrays Hawking not just as a great physicist, but as a husband in a marriage that has faced its fair share of challenges.

    Kristen Meinzer of The Movie Date Podcast interviewed James Marsh, the director of "The Theory of Everything." Marsh began by explaining what drew him to the story and why, despite being most celebrated as a documentary filmmaker, he decided to shoot the film as a drama.

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  • Feb 17

    Today's Takeaways: A CIA Whistleblower, Immigration to Israel, and Stephen Hawking

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  • Feb 16

    Jehovah's Witnesses Cover Up Child Sex Abuse

    The Jehovah's Witnesses have 8 million worshippers across the world. Most Americans meet them face-to-face on their doorsteps, as worshippers practice "field service" ministry, going door-to-door in neighborhoods throughout the country. 

    Growing up in Fremont, California, Candace Conti was among them. She recalls ringing doorbells and distributing Bible literature to potential worshippers. 

    "As a kid, I just remember my whole opening shpiel was, 'Wouldn’t you love to live in a beautiful place like this? There would be no sickness. There would be no death. Your loved ones that had passed away would be brought back to life.'" she remembers.

    Conti spoke to Trey Bundy, a reporter with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. As Bundy tells The Takeaway, the Witnesses' organization soon became a dark place for Conti.

    She claims she was repeatedly molested by a fellow member of her church, Jonathan Kendrick. While Kendrick was never prosecuted in criminal court, a civil jury found evidence of wrongdoing.

    Bundy's investigation into the Jehovah's Witnesses found that Conti isn't alone—he uncovered a widespread pattern of child sexual abuse and cover-up within the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the Jehovah's Witness global headquarters in New York.

    As Bundy explains, the Watchtower instructed local elders to cover-up the abuse—or, in the words of one attorney trying more than a dozen sex abuse cases against the Watchtower, "Keep your mouth shut. Do not go to law enforcement."

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  • Feb 16

    50 Words For Snow

    Much of the United States has been pummeled with subzero temperatures and feet of snow. So we've decided to inject a bit of fun into the miserable winter of 2015. 

    Inspired by Kate Bush's album "50 Words for Snow," we're asking listeners around the country to describe the icy mess clinging to roads across the country in 50 words or less. To help us get the snowball rolling, we've asked two of our friends in the frozen city of Boston to give us their 50 words for snow.

    Here's Peter Kadzis' 50-word description of snow. Peter is a senior editor at WGBHNews.org:

    “In the perfect world it would start at 2:00 pm on Christmas Eve. On the radio, Peter and the Wolf. The snow would stop 24 hours later. About that time that crazy Uncle Harry walks through the door for his hare of the holiday roast. Anything else, an abomination."

    Beth Teitell, staff writer for the Boston Globe, also shared her description:

    “Here's what 50 shades of white have taught us. You don't need a meterologist or a window to know the snow is mounting. Just Facebook, my feed traces Boston's mood. Giddyness in January. Chardonnay-hoarding jokes were huge, to despair six feet later, when the most popular posts contain one word: Uncle!"

    Emily Rooney, host and executive editor of WGBH's Beat The Press, also shared her 50-word takeaway:

    "During torrential winter downpours New Englanders like to say, 'Imagine if this were snow.' This winter has robbed us of our imagination, but at least we can now delete the braggadocio of what you did during the blizzard of 1978 and reboot with something a little fresher—where were you for the winter of 2015."

    Do you have 50 words for snow? Leave a comment below or call us at 1-877-869-8253.

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  • Feb 16

    Angela Merkel: The Leader of Our Time?

    On Sunday, a ceasefire between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian army went into effect. But the agreement doesn't seem to be holding up—there are now multiple reports of deadly artillery fire, with both sides accusing each other of violating the new agreement.

    Andrew Kramer, a reporter for our partner The New York Times based in Ukraine, weighs in on the ceasefire from a supply route on the road to the contested area of Debaltseve.

    “The Ukrainian military claims that this road is open, but in fact, it is mostly closed,” he says. “Nobody has made it out since Thursday, with the exception of a few stragglers and soldiers who are seeking medical care and have managed to either walk across the fields or dash out in a dangerous attempt to escape. About 8,000 soldiers are said to be trapped inside.”

    Kramer says that the organization Life News, which has close ties to Russian security operations, released a video today showing a reporter walking down the same road amid destroyed tanks and dead Ukrainian soldiers.

    “[They’re] seeming to provide proof that the separatists do infact control a portion of this road,” he says. “This would be a military defeat and a major setback for Ukraine if it is left in this situation, if it is not contested, or if they’re not able to walk this back through negotiations.”

    According to Kramer, it is clear that the ceasefire is being violated in this area. However, there have been few reported violations in other parts of the country.

    “Overall, the violence has diminished considerably since the ceasefire took effect,” he says. “Ukrainian soldiers are certainly desperate for better weaponry. Ukraine is losing this war—the most that can be said at this point is they’re not giving up without a fight.”

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel helped to negotiate the ceasefire, and today she continues deliberations over the Greek bailout at the European Council Summit in Brussels.

    Jan van Aken, a member of the German Parliament and Germany's leftwing party, says even momentary peace in Ukraine is something to celebrate.

    “Nobody expected it to hold, even for a minute, so it was a very positive surprise over the weekend,” says van Aken. “This is, to some extent, the success of Angela Merkel. Without her, I’m sure there wouldn’t have been any kind of ceasefire and no hope at all right now.”

    Whether it’s the ceasefire in Ukraine or the debt crisis in Greece, many argue that Chancellor Merkel is striving for a united Europe. But van Aken says that despite her successes, Merkel is often the problem and not the solution to the major challenges facing Europe.

    “When you listen to southern Europeans, be it Greece, Spain or Italy, there’s such an anger and even such a hatred towards Germany,” he says. “From my point of view, it’s really endangering the basic idea of the European Union—that the people of Europe work together. Right now, it’s more divided than ever.”

    According to van Aken, Merkel is attempting to impose on Europe the harsh reforms that Germany economy has operated under for the last 10 years.

    “She’s saying not a single dime for any European country if they are not cutting wages, if they are not laying off public employees and so on and so forth,” he says. “We see now, three years later, that it is really a big problem in these countries. The economies are getting worse and worse—not better.”

    Though the nation of 80 million holds most of the economic power, Germany is now virtually alone in Europe, argues van Aken, a trend that will continue if Merkel stays on this hardline path. But such hardline stances are sometimes necessary, especially when it comes to the situation in Ukraine.

    “There’s really two very different German views on it,” he says. “Even within Angela Merkel’s party—there’s one half that really wants to take a much harsher stance against Vladimir Putin and they’re very much on the U.S. line. The other half says we’ll never, ever have peace in Europe if we’re against Russia—that there will only be peace in Europe with Russia. So we really have to readjust our Russian policy that went totally wrong over the last 25 years.”

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  • Feb 16

    Historical Comparisons: Worthwhile or Worthless?

    After leading negotiations for a cease fire between Russia and Ukraine, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been dubbed "Germany's Chamberlain."

    Part of it is hyperbole, but is there something to be gained from making historical comparisons? After all, those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. 

    Kenneth Davis, author and creator of the "Don't Know Much About" series, discusses the dangers of making simple comparisons and the value of a complex analysis of history. 

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  • Feb 16

    Denmark on Edge After Copenhagen Terror Attacks

    Two terror attacks carried out in Copenhagen over the weekend have left Denmark on edge. These acts of violence mirror the Charlie Hebdo attacks, which were carried out in Paris just weeks ago.

    On Saturday, documentary filmmaker Finn Noergaard was killed and three police officers were wounded when a gunman opened fire at a seminar on art, blasphemy, and freedom of expression.

    Lars Vilks, a well known Swedish artist and featured speaker at the event, was thought to be the target. In 2007, Vilks drew a cartoon depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad as a dog—the drawing earned him a spot on an Al Qaeda "death list" along with Stephane Charbonnier, the murdered editor of Charlie Hebdo.

    A second victim, Dan Uzan, a member of Denmark's Jewish community, was shot and killed outside a synagogue late Saturday night. In all, five police officers were injured.

    Lars Eriksen, a journalist based in Copenhagen, explains how events unfolded this weekend and discusses the mood Danes. 

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  • Feb 16

    West Coast Labor Dispute Rattles Businesses Across U.S.

    Large cargo ships are sitting idle today at ports along the West Coast. No one is unloading them, and it's all because of a labor dispute.

    The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents about 70 shipping companies, said it wouldn't pay dock workers extra to work over Presidents Day Weekend.

    The dock workers, who are part of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, have been in contract negotiations since May.

    The conflict is bad news for them, but also for businesses in general. The West Coast has 29 different ports, which are responsible for 43 percent of container traffic in the U.S. Reporters Tarryn Mento of KPBS San Diego, Sara Hossaini of KQED San Francisco and Carolyn Adolph of KUOW Seattle sent dispatches from the ports along the West Coast.

    Marc Levinson is author of “The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger." He discusses the impact of this dispute with The Takeaway's Todd Zwillich. 

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  • Feb 16

    Egypt Takes Revenge on ISIS in Libya

    The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which is also known as ISIS, released an official video on Sunday showing the executions of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians.

    In the video, the victims are forced to kneel in single file on the shore near Tripoli, the capital city of Libya. Then, one after another, a black-clad executioner beheads them. They were captured last month in Libya, and ISIS released photos of them wearing orange jumpsuits while being paraded around by ISIS militants on Friday.

    One Islamic militant group in Libya pledged allegiance to ISIS last fall, and two others in the country closely followed suit. Extremist groups around North Africa and the Middle East are joining ISIS, but this is the first video depicting killings of this nature outside ISIS' controlled territory in Iraq and Syria. 

    Egypt has already responded to the attack with airstrikes at training camps and arms depots in Libya.

    "Egypt reserves the right to respond at the proper time and in the appropriate style in retaliation," Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on state TV hours before launching today's bombing raids. "I have called for the National Defense Council to convene to follow up on this issue. I have ordered the government to continue to enforce a travel ban on Egyptian citizens traveling to Libya due to the turmoil in Libya."

    As the number of militant Islamist factions loyal to ISIS grows, there are fears that a new global war on terror could be imminent. With us to weigh in is Sarah Feuer, a Soref fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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  • Feb 16

    Best Picture Preview: 'Whiplash'

    All this week, in the lead up to the 2015 Academy Awards, we're taking a closer look at some of the films that are nominated for best picture...with the directors and writers behind the films.

    We begin with a movie called "Whiplash." The film is about the abusive relationship between a student and teacher at a Juilliard-type of elite music school.

    Rafer Guzman and Kristen Meinzer, co-hosts of the Movie Date podcast, interviewed Damien Chazelle, writer and director of "Whiplash." Chazelle explained that in writing the film, he took inspiration from his own life.

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  • Feb 16

    Today's Takeaways: Revenge on ISIS, Child Sex Abuse, and Modern Leaders

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  • Feb 14

    The Takeaway Weekender: A Movie Date Special

    The 87th annual Academy Awards are quickly approaching. Before you curl up on the couch to watch the Oscars, we're bringing you a special weekend podcast to help you prep for the biggest night in Hollywood.

    This weekend, The Takeaway's Movie Date Podcast team—Kristen Meizner, culture producer for The Takeaway, and Rafer Guzman, film critic for Newsday—take a close look at four of the films that are nominated for Best Picture...with the directors and writers of three of the films. 

    In this podcast, you'll hear excerpts from their interviews with a few of the greats, including:

    • James Marsh, the Director of "The Theory of Everything." 
    • Director Morten Tyldum and Writer Graham Moore of the "Imitation Game."  
    • Director and Writer Damien Chazelle of "Whiplash." 

    We also get a real-world perspective from three African-American students from Brooklyn that saw the film "Selma." Eighth graders Timothy Corion, Amaiya Williams, and Nia Johnson weigh in.

    Sit back with a bucket of popcorn and enjoy the show! 

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  • Feb 14

    'Fifty Shades of Grey,' 'Old Fashioned,' 'Kingsman: The Secret Service,' 'The Slap'

    Put on your handcuffs. After much anticipation, 'Fifty Shades of Grey' hits theatres. Also on the chopping block: 'Old Fashioned' and 'Kingsman: The Secret Service.'

    For this week's Sweatpants pick, Rafer and Kristen dig deep into NBC's newest miniseries, 'The Slap,' directed by Lisa Choledenko and starring some of the biggest names in the movie business.

    And, as always, there's trivia!

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  • Feb 13

    Chapel Hill Sparks Global Outrage

    The tragic shooting deaths of three young Muslim-Americans in Chapel Hill, North Carolina has set off a discussion among young Muslims across the globe. 

    Alongside feelings of sadness and loss—and the commitment to honor the victims through charitable works—there's been a visible current of frustration, too. Young Muslims have expressed anger about the initial the lack of mainstream coverage, about the reluctance of the police to call the shootings a hate crime, and about the country's continued struggles with Islamophobia.

    While police are still investigating the murderer's motives, on a larger scale, the numbers tell a grim story. Over the last decade, hate crimes against Muslims have risen and now consistently hover in the range of 100 to 150 per year.

    Wajahat Ali, co-host and digital producer on The Stream at Al Jazeera America at Al Jazeera Media Network, and Nawa Arsala, a second year law student at American University in Washington, D.C., explain how this tragedy is impacting young Muslims.

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  • Feb 13

    Loss of An Icon: Celebrating The Life of David Carr

    David Carr, the highly beloved and respected New York Times journalist best known for The Media Equation column, suddenly died yesterday at the age of 58. He collapsed in the Times newsroom and died at the nearby hospital where he was taken by ambulance. 

    Celebrated for his kindness, his wit, and inspiring persona, Carr leaves behind his wife Jill Rooney Carr, and his daughters, Maddie, Erin and Meagan.

    Here, Takeaway Host John Hockenberry remembers the sheer awe of Carr and his legacy. Journalists from around the country also shared remembrances online:

     

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  • Feb 13

    Alabama's Long Struggle for Equality

    In late January, a federal judge ruled that Alabama's ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional, paving the way for same sex couples to wed in one of the most conservative states in our nation. But not before Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore had his say. 

    Justice Moore ordered all probate judges and employees in Alabama to follow existing state law and not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or recognize same-sex marriages.

    In an interview on ABC earlier this week, Justice Moore was asked if he was worried about being on the "wrong side of history."

    "Wrong side of history? Absolutely not," he said. "Do they stop with one man and one man or one woman and one woman, or do they go to multiple marriages? Or do they go to marriages between men and their daughters? Women and their sons?"

    Many outlets have compared Moore's actions to those of former Alabama Governor George Wallace, who literally stood in the doorway of a school in 1963 in order to block federal authorities as they tried to allow black students to enter. But is this a fair comparison? 

    Doug Jones, a former U.S. Attorney, is the man who led a team of prosecutors and investigators in the re-opened historic “cold case” of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.

    Jones reflects on Alabama's historic culture of defiance, and how state residents feel about gay marriage today.

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  • Feb 13

    A Digital Mausoleum: Facebook After Death

    When a loved-one passes away, it's comforting to look back at their social media accounts and see the memories they shared. Often times Facebook pages become a sort of digital mausoleum—a place where family and friends can share remembrances and leave messages for their loved ones in the great beyond.

    But sometimes family members of the deceased want access to those accounts, to either delete the profile or manage it however they see fit.

    Now Facebook is letting the user decide what should happen to their profile when they pass away.

    One option involves appointing a so-called "legacy contact." That person gets the privilege of managing your account when you no longer can, and the word "remembering" appears before your name.

    Evan Carroll wrote a book on this topic called 'Your Digital Afterlife.' Here he discusses Facebook's new policy with The Takeaway's John Hockenberry. 

    Click here for information on how to select your own legacy contact, or to opt out.

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  • Feb 13

    Sex, Love & Intimacy: What 'Fifty Shades' Gets Right & Wrong

    This weekend, the new film "Fifty Shades of Grey" is expected to dominate the box office with an estimated $60 million dollars in ticket sales. But it's not box office domination that's got most of us talking—it's another kind of domination.

    Credited with bringing sexual domination and submission to the masses, the book "Fifty Shades of Grey" has also been cited as the reason behind increased sales of sex toys, and an explosion of BDSM (bondage and domination, sadism and masochism) titles on the paperback shelves. Writer E. L. James is now the single highest income-grossing author in the world.

    The movie may very well continue this trend, but what messages does the film send in the process?

    Cindy Gallop is the creator of the website “Make Love Not Porn" and the author of “Make Love, Not Porn: Technology's Hardcore Impact on Human Behavior.” She says the film and book have changed our conversations and perceptions about sex in America. But she argues that “Fifty Shades of Grey” also gets a lot wrong.

    “I’m very conflicted about ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’” says Gallop. “There are three reasons I hate it and there are three reasons I love it.”

    Gallop says she hates “Fifty Shades of Grey”—both the book and the film—because the novel was badly written and the movie was not particularly riveting. Additionally, she views the franchise as an overdone “Cinderella” story—only this time the prince and princess don leather and chains. Finally, she says the work of fiction also has “all the hallmarks of a thoroughly abusive relationship.”

    “The reasons I love it, first it de-kinkifies sex that many more people would be thoroughly enjoying if society hadn’t told them, ‘It’s kinky, you can’t do that,’” she says. “It has obviously galvanized, and the movie will galvanize, a number of relationships and marriages. The third reason I love it is that it socializes sex—it brings it out in the open and it makes it socially acceptable and shareable. Those are three very good things.”

    Like erotic literature from the Victorian Era, “Fifty Shades of Grey” focuses on male domination of women, but it has also made people more honest and open about sexuality. In some ways, however, Gallop believes the franchise does not go far enough.

    “Call me old fashioned, but I would’ve liked a whole lot more sex in it and I would’ve liked a whole lot more of Jamie Dornan naked,” she says. “I think that was a real missed opportunity because the movie world as a whole has gone backwards. If ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ had been made in the ‘70s, we would’ve seen some really interesting and authentic depictions of dominant-submissive sex. And we also would’ve seen a whole lot more of Jamie Dornan full frontal, versus restricting that, as Hollywood does, to the woman.”

    Gallop says the film needed more edge—and just not graphic sex or nudity. She argues that “Fifty Shades of Grey” missed an opportunity to explore sexuality as “fundamental human driver,” and the ways real world sex can be messy, conflicted, ridiculous, wonderful, and beautiful.

    “‘Fifty Shades’ glosses over all of that in a way that actually isn’t doing justice to the really interesting things about BDSM as a medium for sexual exploration and releasing all sorts of things that people don’t examine within themselves,” she says. “Unfortunately the movie is very superficial when it comes to that.”

    For those that argue that complex explorations of sex don’t belong in high-budget, mass-marketed Hollywood films, or on billboards placed along America’s interstate roadways, Gallop says that those that are uncomfortable merely need to sit down at their computers.

    “Go to Google and enter the word ‘porn’ into the search box as millions of kids do everyday,” she says. “Take a look at the 10 sites that come up on the first page of Google. Go to each of those sites, take a long, hard look at those homepages and then tell me we shouldn’t be having these conversations. I’m all for anything that forces more open, healthy discussion around sex in the real world.”

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  • Feb 13

    Looking for Love? Try This Potion

    On the eve of Valentine's Day, The Takeaway brings you a story about a love potion—a magic method that can supposedly allow any two strangers to fall in love with each other.

    Developed more than 20 years ago by a scientist named Arthur Aron, the method works like this:

    1. Get two people together who are open to the idea of falling in love
    2. Have the two participants answer these 36 questions openly and honestly
    3. And then, possibly the hardest part: Have the two participants stare into each other's eyes, without speaking, for exactly four minutes.

    When Dr. Arthur Aron tried this out with two human guinea pigs, the method didn't just lead to sparks and intimacy, the study subjects actually married each other less than six months later.

    Writer Mandy Len Catron decided to put this method to the test in her real love life with a man she barely knew—but who's now her boyfriend.

    Mandy teaches writing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and is working on a book about the dangers of love stories. You can read her work at The Love Story Project

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  • Feb 13

    Today's Takeaways: Remembering David Carr, Gay Marriage, and Sex in America

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  • Feb 12

    Bob Simon: Remembering a Legend

    There was a horrible tragedy last night in New York City: Legendary journalist Bob Simon died in a car accident. He was 73.

    Takeaway Host John Hockenberry remembers Simon as "one of the most intelligent, fearless, knowledgeable, steady, and dashing people to ever work in television news."

    The Takeaway remembers the life and work of Simon here.

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  • Feb 12

    Chapel Hill Murders Rattle Community

    Why did Craig Hicks brutally murder his three young Muslim neighbors, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha? 

    Hicks and his lawyer claim that the murder of the three college students was motivated by parking dispute—a version of the story that many find hard to believe. Some speculate that the crime was an act of religiously-targeted hate.

    As the victims' family members and community reel from the loss, those watching the news narrative locally—and nationally—aren't sure what to think.

    Frank Stasio, host of "The State of Things" on WUNC describes the local reaction. And Dr. Omid Safi, director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center, reflects on the state of Muslim-Community relations in the area.

    Before her death, one of the victims of the shooting, 21-year-old Yusor Abu-Salh, visited the StoryCorps Mobile Booth in Durham, NC with her former teacher. "Growing up in America has been such a blessing," she said. She later added, "We're all one—one culture."

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  • Feb 12

    The Psychology of Pricing & The Left-Digit Effect

    Numbers affect your mind. People often like working with whole numbers, but when it comes to pricing, items often end in the number 9. And there’s a reason for that.

    If you are looking for a bargain, for some reason a dollar to your brain is way more than 99 cents—it's something marketers discovered a long time ago and it's called the left digit effect.

    Tim Harford, "Undercover Economist" for the Financial Times, explains the psychology of pricing. 

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  • Feb 12

    Ungovernable Chaos: How Failed States Give Rise to Terrorism

    From the outside, the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria and the threat of the Islamic State in the Middle East don't seem to have much in common.

    But a closer look reveals some similarities: Both regions exist on maps haphazardly drawn by outside imperialists—regions forced into states without much care for tribal affiliation, or religion. As a result, both Nigeria and the Middle East have suffered from a lack of leadership and rising sectarian tensions for decades.

    While Nigeria has had some success economically, the country remains fragile. Thanks to ISIS, the border between Iraq and Syria has blurred

    Ambassador Nicholas Burns, former undersecretary of state for political affairs under President George W. Bush, examines the governments of both regions, as each try to combat a terrorist threat.

    Now a professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Ambassador Burns explains how failed and fragile governments contribute to lawlessness and terrorism.

    Manji Cheto is a risk analyst on the political economy of sub-Saharan Africa at the global advisory firm Teno. She discusses the consequences of instability in the region.

    Check out the Fund For Peace's 2014 Map of Fragile States below.

                                    Click Map for More Details

     

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  • Feb 12

    The Reunion of Tommy Tutone & 867-5309

    In the 1980s, the band Tommy Tutone rose to superstardom with their hit single "867-5309 / JENNY." A few years later, they quietly moved on with their lives, families, and second careers.

    But this past week, exactly 30 years after playing their final show together, the band members, Jim Keller and Tommy Heath, reunited for a big performance in New York.

    Before the big show, they sat down with John Hockenberry to talk about the early days and what's happened to them since. 

    Check out some photos from John's visit with Tommy and Jim below.

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  • Feb 12

    Your TV Is Listening to You. And Messing With It Could Be a Felony.

    Is your new smart TV spying on you? Many new TV's are equipped with a microphone that allows for voice recognition tasks, a function that is akin to Apple's "Siri."

    The functionality is great for innovation and ease of use (can you imagine having to push buttons on an old fashioned remote control?), but the privacy policies tucked deep inside the boxes of these new TVs reads like it was ripped out of a George Orwell novel: Here's Samsung's:

    “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

    Here's a passage from George Orwell's 1984: 

    “Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork.”

    Want to make things a little scarier? Meddle with the technology on these new smart TVs, and you may be facing felony charges under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The law prohibits tampering with devices that help prevent illegal copying and distribution of copyrighted material.

    Michael Price is counsel in the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYC School of Law. Last October he read his TV privacy policy closely and wrote about it at Salon.com.

    “Most people probably gloss over the privacy policy in the same way you click on ‘I Agree’ for updating your iTunes account,” says Price. “Most people may be unaware that these sorts of warnings are in there and that this sort of technology is in play.”

    Price says that many devices in addition to smart TVs—things like Siri, FitBit, or even the GPS navigation system in a car—are constantly collecting data about a person’s whereabouts and habits, and then transmitting that information back to the company that created and remotely maintains a device.

    Some smart TVs even have cameras enabled with facial recognition technology and are recording images of users—all of which is mentioned in the paper manual that comes with a television, a packet that most neglect to read.

    “It’s not complete science fiction,” he says. “The idea is to get more and more data about you and that is supposed to deliver some sort of convenience, benefit, or customized content like some recommendations for what you might want to watch on TV.”

    How can this all be legal? By including a privacy manual with a smart TV that outlines collection and recording policies, a company can argue that a user was informed and essentially gave consent by using the device anyway. Additionally, under the law, the information recorded and collected by a smart TV is considered a third-party business record, says Price.

    “What that means is you’ve given your information to a company so you’ve somehow lost your privacy interest in it,” he says. “You’re talking about a whole bunch of different kinds of data. Some of it is very, very personal, and some of it is Constitutionally protected, or at least we’d like to think that it should be Constitutionally protected. But as the law stands, a warrant is not required for police to obtain a lot of that information.”

    The information collected by smart TVs and sent to companies often goes to other businesses for advertising—but the data can also be handed over the authorities if the government has a subpoena.

    So what about opting out? Price says it’s easy—at least in theory.

    “It’s really easy to turn the internet off,” he says. “You can disconnect the TV in that way. But it presents a really unfair trade off: You get to either use all these really nifty new pieces of technology that you bought and paid for, or you can have your privacy. But right now, it doesn’t seem like we can have it both ways. That’s what has to change.”

    In a statement provided to The Takeaway, Samsung said they "take consumer privacy very seriously. In all of our Smart TVs, any data gathering or their use is carried out with utmost transparency and we provide meaningful options for consumers to freely choose or to opt out of a service. We employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use.”

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  • Feb 12

    Today's Takeaways: The Chapel Hill Murders, Smart TV Spying, and A Band Reunited

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  • Feb 11

    Controversy and Asbestos in Nevada

    Scientists have long known that exposure to asbestos is linked to many types of cancer, in particular Mesothelioma, a deadly form of lung cancer.

    While synthetic asbestos is no longer used in building, it can naturally occur in the environment. A recent study found a high level of the substance in Southern Nevada, in the Las Vegas metropolitan area.

    The study's authors gave their data to an epidemiologist, who studied the information alongside Nevada's cancer registry. She found a pattern of mesothelioma in the areas affected by asbestos.

    The state's response? Nevada Department of Health and Human Services officials revoked the epidemiologist's access to the cancer registry and demanded that she withdraw her findings from an upcoming conference.

    As the state epidemiologist told Takeaway partner The New York Times, "Asbestos was there for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and that has not translated into negative health effects."

    Brenda Buck, professor of geosciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is one of the researchers who first discovered the high incidence of asbestos in Southern Nevada. She's concerned about the health of her fellow Nevadans—and says that the state's response is troubling.

    Dr. Tracy Green, chief medical officer for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public and Behavioral Health, gave The Takeaway the following statement in response to a request for comment on Professor Buck's research:

    "[Dr. Green is] concerned about the public’s health and well-being. We are aware of naturally occurring actinolite asbestos fibers in many parts of our state—and we continue to carefully assess and try to reduce the risk of exposure to Nevadans.

    "Regrettably, Miss Baumann did not honor the commitment that she made when she agreed not to publish any work prior to allowing the State Health Officer to examine the and approve the work pursuant to Nevada state law.

    "Despite much dialogue, Miss Baumann was unresponsive to the concerns raised and errors noted, which ultimately compelled the State Health Officer to have to disapprove further access to data in the Nevada Central Cancer Registry.

    "Miss Baumann is an exceptional case in that Cancer Registry data is regularly provided to other universities and researchers who respect the terms of their agreements and provide copies of their manuscripts and other works for examination and approval. Most are approved without further comment, others are provided feedback and suggestions collaboratively and ultimately take their work to publication without issue."

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  • Feb 11

    Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on the Future of Asia

    When Kevin Rudd was swept into power as Australia's Prime Minister in 2007, he enacted a series of policy changes aimed at positioning his country as a leader in Asia.

    After signing the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at reducing carbon emissions, he led a pan-Asian effort to counteract the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis, and relaxed Australia's strict immigration policies.

    Now, as president of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, Rudd continues to expand his vision for Asia. In his interview with The Takeaway—his first broadcast interview since joining the Asia Society—Rudd discusses the future of Asia, and has some critical words for President Obama and his Asia "pivot."

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  • Feb 11

    Better Than The Rest: Missing Jon Stewart Already

    There's been quite a bit of drama this week in the world of media.

    Yesterday, journalist Brian Williams was handed a six month suspension by NBC News for his false statements about his experiences in the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina, and Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, announced that he's leaving the program that he built into a news source more trusted than the old networks he so loved to poke fun at.

    Bob Garfield, longtime journalist and co-host of WNYC’s On the Media, reflects on Jon Stewart's powerful legacy.

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  • Feb 11

    Harper Lee's Sequel Brings Excitement & Worry

    ?Earlier this month, the publishing world was sent into a cataclysmic fit over news that Harper Lee would be publishing a companion work to her much beloved novel "To Kill a Mockingbird."

    The story of Scout, her father Atticus Finch, and the struggle for racial justice in the American South is the only work Lee has ever published.

    The new book, set to be published by HarperCollins later this year, is called "Go Set a Watchman," and was actually written before "To Kill a Mockingbird," though it's really a sequel. It features the character of Scout as an adult, back from New York for a visit to her childhood home in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama.

    The timing of the publication has raised suspicion: Lee is reportedly blind and deaf. She has long lead an intensely private life, and some wondered if she had been manipulated into publishing again. Lee's attorney, Tonja Carter, declined our request for an interview.

    Starling Lawrence, former editor-in-chief at W. W. Norton and a friend of Harper Lee, says he's excited about news of the publication, though he has his worries about the project, too.

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  • Feb 11

    Beauty in The Eyes of a Sightless Beholder

    We're talking this week about beauty: How we define it, how we perceive it, and what it means historically and socially—and to you, our listeners.

    Today, we approach the topic beauty with someone who has a unique perspective: UC Berkeley English Professor Georgina Kleege.

    Kleege is blind, and has written about how she sees the world in several books, including "Sight Unseen," and the essay "Beauty and the Blind."

    And as Kleege explains, you don't have to see beauty to understand its value. In her words: "I live in a visual culture, so I know what people say."

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  • Feb 11

    The FAA Will Regulate Business in Outer Space

    If you ever decide to start a business on the moon, fear not. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that it will make sure other private companies can't steal your location.

    That's right—the FAA is already starting to regulate the future economy of outer space. This announcement foreshadows a future where capitalism moves beyond planet Earth—a future where private companies can offer goods and services on other terrestrial bodies in our solar system.

    And some of those companies are already gearing up.

    Mike Gold is director of D.C. Operations and Business Growth for Bigelow Aerospace. It's a company that makes outer space habitats. He's also part of an advisory committee that helps the FAA figure out how to make these rules. Gold believes that it's important for the FAA to regulate private business in space.

    “These regulations are unique in that they can actually serve as incentives for investment,” says Gold. “That’s what industry is looking for here. Maybe we won’t be on the moon tomorrow, but there are many companies—including my own—that are making substantial investments in lunar technology today.”

    Gold says that the FAA is taking steps to provide corporate enterprises with a new degree of reassure, security, and motivation to invest in technologies that can eventually help bring business to the moon or other celestial bodies.

    Some are not so optimistic, however. Since companies like Gold’s are advising the FAA on these new rules, many are concerned that the business industry is writing its own regulations.

    “That’s not the case,” Gold says. “The FAA has been going through some strong pushback with the industry. The industry has been working with them on this.”

    The 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty, which was modeled on its predecessor, the Antarctic Treaty, prohibits any nation from claiming galactic territory as its own. The new regulations being pushed by the FAA, Gold says, are not designed to foster territorial claims of lunar property.

    “No one is talking about ownership,” says Gold. “All the FAA said in their letter is that if they issue a license for one company to be operating in certain area, that they would not issue a license to another company that would endanger or interfere with what the previous company is doing. That’s all that’s occurring here, but I think some of the media has spun it a bit out of control.”

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  • Feb 11

    After Months of Bombing, Congress to Vote on Use of Force Against ISIS

    After six months of bombing the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, President Obama is asking Congress to get on board and continue the air campaign against ISIS.

    Democrats oppose giving the president open-ended authority to wage war, but Republicans want to give the president more latitude.  

    If we are telling the Islamic State upfront that we will not use ground forces, will they not tailor their strategy around that fact?" Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said on the Senate floor this week. "If we advertise when the authorization expires at an arbitrary date and time, will they not hunker down and wait for that date?"

    Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington Correspondent, explains what the White House wants, and the opposition the Obama Administration is likely to face not just from Republicans, but from Democrats. 

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  • Feb 11

    Today's Takeaways: A Media Shake Up, A Literary Classic, and Sightless Beauty

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  • Feb 10

    Report Claims Right-Wing Films Break the Box Office

    There are a number of ways to rate films, from how accurately they depict certain populations, to how they promote specific political viewpoints.

    Since 1985, Movieguide, a Christian film media outlet, has rated movies on how they present family-friendly and faith-based values. And according to their newest press release, conservative movies made three times as much money as liberal ones last year: $71.49 million per movie versus $22.48 million per film, respectively.

    Rafer Guzman, film critic for Newsday and co-host of the Movie Date podcast, says that Movieguide’s report is designed to pressure Hollywood to make more “conservative” films. However, he says the report stretches the definition of a “conservative” movie quite a bit.

    “They’ve really twisted the definition of a ‘conservative’ movie almost beyond recognition,” says Guzman. “Take a movie like ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier.’ It counts in their view as a ‘conservative’ film. But that’s about Captain America essentially trying to take down the NSA—he’s trying to combat the global surveillance system. Is that conservative?”

    Movieguide also characterized “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1)” as a “conservative” film, even though the movie’s plot takes on anarchistic themes, focusing heavily on defying authority and overthrowing the government. In contrast, Movieguide identified “Boyhood” as a “liberal” film—yet Guzman points out that the movie focuses on a gun-owning Texas family.

    “If you look at clearly faith-based movies in 2014, they did well, but it’s kind of a mixed bag,” says Guzman. “You’ve got movies like ‘Heaven is For Real,’ which did $92 million—that’s really good. But then you’ve got a movie like ‘Left Behind,’ which did $14 million—that was a bomb. So I don’t really think you can say that when these movies come out that they’re guaranteed to make scads of money.”

    Guzman says that instead of categorizing films as liberal or conservative, he believes that Hollywood is best served by trying to appeal to moviegoers of all political leanings.

    “My gut feeling is that the average American moviegoer doesn’t want to be preached to,” he says. “I think that’s one reason why a lot of these very explicitly faith-based movies that really sledgehammer you with a message don’t do that well. I think that when people go into a movie, they don’t want an agenda—no matter what it is.”

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  • Feb 10

    Ukraine: A Crisis Slipping Towards the Brink?

    President Obama met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House yesterday. While the allies tried to present a united front, it's clear they're at odds on the best way to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin's hostility in Eastern Ukraine.

    In a joint press conference with Chancellor Merkel, President Obama told reporters, "In the face of [Russian] aggression and these bad decisions, we can't simply try to talk them out of it. We have to show them that the world is unified in imposing a cost for this aggression."

    Chancellor Merkel countered these comments with a focus on diplomacy. "We continue to pursue a diplomatic solution, although we have suffered a lot of setbacks."

    She later noted, "I've always said, I don't see a military solution to this conflict...we have to put all our efforts into putting about a diplomatic solution."

    Tomorrow Merkel will meet with the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and France in Minsk, to pursue that diplomatic solution. Dmitry Babich, political analyst for Radio Sputnik, examines President Putin's response to Western criticism for Russia's actions in Eastern Ukraine.

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  • Feb 10

    U.S. ISIS Hostage Kayla Mueller Confirmed Dead

    Kayla Jean Mueller, a 26-year-old American aid worker that was being held hostage by the Islamic State, has died in Syria, according to a statement released by her family. She was the only known remaining U.S. hostage being held by the Islamic State.

    The Arizona native was captured by militants in the city of Aleppo in August 2013. On Friday, ISIS militants claimed that Mueller lost her life in a Jordanian air strike intended to avenge the death of Maaz al-Kassasbeh, a captured Jordanian pilot who was burned to death by the Islamic State.

    "We are heartbroken to share that we've received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller has lost her life," Mueller's parents said in a statement. “We are so proud of the person Kayla was and the work that she did while she was here with us. She lived with purpose.”

    President Obama released a statement Tuesday praising Kayla Jean for her bravery and self-sacrifice as an aid worker. He also vowed justice for Mueller and her family.

    "She has been taken from us, but her legacy endures, inspiring all those who fight, each in their own way, for what is just and what is decent," the president said. "No matter how long it takes, the United States will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla’s captivity and death."

    Rana Sweis, a freelance journalist for The New York Times currently based in the Jordanian capital of Amman, has the details on this story.

    Below is an image of Kayla Jean Mueller's final letter to her family. Read the full text here.

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  • Feb 10

    Retired Army Pilot Urges Hollywood To Portray Veterans Fairly

    In the world of Hollywood, movies, and television shows, veterans are often the tragic heroes.

    They’re fearless and cunning on the battlefield, but irreparably damaged—and sometimes even dangerous—when they return home.

    One group of veterans says they're not happy with that depiction, and now they've teamed up with filmmakers and TV producers in Hollywood to create a special certification for films that show veterans behaving realistically. 

    One of those veterans is Chris Marvin. He's a retired Army Captain and helicopter pilot who was injured in Afghanistan when his helicopter crashed in 2004. Now he's part of the group called "Got Your 6," which seeks to inform the way the public sees veterans. 

    Chris talks about war movies and a scene from "The Mindy Project" with The Takeaway's John Hockenberry. 

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  • Feb 10

    Payday Loans: A Necessary Evil?

    Payday loans are small dollar, short-term loans that typically come with extremely high interest rates. But for many, they are a necessary evil.

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is hoping to change all that. The agency is drafting federal regulations to govern a wide range of short-term loans.

    But how will that impact the people who depend on them? 

    Toni Chynoweth had her first experience with a payday loan at the age of 18. Now with a two-year-old daughter and a husband who was recently laid off, her priorities have shifted but her needs remains the same.

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  • Feb 10

    What's in a Face? 'The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty'

    Click on the audio player above to hear the full interview.

    Author Amanda Filipacchi grew up defining beauty by the standard set by her gorgeous mother, Sondra Peterson, an elite Ford model frequently featured in Vogue, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar in the 1950s and 60s.

    Filipacchi is author of "The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty," a novel that imagines a beautiful woman hiding under an elaborate disguise to make herself appear unattractive, with the hope that it will help her find real love.

    “I have a sort of love-hate relationship with beauty,” she says. “I think it’s sad how important it is—it’s kind of tragic. Yet, I myself love it; I can’t help it—most people do.”

    Filipacchi, who says she didn’t set out to write a novel about beauty, was struck by society’s hidden and blatant messages of beauty and its importance therein.

    “The classic fairy tales, they don’t send a good message—all the girls are always beautiful,” she says. “They may be dirty like Cinderella, or they may be poor. Anything is fine, but you have to be beautiful or you’re not worthy of a fairy tale. And that’s unfortunate.”

    Filipacchi says she admired her mother greatly and was never jealous or resentful of her beauty. However, she did have to deal with comments on her mother’s appearance—when she was younger, a man she was seeing even said, “It must be hard to have a mother who’s that beautiful.” Yet, despite having a high-profile mother in the fashion industry, Filipacchi says she was often “fascinated” by beauty.

    “I would make airbrush posters of my mother’s modeling pictures and things like that,” she says. “But I was thinking recently that if retouching of models on covers didn’t exist, I think perhaps everyone would appreciate each other more.”

    Though the trends of the moment often influence societal views of beauty, for much of the Western world, ideas of beauty date back to the ancient Greeks. But Filipacchi doesn’t subscribe to those standards.

    “I’m not sure that the ‘ideal’ Greek beauty is our taste anymore,” she says. “In some of our actors nowadays, I find some much better looking than [Michelangelo's] David.”

    Filipacchi says that she used to believe in tools like makeup, but she’s since moved away from that notion.

    “I used to really feel that it could make anybody look beautiful,” she says. “After a certain age, when I was about 30 and I had to start wearing glasses, I thought, ‘Forget about the makeup—what’s the point if you have to wear glasses? It ruins the whole effect.’ There, my tastes changed. Over the years I’ve started finding women who don’t wear makeup more beautiful.”

    Whether it’s cosmetics, fairy tales, or magazine covers, Filipacchi argues that beauty often controls us all.

    “It would be good if we could make efforts to free ourselves—to sometimes try to see beauty in people, to give them a chance, or let it be an acquired taste,” she says. “Our society often talks about inner beauty; that that’s what counts. But we fail.”

    What does beauty mean to you? Add your voice to the discussion by telling us in words or sharing a photo with us on Twitter @TheTakeaway or on our Facebook page. Use the hashtag #MyBeautyIs

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  • Feb 10

    Preparing to Die: Dr. Atul Gawande on Medicine's Struggle with Mortality

    Huge advances in medicine and technology may have improved the way we live, but how about the way we die? Aging and dying are uncomfortable realities the medical community has struggled with, according to Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

    “I learned about a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn’t one of them,” Gawande writes in the introduction to his book, “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.” He adds, “The purpose of medical schooling was to teach how to save lives, not how to tend to their demise."

    Gawande has been a surgeon for more than a decade, and both of his parents were doctors. 

    The Takeaway talks with Gawande about "Being Mortal," a new FRONTLINE documentary inspired by his latest book. The film explores the challenges that Gawande and other doctors face when trying to help terminally ill patients. 

    FRONTLINE’S “Being Mortal”, produced by our partner WGBH, airs tonight at 10 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings).

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  • Feb 10

    Today's Takeaways: Medicine's Struggle, Veterans on Film, and The Curse of Beauty

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  • Feb 09

    5 Things to Know About Dr. Atul Gawande

    Tomorrow, The Takeaway will interview Boston-area surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande about the struggles the medical profession has when it comes to helping patients with end-of-life care. Gawande is the author of "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End," and a correspondent for a new FRONTLINE film airing on PBS tonight Tuesday Feb 10.

    Here are 5 awesome things you must know about Dr. Gawande before you listen to our interview. 

    1. His 2009 article in The New Yorker, "The Cost Conundrum," made waves when it compared the healthcare of two towns in Texas and suggested that more expensive care is often worse care. President Barack Obama cited the article during his attempt to get the Affordable Care Act passed by the U.S. Congress.

    2. In 2010, Time Magazine named him as one of the world's most influential thinkers.

    3. His 2012 TED talk, "How do we heal medicine?," has been watched over 1 million times.

    4. In 2013, Atul launched Ariadne Labs, a new healthcare innovation lab designed "to provide scalable solutions that produce better care at the most critical moments in people's lives everywhere."

    5. In 2014, he presented the BBC’s Reith Lectures, a series of talks inaugurated in 1948. Past hosts include Bertrand Russell, Robert Oppenheimer and J.K. Galbraith.

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  • Feb 09

    Report: HSBC Helped Clients Dodge Billions in Taxes

    A team of journalists from 45 countries has revealed some startling new findings about super bank HSBC. 

    According to leaked documents, HSBC clients were assured that the bank would hide their assets from tax authorities in Paris, Washington, London and Madrid. The accounts represent billions of dollars in assets and a very upscale client list.

    "HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws," the report says. "The leaked files, based on the inner workings of HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm, relate to accounts holding more than $100 billion."

    Rachel Ensign, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has the details on this report.

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  • Feb 09

    Investigation: Corrupt Foreign Money Flowing Into U.S. Real Estate

    Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office just a few months after 9/11. As New Yorkers started to rebuild, the Mayor quickly re-zoned the city, leaving much more land for residential real estate.

    Much of the new construction included luxury buildings. As the city skyline changed, so did the people buying those high-priced apartments.

    According to a new investigation co-authored by Louise Story, investigative reporter for Takeaway partner The New York Times, last year more than $8 billion dollars were spent on New York condos costing $5 million dollars or more—triple the amount of just a decade ago.

    However, back in 2013, Mayor Bloomberg claimed this investment was good for the city.

    "We've been able to do something that none of these other cities can do, and that is attract some of the very wealthy from around the city and around the world," he told listeners on his call-in WOR radio show. "And they are the ones that pay a lot of the taxes, they're the ones that spend a lot of money in the stores and the restaurants and create a big chunk of our economy. And we take the tax revenue from those people and help people throughout the entire rest of the spectrum."

    He later noted, "If we could get every billionaire from around the world to move here, it would be a godsend!"

    But Story's new investigation presents a much more complicated picture: A number of foreign buyers are using luxury real estate in New York and elsewhere throughout the country to hide corrupt dealings and billions of dollars.

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  • Feb 09

    What the 2015 Grammys Got Right and Wrong

    The 57th annual Grammy Awards were last night, and the big winners were Sam Smith and Beck. 

    With us on what the Grammys got right—and so very, very wrong—is John Schaefer, host of Soundcheck and New Sounds at our partner station WNYC.

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  • Feb 09

    Essay: The Uncertain Future of Brian Williams

    The following essay is by Takeaway Host John Hockenberry. Follow him on Twitter: @JHockenberry.

    To me, the Brian Williams saga is at once irresistible and deeply sad—a puzzling, stratospheric fall from grace that’s almost Shakespearean.

    Network anchors are both superfluous figureheads and the princely Hamlets of our time, anointed and burdened with a role that outwardly confers its significance but inwardly denies it.

    Last week, I succumbed to the temptation to nastily tweet along with the gleeful multitudes about Williams’ credibility crisis. But in hindsight, it is a story deeper than any of the petty graffiti from possibly jealous colleagues.

    And for me, it’s personal.

    There was a guy who sat next to me at Ross Corners Elementary school in Vestal, New York named Brian Williams. He was perfect. Perfect penmanship, grades, behavior, and crisply pressed clothes that made him look like a little IBM executive (all of our dads worked at IBM in nearby Glendale).

    That Brian Williams was clearly bound for greatness. He was so infuriatingly and effortlessly perfect that there was an expression coined in our house: “That’s such a Brian Williams kind of thing” meant something so perfect that it was unattainable. You had to be born with the whole “Brian Williams” package.

    Brian moved away by fifth grade. I never heard about him again. Then in 1993, when I came to New York and started working in television, I ran into a rising star named Brian Williams almost immediately. He was hired at NBC News the same year that I was hired at ABC News. He so clearly appeared to have the “Brian Williams” package of my childhood that I did some investigating to see if he was the same Brian Williams from Vestal, New York.

    He wasn’t, but he was from a town right nearby in Elmira, New York. And the way he carried himself seemed to confirm this idea of a “Brian Williams” kind of person.

    When I was hired by NBC I became Brian’s network colleague, although he moved in a much loftier circle than I did. He was a nice guy, it seemed, but he was all TV, all anchor, and it was clear that in the race to see who might someday replace the untouchable Tom Brokaw, Brian was “The One.”

    When NBC launched MSNBC in 1996, Brian and I were among the correspondents in the news division that were drafted to anchor programs. His would be the front man of a “Nightly News” style evening broadcast, “The News With Brian Williams”—a safe, untouchable bullpen for Williams until Tom Brokaw retired.

    My show, on the other hand, was a high-risk weekly experimental interview program on issues and culture that showcased the work of documentary filmmakers. It was called “Edgewise.”

    The “News” lasted from 1996 until 2002 when Brian was officially selected to replace Tom Brokaw. "Edgewise" did not make it a year. This was confirmation that the “Brian Williams” forces I had encountered in elementary school 30 years before were still potent.

    In late August of 1996, I was in Chicago as part of MSNBC’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention. I was anchoring specials on politics nestled in and around Brian’s prime time coverage. As usual, the convention had been a completely boring affair. On the night before President Clinton’s ritual official nomination, I came back to the hotel to find Brian beaming with an almost giddy smile.

    “This is the big one,” he said to me. “This is why I got into this business.”

    Brian and the entire press corps were convinced that what came to be known (and then quickly forgotten) as the Dick Morris scandal was going to change the course of the campaign. A brilliant and ruthless Clinton operative had been caught with prostitutes and the whole thing played for a few days, evolving into some unseemly and familiar Clinton narrative. But it was clearly only about Morris, who eventually resigned in disgrace.

    Whether Brian meant it or not, when he said that such moments were why he got into broadcasting, I knew that was not why I had become a journalist. That moment taught me the difference between a reporter and an anchor.

    Reporters want to uncover something important. Anchors want to speak to an audience and are especially excited about breaking into programs with a “We interrupt this program with breaking news…” It’s that kind of reassuring authority that seems to stop the world in its tracks.

    I have worked with many anchors and they all have enormous burdens of destiny and identity to carry. Dan Rather was a storm chaser in Texas until some big stories like the Kennedy assassination and Watergate made him a plausible successor to Walter Cronkite. Rather was always an outsider in some sense. He had to fight the doubts that came with being unanointed. He was not one of Murrow’s boys like Cronkite—the reporters hired by Edward R. Murrow to create the CBS News brand.

    The late Peter Jennings was a natural on camera and he loved traditional journalism, but he was only in his 20s when he became a network anchor for ABC. He lacked a college education and could be insecure about projecting authority. He left his first go around as anchor and for years worked in the field as a real reporter. Peter was determined to be the person who knew more than anyone else about a subject. He often was, even if he didn’t believe it.

    Tom Brokaw was a veteran beat reporter but had been host of the chatty “Today Show,” which is as much about celebrities and recipes as it is about the news, when he became the sole face of NBC “Nightly News” in 1983. After he was named to the big chair he was the pretty boy anchor at the number three network for a very long time.

    Eventually, Rather’s abrasive personality worked against him as an anchor and the credibility problem at “60 minutes II” finished the job in 2005. Peter Jennings was taken by cancer. Brokaw rose to the top and eventually burnished his creds by writing “The Greatest Generation” books. People who had been in the thick of WWII told their stories to a network anchor who had seen no combat as a soldier, and sometimes wondered if that was an omission for people of his generation. Those books solidified Brokaw as a person beyond TV, and it helped catapulted NBC to number one.

    Brian Williams observed all of this. Now one can only wonder what special burdens of identity he carried. It was such a foregone conclusion that he was to be anchor after Brokaw that the details of his style and personality were deemed trivial. Brian rubbed shoulders with Jack Welch at GE. He went on Leno, and we were told he took the GE chopper to exotic locations to shoot his standup segments.

    People at NBC tolerated his sometimes meandering live vamps and his interview questions that included a paragraph of history preceding the question mark. They admired his sense of humor and his ability to always look perfect.

    To me he was simply the Brian Williams of “Brian Williamses.”

    Except now he isn’t. His ratings, awards and compensation have all conferred more than enough credibility for three careers in journalism. So why would he be tempted to reach for some other brass ring?

    Is it that being fired on in wartime, tales of fearing for your life, the experiences of Bob Simon and Kimberly Dozier of CBS, or Bob Woodruff of ABC are so coveted that you would invent some dramatic shrapnel from the troubled war in Iraq to join a “New Greatest Generation”? The soldiers Williams went out of his way to honor in numerous public appearances represented an opportunity for him to tell his story, as if that would make it a fact.

    What a tragic Shakespearean twist. The ultimate “gotcha” moment consumes a man who dedicated his life to covering them all. Williams has now given us a Dick Morris moment that threatens to overshadow Williams’ entire celebrated career.

    True or not, Williams’ focus on his own story may have kept him selling a flawed war along with nearly everyone on TV, including the network owned at the time by one of the country’s biggest defense contractors: GE.

    Who knows what would have happened if he focused instead on how the war in Iraq was fundamentally misguided, and tragic for the soldiers who fought and died, heroic as their work may have been. Had he been first with that story he might have honored veterans far better than in his questionable speeches, and maybe even have qualified to be in “The Greatest Generation” after all.

    But of course none of this frenzy over Brian Williams matters. It is all just as petty as my impulse to tweet (something nasty about BW and The Alamo). Network anchors don’t much matter anymore. The big three who followed the Cronkite era never had successors anyway.

    About all this scandal demonstrates, once again, is the power of social media that long ago robbed the old networks of their precious “We interrupt this program…” role. It’s not clear how this investigation will turnout or what the future of the last real TV news star will be, but after almost 25 years of wondering, it’s clear to me now that Brian Williams is no “Brian Williams.”

     

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  • Feb 09

    Does the GOP Really Want to Abolish the IRS?

    A dedicated page featured on the Republican Party website reads, "Stand with the GOP and Fight to Abolish the IRS." It's the latest campaign asking Americans to sign a petition to support their efforts to abolish the tax agency. 

    But, when House Speaker John Beohner was asked about the policy, he replied: "Why don't you go talk to the [Republican National Committee] about whatever they've got to say."

    And so we did. When RNC Chairman Reince Preibus was asked, he said the IRS has major problems and needs fixing, but wouldn't come out and say that the party is calling for the IRS to be abolished. 

    Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington Correspondent, spoke with other GOP lawmakers to better understand who is behind this effort and if it will have any traction in Congress.  

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  • Feb 09

    The Ancient Origins of Modern Beauty

    What is beauty? Is it how we appear others? How we feel about ourselves? Or does beauty live on the inside?

    This week we're asking that simple question: What is beauty? 

    For much of the Western world, notions of beauty date back to the ancient Greeks, and understanding it allows us to explore the connection between beauty and sexuality, beauty and class, and beauty and metaphysics.

    Classicist David Konstan, author of “Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea,” says we owe our healthy and unhealthy notions of beauty in many cases to the artists and geniuses of Athens.

    The key to understanding it all ultimately comes down to a single word. For many years, Konstan says, scholars didn’t think that the Greeks had a specific concept of beauty. As far as they knew, there was only the all-purpose word kalós, which was often used to mean good.

    It wasn’t until Konstan began studying the similar and lesser-known word kallos that the real notion of Greek beauty became clear.

    “When God created the world, he looked at the world and he said it is good. In Greek, that's translated to the adjective kalós. God didn't mean it's beautiful, he meant it's a fine piece of work,” Konstan says. “Whereas kallos does, interestingly enough, have a corresponding word in Hebrew, which also refers very specifically to physical attractiveness as opposed to things being good in general.”

    This breakthrough opened up a new realm for understanding the concept of Greek beauty, and the way that this idea continues to affect ideals of beauty today.

    “Two questions always come up about beauty: One is what kinds of things do people think are beautiful? Tall people or short people? Heavy people or thin people? And we've seen those changes over the centuries,” Konstan says. “The other is what does beauty do? That is, what is its effect? Does it make us admire something or does it make us attracted to something?”

    Konstan says that, for the Greeks, beauty was skin deep: It simply inspired desire. While that idea seems modern, in ancient Greece the term was applied to a very different group of people.

    “The Greeks put the emphasis on attractiveness,” Konstan says. “As we know, there was what we call ‘Greek love,’ which was pederastic in the sense that it was usually an older person who felt a passion for a younger boy. A pubescent boy. And when you see the attribution, the ascription of beauty, it's rarely ascribed to adult males … If you've got a hero like a he-man, like Hercules, you don't want to say he's pretty.”

    Konstan says that it’s remarkable how so much of Greek art still fits our standards of beauty today.

    “We don't have to argue that the Venus de Milo...is beautiful,” Konstan says. “Whereas there are periods and cultures, even medieval painting in [the] West, where we don't necessarily respond that way. We wouldn't say seeing a celebrity who looked just like [a] medieval icon would make us think of beauty.”

    Konstan says that this is because of Greek texts that were reintroduced to the West during the Renaissance. For the Greeks, beauty was created through symmetry and proportion. Through detailed analysis of the human body, Greek thinkers defined what makes someone beautiful.

    “We have fragments, but fairly substantial fragments, of a work called the Canon by a sculptor who wrote a little manual and then also prepared a statue that would illustrate it,” Konstan says. “And the detail is remarkable. The hand should be such-an-such mathematical proportion of the forearm. The forearm, of the whole arm. The size of the head should be 1/7 the size of the entire body.”

    There are competing theories as to why these proportions have remained the gold standard of measuring attractiveness through the centuries.

    “I'm inclined to think that these are cultural artifacts, but there are arguments that would suggest that attractiveness in this regard has a biological function,” Konstan says. “There's one curious book called ‘The Survival of the Prettiest,’ as opposed to the survival of the fittest, which places a lot of emphasis on the evolutionary aspect, and that would be transcultural.”

    What does beauty mean to you? Add your voice to the discussion by telling us in words or sharing a photo with us on Twitter @TheTakeaway or on our Facebook page. Use the hashtag #MyBeautyIs

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  • Feb 09

    Prostate Cancer Survival Divides White & Black Men

    Black men are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to die from prostate cancer.

    It's the kind of survival gap we've seen before. The Takeaway chronicled the black-white survival divide for women with breast cancer in our six-month-long audio storytelling series, "Under Her Skin: Living with Breast Cancer." 

    Today we look at the mysteries behind the prostate cancer survival divide with WNYC's "Living Cancer" series. The series aims to go beyond the evolving science of cancer treatment in order to explore the realities of a daily life with cancer.

    “One of our challenges is we don’t really understand the biological underpinnings of the higher rates that we see in black men,” says Dr. Durado Brooks, director of Prostate and Colorectal Cancers for the American Cancer Society. “This is not just African-American men, but men of West African origin around the globe have higher rates of prostate cancer and are more likely to die of the cancer.”

    Dr. Brooks says that black men are also more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer at an earlier age, and evidence suggests that prostate cancer can be more aggressive among younger males.

    “There are some things we don’t understand, but we do know that black men don’t get the same quality of treatment,” he says. “That can be because of insurance issues and lack of access. And it’s also that a lot of men are simply fearful and don’t pursue a diagnosis.”

    According to Dr. Brooks, many men are hesitant to obtain a digital rectal exam, which can be used to determine abnormalities of the prostate or identify prostate cancer itself. But there are other types of screenings available, like a prostate specific antigen (PSA) level blood test.

    “It’s been shown that the PSA alone is an adequate approach to screening,” he says. “The PSA plus the digital rectal exam provides a little more information. But quite frankly, even with that combination, these are not highly reliable tests. One thing that we clearly need are better screening tests.”

    In addition to screenings, Dr. Brooks says that many men that do find out that they have an elevated PSA level do not follow up with doctors for biopsies and other procedures because of a fear of cancer.

    But that wasn’t the case for Elzie McCord, a professor emeritus of biology at the New College of Florida. Back in 1999, he pushed to have his PSA level tested at age 50.

    “Being a scientist, I knew that blacks had a higher propensity for this disease than others,” says McCord. “I went to my [general practitioner] and asked for a PSA [test] following a digital rectal exam. He said I was too young, and that I shouldn’t take the exam. I told him that I really needed a baseline.”

    Three years later, McCord went back to his doctor to have his levels tested again. It was at that point in 2002 that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

    Though McCord says that surgery was the “gold standard” at the time, he did extensive research to identify the treatment that was right for him. He wound up undergoing prostate brachytherapy, a non-surgical radiation treatment, and some 12 years later, he is now living cancer free.

    However, in some ways, McCord is the exception to the rule. There are several reasons black men put off prostate exams and follow up visits—McCord says that one of those reasons is the intimacy of the screening procedure itself.

    “There’s another factor with the men that I talk to,” says McCord. “They ask me what’s involved in screening. I tell them about the digital rectal exam, and some of them say that no one is going to approach that part of their body. It appears that there’s some form of homophobia there, but it doesn’t make any sense to me.”

    Though others in the black community may be hesitant, Dr. Brooks says that McCord has done everything right, and he hopes that others will follow in his footsteps.

    “I applaud Mr. McCord because he’s done exactly what it is that we recommend that men do when they’re facing a prostate cancer diagnosis,” says Dr. Brooks. “They do their research. There are many men for whom surgery actually is reasonable and may be the best approach. But, all too often, men who are told they have cancer have the immediate response of ‘Get it out! Take care of it!’ They don’t take the time to recognize there are other treatment options.”

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  • Feb 09

    Is Putin Heading Down a Path of No Return?

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with President Obama today as part of a high level effort to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to honor a cease-fire agreement that was made in September between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatist forces.

    Germany and the U.S. disagree on whether to send weapons to the Ukrainian Army. Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry told Meet the Press the U.S. will do what it takes to keep Ukraine out of Putin's hands.

    "The solution is a political diplomatic one, but President Putin has got to make the decision to take an offramp, and we have to make it clear to him that we are absolutely committed to the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine no matter what," said Sec. Kerry. 

    Anne Applebaum, a foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Post and Slate, says that Vladimir Putin seems to be motoring down a path that may change the face of Europe more dramatically than any period since the end of the Cold War.

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  • Feb 09

    Today's Takeaways: Brian Williams, The 2015 Grammys, and Ideas of Beauty

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  • Feb 07

    The Weekender: Stories of Surviving Breast Cancer

    This is a special podcast focused on The Takeaway's six-month-long audio storytelling series, "Under Her Skin: Living With Breast Cancer." Come on a journey with us and three cancer survivors—Anita Colman, Lisa Echols and Crystal Miller—as they explain what it's like to live with breast cancer.

    As part of the many events to mark Black History Month, these three African-American women share their stories, looking at the hard realities and hard numbers facing women of color: The breast cancer death rate for African-American women is 40 percent higher in the U.S. than the national average.

    All three share their thoughts and their fears, their struggles and their triumphs in the hope that they can reach and inspire other women battling breast cancer.

    We hope you will take part in the conversation—join our Facebook group here.

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  • Feb 07

    'Jupiter Ascending,' 'Mr. Turner,' 'Lovesick,' 'Spongebob,' 'Seventh Son,' Movie Therapy & Sweatpants!

    It's another jam-packed week at the Movie Date podcast, as Rafer and Kristen take on 'Jupiter Ascending,' 'Mr. Turner,' 'Lovesick,' 'Spongebob,' 'Seventh Son,' Movie Therapy & Sweatpants! And, as always, there's trivia!

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  • Feb 06

    Prosecutor Drafted Arrest Warrant for Argentine President Before His Death

    The mysterious death of a prosecutor has citizens in Argentina on edge. Alberto Nisman was found in his apartment last month with a gunshot wound to the head.

    The cause of death is unknown, but Nisman was poised to implicate high ranking officials in the Argentine government including President Kirchner in a criminal cover-up. 

    Nisman alleged that Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was trying to protect Iranian officials who have being linked to a 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Investigators found a document calling for the president’s arrest in Nisman’s apartment after he died. President Kirchner denies the accusations, but she admits that Nisman's death was probably not a suicide.

    The Takeaway's John Hockenberry speaks with Silvina Sterin Pensel, the New York correspondent for Argentine TV news network Todo Noticias.

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  • Feb 06

    Happy Birthday, Bob Marley

    Bob Marley needs no introduction, known internationally he is the most prolific reggae artist of all time. More than three decades after his death his records still sell more than any other reggae artist annually. In 2006 a street in Brooklyn was co-named "Bob Marley Boulevard" and in 2008 a statue of Marley was erected in Serbia to promote peace and tolerance. Countless tributes exist throughout the world honoring Marley as a fighter for freedom.

    His weapon of choice? Reggae.

    They say the beat of reggae mimics that of a healthy human heart at rest, perhaps that explains why it's so infectious. It is the chosen rhythm of resistance everywhere in the world.

    February 6th would have been Bob's 70th birthday. Roger Steffens, a Marley expert and reggae archivist and author of the new book "The Family Acid," joins us to celebrate the man, his music and his legacy. And reggae artist Jesse Royal reflects on Marley's influence and the relevance of reggae today. 

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  • Feb 06

    New Testimony Renews Attention On Saudi Arabia's Role in 9/11

    The new testimony is sparking renewed attention to the joint inquiry on the 9/11 terror attacks from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. In December 2002, President George W. Bush classified 28 pages of this document.

    Sources indicate that the classified section implicates Saudi officials, possibly tying them to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks.

    This week, Zacarias Moussaoui, a convicted al-Qaeda operative, testified that he had contact with the Saudi government in the weeks leading up to 9/11. His claims have led to a renewed call for President Obama to release those 28 classified pages.

    Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) is the co-author of a bill that would urge the President to de-classify the remaining pages. He, his co-sponsor Congressman Stephen Lynch and former Senator Bob Graham -- co-chair of the Joint Congressional Inquiry -- hope Moussaoui's testimony will persuade President Obama to release the 28 pages.

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  • Feb 06

    Unemployment: A Life Sentence For Ex-Offenders

    While support grows for ban the box, some activists argue that banning the box isn’t enough to help ex-offenders get and retain work.

    William “Bill” Cobb is among them.

    An ex-offender himself, Cobb played a role in putting ban the box legislation in place in Philadelphia. But he found that - while he was able to find work after the box was banned - he still faced discrimination after being hired. The discrimination was bad enough to make holding a job nearly impossible.

    Today, Cobb is a 2015 Justleadership USA Leading With Conviction Leader. He's also the Founder of Redeemed, an organization fighting to eliminate systemic employment discrimination practices aimed at people living with arrest and convictions. 

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  • Feb 06

    The Takeaway's Friday Five Starring Left Shark, The Simpsons, and Rihanna

    Studio 360's Sean Rameswaram joins us again to give us this week's top five things on the internet. 

    1. Riri + Yeezy + Macca


    Love it or hate it, "FourFiveSeconds" is pop artifact. How often does one of the most popular pop stars in the world get in a room with the most interesting rapper of a generation? How often do the two of them invite the second-most beloved living Beatle? How often do they all wear matching denim? Never. Okay, once. If you love the song, Rihanna, Kanye, and Sir Paul will perform it at this weekend's Grammys

    2. The Simpsons in Low-D

    The Simpsons have had countless memorable couch gags over the show's 26 years, including guest appearances by Banksy and Guillermo del Toro. This week, we got an unofficial (but totally great) low-fi pixelated version of the show's classic opening credits thanks to Australian superfans Paul Robertson and Ivan Dixon. The music, by Jeremy Dower, is equally low-fi and fun. 

    3. Ranking State of Mind

    There's so much space on the internet; what to do with it all? Why not rank all 121 Billy Joel songs? These are presumably the thoughts that went through the head of one Christopher Bonanos at Vulture shortly before he ranked all of Billy Joel's 121 songs. Shortly after completing the ambitious list, Bonanos took on another master's body of work:

    Thanks, Jules!

    4. Neil Young Meets Neil Old

    If you love Jimmy Fallon, you certainly loved seeing his Neil Young impression come full circle this week. If you're not Team Fallon, this was the moment you had to eat your words. Real Neil Young and Jimmy Fallon's Neil Young performing "Old Man" on The Tonight Show isn't terribly funny, but it is rather amazing. 

    5. Left Shark Attack


    Nailed it!

     

    to the Left, to the Left


    Left Shark is Legend

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  • Feb 06

    Back To Work Then Ban The Box – Making Criminals Past Off Limits

    So often on job applications there's the avoidable, ubiquitous question: have you ever been convicted of a crime? Employers admit to throwing out applications for people who answer yes. With 700,000 people returning home to their communities from jail each year looking for a job that little box causes high anxiety and hopelessness, and sometimes it can make you look like a liar. The FBI doesn't always remove mistaken arrests or dropped charges.  

    Several states including California and Massachusetts have banned the box for most state jobs. Two of the country's largest employers, Walmart and Target, have opted to remove the box from their employment applications.

    For a look at the economics behind banning the box we turn to Jared Bernstein, former chief economist to Vice President Biden, he's a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and author of "Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed?"

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  • Feb 06

    Today's Takeaways: The Criminal Background Box On Job Applications, New Testimony On Saudi Involvement In 9/11, and Bob Marley's Birthday

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  • Feb 05

    Life in The Inner Circle: Reggie Love on Winning Over the President

    What were you doing when you were 24-years-old? What kind of job were you clocking in at? Who were you reporting to?

    If your name is Reggie Love, you were a special assistant and personal aide—also known as a "body man"—and your boss was the future president of the United States of America.

    Love recounts the story of his time working for President Obama from 2007 to 2011, in his new book: "Power Forward: My Presidential Education." And as he tells it, the job didn't start off feeling particularly glamorous.

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  • Feb 05

    Twitter, Trolling & Being A Woman Online

    In 2006, Jill Filipovic signed onto a law student message board. Then a law student herself, she was shocked to find hundreds of threatening comments about her looks and her opinions—along with dozens of rape threats.

    At the time, Filipovic was a contributor to the widely-read blog Feministe. She was used to sexist remarks in the blog's comments, but she had never encountered the level of online harassment that she found on that message board.

    More than nine years later, most women have a story about sexism or harassment on the internet. And even an online behemoth like Twitter can admit that trolling and harassment has become a problem.

    "We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform, and we've sucked at it for years," Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said in a leaked staff memo published at The Verge. "It's no secret that the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day."

    As part of The Takeaway's series "Being a Woman Online," a number of listeners contributed to the discussion of online harassment in a Twitter chat Filipovic moderated last night—check out that discussion below. 

    Filipovic, now senior political writer at Cosmopolitan.com, shares her story and her advice for dealing with online harassment.

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  • Feb 05

    U.S. Vs. Russia: New Battle Lines Being Drawn in Ukraine

    Secretary of State John Kerry is in Kiev today. Just hours before his arrival, President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense said he would consider sending American military assistance to Ukraine. 

    “I think we need to support he Ukrainians in defending themselves,” Defense Secretary-designate Ashton Carter said while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    John E. Herbst is the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from 2003 to 2006 and director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council. He explores America's growing involvement in the Ukraine crisis. 

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  • Feb 05

    FCC Chairman: A Declaration of Independence for the Internet

    All internet must be treated equally—that was the message sent on Tuesday by the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler, when he announced his final plan to address net neutrality.

    Wheeler is pushing to reclassify the internet as a public utility. The move enforces the common carrier principle, which means there can be no paid prioritization and no manipulation of internet access or traffic.

    But the plan does give the FCC unprecedented authority over the internet, and opponents say innovation and investment will suffer at the hand of such control.

    “As a society, we have to figure out how we regulate this media—what’s the social contract and the role of the FCC in their regulatory oversight?” says Victor Pickard, assistant professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

    See Also: The Case Against Net Neutrality

    When it comes to concerns over government control, Pickard, the author of "America's Battle for Media Democracy: The Triumph of Corporate Libertarianism and the Future of Media Reform," looks back to the past. In the 1940s, he says that the FCC was very aggressive and took a hardline anti-monopoly approach.

    “With Tom Wheeler, I don’t think that was his initial instinct,” says Pickard. “But he was pushed by public pressures to essentially do a very similar, New Deal-like measure against internet monopolies.”

    Pickard says that Wheeler has a good reason to push back against the business community, which wants the internet to become a commodity that can be bought and sold.

     

    “From society’s perspective, democracy depends on this,” says Pickard. “We have to take that into consideration as we devise policy for it.”

    But Wheeler’s plan isn’t a final solution, and a number of challenges lie ahead for both regulators and the American public.

    “We already know that the Republican-led Congress is seeking to undercut the FCC’s regulatory authority,” he says. “There’s already been public announcements that AT&T will take this to court. There will be continued scrutiny as to whether there are any loop-holes in these net neutrality protections. And finally, the concern is that on February 26th, the public may declare victory and then tune out.”

    Pickard says that continued public engagement around the issue of net neutrality is vitally important to ensure that the internet remains free and open.

    “Media policy isn’t the sexiest issue,” says Pickard. “But when the public realizes what’s at stake, they will engage—I think we saw that when nearly 4 million people wrote into the FCC in response to their open internet rules.”

    Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington Correspondent, says that Republicans on Capitol Hill also heard the public’s cry and don’t want the FCC completely out of the picture.

    “They just don’t want what they’re calling a ‘power grab’ by an agency that they say is using antiquated rules and regulations that apply to the big phone companies of yesteryear,” he says.

    Zwillich adds that GOP lawmakers are mulling over a few proposals that would address the public outcry over paid prioritization of internet service.

    “They’re effectively saying that they can outlaw pay-to-play and that they can outlaw internet fast lanes and kind of leave it there,” he says. “They don’t want broad Title 2 authority, which is the authority that the FCC wields over the big telecom companies.”

    Republican lawmakers do recognize that the FCC has jurisdiction to regulate the internet, but Zwillich says that the GOP wants that authority to be narrowed and focused.

    “Democrats are absolutely gleeful—they’ve been leaning on the FCC to go big here since 2010, when the courts threw out the FCC’s original efforts to regulate this stuff,” says Zwillich.

    Listen to the full interview above to hear both Democratic and Republican lawmakers react to Chairman Wheeler’s net neutrality proposal.

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  • Feb 05

    Hit That Track: Listening Back to The Origins of Recorded Sound

    We all know that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone back in the 1870s, but did you also know that Bell was one of the earliest innovators in the world of recorded sound?

    In fact, Bell improved on the work of Thomas Edison, contributing not just to how sound was recorded, but how it was played back and mass produced. 

    But up until recently, his early recordings were widely unheard. That changes now with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s new exhibit, “Hear My Voice: Alexander Graham Bell and the Origins of Recorded Sound.” The exhibit features many of Bell's earliest recordings, some of which date back to 1881. 

    Carlene Stephens is the curator of the exhibit. She explains how Bell made his recordings, and why the museum considers his voice so historically significant.

     

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  • Feb 05

    As Jordanians Mourn, A Look at The New Fight Against ISIS

    Protests continue today on the streets of Amman, as Jordanians respond to the brutal murder of First Lieutenant Moaz al Kasasbeh at the hands of the Islamic State, or ISIS. The Jordanian government has already responded, executing two members of Al Qaeda already on death row.

    Kasasbeh's murder seems to have bolstered support for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, at least for now. Whether Jordan's King Abdullah can sustain that support is another question. The United Arab Emerites pulled out of the coalition after Kasasbeh's capture last December.

    Randa Habib, Amman bureau chief for Agence France-Presse, examines how Jordan and other countries in the region might respond to ISIS over the long-term.

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  • Feb 05

    Today's Takeaways: Internet Independence, A New Battle, Winning Over The President

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  • Feb 04

    Fast, Fair & Open: FCC Chief Pushes For New Rules To Support Net Neutrality

    Should the internet be treated like a public utility?

    In an op-ed posted today on Wired.com, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler made his stance very clear: He wants the internet to be an unrestricted channel for communication and commerce.

    To achieve this goal he wants to regulate internet providers under Title 2 of the 1934 Communications Act, which means the world wide web would become a public utility.

    The FCC is set to vote on new rules to enforce net neutrality on February 26th. 

    Keertan Kini, who wrote an essay on the subject for MIT's newspaper "The Tech," shares his perspective on Wheeler's op-ed and the upcoming FCC vote.

    What do you think? Vote in our poll below. 

     

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  • Feb 04

    Brutal ISIS Execution Triggers Backlash Across The Middle East & Beyond

    A new video from the Islamic State or ISIS shows the brutal murder of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh—a casualty with serious consequences for the coalition against ISIS, and potentially for ISIS itself.

    First Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasasbeh was just 26-years-old when his plane crashed on Christmas Eve last year near Raqqa, Syria—an ISIS stronghold. Yesterday, ISIS released a video of al-Kasabeh's murder. The young pilot was burned alive.

    King Abdullah rushed home from Washington when he heard the news, and his government vowed revenge.

    For more on the Islamic State's latest casualty, and the consequences in the Middle East and beyond, we're joined by Rukmini Callimachi, foreign correspondent for our partner The New York Times.

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  • Feb 04

    Being a Woman Online: Tavi Gevinson on Taking Back the Conversation

    Three years ago, at the age of 15, Tavi Gevinson decided to start an online magazine. By that time, she was already well-known as a fashion blogger, with a profile in The New Yorker and friends like John Galliano. But she also wanted to transform her style blog into a new platform, an online magazine for teenage girls.

    The result was Rookie, which now boasts tens of thousands of visitors each day. With video features like "Ask A Grown" and "Why Can't I Be You," Rookie offers advice to young women. But the site functions more like a fun-loving, entertaining community, a sisterhood of young women who are both interested and interesting.

    The Takeaway's series "Being a Woman Online" examines the creative connections and communities women have forged online despite the sexism many find on the internet. Now at the age of 18, Gevinson continues to curate such a space for young women—a magazine many older women wish they'd had in their teen years.

    While Gevinson hopes that Rookie readers find the site encouraging, she's reluctant to describe the site as empowering.

    "I think people of my generation, especially young women, are used to a reductive sort of empowerment," she tells The Takeaway. "And it's not like I think we should stop [saying] 'you're beautiful; love yourself'—but I guess at that age, when I was starting Rookie, I just wanted something that could be more nuanced, and was looking for something where you could be honest about feeling bad about yourself, or imperfect."

    She continues: "I always feel better about myself when I think of myself as a human before I think of myself as a woman," she explains, "because there are expectations attached to being a girl or a woman that, when I remember that I'm just a person, really kind of fall away."

    Gevinson hopes Rookie allows young women to express themselves—even when the message they're expressing contains more self-doubt than confidence.

    "I think if you can make friends with that part of yourself, instead of feeling poorly about yourself and then also having this second layer of guilt for feeling poorly about yourself." In other words, instead of engaging the nagging doubts and then the worry of, "I'm a bad feminist for feeling this way."

    Rookie has also become a platform for young women to talk honestly and safely about sex—a rarity on the internet. As Gevinson notes, many young women are taught the "your body is a temple" or "your virginity is a precious gift" narrative about sex.

    "It's supposed to be this huge deal," Gevinson says. "And I'm not saying that it isn't for a lot of women—or just people. But for a lot of people, it's definitely not."

    Since she started Rookie, Gevinson performed in films and most recently in Broadway's "This Is Our Youth," but her devotion to Rookie continues. "I started Rookie when I was 15 because it was something that I needed," she says.

    "Rookie is very direct and very plainly exists to serve its readers...it holds a lot for me personally," she explains. "I don't want to be selfish; I don't want to be possessive. I also don't want to irresponsible or put in the hands of people I don't trust. So I'm just trying to be as thoughtful as possible about what happens with Rookie next."

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  • Feb 04

    Obama Proposes Radical Overhaul of Nation’s Food Safety Operations

    The Obama Administration is proposing a radical overhaul of the country’s food safety operations. Instead of having several bodies like the FDA, USDA, and FSIS, President Obama is proposing a single government agency that would oversee all food safety and inspection operations.

    Wil S. Hylton is the author of a terrifying New Yorker article about lax food safety titled, "A Bug in the System: Why Last Night's Chicken Made you Sick." Food safety lawyer Bill Marler is the man leading the charge against unsafe food in Hylton's story.

    Together they weigh in on the president's proposal and the state of food safety in America.

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  • Feb 04

    Can The GOP & Dems Reach Common Ground?

    The economy took center stage again this week as President Obama unveiled his $4 trillion budget proposal. And the president's plan is already triggering debate among Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. 

    Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington correspondent, sat down with Senator Bernie Sanders, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, and Congressman Kevin Brady, a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, to get their input on the budget, and to find out if any common ground can be reached. 

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  • Feb 04

    A New Wild: How Humans & Animals Can Coexist

    Our natural world often appears to be suffering at the hands of humans.

    But leading conservation scientist Dr. M. Sanjayan makes the case that we have entered a new frontier when it comes to preserving our planet and all of its beings. He says Earth is a place where nature and humanity don't always destroy one another. Often, they rely on each other for survival. 

    It's the subject of a new five-part series that premiers tonight from PBS called "Earth: A New Wild." Dr. Sanjayan traveled the world for the series, and tells The Takeaway's John Hockenberry about what that new relationship looks like. 

    Check out a video about the series below.

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  • Feb 04

    Babies Made From DNA of 3 People May Soon Be Reality

    Members of the British parliament voted to approve a fertility technique that we don't allow here in the United States. 

    It's controversial because it creates babies that technically have the DNA of three different people—a mother, a father, and female donor.

    But the donor only contributes a little bit of mitochondria, which only accounts for about .01 percent of the baby's DNA. So it's not exactly a third parent, and it could help thousands of people who have a family history of mitochondrial diseases.

    Dr. Jamie Grifo is program director of the NYU Fertility Center. He helped pioneer this fertility technique nearly two decades ago. He talks to The Takeaway's John Hockenberry about why the FDA should approve the practice here in the U.S. 

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  • Feb 04

    How Fraud & Lazy Science Led Us to Vaccine Madness

    The measles outbreak at Disneyland has reignited the debate about whether parents should be required to vaccinate their kids.

    Does the government have the right to tell parents they must inject their children with a cocktail of dead or weakened disease germs in order to stave off deadly infectious diseases like the measles, mumps, and rubella?

    Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky threw gasoline on the already heated debate when he recently spoke with CNBC.

    "I've heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines," he said. "I'm not arguing vaccines are a bad idea, I think they're a good thing. But I think the parent should have some input—the state doesn't own your children, parents own their children and it is an issue of freedom."

    Parents may have the freedom to ignore science and refuse to get their kids vaccinated, but scientists don't have the freedom to publish false and misleading scientific findings in highly regarded medical journals.

    Yet, that's exactly what Andrew Wakefield did. He was a surgeon and medical researcher that published the infamous and now discredited study that linked vaccine injections to autism.

    “The United Kingdom doesn’t export much these days,” say Brian Deer, an investigative journalist for The Sunday Times of London and the man that exposed the faulty science behind Wakefield's study. “But one of the things it has exported twice has been scares over vaccines.”

    Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Deer says that Londoners “exported” a scare over the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine to the United States—something that he calls a “complete red herring.”

    And then in 1998, Wakefield’s research became something of a bombshell study. Parents of autistic children felt they finally had a scientific explanation as to why their kids had suddenly changed their behavior. But researchers who tried to replicate the study continually failed to find a link between vaccines and autism.

    “Because you have so many parents out there looking for answers and rushing to look at their children’s medical records, when someone comes along and says, ‘Well, could it have been a vaccine?,’ you get this explosive mix,” says Deer.

    When Wakefield’s study reached the media, hysteria quickly set in. But it would later be revealed that Wakefield was working directly for a team crafting a $56 million lawsuit that was seeking to link the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism.

    As skepticism regarding Wakefield's claims continued to mount, things finally came to an end after a 2004 investigation by Deer found that Wakefield did not disclose he was being funded through solicitors seeking evidence to use against vaccine manufacturers.  

    “The British General Medical Council, who took away his license to practice medicine, found him guilty of four counts of dishonesty involving his research,” says Deer. “[That included] a dishonest description of the children enrolled in it.”

    The editor of The Lancet, the medical journal where Wakefield’s research was originally published, retracted Wakefield’s paper, calling it “the most appalling catalog and litany of some of the most terrible behavior in any research.” The editors of the British Medical Journal also described Wakefield’s research as an “elaborate fraud.”

    “All of [those comments] followed the most detailed and evidence-based investigations in the history of medicine,” says Deer.

    Deer theorizes that one of the reasons the vaccine myth has been able to prevail throughout the years is because of the internet.

    “People like that can find each other,” says Deer of the so-called “anti-vaxxers.” “It’s like the people who believe that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States or that the U.S. government is responsible for the World Trade Center collapsing. What you have in this particular case is a number of people who claim that [the anti-vaccine movement] has been scientifically verified when, in fact, it hasn’t.”

    Deer says that despite a lack of science, anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist have been able to cut through the debate because politicians like Sen. Rand Paul validate their stances for the sake of libertarianism. Additionally, Deer argues that those that reject the scientific community are doing it out of stubbornness.

    “There are people for whom it is important to believe that they are smarter than doctors,” he says. “That’s not a left or right thing—it’s quite often a class thing. In the United Kingdom, we found that in the more affluent areas that vaccine rates declined. And we saw tremendous measles outbreaks across the United Kingdom as a result of this vaccine scare. And indeed we know that you will see much worse outbreaks than you’re getting—you ain’t seen nothing yet when it comes to measles outbreaks in the United States.”

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  • Feb 04

    Today's Takeaways: A New Wild, Vaccine Madness, and A Changing Narrative

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  • Feb 03

    Workers Organize Largest Union Strike Since 1980s

    In what's being called the biggest strike since 1980, union workers at U.S. oil refineries and chemical plants across the country have walked out over disagreements on working conditions they are seeking as part of a new contract.

    Members of the United Steelworkers began the strike at nine sites on Sunday in a dispute over safety, healthcare costs, and salary.

    “We've now got circumstances where we've got some folks working 14 or 16 days in a row in 12 hour shifts," says Leo Gerard, the international president of United Steelworkers. "In the refineries, we've had a fire or an explosion, self reported by the industry, almost one per week. We've had too many instances where people have been seriously injured, and in Anacortes, Washington, at a Tesoro facility, seven people were killed. We wanted to have meaningful dialogue about how we could make the workplace more productive and safer, and the industry really has not responded to that."

    In total, the refineries where strikes are taking place produce about 10 percent of America's gasoline, diesel and other fuels. A request for comment from Royal Dutch Shell, the lead negotiator for oil companies, has not been returned.

    Lynn Doan, Bloomberg energy reporter, has the details on this story.

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  • Feb 03

    As More Women Enter Congress, Power Shifts Towards Men

    For all the infighting that plagues our lawmakers on Capitol Hill, there is one small silver lining: The 2014 elections ushered in a record number of women.

    For the first time in history, more than 100 seats are now occupied by women, with 84 in the House and 20 in the Senate.

    But those same elections also changed leadership in Congress, and with Republicans now controlling both chambers, there are only two female committee chairs in the Senate. There were nine when Democrats were in control.

    The Takeaway's John Hockenberry discusses the precarious state of the vanishing female congressional leader with Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Washington Correspondent for our partner The New York Times. 

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  • Feb 03

    Autism, All Grown Up

    There are several programs designed for young autistic people that are designed to support them while their growing up. But what happens after? What happens when someone on the spectrum leaves home to go to college or get a job? 

    Those some of the difficult questions Ondine Grosser and her family had to answer when she graduated high school.

    Ondine is autistic and she was able to access services that helped her succeed in high school, where she got consistently high grades. But when she graduated and those services disappeared, navigating life became a lot more complicated. After just one semester of college, Ondine flunked out and withdrew. 

    Jennifer Richler is a science writer and clinical psychologist. She recently wrote about Ondine's story and some of the new services emerging for young adults with autism.

    Ondine and her mother, Amira Acre, also join The Takeaway. They discuss Ondine's current success after enrolling with a rare program called, ASPIRE, where Ondine receives tailored support that helps high-functioning adults with autism better navigate the job market and the world around them. 

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  • Feb 03

    Being a Woman Online: Taking Control of Online Dating

    A recent study from the Pew Research Center finds that 11 percent of adult Americans—and 38 percent of singles—have used an online dating website or app. 

    While plenty of American women find love and connections on traditional dating sites, many have been subjected to misogynistic comments, hostility and even threats

    Those anecdotal experiences mirror the results of a separate Pew study: That young women between the ages of 18-24 are far more likely to be stalked or sexually harassed online, compared with their male counterparts.

    The Takeaway's "Being a Woman Online" series aims to examine the creative connections and communities women have forged online despite the sexism many find on the internet. Susie Lee, co-founder and CEO of Siren, aims to do just that.

    See Also: Twitter Chat - Being A Woman Online

    Siren is a dating app now available in Seattle and Portland and will expand country-wide this year. The app operates with an asymmetrical model: Women and men do not have the same experience on the site.

    While women are always able to control who gets to see their profile, men are not. While Siren is primarily used by straight men and women, Lee is also exploring ways to open up and change the app based on focus groups in the LGBTQ community.

    Siren encourages conversation with a question of the day, a "water cooler" conversation where anyone can answer, and women can decide whether to make their profiles visible to specific people based on those answers.

    Lee explains that she wanted a dating app that avoided the "shopping mentality" prevalent on other apps. "There's a complexity of individuals that we wanted to explore," she says, "But our culture currently isn't really an 'and' kind of culture—it's an 'or.'"

    She continues: "So even when women are presented online, they're either this or that, and the same goes with men."

    The other problem with current dating app models? According to Lee, it's algorithms.

    "A lot of current models think that chemistry can be determined algorithmically," she says. "Answer 50 multiple choice questions and...some kind of computer program will be able to figure out what a perfect match is for you." 

    She later notes: "Probably most of us have [had] that relationship that looks great on paper," she says, "which oftentimes is pretty disastrous in real life." The Siren model allows for more conversation, particularly through the question of the day feature.

    Finally, Lee explores the double bind many women face in terms of mixing the personal and the professional. While online dating is "a potentially interesting way to meet people that are out of your social circle," Lee says, professional women have to navigate a particular balance.

    "If you are [for example] a female lawyer," Lee explains, "and your client sees you on this online space, suddenly you are faced with an awkward situation of somebody knowing something about you that's not really relevant to your professional dynamic and it still compromises the woman's identity, because she can't be easily a sexual person and a professional person."

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  • Feb 03

    President Obama Calls for $1 Billion for Central America

    When thousands of unaccompanied migrant children traveled from Central America across our southern border last summer, it quickly became clear that the unresolved problems faced by people in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador were, in a sense, unresolved problems of the United States.

    In his latest budget President Obama is asking Congress for $1 billion to help those countries improve security, education and the economic health of the region. It may sound like a measly sum given the $4 trillion budget, but it's almost three times the amount the U.S. generally provides to Central America.

    Cynthia Arnson is the director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She says that the United State's long and complicated history in the region means an impact free of dependency will require attention on all fronts.

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  • Feb 03

    The Perils of a Desperate and Cornered Vladimir Putin

    Russian President Vladimir Putin may be trying to escalate the conflict in Ukraine to reshape Russia's borders and cement his sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. But what is the endgame for Putin? And what will he do next?

    Many who know him, like his biographer Nataliya Gevorkyan, say that Putin has a specific mentality: When he’s in a corner, he will strike.

    "He said that, 'I learned very good. I learned forever don’t try to push somebody into the corner. They will jump. Because when you don’t have [anything] to lose, you just—you attack,'" says Gevorkyan. "I think it’s absolutely true about himself. When he’s in a corner, that’s why he’s dangerous. He can jump. He will not say, 'OK, let’s talk.' He will jump."

    With oil prices down 50 percent and the ruble losing more than half it's value, Russia is increasingly desperate. Making matters more dangerous is that the country is run by a hard line former KGB agent with access to over 8,000 nuclear warheads.

    George Friedman, the CEO of the global intelligence firm Stratfor and author most recently of "Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe," says Russia is feeling threatened. Though it’s never been successfully occupied for an extended period of time, it has been invaded.

    “Russia needs buffers—the traditional buffer is the line in the Baltics, Belarus, and Ukraine,” says Friedman. “Russia reads what happened in Kiev as the following: The legitimately elected president of Ukraine—no one doubts that Yanukovych won the election—refused to sign a treaty with the Europeans, which was his right. He came home to demonstrations.”

    Friedman says that Russia saw the United States openly support the pro-European demonstrators, and even provided them with funding. In Russia’s view, a group of demonstrators nullified the results of a national election—something the United States actively supported.

    “Now, the Americans have another story, which was that Yanukovych was corrupt and so on and he had to be disposed of,” says Friedman. “But from the Russian point of view, they’re wondering why the Americans did this? Why are the Americans so interested in Kiev?”

    He continues: “The answer they come up with is the Americans are extending their power far to the east—nearly to Stalingrad—about 300 miles from Moscow. Why? Because they want the Russian Federation to fragment.”

    Friedman says that while this narrative has both elements of truth and fable, it is the Russian view point. And the actions being taken by the United States isn’t doing anything to calm Russian fears: The U.S. has sent top military officials to Kiev and is repositioning armor and artillery in the Baltics, Poland, and Romania, and America may send weapons to arm Ukrainian fighters.

    “This is freaking the Russians out,” says Friedman. “They look at this as the United States making a strategic decision to undermine Russia by prepositioning forces. They’ve moved into the Ukraine, and the Russians have failed miserably—they’ve completely miscalculated everything that was happening Kiev.”

    The Russians are currently facing an economic crisis of “epic proportions,” says Friedman, because they are both hurting from international sanctions and the falling price of oil.

    “The Russians are now desperate,” he says. “When Russia gets desperate, that’s when it becomes the most dangerous.”

    According to Friedman, the Russians are fighting to stop the West from moving in on Ukraine and the region. On the other hand, Friedman says the Americans fear a strong Russian comeback. He argues that both fears are legitimate.

    “For the Americans it’s a fear, not a hysteria,” he says. “For the Russians, it’s everything. The question is what does Putin do? Not because he’s Putin—any Russian leader would have to respond to the Ukraine. ”

    Friedman says that the Russians have nothing but bad choices. It’s just a matter of time before they make one.

    “My fear is not that they’re going to go to turn towards nuclear war, my fear is that so much pressure will be put on Russia that it actually fragments—that it’ll go the way of the Soviet Union and that Moscow can no longer control the provinces,” he says. “Then what happens to the nukes out in the provinces?”

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  • Feb 03

    U.S. & Russia Take Sides as Ukraine Nears Civil War

    Ukraine seems to be getting closer to an all out civil war, and the U.S. and Russia are taking sides in the escalating conflict.

    Pro-Russian separatist rebels are pounding Ukrainian Army positions in the East of the country after the latest round of peace talks failed to halt the violence, which has killed more than 5,000 people.

    The rebels announced a massive mobilization plan—something they say would boost their forces to over 100,000. Ukraine's military chief plans add an extra 50,000 fighters.

    Since the conflict began a year ago, the Unites States has refused to send arms or military advisers to Ukraine, but now the White House is looking at providing Ukrainian forces with defensive weapons and equipment in the face of the rebel offensive.

    Andriy Kulykov, Public Radio Ukraine correspondent and host, has an update on the fighting in Ukraine. 

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  • Feb 03

    Today's Takeaways: A Russian Flash Point, Women in Power, and Austism Grows Up

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  • Feb 04

    Twitter Chat: Being a Woman Online

    The internet can be a frightening place for women. Whether it's threatening comments or invasions of privacy that come in the form of stolen photos, sometimes being a woman online can be a nightmare.

    Though it can be a scary place, the internet has also given women and girls access to communities that never existed before the online era. It's allowed women to connect with each other in new ways, and it's empowered them and delivered new avenues for entrepreneurship. 

    Which is why we've rolled out a new series called "Being A Woman Online."

    All this week we'll hear from a variety of guests that will discuss the ups and downs of being a woman online. But The Takeaway also wants to hear from you. Which is why we're hosting an online discussion to explore the realities of being a woman online.

    Join Takeaway Host John Hockenberry and Jill Filipovic, an attorney, political writer for Cosmopolitan.com, and co-creator of the blog Feministe, this Wednesday at 6:00 PM Eastern for a Twitter chat. This Twitter chat is open to both men and women—we'll discuss the current state of internet culture and how it impacts girls and women, men and boys, lawmakers and policy.

    Simply follow us @TheTakeaway, and check out the hashtag #TTChat. Have a question you'd like us to address in the chat? Leave your ideas in the comments below or send us a tweet.

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  • Feb 02

    Tears & Cheers: Reactions From Seattle & Boston

    Last night, the Seattle Seahawks squared off in Super Bowl 49 against the New England Patriots at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. And the game was surely one to be remembered.

    The grass was flown in from Alabama, and the balls were inflated and placed under lock and key until just hours before the kick off. More than 100 million people tuned in to watch the Patriots earn a last minute victory, ultimately securing a 28 to 24 win. 

    No where were the cheers louder and did the tears fall harder than in and around our member stations WGBH in Boston and KUOW in Seattle.

    Are you satisfied with the results of last night's game? Why or why not? Add your voice to the conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comments below. 

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  • Feb 02

    Retro Report: The Origins of The Anti-Vaccine Movement

    Next week, a team from the National Institutes of Health, along with other international medical teams, will test a new Ebola vaccine in Liberia. At the same time, clusters of unvaccinated children in some U.S. communities are being blamed for an increase in measles infections.

    There was a time when the miracle of vaccines seemed to settle matters with diseases that had plagued humanity for centuries. Smallpox, diphtheria, and polio—once deadly scourges—were eliminated in the face of widespread government-supervised vaccination efforts.

    But such is not the case today. How did we get to a point where personal beliefs can triumph over science? Retro Report Producer Bonnie Bertram explains.

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

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  • Feb 02

    Foreign Investment Drives Housing Booms in San Fran, NYC

    On a trip to Beijing last November, President Obama announced that the United States would expand its visa program for Chinese citizens.

    "Chinese direct investment in the United States has risen six-fold over the past five years. Chinese firms directly employ a rapidly growing number of Americans," he told an audience at the APEC CEO Summit.

    "And all these things mean jobs for the American people; and deepening these ties will mean more jobs and opportunity for both of our peoples. And that's why I'm very pleased to announce that during my visit, the United States and China have agreed to implement a new arrangement for visas that will benefit everyone from students, to tourists, to businesses large and small," President Obama said.

    The expanded visa program aims to increase Chinese investment in the United States, which has already grown rapidly over the past few years, especially in the housing market: Chinese investment in American real estate went from $600 million in 2009 to $12 billion in 2013. That year, China also changed its law on the amount of money Chinese citizens could invests overseas: Before, they could invest $100 million, but starting in 2013 they can now invest $1 billion.

    While Canada still supplies the most foreign real estate buyers to the U.S., China now comes in second—and Chinese buyers are much more likely to invest in higher-income properties in urban areas, cities like New York and San Francisco, two of the most expensive cities in the U.S.

    Residents of New York and the Bay Area are well-acquainted with the housing crunch. Today Stephanie Martin-Taylor, news anchor and reporter for KQED Public Radio and Ilya Marritz, reporter for Takeaway co-producer WNYC, look at how foreign investment driving up demand and price in these expensive markets. 

    “There’s this relatively new trend of people buying properties in the city and not actually spending a lot of time living here,” says Marritz. One such person is John Liang, executive vice president of Xinyuan Real Estate Company—the only real estate development company based in China and listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

    "Not in my wildest dreams would I be planning on a major Chinese investment movement into the U.S. as we're experiencing today," Liang told Marritz.

    The Xinyuan Real Estate Company is building a seven-story condominium on the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn, NY. Though the company has not said this property is specifically for foreign buyers, they are marketing to many buyers in China, says Marritz.

    So far, about 20 to 30 percent of those buying property at the Brooklyn condo are Chinese individuals that are still living in China and are not New York residents.

    “Maybe [Chinese buyers will] live there, maybe their kid will go to NYU one day, or maybe they’ll just rent it out,” says Marritz. “I did spend some time talking to one buyer, Wenzhou Xie, a mining executive based in Hong Kong. He said he expects to collect rent of about $3,000 a month on a one bedroom...We’ll find out in a year or so when he takes possession of the apartment whether he can get that rent.”

    Martin-Taylor says that something similar is happening in Silicon Valley.

    “Here the tech boom is driving up prices,” she says. “We’ve got tech workers who are very well paid and are competing with everyone else for a relatively limited supply of housing. And we’ve also got a lot of foreign investment coming into the city and surrounding areas.”

    Most of the foreign investment being poured into the greater San Francisco area is coming from China and other Asian countries, says Martin-Taylor. A Beijing-based firm called China Oceanwide Holdings recently agreed to buy a piece of “prime real estate” in downtown San Francisco.

    “It’s plans are for a mixed-use development that will include the second tallest tower in San Francisco next to the Transamerica Pyramid,” says Martin-Taylor. “Also, you’ve got an increase in individual Chinese buyers who want a piece of this market.”

    Martin-Taylor says that some Bay Area real estate companies have been changing their strategies in order to cater to Chinese investors. Pacific Union, the largest real estate firm in San Francisco, have set up offices in China to help wealthy buyers navigate the market.

    “It's a demographic that's accelerating its appetite for investment in real estate for purposes of education, for purposes of lifestyle, for purposes of clean air, and really, to diversify a portfolio that is being governed by a government that could change their idea overnight when it comes to what you're allowed to do with your money," Mark McLaughlin, the CEO of Pacific Union, told Martin-Taylor.

    With large Asian investors moving into the San Francisco market, Martin-Taylor says that some locals are now being priced out of the market.

    “The money coming from China is really helping some projects get literally off the ground, and it’s increasing our housing stock,” she says. “People who are a little more skeptical wonder who is really going to live in this [kind of] housing. Is this really going to be an investment in our communities and make it possible for all people to live here?”

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  • Feb 02

    Being a Woman Online: Rep. Jackie Speier's Plan to Combat Revenge Porn

    Over the summer, YouTube host Anita Sarkeesian posted a video about the sexualization of women in video games. The response from the gaming community became known as #Gamergate, and it exposed what many women already knew: That the internet can be a dark, frightening place for women and girls.

    In addition to a barrage of online threats, Sarkeesian was was forced to cancel a college speech because of an anonymous threat against her life. And the threats haven't stopped. Last week, Sarkeesian posted a week's worth of tweets to her Tumblr page, Feminist Frequency. The tweets directed at her were at best, disgusting and at worst, terrifying. 

    Comments like these are well-known to women who make their living or simply live their lives online. This week, The Takeaway launches "Being a Woman Online," an exploration of what it's like to be female on the internet. While the anonymity of an online space can foster the worst kinds of abuse, the internet has also connected like-minded women and girls in ways never possible in the pre-online era. 

    For Holly Jacobs, being a woman online became a nightmare in 2012, when her ex-boyfriend posted intimate photos of her along with her name and contact information, without her consent.

    Jacobs has spent the last three years trying to scrub the internet of those photos without luck. But she finally found a sympathetic ear in Washington, with Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA).

    Congresswoman Speier will introduce legislation to combat revenge porn in the next few months. Because "the internet is so universal now," she says, revenge porn "becomes so much more than a photograph—it becomes your entire resume."

    The legislation criminalizes revenge porn, she explains, whether it's that "a jilted lover is taking pictures and putting them on the internet, or someone has broken into someone else's phone, as happens to celebrities sometimes." She continues: "No matter how that photograph has been taken, once it's up there and it has been asked to be taken down and it's not taken down, then there is a criminal act."

    Congresswoman Speier notes that the First Amendment limits the range of options available to revenge porn victims. "I am a First Amendment fanatic," she says, "but I also recognize that there is an area here that must be addressed." The legislation would, however, provide exceptions for "legitimate public interest," such as the violations at Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq War.

    Given the realities of the internet today, Congresswoman Speier says legislation to stop revenge porn is necessary and urgent. "There are hundreds and hundreds of cases, maybe thousands of cases, where this is destroying peoples lives," she explains.

    "Unless you're a celebrity with a fat wallet and high-priced attorneys," she continues, "it's very hard to get any kind of solution or piece of mind."

    Join The Takeaway this Wednesday for an online Twitter chat on being a woman online. Get the details here.

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  • Feb 02

    Egypt Frees Al Jazeera Journalist

    Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste was released from an Egyptian prison over the weekend after serving more than a year of a seven year sentence. Greste was charged with conspiring with enemies of the Egyptian government.

    Greste has been deported to his home country of Australia, but this is far from the end of the story. It appears the Egyptian government has won its battle to keep journalists from reporting on the political opposition in a country that is essentially back to military rule.

    Sue Turton, a senior correspondent for Al Jazeera English, was convicted in absentia in the same case. She reflects on Greste's release, and the two other Al Jazeera journalists still imprisoned in Egypt.

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  • Feb 02

    Budget Showdown Begins in D.C.

    On Monday, President Obama plans to introduce a new $4 trillion budget for the 2016 fiscal year.

    The president wants to increase national spending by about 7 percent and lose sequestration limits that were passed in a moment of weakness. But it looks like the Republican-controlled Congress is ready to go toe-to-toe with the White House.

    Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington Correspondent, has the details on President Obama's plan.

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  • Feb 02

    Bored & Brilliant Challenge: Put Away Your Phone!

    Americans spend a lot of time on their phones. According to Nielsen, American smartphone users spend an average 34 hours and 21 minutes every month on their phones—and that's just time spent on apps and browsing the internet.

    WNYC's New Tech City is challenging listeners to put away their phones in their new Bored and Brilliant project.

    Every day this week, they are challenging listeners to take one step towards using their phone less—and hopefully in turn making time to be more creative. Manoush Zomorodi, host of New Tech City, explains how the challenge works and how you can get involved. 

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