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)__

  • Aug 27

    The Takeaway Book Club: 'The Lobster Kings'

    "The Lobster King" is the latest novel from Alexi Zenter, author of "Touch." This book has been selected as the fourth work to be featured in The Takeaway's book club. Below you'll find a description of the book provided by the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

    "Set in a lobster fishing village, 'The Lobster Kings' introduces a fiery and unforgettable heroine, Cordelia Kings.

    "The Kings family has lived on Loosewood Island for three hundred years, blessed with the bounty of the sea. But for the Kings, this blessing comes with a curse: the loss of every firstborn son.

    "Now, Woody Kings, the leader of the island’s lobster fishing community and the family patriarch, teeters on the throne, and Cordelia, the oldest of Woody’s three daughters, stands to inherit the crown. To do so, however, she must defend her island from meth dealers from the mainland while navigating sibling rivalry and the vulnerable nature of her own heart when she falls in love with her sternman.

    "Inspired by King Lear, 'The Lobster Kings' is the story of Cordelia’s struggle to maintain her island’s way of life in the face of danger from offshore and the rich, looming, mythical legacy of her family’s namesake."

    -W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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  • Aug 20

    White Sheriff Talks Race, Police With His Black Son

    In 2003, Kevin Fisher-Paulson, a deputy sheriff in San Francisco, and his husband Brian adopted their older son, Zane. They adopted their younger son, Aiden, two years later.

    Zane, now age 11, is black, and Aiden, age 9, is mixed race. Fisher-Paulson and his husband are white, and the two parents often discuss race around the dinner table. As Fisher-Paulson tells The Takeaway's John Hockenberry, "Raising a black child has certainly awoken my awareness to race in America." 

    But the issue has become particularly salient over the last ten days, since the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

    "I can't say I live without fear," Fisher-Paulson says.

    He later explains: "When Zane is most fearful, Zane feels that he is the most different...he will always go to his place of fear when he feels he is different.

    "So I say we go back to the kitchen table," he continues, "and remind each other every night, that we sit at the same kitchen table, we talk about the same issues every day. And we may be different -- he may be tall, I may be short, he maybe thin, I may be thick, but we are, ultimately, the same family. I have to live in that hope, and that my son can be a leader of that hope in the future."

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  • Aug 20

    The Takeaway Book Club: 'Friendship'

    "Friendship" is the new novel from author Emily Gould. This book has been selected as the sixth work to be featured in The Takeaway's book club. Below you'll find a description of the book provided by the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    "Bev Tunney and Amy Schein have been best friends for years; now, at thirty, they’re at a crossroads. Bev is a Midwestern striver still mourning a years-old romantic catastrophe. Amy is an East Coast princess whose luck and charm have too long allowed her to cruise through life.

    "Bev is stuck in circumstances that would have barely passed for bohemian in her mid-twenties: temping, living with roommates, drowning in student-loan debt. Amy is still riding the tailwinds of her early success, but her habit of burning bridges is finally catching up to her. And now Bev is pregnant.

    "As Bev and Amy are dragged, kicking and screaming, into real adulthood, they have to face the possibility that growing up might mean growing apart.

    "'Friendship,' Emily Gould’s debut novel, traces the evolution of a friendship with humor and wry sympathy. Gould examines the relationship between two women who want to help each other but sometimes can’t help themselves; who want to make good decisions but sometimes fall prey to their own worst impulses; whose generous intentions are sometimes overwhelmed by petty concerns.

    "This is a novel about the way we speak and live today; about the ways we disappoint and betray one another. At once a meditation on the modern meaning of maturity and a timeless portrait of the underexamined bond that exists between friends, this exacting and truthful novel is a revelation."

    -Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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  • Aug 19

    Beyond Ferguson: America’s Struggle for Racial Equality

    On Wednesday, August 20th, The Takeaway is delivering a special hour of coverage on the events unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri, in partnership with our friends at St. Louis Public Radio.

    The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown has highlighted a racial divide in the way communities across America see the police, and the criminal justice system as a whole.

    Tomorrow we'll have an update from the streets of Ferguson, a historical look at race and American democracy, and we'll examine what has and hasn’t changed for African-Americans across the St. Louis region in recent decades, and more.

    Ahead of our discussion, we want you to tell us about the hard conversations you're having about race, justice, and America around your kitchen table. Leave a comment below or give us a call at 1-877-869-8253.

    In the meantime, check out our interactive timeline of events, and to listen back to The Takeaway's coverage of Ferguson.

    Click Here to Enlarge Timeline

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  • Aug 19

    PHOTOS: Clashes Continue in Ferguson

    After violence broke out on both Sunday and Monday, the National Guard has been deployed to the city of Ferguson, Missouri as protests continue over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

    Last night, tear gas was reportedly fired into the crowds, and more than 30 people were arrested, including some journalists.

    Tanzina Vega, a reporter for our partner The New York Times, is on the ground in Ferguson and reports on the clashes with police.

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  • Aug 19

    The League's Mark Duplass: Playing Fantasy with Hollywood's Favorite Bro

    Men of a certain age love to make huge dramas out of stuff that maybe doesn't really matter: Things like working out, note for note Aerosmith guitar solos, golf clubs, and fantasy football leagues.

    In the man-child world of entertaining pointlessness, actor Mark Duplass is kind of a superhero. His hit TV show "The League," which airs on FX, is all about a group of thirty-something guys obsessed with their fantasy football league to the point where it takes over their lives.

    The show has taken over Duplass's own life—he plays alongside his wife, Katie Aselton, who also stars in the show as "Jenny."

    But Duplass is a self confessed workaholic, with coaches to keep his marriage on the rails, therapy to keep him from flaming out, and when he wasn't satisfied with his kids school, he paid to hire more teacher's assistants. So really, who can say no to Mark Duplass?

    Calling him a control freak doesn't come close. His latest project is a relationship comedy called "The One I Love." Duplass and Elizabeth Moss play a couple who take the advice of their therapist to go on a rejuvenating weekend getaway.

    What happens after that is uncomfortable, and very funny. Duplass was very candid about his life and work, how his relationship with his Katie has so far survived Hollywood, and his own oddball childhood.

    This is Part I of a two part interview. Check back with The Takeaway to hear Duplass share his fantasy football tips.

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  • Aug 19

    No Safe Place: Ferguson Postpones Start of School Year

    At least 30 people were arrested last night in Ferguson, Missouri, as unrest continues over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

    On Monday, Governor Jay Nixon lifted the city curfew, a move that coincided with the deployment of the Missouri National Guard. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to arrive in Ferguson on Wednesday to meet with agents overseeing the federal investigation into Michael Brown's death.

    President Barack Obama addressed the growing tensions in a press conference Monday afternoon. 

    Ours is a nation of laws: Of citizens who live under them and for the citizens who enforce them. So, to a community in Ferguson that is rightly hurting and looking for answers, let me call once again for us to seek some understanding rather than simply holler at each other. Let’s seek to heal rather than to wound each other. As Americans we've got to use this moment to seek out our shared humanity," the president said.

    But for those living in communities where unrest and distrust continues to weigh heavily in the air, and a greater law enforcement presence does not necessarily equate to peace, and some school districts have now closed—putting classes on hold in order to prioritize student safety.

    The decision to cancel school is one Scott Spurgeon, superintendent of the Riverview Gardens School District, made on Monday. Spurgeon oversees the school district that includes the location where 18-year-old Brown was shot.

    Combined with recent events, the closure has left parents like Melissa Baird Fitzgerald in desperate need of hope. In response, Fitzgerald organized the “Parents for Peace” Facebook page to welcome students on their first day despite the uncertain start of the school year. 

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  • Aug 19

    Doctors Without Borders President: Ebola Could Take Months to Contain

    In West Africa, the Ebola epidemic has killed at least 1,145 people and sickened hundreds more, and the disease continues to spread. There are possibly hundreds of other carriers of the disease, but many are too scared to report their symptoms.

    On Saturday, a mob looted one of Liberia's makeshift hospitals, stealing mattresses and supplies contaminated with the virus. In the midst of the robbery, dozens of patients fled the Ebola center and 17 remain missing.

    It's no wonder the World Health Organization is declaring Ebola a "public health emergency of international concern," but some are saying the warning is too little, too late.

    At a press conference in Geneva over the weekend, Dr. Joanna Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, called for more leadership from the World Health Organization, and estimated that tackling this epidemic will take at least six months.

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  • Aug 19

    ISIS Writes New Chapter of Fear For Iraq's Christians

    With the political situation still very uncertain in Iraq, and ISIS still on the offensive, the average Iraqi continues to find their safety and security under threat. But for Yazidis, Assyrian Christians, and Kurds, the brutal victories of ISIS forces are just the latest bloody chapter in a story that spans centuries of slaughter, ethnic cleansing, and suppression.

    Istifan Braymok is an Assyrian Christian refugee who left Northern Iraq with his family last month, after waiting seven years to be granted political asylum. He now lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his brother in law, but he says his thoughts are always with his family back home in Erbil.

    Today on The Takeaway, Istifan shares his thoughts on his family's history in Iraq and what he hopes for the future of his country.

    Special thanks to our friends at the Center for Investigative Reporting for connecting us with Istifan Braymok.

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  • Aug 19

    Blood & Belief: Can the U.S. Partner With a Terrorist Group?

    In the Iraqi city of Mosul, U.S. forces and their Kurdish allies have pushed back ISIS fighters in the struggle to control the Mosul Dam.

    It's the latest joint effort by American and Kurdish forces, who have played a key role in driving ISIS extremists back. At the center of the fight has been the Iraqi Kurdish region's Peshmerga fighters.

    But The Kurdistan Workers' Party, also known as the PKK, is playing a growing role that can't be ignored because of the group's infamous history: The PKK is an organization that has been officially designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. government, principally because of their bloody campaign against NATO ally Turkey.

    The PKK has been a thorn in Turkey's side since at least 1984, when it began appealing for an independent Kurdish state within Turkey. 

    The PKK joining Kurdish Peshmerga fighters truly makes the current conflict regional, with possible implications for Turkey, Syria, and Iran. Just how different are these organizations, and is it possible for the U.S. to ally with one without also allying with the other?

    Aliza Marcus, author of “Blood and Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence,” explains just how much these groups have in common. 

    "This is really amazing because for the longest time, the PKK—the Turkish Kurdish force—has not only been fighting Turkey, but it's also been in an intermittent conflict with the Iraqi Kurds," says Marcus. "When Kurdistan itself is threatened, and there's no question that the fight by these Islamic fighters threatens Kurdistan itself, Kurds come together to defend what they see as their land."

    Though these forces are joining together, Marcus says that the international community shouldn't hold out hope for a unified Kurdistan in the long-run.

    "I don't think the Kurds see themselves as wanting to or being able to govern together, but they certainly see that they want to support each other's attempts to setup self-rule, and to be able to live in this area peacefully," says Marcus. 

    Though Turkey and the PKK have long been at odds, in the last year-and-a-half, the two parties have reached a tentative cease-fire.

    "Turkey keeps saying that it's planning some sort of broader peace negotiation," says Marcus. "Hopefully, the PKK won't be returning to fighting against Turkey. I think that's an important signal, not just for the Iraqi Kurds, who have almost grudgingly welcomed the PKK, but for the United States, who is looking at the situation on the ground and trying to figure out how to be most successful in the fight against these Islamic forces."

    U.S. support is critical to fighting ISIS—the Kurds do not have their own air force, and neither the PKK or the Iraqi Kurds are equipped to fight against ISIS forces, which have obtained sophisticated American military equipment that was abandoned by the Iraqi Army. 

    "I think the White House has been really slow to develop what I would call a Kurdistan policy," says Marcus.

    According to Marcus, it seems like the U.S. is relying on a playbook from the past.

    "I think the U.S. isn't really thinking logically about the situation," she says. "I'm not saying that the U.S. needs to take the PKK off the foreign terrorist list tomorrow. But they need to think on the ground: What is the PKK doing? What is it providing? And the fact that it's allied with the Iraqi Kurds is a really strong signal that the PKK can't be ignored."

    When it comes to Syria, Marcus says that Kurdish forces have been able to hold off ISIS fighters in the region, though it has been difficult. 

    "The U.S. again there has refused to deal directly with the Syrian Kurdish group called the PYD—their argument is that the PYD is allied with the PKK," says Marcus. "But we've again come to this sort of circle where Turkey has spoken to the PYD—they invited the PYD leader to Turkey twice last year. So why is the U.S. ignoring the PYD in Syria? It's very hard to understand that logic when the PYD has been fighting ISIS, and has been able to hold territory against them."

    Marcus adds that the Kurdish community on the ground and across the globe are both excited and fearful of the new alliance with the PKK.

    "For the first time really, Kurdish forces are coming together, they're taking a national stand and they're working together to protect their land," she says. "At the same time, they're very worried that if ISIS is successful, Kurds will be massacred like what we've been seeing with the Yazidis. They're simply worried that the PKK will be abandoned at some point. I think they're concerned, but they are looking towards more support, and they feel that it's necessary if they're going to put up a credible stand against ISIS."

     

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  • Aug 19

    Today's Takeaways: No Safe Place in Ferguson, Containing Ebola, and Mark Duplass: Hollywood's Favorite Man-Child

    1. Ferguson's Tense Start to the School Year | 2. Clashes Continue in Ferguson | 3. Can the U.S. Partner With a Terrorist Group? | 4. Doctors Without Borders President: Ebola Could Take Months to Contain | 5. The League's Mark Duplass: Playing Fantasy with Hollywood's Favorite Bro
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  • Aug 18

    'Shock & Confusion': A Struggle to Keep The Faith in Ferguson

    In the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, unrest continues as questions over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown go unanswered. 

    Over the weekend, the release of a surveillance video, which law enforcement officials say shows a looming 6-foot-4-inch Brown shoving a convenience store clerk before stealing cigarillos, reignited anger in the community.

    A preliminary private autopsy revealed that Brown was shot six times, including twice in the head. On Sunday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder said that the Justice Department would conduct its own independent autopsy.

    Yesterday, chaos erupted in the St. Louis suburb when, according to the police, at least one bottle rocket was thrown by protesters, and police responded with smoke canisters and tear gas. Despite the violence, Governor Jay Nixon said the overnight curfew was effective in upholding relative calm.

    But last night marked the most violent confrontation between the police and the community yet, prompting Gov. Nixon to deploy the National Guard early Monday morning.

    “Tonight, a day of hope, prayers, and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state," Gov. Nixon says in a statement. "Given these deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violent attacks on lives and property in Ferguson, I am directing the highly capable men and women of the Missouri National Guard to assist Colonel Ron Replogle and the Unified Command in restoring peace and order to this community.”

    Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who has taken over the local police operation, spent time this weekend appealing to the community in Ferguson, making an appearance before a packed audience at the Greater Grace Church.

    “I wear this uniform, and I should stand up here and say that I’m sorry,” Capt. Johnson said to a long round of applause.“This is my neighborhood—you are my family, you are my friends, and I am you. I will stand and protect you, and protect your right to protest. And I'll tell you right now, I came in here today and I saw people cheering and clapping, and this is what the media needs to put on TV."

    St. Louis Public Radio Reporter Jason Rosenbaum is on the ground in Ferguson, and was there when Captain Johnson spoke.

    "I was actually at that rally, sitting about five feet away from Captain Johnston," says Rosenbaum. "I don't use these words lightly: It was an unbelievable speech that brought the crowd to its feet."

    Though Captain Johnson's words instilled an initial feeling of hope and calm in the community, Rosenbaum says that after 9:30 PM on Sunday things in Ferguson "spiraled completely out of control."

    "The words that both Captain Johnson and everybody else at that church spoke seemed to be a distant memory with tear gas, broken windows, and every other force of destruction you can imagine," Rosenbaum says. "As soon as I saw the TV screens after coming back from that rally, I knew that it was an inevitability that the National Guard was going to be called in."

    Rosenbaum says that there are currently dozens of FBI agents combing the streets of Ferguson for information, and St. Louis county is also conducting its own investigation.

    "People want quick action for this, but the reality is these investigations take a lot of time to complete," he says. "There's a lot of witnesses that need to be talked to, and a lot of evidence that has to be looked at by investigators. The people that want an immediate indictment or some sort of action, I don't think they're getting that right now and I don't think they're going to get that just because of the way investigations work."

    Since the beginning, Brown's death has been marred in controversy, which has led to several different law enforcement agencies to step in.

    First, the local municipal police force responded to the protests and upheaval, and then St. Louis county took over. On Wednesday, the Missouri Highway Patrol stepped in to manage crowd control in the area. At that point, it seemed like calm had been restored, but over the weekend, violence returned to the streets.

    "I don't think people know what to expect with the National Guard—this is a military force that is usually used to either respond to natural disasters, or in some cases they're jettisoned out to foreign conflicts," says Rosenbaum. "I don't really know what the reaction to the crowd is going to be."

    Rosenbaum says there will be likely no problem for those who have so far remained peaceful during demonstrations. But he does point out that some protesters are intentionally breaking the government-mandated curfew and trying to confront governmental authorities. Rosenbaum is unsure how things will play out between the National Guard and those taking a more confrontational route.

    In many ways, Brown's death has now reached beyond the borders of Ferguson.

    "The people that I've talked to that have been protesting, some of them are from Ferguson, but a lot of them are from the surrounding communities, which are either partially or predominately African-American," says Rosenbaum. "This has now stretched beyond Ferguson's borders, and is now not only an entire St. Louis issue, but I think as your seeing it's become national and international."

    Faith Leaders Aim to Unite Ferguson

    Churches throughout Ferguson have played a major role in trying to solve this crisis by attempting to build bridges between local officials and the community at large. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, where the Reverend Steve Lawler leads a multiracial congregation, has become a central food pantry for the community since the protests began.

    Rev. Lawler says that in many ways, the community's response to the crisis happens moment-to-moment.

    "We have become a food collection place so the parish hall is filling up with food, and people all over the community are ready to help out," says Rev. Lawler.

    Individuals of all ages and walks of life are trying to lend a helping hand in Ferguson. Rev. Lawler says that a small, 3-year-old girl came by with her grandmother to offer a can of food and a crayon drawing of people eating. A man whose son was murdered about two-and-a-half years ago also came by to offer food, and Rev. Lawler says he showed a resounding sense of compassion for the family of Michael Brown, for the police officers, for the community, and for the neighborhood.

    "The congregation has been really great and responsive," says Rev. Lawler. "A number of people, myself included, are starting to feel some of the fatigue. The shock came immediately, but the fatigue is there now for more people."

    In addition to fatigue, Rev. Lawler says that his congregation is "heartbroken" and "shocked" over Brown's death and by the events playing out in the streets of Ferguson, and are "confused" about what will happen next. Additionally, the reverend adds that the voices of concern are coming from individuals of all races.

    "People who are on the ground and who live in Ferguson are sharing many of the same questions at many of the same gatherings," he says. "There's a lot of different responses—everything from, 'We've got to get the violence settled down and figure out how to manage that'... to 'I don't understand why people would loot and I don't understand how why these small business owners are the victims.'"

    The last week has been a challenge for the people of Ferguson, but Rev. Lawler says that it will be the community is looking forward to the Grand Jury's findings. 

    "The community is not divided in most ways," says Rev. Lawler, who adds that Ferguson is a community that has a history of being multi-racial. "There's some hope, but each night that we have destruction and violence, it's a real setback."

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  • Aug 18

    Inside Iran's Legal Human Organ Trade

    Iran is the only country worldwide where the practice of selling one's kidney for profit is legal and regulated. It is also one of the only places that has no waiting list for organs.

    Dr. Benjamin Hippen, a transplant nephrologist in Charlotte, North Carolina, has studied the Iranian kidney market. He weighs in on the successes and failures of the 20-year-old system.

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  • Aug 18

    'The Black Album' Puts The Beatles Back Together for New Generation

    What's family all about?

    It's a big question, and one that's taken on in the new movie "Boyhood," directed by Richard Linklater. Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, "Boyhood" is a remarkable story about life, family, and growing up, as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason.

    About half way through the movie, Ethan Hawke, who plays Mason's father, gives his son a very special birthday gift: "The Black Album," which is a compilation of songs from the solo careers of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Star after The Beatles broke up.

    "The Black Album," which consists of three CDs worth of music, is carefully and meticulously collected and organized in a particular composition designed to demonstrate the incredible synergy of these four artists.

    But this project doesn't just live in a piece of fiction on the big screen. It was actually a big passion project of Ethan Hawke in real life, a story of love and family told through music that he put together for his real life daughter.

    John Schaefer, host of Soundcheck and New Sounds at our partner station WNYC, reviews "The Black Album."

    "The Black Album" from the film "Boyhood."

     

    In addition to "The Black Album," Ethan Hawke's character provides young Mason with this letter explaining it:

    Mason,

    I wanted to give you something for your birthday that money couldn’t buy, something that only a father could give a son, like a family heirloom. This is the best I could do. Apologies in advance.

    I present to you: THE BEATLES’ BLACK ALBUM.

    The only work I’ve ever been a part of that I feel any sense of pride for involves something born in a spirit of collaboration — not my idea or his or her idea, but some unforeseeable magic that happens in creativity when energies collide.

    This is the best of John, Paul, George, and Ringo’s solo work, post-BEATLES. Basically I’ve put the band back together for you. There’s this thing that happens when you listen to too much of the solo stuff separately — too much Lennon: suddenly there’s a little too much self-involvement in the room; too much Paul and it can become sentimental — let’s face it, borderline goofy; too much George: I mean, we all have our spiritual side but it’s only interesting for about six minutes, ya know? Ringo: He’s funny, irreverent, and cool, but he can’t sing — he had a bunch of hits in the ’70s (even more than Lennon) but you aren’t gonna go home and crank up a Ringo Starr album start to finish, you’re just not gonna do that. When you mix up their work, though, when you put them side by side and let them flow — they elevate each other, and you start to hear it: T H E B E A T L E S.

    Just listen to the whole CD, OK?

    I guess it was the fact that Lennon was shot and killed at 40 (one of Lennon’s last fully composed songs was “Life Begins at 40,” which he wrote for Ringo — I couldn’t bring myself to include it on the mix as the irony still does not make me laugh) and that I just turned 40 myself that conjured this BLACK ALBUM. I listen to this music and for some reason (maybe the ongoing, metamorphosing pain of my divorce from your mother) I am filled with sadness that John & Paul’s friendship turned so bitter. I know, I know, I know, it has nothing to do with me, but damn it, tell me again why love can’t last. Why do we give in to pettiness? Why did they? Why do we so often see gifts as threats? Differences as shortcomings? Why can we not see that our friction could be used to polish one another?

    I read a little anecdote about when John’s mother died:

    He was an angry teenager — a switchblade in his pocket, a cigarette in his lips, sex on his mind. At a memorial service for his “unstable” and suddenly dead mom (whom he’d just recently been getting close to), he — pissed off and drunk — punched a bandmate in the face and stormed out of the memorial reception. Paul, several years his junior — a young boy, really, who didn’t yet care about girls, who was clearly UNCOOL, and who was let into the band despite his lack of badass-ness and sexual prowess due to the fact that even at 14 he could play the shit out of the guitar — chased John out onto the street saying, “John, why are you being such a jerk?”

    John said, “My mum’s f*ckin’ dead!”
    Paul said, “You never even once asked me about my mum.”
    “What about her?”
    “…My mum’s dead too.”
    They hugged in the middle of the suburban street. John apparently said, “Can we please start a fucking rock ‘n’ roll band?”

    This story answered a question that had lingered in my brain my whole music-listening life: If The Beatles were only together 10 years and the members of the band were so young that entire time, how did they manage to write “Help,” “Fool on the Hill,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Yesterday,” “A Day in the Life”? They were just 25-year-old boys with a gaggle of babes outside their hotel room door and as much champagne as a young lad could stand. How did they set their minds to such substantive artistic goals?

    They did it because they were in pain. They knew that love does not last. They knew it as extremely young men.

    With the BLACK ALBUM, we get to hear the boys write on adult life: marriage, fatherhood, sobriety, spiritual yearning, the emptiness of material success — “Starting Over,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Beautiful Boy,” “The No No Song,” “God” — and still they are keenly aware of this fact: Love does not last.

    I don’t want it to be true. I want Lennon/McCartney to write beautifully together forever, but is that really the point? I mean if the point of a rose was to last forever, it would be made of stone, right? So how do we handle this idea with grace and maturity? If you’re a romantic like me, it’s hard not to long for some indication of healing between the two of them. All signs point that way.

    When Paul went on SNL recently, he played almost all LENNON. And he did it with obvious joy.

    Listen to McCartney’s “Here Today.”

    Can you listen to “Two of Us” (the last song they wrote side by side) and not hurt a little? What were those two motherless boys who hugged in the middle of the road so long ago thinking as they wrote “The two of us have memories longer then the road that stretches out ahead”?

    The dynamic of their breakup, like any divorce, is mysterious. Some say that Paul, the pupil, had surpassed John, the mentor, and they couldn’t reach a new balance. Some say Paul was a little snot who bought the publishing rights out from underneath the other three. Others say without Brian Epstein there was no mediator between their egos. Who knows.

    I played Samantha “Hey Jude” the other day, and of course she listened to it over and over. I told her the song had been written by McCartney for Lennon’s son after Lennon’s divorce and she listened even more intently. George once said that “Hey Jude” was the beginning of the end for the Beatles. Brian Epstein had just died and John & Paul were left alone to run the brand-new Apple label. They recorded “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” as a single. Normally, Brian would decide which song was the A-side and which was the B-side, but now it was up to the boys. John thought “Revolution” was an important political rock song and that they needed to establish themselves as an adult band. Paul thought “Revolution” was brilliant but that The Beatles were primarily a pop band and so they should lead with “Hey Jude.” He knew it would be a monster hit and that the politics should come on a subversive B-side. They had a vote. “Hey Jude” won 3-1. George said that John felt Paul had pulled off a kind of coup d’etat. He wasn’t visibly upset but he began to withdraw. It was no longer his band.

    The irony/punch line of this story is another story I once heard: When the “Hey Jude”/”Revolution” single was hot off the press, the boys had the mischievous idea of bringing their own new single to a Rolling Stones record-release listening party. Mick Jagger says that once the Fab Four arrived and let word of their new single slip — just as Side 1 of the Stones’ big new album was finishing — everyone clamored to hear it. Once The Beatles were on, they just kept flipping the single over and over. Side 2 of BEGGARS BANQUET never even found the needle.

    So no matter how mad John was, he wasn’t that mad…

    Once when John was asked whether he would ever play with Paul again, he answered: “It would always be about, ‘Play what?’ It’s about the music. We play well together — if he had an idea and needed me, I’d be interested.”

    I love that.

    Maybe the lesson is: Love doesn’t last, but the music love creates just might.

    Your mom and I couldn’t make love last, but you are the music, my man.

    “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love…”

    I love you. Happy birthday.

    Your Dad

    The Beatles, on the cover of the single for 'I Want To Hold Your Hand.'
    The Beatles, on the cover of the single for "I Want To Hold Your Hand."

      

    Black Album Tracklist:

    Disc 1:
    1. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Band on the Run”
    2. George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord”
    3. John Lennon feat. The Flux Fiddlers & the Plastic Ono Band, “Jealous Guy”
    4. Ringo Starr, “Photograph”
    5. John Lennon, “How?”
    6. Paul McCartney, “Every Night”
    7. George Harrison, “Blow Away”
    8. Paul McCartney, “Maybe I’m Amazed”
    9. John Lennon, “Woman”
    10.Paul McCartney & Wings, “Jet”
    11. John Lennon, “Stand by Me”
    12. Ringo Starr, “No No Song”
    13. Paul McCartney, “Junk”
    14. John Lennon, “Love”
    15. Paul McCartney & Linda McCartney, “The Back Seat of My Car”
    16. John Lennon, “Watching the Wheels”
    17. John Lennon, “Mind Games”
    18. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Bluebird”
    19. John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”
    20. George Harrison, “What Is Life”

    Disc 2:
    1. John Lennon, “God”
    2. Wings, “Listen to What the Man Said”
    3. John Lennon, “Crippled Inside”
    4. Ringo Starr, “You’re Sixteen You’re Beautiful (And You’re Mine)”
    5. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Let Me Roll It”
    6. John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band, “Power to the People”
    7. Paul McCartney, “Another Day”
    8. George Harrison, “If Not For You (2001 Digital Remaster)”
    9. John Lennon, “(Just Like) Starting Over”
    10. Wings, “Let ‘Em In”
    11. John Lennon, “Mother”
    12. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Helen Wheels”
    13. John Lennon, “I Found Out”
    14. Paul McCartney & Linda McCartney, “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey”
    15. John Lennon, Yoko Ono & The Plastic Ono Band, “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)”
    15. George Harrison, “Not Guilty (2004 Digital Remaster)”
    16. Paul McCartney & Linda McCartney, “Heart of the Country”
    17. John Lennon, “Oh Yoko!”
    18. Wings, “Mull of Kintyre”
    19. Ringo Starr, “It Don’t Come Easy”

    Disc 3:
    1. John Lennon, “Grow Old With Me (2010 Remaster)”
    2. Wings, “Silly Love Songs”
    3. The Beatles, “Real Love”
    4. Paul McCartney & Wings, “My Love”
    5. John Lennon, “Oh My Love”
    6. George Harrison, “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”
    7. Paul McCartney, “Pipes of Peace”
    8. John Lennon, “Imagine”
    9. Paul McCartney, “Here Today”
    10. George Harrison, “All Things Must Pass”
    11. Paul McCartney, “And I Love Her (Live on MTV Unplugged)”

    "The Black Album" track list and "Boyhood" letter were originally published in BuzzFeed. 

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  • Aug 18

    What's at Stake Ahead of Scotland’s Historic Independence Vote

    On September 18th, more than 4 million people in Scotland will get to vote in a historic referendum on whether their country should become independent for the first time in more than 300 years.

    Much is at stake—if voters in Scotland decide to break away from the United Kingdom, including England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland's leaders will need to renegotiate everything from the country’s currency and its foreign policy, to its relationship with the British Army and the rest of the European Union. 

    “Absolutely no one will do a better job of running Scotland than the people who live and work in Scotland,” Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, has said.

    But British Prime Minister David Cameron has urged the people of Scotland to vote against independence and save a union which dates back to 1707.

    For its part, the U.S. has tried to remain neutral about next month's vote.

    “With respect to the future of the United Kingdom, obviously ultimately this is up to the people of Great Britain," President Barack Obama has said. "In the case of Scotland, there’s a referendum process in place and it’s up to the people of Scotland." Although the president did add that, “the United Kingdom has been an extraordinary partner to us. From the outside at least, it looks like things have worked pretty well.”

    Scottish political commentator and broadcaster Greg Russell weighs in on how the referendum is playing out in his homeland, and why he's considering a vote for independence.

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  • Aug 18

    Undocumented Children Strain Miami Schools

    Miami has long welcomed droves of immigrants from Latin America, but the latest wave of unaccompanied immigrant children is straining the resources of this gateway region in Florida.

    School administrators in South Florida are concerned about funding and resources for these new students, who often require extra attention. Some children have never attended school before, and others suffer from psychological trauma from the gang violence back home.

    And then there is the trauma from the trip itself.

    Rachel Diaz, an attorney for the Mennonite Central Committee, has been working with a 16-year-old from Guatemala. "For the sake of survival, he crossed the border,” she explained. “His coyote left him in the desert. He ran around the desert for three days and finally he pressed that button and said, 'Homeland, come get me,' because it's either that or die.”

    Migrant children have already overwhelmed federal authorities at the border, and now they threaten to overwhelm the school system in Miami-Dade County. While Spanish-speaking instructors are in plentiful supply in South Florida, there are far fewer who can speak Mayan languages commonly used in parts of Central America.

    The school board has asked for more federal funding.

    "We should not be doing it alone,” says Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “These children should not be the political victims of Congressional inaction regarding this matter."

    Today is the first day of school for many in South Florida, and John O'Connor, StateImpact education reporter at WLRN-Miami Herald News, describes what school districts are doing to accommodate the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children.

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  • Aug 18

    Today's Takeaways: Chaos in Ferguson, a Black Market for Organs, and The Beatles Reimagined

    1. 'Shock & Confusion': A Struggle to Keep The Faith in Ferguson | 2. How Israel Fuels a Black Market for Organs | 3. Inside Iran's Legal Human Organ Trade | 4.' The Black Album' Puts The Beatles Back Together for New Generation

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  • Aug 18

    In Israel, Religion & Culture Fuel Black Market for Organs

    Over the last decade in the United States, the waiting list for an adult kidney has doubled. As of this year, 100,000 patients are waiting on that list. 

    The sad truth is that many of those people will die waiting, as more than 4,000 do every year.

    While those statistics are dire, the situation is even worse in Israel, where a mixture of religious law and cultural practices have led many to reject organ donation. The result? A desperate market of patients who will do anything for a transplantable organ.

    That's what Kevin Sack, national correspondent for Takeaway partner The New York Times, discovered through a year-long investigation into the black market for kidneys, an analysis that uncovered Israel’s disproportionate role in sustaining the trafficked organ marketplace.

    Sack tells Takeaway host John Hockenberry that the black market is driven by pure economics.

    "It's all supply and demand," he says. The World Health Organization, "estimates that supply of available organs fills maybe a tenth of the worldwide need."

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  • Aug 16

    The Takeaway Weekender: Missouri as a Mirror, Support for Victims, and The Beatles Reimagined

    1. 'Municipal Shock & Awe' in Ferguson | 2. Ferguson: A Mirror for Modern America? | 3. 'I Believe You, It's Not Your Fault' Gives Safe Space to Victims | 4. The Man That Touched America: A Tribute to Robin Williams | 5. WEEKENDER EXCLUSIVE: The Beatles Reimagined
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  • Aug 15

    New Peacekeeper Capt. Johnson Cools Tension in Ferguson

    This week in Ferguson, Missouri, protests over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer, turned violent and were met with a militarized response from law enforcement officials. 

    Relations between the police and community seemed to hit a tipping point this week. Yesterday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced that St. Louis Police Department would no longer be taking the lead in securing the region.

    “The immediate security responsibilities will now be directed by Missouri State Highway Patrol, who have proved themselves time and again when Missourians have needed them the most," the governor said.

    The images coming out the St. Louis area have had eerie resemblances to the civil rights era, or in some cases, to war zones being fought around the world.

    Photos of a mostly-white police force, in military-style gear, atop tanks aiming large weapons at a crowd of predominantly black protesters, flooded the internet and news media. Accounts of tear gas and rubber bullets being fired into that crowd, and journalists being arrested, dominated headlines and the thoughts of Americans across the country.

    These are images and scenes that many politicians and American citizens say should not be coming out of the United States in 2014.

    See Also: PHOTOS: 'Municipal Shock & Awe' in Ferguson

    "This is a place where people work, go to school, raise their families, go to church—a diverse community—a Missouri community," Gov. Nixon said. "But lately it's looked more like a war zone."

    In response to criticism over accusations of excessive force, Gov. Nixon named Captain Ronald Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol as the new leader of security operations in Ferguson.

    “We are going to have a different approach and have the approach that we’re in this together," Captain Johnson said during a press conference Thursday.

    Captain Johnson reportedly spent much of last night with protesters, listening to their stories and marching alongside them through the streets. Troopers and tanks have also been ordered to back away, and police removed their tear gas masks, ushering in, by some accounts, a peaceful and celebratory night in Ferguson.

    Don Marsh is host of the St. Louis Public Radio program St. Louis on the Air, and a long-time resident of the region. He's also someone who has considered the region's racial history deeply in a project called "St. Louis History in Black and White," produced with St. Louis Public Radio.

    Don explains what the mood was like in Ferguson last night, and what the locals are saying in the area.

    Though the events in the St. Louis area have undoubtedly shaken the region, nationally, the situation in Ferguson has triggered widespread criticism of the use of military-style weaponry and equipment by local forces, and calls are coming from across the country to demilitarize the police.

    See Also: Police Departments See Influx of War Gear

    Jack Hoban, president of Resolution Group International, a professional training organization that works closely with military and law enforcement organizations, reflects on how police departments use military gear. 

    What do you make of the events in Ferguson? What does it say about modern America? Leave a comment below or give us a call at 1-877-869-8253.

     

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  • Aug 15

    Take a Real Vacation: Science Says Your Brain Needs It

    For many Americans, including President Obama, August is a month for vacation, a time to escape the daily grind and get away. 

    But for a growing number of workers, taking time off is a luxury they can't afford. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just one in four American workers in the private sector—about 26 million people—have no paid time off, compared with less than one-fifth of workers in the 1990s. The U.S. is also the only country among its economic peers that does not mandate paid vacation. 

    Daniel Levitin, dean of Arts and Humanities of the Minerva Schools at KGI, says that's a real problem, particularly for our overworked brains. 

    Levitin, the author of “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload" tells Takeaway host John Hockenberry that true vacations—real breaks from work, email, and incessant phone calls—are necessary for creative thinking and energy. 

    "YouTube, computer browsing, and television watching—those are great leisure activities," he says. "But they're not the same as engaging what we call the default mode of the brain: The creative, free flow, free association part of our consciousness." 

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  • Aug 15

    Selling the Message: GOP's Fake News Sites Designed to Dupe Voters

    With the midterm elections just a few months away, the campaign ad onslaught has already begun. Negative campaign ads have a long history, and a typical format: The haunting music, the ominous voiceover, and a flood of menacing images. 

    According to the National Journal, political strategist believe that voters have "grown weary and dubious" of the conventional attack and the hysterical shriek of negative ads. With that in mind, the the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) decided to try a different tactic for 2014. 

    The NRCC has developed a series of websites designed to look like local news outlets. With names like “Central Valley Update” and "Augusta Update," these sites feature articles that claim to look at the "facts" of a particular candidate’s record. The disclaimer "Paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee" only appears at the bottom of the fake article. 

    The sites are designed to mimic the look and feel of a legitimate new organization in hopes that the message will stick.

    Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "The Obama Victory: How Media, Money, and Messages Shaped the 2008 Election," examines this new campaign strategy.

    Check out a map of the 2014 midterm elections you should be watching below.

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  • Aug 15

    Ferguson: A Mirror for Modern America?

    It's the end of a long week for the people of Ferguson, Missouri, after tear gas, rubber bullets, and protests dominated their streets.

    Fears and tensions have enveloped the entire St. Louis community, and America at large, as the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown, continues to command the attention of the nation.

    While the rest of America looks on, it's hard to ignore the fact that we've been here before.

    “My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin," said President Obama at a news conference in March 2012, shortly after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon and I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened."

    Zimmerman was acquitted in July of 2013, and when the ruling came down, we turned to two voices, Avis Jones DeWeever, host of the nationally-syndicated radio show, Focus Point with Avis Jones-DeWeever, and Rich Benjamin, author of “Searching for Whitopia” and senior fellow at Demos, to reflect on our expectations of security, justice, and equality in modern America.

    Two years later, the death of a different boy in a different part of America is raising questions of whether or not anything has changed in this country.

    What are you expectations about racial justice in America? Do you believe Ferguson is a mirror for modern America? Leave a comment or call 1-877-869-8253.

     

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  • Aug 15

    Under Her Skin: Life With Cancer Continues

    For Crystal, Lisa and Anita—the three women featured in The Takeaway's six-month-long series "Under Her Skin: Living With Breast Cancer"—there has been no pause, and no intermission between Act I and Act II. Life with cancer continues.

    In this update to our “Under Her Skin” series, Crystal, Lisa, and Anita share their latest audio diaries about their daily life as they continue to fight breast cancer.

    After what she's gone through, normal is an unusual word for Crystal these days. You might say anxiety is normal for her now, but she can't let that get in the way.

    “Tonight I was waiting in the car for a friend and I was just feeling on my neck and I felt a lump. I don't know if it's a lymph node or if it's just a bump I am definitely going to try to email my doctor and tell the radiation oncologist or nurse on Monday. I am hoping this is nothing and it's just something normal,” Crystal Miller says in her audio diary entry, dated July 11, 2014.

    Since we met 28-year-old Crystal, she's gone through surgery, chemotherapy, and she's now in radiation. The cancer may be gone, but doubt—doubt is something she may hold onto for a long time.

    “Am I always going to feel like everything that happens has something to do with cancer? I'm wondering if that is going to be my first thought every time something shows up on my body,” she says in her latest update.

    For Anita Coleman, family time has changed now that she is undergoing treatment. 

    “They know that I'm just sick. That's how they see it,” Anita says in her latest audio diary, dated July 4, 2014.

    Anita has been forced to reconcile the precious relationship she has with her three young grandchildren, ages 2-and-a-half, 4-years-old, and 7-years-old, with the uglier side of cancer.

    “Basically on my down days, they don't come around me," says Anita. "Number one my patience level is short, and the little bickering back and forth—I can't take it. But I really don't want them to see me barely moving some days, because children have lasting impressions and the impression I don't want them to see is when I can't barely walk, the days when it's hard to walk or the days when I just am tired.”

    Our third brave pioneer, Lisa Echols, mom to 16-year-old Steven in Memphis, Tennessee, brought her son along to experience the realities of an oncology appointment and a herceptin chemotherapy treatment. But they also found time to talk about the other things.

    “He got a chance to see what I really go through when go for my treatment,” she says in her July 17, 2014 audio diary. “We was able to sit down and really talk and for me to find out what was going on in his life and for him to see the lifestyle that I am going through now.”

    Right now, Lisa is focused on what's ahead. On Monday, she will return to work at Baptist Memorial Women's Hospital and her role as a technician in the neonatal intensive care unit. She's looking forward to just taking care of the babies, as she puts it.

    “I am going to return to work very soon. I can't wait to walk the halls of the hospital and speak to all of my coworkers and just laugh and talk and enjoy life itself,” says Lisa in audio diary from August 8, 2014.

    If you like following Lisa, Crystal, and Anita and want to be apart of the conversation you can get involved with this week's discussion on money.

    Even with the beast insurance, cancer treatment can pose a serious financial burden. And we want to hear about the financial issues you have encountered. What surprised you most about the medical costs? How did you budget for them and did you get any help along the way? How much did money weigh on you during and after treatment? Leave a comment below or give us a call at 1-877-869-8253

    Listeners can continue this conversation any day of the week by joining The Takeaway's Facebook group for this project.Check out the full series and extended interviews at the Under Her Skin: Living With Breast Cancer page. 

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  • Aug 15

    Today's Takeaways: Reflections on Ferguson, Live With Cancer, and A Vacation from Your Brain

    1. New Peacekeeper Cools Tension in Ferguson | 2. Under Her Skin: Life With Cancer Continues | 3. The Movie Date Team Tackle's This Weekend's New Releases | 4. Take a Real Vacation: Science Says Your Brain Needs It

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  • Aug 14

    "Let's Be Cops," "The Expendables 3," "The Giver," "Frank"

    Rafer and Kristen are having a tough week; the kind of week that has them tag-teaming three movies in one day and quoting lines from "Splash." But they try their best to keep their energy up as they review four of this week's movie releases: "Let's Be Cops," "The Expendables 3," "The Giver," and "Frank." They also respond to a listener who's starved for some clever modern remakes of ancient stories. And, as always, there's trivia!  

    Subscribe to the Movie Date podcast, like Movie Date on Facebook, follow Kristen on Twitter, and leave a message for Rafer and Kristen anytime at 571-7MOVIES (571-766-8437).

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  • Aug 14

    PHOTOS: 'Municipal Shock & Awe' in Ferguson

    The aftermath from the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown over the weekend can still be seen on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Last night, the protests in the St. Louis suburb started to look more and more like a war zone (see photo slide show below).

    “I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we’ve seen in the heartland of our country as police have clashed with people protesting,” President Obama said at a news conference Thursday.

    The White House has asked the Department of Justice and the FBI to independently investigate the death of Brown, along with local officials on the ground.

    “The Department of Justice is also consulting with local authorities about ways that they can maintain public safety without restricting the right of peaceful protest and while avoiding unnecessary escalation,” the president said.

    Law enforcement officials reportedly used tear gas to disperse protesters, and patrolled the streets with armored vehicles and high powered assault rifles. Reporters Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post were arrested last night, and Lowery was reportedly assaulted by a law enforcement officer.

    “There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting,” President Obama added. “There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. And here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground.”

    To give us a sense of where things stand in the community, The Takeaway turns to Jelani Cobb, a contributor to The New Yorker and the director of Africana studies at the University of Connecticut. He's currently in Ferguson, and said that the scene looked like something out of Iraq or Afghanistan.

    “What I saw there was very reminiscent of a combat zone,” says Cobb.  

    Related: Police Departments See Influx of War Gear

    Community leaders, clergy, and the family of Michael Brown are calling for peace, but Cobb says that police in the area remain aggressive.

    “There was a real climate of hostility emanating from the police,” says Cobb. “It was almost a given—everyone knew that when night fell, there was going to be some kind of activity that took place.”

    While many contend that individuals from outside the community are inciting violence, Cobb says that there has been a long-standing feeling of tension between the police and the citizens of Ferguson, nearly 70 percent of whom are black.

    “The veil of secrecy that has surrounded the investigation has done nothing to alleviate the tensions,” says Cobb. “People here think the secrecy, particularly of not releasing the name of the officer, that the secrecy here provides a great deal of leeway or a great opportunity for collusion. When the name becomes available, people really don’t know if there’s been coordination in terms of stories.”

    Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson contends that the officer involved in the incident had reportedly been hit and suffered swelling on the side of his face. But Cobb says without knowing which officer was involved, it is impossible to independently verify that information.

    “No one has seen him; no one knows who he or she is,” says Cobb. “It’s very difficult to develop any trust in that context.”

    While protests initially started as a way to show solidarity with Brown and his family, Cobb says individuals in Ferguson are increasingly worried about the militarization of the police department. Last night, Cobb says the streets were blockaded and the police were out in riot gear.

    “[It] is perhaps understandable given that there have been incidents of looting and some vandalism,” he says. “But what was atypical and what was shocking to see is these police officers had two armored personnel carriers that were nose to nose that were blocking the street. Many if not most of the officers had on some kind of military fatigue garb.”

    Officers also sat on top of armored vehicles with high-powered assault rifles—Cobb says it looked like some kind of “sniper’s nest.”

    “This is like municipal shock and awe,” he says. “They ordered the crowd to disperse around 8:30 and began firing tear gas. They continued to tear gas that community for up to two hours after that, such that there was a large white cloud looming over that entire neighborhood.”

    In addition to tear gas, Cobb says that police fired rubber bullets and threw flash grenades.

    "It was hard to understand what threat justified this," he says.

     

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  • Aug 14

    The True Story Behind the World's Largest T-Rex Skeleton

    About 24 years ago, the research team at the Black Hills Institute of Hill City, South Dakota made one of the greatest paleontological finds in history when they found the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever found.

    Field paleontologist Susan Hendrickson stumbled upon the first bits of bone, and in her honor the T-Rex was named "Sue." A price tag of $5,000 was agreed upon with the landowner, the most ever paid for a fossil at that time, and the team packed Sue up and brought her home to Hill City.

    Even today, scientists estimate there are only about 2,100 "good" skeletons of any dinosaur in museums worldwide, and Sue's discovery is the subject of new documentary,
    "DINOSAUR 13," directed by Todd Miller.

    If there's one thing Peter Larson, paleontologist and president of Black Hills Institute, can attest to, it's that as with many great finds among the vast acreage of the west, one man's claim is often subject to seizure.

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  • Aug 14

    Is the U.S. Bailing on Baghdad?

    Is the city of Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq the new Baghdad? When examining U.S. foreign policy, it now seems to involve a greater emphasis on making Kurdistan safe from ISIS, even as Baghdad's political stability and its ability to defend itself seems to be eroding.

    After days of U.S. airstrikes and an advance by Kurdish fighters in Iraq, the militant siege of Mount Sinjar is over, according to U.S. Defense Department officials.

    Thousands of Yazidis that were trapped on top of the mountain for the last week and have been able to escape, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby. On Tuesday, about a dozen Marines and Special Ops forces spent the day helping thousands of Yazidis evacuate. Thousands still remain, but far fewer than a week ago at this time.

    Is America's presence in Kurdistan a rescue mission, or something else?

    "I think it’s most likely far less likely now that we would undertake any kind of specific humanitarian rescue mission that we have been planning," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. "That doesn’t mean that we won’t," he added.

    The U.S. says it now has the option to enlarge its ground forces in Kurdistan, an announcement that coincides with a United Nations declaration that the situation for the Yazidis has now become a dire humanitarian crisis, reaching a "Level 3" emergency. 

    On Wednesday, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes announced that the White House is considering using ground troops in Iraq to help rescue the remaining Yazidi's trapped on Mount Sinjar.

    "We're not putting ground forces into combat role in Iraq. We're using U.S. military personnel to assess what the best way is to bring people to safety, and what the best way is to provide them with humanitarian assistance," Rhodes said.

    But Iraq remains a troubled nation, something American officials recognize, and once those troops are there, Pentagon Spokesman Colonel Steve Warren hinted their role could change.

    "Where exactly the line where it crosses into combat or noncombat, that's open to debate," said Col. Warren.

    Aki Peritz, a former CIA analyst and co-author of "Find, Fix, Finish: Inside the Counterterrorism Campaigns that Killed bin Laden and Devastated Al Qaeda," explains why the U.S. is turning to the Kurdish leadership in Erbil to forge a stable partnership amid all of Iraq's turmoil.

    Khaled Salih, vice-chancellor for the University of Kurdistan and adviser to the Prime Minister of Kurdistan, describes the Kurdish perspective on the crisis. 

     

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  • Aug 14

    Baltimore Enforces Tough Curfew for City's Teens

    For the youth in Baltimore, the city streets are now off limits after dark. Late last week, a curfew law went into effect that requires kids 13-years-old and under to be indoors by 9:00 pm, and teens between the ages of 14 to 16 to be off the streets by 10:00 pm on school nights, and by 11:00 pm on weekends and during the summer.

    Baltimore's curfew is one of the toughest in the country, but the city is not alone. New Orleans, Dallas, and Miami have all adopted curfews with the goals of reducing crime and catching at-risk youth before they make mistakes.

    "If you are going to ask young people to be up and ready for school at 6:30, or 7:00 in the morning, then they should not be out at 11:00 at night," said the bill's sponsor, Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott.

    Do curfews work? Some critics say the law could lead to racial profiling, and exacerbate an already tense relationship between some community members and the police.

    Joining The Takeaway to weigh in is Jason Tashea, juvenile justice director at Advocates for Children and Youth, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of Maryland's children. He explains what Baltimore is like for the city's youth, and whether the new law will infringe on the rights of parents and young people. Angela Johnese is the director of the Mayor's office on criminal justice, and a proponent of the new law.

     

    The Takeaway contacted Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and received the following statement:

    "As a mother, I cannot rest at night knowing that there are unsupervised children and teens roaming the streets at times where the probability of them becoming victims or perpetrators of crimes are significantly increased. Like many Baltimore City residents, I am committed to our youth.

    "As a community, we must do all we can to ensure that we provide a strong foundation and promote positive development for our youth that allows them to soar. That’s why the year-round Youth Connections Centers for youth who violate the city curfew are critical in our efforts to realize a safer Baltimore for our youth, and residents in general.

    "The amended curfew ordinance further supports my administration’s efforts to identify the city’s at-risk youth in order to provide support and resources to them and their families. While curfew enforcement is helpful, it is only one tool. So, we need parents, neighbors, and community members to remain active and vigilant in protecting our most valuable resources, our children."

     

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  • Aug 14

    The Convoy Standoff: Is Putin's 'Humanitarian' Mission a Trojan Horse?

    A convoy of 260 white, unmarked trucks are idling in southeastern Russia, about 200 miles from the Ukrainian border. According to Russian state media, the trucks are transporting around 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid, including baby food, sugar, sleeping bags, generators, medicine, and medical supplies for civilians in Ukraine.

    But the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has yet to receive official details of the aid convoy (pictured below), and now Ukrainian officials are claiming that the trucks are full of military assistance for pro-Russian separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine. 

    Whether it’s Red Cross supplies, or a 21st century Trojan horse, tensions between Russia and Ukraine are running high.

    On the ground in Kiev is Andriy Kulykov, a Public Radio Ukraine correspondent. He explains what’s happening on the street, and how local citizens are reacting to the news. 

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  • Aug 14

    Today's Takeaways: Bailing on Baghdad, 'Shock & Awe' in Ferguson, and a T-Rex Named Sue

    1. Is the U.S. Bailing on Baghdad? | 2. 'Municipal Shock & Awe' in Ferguson | 3. Baltimore Enforces Tough Curfew for City's Teens | 4. The Story Behind the World's Largest T-Rex

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  • Aug 13

    The Fine Line Between Humor and Mental Illness

    Across the country at kitchen tables and diners, in coffee shops and around water coolers, Americans have been discussing the tragic death of actor and comedian Robin Williams, who committed suicide on Monday at the age of 63. 

    Williams's death continues to haunt people—there were numerous tributes and moments of silence for him in performances around the nation yesterday. And remembrances from Takeaway listeners also came pouring in.

    See Also: A Tribute to Robin Williams, A Man That Touched America

    "I will never forget the immense sadness that poured over me when I tried to make sense of the words displayed on my television: 'Robin Williams died from suicide,'" Takeaway listener Melissa Bowen wrote on our website. 

    Whatever problems he had, Williams seemed to find an outlet in comedy. He put himself out there, but was his comedic playfulness just a kind of defense to hide a deeper sense of turmoil that came form within? Though Williams tackled topics like addiction onstage, few comedians of his generation discuss mental illness.

    And now a new generation of comedians are plucking the depths of despair—for material. Jacqueline Novak is leading that charge. She recently released her first comedy album, "Quality Notions," and she's the author of the forthcoming book, “How to Weep in Public.” She tells The Takeaway's John Hockenberry about walking the line when it comes to finding humor in mental illness.

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  • Aug 13

    Iraq: The Case for a King

    After decades of conflict, is there a leader that could unify Iraq? It was once thought that the nation's current Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki was the man for the job, but he is stirring up controversy by refusing to relinquish power.

    Haider Al-Abadi has been nominated as the country's next prime minister, but early doubts are emerging over whether he has the force of character to stop the country from pulling itself further apart. The candidates from the Dawa Party have so far been the only leaders in Iraq post Saddam Hussein.

    But former Iraqi Minister of Trade, Defense, and Finance, Ali Allawi, reminds us that before Saddam Hussein, Iraq had a monarchy. Is it time to take a royal route back to unity in this divided country? Allawi, the author of "Faisal I of Iraq," says a monarchy may be a long-shot, but it's hardly a far-fetched idea. 

    "When Iraq was first founded in 1921, it followed a monarchical system," says Allawi. "It seemed to provide the right mix of political cover to create an element of stability in a country that has a very varied population. The monarch that we had was not indigenous—he was from the Hejaz [region] in what is now Saudi Arabia. But he came with a long pedigree, and was a person who could unite various, disparate groups in a form of determined, but moderate, patriotism."

    Though Iraq had a strong start with King Faisal, a member of the Hashemite family, the monarchy did not last for more than 30 years, and Allawi concedes that it would be very difficult to recreate the conditions of 1921. 

    "There are quite a few people who could be considered legitimate heirs," says Allawi. "The most important one—and he in fact went back to Iraq after 2003—his name is Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein. His grandfather was King Ali of the Hejaz, so Faisal was his great uncle. But I'm afraid the monarchical system in Iraq didn't get much traction after 2003, for a variety of reasons."

    Allawai believes a monarchy is one of the few formulas that could work in Iraq. He contends it could also unite both Sunnis and Shiites.

    "Faisal the I and his descendants, including Sharif Ali and others, they bring to the equation some very, very important advantages," he says. "One of them is that they are descendants of the prophet Muhammad, and therefore have great religious legitimacy. Secondly, they have been rulers and custodians over the shrines in the Hejaz of Mecca and Medina for nearly 1,000 years, before this was taken over from them by the Saudis. They are probably the most noble family in the Arab world."

    Allawai says that Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein and his family already have roots in the country and practice a very open and inclusive form of Islam.

    "He can transcend the differences, and act as a focal point for groups that would normally not be able to co-exist," says Allawai. "King Faisal I was able to do that, [but] a lot of it depends on the quality of the individual. We have the possibilities in Iraq of forming a monarchical system that can act as a kind of magnet for all of the various groups because it does not really belong to each individual, and therefore cannot be seen to be partial."

    Coalescing support around a monarchical system would be the key to its success, says Allawai. But that idea is easier said than done.

    "If you're going to be able to produce a king, there has to be some kind of groundswell of support for such a person, and it has to develop and evolve," he says. "It could have happened, and it could still happen. But as things stand right now, it seems to be a long shot."

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  • Aug 13

    America's Reluctant Return to Iraq

    In Iraq, a political crisis is underway as Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki continues to refuse to relinquish power, even after the U.S. vocalized support for Iraqi President Fouad Massoum's nomination of Haider Al-Abadi as the country's next prime minister. 

    Meanwhile, the U.S. military is struggling to effectively deliver much needed food and water to thousands of Iraqi Yazidis as they remain stranded on Mount Sinjar after fleeing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

    George Packer, a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of "The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq,” says that Iraq is in need of a unifying figure. 

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  • Aug 14

    Ole Miss May Drop its Nickname

    Deep in the land of the old Confederacy, one would expect that there might be some symbols that could raise sensitive issues for students at universities that embrace diversity and students of all races and backgrounds. The issue of symbolism is one Ole Miss, or the University of Mississippi, is struggling with now.

    While some overt symbols of the Confederacy have been banned from the campus, there are still war memorials to Confederate soldiers, among other things. And now University of Mississippi officials are reviewing the Ole Miss nickname as part of a bigger inquiry into the school’s historic associations with symbols of the Confederacy.

    Sierra Mannie, a rising senior at the University of Mississippi entering her last year, shares her thoughts on the Ole Miss nickname, and her experience as a black student at the University of Mississippi. 

    What do you think? Vote in our poll below.

     

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  • Aug 13

    Hollywood Film Icon Lauren Bacall Dies at 89

    A sultry actress and a true Hollywood film star, Lauren Bacall died yesterday at the age of 89. Her career in show business made her a symbol—a tough woman who could do it all with class and brains, and still be irresistible.

    On and off screen, Bacall seduced Humphrey Bogart, and together they became a glamours, Hollywood power couple—she the bombshell, he the swarthy anti-hero who got the girl. They were the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of their day.

    Lauren Bacall was always the dreamer with a sultry voice, a fierce sense of determination, and an unforgettable style. 

    Today The Takeaway pays tribute to Lauren Bacall. Please share your remembrances with us—leave a comment below or give us a call at 1-877-869-8253.

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  • Aug 13

    The Takeaway Book Club: 'All Our Names'

    "All Our Names" is the new work from author Dinaw Mengestu, a recipient of the 2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant. This book is the third work to be featured in The Takeaway Book Club.  

    The novel follows the intertwined stories of two strong-willed characters—Helen, a social worker in a fictional Midwestern town called Laurel, and Isaac, the mysterious African arrival whose case is assigned to her. Helen and Isaac fall for each other almost immediately, but Isaac’s past is far too tangled for this to be a simple love story.  

    Isaac presents himself as a student, but he’s in fact more like a refugee, albeit one traveling under false pretenses. Ethiopian by birth, at a young age, Isaac left his family (and the thirteen names they had for him) behind, travelling through Kenya to Uganda to try to make a life in the urban center of Kampala.

    But revolution is in the air, and his university studies quickly get sidetracked by the schemes of his classmate and best friend, a young man with fervent political ideals and an under-developed sense of self-preservation.

    History informs Mengestu’s plotline, but the story isn’t too tightly connected to real-life historical events. Instead, the drama of Uganda’s revolutionary movements serves as a backdrop for Isaac’s own struggles to define himself and his aspirations, even as the tension of race-relations in 1970s America shape Helen’s desire to rebel and upend her provincial life in Laurel.

    Glenn MillerT.J. Conley, and Fin Donesky of the He-Man Book Lovers Club in Minneapolis, Minnesota reflect on the book.

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  • Aug 13

    Today's Takeaways: A Leaderless Iraq, Comedy and Depression, and The Impact of a Name

    1. America's Reluctant Return to Iraq | 2. Iraq: The Case for a King | 3. Hollywood Film Icon Lauren Bacall Dies at 89 | 4. The Takeaway Book Club: 'All Our Names'

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  • Aug 12

    In St. Louis, A Long & Troubled Past with Race

    Demonstrators took to the streets in Ferguson, Missouri on Monday, where community members are looking for answers in the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old teen killed by a police officer after an alleged struggle over the weekend.

    Ferguson is a suburb of St. Louis and home to about 21,000 people, nearly 70 percent of whom are black. The town is part of a quilt of diversity and racial and economic disparities that have been the source of tension for decades.

    On the heels of Brown's death this past Sunday, 12 business were damaged by rioters who broke windows, looted, and set fire to a local mini-mart. Police arrested 32 people in the incident, and two officers received minor injuries.

    As the FBI and the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division each open separate investigations into the fatal shooting, St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar remains cautiously optimistic about the town.

    "I have enough confidence in our community, I have lived here my whole life, that calmer heads will prevail moving forward, but I am planning for a worst case,” Chief Belmar said at a news conference yesterday.

    But racial and economic divisions run deep in Ferguson. In 1917, East St. Louis erupted with some of the most serious racial violence in U.S. history after clashes broke out between African-American workers and whites who feared for their jobs and wage security.

    The community is also the home of Dred Scott, a slave who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom and whose name marks the popular and historic landmark Supreme Court decision.

    Garrett Albert Duncan, an associate professor of African and African-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, gives us a look at the long and complicated historical racial divisions of this small community.

    "A lot of what has gone on in St. Louis, as well as East St. Louis, is similar to what is happening in other Northern cities," says Professor Duncan. "It goes way back to reconstruction, when the state began operating in support of the white property ownership, and whites in general. We still see that going on, where the imperatives, especially for the white elite, are met and the African-American communities are actually excluded."

    Professor Duncan says that St. Louis—a place he has lived in for 18 years—is very much divided along racial lines.

    "This is not something that just happened," he says. "Part of what's going on, very specifically as it relates today, is the industrialization. If you go to north St. Louis, which is a code word for 'black,' you see all of these vacant buildings. There used to be a prosperous, predominately black community. But when our economy shifted and manufacturers left, you had vacant buildings, a loss of jobs, and the inability of black residents to go into the suburbs or predominately white communities to get jobs. There's always an economic twist to this."

    According to Professor Duncan, some people that attended the recent vigil over the weekend were from communities other than Ferguson. 

    "Some of the destructive behavior is actually from outside of Ferguson," he says. "You have folks coming in to exploit a situation that has nothing to do with Michael Brown. But everything is being conflated because no one knows who's who. In many ways, it's inflaming this notion of black criminality. But the fact of the matter is, if you watch carefully, those associated with the death of the young man are pleading for peace."

    Professor Duncan says that there is a history of tension between law enforcement officials and the community, adding that county and city police forces are reluctant to engage with citizens.

    "Part of the political machines are involved in this as well—there's a refusal to meet people or to establish citizen review boards," he says. "That's not going to happen in my lifetime in St. Louis. There is this intense distrust because things to always go in a way opposite of the interests of the black community."

    Professor Duncan points out that incumbent St. Louis County Executive Charles Dooley was recently defeated by a more conservative, pro-law enforcement candidate. 

    "There might be some superficial changes," he says. "I don't see any major movement going forward out of St. Louis. There are certain cursory, certain short-term solutions, but I do not see any long-term solutions."

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  • Aug 12

    The Man That Touched America: A Tribute to Robin Williams

    Actor and comedian Robin Williams died Monday at the age of 63. Throughout his life, he electrified the screen with his wit, humor, compassion, and kindness. He was a man that touched America, and will be missed by the world.

    Williams had an energy that always seemed too much to contain. He orbited the sun, but always with humanity, crusading for us all. Today, as The Takeaway remembers Robin Williams, we ask that you share your tributes. Leave a comment below or give us a call at 1-877-869-8253.

    Though Williams made us all laugh, he struggled with demons and depression, and the Academy Award-winning actor ultimately met a tragic end. The Marin County sheriff’s office said in a statement that it “suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia.”

    “This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings,” his wife Susan Schneider said in a statement. “As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

    Williams, who was known for his magnetic personality, comedic levity, and wide-range as a dramatic actor, captivated audiences in an array of films and television programs—from a zany alien in "Mork and Mindy," to a lovable housekeeper in "Mrs. Doubtfire," or a wise therapist in "Good Will Hunting." He gave joy to children with films like "Aladdin" and "Jumanji," and brought a sense of understanding to the world with movies like "Dead Poets Society" and "What Dreams May Come."

    In addition to his wife Susan, Williams is survived by his children Cody, Zelda, and Zachary.

    "Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien—but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most—from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets."

    Help us say goodbye to Robin Williams. Leave a comment below with your tribute, or give us a call at 1-877-869-8253.

    "He could make you laugh and cry in the same scene—such talent and range," Johnnie Sue Thayer writes on Facebook.

    "The raw shocking news of Robin Williams’ death is so hard to take…He will forever be the one and only comedic genius...I don’t recall such an outpouring of sentiments and personal deep loss since news of Princess Diana’s tragic death in 1997," Eleni Daniels says in a Facebook comment.

    "Tears. You'll be missed," Angie Short Rippy writes on Facebook.

     

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  • Aug 12

    'I Believe You, It's Not Your Fault': New Site Gives Outlet for Sexual Assault Victims

    When things get hard or you really need to talk, where do you turn? A friend's living room, a therapist's office, your mom's kitchen? In our safe spaces, we often just want to be heard and have someone to say, "I believe you, it's not your fault."

    If some people could hear those words they might not feel so alone while dealing with the aftermath of sexual trauma and the consequences of abuse. "I Believe You, It's Not Your Fault" is the title of a new blog and social network dedicated to collecting and sharing stories of sexual assault.

    Lindy West, founder and editor of the blog, wanted to create a space online that came close to the sanctuary she found with a group of women who have come together to share honest fears, and to seek support about subjects that are hard for anyone to talk about.

    Founded almost a month ago, the site has expanded to include hundreds of stories from young and old, men and women, gay and straight about the shame they've felt about sexual assault and harassment.

    The blog and social network has found a rapidly growing community of young people looking for a place to share safely and take support without fear of judgement. Today on The Takeaway, Lindy West explains why the project has struck such a chord.

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  • Aug 12

    Inside the LAPD's Problems With Crime Reporting

    A new controversy is brewing at the Los Angeles Police Department. According to a new investigation by the Los Angeles Times, the LAPD has misclassified more than 1,000 violent offenses.

    In one case, a man attacked his pregnant wife, stabbing her with a pair of scissors. In another, a man's girlfriend poured boiling water on him. In yet another case, a man threw his wife down a flight of stairs after stabbing her in the face with a screwdriver.

    What these cases have in common, is that none were classified as "aggravated assault" by the LAPD, despite meeting the criteria. Instead, they were reported as "simple assaults" or "other miscellaneous crimes."

    The LA Times reviewed a year's worth of data and more than 90,000 incident reports. In all, their findings revealed that the police misclassified about 1,200 violent crimes.

    The Takeaway reached out to the LAPD for comment, and received the following statement: "The LA Times’ identified cases involving miscoding, not mishandling, of crimes reported to the FBI." The statement continued: "The Department has already used many of the LA Times’ findings to improve its coding of assault crimes and will continue improving its systems through ongoing audits, reviews, inspections and investigations."

    Today, The Takeaway talks with Ben Poston, a staff writer with the Los Angeles Times, about the paper's investigation.

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  • Aug 12

    New Study Connects The Dots Between Music & Academic Performance

    After just one year of music lessons, the reading scores of 9- and 10-year-old students from low-income neighborhoods held steady, while the scores of their peers, who didn't study an instrument, dipped.

    That's the finding of a new study from Northwestern University. The teamed with an organization called The Harmony Project to see how learning music impacts a student's academic performance.

    Dr. Margaret Martin is the Founder the Harmony Project. She joins The Takeaway to discuss what makes The Harmony Project a success, and what this program looks like on the ground. 

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  • Aug 12

    As Thousands Remain Trapped, Helping Iraq Save Itself

    On Monday, President Obama said that the Iraqi people took a promising step forward with the nomination of Haider al-Abadi as the country's next prime minister. The U.S. and Britain have attempted to drop tens of thousands of meals and gallons of water to aid Kurdish Yezidis, who are stranded on Mt. Sinjar, but the humanitarian mission has brought various complications. 

    And President Obama continued to stress the temporary nature of U.S. involvement in the region while speaking to reporters in Martha's Vineyard yesterday.

    “As I said when I authorized these operations, there is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq," said President Obama. "The only lasting solution is for Iraqi's to come together and form a lasting government."

    President Obama also expressed satisfaction with the progress of the air campaign so far,  which has thwarted the ability of ISIS to continue east toward the city of Erbil.

    But on Sunday evening, Britain's Royal Air Force was forced to abort an aid drop amid fears that the thousands below could be injured by the falling aid. So what does it takes to make a humanitarian mission successful? For the answer, The Takeaway turns to Mark Gunzinger, a retired Air Force colonel and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

    "The limitations in these kinds of operations, which is primarily humanitarian and [for] providing some security for the refugees—in this case the Yezidis—to reach safety, but there's simply not enough force being applied from the air," says Gunzinger. "A limited number of targeted airstrikes targeting the forces surrounding the Yezidis is not going to make much of a difference compared to a serious air campaign, which would be multiple strikes—maybe 200 or 300 a day. That could really [erode] the ISIS forces and turn momentum in the conflict in favor of the Iraqi government.".

    Gunzinger says that the Pentagon has an opportunity to turn the tide in this conflict by using American air power to support Iraqi ground forces and the Peshmerga, the Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq, and can do so without enlisting U.S. ground forces.

    Though it is still unclear whether the nation's current Prime Minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, will back down and pave the way for al-Abadi, Gunzinger says that a change in leadership could provide a new sense of hope for groups that are still loyal to the Iraqi government.

    "In terms of that actually effecting conditions on the Sinjar mountains, I'm a little more doubtful," he says. "That's a more immediate and tactical situation."

    Gunzinger agrees with President Obama's assessment that there is no military solution in Iraq—at least not a U.S. military solution.

    "This has to be a conflict where the Iraqi forces need to prevail," he says. "That being said, we can certainly do a lot to support them, much as we did in Afghanistan and even in the Balkans. Host government ground forces, in the case of Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance, were supported by U.S. airstrikes with very, very few Americans on the ground advising them. That could be a model that could apply in this particular situation."

    If the U.S. government were to adopt this plan, Gunzinger says that he doesn't foresee it being a long operation. He does, however, concede that a successful humanitarian rescue mission would require a considerable amount force from several state actors.

     

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  • Aug 12

    Today's Takeaways: A Tribute to Robin Williams, Support for Victims, and Missouri's Tense Racial Past

    1. In St. Louis, A Long & Troubled Past with Race | 2. Can The U.S. Help Iraq Save Itself? | 3. New Website Gives Outlet for Sexual Assault Victims | 4. The Man That Touched America: A Tribute to Robin Williams

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  • Aug 11

    Tensions Run High in St. Louis Over Teen Shooting Death

    In St. Louis, Missouri, the shooting of an 18-year-old African-American man has sparked protests and anger among the community.

    On Saturday, Michael Brown, who was unarmed, was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, a middle-class suburb of St. Louis that is about 60 percent black and 30 percent white. The details surrounding Brown's death remain confusing, and his parents have retained the attorney that represented the family of Trayvon Martin.

    "It is our understanding at this point in the investigation, that within the police car, there was a struggle over the officer's weapon," St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters at a news conference.

    Lesley McSpadden, Brown's mother, told local news channel KSDK that her son did not deserve to die.

    "My son just turned 18 and graduated high school and he didn’t bother nobody," said McSpadden. “You’re not God, you don’t get to decide when you get to take somebody from here.” 

    The officer in question, who reportedly has no other incidences of violence on his record, has since been put on paid administrative leave. But local officials and residents are calling for a full investigation, and they emphasize that Brown was unarmed.

    About 200 people took to the streets in protest over the weekend—the demonstrations started out peaceful and then turned violent, with crowds looting businesses and setting fire to stores, taunting the police, and vandalizing vehicles.

    "Let's just say this, whatever happened there was a young man that was killed," John Gaskin, who serves on the national board of directors for the NAACP in St. Louis County, tells The Takeaway. "This kind of police brutality needs to stop, and it needs to stop right away. Being a 21-year-old you man, being a BMW—black man walking—I realize those risks; that you have to walk a little bit more carefully. You have to be so careful because there are those officers that won't necessarily respond in the most proper manner.”

    The FBI is now taking over the investigation into Brown's death. 

    Rachel Lippman, a reporter for St. Louis Public Radio was at the protests in Missouri over the weekend. She explains what the atmosphere is like in St. Louis today.

    "The protests started off like many of the others that had happened over the weekend," says Lippman. "While the protests had been boisterous and they had been loud, they had not turned violent. That changed last night."

    Lippman says that after a demonstration on Sunday, a group of protesters began throwing bottles, cans, and rocks at police officers. 

    "When the police dropped back for their safety, that's when looting began," she says. "That became fairly widespread throughout a five to ten mile patch throughout north St. Louis County."

    According Lippman, the looting started at about 9:00 PM on Sunday evening and continued until the early hours of Monday morning. 

    "They want answers," Lippman says of the residents in the St. Louis area. "Whether they will ever accept the story that the St. Louis County Police Department is saying happened, I don't know. They want to know how and why it was that an unarmed teenager—who ... by all accounts ... was just a gentle giant, and would never have wanted to be in any kind of struggle—how he ended up dead."

    In addition to outrage over Brown's death, Lippman says that the community is frustrated with the way the police treat African-American residents of Ferguson, saying that this incident "may have just been the boiling point."

    The Reverend Al Sharpton is reportedly coming to the St. Louis area to lead a demonstration, and the local St. Louis chapter of the NAACP is also holding an event this evening to discuss how the community can start to heal.

    "The parents of Michael Brown have basically said that if these rallies turn into looting, that they don't want any part of it," says Lippman. 

    While some are drawing comparisons to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Lippman points out that Brown was killed by an officer of the law, while Martin died at the hands of a neighborhood watchman. 

    "This was not a civilian, and there's not stand your ground context here," she says. "But certainly it is very much a white-on-black or a racial tension crime."

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  • Aug 11

    Iraq: Stopping a Crisis From Becoming a Catastrophe

    In Iraq, Kurdish forces seemed to have gained ground over the weekend with the help of American airstrikes and military equipment. These airstrikes, which were authorized by President Obama late last week and were carried out over the weekend, have successfully destroyed some ISIS military vehicles and took out some ISIS militants.

    The attacks are intended to help Kurdish forces protect the religious minority Yazidi community, and defend Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan region and home to the U.S. consulate and 800 military personnel.

    "We are the United States’ staunch allies in the region, and we have the only force in the area with the means and will to protect thousands of lives from the horrors that these terrorists bring. But we cannot do it alone," wrote Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish Region, in an op-ed in the Washington Post.

    While the United States intervenes in Iraq to help prevent a full-blown militant takeover, Iraq's embattled Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said he would not step down and called for another term. Iraq's President Fouad Massoum, who is charged with forming a new government, today nominated Haider al-Abadi, as the country’s next prime minister.

    Daniel Benjamin is the director of the Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College and former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department under Hillary Clinton. In that position, he was Secretary Clinton's principal advisor on counterterrorism and head of the Bureau of Counterterrorism. He explains America's strategy in Iraq, and how ISIS is evolving.

    Retired Colonel Harry Schute is now an advisor to the Kurdistan Regional Government. He commanded a U.S. Civil Affairs battalion in Iraq in 2003, and led the U.S. Army command in Kurdistan during the early phases of the war. He explains the atmosphere on the ground in the region, and whether U.S. support is too little, too late.

     

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  • Aug 11

    Rural Texas Community Seeks Nuclear Waste

    Just 95 people live in Loving County, Texas, which is spread across 650 square miles and is what the federal government calls "highly rural."

    There's no city council, no bank, no hospital, and no school in Loving County. There are few roads, not much cell phone service, and not even a lot of drinking water. But now, some of the town's residents are hoping to change the face of the community by bringing in something new: Nuclear waste.

    A handful of Loving County residents are hoping to turn the region into an interim storage place for high-level radioactive waste. In the long run, they envision building a new processing plant that would recover unused uranium and plutonium from the radioactive waste. If all goes well, bring billions of dollars to the region.

    Skeet Jones, a Loving County Judge, is one of the supporters of the plan. Here he explains why the community believes this is a good idea, and what might happen next.

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  • Aug 11

    No Turning Back for Russia and Putin

    In many ways, mayhem and conflict have run rampant this summer, something that even former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright realizes. 

    "To put it mildly, the world is a mess," she said earlier this summer. “There are an awful lot of things going on that need understanding and explanation."

    Sec. Albright seems to be channeling the frustrations of many people. And while conflicts continue throughout the world, The Takeaway is turning our attention back to a part of the globe that's under attack for both invading Ukraine and supporting separatists who shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, killing almost 300 innocent passengers.

    Russia has been losing friends fast, and that might not be a good thing. President Vladimir Putin remains hugely popular in Russia, but the country's economy is struggling as it deals with the burden of sanctions imposed by the West.

    Bridget Kendall has been reporting on the country for decades. She is the BBC's diplomatic correspondent, and says there seems to be no turning back from the path President Putin is taking.

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  • Aug 11

    Maryland Frees 70 Inmates Over Judicial Flaws

    In Maryland, about 70 prison inmates have been released after the state's Court of Appeals ruled that judges had been giving juries flawed instructions before deliberations.

    Until recently, judges in Maryland told juries that the instructions handed down by the court were purely advisory. The wording of these instructions dates back to colonial times when courts used instructions as a way for the colonists to get around English law.

    In 1980, Maryland did away with these instructions, claiming that they were misleading. But it wasn't until 2012 that Maryland's Court of Appeals realized some people sentenced to life in prison by these juries deserved another trial. Since 2012, over 250 convicted felons have requested new trials, and nearly 70 people have gone free.

    The new Court of Appeals ruling has brought about an intense debate in Maryland. There are questions about whether retrying these decades-old cases is a good thing for prisoners, and for the families of victims. 

    Michael Millemann, the Jacob A. France Professor of Public Interest Law at the University of Maryland, has represented dozens of defendants. He joins The Takeaway to explain how these jury instructions stayed in Maryland's court system for so long, and why some of the prisoners deserve to be released. 

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  • Aug 11

    New Lives and A Land Torn Apart

    While a cease-fire in Gaza seems to be holding, the violence over the last month will likely change the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians.

    Palestinians are angry and sad about the deaths of 1,900 people in Gaza over the last few weeks, and the destruction of some 10,000 homes. Israelis are fed up with living with a continuous state of uncertainty as rockets are launched over the border into their land.

    Despite the daily barrage of rockets from Gaza, more than a thousand Jewish immigrants arrived in Israel in the ten days after the Gaza war began. Many thousands more have emigrated over the past few years.

    Some are fleeing anti-Semitism in their home countries, while others want to start a new life in a new land. Katie Connell is one of the latter. She left Louisiana for Israel on July 3, 2013, and currently lives in an immigrant absorption center in Beersheva, in the Negev desert. Her apartment building includes Jewish refugees from Yemen, Tunisia and Cuba; she is the only American.

    Connell reflects on her experiences over the past year, and her devotion to Israel through Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

    "This was the first time that I've been in Israel during war," says Connell. "I definitely expected it, and I knew it was going to become a part of my life. But being in Beersheva I've heard the war—I can hear artillery and I can hear machine guns—I can hear the war. Of course I've been effected by rockets—about two weeks ago, many times a day, there were air raid sirens."

    Connell says that simple day-to-day tasks, like drinking a morning cup of coffee on her balcony, have been touched by the war.

    "I'm hearing the sounds of death, of war, 25 miles away from me," she says. "However, the state of Israel has a right to defend itself. There is no excuse for a terrorist organization shooting rockets into civilian areas and to expect Israel not to retaliate."

    At 32-years-old, Connell says she will not be joining the military, but would consider it an option if she were younger. Though it has been easier for her neighbors, Connell says she is adjusting to life in Israel, which is much different from the United States.

    "Most of the people that live in my building are refugees," she says. "They are rescued for countries such as Yemen and Tunisia, where they were being persecuted for being Jewish. What's sad is a lot of them have gone through horrible, horrible atrocities in their lives—having husbands murdered for being Jewish or having their daughters kidnapped and sold as wives. And they come here, where they're supposed to be safe, and they're running from rockets. Those immigrants, their perspective is different."

    While Connell has decided to move to Israel, Arab-Israeli writer Sayed Kashua made the decision to leave.

    Kashua was something of an anomaly in Israel. As a kid, he was the only Arab student at his Jewish boarding school. For years, he's been one of Israel's most prolific Hebrew writers. And when he moved his family to West Jerusalem, they were the only Arabs in the neighborhood.

    Kashua's outsider position has allowed the author and journalist to be a force of peace and hope—during his career, he's tried to bridge the cultural divide between the two sides. He's one of Israel's favorite comedians and authors, and his novels and newspaper column, written for Israeli-Jews, capture the struggles of being an Arab in a Jewish state.

    But the recent violence has become too much for Kashua and his family. A few weeks ago, he, his wife, and their three children packed up a few belongings and bought one-way tickets to the United States, leaving everything else behind.

    Sayed Kashua weighs in on the current conflict, and his decision to leave Israel.

    "Because of the situation, because of the racism, and because of the hatred—and we did live in a Jewish, nice neighborhood in western Jerusalem—I couldn't really stay any longer," says Kashua. "It was just the feeling in the streets of Jerusalem, when young Israelis that belonged to the right wing or the extreme right wing, were just beating Arabs only because they were Arabs in the streets of Jerusalem. I was very much worried about my children. I think that was the first time I lost hope."

    Though Kashua was a long-time columnist in Israel writing in Hebrew, he says he always felt that he had to be mindful of his opinions.

    "I always felt that I had to be careful—much more careful than left wing or extreme left wing Israeli journalists," he says. "If you are Jewish, your opinion is legitimate and you are part of the inner discussion. If you're a Palestinian or an Arab, you will always, most of the time, you will be considered a fifth column. I really always had to be careful."

    Kashua says that tensions have risen, adding that dissenting Israelis are even persecuted, which made it much more difficult and dangerous for his family to remain in Israel. 

    "I read about colleagues in the Haaretz newspaper that were almost lynched about their writings against the war," he says. "It's something new, and unfortunately the extreme right in Israel want that war."

    Kashua says that his writings in Haaretz have lead to threats—that his children would be kidnapped or that someone would break his legs.

    "It was too much," he says. "It's this very awful feeling that as soon as there is a war going on or a conflict, you become an enemy. Everything that I was trying to fight against—not to separate people because of their nationality or religion—I don't want to live like that. I really believe that we have to live together, to share that land together. Maybe I was naive and made a huge mistake. But I felt like there was no room for me any longer in my neighborhood."

    Though Kashua tried to make life in Jerusalem work, he says he could no longer live in Israeli society.

    "I wrote to my readers that I can no longer afford to tell lies to my kids—as if they can be one day equal in the state of Israel as someone who is not born to a Jewish mother can really be accepted in a Jewish state," he says. "It's really very sad. I do have wonderful neighbors—I don't want you to think I have problems with my colleagues at work or with my neighbors—it's just something bigger."

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  • Aug 11

    Today's Takeaways: An Evolving Crisis in Iraq, A Tiny Town Seeks Nuclear Waste, and Putin's Path

    1. Tensions Run High Over St. Louis Teen's Death | 2. Iraq: Stopping a Crisis From Becoming a Catastrophe | 3. Maryland Frees 70 Inmates Over Judicial Flaws | 4. No Turning Back for Russia and Putin

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  • Aug 09

    The Takeaway Weekender: Bad Feminism, The 7 Deadly Sins, and K-Pop

    1. The Bad Feminist: Roxane Gay Explains Why It's Time to Break The Rules | 2. Morgan Spurlock's Latest Horror Show: '7 Deadly Sins' | 3. How the Korean Government Made the Country Cool
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  • Aug 08

    "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "The Hundred-Foot Journey," "Into the Storm"

    Let's just warn you upfront: This week's episode of Movie date includes singing by Kristen, which is pretty terrible. But does anyone sound good when they're singing the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" theme song? Probably not. In addition to singing, there's also some TMNT history and analysis (as well as lots of laughs), courtesy of Scott Rosenberg of AM New York (Movie Date's resident comic book expert). Rafer and Kristen also tackle the new natural disaster movie "Into the Storm" and the food porn / cross-cultural love story "The Hundred-Foot Journey."  

    Subscribe to the Movie Date podcast, like Movie Date on Facebook, follow Kristen on Twitter, and leave a message for Rafer and Kristen anytime at 571-7MOVIES (571-766-8437).

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  • Aug 08

    The Threat of Genocide Takes the U.S. Back to Iraq

    President Obama announced yesterday he had authorized limited airstrikes in Iraq targeting the Al Qaeda splinter group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

    In recent weeks, militants with ISIS have stormed through the north of Iraq claiming control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and the Mosul Dam, a strategic and crucial supply of water and electricity for most of the populated parts of Iraq.

    Now they have their eye on the Kurdish capital of Erbil. Members of the Kurdish Yazidi religious minority group are being terrorized by ISIS and have fled up a nearby mountain called Sinjar. 40,000 Yazidis remain stranded there, dying of hunger and thirst.

    In addition to announcing air strikes, the United States airdropped food and supplies to the Yazidis in an effort to alleviate the mounting humanitarian crisis that has already claimed the lives of dozens of Yazidi children.

    Gulie Khalaf is a Yazidi refugee currently living in Lincoln, Nebraska, the largest Yazidi community in the United States. Gulie came to the United States with her family in 1998 after fleeing two wars in Iraq and nearly a decade of life in a Syrian refugee camp.

    Many of Gulie's relatives, and the relatives of those in her Lincoln community, are among the Yazidis trapped atop the peaks of Mount Sinjar, or similarly captive in the ISIS-held town below the mountain.

    "Those who have fled are not safe," says Gulie. "We are in contact with the people and they are saying that they don't have any basic necessities. There is no water, there is no food, and we're getting a lot of calls saying... 'I just buried my two year old because I didn't have enough water.'"

    Her relatives who did not flee to the mountain are left with no protection from the ISIS forces now in control of the villages.

    "For the past month there were 5,000 Peshmerga, that is the Kurdish security forces, they were in Sinjar there to protect them, but as soon as ISIS, the Islamic extremist group, showed up all of the sudden there was no Peshmerga left. There is nobody helping them. The 5,000 just left within like two hours they had cleared out of the Sinjara district."

    And joining from the capital to discuss the President's announcement is Karen DeYoung, Pulitizer-Prize winning journalist and senior national security correspondent for the Washington Post.

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  • Aug 08

    Israel Resumes Strikes on Gaza Following Rocket Attack

    Israel resumed air strikes in Gaza this morning after Hamas fired rockets across the border into Israel, ending a three-day truce. The Israeli army called the renewed rocket attacks, "unacceptable, intolerable and short-sighted".

    Hamas rejected any extension of the cease-fire saying Israel had failed to meet its demands. Hopes for peace to last through the weekend are now a distant memory.

    So what are we to make of the move by Hamas? And might this make a dent in the support they have enjoyed in Gaza?

    Nathan Thrall is a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. He's in Jerusalem and has been following events closely.

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  • Aug 08

    Hawaii Braces for First Hurricane in 22 Years

    Mother Nature is throwing a one two punch Hawaii's way this week with two major storms. Hurricane Iselle was downgraded to a tropical storm just before it made landfall last night, but it still hit the islands with high winds and major rainfall.

    And now the island is preparing for a second storm, Hurricane Julio. This would be the first hurricane to hit the islands in 22 years.

    We speak to Hawaii Public Radio's News Director Bill Dorman about how the state is handling the storm and preparing for the next.

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  • Aug 08

    Google and Barnes & Noble Threaten Amazon's Book Market Dominance

    Author Brad Stone calls it "The Everything Store," but Amazon got its start in books. The online retailer continues to dominate the market: according to research by the Codex Group, in March 2014, 41 percent of all new book unit purchases came from Amazon, along with 65 percent of all new online book units, both print and digital.

    A new partnership announced earlier this week may threaten Amazon's control of the book market. Local Barnes & Noble retailers in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles will now offer same-day book deliveries through Google Shopping Express. 

    Alexandra Altar covers publishing for Takeaway partner The New York Times. She discusses what the Barnes & Noble-Google partnership might mean for Amazon's market dominance, and for the future of publishing.

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  • Aug 08

    Texas Town Makes a Bid for Nuclear Waste

    With a population of 95 spread across 650 square miles, Loving County, Texas is what the federal government calls "highly rural." There's no city council, no bank, no hospital, and no school. There are few roads, not much cell phone service, and not even a lot of drinking water.  
       
    But now, some of the town's residents are hoping to change the face of the town by bringing in something else it doesn't have: Nuclear waste. A handful of Loving County residents are hoping to turn the region into an interim storage place for high-level radioactive waste.  In the long run, they envision building a new processing plant that would recover unused uranium and plutonium from the radioactive waste, and, if all goes well, bring billions of dollars to the region. 

    Loving County Judge Skeet Jones is one of the supporters of the plan.

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  • Aug 08

    How the Korean Government Made the Country Cool

    Whether you hate or love Gangam style, everybody knows what it is and where it's from. And that is no accident.

    Korea has been planning its cultural dominance for nearly two decades since a debt crisis hit the Asian continent in 1997. The economic meltdown devastated a Korean economy too dependent on huge companies like Hyundai and Samsung, forcing them to look for a way to diversify, fast.

    Euny Hong is the author of "The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture." She says that in these dark days of debt, Korea found its answer in a then revolutionary idea: the internet. 

    The country built a super highway of fiber optic cables to become the most wired country in the world, laying the foundation for international commerce. With the technical advancement of the world wide web under its belt, Korea then turned to something a little less revolutionary to make them "cool" in the eyes of investors and an international audience.

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  • Aug 08

    Today's Takeaways: Korean Pop Culture, Back to Back Storms Slam Hawaii, and Threats of Genocide in Iraq

    1. The Threat of Genocide Takes the U.S. Back to Iraq | 2. Hawaii Braces for First Hurricane in 22 Years | 3. Movie Date: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,' 'Into the Storm,' and 'The Hundred-Foot Journey"  | 4. How the Korean Government Made the Country Cool

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  • Aug 07

    Should we Do Deals with Dictators?

    Fifty heads of state convene in Washington this week for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit taking place all this week. The goal according to the Obama administration is to elevate the United State’s engagement with the continent.

    Tutu Alicante is the executive director for EG Justice and and an Equatoguinean living in exile. His home country has one of the worst human rights records on the continent and is ruled by Africa's Longest serving dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

    Government torture and intimidation is commonplace in Equitorial Guinea, and any efforts of the people to organize outside of the government are squashed. Yet, President Obiang will be among those leaders hosted by President Obama this week.

    Tutu says that the United States should use this opportunity to address the human rights abuses occurring in Africa with the same zeal it’s approaching trade and investment opportunities.

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  • Aug 07

    Is an Ebola Vaccine on the Horizon?

    According to the World Health Organization, the latest Ebola outbreak has infected more than 1,711 people and 932 patients have died. The disease has spread to Lagos, Nigeria, where an unidentified nurse became the country’s second Ebola casualty earlier this week.

    Two American health workers infected in Liberia were treated with an experimental serum before they returned to the U.S. for treatment last week. That treatment is still in the trial phase, likely years away from clinical use. 

    Thomas Geisbert is a virologist and professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where he's devoted much of his career to finding treatments and vaccines for Ebola. He tells The Takeaway's John Hockenberry about treatment options on the horizon, including a vaccine that can be administered after a patient has been exposed to the disease.

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  • Aug 07

    Justice for Sale

    Today Tennessee voters will decide whether to keep Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee on the state supreme court. Appointed by then-Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, in 2006, the justices have faced an expensive re-election campaign, as conservative groups have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, determined to see them replaced. A record-breaking million dollars has been spent on television ads alone in Tennessee this season.

    Bert Brandenberg is the executive director of Justice at Stake, a nonpartisan group that's been tracking spending in judicial races. He explains that judicial elections, once considered a formality, now play a major role in the changing political landscape.

    Former Justice David Baker knows this well. He was ousted from the Iowa Supreme Court in 2010, after he ruled in favor of same-sex marriage a year earlier. While Tennessee state judges are raising money and fighting back against a multi-million dollar campaign to unseat them, Justice Baker believes judges should stand above the political fray, even when their seats on the bench are at stake.

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  • Aug 07

    Ethiopia Through the Eyes of Author Dinaw Mengestu

    In recognition of the US-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington this week, The Takeaway has heard from voices of Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Now we turn to Ethiopia, the birthplace of author Dinaw Mengestu.

    Dinaw has spent most of his life in America, straddling between Ethiopian and American identities. It's this personal journey between Addis Ababa and Peoria, Illinois that gives him a unique perspective on the cultural, economic and political relationships forged in D.C. this past week at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

    He shares his thoughts on the summit and the old images that have defined Ethiopia in the American consciousness.

    Learn more about Dinaw Mengestu at The Takeaway's Book Club. His book, "All Our Names," is this month's book selection.

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  • Aug 07

    Good Vibrations: A Bag of Potato Chips and the Science of Sound

    Every day sounds waves are hitting and moving us, and if a camera is running we now know that sound can be reconstructed from the very slight motions of the room.

    Abe Davis is a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. Along with fellow students, he recently reconstructed the audio to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” using only video images of the small distinct vibrations of the sound hitting items in the same room, such as a bag of potato chips or a house plant.

    According to Abe, the discoveries have only just begun. He explains the possibilities and limitations of this exciting new research.

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  • Aug 07

    Morgan Spurlock's Latest Horror Show: '7 Deadly Sins'

    Our vices are what make us human, but they're also what push the limit of our humanity —and sometimes make us grotesque.

    The journey to the grotesque is what documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is after in his new series, "7 Deadly Sins," which debuts on Showtime today.

    In it, Spurlock travels the country to explore the roads our vices can take us down at their most extreme. The first episode, which focuses on gluttony, follows a 700-pound woman whose sexual identity is tied to her love of food.  Later episodes explore envy through men who like dressing up in rubberized suits that approximate a woman’s body, and more.

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  • Aug 07

    Today's Takeaways: Justice for Sale, A Visual Microphone, and Morgan Spurlock

    1. Justice for Sale | 2. Ethiopia Through the Eyes of Author Dinaw Mengestu | 3. Good Vibrations: A Bag of Potato Chips and the Science of Sound | 4. Morgan Spurlock's Latest Horror Show: '7 Deadly Sins'

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  • Aug 06

    The Takeaway's Todd Zwillich on America's Congressional Angst

    You'll often hear Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich on the national radio airwaves, but today he dropped by CNN to offer his expertise. 

    Todd stopped by "Inside Politics," hosted by John King, with Politico's Manu Raju to discuss how incumbents are fairing ahead of the 2014 midterm elections and American attitudes of Congress. Check out Todd's commentary below, and follow him on Twitter

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  • Aug 06

    Russian Crime Gang Steals 1.2 Billion User Names & Passwords

    In what is the now the largest collection of user information ever stolen from the Internet, a Russian crime gang has swiped more than 1.2 billion user names and passwords and some 500 million email addresses.

    The discovery was made by an Internet security firm in Milwaukee called Hold Security. According to that group, the data was taken from 420,000 websites—ranging from Fortune 500 companies and household names, to very small websites.

    Details on exactly which sites were targeted have not been revealed, and there is also no evidence at this stage that links the Russian government to this crime.

    David Gelles, a reporter for our partner The New York Times, helped to break this story and shares his insights.

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  • Aug 06

    Half of All People On Terrorist Watch List Have No Terrorist Connections

    According to classified documents leaked to The Intercept, a national security news site founded by journalist Glenn Greenwald, 40 percent of the terrorist suspects in the federal government's Terrorist Screening Database have no connection with any terrorist group. 

    The leaked documents also reveal that the watch list includes 611,000 men and 39,000 women across the U.S., from cities like Houston, New York and Dearborn. There are also half a million facial images and tens of thousands of iris scans.

    In addition to the growing Terrorist Screening Database, the U.S. no-fly list has also expanded tenfold since President Obama took office in 2009.

    David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent, says that while maintaining a terrorist watch list is important for law enforcement, without the requisite manpower on the ground, it's nearly impossible for the FBI and law enforcement to find the truly important leads in so much data.

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  • Aug 06

    From Carnage to Development: Finding Hope For Sierra Leone

    This week, The Takeaway heard from voices of Zimbabwe and Nigeria, and on the final day of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, we turn our attention to Sierra Leone.

    Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma is not in attendance at the summit due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus in the region, but that's just one recent crisis in the country, a part of the African continent where hopes for growth and development have been stifled by a violent past.

    Writer Ishmael Beah experienced the carnage of a 10-year civil war first hand. After losing his family, Beah was recruited at the age of 13 to fight for rebel forces. He wrote about that time in his book "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier." His first novel, "Radiance of Tomorrow," was published in January.

    And according to Beah, hope for Sierra Leone's future is dependent upon investment in his country.

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  • Aug 06

    U.S. General's Death Reveals Complications of War

    The addition of Major General Harold Greene to the casualty list in Afghanistan yesterday was a nasty blow for U.S. forces leaving Afghanistan and trying to secure the country after years of war.

    Major General Greene's death was at the hands of a Taliban plant or rogue agent dressed as an Afghan soldier at a military training facility outside of Kabul. Major General Greene is the first U.S. general to die in a combat zone since the Vietnam War.

    "It's impossible to eliminate, completely eliminate that threat, particularly in a place like Afghanistan," said Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby yesterday. "But you can work hard to mitigate and minimize it."

    Former Pentagon official Michael Rubin is author of "Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes." He's a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and today he explains how the relationship between U.S. and Afghan forces will change after this attack.

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  • Aug 06

    'Hello, Comet!' Europe's Rosetta Probe Makes Space History

    Europeans made history with the Rosetta Probe today. After a 10-year chase, the European Space Agency announced that its spacecraft has maneuvered alongside a speeding comet to begin mapping its surface in detail.

    The Rosetta Probe will conduct the first extended, close examination of a comet, opening the door for a new chapter in Solar System exploration. The Rosetta Probe will accompany the comet for over a year as they swing around the Sun and back towards Jupiter again.

    Matt Taylor is watching the data from European Space Agency (ESA) mission control, and has been watching this Rosetta space chase for years.

    "This has been one of the most significant challenges, and the reason why we're doing Rosetta in the first place: To rendezvous with a comet," says Taylor. "We've successfully done that today. It's put us in the same orbit as the comet around the Sun. That allows us to continue to ride along side it and watch it as it develops activity as it approaches the Sun."

    Getting the Rosetta Probe into the same orbit as the comet, known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, took decades of hard work. Taylor says that some researchers have been working on this project for most of their lives.

    "The excitement is unbelievable," he says. "Every time we see something new with this comet—it brings in a new picture or some new data—it's just fascinating. It's an excellent job that I've got."

    Taylor says that studying the celestial object is a bit like looking at a developing photograph.

    "Every time that we're at a certain distance, we take images and readings from the comet and it looks a particular way," he says. "Now that we're getting this close, we're really getting the real features of this beast. It seems to be a combination of all the comets that we've ever been to, which is fascinating—I think we did a really good job of choosing this one."

    Taylor says that the ESA team is hoping to find out the composition of the comet. Right now, the group believes that it's a mixture of dust, ice, and some organic compounds.

    "This stuff has been out there in the outskirts of the Solar System, frozen in place, since the very early stages of the Solar System," he says. "Studying this thing gives us a little time window back into the past to see what happened when all of this formed."

    The ESA plans to land a separate instrument from the Rosetta Probe on the comet—the "lander," as Taylor calls it, will gradually land and then screw itself into the comet due to the gravity on the surface of the comet.

    In addition to international recognition, this achievement has also provided Taylor with some personal glory at home.

    "One of the major successes for me is that my kids are interested in it," he says. "My son now wants to be a scientist, so that's what Rosetta has done for me personally. Now my son finally thinks his dad is cool."

    A tweet announcing the ESA had made contact.

    Check out a video clip of the Rosetta Probe's journey below.

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  • Aug 06

    A New Plague? Ebola Outbreak 'Out of Control'

    As the Ebola threat looms ever larger over West Africa, what are the first lines of defense in detecting and containing the spread? There's plastic gloves, masks, and protective suits for the individual, hospital walls guarding the community, and roads and airports protecting the country. The last line of defense? International borderlines.

    But what happens when those shields are porous?

    "With intercontinental flights, all you needs is a flight to the U.S. or to Europe so that you have a world crisis, a total crisis," Senegalese President Macky Sall said yesterday at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.

     The disease has not spread north to Senegal, but much of West Africa has come under a region-wide lock down in recent weeks as the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record continues to spread.

    British Airways has suspended flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia, and Peace Corps volunteers in the region have evacuated. The Sierra Leonean government announced it will deploy 750 soldiers throughout the country to enforce the isolation of infected patients. And the World Health Organization convenes today to determine whether the outbreak is an international crisis. 

    Yesterday, the second American infected with the virus landed in Atlanta for an experimental treatment. But in America's highly protective, well-guarded system, an Ebola outbreak is highly unlikely.

    But with more than 1,600 reported cases, Richard Preston, a writer for The New Yorker and author of "The Hot Zone," a book about the origins of Ebola, says the situation in West Africa is starting to become "out of control" and look distinctly medieval.

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  • Aug 06

    The Bad Feminist: Roxane Gay Explains Why It's Time to Break The Rules

    What do you think of the word feminist? Having it all, man-hating women, or maybe Beyoncé? Does a feminist take her husband's last name? Can you be a feminist and be pro-life? Would a feminist dance to "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke?

    Instead of feeling overrun by hard boundaries and following rules, writer Roxane Gay is all about living in the contradictions. The self-proclaimed "bad feminist" doesn't feel guilty for dancing to rap that degrades women or enjoying The Bachelor—she says she embraces her imperfections.

    It sounds nice, but what does that really mean? In her latest book, Gay goes into the trenches of "feminism," discussing everything from reproductive rights to the "Twilight" series to how teaching students from inner-city Detroit has helped Gay recognize her own privilege as a Haitian-American woman from the Midwest.

    Her new collection of essays "Bad Feminist," is out this week, and before starting her book tour, Roxane Gay spoke with The Takeaway about growing up in the midwest, how the NFL enables misogyny, and what it means to be a bad feminist.

    For more from Roxane Gay, listen to her story "North Country" as aired on WNYC's Selected Shorts in February 2013. The reader is Adepero Oduye.

     

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  • Aug 27

    The Takeaway Book Club: 'The Book of Unknown Americans'

    "The Book of Unknown Americans" is the latest novel from author Cristina Henriquez. This book has been selected as the fifth work to be featured in The Takeaway's book club. Below you will find a description of the book provided by the publisher, Random House.

    "A boy and a girl who fall in love. Two families whose hopes collide with destiny. An extraordinary novel that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be American.

    "Arturo and Alma Rivera have lived their whole lives in Mexico. One day, their beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter, Maribel, sustains a terrible injury, one that casts doubt on whether she’ll ever be the same. And so, leaving all they have behind, the Riveras come to America with a single dream: that in this country of great opportunity and resources, Maribel can get better.

    "When Mayor Toro, whose family is from Panama, sees Maribel in a Dollar Tree store, it is love at first sight. It’s also the beginning of a friendship between the Rivera and Toro families, whose web of guilt and love and responsibility is at this novel’s core.

    "Woven into their stories are the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America. Their journeys and their voices will inspire you, surprise you, and break your heart.

    "Suspenseful, wry and immediate, rich in spirit and humanity, The Book of Unknown Americans is a work of rare force and originality."

    -Random House

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  • Aug 06

    Today's Takeaways: A Russian Gang Rips off The Internet, A Violent Boyhood in Sierra Leone, and a Fresh New Feminist Voice

    1. The Watchmen at The White House | 2. A New Plague? Ebola Outbreak 'Out of Control' | 3. 'Hello, Comet!' Europeans Make Space History | 4. Roxane Gay Breaks The Rules With 'Bad Feminist'

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  • Aug 06

    A Call For Nominations: Who's The Hardest-Working Person You Know?

    Americans are some of the hardest-working people in the world. Americans that are employed full-time work an average of 1,700 hours per year.

    According to a survey by career website Glassdoor, Americans who receive paid vacation time only used about 51 percent of it in 2013. Since the year 2000, productivity among American workers has increased 30 percent.

    As the summer winds down, The Takeaway wants to honor and celebrate hard-working Americans from every corner of the United States. Who is the hardest-working person you know? Nominate them in our form below, and we may feature their story on our Labor Day special this September.

     

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  • Aug 05

    Gaza Truce: Peace Talks With No Winners

    On Monday, Israel and Hamas agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire proposed by Egypt. With a long-term truce in mind, an Israeli delegation will head to Egypt today to begin indirect talks.

    Palestinian negotiators have already been working in Cairo in recent days. The temporary respite comes after Friday's cease-fire collapsed amidst heavy fighting and an attack near a U.N. shelter in Gaza that killed 10.

    Many such cease-fire promises have come and gone in the past month of fighting—fighting that has displaced more than a quarter of a million people, killed nearly 2,000 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis, the vast majority of them soldiers.

    What will Hamas and Israel talk about? Is this a negotiation about trading tunnels for peace?

    Griff Witte, London Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, says that during the 2012 conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, Egypt played a key role in negotiating a cease-fire. But Egypt has changed quite a bit in the last two years.

    "At that time, the Muslim Brotherhood was in power, this time around the military is in power in Egypt," says Witte. "There's a real lack of trust here, not only between Israel and Hamas, but there's also a real lack of trust between Hamas and Egypt. I think that's going to be an issue as these talks get underway."

    Hamas is likely feeling the pressure during these negotiations since Gaza has paid such a high price during the most recent onslaught of fighting.

    "Gaza has been absolutely decimated by this conflict," says Witte. "Hamas really has to do something for its people now after all of the sacrifices that they've endured. Hamas is going to be under really severe pressure to show the people of Gaza that all of it was worth something. It's not clear that they're going to get anything out of this."

    While the outcome of these negotiations remain unclear, Witte says that Hamas is hoping that a final deal will include open borders and a lifting of restrictions that allow for the free flow of people, goods, and services.

    "But Israel is going to surely drive a hard bargain in these negotiations—Israel feels like it can last longer than Hamas can militarily," says Witte. "Hamas is going to be in a very, very difficult position."

    Though Witte describes the suffering in Gaza as "enormous," he says that Israel will not back down easily in negotiations.

    "Israel feels that it has Hamas in a very strategically weak position," says Witte. "It doesn't feel like it wants to give Hamas anything that could be construed as a reward for firing rockets."

    During past conflicts, the Israeli people have questioned whether the violence was indeed worth it, says Witte. But that's not the sentiment many citizens have right now.

    "There continues to be very strong support in Israel for this campaign, and a sense that the sacrifices, as great as they are, are worth it," he says. "I think the tunnels have really spooked a lot of Israelis. The Israeli military has said it destroyed 32 tunnels between Israel and Gaza over the course of this operation, and there was a real fear among Israelis that Hamas planned to use these tunnels to dig down under Israel and take Israelis captive. That's loomed very large in the Israeli imagination."

    As Hamas and Israel come to the table, is there any real hope for a negotiated solution that could satisfy both parties? It's still too soon to tell, says Witte.

    "The fear here is that this conflict will just endlessly repeat itself," he says. "We've now seen three iterations of this conflict—in 2008/2009, in 2012, and now 2014. Although in each case Israel feels like it has proved itself to be far, far superior militarily, the underlying reality here has not changed."

    Witte says that the reality of this conflict is that Hamas remains very much in control in Gaza, despite Israel's reservations.

    "[Hamas] has weapons, and Israel would like to demilitarize Gaza in exchange for some sort of opening in the territory," he says. "But Hamas is not interested in giving up its weapons—that's the source of its power; that's what gives it strength. If it begins to allow itself to be demilitarized, it would face problems in terms of maintaining its hold on Gaza."

    Though this most recent conflict involves Gazans, Hamas, and the Israelis, Witte says that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is represented in these talks.

    "It's there leading the delegation on the Palestinian side," he says. "I think there are moderate voices on both the Israeli and on the Palestinian side, saying this is an opportunity to use this conflict to give the PA more leverage, to give moderate Palestinian voices more of a say, more control in Gaza, and to limit Hamas's power there. How you get there is very unclear, and it's also unclear if that's ultimately what Israel wants."

     

    An August 2014 report by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs occupied Palestinian territory
    An August 2014 report by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs occupied Palestinian territory

      

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  • Aug 05

    U.S. General Killed in Afghanistan

    An unnamed U.S. major general was killed by an Afghan soldier at a military training academy outside of Kabul today. This is reportedly the first "insider attack"—a situation where an Afghan soldier opens fire on coalition forces—in months.

    The general is reportedly the highest-ranking member of the American military to die in the conflict since the U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, and possibly the highest-ranking officer to be killed in action since the Vietnam War.

    Matthew RosenbergForeign Correspondent for our partner The New York Times, has been covering this story and weighs in on the details of this attack. 

    "The Taliban has not taken credit, which is unusual because they usually do pretty quickly," Rosenberg says. "Their spokesman told us that they're still trying to figure out what had happened." 

    Over the years, Rosenberg says that Afghans have become increasingly alienated and angry about the foreign presence on the ground.

    "Some of them have internalized the Taliban narrative without actually joining the Taliban," he says.

    At this point, it is still unclear if the general's rank was a central motive of the attack.

    "Presumably, the Afghan soldier would have known that the man with stars on his shoulders was important," he says. "And he was shot at close range, which makes it sound like he was standing at this major general. But we just don't know details yet. The camp where it happened is locked down tight, the coalition is locked down tight, and even at the Pentagon they're not saying much."

    Though the Taliban has not taken responsibility for the attack, Rosenberg says that is possible that the organization could have covert allies within the Afghan military.

    "There's an assumption that the Taliban has sympathizers in a lot of places," he says. "But, there's not a whole lot of evidence that most of these attacks are pre-planned by the Taliban, or a Taliban sleeper or something of that nature. The preponderance of insider attacks, by most accounts, appear to be Afghans who simply don't want to see foreigners here anymore—quite a frightening prospect."

    Weeding out a covert Taliban spy is one thing, but identifying those who may suddenly snap because of a feeling of alienation is something entirely different, Rosenberg says. 

    "How do you guard against that?" he asks. "It's a much more difficult proposition."

    The long-term effect of this attack on American operations in Afghanistan, and at military academies in Afghanistan, are still unknown. When these types of attacks ticked up in 2012, Rosenberg says that Americans began training Afghans while wearing body armor.

    "You put up walls between you and the people you're training to protect yourself," he says. "But that also alienates them, and further makes it more difficult to get the training done, and to have any real meaningful presence here. It makes it more dangerous in some ways because people who feel alienated and feel distant from you are much more likely to attack you."

    When it comes to the impact this incident will have on the United States, Rosenberg says that the attack might be used as a "selling point" to ensure that an American presence remains until at least 2016.

    At the moment, there is no clear solution to combatting "insider attacks." Rosenberg says that taking away weapons from Afghans to prevent these kinds of incidents is simply not an option.

    "The Afghan military faces real threats," he says. "They need guards—they have to guard their own facilities; there's nobody else to do it for them. And those guards need to have weapons. It's just impossible [to remove their weapons]. You're fighting a war that is now fought largely by Afghan forces. They are going to be very armed, and they're going to be all around you."

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  • Aug 05

    The Myth of The Lone Genius & The Creative Power of Pairs

    Abbott and Costello, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler: Twosomes that make history test the myth of the lone genius and the creative power of pairs.

    The beauty of a duo is the subject of a new book, "Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs," by Joshua Wolf Shenk. He says for one genius to exist, there often have to be two.

    Who you would choose to partner up with if you could pick anyone? Leave a comment below or give us a call at 1-877-869-8253.

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  • Aug 05

    Hope For Africa's Economic Powerhouse

    All this week, African heads of state are convening in Washington D.C. for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, a three day conference focused on U.S. partnership with Africa's fast-growing economic success stories.

    But as government officials and business leaders sit down for meetings in Washington, The Takeaways is turning to African writers for a more poetic perspective on their countries and their continent. Yesterday, a Zimbabwean author weighed in, and today we head to Africa's economic powerhouse: Nigeria.

    Although it is home to more than 175 million people, valuable resources, a booming film industry, and music legends, Nigeria continues to face very serious threats to its stability. Constant terrorist attacks from Boko Haram, and now a threat from West Africa's Ebola virus outbreak, are hampering the nation's economic future. 

    Chigozie Obioma is a Nigerian writer and author of the forthcoming novel "The Fisherman." He shares what he's learned about being Nigerian since he left home in 2007.

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  • Aug 05

    No Need To Panic (Yet) Over NYC's Potential Ebola Patient

    A single patient at a hospital in New York City is being tested for the Ebola virus, fueling tabloid headlines.

    Fear might sell papers in New York, but there is no panic in the United States. Proper precautions are being mobilized, and the two Ebola victims in Atlanta are being treated with an experimental drugs.

    In West Africa, almost 1,000 have from died this outbreak, but there is no apparent threat to the U.S. at this point. But what is the cost of being careful?

    Helping us to do the numbers is Stephen Morse, a professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University and Co-Director of USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats.

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  • Aug 05

    Missouri Votes to Guarantee The Right to Farm

    Missourians will vote today on an amendment to the state's Constitution that would guarantee the rights of the people of Missouri to “engage in farming and ranching practices.”

    It’s called the Right to Farm Amendment, and a coalition of state farming groups and large agricultural corporations are pushing for its passage. They believe the amendment is needed to protect farmers from too many burdensome government regulations, but opponents say it could prevent state and local government from protecting residents.

    Is this a back-to-the-land movement, or a vaguely worded ploy to get around government regulations at the expense of vulnerable consumers?

    Joining The Takeaway  to weigh in is, Jo Mannies, a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.

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  • Aug 05

    Welcome to The Fast-Food Renaissance

    Healthy fast-food sounds like a bit of of an oxymoron, but that hasn't stopped consumers from going on a quest to find it.

    Could the days of greasy hamburger and fries soon be behind us? New information suggests that diners have an appetite for fast-food that’s not just fast, but also sustainable, seasonal and organic.

    But how much of an impact can chains aspiring to these ideals really have on the environment and our health? And will taste be sacrificed in the process?

    Dan Pashman, the host of WNYC’s Sporkful food podcast and author of the forthcoming book "Eat More Better," weighs in on the public health impact of healthier and more sustainable fast-food options.

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  • Aug 05

    Today's Takeaways: A Time For a Truce, Fast-Food Goes On a Diet, and The Creative Power of Pairs

    1. U.S. General Killed in Afghanistan | 2. Hope For Africa's Economic Powerhouse | 3. Welcome to The Fast-Food Renaissance | 4. Missouri Votes to Guarantee The Right to Farm | 5. The Creative Power of Pairs

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  • Aug 04

    'Criminal' Acts & the Laws of War

    The rules of war and conflict established in the last century were supposed to keep civilians out of the line of fire. But in our century, it is the civilians who seem to be targeted most of all.

    James Rawley, Occupied Palestinian Territory Humanitarian Coordinator for the United Nations Development Group, says there is a "health and humanitarian disaster" playing out in Gaza right now.

    "The situation there is very dire," says Rawley. "There is literally no safe place in Gaza."

    Rawley says more than 1,700 Palestinians have died in the conflict, including 400 children. About 85 percent of those who have died are civilians. 

    "At one point, we were losing a child to the conflict every hour," says Rawley. "We have over 9,000 people that are injured. Places that should be safe—schools, hospitals, homes, and U.N. facilities—have all been damaged or destroyed. Innocent people have been and continue to be killed in them."

    According to Rawley, about 490,000 people in Gaza—an area with 1.8 million people that's about the size of the city of Detroit—have been displaced. 

    "We just can't keep coping with this type of staggering human displacement," says Rawley, adding that U.N. is "failing" to keep people safe. "It's really absolutely painful for me to report that, once again, yesterday another UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] facility was hit by the Israeli Defense Force. We lost 10 Palestinians, including an UNRWA worker that was just standing inside of the facilities."

    In addition to the humanitarian crisis, Rawley says that the U.N. is now concerned about a "health disaster" in Gaza due to the large number of people injured, coupled with the destruction of healthcare facilities. 

    "We are really worried," he says. "To be precise, 1/3 of all of the hospitals in Gaza have been hit in attacks. We have six hospitals that are absolutely closed. Primary health facilities and others have been damaged, and we have five medical staff that have been killed, and dozens who have been injured."

    About 40 percent of healthcare workers in Gaza cannot carryout their duties because of the violence, says Rawley. 

    "We have this big increase and demand for emergency health services and the capacity to respond is much less than it used to be," he says. "We have an almost complete breakdown in water, electricity, and the sanitation infrastructure, which was functioning at a minimal level four weeks ago before this conflict."

    Rawley says that diseases that were initially eradicated in the 1940s are now beginning to surface due to the lack of health, water, and sanitation infrastructure. He emphasizes that both parties involved in the conflict—the Israelis and Hamas—are responsible for the current crisis.

    "We have denounced Hamas and other de facto forces when they fire missiles or engage in offensive actions close to U.N. facilities, or for that matter any facility where there are civilians," he says. 

    Rawley adds that UNRWA has come out with reports denouncing Hamas because it was discovered that there were rockets placed in three closed UNRWA schools. Those rockets were identified by UNRWA staff, though they could not definitively prove that Hamas placed them there, but UNRWA shared that information with the world.

    "Yes, Hamas also has its share of blame in this conflict," Rawley says. "But the rockets that are severely damaging and killing our schools, recently, are actually coming from the Israelis."

    In over 17 instances, UNRWA has contacted the Israeli government to provide the coordinates of the U.N. facilities in Gaza.

    "We update those two or three times a week," says Rawley. "I can say categorically that the government of Israel has the coordinates of every U.N. facility in Gaza. If a mistake is made, it can't because we didn't know it was a U.N. facility. Some other factor was taken into account—I have no idea what that factor could be."

    When Do the Geneva Conventions Apply?

    While civilian casualties mount in Gaza, hundreds of thousands of civilians are also dead in Syria—a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which was ratified in 1949 and laid out a code of conduct for war, with specific protections for civilians. 

    Yet, even President Obama conceded that the U.S. has not stuck the Geneva Conventions in matters of war prisoners. 

    "In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong," President Obama said Friday during a press conference. "We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did things that were contrary to our values."

    Last week, David Miliband, former British Foreign Secretary and president of the International Rescue Committee, told The Takeaway that "the norms and laws that have been built up over centuries to defend civilians during war, sanctified in the Geneva Conventions after the Second World War, are being lost."

    Given the current conflicts throughout the Middle East, where does the world actually stand on the Geneva Conventions? Is it time for the world to reaffirm its commit to the Geneva principles?

    Diane Amann, professor of international law at the University of Georgia School of Law, weighs in.

    "The laws of war, or international humanitarian law, apply across the globe—there really are no special places," says Amann. "Every country in the world has agreed, obliged itself to obey certain laws, with the primary rule being the protection of civilians. But, sometimes in very graphic cases like we're seeing now, they appear to violate those laws."

    On the whole, Amann says that it is up individual nations and non-state actors like militia groups to follow the rule of law. However, in cases where the Geneva Conventions are violated, Amann says there are courts, tribunals, and other ways that the international system of law attempts to obtain accountability.

    During the outset of World War I 100 years ago, there was no rule book when the great powers used the frightening new war technologies of the 20th century, and the deliberate sinking of the Lusitania, a British cruise liner, by a German submarine in 1915, killed almost 1,200 people. Now a century later, the apparent deliberate downing of a civilian jetliner in a combat zone in Ukraine is calling for the world to remember the rules of war.

    Yet, Amann says that the world should expect justice in the case of MH17—at least not anytime soon.

    "Law takes a long time," says Amann. "Is it true that we make laws and they're broken? Yes it is. I think at times, if you look at things like the war crimes tribunals in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone, at times we do see some measure of accountability. Unfortunately, it's in the long term."

    In the end, Amann says it appears that the global community has developed a system to protect people that isn't implemented very well.

    "An issue that proceeds the question of war crimes or violations of war—the question of whether you can prevent war or regulate war before it happens," she says. "The mechanism that we've put in place for that is the U.N. Security Council. It has trouble doing that when one if its five permanent members has a stake in what's going on."

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  • Aug 04

    What The World Still Has To Learn 100 Years After WWI

    Commemorations have been taking placed throughout the world to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. The Belgian city of Liege hosted one of the main events, with representatives from 50 countries, including numerous heads of state, paying tribute to to the millions who died during the war to end all wars.

    King Philippe of Belgium was one of the first to pay his respects. French President Francois Hollande presented Liege with the Legion D'honneur, the highest decoration in France.

    President Hollande said peace is never certain, adding that it "demands vigilance."

    "Europe should always be on the move, it should not rest on its laurels, and it should not grow tired of achieving peace," he said. 

    In many ways, author Stefan Zweig made it his mission to explain and make sense of what happened in 1914 when World War I broke out, and he wrote scores of books and hundreds of essays examining the topic. George Prochnik is the author of "The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World." He reflects on the start of the World War I, and what the globe can still learn from Zweig.

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  • Aug 04

    Searching for Hope in Zimbabwe

    Today, 50 African leaders will convene in Washington D.C. for the 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, a three day conference focused on U.S. partnerships with some of the fastest growing countries in the world.

    This week, as African leaders discuss economic opportunities in Washington, The Takeaway will hear from young African leaders, writers, and activists who will share their hopes for the continent's future.

    Four African leaders are missing from the White House summit this week because of their records on human rights. One of them is Robert Mugabe, who, at the age of 90, has ruled Zimbabwe since the country gained independence in 1980. 

    While Zimbabwe's economy has stabilized since the rampant inflation and severe unemployment of just a few years ago, Mugabe's record of war crimes and basic neglect of his people has left much of the country in dire straits. Yet, Tsitsi Jaji sees reasons for hope in the country she left at the age of 17, in 1993. 

    Jaji, now a writer and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, returns to Zimbabwe periodically to see her family. She discusses the prospects for economic progress in her home country, and how Zimbabwe has changed in the 21 years since she emigrated to the United States.

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  • Aug 04

    Remembering the Vietnam War's 'Lost 74'

    Pete "Roy" Peters will never forget one specific morning back in June 1969.

    He was 22-years-old, serving on a Navy vessel during the Vietnam War, when an Australian aircraft carrier collided with the ship in the South China Sea. There were 200 lost that day, including 74 sailors.

    But because the accident did not occur in a combat zone, these 74 names have not been included on the Vietnam Memorial. But California Congressman Adam Schiff believes the U.S. has a chance to settle this human debt by adding these names to the Vietnam Memorial.

    Rep. Schiff's new House-approved defense bill could give men like Peters the opportunity to see the United States honor the friends he lost more than four decades ago.

    Pete "Roy" Peters joins The Takeaway to remember that day back in June 1969, and discuss why these "lost 74" deserve reverence and recognition.

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  • Aug 04

    What's Our Anthem? Searching For the Song of The Summer of 2014

    Last summer’s anthem was unquestionably Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Yet, midway through the hottest months of 2014, there’s still no clear front-runner for the song of the summer.

    Is there an anthem for the summer of 2014? Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" has been at no. 1 since June, and "Rude" by MAGIC! has been getting a lot of attention.

    But do summer anthems rely on a certain musical alchemy? Matte Babel, the host of FUSE TV's daily live show "Trending 10," weighs in.

    What do you think the song of the summer of 2014 should be? Leave a comment below or give us a call at 1-877-869-8253.

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  • Aug 04

    Ebola: Here's What The Medical Community is Up Against

    The most recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa has now claimed the lives of 887 people, making it the largest Ebola outbreak ever.

    Among those infected are two American aid workers who fell ill while working with infected patients in West Africa. They are in stable but grave condition as they fight for their lives.

    Over the weekend, Dr. Kent Brantly was flown from Liberia to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment. The other American infected, Nancy Writebol, will join him for treatment later this week.

    The World Health Organization announced Friday that it will be launching a $100 million response plan, and they are urgently trying to get more medical staff to the region.

    But what are medical professionals really up against as they attempt to treat and contain this disease?

    Dr. Eileen Farnon is an infectious disease specialist at Temple University School of Medicine. She has worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she led teams investigating past Ebola outbreaks in Africa, and she has trained in the very hospital unit where Dr. Kent Brantley is being treated.

    Dr. Farnon explains the precautions being taken to prevent the spread of the disease to healthcare workers in Atlanta, and the latest on the epidemic raging in West Africa.

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  • Aug 04

    Today's Takeaways: Throwing Out The Rule Book in War and Life

    1. 'Criminal' Acts & the Laws of War | 2. Remembering the Vietnam War's 'Lost 74' | 3. Lessons To Learn 100 Years After WWI

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  • Aug 02

    The Takeaway Weekender: A Nigerian Folk Hero, A Changing Body, and A Character Study

    Welcome to The Takeaway Weekender! Our weekend podcast consists of a round up of the week's best interviews and top stories. Catch up on the news you missed with some of these must-hear stories: 1. Lessons from My Jewish Mother and Palestinian Father | 2. Fela Kuti: Firebrand, Innovator, and Rebel | 3. Confronting a Body Changed By Cancer | 4. James Franco & Scott Haze on Creativity, Brutality, and 'Child of God'
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  • Aug 01

    James Franco & Scott Haze on Creativity, Brutality, and 'Child of God'

     

    Click Here to listen to the extended version of this interview.

    Lester Ballard, the protagonist of Cormac McCarthy's novel "Child Of God," is easy to hate. He's violent, he's morally corrupt, and he's into necrophilia. 

    James Franco directed and co-wrote the new film adaption of the book. The movie is a character study of Lester Ballard, played by Scott Haze. Lester is living in isolation in rural Tennessee, and spirals into a dark, twisted, crime-riddled existence.

    Franco says he relied on subtle comedy to help audiences stay with such a grim tale. Here, Franco and Haze describe what compels them about Lester Ballard's character, and Franco defends his own unique artistic progression. 

    "What I found out when I started adapting the book is that when you normally have a character like this, he is being tracked down by the detectives," says Franco. "Rarely do you have a character like this who is at the center of the film in such a prominent way. My goal was not to make Lester sympathetic—in no way do I condone his behavior—but it's within the realm of art."

    Franco says that this film is designed to examine human behavior, not tell a moralistic tale.

    "I'm using a monster to talk about more universal, human things," he says. "If I'm going to use a monster like this, I don't want to repel the audience. I want to shock them, but I want them to stay with us—I don't want them to kind of shut off emotionally from him. Comedy is such a powerful tool for bringing an audience onto the side of a character. If the audience can laugh with a character, you've won them over."

    The film is heavily focused on Lester, which led Haze to carefully prepare for the role. 

    "Cormac's writing, it doesn't lend a lot of itself to the inner workings of what Lester is feeling," says Haze. "A lot of times when I was reading the novel, I tried to approach it in the sense of just thinking about, 'What is this man going through?' There are certain elements that I think that are really at play—of feeling really alone, wanting to connect, wanting to be loved, and wanting to have a family."

    Haze says that Lester was ostracized by society, cast away, and wasn't shown love.

    "I think in living that stuff out, those are human desires that I think every human has—to want to feel connected, to belong to a group, or to belong to a society," says Haze. "That is something I wanted to convey."

    Franco himself is a little difficult to judge. He's an actor, writer, and director. He's a student, a teacher, and an artist. Tomorrow, he will probably be something else entirely.

    "We live in a postmodern age, and form is so fluid," he says. "A lot of people are stuck in these old ideas where a creative person needs to stay with one thing. I see form matching content, so the goal is not to put feather in my cap each time I do something new. It's just to explore."

    Check out a trailer for the film below.

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  • Aug 01

    Hope for a Breakthrough in the Middle East

    A 72-hour ceasefire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants was meant to start over night, but lasted just a few hours.

    It remains unclear as to who broke the suspension of hostilities first, but reports have emerged that an Israeli soldier was abducted, and 27 Palestinians were killed since the pause was put into effect.

    Hundreds of thousands in Gaza are now displaced, and millions more are displaced because of regional turmoil in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. And yet, David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, believes this is an opportune moment to put a stop to the suffering and end the violence.

    Miliband served as British Foreign Secretary from 2007 to 2010. He recently co-wrote a piece with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleline Albright, touting a potential "humanitarian breakthrough" in Foreign Policy magazine. He explains why he believes a new United Nations negotiator, and his proposal for a humanitarian lifeline in Syria, could alter the direction of the conflict. 

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  • Aug 01

    "Get on Up," "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Sharknado 2," and Special Guest James Franco

    This week's Movie Date podcast is dedicated to two men named James: James Brown, who's depicted in the new biopic "Get On Up" and James Franco, who directs the new film, "Child of God." James Brown expert Robert Baird, of Stereophile, helps Rafer and Kristen take a closer look at the former. And the real James Franco, along with actor Scott Haze, talks with the Movie Date team about the latter.

    Rounding things out are reviews of two of the most highly anticipated films of summer: "Sharknado 2: The Second One," which is currently airing on the SyFy Network, and "Guardians of the Galaxy," which is in theatres.

    Subscribe to the Movie Date podcast, like Movie Date on Facebook, follow Kristen on Twitter, and leave a message for Rafer and Kristen anytime at 571-7MOVIES (571-766-8437).

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  • Aug 01

    News Quiz | Week of August 1, 2014

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

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  • Aug 01

    Confronting a Body Changed By Cancer

    What do you see when cancer becomes a mirror for a lifetime of self-examination, self-scrutiny, and self-reflection?

    “It's funny because when I was younger, I have a scar on my face from a car accident that I was in and, you know, I used to be so insecure about this scar," says Crystal Miller. "As I got older when I would talk about it, and people would be like, 'What scar?' They hadn't noticed it. And that's when I knew, it's all about how you feel about yourself, and for a lot of people those aren't the things they notice about you first. So I feel like if I feel sexy, if I feel beautiful, other people usually feel that way about you."

    Crystal is 28-years-old and battling breast cancer at a time when she should be living her life like every other twenty-something in New York. She's one of the three women we're profiling for our series, Under Her Skin: Living With Breast Cancer, an intimate portrait of the lives of African-American women living with the disease.

    We're a month in to our six month journey with these women, and the conversation has turned to body image—body image after chemotherapy, after surgery, after hair loss and radiation, and all of the things that come along with a diagnosis

    “ I don't feel like this has made me feel any less feminine than I was before, but it was something that I was concerned about in the beginning," Crystal says in her July 29 audio diary. "And some of the ways I made sure that I felt this way was by looking at myself, looking at myself after surgery in the mirror and appreciating what I saw."

    Anita Coleman is 54-years-old. Based in Los Angeles, Anita is a mother and grandmother, fighting breast cancer for the second time. 

    “For some strange reason as my hair grows back, it is totally really doing its own thing and nothing will hold it down," Anita says in her July 31 audio diary. "I mean I look like Alfalfa in one place, it would be on the verge of Pippi Longstocking if it kept growing that way my hairs would be sticking so no I will wear headbands hats wigs but if my hair does not grow in completely, I'll still be okay because I can work around that."

    Confronting a body changed by the disease is something Anita has been through before. She underwent reconstruction after her first battle with breast cancer in 2001.

    “The purpose of the reconstruction was to make me look like a woman, make me look whole again," says Anita. "But little did I know I was already whole and I have always been whole. But the journey had to take me to the place where I realize how whole I really was, because even after the reconstruction I had to conquer the look. And when I say conquer the look, I look fine on the outside to the human eye, but I know what I saw in the mirror I saw a lot of scars because I have had a lot of surgeries. My bikini line has a couple of frowns and ridges, but I'm okay with that because I had to learn I am still here."

    But it's Lisa Echols in Memphis, Tennessee who has undergone the most drastic change.

    “I had both breasts removed. With that there is no natural breast tissue, so it has affected my body. But the thing is, it has not affected me and how I live from this point on," Lisa says in her July 22 audio diary.

    Lisa underwent a bilateral mastectomy at the end of June. She's decided to go ahead with reconstruction, a decision she say's her husband supports.

    “You know you have a choice now about having a reconstructive surgery to give you this sense of identity as a woman," she says.

    In The Takeaway's breast cancer Facebook group, where lots of women with breast cancer are sharing their stories, Jessie Miller from Frisco, Texas told us she found herself in a very different situation after undergoing a double mastectomy.

    Two failed attempts at reconstruction left her in a dark place.

    “By July of 2011 I was completely flat healing," says Miller. "I had a hard time for about a year after that to look at myself in the mirror and not just see the scars. That was pretty much all I saw."

    But where she once saw scars, Jessie now sees a survivor.

    “Breast cancer does not have to define who you are," she says. "In the end, it's just how you feel about yourself, and right now I feel so wonderful about where I am right now. I got through it and the image I see now of myself is not the scarred person that I was, but a beautiful survivor who can get through anything in their life."

    “I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in August 2013, had bilateral nipple sparing mastectomy a month later, reconstruction surgery in April 2014," says Silke Pflueger from Los Gatos, California. She wrote to us in our Facebook group on July 17, 2014, and the story she shares is one of hope.

    “I'm skinnier, I'm healthier and I'm happier than I ever was," says Pfleuger. "I've always worked out, but now I work out a lot and it shows and I feel great. Also, because I lost 30 pounds and because I have beautiful new boobs. My husband even called me one day on his way to work to tell me how beautiful I am, that's not something he's ever, ever done. He's a German and they don't do that. There will always be the fear that it will come back but I'm determined to enjoy every bit of my life in the meantime and I'm feeling good and I'm really looking good."

    "I believe that if you strip off the skin, we're all the same up underneath."

    Silke's mentality is one shared by Anita Coleman. 

    "You keep living. You get a little pouch you get love handles but you still are the same person, you're still that same beautiful being," she says in her latest audio diary. "And to find yourself knowing that you are beautiful regardless to what you look like. I want to be considered and remembered by the person I am, not how I look."

    We thank Lisa, Anita, and Crystal, and all of our listeners who have been brave enough to share your thoughts and your fears with us.

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  • Aug 01

    MAP: Breaking The Gridlock in Congress

    All this week at The Takeaway, we've been looking at some of the 36 key Senate races heating up across the country. The midterm elections aren't until November, but the stakes are high.

    Republicans are feeling confident that they can win back control of the Senate, which would put them in control of both houses of Congress. Would a united Congress mean greater cooperation, or more gridlock within a party that is increasingly divided?

    Robert Bennett is a former United States Senator from Utah, and a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. He thinks that if power of the Senate turns over to Republicans this November, the gridlocked Congress we've become accustomed to might finally be in a position to take legislative action.

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  • Aug 01

    Tea Partiers & Republicans Clash on U.S. Border Bill

    In yet another clash between the Republican leadership in the House and Tea Party representatives, a spending measure aimed at addressing the crisis along the southern border may be in turmoil. 

    The bill would have sent $659 million in resources to the border to strengthen security and speed up the deportation of Central American children, who have been entering the country in an attempt to flee violence in their homelands.

    See Also: The True Origins of The Border Crisis

    But before the bill got to the floor, rebellion from Tea Party members, led by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, brought the vote to a crashing halt, now leaving the measure possibly dead in its tracks before the August recess.

    Ruben Navarrate, a columnist for the Daily Beast and a CNN contributor, explains what happened in the House yesterday, and whether there's still hope for this bill.

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  • Aug 01

    Today's Takeaways: Hope for The Middle East, Postmodern Creativity With James Franco, and Body Image and Breast Cancer

    1. Hope for a Breakthrough in the Middle East | 2. James Franco & Scott Haze on 'Child of God' | 3. Breaking The Gridlock in Congress | 4. Confronting a Body Changed By Cancer

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  • Jul 31

    God is Green: Evangelicals Embrace the EPA

    On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency wrapped up two days of public hearings on its proposed climate rule that would curb carbon emissions from the nation's powers plants.

    The comment sessions drew an audience more diverse than the usual make-up of energy executives, coal lobbyists, and environmental activists.

    Among the crowd, and included as speakers, were a surprising number of faith leaders, Evangelicals and conservative Christians who were there not against, but in support of the Obama Administration's position on climate action.

    Brandan Robertson is the Founder of The Revangelical Movement and a representative of the growing number of those in the religious right who also see environmentalism as a religious and civic priority.

    "Many conservative Christians pegged the issues around climate change as something that only liberals did or something that was actually opposed to the Christian message," says Robertson. "This was mainly because conservative Evangelicals and Catholics tended to have a human-centered view that saw the Earth as an object that humans have been given to dominate and exploit for our own benefit. When it was all used up, Jesus would return, destroy the world, and take Christians to heaven. That is, of course, an oversimplification."

    Robertson says that a new wave of conservative Christians and religious organizations have begun taking leadership roles, adding that the views of climate change denialists are inadequate, destructive, and even "unbiblical" in some senses.

    "Throughout The Bible, there are clear passages that describe the sacredness of the Earth," says Robertson. "The Bible paints a picture at the end that says humanity will actually exist on our planet forever."

    Nowadays, Robertson says that environmental conservation is more in line with the Christian faith, adding that statistics show that the new generation of younger Evangelicals are changing politically.

    "For instance, on June 2nd when the EPA released a proposal to reduce carbon pollution, many conservative Christians saw that as a no-brainer," he says. "Yes, [President Obama's] proposal had a price tag of $150 billion, but the price tag that will cost if we don't get to work on these issues is far higher. As we look at Jesus and examine our Bibles, we're becoming increasingly less concerned with personal wealth and economic growth, and more concerned with caring for our whole planet. It seems to us like the more Christ-like thing to do."

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  • Jul 31

    Sharknado: The Making of a Cult Classic

    Just when you thought it was safe to go back on Twitter, "Sharknado 2: The Second One" hit the small screen last night.

    This made for TV movie is the sequel to the cult film and Twitter phenomenon "Sharknado." The first film had a record-setting number of tweets, and an increasing number of viewers have been catching up on reruns on the Syfy channel. The sequel takes us to NYC: Sharks in the subway, anyone?

    Kristen Meinzer, culture producer for The Takeaway and co-host of The Movie Date Podcast, joins us to talk about the film, and the best and worst of the twittersphere during the premiere. 

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  • Jul 31

    Police Chief: Marijuana-Related Crimes on the Rise

    While The New York Times editorial board has enthusiastically endorsed legalizing marijuana across the country, not everyone is so sure.

    Communities in neighboring states where the drug is now legal are voicing their concerns about increases in marijuana-related crimes, including trafficking, driving while under the influence, and possession.

    In Sidney, Nebraska, marijuana is still very much illegal, despite its location bordering marijuana-friendly Colorado. Police chief B.J. Wilkinson says that marijuana-related crimes are on the rise in his community and costing the town and tax payers money.

    See Also: The New York Times Explains Why They Want to Legalize Pot

    What do you think? Vote in our poll below.

     

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  • Jul 31

    Fela Kuti: Firebrand, Innovator, and Rebel

    Political firebrand, musical innovator, Nigerian folk-hero, rebel, and global icon: Fela Kuti was a figure eminently of his time, and also someone who was entirely ahead of his time.

    Born in 1938 to an upper-middle class family, he was the son of activist parents, and the influence of his mother, feminist activist Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, was one that would shape his views his entire life.

    However, it was only after he encountered the Black Power movement in 1960s Los Angeles that Fela began to fully develop his own complete identity and vocabulary as a political revolutionary and critic of the Nigerian government.

    His time in the U.S. profoundly influenced his musical sensibility too, and inspired him to begin the experimentation that would eventually lead to the creation of Afrobeat. 

    The story of Fela Kuti's journey as a creative and ideological leader is the subject of director Alex Gibney's new documentary "Finding Fela," which opens in select theaters across the country in August.

    Femi Kuti, the eldest son of Fela Kuti, was member of his father's band, but he went on to develop a musical identity of his own that earned him four Grammy nominations. He's featured in "Finding Fela" and he reflected on his father's life.

    "The political part was very essential in the music all the time," says Femi. "He couldn't understand the love songs in Africa, with so much poverty and suffering."

    Femi says that his father taught him to put the suffering of others before personal matters. Fela Kuti had a night club in the Nigerian capital of Lagos called The Shrine, which became a legend in Nigeria and around the world. On Friday nights, Fela would take to the stage to "abuse the government," as Femi put it, something that was very dangerous at times.

    "I don't know if he personally feared for his life—he never showed that to anybody," says Femi. "But definitely everybody around him, including his kids and also my mother, were afraid that he would be killed. Everybody spoke to him, but he always shrugged it off his shoulders and said that wasn't going to stop him from speaking the truth."

    Femi says that his father lived life as if he had a death wish.

    "He did things that we never understood why—he always provoked the authorities," says Femi. "Everybody knew if you called their names, they were going to come and retaliate."

    According to Femi, his father was not angry with Nigeria, but frustrated and upset by the lack of support from the government for education, infrastructure, healthcare, and more.

    "What he was talking about then in '70s, Nigeria is still facing critical issues on these topics," he says. "He was just crying out loud all the time, saying, 'We need to get things straight.'"

    In addition to political activism, Fela Kuti was an iconic musician. He created a new form of music—Afrobeat—which combined traditional Nigerian and Ghanaian music, jazz, highlife, and funk.

    "His mother called him and told him that if he wanted to be successful as a musician, he had to form his own kind of music, and this is how the Afrobeat started," says Femi. "James Brown was very big, and I think my father just saw James Brown as, should I use the word, oppressive. Oppressive in the sense—not negatively—but he had to come up with something better than James Brown. This was a challenge of the beginning of his career. He had to come up with something that his people would love him for. And this was Afrobeat."

    Fela Kuti died from AIDS, like so many tens of millions. But during his life, he denied that HIV could cause AIDS, or that AIDS was dangerous.

    "You have to understand the effect of colonialism on people like my father," says Femi. "If Europe talks about AIDS or that AIDS is killing Africa, than people like him would have to fight back. There was not enough proof during my father's era that AIDS was caused by sex. I think the way AIDS was marketed—the propaganda against AIDS was not well put together by the U.N."

    However, through his music, his nightclub, and his discussions, Femi believes his father was able to effect real change in Nigeria.

    "If Nigerians are outspoken today, this is because of my father," he says. "Throughout the '70s and part of the '80s, everybody was too afraid to talk—you never had any human rights activists talking. Today, the youths speak openly now, and they are very critical of the governments in Nigeria and Africa, but this is due to my father giving them this voice, this power, this 'have no fear.'"

     

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  • Jul 31

    Is It Practical to Legalize Marijuana in America?

    This week, The Takeaway's partner The New York Times launched "High Time: An Editorial Series on Marijuana Legalization."

    The special op-ed feature includes articles by members of the Editorial Board that examine the issue of marijuana legalization as a question of state's rights and criminal justice.

    Though it's a measured, in-depth take, it's causing almost as much of a stir as columnist Maureen Dowd's account of trying a pot candy bar in Denver, which ran in the paper back in June.

    Once the marijuana reached her blood stream, Dowd felt "a scary shudder" course through her body that left her "panting and paranoid."

    "I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me," she wrote. The experience led her to conclude that in the hands of a novice like herself, marijuana can have frightening effects.

    The opinion page's recent take is less testimonial-driven, if equally impassioned. Upcoming installments will examine regulation issues, and more.

    While The New York Times is advocating for legalization, many questions remain. Could there be unforeseen consequences to legalization? And how complicated would the process be? Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor for The New York Times, explains the ins and outs of these issues, and why the paper is taking a stand.

    What do you think? Vote in our poll below.

     

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  • Jul 31

    Gaza: No Peace & No Way Out

    As Operation Protective Edge continues into its fourth week, Israel stands firmly behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country's Defense Forces.

    One recent poll found that more than 90 percent of Jewish Israelis believe Operation Protective Edge is justified, with just four percent believing the country has used excessive force against Gaza.

    But yesterday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took a hard line with Israel, condemning an attack on a U.N. school that killed at least 16.

    “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children,” the secretary-general told reporters during an official visit to San Jose, Costa Rica.

    And while some in the international community have called for a cease-fire, Arab leaders have remained mostly silent, leaving Hamas isolated in the region.

    Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, says that Hamas is stuck in the past and can't see towards the future, while others contend that oppression of the Palestinians pre-dates Hamas, and misses the heart of the conflict.

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  • Jul 31

    Growing Up in a Palestinian Refugee Camp

    The violence rages on in Israel and Palestine this week. Just yesterday, 17 people were killed and 160 wounded in an Israeli airstrike that hit a fruit and vegetable stand near Gaza City. In a separate attack yesterday, a United Nations school in Gaza filled with civilians was hit by Israeli artillery, killing an additional 16 people. 

    More than 1,300 Palestinians and 58 Israelis have now died in the conflict.

    Amid the escalating humanitarian crisis, we hear from a woman who was born and raised in a refugee camp in Gaza.

    Ghada Ageel is a visiting professor of political science at the University of Alberta, but before she had the opportunity to study and leave the region, her home was the Khan Younis Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip. She is a third generation Palestinian refugee—her parents and grandparents have also lived in refugee camps in Gaza.

    Ghada describes what her life was like growing up as a refugee in Gaza.

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  • Jul 31

    Today's Takeaways: Growing Up in Gaza, A New Cult Classic, and A Debate Around Marijuana

    1. Growing Up in a Palestinian Refugee Camp | 2. Gaza: No Peace & No Way Out | 3. Sharknado: The Making of a Cult Classic | 4. Police Chief: Marijuana-Related Crimes on the Rise | 5. Is It Practical to Legalize Marijuana in America? | 6. Fela Kuti: Firebrand, Innovator, and Rebel

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  • Jul 30

    Lessons From My Jewish Mother & Palestinian Father

    In recent weeks, The Takeaway's coverage of the mideast has highlighted the perspective of diplomats, historians, journalists, and policy analysts.

    But as the daughter of a Palestinian father and a pro-Israel Jewish mother, Claire Hajaj's expertise on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is more personal.

    On her mother's side, the shadow of Russian pogroms and Auschwitz's death camps fell over family history. Her father's family was in Jaffa when Zionist paramilitary groups arrived with tanks and mortars.

    They eventually fled the region, losing their family home.

    Her new novel, "Ishmael's Oranges," is based on the story of her parents, who met and fell in love at at British university in the summer of 1967 as the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians raged on.

    "They met in the U.K. during the summer of love in 1967—by then we'd already had the Suez crisis, we'd already had the Six-Day War, and the memory of '48 was still incredibly fresh," Claire says. "But for these two people, they didn't see the conflict in each other. They just saw two people who understood each other fundamentally in ways that other people didn't."

    Claire says that both her father and mother's families were shocked and confused by their relationship at first, even though both families were not very religious. 

    "For the Muslims, Muhammad himself had a Jewish wife, so it wasn't completely unheard of that Muslim might marry a Jew," says Claire. "For them, I think they eventually came to think after the initial shock, 'Well, maybe she will be absorbed into our society and the children will, by default, be Muslim—they will be Palestinian because their father is.' For my mother's side, I think it was more difficult."

    Claire says that her father had stayed in Israel after 1948, and adopted many aspects of Israeli culture—he had an Israeli passport and even spoke Hebrew.

    "He probably was about as Jewish as a Palestinian could be," says Claire.

    Though her parents did unite in love, both still had deep-seated stances on this conflict, something that reached into Claire's own world.

    "For as long as I can remember, I've been on the front line of seeing these two communities tearing themselves apart," she says. "I have the curse, if you like, of being able to empathize with both perspectives. That's a very, very confusing place to be."

    Claire says that in many ways, both narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are incredibly similar.

    "We have two people who are both obsessed with a story of loss, a story of conflict, of hate, of being drive out of homes, of having families scattered to the winds, of trying to rebuild their lives, and of looking back in pain and fear," she says. "This is the story of the Palestinians and the story of the Jews. I've heard both stories bitterly, angrily told to me throughout my childhood. How on Earth is a person supposed to choose between these stories?"

    Claire says she cannot choose.

    When Claire was five-years-old, her mother explained the divide within her family, and the huge issues that separated her mother and father.

    "Since then, I have asked myself who is right and who is wrong and what does justice mean—what would be the right thing to do?" she says. "I'm not sure that now I have an answer."

    Claire says that finding resolution and peace should not focus on righting all of the wrongs of the past and starting over from the beginning.

    "That is simply not a possibility," says Claire. "I would prefer, rather than to talk about justice or about what we can do now not to make sure that our ancestors get justice, that our children have peace, freedom, and security."

    Though Claire would like both parties to find a middle ground, her own parents could not resolve their differences in the end. They divorced after 25 years.

    "Their identities certainly played a role—they were two people who drifted further apart in their political identities the longer they were married rather than closer together," she says. "Maybe that was inevitable, given the horrendous attrition that has surrounded both societies from '67 to today. Obviously there were personal reasons too—the end of a marriage is never, ever simple."

    While her parents' marriage did not work out, Claire says she does believe there is still hope for the Israelis and Palestinians, something that she is trying to convey in her new book.

    "It's a cliché to say, but there is always hope," she says. "If there is hope for these two peoples, it exists in the will of two societies to live in peace."

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  • Jul 30

    Last Surviving Hiroshima Bomber Dies

    The last member of the U.S. crew that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II has died. Theodore Van Kirk was 93-years-old.

    As a 24-year-old, Van Kirk was the navigator of the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress that dropped the world’s first atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

    The bomb killed 140,000, and history tells us that the decision to drop the bomb was a game changer, ending the war and starting a big debate about the future use of nuclear bombs.

    Suzanne Dietz, Van Kirk's biographer who chronicled his military life in the book, "My True Course," says Van Kirk saw the mission as simply part of his service in World War II.

    "He believed it was the right thing to do—he had no regrets," says Dietz. "He believed it helped to shorten the war and it helped to save lives."

    According to Dietz, the U.S. Surgeon General had ordered 470,000 body bags for the planned land invasion of Kyushu, which was known to be fraught with danger.

    "It was not only saving American lives, but it saved Japanese lives," Dietz says. 

    If the Kyushu land invasion had gone forward, American POWs would have been executed, another reason why Van Kirk had no regrets about dropping the bomb.

    "It was something that he did as part of serving in World War II," says Dietz. "He was a father, a contributor to society, working for DuPont for over 30 years. I don't think it was a focus of his life, but it was obviously part of who he was."

    When Japan surrendered in 1945, Van Kirk returned to the country to meet with scientists and survey the damage. While he was there, he met a Japanese soldier who, upon returning from war, was devastated to find his home destroyed.

    "It made him think: What if he were to come home and find his home in that kind of condition?" says Dietz. "It gave him empathy for who he looked at as the enemy."

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  • Jul 30

    Can the West Curb Russia's Bad Behavior?

    This week, European Union officials announced its first round of broad sanctions against Russia since the crisis in Ukraine began. Hours later, President Obama matched his European allies, promising a new round of sanctions to punish the Kremlin for its recent actions in eastern Ukraine.

    "Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of genuine progress," President Obama declared on the White House lawn. "And it doesn't have to come to this. It didn't have to come to this. It does not have to be this way. This is a choice that Russia—and President Putin in particular—has made."

    Starting August 1st, the E.U. will severely restrict Russian state bank access to European Union markets, and will enforce an embargo on new arms sales to Russia. The sanctions will also limit Russian access to certain oil technology. As for the United States, President Obama announced more restrictions for Russian banks and plans to match the E.U.'s block on oil technology. 

    President Obama insisted that the development was not the ghost of a past conflict.

    “It's not a new Cold War," the president said Tuesday while speaking to reporters. "What it is is a very specific issue related to Russia's unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path."

    Even though the pressure is mounting from both Europe and the United States, it's possible sanctions may not go far enough. Ambassador Michael McFaul, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Russia from January 2012 to February 2014, says there's more work to be done to curb Russia's bad behavior.

    "I think it's the threat of new sanctions that change actors' behaviors," says Ambassador McFaul. "Once the sanctions are implemented, the target usually doubles down and blames those doing sanctions. I think that will happen with Putin, of course."

    Though Ambassador McFaul feels that sanctions can help alter the behavior of international players, he does concede that producing such a result takes time.

    "It has to effect the economy, it has to effect individuals—both the citizens at large and specific economic interest groups," he says. "And that, judging from other historical experiences, takes years to have that feedback effect. Unfortunately, I think that's what we're in for with Russia."

    According to McFaul, the pain of sanctions could be felt both ways.

    "It's asymmetric—Russia is just as dependent on Europe, as Europe is dependent on Russian energy supplies," he says. "When it comes to the financial sector, Russia is much weaker than the rest of Europe and the United States. They rely on the dollar and access to capital markets; it's not symmetric. I don't know what's coming next, but most certainly the rhetoric out of every major capital in Europe has changed literally in just the last 48 hours."

    As Pieter Feith, a senior Dutch diplomat and former Special Representative for the European Union, explains, the E.U.'s energy dependence on Russia prevented European officials from taking a strong stance.

    However, in the weeks following the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight 17, he says E.U. officials started to change their minds. Dutch officials have reported that it's been increasingly difficult to access the site of the passenger jet because the conflict in eastern Ukraine have severely hindered attempts to reach and secure the site.

    "Over the past weeks and months, we have witnessed a continued violation of norms and principles by the Russian government," says Feith. "I agree that initially the reaction by European governments was somewhat lackluster. But now they have galvanized, and the sanctions that have been agreed to now are significant. I think everybody agrees—including our captains of industry—there will be no more business as usual for a long time to come. This may also effect our own interests, but we think this is necessary."

    Feith says that it is absolutely vital that Putin understands that he must comply with international standards and stop interfering in Ukraine. The Dutch are hurt and angry, says Feith, who says that the people of the Netherlands view the downing of MH17 as a national tragedy.

    But what if the majority of passengers on that plane were American? Would the world be seeing a much different response?

    "For the Dutch people, this is our own 9/11," says Feith. "If this had happened to the United States, the reaction would have been more forceful. But then again, your economic dependencies and your relationship in terms of trade and investments are less significant than for us in Europe. Secondly, the United States is a sovereign state, a sovereign government, and a single decision-making authority. We are working in a European Union where we try to reach consensus."

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  • Jul 30

    The Violent Past of the NRA's Top Lawyer

    "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." That saying has become something of a motto for the National Rifle Association. But according to a new report by Mother Jones magazine, a bad guy with a gun might be the NRA's top lawyer.

    In a shocking discovery, Mother Jones found that the general counsel for the NRA, Robert Dowlut, was convicted in the 1960s of second degree murder, and spent years in prison for shooting and killing an acquaintance.

    Eventually, his case was overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court due to the flawed police investigation.

    Dave Gilson is a senior editor at Mother Jones and went through more than 2,000 pages of court documents and testimony to write this story. He says that unearthing Dowlut's past can help shed light on some of the decisions he's made in his current role with the NRA.

    The Takeaway reached out to the NRA and Robert Dowlut for a comment, but have not yet heard back.

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  • Jul 30

    It's Not OK Cupid: Co-Founder Defends User Experiments

    Online dating can feel like a shot in the dark, but for those in the business of selling match-making services online, there's no much mystery to it. It's all about data and algorithmic calculations—not about kismet.

    But this week, online dating giant OKCupid came under some fire for taking the "scientific approach" to match-making to the next level when it revealed that it had conducted experiments on the site's users.

    It's not the first time OKCupid has done research on the behavior of its members. In the past, the site's team has used its trove of data to identify things like whether smiling or making a flirty face in a profile picture gets the most response, or how much skin to show in a photo, and even what brand and make of camera to use for the most attention-getting headshot.

    What makes the online dating company's latest research a little different, however, is that it actually involved manipulating the information users received about potential matches. 

    Christian Rudder, co-founder of OKCupid and author of the forthcoming book "Dataclysm," weighs in on his site's recent experiments. 

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  • Jul 30

    The Open Races to Watch During the 2014 Midterm Elections

    As the 2014 midterm election approaches, we're taking a closer look at key Senate races across the country that could result in a shift of power in Congress.

    We continue our game of Texas Hold'em —Senate elections style—and take a look at how the battle for the United Sates Senate might go. Today the deck is stacked with races with open seats, where incumbents are retiring, leaving the door wide-open for a new candidate.

    Joining us at the card table again today is Ken Rudin, host of the Political Junkie Podcast and the former political editor for NPR.

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  • Jul 30

    Today's Takeaways: Turning the Screw on Russia, Wide-Open Senate Races, and The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in One Family

    1. Can the West Curb Russia's Bad Behavior? | 2. Lessons From My Jewish Mother & Palestinian Father | 3. Last Surviving Hiroshima Bomber Dies | 4. The 2014 Midterms: The Open Races to Watch

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  • Jul 29

    Has Congress Fixed the VA for Good?

    After six weeks of negotiations, the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL), have finally reached an agreement on how reform the veteran healthcare system.

    Their comprehensive reform bill includes $5 billion dollars in emergency spending, and calls for the VA to hire new employees, conduct regular audits on the quality care, and more.

    “This bill makes certain that we address the immediate crisis of veterans being forced onto long waiting lines for healthcare," Senator Sanders told reporters on Monday. A key part of the proposal lets veterans bypass the VA system in the case of a backlog and instead seek out treatment from non-VA Medicare-eligible providers. 

    Anthony Hardie, a Gulf War veteran who serves on the Board of Directors of Veterans for Common Sense, weighs in on the changes.

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  • Jul 29

    Democrats & Republicans Showdown as 2014 Midterm Elections Heat Up

    Democrats have held the majority in the United States Senate for almost eight years now, but as the November 2014 midterm elections approach, Republicans are feeling confident they can take it back.

    This week at The Takeaway, we're taking a closer look at some of the 36 races heating up across the country.

    We sat down for a game of Texas Hold'em —Senate elections style—with Ken Rudin, the host of the Political Junkie podcast and the former political editor for NPR.

    Then we take a closer look at the race in North Carolina between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis. Despite early reports, Senator Kay Hagan is holding on to a solid lead.

    Why, during an election year when Republicans appear to have the upper hand, is Tillis struggling? According to Dante Chinni, director of the American Communities Project at American University, Tillis is up against a deeply divided Republican electorate. You can also read his recent post about the North Carolina race here

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  • Jul 29

    Electronic Waste Orchestra Turns Trash into Tunes

    Search online for images of e-waste, and you'll find mountains of old TVs and laptops, floppy discs and flip phones. But musician and computer programmer Colten Jackson is getting some use out stuff most of us call trash.

    With six hard drives and an old keyboard number pad, Jackson put together his first e-waste instrument: The hard drive guitar. It's all part of a project called the Electric Waste Orchestra.

    While not technically an orchestra, the group meets regularly and holds a summer camp where kids build their own instruments entirely out of e-waste.

    Today on The Takeaway, Jackson explains how he decided to turn trash into tunes.

    "I'm kind of doing the reverse of what hard drives are meant for," says Jackson. "When they're in your computer, your computer sends electricity to the motor to make it spin—that's how it reads and writes data. Once I've cracked them open and tear all the circuitry off of it, it's just a nice silver disc attached to a motor. When you spin the motor by hand, it generates electricity, and each hard drive is hooked up to a different pitch."

    The faster Jackson spins a disc, the louder the note gets. Multiple discs can be played at once, and one the disc stops spinning the sound stops as well. The keyboard number pad also lets Jackson control the pitch of the notes.

    "I picked e-waste because it was something that I had for free," Jackson says about his beginnings. "It's something that I imagine a lot of people have for free—there's stockpiles of these computer parts anywhere with an IT department, a community help desk, or even people that went through a lot of computers themselves might have a stack of hard drives somewhere."

    Jackson says that computer programming, repurposing, and making music can serve as a collaborative project for individuals and communities.

    "We got to run it as a small summer camp at the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab," says Jackson. "We got some kids taring into computer parts, which I really love seeing—it gives opportunity to tear into these pieces that are usually black boxes. People are often afraid to open their computers because it's usually a bad idea if you don't know what you're doing. When you're using old computer parts, it doesn't matter if you break it—that's the point, you're breaking it first so you can make something new out of it."

     

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  • Jul 29

    An Inside Look at Gaza's Tunnels

    In Gaza, the weekend's pause in hostilities was replaced by one of the heaviest nights of bombardment. A fuel tank supplying the area's only power station has been hit, with reports that power to the 1.8 million people in the Gaza Strip has now been cut.

    In a televised address late Monday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his citizens to prepare for a long fight in Gaza. 

    “Israeli citizens cannot live with the threat from rockets and from death tunnels—death from above and from below,” the prime minister said. 

    On Tuesday, one senior PLO official called for a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire—something that has since been rejected by Hamas. It once again underlines the deep divisions within the Palestinian leadership, with various factions pulling in contrary directions.

    What's not in dispute is the one direction Hamas seems determined to pursue—the sophisticated network of tunnels built by Hamas, a key Israeli target that is used by Hamas supporters to transport weapons and launch attacks on Israel.

    Jodi Rudoren, Jerusalem Bureau Chief for our partner The New York Times, recently got a tour of these tunnels and weighs in from Jerusalem.

    "We've heard about the labyrinthian network under Gaza, with lots of offshoots and shafts, and this was not like that," says Rudoren of the tunnel she visited. "This tunnel is quite a bit underground—about 46 feet down—and you have to duck to get into it, but a medium-sized person can stand. It's very, I think, professionally built, with concrete walls and a curved concrete top."

    In the tunnels, as shown in the photo above, an iron rod runs along one side of the tunnel to provide electricity. Rudoren says that the metal lattice on the bottom of the tunnel is used as a carriage track to cart out sand. The Israelis have said these elements indicate an unfinished tunnel.

    "There are different kinds of tunnels—there are smuggling tunnels, and there are storage and rocket manufacturing tunnels within Gaza," she says. "The ones that lead into Israeli territory are something that people have known about for a little while, and have become an increasing focus of this war."

    Rudoren says that Israelis fear these tunnels because they allow militants to come into Israel to carry out attacks on soldiers or civilians.

    "The real fear is they'll come to some kibbutz and spray the dining hall with machine gun fire," says Rudoren. "In one case, they found some tranquilizers and plastic handcuffs so the fear is that they tried to kidnap people."

    Last night near the border, Rudoren says there was an attack by Hamas on an Israeli military post.

    "They killed five Israeli soldiers, and were trying to actually take a body of one of the soldiers back through the tunnel," she says. "Soldiers at the watchtower shot at them and killed or injured one of them, and they did all get back into the tunnel but without an Israeli body."

    Rudoren says that the tunnels are a valuable tool in this conflict, stirring fear in the hearts Israelis.

    "For years, the primary tool from Gaza was rocket fire, and the primary impact in Israel was not really death, but this constant running into bomb-shelters and this destruction of life," she says. "They don't seem to have an answer to the tunnel threat, and it's totally freaking people out."

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  • Jul 29

    Mistrust Fuels The Deadliest Ebola Outbreak on Record

    The deadliest Ebola outbreak on record continues to spread in West Africa, crossing country borders and claiming the lives of nearly 700 people. As local and international doctors work overtime to stem the virus, reports have emerged of other dangers facing health officials in the region.

    Yesterday, Ken Isaac, Vice President of Programs and Government Relations at Samaritan's Purse, discussed the violence his staff encountered in northern Liberia trying to bury someone who had died from the Ebola virus.

    “We were met with a road block, the men in the ambulance were attacked, they were beaten, they were cut with machetes," said Isaac. 

    So what fuels this complete distrust and sense of contempt for the people trying to do good in the region? Adia Benton is an assistant professor of Anthropology at Brown University. She's worked in Sierra Leone with the ministry of health working on the issue of infectious diseases, and she explains why are people so distrustful of the government.

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  • Jul 29

    ISIS: From Militia to State

    The conflict in Syria is producing some gruesome images and harrowing statistics. 

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is reporting that 1,600 people had been killed in just 10 days this month. In all, more than 170,000 people have been killed in the three-year civil war, about one third of the casualties have been civilians.

    As fighting raged on, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a public appearance at a mosque in Damascus, where he attended prayers to mark the start of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that draws to a close the monthlong fast of Ramadan.

    It was his first public appearance since being sworn in for his third term in the office.

    Lara Setrakian, co-founder and executive editor of Syria Deeply joins The Takeaway for an update on the crisis in Syria.

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  • Jul 29

    Listeners Respond: Ramadan Reflections

    Muslims from around the globe are celebrating the end of Ramadan and the holiday known as Eid-ul-Fitr this week. Through 30 days of fasting, from sunrise to sunset, Muslims are encouraged to spend time in prayer and reflection.

    As Muslims around the world celebrate the end of Ramadan, we bring you these voices of reflection from around the country.

    To share your Ramadan reflections, leave a comment below.

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  • Jul 29

    Today's Takeaways: A Senate Showdown, A Long Fight in Gaza, and E-Waste as Music

    1. An Inside Look at Gaza's Tunnels | 2. Democrats & Republicans Showdown as 2014 Midterm Elections Heat Up | 3. Electronic Waste Orchestra Turns Trash into Tunes | 4. Mistrust Fuels Deadly Ebola Outbreak | 5. Listeners Respond: Ramadan Reflections

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  • Jul 28

    American Physicians Fight Fear & Disease in West Africa

    Healthcare workers in some parts of West Africa are now taking on two battles—the fight to control the growing threat of the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 670 people in four countries since March, and now armed youths who are threatening doctors who they believe are spreading the disease, not containing it.

    One of the latest victims to test positive for the Ebola virus was an American doctor, Dr. Kent Brantly, who was infected with the disease while treating patients in Liberia—he is receiving treatment, but his condition is deteriorating. News of Dr. Brantley's condition comes just days after one of Liberia's most high-profile doctors died from Ebola. 

    According to the World Health Organization, more than 100 health workers have been infected with the virus and half of them have died. The Liberian government is now ordering border closures and quarantines as the outbreak continues to spread.

    Ken Isaacs, Vice President of Programs at Samaritan's Purse, the international relief organization where Dr. Brantly works, weighs in on the escalating crisis in West Africa.

    "I talked with a team this morning; his condition is deteriorating," says Isaacs. "We are gravely worried for him. He is in a very serious condition, and he needs to be evacuated out and we are not able to do that. We are not able to give him the adequate medical attention that he needs in Liberia. It is a blow to the organization, and of course to he and his family."

    Isaacs says that the organization is currently still classifying Dr. Brantly as stable, but he says his condition is deteriorating as the disease continues to run through him.

    Other healthcare workers from around the world are also experiencing challenges combating the disease in West Africa.

    "Ebola is probably one of the most contagious and deadly diseases in the world," says Isaacs. "Extraordinary precautions are taken every step of the way. Protocols of barrier protection, disinfection, scrubbing down, and dressing in and dressing out, and still accidents happen some way or another. All of the healthcare workers that are treating Ebola patients face these risks."

    Isaacs says that it is "alarming" that Liberian healthcare workers are not well versed in the dangers of the Ebola virus, and do not know what measures to take to prevent being infected. On Friday, eight out of the 12 new Ebola patients that came to the ELWA Hospital in Liberia's capital city were government healthcare workers.

    "They do not know what the disease is, they don't know how to handle it, they don't understand it, and they don't know how to prevent themselves from getting it," says Isaacs. "This is creating a formula for an absolute catastrophe across West Africa."

    The Ebola virus is spread by the exchange of bodily fluids—even touching another person's sweat or being too close to someone when they sneeze can transmit the virus.

    "When it spreads, unfortunately it's deadly," says Isaacs.

    Facing a deadly virus is an enormous challenge in and of itself, but Isaac says that the Samaritan's Purse team also has other obstacles. Yesterday, the Liberian Ministry of Health asked the Samaritan's Purse burial team to go to a community to bury an infected body. 

    "We were accompanied by the Ministry of Health in an ambulance," says Isaacs. "When we got out in close to the village—it was about an hour and a half from where the critical management center is—we were met with a roadblock. The men in the ambulance were attacked, they were beaten, cut with machetes, and their car was burned."

    Isaacs says that his own staff was not hurt and able to get away, but the team was not able to reach the infected body. Another community does not support the expansion of a quarantine center at ELWA Hospital, and rioted in front of the facility and threatened to burn it down.

    "The population doesn't understand the disease, and they don't have the basic knowledge to allow healthcare to come in," he says. "This feeds into a growing catastrophe in West Africa. It's an indicator that the healthcare delivery systems of these countries are totally overwhelmed and that this disease is out of control."

     

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  • Jul 28

    America: Israel's Best Friend?

    Secretary of State John Kerry has fallen short on his diplomatic efforts to end the fighting in Gaza. Now, he's looking to salvage talks for a temporary cease fire, and is keeping the door open to future negotiations for a longer term solution.

    The United Nations has called for an immediate halt in the fighting, but after what was a relatively calm weekend, fighting resumed again today, just as Muslims in Gaza are celebrating the end of Ramadan.

    Nick Schifrin is the Jerusalem correspondent for Al Jazeera America, and currently covering the conflict in Gaza. He weighs in on the fighting, and how Sec. Kerry's proposal is being received.

    Some Israelis have expressed deep skepticism about America and its ability to act as an honest peace broker. But surely America is Israel's best friend? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a particularly divisive issue for the American public, and the way most Americans understand the United States's relationship with Israel has changed a great deal since the country's founding in 1948.

    As John B. Judis, author of "Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict," explains, while few American Jews supported the Zionist cause through the 1930s, that changed with the discovery of Hitler's Final Solution in 1944. By the time the United Nations voted to support an independent Israel four years later, Israel found a bastion of support in the American Jewish community.   

    While the community's enthusiasm faded in the assimilationist ethos of the 1950s, by the late 1960s, Judis says, Israel's protection became a central cause of American Jewish life. The Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973 cemented American Jewish support for Israel through the 1990s. 

    Today, Judis sees a shift in the attitudes of American Jews toward Israel, particularly among the young. He discusses that shift and the complicated relationship between American Jews and Israel. 

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  • Jul 28

    At This School, Students Rule the Classroom

    When Sam Levin was 16-years-old, he decided to take charge of his own education. Working with administrators at his public high school, he launched the "Independent Project," a semester-long, student-led program that eliminated the traditional role of teachers.

    So instead of textbook homework assignments, the usual line-up of pop quizzes, and final exams, each semester students design their own curriculum and carry out their own independent projects.

    Sam Levin, the program's founder, and Zoe Borden, a recent graduate, explain the Independent Project.

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  • Jul 28

    A Different Kind of Senate Candidate: One That Only Wants Your Money

    This week, The Takeaway is looking at how the deck is set for this year's battle for the U.S. Senate. It's a game of Senate Hold 'Em and Fold 'Em—we'll look at the Republicans' chances of taking the Senate, and the Democratic fight to hang on.

    In Kentucky, a different kind of political candidate will launch his campaign for the Senate next week. His name is Gil Fulbright, and he offers something no other candidate in the race can: Complete and utter honesty.

    “Listening to my constituents, legislating, these are things I don't do," says Fulbright in his campaign ad. "What I do is spend about 70 percent of my time raising funds for re-election. I'd do anything to stay in office. My name's Gil Fulbright but hell. I'll change my name to Phil Gulbright or Bill Fullbright or Phillip Mamouf-Wifarts.”

    He may have is very own campaign bus, but Gil won’t be featured on the ballot come November, and he’s not even a real person. He’s a satirical character, a product of the bi-partisan organization Represent.Us, designed to highlight the corrupting influence of big money in politics.

    And in fact, the Kentucky Senate race is on track to be the most expensive Senate contest ever.

    Josh Silver is the Director of Represent.Us and a veteran election and media reform advocate. He explains why the group came up with candidate Gil Fulbright, and how it might impact the real Kentucky Senate race.

    Watch Gil's campaign video below.

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  • Jul 28

    Congress Reaches Deal on Veterans Bill

    It's the last week before Congress heads home for August recess, and we may actually see a break from the usual congressional gridlock when it comes to veterans affairs. House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise over the weekend to help the embattled veteran healthcare system.

    No word on the exact details yet, but the bill is expected to release billions in emergency funds to deal with the long wait times that have mired the Department of Veterans Affairs' in controversy.

    Jeremy Peters, reporter for our partner The New York Times, weighs in on the proposal.

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  • Jul 28

    Today's Takeaways: A Different Kind of Candidate, A Deal for Veterans, and The Rising Price of Chocolate

    1. America: Israel's Best Friend? | 2. Deadly Ebola Virus Reaches U.S. Physicians | 3. You've Been Warned: The Price of Chocolate is Rising | 4. Congress Reaches Deal on Veterans Bill | 5. A Different Kind of Senate Candidate: On That Only Wants Your Money

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  • Jul 28

    You've Been Warned: The Price of Chocolate is Rising

    Earlier this year, The Takeaway reported that shortages of limes, avocados, and pork have sent prices of margaritas, guacamole, and bacon sky high.

    And now it looks as if the unthinkable is happening: Mars and Hershey have announced that they will be boosting the price of chocolate products price by seven and eight percent, respectively. Grim news.

    What’s driving the increase? And more importantly: How do we cope?

    Dan Pashman, the host of WNYC’s Sporkful food podcast, and author of the forthcoming book, "Eat More Better,” says there are two reasons that the price of chocolate is going up.

    "One is there have been poor yields from major cocoa producers going back now several years," Pashman. "Sixty-eight percent of the world's cocoa comes from Africa, and a lot of the trees there are getting old and sick, and reforming the industry there has been very difficult. It's actually one of the few agribusiness industries where a huge amount of the crop actually still comes from very small, local farmers."

    In addition supply problems, Pashman says that there has been a greater demand world wide for higher cocoa content in chocolate products. 

    "People love their cocoa," says Pashman. "I do have a couple tips for folks who maybe want to stretch their chocolate dollar a little bit farther. In an upcoming episode of The Sporkful, I talk to a guy who makes chocolate in Hawaii. He identifies two different types of chocolate eaters: Melters and chompers."

    A melter, as the name suggests, is someone who patiently holds a piece of chocolate in their mouth until it melts away, while a chomper chews a pieces of chocolate relatively quickly. Pashman says that the former can save money, and allow the eater to savor the chocolate.

    "You may be able to eat less chocolate if you let it melt in your mouth because it would take so long and you would get so much flavor from it," he says.

     

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