What constitutes a proper “public radio” voice? Chenjerai Kumanyika, an assistant professor of popular culture at Clemson University, discusses code-switching and the perceived "whiteness" of public radio.
Arizona has become the first state to require all high school students to pass a citizenship exam in order to graduate. Former Congressman Frank Riggs explains why he believes the citizenship exam should be a mandatory exam for American students.
Phil Zabriskie, a former foreign correspondent, reflects on "The Kill Switch," his new Kindle Single that explores what it's like to kill in combat. Zabriskie examines the lasting impact the act of taking a life has on soldiers.
Next week, The Takeaway presents a new series called "Being A Woman Online." Ahead of that series, we hear from Tavi Gevinson, the head of Rookie, an online publication for teenage girls.
In this week's Movie Date podcast, Rafer and Kristen cover all the bases with new releases, Sweatpants picks, an interview, Movie Therapy, and, of course, trivia!
On the new releases front: they review the teen time travel adventure "Project Almanac," Anne Hathaway's indie music romance "Song One," and the racially charged custody battle flick, "Black or White," starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer.
They then administer some Movie Therapy for listeners of The Longest Shortest Time who need to get their sexy back after having children.
And this week's movie trivia might be a stumper for anyone born before 1970 or after 2000.
What constitutes a proper “public radio” voice? And what or who is the "public" in public radio?
While at a week-long radio workshop, Chenjerai Kumanyika, an assistant professor of popular culture at Clemson University, found that he was feeling out of place. He read his script aloud and quickly realized he was narrating his story in a voice that was not quiet his own—a voice that was more akin to "99% Invisible" host Roman Mars, or "Serial" host Sarah Koenig.
Kumanyika began to reflect on the tone of public radio and its voices.
"They [all] sound like white people. My natural voice — the voice that I use when I am most comfortable — doesn’t sound like that," he recently wrote. "Of course, I’m not alone in facing this challenge. Journalists of various ethnicities, genders and other identity categories intentionally or unintentionally internalize and 'code-switch' to be consistent with culturally dominant 'white' styles of speech and narration."
Kumanyika says there isn't enough vocal diversity in the public radio. And he's not alone—many of his friends of different races and ethnic backgrounds say they refuse to listen to some of his favorite radio shows and podcast episodes because they can't hear themselves in the news.
"I hear middle-age white dudes who sounds like they just drank some really warm coffee," hip-hop artist, poet, author, doctoral student, and podcast skeptic A.D. Carson recently told Kumanyika. “And I'm not against it, it's just that I know it's a certain type of thing going on there and a lot of that is captured in that voice. In that, you know, warm, coffee-sipping, you know, like, whispering, almost. It sounds like the whole joint is recorded, almost, in the back of Barnes and Noble.”
Do minority voices need to code-switch to be heard? Kumanyika discusses the whiteness of the public radio voice today with Takeaway Host John Hockenberry.
Two films—one that grapples with questions of race and another that sends a group of teens on a crazy ride throughout history—are hitting the box office this weekend.
The co-hosts of The Movie Date Podcast, Rafer Guzman, a film critic for Newsday, and Kristen Meinzer, culture producer for The Takeaway, review "Black or White" and "Project Almanac."
In the past few years, prison reform has become a bipartisan issue, as policymakers have realized the consequences of mass incarceration for families and communities, and taxpayers.
These debates usually focus on state and federal prisons. Local jails, the temporary holding cells for those awaiting trial, are rarely discussed even though thousands of Americans enter these facilities every day. In New York, the average daily jail population is 11,400. In Cook County, home to Chicago, it's 9,000. In Los Angeles County, it's 16,000.
Some people stay in jail just a few hours, or a few days. But some stay much longer, especially on Rikers Island, the biggest jail complex in New York. Over the past year, our partners The New York Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting started looking into the happenings on Rikers Island and found a number of serious violations.
Mayor Bill DeBlasio has started some reforms, but one former corrections commissioner says he can do more.
Martin Horn was the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction from 2003-2009. He's now a distinguished lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and he tells The Takeaway his ideas for reforming jail systems in New York City and across the country, starting with Rikers.
"Rikers Island has really become the metaphor for criminal confinement in New York City and it has become over the years New York's form of exile or purgatory," says Horn. "It's a very desperate place."
Horn says that a large group of people at Rikers are defendants awaiting trial that have not been convicted of a crime.
"They have certain due process rights guaranteed to them by the 14th Amendment not to be denied to life, liberty or property without due process of law," he says. "But there are some prisoners who remain [in jail] awaiting trial for two years...Some of these individuals languish for a long time."
The Super Bowl is quickly approaching, and while sports fans are going to argue about the football being used by New England Patriots' Quarterback Tom Brady, we're starting a much bigger argument over what kind of dip should you have available for family and friends during the game itself.
Dan Pashman is the host of WNYC's Sporkful podcast and author of "Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious." All week long, he's been giving us a daily dip for each day leading up to the game. Today he discusses the "ultimate" Super Bowl dip: Guacamole.
The sports bar might be the obvious spot for taking in the big game this weekend. But Seattle residents have found an unexpected gathering spot to watch their beloved Seahawks on Sunday: The public library.
Joshua McNichols, a reporter for KUOW in Seattle, has the details.
In the fall of 2014, Dr. Craig Spencer returned from a five-week medical mission in West Africa where he was working with Doctors Without Borders to treat patients diagnosed with Ebola.
Upon his return to the United States, Dr. Spencer monitored his health, checked his temperature daily, and went about his regular life, riding the subway and spending a night out at a bowling alley.
Then, in mid-October, everything changed.
“When I woke up that morning, I didn't feel quite right," Dr. Spencer, 33, told WNYC's Mary Harris in an exclusive interview. "I was breathing a little faster, and I felt a little warm, and I suspected that maybe I wasn't okay."
Dr. Spencer reported a fever of 100.3 and was taken to Bellevue Hospital. He would soon be diagnosed with Ebola.
"In a way, for that one brief second, it was almost a sigh of relief because the moment I’d been fearing and concerned about had arrived," Dr. Spencer said. "And I felt not at peace with being infected, but like I could almost stop worrying about getting it."
In the days and weeks following his diagnosis, many in the media and even politicians criticized Dr. Spencer for the what they called irresponsible behavior, codemning his decision to go out in public. Meanwhile, the governors of New York and New Jersey instituted mandatory quarantines for aid workers returning from West Africa and called for better screening at airports.
In the months since Dr. Spencer was infected, the fight against Ebola has gained momentum. Now, the World Health Organization says that fewer than 100 confirmed new cases of the disease were reported last week—the lowest since late June.
Dr. Emmanuel d’Harcourt, the senior health director for the International Rescue Committee, has an update on the current fight against Ebola.
Mary Harris, Senior Producer for health reporting at WNYC, interviewed Dr. Spencer and has the details on his story.
Every Friday, Sean Rameswaram, a producer with Studio 360 and host of the podcast Sideshow, rounds up the week in internet phenomena.
This week in "Thanks, Internet," Sean talks to John Hockenberry about the online treasures you may have missed.
Animated GIFs keep giving in 2015. We had a beautifully hand-illustrated Bowie image, split-depth GIFs that brought us closer to the third dimension, and now, what might be the biggest GIF we’ll ever see.
A British street artist named INSA (known for animating murals by painting walls, taking a photo, and then re-painting them and re-capturing them) wanted to make an animated GIF you could see from space. He did so by painting and re-painting different-sized hearts over 3.5 acres of pavement in Rio de Janeiro while capturing the changes via satellite. The result is only 600 pixels, but it’s a very big deal.
To the surprise of no one, we got the supercut that proved the “Woah-oh-oh!” refrain is shamefully overemployed in pop music these days. A YouTube user who goes by Cutting Room created a 5-minute video of recent songs that “woah” and “oh,” from Britney, to Coldplay, to Kesha, to Fall Out Buy, to fun. There’s a fair amount of variety, but it’s still a little embarrassing. Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” is in there, too, but she can do whatever she wants because she's Beyoncé.
This week Grantland’s Amos Barshad shared a dispatch from the set of David Simon’s latest HBO miniseries. It’s called Show Me a Hero and it’s about a NYC housing crisis. But the article is really about Simon’s blatant indifference to mainstream television, mainstream tastes, and the superfans of The Wire who run around debating which seasons and characters are the best.
Anyone who has read or listened to a Simon interview knows he can be a cantankerous grump, and this is the may be the most gloriously cantankerous he has ever been:
Is Omar cooler than Stringer? I don’t … leave me out of it. To hear people debating what season they love the most … it’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. You cannot make me give a fuck. It’s not fair to say to me, ‘I don’t like the way you killed Omar.’ Get in line. Get in line. I don’t give a fuck... You know what I love? I love fucking TV that’s not supposed to be on TV.
We haven't heard much from Frank Ocean in a minute, and that’s a shame. In 2012, he proved to be one of our most talented, empathetic, and understanding songwriters with his brilliant Channel Orange. And since then, quiet -- until last Friday when he posted a beautiful cover of “(At Your Best) You Are Love” by the Isley Brothers. The ballad was famously covered by Alliyah, who would have turned 36 the day Frank posted his version. More soon, please!
Today's installment in The Takeaway's "Beyond the Badge" series features a fictional story about an NYPD cop struggling with her boss's philosophy of policing by the numbers.
The cop is 24-year-old Janice Itwaru, or, as she calls herself on the job, "Janice Singh." She's the fictional Guyanese-America protagonist of novelist Matthew Burgess's new book "Uncle Janice."
As an ambitious undercover narcotics cop in Queens, she's anxious to make the quota of drug "buys" her supervisors have assigned to her in order to earn a promotion.
Matt Burgess, author, of “Uncle Janice” grew up in Jackson Heights, where the book is set. The book casts a critical eye on the bureaucracy of police work.
The Super Bowl is quickly approaching, and while sports fans are going to argue about the football being used by New England Patriots' Quarterback Tom Brady, we're starting a much bigger argument over what kind of dip should you have available for family and friends during the game itself.
Dan Pashman is the host of WNYC's Sporkful podcast and author of "Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious." All week long, he'll be giving us a daily dip for each day leading up to the game. Today he breaks down the elements that go into a game favorite: Slow cooker dips.
Check out Dan's favorite tomato soup recipe, from Veg Recipes of India, here.
Last September, TMZ released a now-infamous video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice beating his then-fiancee in an elevator.
Rice was hardly the first National Football League (NFL) player to be accused of domestic violence. But the video evidence, and the way the NFL disciplined Rice, had many calling for change within the League—for players to be held accountable and for teams to be schooled in the dynamics of domestic violence.
The NFL has run a public awareness campaign about domestic violence throughout the season, and they even bought time during the first quarter of the Super Bowl for an ad based on a real 911 call.
A 30-second Super Bowl commercial is estimated to cost between $4 to 4.5 million, and the ad isn't the only domestic violence-awareness expenditure the League has made since the Rice scandal broke.
As Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, tells The Takeaway, the NFL has agreed to fund the Hotline for $5 million annually over five years. That promise came in the wake of the Rice video after calls to the Hotline increased by 84 percent.
Apart from the funding, has the NFL really changed? Ray-Jones believes that the League is making progress. Jane McManus, a reporter for ESPN New York, has been covering the NFL's evolving strategies to stop domestic violence.
She says that while the League still has plenty of work to do, the NFL has taken significant steps in terms of educating players and officials about domestic violence.
Arizona has become the first state to pass a law requiring all high school students to pass a citizenship exam in order to graduate from high school. Students will take the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization civics test and will need to get at least 60 out of 100 questions correct in order to graduate.
The Civics Education Initiative is the group behind the legislation and they hope to have similar bills passed in as many as 18 states.
Former Congressman Frank Riggs currently serves as the president of the Joe Foss Institute, a non-profit group based in Arizona that advocates for greater civics education. He explains why he believes the citizenship exam should be a mandatory exam for American students.
Do you think you would pass the test? We took the questions from the real U.S. citizenship exam and created a quiz. Test your knowledge below.
Once slavery ended in the United States, millions of people went out to find a new beginning. African Americans migrated North after the upheavals of the Civil War.
During that period the character of "Stagger Lee" was born. Stagger Lee has a heart of gold. He's ruthless, clever, and full of contradictions. He's a character who lives by his wits and his humor. A self made black man, Stagger Lee tells the story of a fractured American dream.
The ghost of Stagger Lee joyfully haunts a new musical opening tomorrow night at the Wyly Theater in Dallas, Texas. The play features songs that tell the stories of the goodbyes and farewells that came with the Great Migration, a journey made by millions that reshaped our nation.
Will Power is the creator of "Stagger Lee," He joins us from our affiliate KERA to talk about the musical, the Great Migration, and the song that serves as his inspiration.
The cold of the Antarctic was the final frontier during the last era of exploration. From 1492 until the early 20th century, explorers ventured off to discover new lands and plant their national flags.
The South Pole was the most elusive of all. And now some historians have opened a window back in time by restoring a block of photographic negatives discovered in a frozen in ice for nearly a century.
The images, still intact, allow us to peer into what historians call the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.
Lizzie Meek, program manager for Artefacts at the Antarctic Heritage Trust, was one of the first people to see the restored images.
Today is day two of Senate hearings for U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, President Obama's pick to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General. If confirmed she'll oversee the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) which, according to recently released documents, is running a domestic intelligence-gathering program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists.
The program is designed to help the DEA track and seize cars, cash, and other assets to combat drug trafficking. But the data collected has also been used to hunt for vehicles related to other crimes like kidnappings.
It's a massive program involving cameras placed by the DEA on major highways across the country. If you drive in populated areas, your movements have very likely been tracked.
Gary Hale spent 10 years as the head of intelligence for the DEA's Houston office and is now a non-resident fellow for drug policy at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. He explains what type of information the DEA collects and shares with other law enforcement agencies.
To graduate high school in Arizona, students will now have to pass a citizenship exam. More than a dozen states may roll out similar policies. Do you think you would pass? We took questions from the real U.S. citizenship exam—test your knowledge below.
Is Loretta Lynch, President Obama's pick to be the next attorney general, winning over Republicans?
It's day one of confirmation hearings under the Republican controlled Senate. President Obama selected Lynch as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 2010, a job she also previously held from 1999 to 2001.
If confirmed, Lynch will be the first black female attorney general in U.S. history.
Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich joins us from Capitol Hill for an update on the hearings.
No one in the U.S. Army or Department of Defense tracks how many troops kill foreign enemies in war zones?, or perhaps even more importantly, the impact killing has on the soldiers who do it.
Phil Zabriskie, a former foreign correspondent, wanted to find out why. In "The Kill Switch," a Kindle Single that explores what it's like to kill in combat?, Zabriskie examines the lasting impact the act of taking a life has on soldiers.
Patrick Malay, a retired colonel and former infantry battalion commander?, is one of the Marines Zabriskie interviewed for his project.
Today the Jordanian government agreed to free a convicted terrorist in exchange for an air force pilot being held by the Islamic State.
In exchange for First Lieutenant Maaz al-Kassasbeh, female suicide bomber Sajida al Rishawi will go free. Rishawi was one of four suicide bombers who attacked three hotels in the Jordanian capital of Amman in 2005. The attack killed more than 57 people—Rishawi survived when her explosive vest failed to detonate.
Rana Sweis, a freelance journalist for our partner The New York Times, has the details on this story.
The Super Bowl is quickly approaching, and while sports fans are going to argue about the football being used by New England Patriots' Quarterback Tom Brady, we're starting a much bigger argument over what kind of dip should you have available for family and friends during the game itself.
Dan Pashman is the host of WNYC's Sporkful podcast and author of "Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious." All week long, he'll be giving us a daily dip for each day leading up to the game. Today he breaks down the elements that go into a hearty favorite: Entree dips.
Makes around 1 3/4 cups
Directions: Combine clams, cooking liquid, lemon juice, salt, garum or fish sauce, and bitters in a food processor. Pulse until clams are rough-chopped and ingredients are blended. Add cream cheese and pulse, occasionally scraping down sides of food processor with spatula, until everything is smooth. Add white pepper to taste. Clam dip is best after it sits, refrigerated, for a few hours. Serve with sturdy potato chips.
After several months of relative calm, NATO has accused pro-Russian separatists of once again escalating the fighting in Eastern Ukraine, where at least 5,000 people have died since the conflict began early last year.
Over the weekend, separatists shelled the city of Mariupol. At least 30 people died, and according to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, the Russians were behind the operation.
"This offensive is made in Moscow. It is waged by Russian-trained and Russian-funded separatists, who use Russian missiles and Russian tanks, who are backed up by Russian troops, and whose operations receive direct Russian assistance," she told the U.N. Security Council on Monday.
Today, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is on the ground in Ukraine, promising more aid for state troops, in addition to the $1 billion guarantee President Obama promised last June.
But Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe, says that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ambitions to redraw the map and is intent on creating a new rift in Europe.
“I believe President Putin has two goals,” says Hodges. “The first one, [is] moving boundaries and borders of European countries.”
Pointing to the annexation of Crimea and the happenings in Mariupol, Hodges says that Moscow is trying to expand the borders of Russia.
“That’s the first goal,” he says. “The second is to fracture our great alliance with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO, and to further separate North America from continental Europe. He obviously feels threatened from by the economic power of the E.U. and the solidarity of our alliance [with NATO].”
Hodges says that Western actors are greatly concerned that Russian forces would shoot rockets into Mariupol, a city of 500,000 situated on the Black Sea coast.
“This city is important, not only because of its population and the fact that it is a seaport, but because it is in the way if Russia [wants to] establish a land bridge that goes from Russian territory all the way to Crimea,” he says. “They now have over 25,000 soldiers and a significant amount of air artillery and other capabilities [in Crimea] so they would like to have that land bridge.”
The U.N. has declared the Mariupol shelling a war crime, but Hodges says that he doesn’t feel like the U.S. or E.U. is at war with Russia—at least not yet.
“Nobody wants to have a war with Russia,” he says. “The last thing we want is a Russian economy that’s wrecked—that would have a significant impact on Europe and the United States. That’s not what we’re after, but it’s clearly a dangerous situation.”
However, Hodges says that he saw the full force of Russian aggression when he was in Kiev last week to visit with Ukrainian military officials and wounded soldiers.
“It is very clear that the amount of equipment and ammunition that Russians are providing to their proxies, the so-called separatists, is significant,” he says. “In fact, it’s actually doubled since the Minsk agreement was signed back in September.”
Since September, Hodges says that an average of about 30 people a day have been killed in the fighting between Ukrainians and pro-Russian separatists.
“I was able to talk to some Ukrainian officers,” he says. “They’ve seen some flame throwing type weapons that they haven’t encountered before. These are the kind of things that a militia does not possess—you can’t assemble this in the basement of your home. It’s obvious that professional, high-quality ammunition and equipment is being provided.”
All this week, The Takeaway is exploring how law enforcement has changed in the era of community policing.
Social scientists say crime fighting strategies like "broken windows" are responsible for the vast reduction in crime since the early 90's. But many argue that an excessive focus on certain groups has also led to the deaths of unarmed African-American men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
What is the view of this behind the badge? John Agustyn was a city cop in Phoenix in the 1990's. He sees community policing and the fall in crime going hand in hand.
Today, a highly acclaimed new film hits theaters across the U.S. It's called "Timbuktu," and it's a French-Mauritanian drama directed by Abderrahmane Sissako.
Nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film, it's also won awards on the festival circuit and has earned rave reviews from critics.
But while art-house film lovers will be seeing it across the U.S. in the coming days, in some parts of the world, including the suburbs of France, screenings have been pushed back or canceled.
In Villiers-sur-Marne, for example, the mayor canceled screenings, suggesting that Timbuktu “makes an apology for terrorism,” according to news outlet Le Figaro.
Hussein Rashid is professor of religion at Hofstra University. He joins us to share his thoughts on the film, and the controversy surrounding it.
On Tuesday, the Obama Administration announced a new proposal to open the coastal waters off Virginia and Georgia for off-shore drilling.
That decision comes just days after the White House recommended imposing tougher restrictions on drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Paul Bledsoe, a former Interior Department official under the Clinton Administration and a senior fellow of Energy and Society at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, examines the Obama Administration's seemingly contradictory energy strategy.
Sarah McCammon, Savannah bureau chief for Georgia Public Broadcasting, explains how local officials and residents are reacting to White House's proposal.
Doesn't the world seem to get quieter when it snows? Yes, there are fewer cars on the roads and people on the streets, but if you put the human factors aside, there are actually scientific reasons why the outside gets less noisy.
Bernadette Woods Placky, a meteorologist and director of Climate Central's Climate Matters program, explains.
On Monday, the FBI brought charges against three men accused of running a Russian spy ring in New York City. The men are accused of collecting information for Russia’s foreign intelligence agency and attempting to recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources.
Two of the men—Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy—are protected under diplomatic immunity and have since returned to Russia. The third, Evgeny Buryakov, was arrested and detained in court.
“These charges demonstrate our firm commitment to combating attempts by covert agents to illegally gather intelligence and recruit spies within the United States," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. "We will use every tool at our disposal to identify and hold accountable foreign agents operating inside this country—no matter how deep their cover.”
According to the FBI, the men sought secrets tied to the New York Stock Exchange and U.S. economic sanctions, and attempted to recruit students at universities. But Kimberly Marten, a professor of political science at Barnard College, says that it doesn’t appear that the men got any valuable information.
“If you read the entire complaint, what you discover is that they really didn’t get anything,” she says. “They did not seem to get any classified information. They did not even seem to get any commercial secrets...In many ways, it looks a lot like the complaint that came out in 2010 about the 10 sleeper agents. [This time] the difference is that all three of them were state employees.”
In July 2010, ten Russian sleeper agents were arrested in American cities and suburbs after it was discovered that they were part of a deep cover espionage ring run by the Russian intelligence service. The operation later inspired the television drama "The Americans."
Marten says this latest FBI complaint indicates that the investigation into these three men began immediately after the 2010 sleeper cell was made public.
“It was an investigation that was ongoing for several years, but you have to believe the timing of the announcement might have been related to politics,” she says. “This is really highlighting the apparent incompetence of the people from the Russian foreign intelligence service in the United States. I think one of the questions is are we just getting the low hanging fruit, or do they really not know what they’re doing?”
Though the FBI and Department of Justice have made headlines by identifying and charging alleged Russian spies, Marten says the move ment to serve as a political distraction.
“This is sort of a diversion from the really important thing that’s happening with Russian relations with the West,” she says. “The fighting in Ukraine is really going up again—it’s really swelling and getting much more deadly all of a sudden. The Russian official comments that are coming out are now saying that it’s not against Ukraine, that it’s against NATO.”
According to Marten, Russian officials allege that the people fighting on the side of the Ukrainian military are actually NATO forces. And while the death toll continues to rise, Marten doesn’t believe that the West can do much to stop the conflict.
“Obama was very clear that we are not interested in getting militarily involved,” says Marten, who adds that E.U. and U.S. will likely level new sanctions. “Beyond [sanctions], there’s just not much control that the United States has, unless we were willing to go to war with Russia over Ukraine, and I hope we don’t make that decision. There isn’t really much more that can be done.”
President Obama arrives in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh today. Alongside other world leaders, he'll pay his respects to King Abdullah, who died last week at the age of 90.
While the King was considered by many to be a reformer in a deeply conservative state, human rights groups are critical that the violations of the Abdullah legacy, including unfair trails and unreasonably harsh punishments, should not be met with tacit silence on the part of the Western world.
Is the United States sending a mixed message? Toby Jones, associate professor of Middle East history at Rutgers University, and Ali A. Rizvi, a Pakistani-Canadian writer and friend of Raif Badawi, a liberal blogger who was publicly flogged in Saudi Arabia, weigh in.
In the wake of the Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice shootings in Staten Island, Ferguson and Cleveland, protestors marched in cities across the country to demonstrate against police brutality.
Today, Sunil Dutta, a 17-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, explains why he believes citizens need to take more responsibility to ensure that a routine stop doesn't escalate.
Dutta speaks on his own behalf, not on behalf of the LAPD. He tells The Takeaway that citizens need to understand the enormous pressure officers face—and the abuse they often take from those on the street.
Dan Pashman is the host of WNYC's Sporkful podcast and author of "Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious." All week long, he'll be giving us a daily dip for each day leading up to the game. Today he breaks down the elements that go into America's most popular category of dips: Salsas.
One of Dan's favorite salsa-like dips is deconstructed elotes, adapted from Food and Wine Magazine.
One hundred and thirty five years ago today, on January 27, 1880, America’s world famous inventor, Thomas Alva Edison, received the patent for his long-lasting, indoor electric light bulb.
Just weeks earlier, on New Year’s Eve 1879, Edison had unveiled his incandescent lamp to great acclaim at a media event he staged at his Menlo Park research laboratory in New Jersey.
Edison would eventually receive more than 1,000 U.S. patents for his inventions, including one for an early motion picture device and the phonograph, which recorded and reproduced sounds like the human voice.
The Takeaway speaks with Michelle Ferrari, the writer, director and co-producer of the new PBS American Experience documentary, “Edison,” produced by our partner WGBH, and Nancy Koehn, a historian at the Harvard Business School and a contributor to the film.
Ferrari and Koehn explain the reasons for Edison’s enduring fame, including his early success at self promotion and personal branding, and discuss the darker side of Edison's fiercely competitive nature.
"Edison" premieres on AMERICAN EXPERIENCE PBS, Jan. 27, at 9PM ET.
Today, 300 former prisoners gather at the site of an unspeakable atrocity to mark an anniversary and recall their stories of survival.
Seventy years ago today, on January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in O?wi?cim, Poland. Over the course of the Holocaust, 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz-Birkenau, about 90 percent of them Jews.
As world leaders gather to remember the Nazi atrocities, and those who perished under their rule, historian John Henry Crosby joins The Takeaway to remember a man who stood against National Socialism, as early as 1923—a full decade before Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.
Crosby is the principal editor and translator of "My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich," the memoir of Dietrich von Hildebrand. He discusses von Hildebrand's lifelong battle against Nazism and anti-Semitism, and the philosopher's legacy today.
For half a century, the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge has served as the home of countless species and a few Native American communities.
Alaskan politicians have also craved the opportunity to open up the Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development, saying companies could surgically drill in the refuge to minimize environmental impact.
Now, President Obama has announced a plan to protect the Refuge from resource development—a move that would protect nearly the 12 million acres of land by designating it as wilderness.
If adopted, the president's proposal would prevent any future oil and gas development in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge by essentially giving it a similar status as a national treasure like Yellowstone National Park.
Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski responded to the announcement by calling it "a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive."
Kyle Hopkins, special correspondent for the L.A. Times in Anchorage, AK explains the president's proposal and the Alaskan response.
Coined in 1982 by two college professors, the "broken windows" theory held that a police force can make communities safer by cracking down on minor crimes—things like broken windows. By pursuing low-level offenses, many argue that police departments can play a powerful role in deterring more serious crimes.
George Kelling was one of the professors behind the theory, which was first published as a 1982 article in "The Atlantic" he co-wrote with James Wilson.
"Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken," Wilson and Kelling wrote. "One unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing."
They concluded: "Just as physicians now recognize the importance of fostering health rather than simply treating illness, so the police—and the rest of us—ought to recognize the importance of maintaining, intact, communities without broken windows."
Kelling, now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, discusses his theory and reflects on the current state of police-community relations in America.
A Magic Bullet to Fight Crime?
“Our belief from the beginning was that order was an important part of any civilized society,” says Kelling. “If you’re going to have a strong education [system], strong faith institutions, and strong commerce, you have to have minimal levels of order. And we believed order was an end in itself.”
When developing the “broken windows” theory, Kelling says that he and Wilson examined research that shows that “disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked.” In that initial article, Kelling and Wilson speculated that community disorder might also be linked to serious crimes—an argument that has become one of the most controversial subjects in the “broken windows” debate.
“It started with this idea that any civilized society has to have minimal levels of order,” he says. “Strangers have to feel comfortable for a city to really thrive.”
Kelling says that one of the first incarnations of “broken windows” as an actual police practice was within the New York City subway system. He says there was a broad warning that police would be cracking down on fare evasion.
“The whole idea was to persuade people to behave in appropriate ways,” he says. “Those that persisted might ultimately wind up being arrested. But even then, we sent out booking busses so we would interfere with peoples’ lives for as short a period of time as we possibly could. The idea that ‘broken windows’ is, at least as I perceived it and have worked to implement it, that it’s focused on getting arrests is really a serious misconception.”
Though some related research was examined, the “broken windows” theory was not actually based on data. Rather, it was developed out of impressions raised by social scientists.
“We were clear at the beginning that it was speculation,” says Kelling. “I don’t think it’s speculation anymore. Right now, my own feeling is that the burden of proof is no longer on those who advocate ‘broken windows.’ The burden of proof is on those who suggest that it doesn’t have any impact on crime.”
Since the 1980s, crime in the United States has dropped significantly—in 2013, the number of violent crimes dropped to their lowest levels since the 1970s. However, Kelling says that “broken windows” shouldn’t be viewed as a sort of magic bullet for combatting crime.
“It’s easy to oversell the impact that ‘broken windows’ has had on serious crime,” he says. “New York City is the classic example. There were all kinds of targeted anti-crime efforts that had nothing to do with ‘broken windows.’ ‘Broken windows’ was a base—there was a perception that fear had to be reduced, order had to be maintained, and it could also contribute to a reduction in crime. But there were all kinds of other tactics.”
Abuse & Misuse
Yet, more than 30 years ago, both Kelling and Wilson knew that the “broken windows” theory presented risks, and they feared that the theory would be abused.
“We fearful of [negative consequences] from the very beginning,” he says. “The history of the use of loitering laws and vagrancy laws is a very sad history. It was used during the post-Civil War period and into the 20th century to keep many African-Americans in virtual slavery. We understood that it had enormous potential for abuse.”
Back in the ‘80s, Kelling says the original article that laid out the “broken windows” theory raised issues that many would now refer to as racial profiling. When grappling with questions of justice and equity, the authors wrote, “How do we ensure, in short, that the police do not become the agents of neighborhood bigotry?”
“We were raising these issues out of concern that, as ‘broken windows’ ideas worked their way into policy, that it had to be done with considerable concern for how discretion was used and that it was used appropriately,” says Kelling. “We expected even then that it was a powerful tool, and like many other powerful tools, that it had capacity for abuse and misuse.”
Nowadays, many of the communities at the center of “broken windows” policing models, often communities of color, feel unfairly targeted by the practice.
“It’s a sad commentary that it’s come to this because we’ve made so much progress,” says Kelling. “When I first start to consider how neighborhoods ought to be policed, the first thing I account is victimization—who’s suffering the most? Almost regardless of where you go in the United States, whether you’re talking about New York or Seattle, one finds that it’s the poor and minorities that are suffering from crime and disorder.”
Kelling believes that the “demand for order in minority communities is strong.” He adds, however, that police should be using the “broken windows” model to operate on behalf of citizens.
“For me, ‘broken windows’ has always been a subsumed or is a tactic under community policing,” he says. “Police operate on behalf of citizens. They have to work with citizens.”
Kelling says that the consequences will be great if police departments solely work in the name of getting more arrests or driving crime down.
“Minority communities have a history of two problems with the police, and one is police brutality—that is a serious problem that has to be dealt with,” he says. “But the second is under policing...My fear is that because of the questions that are being raised now about the overuse of authority, we’re going to under police minority communities again. And that comes at a great, great cost.”
From the terrorist attacks in Paris to the men and women being recruited every day by militant groups like the Islamic State, how much do we understand about the origins of terrorism? What makes someone commit to these kinds of groups that hold such extremist ideals?
One anthropologist, Scott Atran, is trying to answer those very questions.
Atran is a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the University of Michigan. He and his team have gone in the field to interview convicted terrorists and would-be terrorists to better understand what draws them to extremist ideologies.
Dan Pashman is the host of WNYC's Sporkful podcast and author of "Eat More Better: How to Make Every Bite More Delicious." All week long, he'll be giving us a daily dip for each day leading up to the game. Today he breaks down the elements that go into a game favorite: Multi-layer dips.
Looking for a more complex multilayer taco dip? Dan recommends this recipe from Taste of Home—just be sure to leave out the lettuce.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama pledged to triple the maximum child care tax credit to $3,000.
"In today's economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality child care more than ever," he said.
While it's fairly simple for parents to find out if a day care program is affordable, determining its quality is a different matter.
States license and inspect daycare and preschool programs. The majority of states put these records online and make them easily searchable, allowing parents to find out if a prospective school has violations or other problems.
Parents in Indiana, for example, can easily access state records on the Family and Social Services Administration website. But that's not the case California, the home of Silicon Valley, where more than a million kids attend these programs.
Katharine Mieszkowski, senior reporter for Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, realized this when her daughter's preschool closed unexpectedly.
As she tells The Takeaway, to access state inspection reports—reports paid for with taxpayer dollars—California parents have to call and leave a message with an obscure government office, and hope that someone returns their call.
No one ever returned Katharine's call, and most parents don't even know the reports exist, much less who to call to access them.
Katharine found one family in Santa Clarita, the Baayouns, whose daughter attended the Sierra School. The preschool racked up so many violations, the state tried to shut it down. Instead, a judge put it on probation for three years—with the provision that the school had to inform parents of the judge's probation order.
The Baayouns had already pulled their daughter out of school after an incident on the playground that left her with a black eye. The daughter claimed a teacher hit her; the schools claims she fell. The sheriff investigated, but not charges were filed.
When Katharine presented the Baayouns with the state inspection reports, detailing the myriad violations at Sierra School and the judge's probation order, the parents claimed they'd never seen them before—they had no idea that the school had so many problems.
The school claims they had informed the parents, and sent Katharine pages of signed documents, supposedly from parents, stating they had received notice of the judge's probation order. There was even one from the Baayouns that was dated two months after their daughter had left the school.
The Baayouns claim the documented was "fabricated and false." Now, the state is trying to shut down the school—again.
After CIR's initial reporting, the state finally passed a law, mandating that the Department of Social Services put at least some information about inspections and complaints online. But the information is limited, and parents still can't see the exact violations for each school.
Katherine joins The Takeaway to discuss her findings and the way forward for children and families in the state of California.
Over the weekend, the group known as the Islamic State released another brutal video. The footage appeared to show one of two Japanese hostages, Kenji Goto, a 47-year-old journalist, holding a photo of what appeared to be the decapitated body of another hostage, Haruna Yukawa, 42, an adventurer.
Last week, the Islamic State demanded that Japan pay $200 million in ransom for the hostages. The threat came just days after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised $200 million in non-military aid to nations fighting the Islamic State.
But under airstrikes by the U.S. and its allies, Iraqi and Kurdish opposition troops have been emboldened to pushback ISIS on the ground in Syria. Reports from Beirut say ISIS forces have been nearly pushed out of the Syrian border town of Khobani.
Is ISIS having trouble maintaining tactical momentum amidst its continuing show of brutality?
Martin Reardon, an FBI veteran analyst and the senior vice president with the strategic consultants the Soufan Group, weighs in on the global fight against ISIS.
Greeks headed to the polls on Sunday, and voters elected one of the most radical left wing parties in Eurozone history, known as the Syriza.
“The Greek people will regain social obligation and dignity, and the message is that our common future in Europe is not the future of austerity," said Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras. "It's the future of democracy solidarity and cooperation.”
Elena Panartis, a former World Bank economist and former senior economic adviser to Prime Minister George Papandreou, served as a member of the Hellenic Parliament from 2009 to 2012. She reflects on the latest election results and what it means for Europe as a whole.
Sex and intimacy doesn’t always come easily after having kids. That's where parenting podcast "The Longest Shortest Time" comes in. They're launching a new series that can help serve as a guide to getting back in the sack after baby. Host Hillary Frank joins us to talk about the series and more.
Kailash Satyarthi has worked for decades to end child labor—he has reportedly rescued over 80,000 children from slavery. A 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Satyarthi, has had his bones broken and his life threatened by adversaries during his struggle to end child slavery.
We're in the dead of winter. To break the chill, we're celebrating an American summer icon, the Frisbee, which first went on sale 58 years ago this week. Dan Roddick, the former director of promotions for Wham-O, explains why the Frisbee has been such a success.
Its one of those rare weeks, when most of the new releases star women. Among them: 'Cake,' starring Jennifer Aniston; 'The Boy Next Door,' starring Jennifer Lopez; 'Strange Magic,' starring Evan Rachel Wood; and 'Mordecai,' starring Johnny Depp (and Gwyneth Paltrow).
In addition to reviewing the new releases, Rafer and Kristen also administer some Movie Therapy that will benefit a lot of people this time of year.
And, as always, there's trivia!!
The following blog post is by Takeaway Host John Hockenberry. Follow him on Twitter: @JHockenberry.
I am too snarky. My wife always tells me it’s bad. I may be a smart-ass, but I’m really an optimist. Hard to believe, I know—I imagine that I sound like a complete cynic on the air, not a nasty one, but a solid cynic nonetheless.
It’s not true. I’m actually kind of a crazy optimist, even in the face of terrifying things like:
I actually think that the growth of ISIS is a sign that terrorists are reaching their endgame—they’re becoming desperate and played out. Their capacity to hurt individuals is unabated of course, but their capacity to change the course of nations and history feels like it is diminishing rapidly.
“But what about nukes Mr. Takeaway?”
To which I’d reply, “Okay, decent point. But as horrible as that would be, once terrorists do that, then what?”
Look at this gang of professional end-of-worlders. Even they have had to move their own goal posts to get any attention, and I bet you haven’t even seen this story anyway.
Look at the Charlie Hebdo event: It may have propelled France toward greater pluralism, not into some race and religion motivated bloodbath.
And looking at the outrageous $200 million demands for the Japanese hostages being held by ISIS, I can’t help but think that they are feeling a little powerless right now, like Putin, or Ebola, or the people of Syria who are maybe more worthy of our attention than ISIS.
I think D.C. gridlock is breaking. I think the Tea Party’s profile is shrinking. I think the absurdity of GOP lawmakers sitting down during the State of the Union speech this week indicates an impotent powerlessness, not some confident majority mandate.
I think that President Obama’s much more reasonable sounding rhetoric is also a sign that playing the messianic global presidential healer came off as sanctimonious and absurd for much of his administration, and he’s learned something.
Call me crazy, but you can’t tell me that the stalled government thing is getting worse. I bet there is not a single government shutdown or debt crisis this year. Call me crazy, but that’s what it feels like.
Okay, global warming is getting worse but we are adapting, maybe not fast enough but humanity is not ignoring it any more. The adaptation story, whether it is to reduce emissions or to work around the consequences of climate change, is really interesting.
It’s heroic, it’s scientifically interesting, and it doesn’t mean that bad things aren’t coming from our bad choices about the environment. I just think we’ve hit bottom with our blind arrogance. We may still make stupid judgments, but from now on we know what we’re doing.
Just look at the book “The Better Angels of our Nature.” As author Stephen Pinker points out:
“Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate in medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were unexceptionable features of life for millennia, then were suddenly abolished. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the numbers they did a few decades ago. Rape, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse—all substantially down.”
Africa’s economy is rising, and a new middle class is being born. And now some are speculating that we might be seeing the beginning of the end for the continent’s tragic famines. Check this out.
No, its not over or fixed, but I can see our capacity to compassionately adapt without just giving up. Even if we can’t eliminate homelessness with a single program or transfer of wealth (as if that would even work anyway), there are creative ways of dynamically expanding our concept of home to make people without means safer. The Huffington Post has the details here.
Our sense of paranoia over the ease by which we can all be hacked or spied on by North Koreans, sociopathic dweebs, or our own NSA is not abated by some impervious concrete firewall bubble.
Instead, it is people collectively saying, “Oh puhleeze, go ahead and hack me if that floats your boat.” Again, I’m not denying the vulnerability we all face from cyberterrorism and domestic surveillance, but are young people deluded or actually smarter for viewing the NSA as less of a big deal than their worried elders? Look at the research and decide for yourself.
A Healthier Outlook
A friend of mine once asked, “Isn’t the news worse today than when you began as a journalist more than 30 years ago?”
My answer is no. He wasn’t convinced, and he told me how much he tried to get AWAY from the nasty headlines in his life. I hear that a lot, but maybe my optimism comes from looking too closely. And it's actually easier to be an optimist when you look too closely.
Take a pile of dirt. It looks nice enough in a lovely garden, then filthier and filthier as you get closer. You want to scream with terror and disgust as you plant your face in the mud, but with a magnifying glass and then a microscope, suddenly a strange, wonderful world is revealed in the muck and you stop being repulsed and can once again be as awestruck as if you were watching a sunset. Ask any microbiologist. They hate Ebola as much as the next person, but they never lose their wonder at the workings of proteins, viruses and molecules in action.
It’s time to get Mr. Takeaway’s head out of the mud. There’s an asteroid headed our way. Not a problem, though. Someday we may just be able to hitch a ride, take a break from Earth and get some much-needed supplies for our planet.
I suppose if I talked like this on the air all the time we would probably go off the air. But I think this is a healthier outlook than the persistent predatory “AHA” approach to journalism, which is all about screaming fire in the theatre. You end ending up missing the movie you came to see in the first place.
Enjoy the show, see you next time.
Magical potions, dangerous stalkers, and chronic pain take center stage in this weekend's Movie Date Podcast.
Our Movie Date Podcast co-hosts—Rafer Guzman, film critic for Newsday, and Kristen Meinzer, culture producer for The Takeaway—are here to review "Strange Magic," "The Boy Next Door," and "Cake."
Our critics say that George Lucas’s madcap musical fairy tale inspired by "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is one to miss. Both Rafer and Kristen agree that there’s nothing redeemable about this smurfs-meet-Shakespeare story from the creator of Jar Jar Binks.
“It’s horrible,” Kristen says. “This is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.”
While it may be an acceptable diversion for bored toddlers, this movie is a parent killer.
“It’s so hard to watch,” Kristen says. “The characters are charmless, the music mashups are just so misguided, and I just felt like it belonged on a straight to video [release].”
This thriller stars Jennifer Lopez as a single mom who, after a steamy night with a young neighbor, finds herself the target of his dangerous obsession.
“It’s just like ‘Fatal Attraction’ turned on its head,” Kristen says. “ I have to say, I did not expect it, but I loved this movie.”
Rafer agrees, and says the film might point to some larger trends.
“It’s fun, a little trashy, very soap opera-ish,” Rafer says. “Very, very steamy and very surprising. I think we might already be seeing the ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ effect here.”
In “Cake,” Jennifer Aniston plays a woman struggling with chronic pain that’s also grappling with the suicide of one of the members of her support group.
“I thought it was amazing,” Kristen says. “I’m shocked Jennifer Aniston didn’t get an Oscar nod for this. I don’t expect much of her, but she was wonderful in this.”
Final verdict: Give it a shot.
Subscribe to The Movie Date Podcast here. Each podcast includes extended movie reviews, trivia, listener mail, celebrity interviews, and lots of banter.
We're in the dead of winter. To break the chill, we're celebrating am American summer icon: The Frisbee. The first mass-marketed Frisbee went on sale 58 years ago this week.
The flying discs, which at the time, were called "Pluto Platters," and were an instant hit. It would be another year before toymaker Wham-O gave them the catchier name "Frisbee" in honor of the Frisbie Pie Company's pie tins thrown by Yale students in Connecticut.
It's hard to find a precise number for total Frisbee sales in the past six decades, but when Fred Morrison, who made the first plastic Frisbees, died five years ago, The New York Times estimated that at least 200 million Frisbees had been sold in his lifetime.
The Frisbee's longevity and success has a lot to do with Wham-O's marketing strategy. Dan Roddick former director of promotions for Wham-O, reflects on his long, surprising career with the company.
Language is something that many of us take for granted. We use it everyday, and more often than not, we can find people who share the same languages as us.
We can communicate in those languages, tell stories, and in the process, partake in an oral tradition unique to our alphabet, vocabulary and culture.
But that's not true of everyone. In some parts of the world, there are only a few dozen people left who speak a language, or in some cases, only one person. In fact, of the 6,000 languages humans speak, half of them will be extinct in the next 50 years.
The new PBS documentary "Language Matters," premiering January 25, looks at some of these languages, and what may die along with them.
The documentary is hosted by poet Bob Holman and is directed by David Grubin. Both Holman and Grubin share their thoughts on language and loss with The Takeaway.
“There’s a very unusual situation in aboriginal Australia,” Holman says. “Charlie Mangulda is the last speaker of Amurdak...When he forgets a word, there’s nobody he can ask what that word is; it’s gone. When that language is gone, it’s gone forever.”
Mangulda has helped keep alive Amurdak, which Holman says is tens of thousands of years old, through poetry.
“They keep their language alive through various forms,” Holman says. “While we were busy making inventions, they were busy working on their languages. One of them is a spirit language that we don’t know how to translate. All we know is that he’s talking to his ancestors in a very special way. It’s part of the way the language has survived.”
Most of the world’s languages that are dying are oral languages that have no written tradition. However, just because these languages have no written existence doesn’t mean they are less advanced.
“These are very sophisticated languages,” says Grubin. "They’re filled with profound myths and stories, they just happen to be oral.”
A changing culture is also responsible for the demise of oral language—humans increasingly live in an era where the preferred medium of communication is through written words (think text messages and emails) and even symbols (think emojis).
“It’s part of the reason these languages are dying out so fast now,” says Holman.
However, even with the shift towards the written word, Holman says that technology is also helping oral languages.
“In a way, the digital consciousness is a kind of synthesis of orality and literacy,” he says. “Now, for the first time, we are able to actually record these oral languages in a way that gives them their fullness.”
Often those who speak these dying languages want to converse in the language of the mainstream culture, but they also feel a deep sense of attachment to their native tongues.
“It’s complicated,” says Grubin. “We can understand why people who speak endangered languages want to join the dominant language—as one person says in our film, ‘It’s for our babies, we want them to succeed.’ On the other hand, there are people in these culture that are so proud of their language.”
Holman says that the answer to this crisis might be simpler than we think: Societies must encourage speakers of endangered language to be multilingual. But doing so is easier said than done.
“People have felt that in order to assimilate, they have to leave their whole identity behind,” he says. “It’s reached such a pitch that we’re losing languages that are actually treasures of humanity—they’re systems of consciousness that connect us to the planet in a way that is unique.”
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died Friday at the age of 90 after being admitted to a hospital for a lung infection on December 31. Abdullah's brother, Crown Prince Salman, announced that he had assumed the throne in a smooth transition of power.
King Abdullah, who ascended to the throne in 2005, was one of the most wealthy and powerful people in the world—he controlled a fifth of the Earth’s known petroleum reserves, and served as the custodian of Islam’s holiest sites: Mecca and Medina.
Though he opposed pro-democracy movements in the Middle East, he took more moderate stances in other contexts: In 2013, he was the first Saudi monarch to appoint women to government positions, selecting 30 women to serve on the 150 member Shura Council.
James Smith, the former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2009 to 2013, and Robert Worth, a longtime foreign correspondent for our partner The New York Times and a current fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, reflect on King Abdullah's complicated legacy.
Every Friday, Sean Rameswaram, a producer with Studio 360 and host of the podcast Sideshow, rounds up the week in internet phenomena.
This week in "Thanks, Internet," Sean talks to John Hockenberry about the online treasures you may have missed.
Late last year, Paper Magazine tried to “break the internet” with artfully ridiculous nude portraits of Kim Kardashian taken by the French photographer Jean-Paul Goude.
As Paul Ford wrote on Medium this week, the images instantly launched a thousand think pieces on "Kardashian, her body, the female body in general, the male gaze, buttock proportionality, reality television, consumerism, feminism, racism, the media, female and male sexuality, nudity, privilege, motherhood, and Kanye West."
They also instantly became a meme, with jokers photoshopping anything from Krispy Kremes and unicorns to replace Kim’s posterior.
Ford explains in great detail how Paper Magazine buttressed its site in advance of the photos going live to prevent it from crashing. It’s a funny and somehow entertaining look at the back-end of our totally insane cultural internet phenomena.
There's a lot of re-cutting happening on the tubes. Steven Soderbergh made 2001: A Space Odyssey shorter, countless fans have had fun with Star Wars, and now, we have a shorter version of Peter Jackson's interminable Hobbit Trilogy.
The Hobbit: The Tolkien Edit takes the over nine hours (!) of An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of the Five Armies and trims them down into a single four-hour film. Action sequences (like the one above) are shorter, peripheral characters disappear, and flashbacks are few and far between. Unlike most of the internet's superfan edits, this one is a public service.
The 90s gave us grunge, and a whole lot of dead plant life. It just took almost two decades for anyone to notice—at least publicly. deathandtaxes published an authoritative collection of all the zombie trees that appeared in mainstream 90s music videos this week, from Nirvana to Cranberries to Live. "Enter the Grunge Forest" explores the trees' origins while placing it alongside other notable 90s video tropes:
If asked to choose the most ubiquitous tropes of ’90s music videos, most people would offhandedly cite the bright colors of Hype Williams, or overwrought depictions of the quiet horror of middle class suburban life (like that shot in “Jeremy” where the bloody grade-schoolers are Sieg Heiling in front of an American flag, or the BBQed Barbie dolls in Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun“). Given how over the top these visual cues tended to be, it’s a bit ironic that the visual that may most succinctly sum up the attitude and aesthetic of the era was subtly tucked away in the background, so that we barely even noticed it.
Navigating the digital ecosystem can be challenging, but now we have a handmade wooden puppet to serve as our guide. In British animator Doug Hindson's two-and-a-half minute short, a nameless, faceless avatar asks the tough questions: How long before this kid is summing up his life in 140 characters? We won't end up like that couple (that doesn't speak at dinner), will we? Shouldn't I be doing something more meaningful with my time?
The puppet comes up with some decent answers, too.
This week—thanks to reddit and our friend Joel—we discovered amazing split-depth GIFs that bring super shareable internet imagery much closer to the third dimension. Just weeks in, 2015 is looking like a very good year for our favorite file extension.
Over the last decade, with rumors about a supposed link between Autism and childhood vaccines, a number of parents have decided against vaccinating their children.
That's left those children—and the adults who care for them—vulnerable to diseases, as many parents recently discovered after a trip to Disneyland.
A measles outbreak tied to the park has infected at least 42 Disneyland visitors and workers, with 67 confirmed cases in all. The theme park is in Orange County, near Los Angeles—an area some have described as the heart of the anti-vaccination movement.
In 2013, the Los Angeles Times found that in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, nearly 15 percent of kindergartners had not been inoculated; the same was true for more than nine percent of kindergartners at Capistrano Unified in south Orange County. Because of the outbreak, those children are now being kept home from school.
Dr. Shruti Gohil, associate medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention at the University of California, Irvine, tells The Takeaway about the public health risks involved in the measles outbreak, why the anti-vaccination movement has left many at risk, and how she talks to her patients about vaccines.
Who's responsible for maintaining the air pressure in NFL footballs? That question is on the minds of football fans across the nation as America grapples with a scandal that's become known as DeflateGate.
According to reports, The New England Patriots deliberately deflated balls in last week's game against the Indianapolis Colts to give them an unfair advantage on the field—a game they ultimately won. They're now headed for a face-off against the Seattle Seahawks in Superbowl XLIX.
Jane McManus, reporter for ESPN, has the latest details on DeflateGate.
France is home to 500,000 Jews—the largest community in Europe. Last year, France also served as the largest source of Jewish immigration to Israel, and 15,000 more French Jews are expected to emigrate to Israel in 2015.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and the attack on the Parisian Kosher market that followed, Jews in France and throughout Europe are wary. But the problem has been building for years, as German broadcaster Deutche Wells noted in a recent documentary.
Denis Bankemoun, a French Jew who planned to emigrate, told a Deutche Welles reporter, "There are clear historical parallels. The slogans scrawled on stores owned by Jews, we saw that back in the 1930s. One day we'll wake up here and see a new pogrom, a new Night of Broken Glass. That could happen in France today."
Jews in Belgium, Germany, and other European countries have echoed Bankemoun's sentiments. In July 2014, Jessica Frommer, a young Jewish woman from Belgium, told Takeaway partner The New York Times: "The fear is that now things are blatantly being said openly, and no one is batting an eyelid."
Rabbi Andrew Baker is director of International Jewish Affairs at the American Jewish Committee. He also serves as a special envoy for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and he speaks with Takeaway host John Hockenberry from Paris.
"There's not a flood... an exodus of Jews," he says, "but there are many more Jews who are wondering about their future or their children's future."
Before the Hebdo and kosher market attacks, Rabbi Baker says, French officials did little to protect Jewish communities. He says that while attitudes and actions have changed in the wake of the attacks, more measures must be taken to defend Jewish communities in France and throughout Europe.
"What you have in France is a very strong tradition of secularism, which bans the displays of...religious symbols in public," Rabbi Baker explains. "But the notion that somehow everyone is French, and that these community identities don't matter, obviously is not the reality."
Indian human rights activist, Kailash Satyarthi has worked for decades to end child labor. Satyarthi is reported to have rescued over 80,000 children and adolescents from slavery since founding Bachpan Bachao Andolan, the “save the childhood movement,” back in 1980.
Last year, the Nobel Committee jointly awarded Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai the Nobel Peace Prize “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
The Nobel Committee commended Satyarthi for, “showing great personal courage” in his peaceful efforts to end the exploitation of children, and for contributing “to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.”
While Yousafzai was well known for her heroic stand against the Taliban, Satyarthi—a former electrical engineer—had kept a fairly low profile before winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
Today The Takeaway talks with Satyarthi about his work on behalf of some of the world’s most vulnerable children.
Clint Eastwood’s new Iraq War film “American Sniper” has surpassed all box office expectations this month. During a time of year that’s normally quiet for movie theaters, the film raked in $105 million over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, making it the largest opening ever for an R-rated movie or a drama.
"American Sniper," which stars Bradley Cooper and is based on the real story of U.S. Navy Seal and elite sniper Chris Kyle, continues a trend that began earlier this year with the popularity of "Lone Survivor." That film, starring Mark Wahlberg, was based on the real experiences of four Navy Seals on a mission to kill a Taliban leader.
These box office trends are in stark contrast to the trends of just a few years ago. For example, "The Hurt Locker" earned critical praise, but sold almost no tickets.
Despite being a hit with audiences, “American Sniper,” which was nominated for six Academy Awards, has come under fire for its glorification of war and violence. Is there something about this Eastwood film that has made it a success, or is it timing? Are Americans finally able to more deeply examine the consequences of the Iraq War?
Robert McKee is an award winning author and lecturer on the art of story on film. McKee has done extensive research on the depiction of war in the movies. He shares his thoughts on "American Sniper," and on where audiences stand on war films today.
“There was a tremendous curiosity in America to understand this war and try to understand what it was like to fight in this war, and what the point of this war was,” says McKee. “Many years ago, ‘Apocalypse Now’ raised the same sort of big questions in America’s minds about Vietnam, but it doesn’t answer them very well.”
McKee says that “American Sniper” does seek to address the hard questions of war that are often lodged in the American psyche. Others, however, have said the film is rewriting history.
“War is a kind of goldmine for storytelling,” says McKee. “The conflict is instantaneous, and the morality has to be sorted out. I think one of the reasons for the success of ‘American Sniper’ is it does try its best to somehow sort out morality. In the past, the notion of being a sniper always had a negative connotation.”
McKee says that snipers weren’t always so revered because of the way they seem to “ambush” their targets.
“It just always seemed somehow unfair—the sniper cannot be seen and [they’re] killing people in plain view who are unaware,” he says. “That always had an unheroic connotation to it. To turn that into a positive is, in a sense, one way to rationalize America in the Middle East. There’s a lot of negative feelings throughout the country from 9/11. This film tries to sort the good from the evil.”
Additionally, one of the reasons McKee believes “American Sniper” has been a success is because of the film’s title. Unlike “Hurt Locker” or “Fury,” the title of Eastwood’s film tells consumers what to expect without ever seeing a trailer or movie poster.
“The marketing of this film was brilliant, starting with the title,” McKee says. “That kind of clarity of marketing sets an audience up to sit down and get into exactly what it’s about—titling films is an often overlooked art.”
When the United States entered the fight against ISIS, it did so as the main partner to Iraq, launching airstrikes to push back militants.
But increasingly, people on the ground in Iraq say that Iran is overshadowing the U.S., playing a more significant and strategic role in every aspect of society.
Ali Khedery is the chairman and chief executive of Dragoman Partners. He served as special assistant to five American ambassadors in Iraq, and as senior adviser to three heads of the Central Command from 2003-2010.
Khedery says that Iran's growing influence in Iraq and the rest of the region is detrimental to all players, including the United States.
On Wednesday?, the Obama Administration found itself clashing with both Republican and Democratic senators about whether a new round of sanctions against Iran might prevent the U.S. and Iran from reaching a deal in nuclear talks.
Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington Correspondent, ?has the story.
?When Mt. Vesuvius erupted in the year 79 AD, life stopped in the city of Pompeii and its neighbor, Herculaneum. Entire households and whole communities were enveloped in hot lava, instantly creating, for archaeologists, a phenomenally detailed record of daily life in the ancient Roman empire.
One of the most historically valuable artifacts from Herculaneum was a set of papyrus rolls discovered in a grand villa believed to be the home of Julius Caesar's father-in-law.
Those rolls were first excavated in 1752, but for the last 250 years, the majority of them have been entirely unreadable. That's because they were sealed shut, carbonized by the heat of the volcano.
But now, a team of researchers have used x-ray technology to see, for the first time, the text inside the scrolls. Their findings were published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.
David Sider, a professor of classics at New York University, has studied some of the few legible texts from Herculaneum—and he's excited to have the opportunity, now, to read more.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has seen his approval rate slide to it's worst point in nearly four years: On Wednesday, Quinnipiac University released a poll that shows that 46 percent of New Jersey voters approve of the governor's performance, with 48 percent disapproving.
To date, the Bridgegate scandal has cost New Jersey taxpayers more than $9.9 million—a large price tag for a state that currently ranks 49th in job creation and has been downgraded by the S&P eight times. The state's transportation fund is also nearing bankruptcy, and New Jersey's pension fund is in a state of crisis.
Perhaps that's why the governor has been spending more time away from his home state. In 2014, he spent at least 152 days, or 42 percent of his time, outside New Jersey.
Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, will hit the road again this weekend with a visit to Iowa. Early next month he'll also visit the United Kingdom.
Matt Katz, reporter for New Jersey Public Radio and host of WNYC's "Christie Tracker" podcast, weighs in on the governor's movements, and his potential for 2016.
In his determination to make diplomatic progress with Iran, President Obama said last night during the State of the Union that he would veto any new Iranian sanctions from Congress, saying they will sabotage current talks and send an unwelcome and mixed message.
Today, House Speaker John Boehner sought to clarify the message by welcoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress early next month—a very direct raising of the stakes in this sanctions dispute.
“I did not consult with the White House,” Boehner told reporters on Wednesday. “The Congress can make this decision on its own. I don't believe I'm poking anyone in the eye. There is a serious threat that exists in the world and the president last night kind of papered over it. The fact is there needs to be a more serious conversation in American about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.”
Daniel Levy, the director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, was a negotiator under Israeli's Prime Ministers Ehud Barack and Yitzhak Rabin. He weighs in on the Netanyahu visit, and what it could mean for U.S. relations with Israel and Iran.
There are tons of blog post, articles, and books about parenting—everything from being a "Tiger Mom" to getting your kids to eat (and love!) raw food. But at least one topic needs more discussion: Sex.
The series ranges from a NSFW guide to getting back in the sack, to recovering from childbirth injuries, to teens whose attitudes toward parenthood are totally transformed after 48 hours with electronic babies.
To kick off the series, The Takeaway's Senior Producer Arwa Gunja, and Takeaway Culture Producer Kristen Meinzer, sat down with Hillary Frank, the host of The Longest Shortest Time. She discusses this podcast project and much more.
You'll also hear from Dan Savage, sex advice columnist and host of The Savage Love Cast, and Jane Marie, a former This American Life producer and a writer for Cosmopolitan.com's column, "The Secret Life of Marrieds."
*Editor's Note: The topics discussed in this interview may not be appropriate for children.
Argentine federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman's body was found beside the gun that shot him. His death comes mere days after he accused President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and top members of her government of conspiring with Iran to shield the suspects of the nation's deadliest terror attack.
For the last decade, Nisman had been investigating the attack—a 1994 suicide bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Early in the case, he took a swipe at Iran, saying that they had financially supported Hezbollah to carry out the attack.
It wasn't until last week, however, that he leveled accusations at the Argentine government, including President Krichner personally, of conspiring to cover up the involvement of Iranian officials in the bombing.
After his death, Argentine officials were quick to declare his passing a suicide, but protesters took to the streets carrying signs that read "Cristina murderer" and "I am Nisman." Elisa Carrió, an Argentine lawmaker, accused the government of killing Nisman or orchestrating his suicide.
British journalist and author Jimmy Burns, a specialist in Argentine politics and history, was the Financial Times bureau chief in Buenos Aires during the 1980's. He weighs in on the case, and Nisman's mysterious death.
Last night during his State of the Union address, President Obama made a point to say that the housing industry in America is back.
One indication is the latest drop in mortgage rates—the average rate for a 30-year fix-rate mortgage fell to 3.8 percent at the end of last week, the lowest it’s been since May 2013. Some experts say now is a good time to think about refinancing or buying.
James Surowiecki, a financial columnist for The New Yorker, explains.
Can America still do big things? Last night in his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama said the answer is unequivocally yes.
"The shadow of crisis has passed and the state of the union is strong," the president told members of Congress.
In an hour long address, President Obama laid out his vision for the future of America. Defiant at times to Republican opposition, Mr. Obama vowed to use his veto power when necessary and to continue pushing through legislation to improve the economy for middle class Americans.
President Obama's ambitious agenda spanned the gamut and touched on topics like LGBT rights, access to paid family and sick leave, community college, the fight against the Islamic State, the closing of Guantánamo Bay, access to high-speed internet, immigration issues, and more.
But Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich says that the most important part of the president's address was the subtext. He reads between the lines for us here.
And Dr. Tim Kane, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, weighs in on the GOP response to the address.
During his address, the president asked the estimated 30 million Americans who tuned in what kind of future they are willing to accept.
“At this moment—with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production—we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years, and for decades to come," President Obama said.
He continued: "Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”
What we expect of our president likely differs by party affiliation, but the historical records shows that some presidents are more effective than others.
President Johnson accomplished a great deal in just five years. While he had little success in foreign policy, he achieved much of his domestic agenda: Medicaid, Head Start, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, and much more.
President Reagan served two full terms in the White House. His achievements extended beyond the domestic sphere, particularly in terms of the Cold War, which began to thaw toward the end of his second term.
In 1987, for example, President Reagan and Soviet Premier Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty, the first agreement to call for the destruction of nuclear weapons—more than 2,600 in total.
Compared with these predecessors, President Obama seems to have a much narrower agenda. Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University and author of "The Age of Reagan: A History," looks at whether American's expectations of our presidents have changed over time—and how a leader's attitude toward politics influences his ability to govern.
Picture the scene: A brother is trying to force his 15-year-old sister to marry a man against her will. Fadi and his sister, Reem, are Syrian refugees living in a camp in Jordan with thousands of others just like them. The pair has a tough life and surely things would be a lot better for Reem if she could get out of the camp and start a new life with a Jordanian husband.
Reem and Faidi may sound real, but they are fictional characters in a new radio soap opera called, “We Are All Refugees.”
The popular soap has been airing in Arabic throughout the Middle East as a pilot series on Radio SouriaLi, a non-profit and independent radio station co-founded by a Syrian exile, Honey Al Sayed, who is based in Washington D.C.
The Takeaway talks with Al-Sayed, and British filmmaker and journalist Charlotte Eagar, both co-producers of the soap, which was funded in part by the United Nations refugees agency (UNHCR). According to Eagar, the idea for the series came to her when she visited Zaatari, a U.N. refugee camp in Jordan.
“We were looking at putting on a production of Euripides’ great anti-war tragedy, ‘The Trojan Women,’ which is about refugees,” says Eagar. “We were looking at doing it with Syrian refugees, which we did last year.”
While looking for a cast for the play, Eagar said the refugee women in Zaatari began to tell her stories about the very real drama associated with living in the camp. The real life challenges facing refugees inspired “We Are Refugees,” which is written by a joint team of both Syrians and Jordanians and has so far broadcast a six-part pilot.
“The lead character in our soap opera is a young guy called Firas,” says Eagar. “He’s a young Syrian, and his mother and his sister [live] in the refugee camp with his elder brother. The elder brother wants to marry the sister off to keep her safe, and he wants to marry a sexy young widow named Nora.”
Firas, who works as a depressed and underpaid valet parker, was once an incredibly talented musician—a passion he abandoned after his middle class family pushed him to become an engineer. He fled Syria because of the war, ultimately abandoning his engineering degree.
“He ends up in Amman,” says Eagar. “Suddenly, his music becomes the door through which he can go and have a new and interesting life.”
Firas discovers that a professional musician in Jordan can earn much more than a valet parker. Though it was viewed as an “irresponsible” choice in his upper middle class Syrian community, Firas reinvents himself like so many other refugees.
For Al-Sayed, the time has long been right for this type of storytelling.
“This is something I’ve been advocating for for a very long time,” she says. “I truly believe in the interplay of the arts and the media. When they come together, it’s amazing what it can do for peacebuilding practitioners, what it can do for transition in conflict, and what it can do to reform a whole conflict.”
The narrative of “We Are All Refugees” works with the population being affected—it tells a story that is independent of the fighters, the government, and even the media.
“When you have these narratives told, for people who speak the language, this is a healing process for them,” says Al-Sayed. “This allows them to have a dialogue, it opens up their eyes and it’s like an educational tool through a narrative. You’re not giving them a lesson about peace; you’re not giving them a lesson about their life—this is life.”
Eagar and Al-Sayed say the production team is currently raising funds to record “We Are All Refugees" in English, and hopes to eventually broadcast the soap in the U.S. and the U.K.
“To have this in English is very important,” says Al-Sayed. “There’s no lack of information about news of what’s happening in Syria. It’s the narrative that’s being told that’s the issue...The limited narrative, it’s limiting the people as a whole.”
With more than 3.7 million refugees, Eagar says the narrative of the Syrian crisis is one that the world cannot forget. Additionally, by letting refugees tell their own stories, Eagar says that the world can better protect displaced people from the lure of radical groups like the Islamic State.
“We have a moral obligation to help people,” she says. “It’s in our best interests—these refugee camps are the recruiting grounds of ISIS...If you’re in a refugee camp and you have no hope, no money, and life’s awful, you may well go to the guys who are giving you a cause, money, and a gun. What we really hope is that by getting their story out there the world will really sit up and look and see that something has to be done.”
You can listen to the first part of The Takeaway's conversation with Honey Al-Sayed here.
?On Tuesday, members of the Islamic State released a new video featuring two Japanese hostages. In the video, a masked member of ISIS is heard saying that the hostages will be killed within 72 hours unless Japan pays $200 million in ransom.
The threat comes just days after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised $200 million in non-military aid to nations fighting the Islamic State.
In the hostage video, a masked member of ISIS called the Japanese government's decision to support the fight against ISIS "foolish."
Martin Fackler, a Tokyo-based reporter for our partner The New York Times, explains Japan's stake in the fight against ISIS.
In Yemen, armed fighters from the Houthi militia have reportedly made another attempt on the government in Sanaa.
The government faces numerous challenges, not the least of which is dealing with U.S. attacks in its territory against Al Qaeda, and Saudi efforts to limit Iran's growing influence there.
Iona Craig, an independent journalist in London who just returned from Yemen, says numerous factions in Yemen make stability very difficult to assess.
In 1993, President Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, mandating 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees who need to care for loved ones or bond with a newborn baby.
The Obama Administration wants to expand on President Clinton's legacy. Few Americans can take three months of leave without pay, and as the baby boomer generation ages, more and more Americans will need to provide elder care for their families.
In tonight's State of the Union, the President will announce his plan to expand paid leave for workers, starting with the federal government.
Betsey Stevenson, a member of the president's Council of Economic Advisors and a professor of Public Policy and Economics at the University of Michigan, is one of the architects of President Obama's parental leave plan.
She discusses her economic research on paid family leave, and explains why she believes the policy will benefit both workers and the American economy.
Paid Leave: The Economic & Social Impacts
“The president is calling for Congress to pass legislation that would allow millions of working Americans to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave per year,” says Stevenson. “The idea that workers should be able to earn paid sick leave is one that Americans around the country support.”
Stevenson says earned paid sick leave benefits have been supported by American voters—in November, Massachusetts became the third state in the nation (Connecticut and California were first) to guarantee paid sick days for workers, for example. Voters approved the sick leave ballot initiative by a margin of 60 percent.
“[President Obama] is also proposing $2 billion in new funds to encourage states to develop paid family and medical leave programs,” add Stevenson.
Under the president’s proposal, the U.S. Department of Labor will use $1 million in existing funding to help states and cities conduct feasibility studies that might aid municipalities in creating and implementing their own paid sick leave programs.
“Finally, [Obama] modernized the federal workplace by signing a presidential memorandum last week,” says Stevenson. “It directs agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid sick leave for parents with a new child. He’s also calling on Congress to pass legislation to give federal employees an additional six weeks of paid parental leave.”
As it stands right now, federal employees do not have the right to take paid paternity or maternity leave. Worldwide, only two nations don’t have some form of legally protected, partially paid time off for working women who’ve just had a baby: Papua New Guinea and the United States.
"What the research shows clearly is that adopting these types of family-friendly policies are good for parents, are good for workers, and it's good for the economy," says Stevenson.
Businesses that adopt paid leave policies often see positive results, Stevenson adds. A study of over 700 firms by the Centre for Economic Performance found that companies with work-life balance policies had higher productivity. Other research suggests that it can even boost corporate profits.
“When California implemented paid family leave a decade ago, lots of employers expressed concern that allowing for paid family leave would hurt their bottom line,” says Stevenson. “But six years into the program, in 2010, 90 percent of employers reported that the law did not negatively affect their productivity, profitability, morale or turnover.”
The Hidden Cost of Paid Leave?
Kay Hymowitz, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of "Manning Up: How the Rise of Women has Turned Men into Boys," agrees that leave is important for families. But she's skeptical of the models many economists hold dear.
“I agree with a lot of what [Stevenson] said,” says Hymowitz. “But I think what people need to understand is you don’t want to bring any magical thinking into this—it’s not like it’s going to solve the gender gap or have an enormous impact on inequality.”
Hymowitz says that it’s important how the United States implements paid sick and family leave programs.
In Sweden, new parents are entitled to 480 days of leave, and for 390 of those days, they receive 80 percent of their paycheck. As Hymowitz argues, while the Swedish plan might sound like a dream come true for American parents, those benefits have hidden costs when new parents return to work—especially, she says, for mothers.
“What’s happened there, and it’s something that no one anticipated, is that it’s added to the gender wage gap,” she says. “That may be a trade off some people are willing to make, but it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste. That’s one possible downside if you don’t do it right.”
A very long period of paid family or sick leave like the kind offered in Sweden can increase the gender pay gap because it means that women will be out of the workforce for a year or sometimes longer. Such a long leave of absence cuts down on the amount of employment experience a woman can bring to the table when comparing a male job candidate.
“The more the better doesn’t always actually turn out to be that way,” says Hymowitz. “There’s also another concern that I think people have to keep in mind which has to do with employers.”
Hymowitz says long periods of paid sick leave might be taken into account by hiring managers and others when considering job applicants.
“If one [applicant] is a young woman, let’s say 30-years-old and newly married, and the other is a guy in his 40s, you could see how [the employer] might hesitate if he’s going to be thinking about the future of his firm,” says Hymowitz.
Hymowitz concedes that there is no statistical basis for such a prejudice, saying that it would be “extremely difficult” to study the negative effect.
“However, it is inevitable that if you give too many kinds of advantages or benefits to one particular group you are going to disincentivize employers from hiring them,” she adds.
On the whole, Hymowitz says that paid parental and sick leave should not be handled by the federal government, but should be rolled out on a state-by-state basis.
“We have seen, as Betsey Stevenson said, some fairly successful experiments,” says Hymowitz. “They’ve been fairly modest by international standards, but they seem to be working well enough.”
?Late last week, the Southern Education Foundation charted a small, but significant shift in the make-up of public schools around the country: For the first time in at least 50 years, more than half of all U.S public school students are living in poverty.
From a statistical perspective, it's just a subtle shift. But what that shift really means is most acutely felt by teachers. Two teachers who are well-versed in working with low-income students weigh in.
Joy De Palm is a sixth grade teacher at the Boston Teachers Union Pilot School. Larry Ferlazzo is a English teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento.
Three years ago, Honey Al-Sayed left her beloved home of Damascus, Syria, where she had long been the host of the radio program, “Good Morning Syria.”
The uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s government had made it difficult for Al-Sayed to work safely in Syria, so she left the country for the United States.
In October 2012, with the help of a number of other Syrians, Al-Sayed created Radio SouriaLi, an independent, non-profit radio station at which she works as a host and producer.
“As a team we felt the need to narrate the strife of Syrians to help humanize the Syrian crisis without downsizing Syrians to mere numbers and statistics,” she explains.
According to Al-Sayed, "SouriaLi" has a double meaning—its translation is “Syria is mine,” but it also means “surreal”—both ideas that Syrians have expressed about their country, she says.
The Takeaway speaks with Al-Sayed from Washington, D.C. about Radio SouriaLi’s success and the station’s latest project: A six-part radio soap opera co-produced with British filmmaker and journalist, Charlotte Eagar. The soap, “We Are All Refugees” is currently being broadcast in the Middle East as a pilot.
The trial of James Holmes will begin today two and a half years after he went on a shooting spree that injured 70 people and killed 12 at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.
It starts with jury selection. And for the 9,000 potential jurors, the future they face could be not just historic, but traumatic.
In addition to hearing testimony that will be graphically violent and harrowing, and deciding whether Holmes should be executed, they'll be sacrificing up to five straight months of their lives in the process—all with the paltry guaranteed wage of only $50 per day.
Here to explain what the challenges ahead for the jurors is Scott Sundby. He is a researcher with The Capitol Jury Project, a law professor at The University of Miami, and author of “A Life and Death Decision: A Jury Weighs the Death Penalty."
The United States Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska has managed to dodge unwanted scrutiny for the several decades. It even slipped in a loophole into the Animal Welfare Act, a 1966 law meant to alleviate animal suffering, to exclude research animals used to advance agricultural science.
Last year, scientist and veterinarian James Keen approached our partner The New York Times with his observations of animal abuse during his 24 years at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, a taxpayer-financed federal institution.
Reporter Michael Moss went to investigate the center during the height of the lamb season. Today in The New York Times, he reports on experiments there that led to the agonized deaths of an estimated one third of newborn lambs. He joins us here to discuss his findings.
The rich are on a roll.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg saw his wealth increase 22 percent from 2013 to 2014 to a whopping $27 billion. During the same time period, hedge fund manager George Soros saw his wealth tick up up 20 percent to $23 billion.
And just this week, a mystery buyer has dropped a colossal $150 million on a penthouse apartment in New York City. The two story, 11,000-square-foot six bedroom condo is the first single-family home to sell for more than $100 million in the city's history.
In a new study, Oxfam, an international organization focused on reducing poverty, found that by next year, the top 1 percent will own more than 50 percent of the world's wealth.
Gawain Kripke, the policy director for Oxfam, walks us through the numbers.
The following blog post is by Takeaway Host John Hockenberry. Follow him on Twitter: @JHockenberry.
Stephen Colbert is no more. That’s old news. As I wait for his return as the host of Letterman’s slot on CBS, I have been thinking about what it is he was on “The Colbert Report.”
There was much talk of his character and him being constantly “in character.” Stephen himself has done very few interviews out of character, stepping carefully away from the bombastic faux right-winger that defined his show and came to define political satire in America. He fearlessly performed in character with steely focus, even at the 2006 White House Correspondent’s Dinner—YouTube videos of his performance at the event have been seen in various incarnations more than 6 million times.
There was a discipline to that character that reminds me of the Charlie Hebdo writers. In comments before and after the tragic shootings this month, it was clear these satirists were aware of the distinct place they occupied and the role it was their responsibility to play.
After the publication of their first issue to follow the shootings, there has been concern among Hebdo purists that they might abandon their traditional role—that they might be tempted by some lure of mainstream circulation numbers or the easy embrace of mainstream sentimentality, which was suggested by the conciliatory image “All is Forgiven” that appeared on their most recent cover.
All of this has lately caused me to think of Colbert. He has abdicated the role he created, but I wonder if our discourse has grown to need such a character in a moment when political satire is so cheap. Whatever Stephen’s talents, the Letterman slot comes with much lower expectations. It is the funny, clever fellow welcoming celebrities model that makes few demands of its audience. Mr. Colbert may need that kind of retirement gig. He certainly has earned it.
Once at a party he and I had a fascinating discussion about the responsibility of comedy after an event like 9/11. He wondered if the Daily Show, which he worked for at the time, might have waited too long in that uneasy moment after the attacks. We spoke about how The Onion was the first to publish humor after those events, and that the decision was a deep reminder of the serious responsibility of comedy.
In that way, Stephen Colbert’s character doesn’t really belong to him. It is something like an art project not unlike German artists Eva and Adele whose strange and wonderful work is partly their absolute determination never to step away from the bizarre characters they have created.
Colbert may have another, even more important character for us later this year when he takes Letterman’s territory. He’s that talented. But as the “Je Suis Charlie” motto is now embroiled in a very mainstream trademark chase that may pay someone blood money for tee-shirts in the global capitalist circus, Colbert is undoubtedly mindful of how he can step farther out onto the risky ledge of satire in his next incarnation, or go the other way which leads only to the forgettable mainstream.
It’s an admirable place for a creative genius to be. I’m hardly an enforcer of what Stephen Colbert should do, but it’s very clear that only a very few in history have ever stepped out on to that ledge with as many people around the world watching to see if he will jump.
Tomorrow in his State of the Union address, President Obama is expected to urge Congress to raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans and the nation's biggest financial firms.
The additional revenue—expected to be roughly $320 billion over the next decade—would go towards tax credits for the middle class. The plan includes an increase in the capital gains tax and closure of the so-called “trust-fund loophole” which keeps inherited assets from being taxed.
But will the president’s taxation wish list stand a chance against the Republican-controlled Congress? Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich answers.
Even if the president’s tax plan doesn’t have a future, it’s already reigniting a familiar debate about taxing the rich.
Critics say it could stifle investment and economic growth, but Eric Schoenberg, the chairman of the board at CampusWorks, Inc., a technology management company, thinks we should raise taxes on the rich, even though he happens to be rich.
Schoenberg is also a member of the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy Americans who are in favor of raising taxes for the rich.
In 1852, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, banned "men of black African descent" from being ordained as priests and from sacred temple rituals. The church didn't change this policy until 1978.
The policy of banning black men from holding the priesthood was widely criticized by two members of the church: Douglas A. Wallace and Byron Merchant. Both men were excommunicated by the LDS Church in in the 1970's after criticizing the church's discriminatory practices.
Today, a prominent figure in the Mormon Church is under fire. John Dehlin, host of the "Mormon Stories" website and podcast, has been threatened with excommunication for publicly supporting same-sex marriage and the ordination of women.
His site has become popular hub for thousands of questioning Mormons to share their stories.
The Takeaway reached out to the Mormon Church for this story and received the following statement:
"We respect the privacy of individuals, and don't publicly discuss the reasons why a member faces Church discipline. Those reasons are provided to a member by their local Church leaders. It's my understanding that in this case the reasons have been clearly spelled out in letters to John Dehlin."
On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. Designed to enforce the rights guaranteed by the 14th and 15th Amendments, the VRA included provisions to explicitly protect the rights of racial minorities to vote without intimidation and other discriminatory practices.
But in June 2013, in a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court dealt a blow to the VRA when it ruled section 4(B) unconstitutional. The ruling effectively gutted Section 5—the provision which requires certain states and local governments to obtain federal pre-clearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices.
Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, explains the impact of the Court's ruling and details the efforts underway to protect and expand voting rights in America.
Glenn Martin, a criminal justice reform advocate who spent six years in New York state prisons, shares his experience losing and regaining his right to vote. Martin is the president and founder of Just Leadership USA.
Each year, the nation reflects on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But we also want to look forward and explore how his work might be carried into the future.
Bree Person and Temitayo Fagbenle are 18-year-old reporters with WNYC's Radio Rookies program. For them, Dr. King's dream of social justic lives on.
On MLK Day, Bree and Temitayo talk with us about their frustrations and hopes as people of color.
On MLK Day, we here at The Takeaway are listening to Maya Angelou, but not recordings of her classic poems. Rather, we're listening to her posthumous hip hop album.
The project, like so many of Maya Angelou's works, was something that came from deep inside of her: Putting music to her spoken word, hoping to deliver important messages about social justice, life, family and love. Consisting of 13 songs, the album is entitled "Caged Bird Songs." It came out in late 2014.
Colin Johnson is Dr. Angelou's grandson and founder of Caged Bird Legacy, which aims to continue the life work of Maya Angelou. He talked with us about the album and about great times with his grandmother, as she fought for equality.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. claimed that America would make it to the promise land. In his absence, the nation carries on the work to achieve Dr. King's dream.
More than 50 years ago, as King was gaining momentum as a national leader, he had a few tools for making the changes he dreamed of. He was a legendary orator whose voice has taken its place in the songs of American liberation.
In this audio essay, The Takeaway explores the words of Dr. King and Corretta Scott King from over 50 years ago.
Relying only on their hands and feet to make their way up, two climbers summated El Capitan's Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park after a 19-day climb this week. It was the first ascent of the 3,000-foot rock face in a single expedition of free climbing. Tim Neville of Outside Magazine has the details on this momentous adventure.
It looks like the Oscars snubbed people of color this year. In 2014, we talked to producer Will Packer, Actress Taraji Henson, and Actor Michael Ealy about the issues of race in Hollywood.
The moon currently hosts nearly 400,000 pounds of man-made material. How did these objects of Earthly origin find their final resting place in the most otherworldly mausoleum imaginable? In less than epic terms, we regularly leave trash on the moon. Jerry Linenger, a former NASA astronaut, weighs in.
It's the kind of week that will make you laugh and cry, and maybe think you have early onset Alzheimer's.
On the laughing front: "The Wedding Ringer," starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gadd; and on both the crying front and Alzheimer's front: "Still Alice," starring Julianne Moore.
Rafer and Kristen also review the hacker suspense flick "Black Hat" and the family film "Paddington."
And they take a deep dive into the 2015 Oscar nominations, which were announced this past Wednesday.
Last, but not least, there's trivia!
Here's a list of some of the nominations we're watching:
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Original Score
Best Documentary Feature
Best Animated Feature
Best Original Song
Best Visual Effects
A new report out today from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has found that 2014 was the warmest year on record for both land and the ocean—the warmest ever since record keeping began in 1880. December was the hottest month for combined land and ocean temperature.
NASA scientists independently analyzed the data and reached the same conclusions.
Today's news comes on the heels of a damning report published yesterday in the journal Science which found that humans may be causing irreversible damage to our oceans and the animals living in it.
Dr. Christopher Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology and a professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies at Stanford University, weighs in on the findings of the NOAA report.
Check out some charts and graphs from the NOAA report below.
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The Takeaway's Movie Date Podcast team is here to help you prep for your weekend. Rafer Guzman, film critic for Newsday, and Kristen Meinzer, culture producer for The Takeaway, review the new films hitting the box office.
Starring actors Kevin Hart and Josh Gad, the Movie Date Podcast co-hosts think this R-rated, wedding-themed comedy is crass and violent, but also fun and surprisingly touching.
“I think it actually works pretty well,” Rafer says. “You’ve got Kevin Hart, who’s on a hot streak these days.”
In 2014, Hart started in several big-budget Hollywood comedies, including “Think Like a Man Too” and “Ride Along.” In “The Wedding Ringer,” Hart plays a best man for hire to help a socially awkward guy navigate his wedding. Rafer argues that this film is reminiscent of “Wedding Crashers.”
“Some of the humor is pretty crude,” he says. “But these two have real chemistry, it’s fun, and I think the movie’s got a nice little sensitive side to it that makes it work.”
Kristen agrees that while there’s a bit of crudeness to this film, the movie was good on the whole.
“Overall, this movie had a lot of heart,” Kristen says. “I was really surprised because I’m not a huge Kevin Hart fan, but...I thought this was great. I loved them together, and I think anyone who liked ‘Hitch’ or ‘I Love You, Man’ is probably really going to love this movie.”
Slap that on a movie poster: “Kristen Meinzer Says Hart has Heart.”
Paddington, the little English bear who has been capturing children’s hearts for over 50 years, has finally made it to the big screen.
“Now, this isn’t a horrible movie by any means,” Kristen says. “I think a lot of people will appreciate how sweet it is, but I would argue it’s a little too sweet and not enough happens.”
Despite tapping an Oscar winner like Nicole Kidman to star as the villain, Kristen says that she’s not a fan of the film or the 3D animation the movie employs.
As a parent, Rafer says that he's always looking for a film he can stand to sit through with his young children. For him, “Paddington” works.
“I would actually take my kids to see this,” Rafer says. “It’s 89 minutes long, and even then it feels a little padded out, but I think it works well. It’s got a good cast. Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Bonneville, they’re all really good in it.”
3. Still Alice
In “Still Alice,” Julianne Moore plays a vibrant college professor struggling to hold her life and family together as she slowly succumbs to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a role that won her a 2015 Oscar nomination. And Rafer and Kristen agree that Moore’s performance is outstanding.
“She’s so good in this movie—she just got that Oscar nod yesterday and I think it’s completely well deserved,” Kristen says. “She takes us along on her journey with her...I really was just totally floored by how great her performance is. The pacing of the story’s great. She’s just great.”
Rafer agrees that this film, which also stars Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, and Kristen Stewart, among others, is a win.
“It is a terrific performance,” Rafer says. “I think without her, this movie would be a little bit formulaic and would feel a little bit like your standard television movie about the disease of the week, as they say. But Julianne Moore is so amazingly good in it and I think it’s a well-deserved Oscar nod for her.”
The Glen Park Public Library, just south of San Francisco, is usually a pretty quiet place. But on October 1st, 2013, federal agents stormed the building and apprehended the internet entrepreneur Ross Ulbricht, who was typing on his laptop in the science fiction section.
The federal government says Ulbricht was Dread Pirate Roberts, the mastermind behind Silk Road, an online marketplace known for making millions on sales of cocaine, heroin and LSD, and other illegal substances and products.
Ulbricht claims that he's just a fall guy, that while he started the online black market, he gave it up after just a few months.
The Silk Road trial began in Manhattan this week and Anupam Chander, author of “The Electronic Silk Road" and professor of law at the University of California, Davis, says it could have major implications for online privacy and commerce.
Moisés Naim has worked as Venezuela's trade and industry minister, as well as editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine, and those experiences have led him to conclude that power just isn't what it used to be.
Naim is the author of the new book, "The End of Power," which shot to fame after it was selected by Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg for his new book club.
Naim is now distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He joins The Takeaway to discuss his book and his own experience of power, and what he hopes the Facebook CEO and his fans will take from his work.
In northern Nigeria, a series of attacks by Boko Haram militants have ravaged a cluster of villages along the shores of Lake Chad.
According to the latest estimates from Amnesty International, hundreds, if not thousands were killed and more than 3,000 buildings in the town of Doro Gowon have been destroyed. Those buildings include homes, medical clinics and schools.
Confirming details about the attacks has been difficult because the region is so remote, explains Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International.
Every Friday, Sean Rameswaram, a producer with Studio 360 and host of the podcast Sideshow, rounds up the week in internet phenomena.
This week in "Thanks, Internet," Sean talks to John Hockenberry about the online treasures you may have missed.
The year is young, the potential is intoxicating. Still, it's really hard to meet up and get drinks. Kelly Stout mocked an entire generation's scheduling frustrations in the New Yorker this week. "Let's Get Drinks" is a text conversation between two excuse-making friends who secretly want nothing more than to have no plans at all:
- So excited about our lunch date! 12:30?
- This is basically just a joke at this point, but I have this dumb meeting about records retention or something that got pushed back to one. You don’t have to tell me that I’m mercury poisoning hooking up with the Crusades in the bathroom at trans fat’s wedding to voter suppression, because I know. Ugh . . . sorry.
Caribou makes beautiful songs, but this week he gifted us with 1,000 jams he had nothing to do with. As a thank-you to his fans, the Canadian electronic musician shared a YouTube playlist entitled "The Longest Mixtape"—a collection of jams that have inspired him over the years, from Kanye to Nina Simone to "Les Fleurs" by Minnie Riperton, which kicks off the marathon. Caribou recommends you shuffle.
A few Australians recently had a fun idea for a small business: let's charge people roughly ten bucks to ship envelopes packed with glitter to their enemies. Almost the second ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com was launched, it was featured on Product Hunt and became an overnight sensation. In fact, the site became so popular that one of its creators took to the tubes to beg the world to stop using it:
Hi guys, I'm the founder of this website. Please stop buying this horrible glitter product — I'm sick of dealing with it. Sincerely, Mat
English illustrator Helen Green is particularly skilled at capturing the likeness of pop stars. She does Gaga, Lorde and, to celebrate his recent birthday, made the greatest David Bowie GIF we'll ever know. The year is young, but the animated GIF-loving internet will have to try pretty hard to top this one.
McConaughey didn’t really get to be McConaughey at the Golden Globes due to time constraints, but the Criterion Collection reminded us of the Wooderson we know and love this week when they released a decent-quality version of his audition tape from Dazed and Confused. In it, the first-time actor looks like he was born to play the unforgettable character in Richard Linklater’s 90s classic. Maybe there’s enough tape to film a sequel to Boyhood? McConahood?
If you're looking to escape the cold winter in large parts of the United States, Cuba might just be the place for you. And, as the Obama Administration officially eases travel restrictions to the island nation, you might be hearing ads like that one below in the the not-too-distant future:
Under the new rules, travel to Cuba is only allowed for 12 specific reasons, including family visits, educational activities, journalistic activity, among other reasons. But tourism is not among them.
Airlines and travel agents will soon be allowed to provide services for eager travelers, credit cards can used there, and Americans can send larger sums of money to relatives there—up to $2,000 every three months instead of the current $500 limit.
If Cuba is making your travel list this year, we want to help.
That's why we've invited Julia Cooke to help us come up with a travel guide for Cuba. Julia is a journalist and author of "The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba."
The Academy announced their nominations for the 2015 Oscars today, and not everyone is happy.
"Where are the people of color?" Kirsten Meinzer, co-host of The Movie Date Podcast, asked when being interviewed about nominees today. "For the first time since 1999, not a single acting category nominee is a person of color."
In 2014, Kristen interviewed producer Will Packer, known for things like "The Wedding Ringer," "Think Like a Man Too, and "Ride Along," among other films. She also spoke to actress Taraji P. Henson, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2009, and actor Michael Ealy about the issues of race in Hollywood. Check out their interview above.
Sooner than many expected, new rules are about to kick in that will make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba. The Obama Administration announced a set of revised regulations easing decades-old restrictions on U.S. travel and trade. They take effect on Friday and will pave the way for a new relationship between neighbors that have been estranged for more than half a century.
Americans will now be allowed to travel to Cuba for any of a dozen specific reasons without first obtaining a special license from the government. Airlines and advertisers are waiting in the wings to take advantage and so are we.
Can The Takeaway tempt you to choose Cuba? Listen to our in-house produced commercial above.
What is the dictionary definition of the word "dictionary"? If you flip open Merriam-Webster, you'll find several entries:
Soon those definitions will be due for an update. More than 50 years after it was published, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged—the book we all think of when we think if "Webster's dictionary"—is getting a major update.
What's unusual about this revision is that when the editing is through, Merriam-Webster's will no longer be a reference book. Instead, its database will live entirely online.
Stefan Fatsis is the author of "Word Freak," a book about the subculture of Scrabble. He takes a deep dive in to the history—and future—of Webster's dictionary in a new piece for Slate.
“Merriam-Webster is the last American dictionary company left,” says Fatsis. “Random House, American Heritage—all of the big dictionary names that we’re familiar with—they’ve all just allowed their staffs to wither.”
Merriam-Webster, which Fatsis calls the last “full throated, fully staffed” dictionary company in the United States, employs about 40 full time editorial staff members. On the other hand, American Heritage only has four lexicographers working full time.
“They’re the last flag carriers for an industry that has been in decline,” he says.
Fatsis says that dictionaries are moving targets that are constantly changing, and it’s been that way since the beginning. In 1879, the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), James Murray, appealed to the English-speaking and English-reading public to submit words and definitions for his planned dictionary.
“What that demonstrates is that lexicography, the study of words and the creation of definitions defining words, is something that is imbued in the culture and the public,” says Fatsis. “We’re all curious about where words come from and what they mean. How we get to the point where somebody codifies what a definition is, that has become a profession the last 200-plus years.”
Noah Webster, the first American lexicographer, published his first dictionary in 1806. In 1828, Webster released another that was considered the best dictionary since Samuel Johnson's “Dictionary of the English Language,” which was first published in April 1755.
“[Webster’s] was sort of the American dictionary, and that’s sort of where this tradition and this scholarship stems from,” says Fatsis. “That’s why Merriam-Webster is at the forefront of trying to figure out lexicography in the digital age.”
Internally, Fatsis says that executives at Merriam-Webster view themselves as a digital content publisher—the company generates more revenue from online advertising and online subscriptions to the unabridged dictionary than they do from selling books.
“[Merriam-Webster President John] Morse said to me that a dictionary is a database—it’s not a book anymore,” says Fatsis. “He’s comfortable with that. There isn’t so much nostalgia inside Merriam-Webster for the idea of the print book.”
Fatsis says that it’s “an incredibly vibrant and exciting time” for the study of words because lexicographers have more freedom to practice their craft online than they do in print. But the internet also presents its own set of new and unique challenges.
“This is all about search engine optimization—it’s not about URLs anymore,” he says. “In the mid-90s, Merriam looked into acquiring Dictionary.com. But when they looked into it, they discovered that two guys had acquired it six weeks before they did.”
Fatsis says that dictionary companies are now competing with digital behemoths like Google, and cultural shifts in behavior, since many people simply use an online search to find words they’re looking to define.
“That’s the challenge that Merriam-Webster, American Heritage, and the OED are facing in this industry,” he says. “How do they persuade people that they still need the expertise, that they still need the cache, and that they still need this trusted name in lexicography?”
Some lexicographers believe that society no longer needs traditional defining bodies like Merriam-Webster. Erin McKean, founder of the online dictionary Wordnik and a former lexicographer at OED, told Fatsis that dictionaries should take a page from the old days and rely more heavily on crowdsourcing the public.
“My job is not to decide what a word is. That is your job,” she told an audience at a Ted Talk in November. “Everybody who speaks English decides together what’s a word and what’s not a word.”
Though some lexicographers like McKean think crowdsourcing is the future, Fatsis says that individuals do still want trusted resources like Merriam-Webster.
“People do want that authority,” he says. “There’s this monolithic idea of ‘the dictionary,’ even though there are lots of different dictionaries. The trick for publishers like Merriam is how do they find the sweet spot between Noah Webster and the rigid formulation of what a dictionary definition is, and the lexicographic free-for-all of something like Urban Dictionary or Wiktionary?”
On Wednesday, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson summated El Capitan's Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park after a 19-day climb.
It was the first ascent of the 3,000-foot rock face in a single expedition of free climbing. Caldwell and Jorgeson relied only on their hands and feet to make their way up the wall.
Tim Neville, a correspondent for Outside Magazine, is a highly experienced climber who's interviewed Tommy Caldwell. He weighs in on the momentousness of this climb.
In January 2009, the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto launched Bitcoin, the first decentralized, digital currency.
In the wake of the Great Recession, the idea of a peer-to-peer banking system had a lot of appeal: No bankers, no middlemen, no government meddling. The digital currency hit its highest point—$1,150 for one Bitcoin—in November 2013
Today, more than six years after the Bitcoin revolution began, Bitcoin believers are watching their investment shrink—considerably. The price of one Bitcoin has fallen more than 25 percent in just two days.
Jeffrey Robinson is the author of "BitCon: The Naked Truth About Bitcoin," and he tells The Takeaway that this might be the beginning of the end of Bitcoin.
Despite numerous denials, Mitt Romney has reportedly told friends and donors that he is seriously considering running for president again.
He has enough of his own money to run a competitive campaign, but are Republicans ready to believe in Mitt Romney again? The Wall Street Journal Editorial board wrote yesterday that "If Mitt Romney is the answer [to 2016], what is the question?"
With other establishment candidates gearing up for a possible race in 2016, the GOP seems less than thrilled about yet another comeback for Mitt. Frank Keating, the former Republican governor of Oklahoma and president and CEO of the American Bankers Association, explains.
For many, IRS is not just an acronym, but a synonym for the Grim Reaper.
Customers or victims—what do you call the 200 million clients of the Internal Revenue Service? They're taxpayers, of course, but for an institution that exists solely to take away money, the idea of customer service can be an art form.
In a report out this week, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate says client misery has reached a new low point. The report highlights long wait-times, inflexibility about rules and penalties, and a perception of favoritism toward's certain tax-exempt groups.
Nina Olson, an author of the report and leader of the Taxpayer Advocate Service, says the IRS must repair its relationship with the public.
Today, President Obama hosts British Prime Minister David Cameron for a two-day White House visit.
The official goal of the visit is to "highlight the breadth, depth, and strength of the bilateral relationship, as well as the strong bonds of friendship between the American and British people."
But despite the formidable breadth, depth and strength of that relationship, there is an awkward piece of unfinished business between the two nations that is unlikely to get addressed.
The U.S. has been pushing for the release of letters exchanged by former U.S. President George Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. And though the U.K. has so far resisted releasing those letters, they may finally become public as part of an upcoming Iraq War inquiry chaired by Sir John Chilcot.
Anne McElvoy, The Economist's public policy editor, explains the fight over these letters and its significance.
It's the day that Hollywood holds its breath for each year—when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces their nominations for the Oscars.
It happened at 5:30 AM Pacific time this morning. Actor Chris Pine, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and Directors Alfonso Cuarón and J.J. Abrams announced the lucky contenders.
Here to walk us through the nods, the surprises, and the snubs is Kristen Meinzer, culture producer for The Takeaway and co-host of The Movie Date Podcast.
Here's a list of some of the nominations we're watching:
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Original Score
Best Documentary Feature
Best Animated Feature
Best Original Song
Best Visual Effects
Subscribe to The Movie Date Podcast here.
For decades, the non-profit organization The Carter Center has worked under this motto: "Wage peace, fight disease, build hope." Run and founded by President Jimmy Carter, the organization is currently working to eradicate tropical diseases, including malaria, Guinea worm, river blindness, trachoma, schistosomiasis, and lymphatic filariasis.
To date, the scientific community has only successfully eradicated one human disease: Smallpox. But President Carter and leading scientists on his team believe others can follow the same path, eliminating unnecessary pain and suffering among some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable populations.
Speaking to John Hockenberry at an event at the American Museum of Natural History, President Carter explained the success of The Carter Center and the hurdles left to be overcome. The event took place alongside a new exhibition, "Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease" on view January 13 - July 12, 2015.
“There is one place on Earth where we analyze every human illness constantly to see which ones can be theoretically eliminated or eradicated,” President Carter said. “And that’s at the International Task Force for Disease Eradication located at The Carter Center.”
In the 1980s, President Carter’s organization started to examine Guinea worm, which much of his discussion at the Natural History Museum focused on. Guinea worm is an infection caused by a parasite and is spread by drinking contaminated water, and can cause debilitating and painful infections.
“The disease only takes place in isolated villages, mainly in arid areas, where people don’t have a running stream, a well, or anything else to get water from,” President Carter said. “It was in three countries in Asia and 17 countries across South Saharan Africa, [impacting] 23,600 villages. We’ve been to all of the villages now.”
When President Carter’s organization first started working to fight Guinea worm in 1986, there were more than 3.5 million cases per year. That number currently sits around 126—President Carter says that he personally knows each of the remaining Guinea worm victims and what village they them come from.
With the figures dropping, President Carter is on the verge of declaring that a world disease has been eradicated. It would only be the second time in world history that such a declaration could be made.
“One of the most difficult problems to overcome when we began with Guinea worm in the middle ‘80s was a lack of communication and understanding,” said President Carter. “The people that have Guinea worm live in the most isolated and poverty-stricken villages in the world. They were totally illiterate. And they didn’t have any knowledge of, or much less access to, radio or television. So how do you teach them?”
President Carter says that his organization needed multiple translators to get the word out, and ultimately utilized visually imagery like cartoons to explain the risks of Guinea worm. However, as technology has exploded and spread worldwide, the former world leader says that it’s become much easier to transmit information in the most at-risk communities.
But modern warfare is the enemy of both technology and the battle against disease. More than a decade ago during the Sudanese Civil War, President Carter says that he helped negotiate a six-month-long ceasefire in order to help eradicate Guinea worm.
“We had quantified the number of Guinea worm cases all over the world, and we found that South Sudan had a lot of them,” he says. “We couldn’t get in there to treat the people, or even to analyze village to village. I went over there and spent a good many weeks negotiating with the leader of South Sudan’s military force, Johnny Garang, and President Bashir, who’s still there in Northern Sudan.”
President Carter says that despite their differences, both John Granag, the former Sudanese vice president and rebel leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, did have a shared goal.
“Both of them wanted to get rid of Guinea worm, but they couldn’t do it because the war was going on and they knew we couldn’t get in,” President Carter said. “The North, who had tanks and trucks and so forth, they wanted the dry season to fight because then they could travel all over South Sudan. The South Sudanese wanted the wet season because then they could use the rivers and so forth.”
He continues: “I couldn’t get them to agree on a time. Finally, in 1995, they did agree to have a ceasefire. If you go there now and say, ‘How about that ceasefire in 1995?’ They’ll say, ‘Oh, the Guinea worm ceasefire.’ Everyone knows it was just for Guinea worm. We now have zero cases in Sudan, and just a very few cases in South Sudan because of that ceasefire.”
In so many of his travels around the world, President Carter has seen the heavy footprint the industrialized world leaves behind on the very places it is trying to help.
“One of the worst things that we’ve addressed is the depletion of registered nurses and doctors,” he says. “They get trained and go to medical schools, and they can get a lot more money if they come to the United States.”
After Liberia’s bloody civil war, President Carter said there was only “one psychiatrist in the whole country” to deal with a large population suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In response, The Carter Center trained 144 psychiatric nurses to aid the people of war-torn Liberia.
Though Guinea worm has almost been eradicated, President Carter knows the world will always have to fight against pathogens, bacteria, and viruses.
“The answer is no,” he said when asked if he can someday see a world free of all disease.
In France, the National Assembly approved an extension of the military campaign against Islamic extremists in Iraq. The measure passed by vote of 488 to 1, with 13 abstentions.
"The response is inside and outside France. Islamic State is a terrorist army with fighters from everywhere ... it is an international army that has to be wiped out and that is why we are part of the coalition," French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio, according to Reuters.
Overnight, Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, an official of the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), released a video in which he claimed responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo.
"As for the blessed Battle of Paris, we, the Organization of Al Qaeda al Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the Messenger of Allah. We clarify to the ummah that the one who chose the target, laid the plan, financed the operation and appointed its amir, is the leadership of AQAP,” he said in a video.
Paul Pillar, a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University and former CIA national intelligence officer, explains what this latest vote tells us about France's foreign policy outlook, and looks at the immediate French response to the attacks.
President Obama will make a new move to tackle climate change.
According to reports, the White House will announce plans this week to impose new regulations on the oil and gas industry’s emissions of methane.
Coral Davenport, Energy and Environment Policy Correspondent for our partner The New York Times, has the details.
What do the following items have in common?
If you guessed that these are all among the items on the moon, then you are correct.
In total, the moon hosts more than 400,000 pounds of man-made material, and we earthlings consistently add to that pile. Humans crash probes into the moon—a routine method for bringing unmanned missions to a close. And these crashes often leave behind a lot of trash.
But is this trash a problem, or just the cost of doing space travel?
Weighing in is Jerry Linenger, a former NASA astronaut. He was the sole American on board the Russian space station Mir, which survived the worst fire in space exploration history. He's also the author of “Off The Planet.”
In addition to the items mentions above, here's a rough list of stuff on the moon, according to The Atlantic.
In Russia, falling oil prices, the collapse of the ruble and tightening Western sanctions have shaken President Vladimir Putin's economy considerably. But Putin also finds himself facing a shrinking opposition group within the country.
One of his most high-profile opponents, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, lives in Zurich, Switzerland. More than a decade ago, the Russian oil tycoon was imprisoned on charges of corrupt business practices. His release in December 2013 was thought by many to be a publicity stunt to please the West ahead of the Sochi Olympics.
And while he has since been praised as a activist for democracy and a force for good who suffered at the hands of Putin's overreaching oppression, it's not clear if he is the man to save Russians from reality.
New Yorker contributor Julia Ioffe recently profiled Khodorkovsky. She explains why the Russian dissident community is increasingly living outside the country.
There's a mad dash for newsstands in France this morning, as the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo releases its first issues since last week's terrorist attack.
The magazine usually prints just 45,000 copies per week. But after the terrorist attack on the magazine, as many as five million copies of this week's issue are being distributed throughout the world.
Martin McEwen is the executive vice president of press distribution at LS Distribution North America, the company in charge of making sure the magazine gets to newsstands throughout the U.S. and Canada this week.
He tells the Takeaway about the enormous demand for this week's Charlie Hebdo issue.
The 114th Congress is officially in session, and legislative brinkmanship is back.
The first skirmish to watch out for is a vote for a $40 billion funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Republicans are using the department's budget to try and block President Obama's executive actions on immigration, including a freeze to the policy that benefits the so-called "DREAMers." It's a potentially risky move for the GOP, which underperformed among Latino voters in 2012.
However, the Republican leadership insists that the vote has nothing to do with immigration and that it's all about holding the president accountable for executive overreach.
Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich has the details on this latest congressional showdown.
UPDATE 1/14/2015 3:32 PM ET: On Wednesday afternoon, House Republicans voted to fund the Department of Homeland Security, but blocked funding for President Obama's executive order immigration
A robot car that drives itself sounds like something that belongs in a high-budget Hollywood film, but it might closer to reality than you think.
Technology is completely changing the way vehicles are designed and how we interact with them. Nowadays, the world's largest auto companies are introducing self-driving cars, vehicles that are powered by water vapor, and automobiles that are glittered with touch screens and gadgets.
Imagining the car of the future is a real gig and Sheryl Connelly has it—she's the head of global consumer trends and futuring manager for Ford.
“My job is to look outside the automotive industry, which is really unusual for someone who works for a car company,” she says. “I get the opportunity to look at big picture global trends—shifts that will cause consumers to change their values, their attitudes, or their behaviors.”
When exploring how the car of the future might need to be changed or improved upon, Connelly examines trends in social media, technology, the natural environment, economics and even politics.
“As consumers become really spoiled, we expect all of the comforts that our home or office provides,” says Connelly. “Look at our connectivity—it used to be that you only spoke to or connected with people by phone, or by computer when you were sitting at a desk or laptop. But now, we expect to do many more things on the go.”
In 2015, it seems that individuals are constantly multitasking. But when it comes to enabling cars with the latest technologies, Connelly says that automakers must walk a fine line.
“The challenge of keeping people’s hands on the wheel, their eyes on the road, and their mind on the drive is of paramount importance,” she says.
To give people the freedom to multitask, Ford has, like many other automakers, enabled vehicles with voice-activated and bluetooth technology so that drivers can use personal devices and car features hands-free. In the future, the car company also hopes to integrate vehicles with some form of Wi-Fi so that as technology evolves, a vehicle can as well.
“It’s one thing to be hands free, it’s another to be voice activated,” says Connelly. “Let’s say that you’re coming home from the office and your briefcase is in your trunk and includes your phone. If it’s connected to SYNC, you can still ask it to make phone calls for you, you can ask it to read text messages or stream your favorite music without ever retrieving that phone.”
In addition to voice activation, Connelly says that Ford is watching out for ways to integrate wearable technologies and seamless payment systems like Apple Pay or Google Wallet so that consumers can seamless interact with technologies without even thinking about it.
“I can’t get out of a taxicab or leave my house without visually connecting to my phone,” she says. “My mom worried about turning the oven off, I worry about making sure my phone is with me at all time. I think in the future, we’re going to be really drawn to technologies that alleviate that burden.”
During a week where President Obama is pushing out a series of initiatives to protect American cyber security, the U.S. Central Command's Twitter and Youtube accounts came under attack.
U.S. Central Command, also known as CentCom, is responsible for the Pentagon's military affairs in the Middle East. The hackers behind the attack claim to back ISIS.
In a statement issued Monday, CentCom said that officials are viewing the hack "purely as a case of cybervandalism."
James Bamford, one of the country's leading authorities on U.S. intelligence agencies and security, says this attack shouldn't be taken too seriously. He's the author of several books, including "The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America."
Before the @CENTCOM account was suspended yesterday, we took some screenshots of the hacked tweets. Check them out here.
It's not news that gas prices are falling. Oil price recently fell to $45.90 a barrel, a five-and-a-half year low.
The federal Energy Information Administration now expects gas retail prices, which averaged $3.51 per gallon in 2013, to fall to $2.60 per gallon this year.
With that dramatic drop, there are already hints of changes in consumer behavior: Mass transit officials say they're worried about falling ridership, even as auto industry experts marked an increase in sales of new cars, especially SUVs.
Is it true that as soon as gas prices drop people stop riding the subway and buy new gas guzzlers? Joseph Schofer, a transportation expert at Northwestern University, explains what really happens.
The second phase of jury selection in the federal trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is due to begin on Thursday. Potential jurors were summoned last week and filled out questionnaires as part of what is likely to be a lengthy selection process.
In the coming days, prospective jurors will be interviewed by U.S. District Judge George O’Toole and others in the court. Potential jurors will be asked questions about their backgrounds and whether they believe they can be fair and impartial in the trial.
Under federal law, candidates for the jury in the trial will also be required to state whether they would be willing to consider the possibility of the death penalty for Tsarnaev if he is convicted.
The Takeaway has invited two Boston area residents who were affected by the 2013 marathon bombing to discuss the trial, at the studios of our partner station WGBH.
Mackenzie Loy ran the Boston Marathon in 2013 and 2014 with the Tufts Marathon Team. Joanne Pomodoro, is a clinical social worker at Massachusetts General Hospital, Back Bay, provided counseling to those traumatized by the marathon attack. Pomodoro ran in the Boston Marathon last year with the Mass. General Emergency Response Fund Team.
Charlie Hebdo has printed its first new issue since a gunman killed 12 members of its editorial staff. In the wake of the attacks, the editors have not backed down, and instead printed a depiction of the Prophet Muhammed on the latest cover (see photo below).
Rachel Donadio, European Culture correspondent for The New York Times, reflects on the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo, and how the publication's identity has changed since the attack.
Like all religions, Islam is open to interpretation. While the great majority of Muslims do not subscribe to the radical ideas of the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda, after attacks like those at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the message of mainstream Islam is often obscured and forgotten.
Jocelyne Cesari, director of the Islam in the West Program at Harvard University, tells The Takeaway that Islam's moderate message remained in place until the 20th century, when Wahhabism took hold in Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi fortune spread that message to other parts of the world.
Cesari explores the extremist narrative of Islam, how that interpretation gained dominance, and how different Muslims cultures try to combat the radical message.
Republicans are settling into the majority in the 114th Congress. And with the changing of the guard, new leaders are assuming coveted committee positions.
For example, U.S. Senator James Inhofe is the new chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which drives the Senate's agenda when it comes to environmental policy. But Sen. Inhofe has long been a a climate change denier.
In 2012, he authored a book called “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future,” and has repeatedly vowed to reign in environmental regulations set by the EPA, an organization he's referred to as a "Gestapo Agency."
In another change, Senator Ted Cruz will be chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness. He is known as a budget hawk, and this is the first chairmanship position in his Senate career.
Todd Zwillich, The Takeaway's Washington Correspondent, and Jeff Foust, a senior staff writer for Space News, explain how science and climate policy will change under the new Republican-controlled Congress.
The U.S. Central Command's Twitter account was apparently hacked today by a group claiming to be ISIS. The @CENTCOM account tweeted threatening messages and what appears to be a phone list of retired U.S. generals and slides of defense presentations.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, two defense officials told Reuters that the hack was embarrassing but "did not appear to be a security threat."
"We can confirm that the U.S. Central Command Twitter account was compromised earlier today. CENTCOM is taking appropriate measure to address the matter," a defense official told CNN.
The group claiming to be ISIS reportedly took over the account as a form of “CyberJihad.”
Shortly after 1:00 PM Eastern the account was suspended. We took some screenshots of the tweets before things went dark.
On Friday, President Obama announced a new proposal to make community college free for millions of students.
The program, which is built off a model used in Tennessee known as the "Tennessee Promise" program, aims to make a college education more attainable for lower and middle class students.
Krissy DeAlejandro, executive director of tnAchieves, joins The Takeaway for more on how her state has made community college work for thousands of students, and her hopes for the national program.
What do you think? Vote in our poll below.
While the rest of the world was watching Paris, attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram left scores dead across Nigeria.
In the past week, Boko Haram enlisted young girls as suicide bombers in two open-air markets, and the terrorist group carried out a shooting rampage across the Northeast which left up to 2,000 dead.
According to Alexis Okeowo, a freelance journalist based in Nigeria, national elections are just a month away, and many are left wondering whether the government of President Goodluck Jonathan can effectively combat terror.
In Paris, the attacks on the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo marks the first time adherents of Al Qaeda and those associated with the Islamic State have found common ground since ISIS split from Al Qaeda last year.
Though the Kouachi brothers, Saïd and Chérif, allied themselves with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), their associate, Amedy Coulibaly, pledged his allegiance to ISIS.
As Michael Schmidt, reporter for Takeaway partner The New York Times explains, the link became clear in a posthumous video released over weekend, after Coulibaly murdered a French police officer and laid siege to a kosher supermarket in Paris, killing four hostages.
Nearly every day in the news, there are moments when something in the headlines gives us pause or strikes fear into our hearts. What if the latest outbreak or attack isn't just another headline, but is the event that transforms the world beyond recognition?
It's that idea that drives author Emily St. John Mandel's new novel, "Station Eleven," which imagines the run-up to-- and aftermath of-- a global flu outbreak that effectively ends civilization as we know it.
"Station Eleven" was a National Book Award finalist. Today on The Takeaway, St. John Mandel reflects on our rational and irrational fears when it comes to disaster preparedness, and what's left behind when civilization collapses.
The New Year can feel like the perfect opportunity to reinvent yourself—many people decide to go to the gym more often or to eat healthier foods. However, even with the greatest of intentions, New Year's resolutions can be hard to keep.
But some fascinating new research into the science of decision-making may help us better understand why we make the choices we do, and why we sometimes struggle with even our best New Year’s resolutions.
The Takeaway talks with Kara Miller, host of “Innovation Hub,” produced by our partners PRI and WGBH, about the latest discoveries about our decision-making.
“One of the most interesting findings to come out of a lot of the recent research in labs across the country and even overseas is that there’s really a separation between what we intend to do and how decisions are actually made,” says Miller.
According to Yale Professor Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist and medical physician, it is not all about willpower. He believes that our behaviors are highly contagious and we are unwittingly influenced by those well beyond our social circles.
“We have been able to show, using both observational and experimental methods, that seemingly very personal things like your emotional state or your body size, or how kind you are, or whether you vote or not, depends on whether other people around you do that, and even other people you don’t know,” Dr. Christakis told Miller in a recent interview.
Dr. Christakis says that the behaviors assumed by people in any given social network can have a large ripple effect and impact people who have no relationship at all. Miller says that Christakis has long-studied social networks and first observed the rippling behaviors with the so-called “widowhood effect.”
The Harvard School of Public Health defines the “widowhood effect” as “an increased chance of dying after a spouse dies.” Miller says that Dr. Christakis’ research finds that this effect can also ripple through a social network.
“He found that it wasn’t just spouses (that died), it was friends of spouses, and friends of friends of spouses,” says Miller. “People who didn’t even know the original spouse who was deceased ended up becoming sick as a result of someone that they didn’t know becoming sick and passing away.”
Though research on decision-making can be helpful for social scientists and medical professionals, Miller also says that businesses are cashing in on the latest data.
“Marketers are picking up on this,” she says. “You have very new companies that are actually looking through Instagram photos and trying to figure out some of these networks and emotions.”
But it’s not just our networks of friends that can influence our decisions. According to Jennifer Lerner, a professor of public policy and management at Harvard University, our own brains can undermine our decisions, too.
Miller says that Professor Lerner showed individuals footage from sad films, or had people write about something sad. After going through that experience, Miller says that the subjects in the experiment completely changed their decisions.
“We find that people will sell their possessions for significantly less money when they’re sad then they would in a neutral state because they’re eager to get rid of it, and they are willing to pay much more to buy various goods when they’re in a sad state,” Professor Lerner told Miller.
Professor Lerner continues: “We asked them, ‘Did your feelings, as a result of watching that movie clip or writing what you wrote, did your feelings in any way affect your buying price?’ They say, ‘What are you kidding me? No, absolutely not,’ because they think that would be absolutely irrational.”
Though this research may stir some troubling notions about the way we make decisions, Dr. Christakis says that there’s a positive side to this, too.
“We are largely products of our social networks, but even if that’s the case, our work also shows that your actions affect others,” he told Miller. “When you make a positive change in your life, when you act kindly towards others, when you vote, when you express joy and happiness towards others, it doesn’t just benefit you—it benefits those people and in fact ripples out and could affect many, many other people.”
Researchers at the University of Alberta designed a computer program that has pretty much mastered the simplest version of Texas hold 'em. Luck is still involved, so it won't win every game, but the algorithm it uses makes it perform at a higher level than humans.
Some games, like tic-tac-toe and checkers, can be completely "solved." If two experts play checkers, for instance, and they don't make any mistakes, then every game should end in a tie. Poker is different because some of the information is hidden—you can't see your opponent's cards, which can make it impossible to completely solve.
Michael Bowling is one of the researchers and a professor in the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta. He talks to The Takeaway's John Hockenberry about why he developed this technology and what it means for his future research.
The Obama Administration wants to create some new regulations that would alert consumers to the potentially unavoidable dangers facing them in the era of Sony's hacks.
The Personal Data Notification and Protection Act would impose a 30-day timeframe for companies to notify customers if their data has been hacked. A companion bill, the Student Data Privacy Act, would prevent companies from making money off of valuable data collected from digital devices in schools and universities.
Is this solid armor for users, or an admission by the government that they can't really insure anybody's privacy anymore? For answers, we turn to Nuala O'Connor, president and chief executive officer at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit organization focused on advancing a free and open internet.
This week, The Takeaway Weekender Podcast goes deep inside the brain of John Hockenberry. We talk to our host with the most about his daily routine. Spoiler: It's not just about eating his Wheaties!
This weekend you'll also hear 10 unaired minutes of our interview with legendary musician Ben Folds. He discusses the piano and its place in the world, and takes some absolutely obscure fan questions from our giddy staff like, "Who is Kylie from Connecticut?"
We end our weekend podcast with a look ahead at next week's shows with author Emily St. John Mandel. Next week she joins us to discuss her novel "Station Eleven," which imagines the world in the aftermath of a terrible breakout of a fictional disease.
It's the early days of January, and you know what that means when it comes it movies: great awards shows and horrible movies.
Will this week's releases buck the trends? On the chopping block: "Taken 3" and "Inherent Vice."
Rafer and Kristen also take a deep dive into "Mozart in the Jungle" in this week's Sweatpants pick. Helping them to deconstruct the series, and separate fact from fiction is Naomi Lewin, the weekday afternoon host on New York's classical music station WQXR, and the host of the weekly podcast Conducting Business.
There's also lots of listener mail and, as usual, trivia!
A week of violence and tension has come to an end in Paris after heavily armed paramilitary teams simultaneously went into action at two hostage situations.
Some hostages were freed, more people were shot, and the jihadists responsible for the violent attack at the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo were killed. While there are no more armed fugitives believed to be at large in France, there is certainly the specter of radicalization haunting the night hours.
The chant of "Je Suis Charlie Hebdo" or "I Am Charlie Hebdo" is ringing across quarters in France and Europe as mourners aim to express solidarity with the right to publish satirical cartoons no matter their religious offense.
Samuel Laruent, a French author and Middle East expert who focuses on extremism, discusses the situation in Paris and the way forward.
One of the consequences of Wednesday's terror attack on the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo has been the backlash from France's Front National, the nation's third-largest political party, and other far-right parties around Europe.
On Thursday, politician Marine Le Pen of France's Front National was quick to blame "radical Islam." She announced that if elected she would propose a referendum to bring back the death penalty—France hasn't carried out an execution in decades.
Germany's budding anti-Islam movement has called for sympathizers to wear black arm bands to mourn the victims of the Paris attack, and to stand as a symbol of strength of Europe's resurgent right-wing.
The attack comes at a time when right-wing European groups already have their fingers pointed at Islam, migrants, and refugees as the cause of faltering economies and growing immigrant communities.
Andrea Mammone, a lecturer in European history at Royal Holloway, University of London, weighs in.
In countries, citizens are unaware of the true size of the Muslim population within their nation. Check out this Guardian poll below.
Gas prices are the lowest they've been in five years, and drivers are finally feeling some relief.
But now that fuel prices are falling, some lawmakers are talking in a serious way about raising the gas tax. But here's a twist: They're Republicans.
The debate is at an early stage, and it’s fair to say House Conservatives will hate the idea. But a few powerful GOP senators are signaling they're open to the idea—even House Speaker John Boehner, who personally opposes raising the gas tax, hasn't ruled it out.
The Takeaway's John Hockenberry talks to Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich to find out how Congress is debating the issue.
“Some Republicans in the Senate are speaking up,” says Zwillich. “[They’re saying] oil prices are low, the federal highway trust fund is dead broke and will be in the future, we have crumbling infrastructure, and we absolutely need reform.”
The current tax on gasoline, which hasn’t been raised since 1993, sits at 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. The revenue generated from the gas tax goes to the Highway Trust Fund, which was was established in 1956 and is the primary way that federal highway and transit programs are funded.
Because national road infrastructure is crumbling, and the highway trust fund is in a perennial state of financial crisis, several Republicans say that it's time to raise the tax that Americans pay at the pump to repair roads and bridges.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) is proposing that the gas tax be raised six cents in 2016, six cents in 2017, and then be tied to inflation after that. But he’s not exactly calling it a gas tax, per say.
“At the end of the day...people aren’t going to jump out there and say they’re for a user fee,” Sen. Corker told Zwillich of other lawmakers.
Zwillich says that GOP lawmakers like Sen. Corker are looking to rebrand the gas tax to avoid political backlash, saying that it is a “user fee” that drivers pay per gallon for using America’s highways, bridges, and roads.
Though it’s a bit out of character for Republicans to get behind a tax raise, Sen. Corker told Zwillich that some GOP lawmakers are privately supporting a gas tax increase because people understand that the Highway Trust Fund and the nation’s infrastructure must “be dealt with.”
“[Speaker] Boehner and his spokespeople have said, ‘I’m against raising the gas tax,’” says Zwillich. “But he was asked specifically if it was off the table in any kind of tax reform deal and he has not ruled it out. That’s interesting—he could say, ‘That’s never going to happen,’ but he says, ‘I’m against it.’ And the term ‘user fee’ is important too.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the chairman of the Finance Committee—the body that controls tax policy in the Senate—is also hoping to recast the gas tax in a new light.
“I think we’re going to change the rhetoric on that,” he told Zwillich. “I would call it a user fee. I prefer not to increase taxes. To me that’s a user fee: People who use the highways ought to pay for them—that’s a small price to pay to have the best highway system in the world. That may be where we’ll have to go.”
In December, the U.S. Department of Transportation noted that the Fund was nearing insolvency. Though this has been the case for sometime, lawmakers are finally recognizing that something has to be done.
“Congress has been patching a hole in the Federal Highway Trust Fund,” says Zwillich. “It’s a deepening hole that Congress keeps shovelling money into. You could say that they could just stop doing that, but every district in every state in every locality in America has roads and bridges. There’s just no way to stop spending on it.”
Zwillich says that Sen. Corker is pushing the gas tax as a way to permanently reform the Fund instead of just temporarily “patching the hole.” But other GOP lawmakers are pushing for other reforms that don’t include an increase in the gas tax.
“Let’s be honest,” says Zwillich. “Even though Boehner hasn’t ruled it out, he’s going to get a lot of pushback from Conservatives in the House—and that’s where tax policy is really written.”
Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of California, a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, doesn’t believe that the House of Representatives will raise the gas tax—at least not anytime soon.
“California has the highest gas tax in the country and the last thing I want to do is raise taxes on people, especially those who are low income,” Rep. Nunes told Zwillich.
Will there be a showdown between House and Senate Republicans? Zwillich says it’s possible.
“This is a really serious debate that’s starting, and it’s Republicans that are doing it,” he says. “I think this is all about timing. There is a major tax reform effort in Congress coming down the pike—it might be worth a trillion dollars or more. Republicans and Democrats are spotting the opportunity and think there’s no time like now. With gas at $50.00 a barrel, they think they have to move.”
Europe remains on edge in the wake of the deadly terrorist attack at the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo.
The attack has highlighted deep divisions between French nationals and Muslim immigrants—a community that Hussein Rashid, a professor of religion at Hofstra University, says has been under fire for years.
"French society has a very hard time integrating its minorities—whether they're Muslim, Jewish, or black," says Rashid. "Nicolas Sarkozy, the former prime minister, during his tenor as interior minister, once called the minorities of Francs scum."
Rashid argues that Hebdo cartoons play on existing racist attitudes toward Muslims and have served as a way to "bully" immigrants.
"I am a near free speech absolutist—I think people should have the right to do or say anything as offensive as they want to," he says. "What I think we miss here is just because you have the right or ability to do something doesn't mean you're operating in a vacuum."
Rashid says that in modern days, there are certain things that are not done out of respect for other people and groups. One example Rashid points to is "Little Black Sambo," a racially charged caricature of an African-American. He says such a cartoon would never run—or be tolerated—in modern America.
"I don't think any religion should be off limits—I think satire is a perfectly legitimate tool to respond to power and to respond to stupidity," he says. "I think what we see often, though, is that under the rhetoric of free speech and satire we see bullying of oppressed and marginalized communities. I think Hebdo mixed those lines."
Click on the audio player above to hear more analysis from Rashid.
Cartoonists took to Twitter to pay tribute to the staff of Charlie Hebdo following the tragedy in Paris this week. The massive outpouring reaffirmed the importance and influence of the satirical publication, and served as a reminder that cartoonists are unmatched when it comes to capturing the weight of our best and worst moments.
Though the site hasn't yet gone live, a representative of Haruki Murakami announced this week that the famously reclusive author would be starting an advice column. The site will evidently be titled “Murakami-san no tokoro” which we were delighted to discover translates as "Mr. Murakami's place." The author promises to answer "questions of any kind" this February and March. Rejoice, internet! Finally we can discuss Haruki Murakami, Andrew W.K., and T-Pain in the same conversation.
Too Many Cooks was an amazing one-off that will never be topped, but dotflist is playing the long game. For six months, he's been re-writing perfectly bizarre and personalized music for the opening credits of beloved TV shows, including Friends, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, and Doug. He re-edits the footage, too. This body of work is weird internet at its best. This guy would be a shoe-in for the Emmy, if only there were an Emmy for this.
It's 2015! The ways we wasted our time in 2014 are not good enough! Luckily, some benevolent being gave us emoji.ink, where you can get lost in the possibilities of a blank canvas and 722 emoji characters. You can change each emoji's size. Gems are already creeping into tumblr.
Nicolas Cage is among the internet's favorite thespians. What better way to wish him a happy 51st birthday than with a list of 51 of his finest movie quotes? Flavorwire took it upon themselves. Here are the top ten:
10. “I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire!“ (Vampire’s Kiss)
9. “You don’t have a lucky crack pipe?” (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans)
8. “What do you say we cut the CHITCHAT, A-HOLE?” (The Rock)
7. “THIS IS MY MECCA! AHAHAHAHAHA! AHAHAHAHA!” (Grindhouse)
6. “If I were to send you flowers where would I… no, wait, let me rephrase. If I were to let you suck my tongue, would you be grateful?” (Face/Off)
5. “You mean… my wang?” (Peggy Sue Got Married)
4. “Shoot him again… his soul’s still dancing.” (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans)
3. “Put… the bunny… back… in the box.” (Con Air)
2. “OH, NO! NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES! AAAAAHHHHH! OH, THEY’RE IN MY EYES! MY EYES! AAAAHHHHH! AAAAAGGHHH!” (The Wicker Man)
1. “How, in the name of Zeus’ butthole, did you get out of your cell?” (The Rock)
It's hard to talk about popular piano players without mentioning Ben Folds. In the 90's he was the front-man of Ben Folds Five, a rock trio that mostly stuck to three instruments (piano, bass and drums), but created a strong catalog of emotional and catchy rock songs.
Later Folds went solo and produced three studio albums. He still performs regularly, often accompanied by full symphonies. His mastery of the piano allows him to easily keep up with classically trained musicians.
The Takeaway's John Hockenberry talks to Folds about what it was like when he first encountered the instrument he loves.
When we fly the friendly skies, our eyes tend to be on the clouds. But if you're one of the 15 million people who've been through the Portland airport in the last year, we'd forgive you if your eyes were on the carpet instead.
That's right, the carpet—the iconic turquoise geometric patterned stuff below your feet when you land at PDX. It's so iconic that there are socks, shoes, shirts, and dozens of other products that boast its pattern.
It sounds like something out of the TV show “Portlandia,” but it is all too real. For Portlanders, the PDX carpet pattern is shorthand for "you're one of us." And just about any time you land there, you'll spot people taking selfies of their feet against it, as if to say, "I've arrived."
But very soon, the carpet will be no longer. In 2013, the Port of Portland announced that they'd be tearing out the old carpet in 2015, in favor of a more modern look.
Well, folks, it's 2015, and that means the carpet could be gone any day now.
One of the many Portlanders who's feeling dismayed about the loss of the carpet is Alan Cassinelli. He owns the PDX Carpet online store, which sells products boasting the iconic PDX carpet pattern.
“I hope to get a piece of the actual carpet once they actually rip it up,” says a sentimental Cassinelli. “The carpet was installed in 1987 and has really been there for my entire life. It brings back a sense of nostalgia for people who go to the Portland airport. At this point, it’s almost kind of like a ‘Portlandia’ inside joke for people who were born and raised in Portland.”
Cassinelli says that residents and visitors alike love the iconic “Atari-style” 1980s look of the carpet. It’s become somewhat of a symbol of the city itself.
“It brings those memories of home for people who travel to and from Portland,” he says. “That’s why I started the store—there’s all of these people who live outside of Portland who want to hold onto that sense of home.”
Cassinelli’s online store sells pillows, tote bags, and posters that are decorated with the carpet print.
“The color scheme is kind of a blast from the past, especially the logo design,” he says of the print. “You don’t really see logos like that anymore. It has so much history—each person has lots of different moments associated with the PDX carpet.”
Cassinelli says that the PDX carpet has been with Portlanders throughout some of the biggest moments of their lives—some have see it on their way off to college, or on the way home from a honeymoon, for example.
"You see the PDX carpet before you even see the people," he says. "It's that first visual moment that you know that you're home."
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in infections that cannot be treated with existing antibiotics. In the U.S. alone, about two million Americans a year are infected with drug-resistant bacteria. Some 23,000 are killed as a result.
According to a report in the journal Nature, researchers are hopeful that a new antibiotic which uses bacteria found in our soils could turn things around.
The new drug, which is called Teixobactin, has not been tested in humans yet, but the early results from tests on mice have been promising. Denise Grady, health and medicine reporter for our partner The New York Times, explains how the new drug works.
In the hours after the news broke of the attack on Charlie Hebdo's offices on Wednesday, an old New Yorker cartoon (pictured below) started making the rounds again on Twitter.
For all the levity his cartoons are known for, Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor at The New Yorker, is someone who takes cartoons very seriously.
He reflects on the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, and considers how cartoonists and cartoon editors balance questions of creative freedom, censorship, and taste in an age of religious extremism.
In 2008, artist Luke Jerram decided to scatter 15 used pianos all around Birmingham, England. The pianos were open to everyone, and after three weeks, thousands of people either played or listened to music from the pianos.
The project is called "Play Me, I'm Yours," and its volunteers have spread 13,000 pianos across 45 cities.
All the pianos are donated and decorated by community groups and other volunteers, and each one includes the words "Play Me, I'm Yours."
Jerram is also a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Fine Print Research at the University of West of England. He talks to The Takeaway's John Hockenberry about the impact of his project.
Bob Mankoff knows political satire well. After all, he is the head cartoon editor at The New Yorker.
In the wake of the violent attack on the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, he joined The Takeaway to reflect on how cartoonists and cartoon editors balance questions of creative freedom, censorship, and taste in an age of religious extremism.
"You know there are very few good reasons to kill someone, and there are a million bad ones," he says. "But on the top of the list of the bad ones has to be that you're offended by their joke."
Check out our full interview with Mankoff below.
One of the big questions for the 114th Congress is the legacy of newly re-elected Speaker John Boehner.
Will Tea Party obstructionists continue to defy Rep. Boehner? Or will he be viewed as a productive legislative leader?
It's starting to look like the former: Earlier this week, at least a few GOP lawmakers attempted to carry out a mutiny to unseat Speaker Boehner—an attempt that ultimately failed.
Todd Zwillich, The Takeaway's Washington Correspondent, looks at the Republican congressmen who are facing retribution for voting against Boehner.
This week's terrorist attack in Paris underscored the longstanding tensions between immigrants—particularly Muslim immigrants—and French citizens.
That tension isn't unique to France: Many European Union countries have seen an influx of Muslim immigrants and refugees over the past few decades. Until fairly recently, these E.U. countries were somewhat homogenous, lacking the immigration story so common to us in the United States.
Pieter Feith is a Dutch diplomat and former Special Representative for the European Union, and he's seen this trend firsthand.
He discusses the difficulties between Muslim immigrants and European citizens from his home in Sweden, a country that's expected to become home to 95,000 new immigrants—mostly Syrian refugees—in 2015 alone.
The people of France are in mourning today after 12 individuals were killed by three gunmen at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Paris was further unsettled Thursday morning after reports surfaced that a police officer was shot and killed and a civilian was wounded on the southern edge of the city.
Though officials said that Thursday's incident had no immediate link to the Charlie Hebdo attack, it serves as a grim reminder of the draw of extremism at a time when Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) seem to be competing for Western attention.
In September, France's Interior Minister warned that nearly 500 French citizens are fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Counterterrorism officials have warned that these jihaddist's would return to their home countries with professional military training and a renewed ideological zeal to strike Western targets.
Samuel Laurent is an expert on the Middle East and returned from Syria just weeks ago. He says France is in a "dire situation" and in "a state of denial" regarding the Muslim community in France. Mr. Laurent says that it is clear the people who stormed Charlie Hebdo killing journalists inside were battle hardened and well trained.
The contents of the oldest time capsule in the country, dating back to 1795, were revealed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts last night.
Former Massachusetts Governor Samuel Adams, and other patriots from the American Revolution, including Paul Revere and Colonel William Scollay, originally placed artifacts into the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House during a ceremony on July 4th, 1795.
Local officials removed the time capsule from the State House in December to “deal with a water issue in the original part of the building,” according to Massachusetts Secretary of State, William Galvin. The capsule had previously been discovered and opened in 1855.
The Takeaway’s WGBH producer, Elizabeth Ross describes the official unveiling of the time capsule at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts last night. Pam Hatchfield, a conservator at the museum, discusses the capsule's many treasures.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been at a standstill for more than a decade, with mounting casualties on both sides.
Now, as Israel prepares for elections in March, the Palestinian leadership is trying a new tactic. Rather than negotiating directly with Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is appealing to the international community, through a bid to join the International Criminal Court. He hopes to prosecute Israel for war crimes.
The move comes soon after a United Nations resolution for Palestinian sovereignty failed in the Security Council. While some believe that bypassing Israel might prove effective for the Palestinians, Ambassador Dennis Ross, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, believes it would be a major obstacle for lasting peace.
Ambassador Ross, U.S. chief negotiator for Arab-Israeli issues from 1993 to 2001, argues that the Palestinian leadership must negotiate directly with the Israelis, and that the Palestinians should face consequences for seeking outside recognition from the international community.
People aren't buying pianos the way they were a hundred years ago, but that hasn't stopped people from enjoying them.
For some, the piano is still and an integral part of everyday life. There are piano tuners and teachers, and piano technicians who repair all the pieces when they break. And we have students who leave the instrument behind, only to make a passionate return to it years later.
The Takeaway's John Hockenberry talks to three die-hard piano fans: Martha Taylor, a technician, Natalia Huang, a teacher, and Michael Kimmelman, a brilliant piano player and journalist for the New York Times.
Today in Paris, gunfire rang out at the offices of a satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. As many as 12 people had been killed and 10 wounded as of Wednesday morning.
"Nobody must think that in France anyone can go against the spirit of the Republic and attack the symbol of freedom," French President François Hollande told Fox's Sky News today.
Charlie Hebdo has a reputation of pushing the limits of freedom in its satirical depictions of the Mohammad and Muslims—the publication had its offices firebombed in 2011 after publishing a cartoon of the prophet. It is not yet clear what the political consequence of this attack in France may be.
Benjamin Abtan, president of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement, and Dominique Moisi, senior adviser at the French Institute for International Affairs, weigh in on the attacks from Paris.
It's that time again: The flu, short for influenza, is in season, and it's hit the United States particularly hard this year.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) declared flu to be an epidemic just last week—22 states and Puerto Rico are reporting high flu activity, meaning more people are getting hospitalized, and there are more laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus. Additionally, pharmacies are reporting difficulty stocking flu medicine, especially the children's liquid flu medicine Tamiflu.
One of the heavily affected states is South Carolina, where 20 people have died from complications with influenza so far. An additional 500 people were hospitalized last week.
Dr. Anna Kathryn Rye, the director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, says that doctors in the state are ready to fight this common winter illness.
“Our communities are well prepared—influenza season is something that we see every year,” says Dr. Rye. “As physicians, we know that it can wax and wane from year to year.”
Dr. Rye says that the rate of infection varies, with the volume of reported cases fluctuating from year to year. Additionally, the doctor says that the duration of the flu season also varies—sometimes it begins in early November and can last through March—though the season usually peaks in January or February.
The virus is manageable with a vaccine, but thousands still die each year—the young and those aged 65-years or older have an increased risk from dying from the flu.
“I wish the demand [for the vaccine] was higher,” says Dr. Rye. “That is something that I think we as practitioners could do better—to push the flu vaccine on our patients. The other thing is to get awareness out there that the flu vaccine is very important to get. I think people forget that influenza is a deadly disease.”
Though the death rate can vary country to country, the World Health Organization estimates that about 250,000 to 500,000 people worldwide die every year from influenza.
“It’s something that absolutely can kill you,” Dr. Rye says. “It can kill people in more numbers than say Ebola, which is out there in the news and really doesn’t affect anyone in South Carolina or the United States.”
This season, it is unclear how many adults have died from the flu in the United States—states are not required to report individual cases or deaths of people who are older than 18. However, the CDC estimates that the annual number of people who die from the flu each year in the U.S. ranges from about 3,000 to 49,000.
So far in South Carolina, the number of confirmed cases of influenza sits at 28,000—twice as many as there were at this time last year.
“The emergency rooms definitely have a bunch more people coming in,” says Dr. Rye. “Primary care physicians are seeing a lot more patients that are sick, we’re trying to fit more people in and we’re working later. It’s been very rough the last couple of weeks.”
In 1984 President Ronald Reagan declared "morning in America" in a campaign ad in his race against Walter Mondale. Three decades later, is it finally afternoon? Has the American economy finally left behind the cloudy haze of recessional gloom?
Around 6 million more men and women are back at work since the peak of the recession in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Home ownership is still down, with around 65 percent of Americans owning homes in 2014—a number that's expected to decline slightly in 2015. Millennials, however, are supposed to drive two-thirds of household formations over the next five years.
And while the U.S. marriage rate hit a 93-year low in 2014, the number of weddings is up four percent since 2009 and is expect to hit just over 2.2 million in 2015.
Six years after the Great Recession, is the U.S. economy finally enjoying a sort of "afternoon in the Sun?" For answers, we turn to Edward Luce, a U.S. columnist for the Financial Times.
1. America's Sunny Afternoon? Updating Reagan's 'Morning in America' | 2. Gunmen Terrorize Paris With Attack on French Publication | 3. Inside the Founding Fathers’ Time Capsule | 4. Palestine Pivots Towards International Community
There are several differences between the families of lower socioeconomic backgrounds and those from wealthier income brackets. And it's not just access to the latest tech products, trendier clothes or fancier vacations. It's access to language, too.
Researchers have found a marked disparity in the vocabulary of children of low-income and high-income parents. It's become known as the 30-million word gap.
Measured at age three, this gap in child-parent interactions and language has been shown to have lasting effects on a child's performance, not just in grade school, but throughout their lives.
Shari Levine knows this problem well. She's the executive director of Literacy Inc., an organization that's fighting to narrow the word gap in New York.
On Monday, oil prices sank to new lows, briefly falling below $50 a barrel for the first time in more than five years.
Last week, the downward plunge in oil prices prompted Alaska Governor Bill Walker to stop six high-profile spending projects because of a $3.5 billion dollar budget deficit. About 88 cents of every dollar spent by the state's government comes from oil production, and Alaska's budget deficit has only increased as a result of falling oil prices.
Kyle Hopkins, special correspondent for the LA Times, explains how the drop in prices is shaping Alaskans' politics.
In Ferguson, Missouri, the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown continues to haunt the legal system in the new year.
An unnamed member of the grand jury in the case of Darren Wilson—the officer who fatally shot Brown last August—has filed a lawsuit against St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough, the attorney in charge of the state's case.
The juror's goal? To speak out on what really happened during the grand jury proceedings, which is prohibited under Missouri law.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed the case on behalf of Grand Juror Doe, arguing that the Wilson case is unique and that "any interests furthered by maintaining grand jury secrecy are outweighed by the interests secured by the First Amendment."
Peter Joy, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, examines the lawsuit and its potential implications—in Missouri and in other states.
Pianos aren't selling the way they used to. In 1909, more than 364,500 were sold. Now annual sales are right around 30,000 to 40,000.
The piano was once the heart of the home, but the television has adopted that role in the modern era. And nowadays, children are easily entertained with tablets and aren’t practicing musical scales every day.
“Back in the early 1900s, there were very little forms of entertainment,” says Stephen Scharbrough, a second-generation piano tuner and technician. “It was a time that was pre-radio, so if you wanted entertainment, music, or something to interact with at your house, place of business, or a restaurant or bar, you had to hire a musician or pianist.”
Scharbrough says that piano eventually caught on, and individuals learned how to play the piano on their own to entertain themselves.
“Things have obviously changed a bit since then,” he says. “There’s a lot more substitutes today for sure.”
Though the piano was once a family entertainment center unto its own, Scharbrough says that the instrument is now owned by specific sets of people.
“It’s the family that places priority on self discipline, and has a respect for arts and music,” he says. “For the most part, I tune medium-sized uprights in the home.”
Scharbrough is the owner of the Indianapolis-based piano tuning and repair shop IndyTuner. Though piano sales have been dropping, he’s been able to maintain his business because many people will hold onto old pianos, viewing them as family heirlooms.
“Sales are vanishing, but pianos are a hard thing to disappear,” he says. “It’s a great hand-me-down.”
Though many American homes lack a grand piano, Scharbrough says that universities and colleges often have such a grandiose instrument. And many individuals that take lessons at higher-ed institutions are encouraged to upgrade their pianos.
Overall, though many piano stores have gone out of business, Scharbrough says the industry isn’t dead yet.
“I’m not worried as far as that goes,” he says.
Today, the 114th Congress convenes for the first time, and the Republicans are in control.
One of the first lines on their agenda? Revising the way the Congressional Budget Office does the math around tax legislation by introducing a new method called "dynamic scoring." The measure would change how the Congressional Budget Office adds up how much money the government makes from any proposed tax law.
The current method looks at how high a tax raise is or how drastic a tax cut is, but it also tries to predict how people are going to respond to the new law.
If Congress decides to cut taxes on coffee, for example, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office figures that people will buy more coffee or maybe start drinking more coffee, and they add that to the math when predicting what kind of impact the tax law would have on the economy.
What they don't do is assume that because more people are buying coffee and spending money, which might make the whole economy richer and better off, that a bigger economy would just lead to more tax revenue.
In other words, Congress doesn't look at large-scale or macroeconomic shifts in behavior, and GOP leaders want to start that now.
Supporters of the change say that it will make our tax accounting more realist and more accurate. Opponents of the law say that it'll just muddy up the waters of already unclear tax predictions and exist only to serve a Republican political agenda.
With us to pierce the fog is Charlie Herman, Business and Economics Editor at WNYC News.
With Congress back in session today, you may already be bracing yourself for the usual partisan fights between lawmakers from "red states" and "blue states." These days, more often than not, the divisions between Republican and Democratic lawmakers have come to define our political discourse.
Though we're all familiar with the common distinctions between red state and blue state politics, much less is said about the difference between red state and blue state economies.
Richard Florida, director for the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and editor at large of CityLab.com, says those economic divisions are just as important as the ideological ones.
The 114th Congress convenes today in Washington, and there are some new faces leading the charge on Capitol Hill. For the first time since 2006, Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The new power shift in Washington will put pressure on the amount of public land controlled by federal government. Leading the charge is the new chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Congressman Rob Bishop.
Congressman Bishop, who represents Utah's 1st Congressional district, supports fracking, mining, and the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, and he has opposed wilderness declarations.
He joins The Takeaway to discuss the agenda he plans to set as chair of the House Natural Resources Committee.
1. This Land is Your Land: The GOP Power Shift & The Future of America's Natural Resources | 2. The Economic Divide Between Red and Blue States | 3. Ferguson Juror Makes Moves to Tell All | 4. Is it Time to Revise Congressional Math? | 5. The 30 Million-Word Gap Between Rich and Poor Children
On New Year's Day, 20 states and Washington, D.C. increased the minimum wage, and Alaska will also follow suit on February 24, 2015. According to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, the January 1st increases will affect 3.1 million workers across the country.
Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, explains the impact of this trend for workers and employers.
Throughout the dreary holiday news cycle of plane crash hunts and New York City police tensions, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to be taking preemptive steps to prevent any sort of political criticism.
Last week, anti-corruption crusader and opposition activist Aleksei Navalny, who has been under house arrest for nearly a year for a charge of “fraud,” got a suspended sentence. At the same time, authorities sentenced his brother Oleg to three-and-a-half years in a prison colony.
Aleksei responded by organizing street protests. In an environment where the Russian middle class faces some pain from falling oil prices and western sanctions, can opposition to Putin's rule gain momentum?
Activists in Russia face an uphill battle, and the fate of the two brothers is still uncertain. Emily Parker is author of the book "Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground." She's also a digital diplomacy advisor and senior fellow at the New America Foundation.
Parker talks to The Takeaway's John Hockenberry about Navalny brothers' role in Russian activism and why the Kremlin chose not to put them behind bars.
These days, flying can be painful. Airline seats are smaller and closer together than ever before, and more passengers are crammed onto every plane.
“It’s not your imagination that you’re on a fuller plane than you used to be,” says William J. McGee, the former editor-in-chief of Consumer Reports Travel Letter. McGee has also worked for the airline industry for almost seven years. “We’re looking at rates that we have not seen since the airlines were troop carriers during the Second World War.”
McGee, a current columnist for USA Today and the author of “Attention All Passengers: The Airlines' Dangerous Descent—And How To Reclaim Our Skies,” says the airline industry is constantly operating at a “breaking point.”
But for extra money, customers can get more legroom, board early, or get access to Wi-Fi. However, a lot of us aren't willing to fork over the extra cash, so our experience is just getting worse.
“It was the stuff of comedy routines years ago,” McGee says. “But the fact is, there is a greater and greater segregation of passengers. And I don’t just mean behind the curtain in first class or business class—even within economy class now.”
Starting in 2015, Delta Airlines will offer more class options, including "Basic Economy," where customers can pay less money for fewer benefits. Basic Economy passengers can't change flights, upgrade their seats, or receive a refund for unused tickets.
“It’s a new sub-class of service where you have even fewer rights,” McGee adds. “That is the general direction that the U.S. airline industry is going.”
The low sticker price will attract a lot of bargain shoppers, but the financial relief might not be worth the lack of benefits.
“The fact is, they’re taking away more and more services and products and charging us for it,” he says. “The airlines say, ‘Well, we’re offering more choice and that’s what our customers say they want.’ But these choices are not always reflected in the fares.”
Many airlines view the upsell of a bag of nuts or a cocktail, things that might once have been included with a trip 20 years ago, as a service option that consumers must now actively choose. But McGee says that despite removing complimentary services, airline fares haven’t budged, even in the face of falling fuel prices.
“When fuel prices go up, the airlines are quick to scream about it and add increases in the fares,” he says. “But when the opposite happens we’re told, ‘Well we hedged our fuel; we bought it in advance, so it hasn’t really affected anything,’ and consumers don’t see the benefit. It’s obviously a system that is gamed. And it’s not gamed in favor of the consumer.”
And airlines aren’t just sacrificing things like a free drink or extra leg room, either.
“Anyone who’s flown in recent years knows that airline service has been degraded,” says McGee. “But my bigger concern is actually that the same mindset that nickels and dimes for bags, crackers, and pillows has also created an environment where maintenance of the aircraft is being outsourced to third world countries.”
For the last several years, McGee says airlines have started to tap the cheap labor of third world nations—and they often do so at the expense of safety.
“For decades and decades, maintenance was done in-house by qualified and licensed mechanics,” he says. “There were drug and alcohol screenings, and security screenings. Now all of that has gone by the board. The Federal Aviation Administration allows all U.S. airlines to outsource maintenance, and they all do.”
Overseas, unlicensed technicians frequently repair aircrafts owned by U.S. airlines, with one licensed mechanic signing off on all of the work being performed.
“It’s a completely different model than we’re used to,” says McGee. “Quite frankly, we haven’t quite seen the full results of what all this will mean.”
On Sunday morning, beloved ESPN Anchor Stuart Scott died at the age of 49 after a lengthy battle with cancer. His personality and flair for language changed the network and allowed a whole new set of viewers to connect with ESPN for the first time.
After he was first diagnosed with cancer in November 2007, his public battle against the disease only gave viewers another reason to admire him.
"When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer,” Scott once said. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live."
Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation, reflects on Scott's life and legacy. He says that his admiration of Scott was both personal and professional.
When news surfaced that Sony's networks had been breached by hackers days before Thanksgiving, an internal corporate crisis quickly escalated into a media frenzy that shuttered theaters out of fear of further, less digital, attacks.
With federal officials slow to intervene, U.S. companies were quick to take note of the precarious security of their own computer systems. Businesses are now enlisting cybersecurity firms to learn hacking techniques of their own.
But do companies need permission from the federal government to conduct offensive operations? Weighing in is Nuala O'Connor, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit organization focused on advancing a free and open internet.
As 2014 began, most news-watchers guessed that Ukraine would be one of the year's top stories. The country was already under threat from Russia, as President Vladimir Putin prepared to host the Winter Olympics.
But few predicted the rapid rise of the Islamic State (ISIS), or that an Ebola outbreak in West Africa would claim thousands of lives before Christmas.
Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group and author of "Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World," examines the emerging global threats and trends for 2015. His top concerns include Putin's aggressive foreign policy, a lack of cohesion in the European Union, and China's economic slowdown.
1. The Top Threats Facing the World in 2015 | 2. Revenge Hacks: Sony Debacle Puts Companies on Offensive | 3. New Year, More Pay: Minimum Wage Increases in 20 States & D.C. | 4. Remembering ESPN Anchor Stuart Scott | 5. How Airlines Cash In on Our Discomfort
As we move forward into 2015, Rafer and Kristen take a look back at the very best movies of 2014. They each have a top ten list. Will any of their picks overlap?
Also, there are corrections, listener mail, and trivia.
Happy New Year, Movie Daters! Let's make it a wonderful, cinematic 2015!
RAFER'S TOP TEN FILMS OF 2014
KRISTEN'S TOP TEN FILMS OF 2014