Below you will find a transcript of Takeaway Host John Hockenberry's September 22, 2014 interview with Dr. Robert Fraley, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Monsanto. Tomorrow The Takeaway will hear a response from activist Vandana Shiva.
John Hockeberry [JH]: The Monsanto Corporation breeds, grows, and sells genetically modified seeds to farmers across the world. They've been doing it for 15 years, and this makes them a leader in the field. But because they also hold patents on a number of those seeds, it also makes them a target in debate over whether seeds can be the property of a corporation. Dr. Robert Fraely is Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Monsanto. He's familiar with passion against GMOs among some activists. He believes it's all apart of making progress.
Dr. Robert Fraley [RF]: The conversation itself around GMOs in many ways has become a distraction to the real issues and challenges and conversations we should be having around food security. Because as important as the GMO technology has been, it’s only one tool in an arsenal of many tools that farmers will need. How do we double the amount of food between now and 2050 is really where the conversation should be focused.
JH: People like Vandana Shiva and other activists who target Monsanto in their anti-GMO campaigns claim that your technology is killing people, is causing suicides in South Asia, that sort of thing. But by your argument, would you say that such critics are contributing to starvation by halting the production of agriculture in the way that you say Monsanto’s technology can assist farmers?
RF: You know in a broad sense every new technology has its detractors. I always often talk about the examples in other fields. We’ve seen some folks in the area of human health who don’t believe in the science of vaccines, and there is a whole internet rumor mill that is not grounded in science or based in scientific fact and as a result today we have folks who are getting disease that should have been eradicated decades ago.
I was just in California and they are now up to several hundred children being infected with measles and several who have died because somewhere there is a story that says vaccines might cause a problem, which has never been grounded in science. We see those same issues and critics that spread information, misinformation, rumors and sometimes just lies about the technology.
The true story in India today is that the technology has been adopted extensively. It’s given farmers, cotton farmers, higher yields and it’s also dramatically reduced their pesticide use. And this year, India, because of its adoption of the technology, will become the largest cotton producer in the world and Indian farmers are enjoying a level of income and sustainability that they have never seen before.
There is a very beneficial technology in rice called Golden Rice, that’s being developed by IRRI—the International Rice Research Institute. That’s based on science that was developed 20 years ago in Germany and Europe where a single gene can be introduced into rice to create a higher level of Vitamin A. In diets, particularly in Asia and Africa which are poor in Vitamin A, young children develop eye problems and night blindness and there has been a lot of work to show that just a cup a day of vitamin enriched Golden Rice could alleviate this problem. You know that’s an example where activists and critics who destroy field trials are creating a needless barrier to the adoption of a tool that can help farmers grow their crops but also help directly in terms of health benefits to consumers.
JH: So why not have GMO technology identified on labeling?
RF: Yeah, the labeling conversation is really an important one and a timely one and we are absolutely supportive of companies who want to do the GMO free labeling. Here in the U.S., 90 percent of the corn and soybean crop are GMOs, so it is the base crop technology in the U.S. For consumers who want a GMO free product, we certainly encourage the use of the organic label, which is by definition GMO-free. And now there are organizations that are certifying certain food products as GMO-free.
There’s about 15,000 different products in the grocery store shelf today that are GMO-free, so one perspective is consumers already have an enormous amount of choice between whether they want a GMO product or not so a lot of the conversation around labeling is driven by folks who want to create labels that are more punitive or would be of concern to the consumer and those are the ones where we’ve intervened as a company. But fundamentally, in direct answer to your question, we support the right for organizations to label their products as GMO-free. We think that type of voluntary labeling is exactly the type that should be used.
JH: But don’t you contribute to the controversy by spending tens of millions lobbying against transparency and labeling bills in Congress?
RF: Well we’re not against transparency. That is the point I was trying to make. We support the voluntary labeling systems that are already out there. Let’s reel back to maybe the situation you are talking about in California or some of the labeling bills that are being proposed today. Those labeling bills I would characterize as being very poorly written, they will be very costly to implement, everyone who has studied those has talked about their cost of enforcement to being hundreds of thousands of dollars to a family with no benefit above and beyond what is already available with the choices from organic and voluntary labeling.
And so we’ve opposed those as have so many other food companies because they’re expensive, they’re poorly written. And in the end, labeling is a national priority and we would certainly support the FDA looking at a broad-based labeling approach, but to do it state-by-state and interfere with the transportation, with the ability of farmers to produce their crops and market them at a state-by-state level I think would create a nightmare situation. So, you know, we’ve opposed kind of poorly written, you know state-by-state initiatives
JH: But are you saying an FDA GMO-free law would be something you’d support?
RF: Yeah, and in fact the FDA and USDA have already defined a number of the GMO-free type products. Doing that at a national level I think is the right solution versus state-by-state initiatives that are often originated by groups who have a different motive.
JH: Couldn’t you preempt this whole thing though, by labeling what are GMO products, couldn’t you say if this is such a boon for humanity, made with superior GMO-produced agricultural products made for the health and the health of all mankind, something like that.
RF: So the way labeling systems work is we label every bag of seed we sell around the world as containing our biotech traits, so we do label all our seed products. The challenge that you’re addressing is how does the processed foods and how do the food products get labeled.
You know as a seed company, we have a role in that, but that is the ultimate decision of the food companies and the FDA. We’re a member of GMA. We support the efforts that they’re putting in place in terms of transparency and we also support the efforts that they’re putting in place to uh, you know to try to create a more national labeling scheme that will work for all parties.
JH: But nothing would prevent Monsanto from doing that, just like Intel markets Intel inside in computers…you could market GMO Monsanto products in this burrito.
RF: You know we sell seeds to farmers. Those seeds get shipped to grain companies and provided to you know, uh, different processors. It’s really a processor decision in terms of what they want to label, you know not a Monsanto seed perspective. And we, as I said, we support you know the variety of voluntary labeling schemes that are out there, that you know, some companies are already using.
JH: You wouldn’t want to leave the impression though that Monsanto is uneasy about forthrightly saying we’re proud of this, we think this is a great technology, and we’re happy to put it not in the fine print but right in the big print on the…
RF: You know I’m absolutely proud of the track record in history. You know these products have now been used for nearly 30 years in the country, since their discovery in the early 80s. You know they’re used on the vast majority of the corn and soybean and cotton acres in North America and South America. They have an exceptional track record in terms of, you know, their benefits and their safety. And we’re a, we’re proud of the technology absolutely, but it’s still the purvue of the FDA in terms of the food labeling requirements
JH: Do you think the science is settled on the neonicotinoids, the use of chemicals that are genetically uh put into creatures that develop a pesticide resistance or a pest resistance? Are neonicotinoids something that concerns you, their absorption into food and animal tissues?
RF: I’ve looked at the science particularly as it relates to this area of bee health, which tends to be the concern point around the neo-nic products, in terms of colony collapse disorder. We’ve actually been doing quite a bit of research on bee health. And I would say our science and the science of a lot of scientific leaders, who are studying this, tend to point to a different culprit, which is the veroa mite.
So, if you can imagine it. If you were a bee, a veroa mite would be about the size of a football on a person. And the veroa mite is latching onto the bee and draining it of its vital fluids but at the same time, it’s injecting into the bee maybe up to a dozen different viruses which then further weaken and kill the bee and that’s what causes the colony collapse disorder. And in fact, we’re doing a lot of research in that area. We acquired a company called Beeologics
RF: Which is using a new technology based on a Nobel Prize-winning discovery that we think can help improve bee health and we’re doing a lot of testing to see whether we can use that, that technology to eliminate very specifically the mites and the viruses and I think there are some very intriguing leads there that get us to the culprit behind colony collapse disorder.
JH: I just want to get you to respond to something that Eric Chivian, who is a doctor at the Harvard Medical, former Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment. He published this in the New Yorker: “A large body of evidence points to neonicotinoids as the main reason behind the recent die-off of honey bees around the world, you’ve addressed that. As a result, the most widely-used neonicotinoids have been banned in the European Union for at least the next year and a half. They are found in ground and surface waters and in the food we eat. They have been shown to disrupt nerve-cell activities in mammals. I'm deeply concerned," this doctor writes, "that neonicotinoids may impact humans as well." What do you say about that?
RF: We don't sell those products and I'm not privy to all the information that you've talked about there. I know these products have been approved previously in Europe and the US and they have an excellent safety record. They've been throughly studied; I know the EU is re-reviewing the data and may re-introduce those products in another couple of years.
JH: Do you understand how so people have a problem with thinking about seeds as intellectual property -- patentable intellectual property -- and so if you get a seed that might've been inadvertently fertilized by a GMO-produced plant, that you can be liable for actually using that seed if you're in Bangladesh or somewhere like that. Do you understand how people have a concern about that?
RF: I understand the concern; I understand how it's been used by activists and I understand the lack of any data behind it that supports that there's ever been an issue.
Here in the U.S. there was a large USDA task force called AC21 that brought together conventional farmers, organic farmers, GMO farmers -- and basically they convened for a couple of years and could not find a single incident where those theoretical occurred. In fact, I'd flip it all the way around and say that the great strength of US agriculture is its incredible diversity.
So let's just take, you know, one example here. I grew up on a small farm. When we were planting corn, the first thing we would do is, were we going to plant white corn or yellow corn, were we going to plant sweet corn, were we going to plant high-amylose corn? Some farmers were planting popcorn, some were planting blue corn.
The farmers would get together; you'd talk to your neighbor. If you were planting white corn across from a yellow corn, you'd talk about planting dates and pollination dates --
JH: I have that problem in my own garden.
RF: And that's all worked out. And so the strength of US agriculture is the fact that, even in a crop like corn that is composed of 20 different sub-crops, we can grow those crops and grow them successfully.
The same thing has happened between conventional and GMO crops. While there's stories you can find on the Internet, there's really been no practical implication, relative to the impact of growing these crops side by side. And as a company, I think the great strength of US agriculture is in its diversity, and the fact that we can make conventional, organic and GMO farming work side by side to give the market the flexibility it needs, and consumers the products that they want.
JH: In a recent article in The New Yorker, a Monsanto executive was asked about the branding of Monsanto in light of the recent controversy, and he admitted, you know, we'd change the name if we could, but it's a little late for that. Is this a tough time to be a Monsanto executive and are you stuck with a brand that you're going to have to live with in this century?
RF: I would say that, when I look back, you know, we were really excited with the new technologies that we were able to develop that help farmers control their weeds or reduce their insect crops and losses. We put almost all of our effort, starting in the late '90s, in communication to farmers around the world and our customers, the benefits of the products.
The communication to farmers has gone extraordinarily well. Since the '90s, we're selling biotech crops in 30 countries; we're reaching literally hundreds of millions of farmers. But the mistake we made is that we did not have a communication path direct to the consumer. And so while we were really absent from the consumer dialogue, the critics, the activists, lit up the internet with accusations and misleading statements that we're now, as a company, working really hard to address.
So I would say that the big change in Monsanto the last couple of years, we are participating in that dialogue.
JH: We interviewed a scientist awhile ago, just to give you an experience that we've had, talking very much about the bad science of GMO critics and the hysteria that they've created, in terms of fears of agricultural products from Monsanto and other groups. And we got huge pushback from listeners, saying you bought a line, you've taken the propaganda.
And so we asked today, I'm going to interview you, what should I ask you? And this isn't scientific, but this is just a typical example of some of the questions that they ask. They're not even terribly responsible questions, but they represent an emotional cord here. "Why are you strong-arming El Salvador over their use of local seeds?" "Do you frequently use the US government to bully small countries?" "Why do you punish farmers when non-Monsanto soybeans land on their farm?" "Is he feeding the same stuff they're growing to his or her children" -- and they didn't use the word "stuff" there. What's your response to that sense out there?
RF: Again, going back to the example on vaccines. The whole fear of vaccines was created by junk science. Here are the facts: there's 7.2 billion people on the planet today. All of the estimates say that by 2050, that will reach 9.5 billion people. We also know that we'll see another couple billion people join the middle classes as world wealth increases across Asia and Africa.
So between now and 2050, we need to double the food supply. That's probably the greatest challenge facing mankind. And instead of spending our time talking about the activists, and the myths on the internet, we should be having the conversation about how do we use the technologies we have today; how do we invent new ones; how do we talk about food conservation and waste reduction; and how do we really build a plan so that we can achieve food security by 2050?
In 2003, writer, director, and actor Benjamin Busch was a Marine Corps officer assigned to serve as the provisional military mayor of a small Iraqi town called Jassan, not far from the Iranian border.
After his stint in Jassan, he was sent to Ramadi. But even after the war's end, he wondered about the fate of the men and women of Jassan, a rural town that had found itself unexpectedly entangled in a global war.
Ten years later, Busch went back. With a beard and dingy clothes to mask his identity as a former American military officer, he returned to find out what had become of the town.
The town that the he found was "almost unrecognizable." He wrote about the journey for the October issue of Harper's Magazine and weighs in on his experience today.
What is it about our neighboring red planet that has so many Earthlings enthralled?
The new Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, otherwise known as MAVEN, may soon find answers to some of the most mysterious questions surrounding Mars.
NASA's latest spacecraft will quite literally be studying the planet's surroundings, and in particular what's happening in Mars's atmosphere, as it circles around in the 35 hour loop of the planet's orbit.
Tonight, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, or MOM, will also join the fun by entering orbit. Bruce Jakosky is the principal investigator of the MAVEN mission and the director of the Center for Astrobiology at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He explains what type of preparation and ongoing work the MAVEN mission requires.
Check out a video about the MAVEN mission below.
The deadly Ebola virus continues to paralyze West African nations.
According to the most recent figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 5,800 people have been infected with Ebola and more than 2,800 had died of it since the virus first broke out in Guinea in December. And WHO estimates that the number of cases could surpass 20,000 by early November.
Dr. Adam C. Levine, a Rhode Island Hospital emergency medicine physician and a volunteer with International Medical Corps in Liberia, has been keeping an audio diary for us on the front lines of this faraway war.
Dr. Levine says that treating Ebola is a suspenseful waiting game. Here he weighs in on the medical community's frantic efforts to make progress, and the heartbreaking moments when people slip beyond reach.
Click here for more information about International Medical Corps.
Known as the "Oklahoma Cowboy," Woody Guthrie was a national troubadour, writing about displaced farmers, valleys, mountains, and America's diamond deserts. But if America's wandering folk singer found home on the open road, his second home was New York City.
Hitchhiking from Los Angeles, Woody Guthrie arrived in New York City in February of 1940. He was 27-years-old, and he spent the next 27 years making his mark on the city and the world of music.
Guthrie wrote "This Land is Your Land" in a boarding house on 43rd street, composed songs with Pete Seeger and Lead Belly at the Almanac House in Greenwich Village, and his experience in New York inspired contemporary albums by artists like Billy Bragg and Wilco.
Nora Guthrie was only 17-years-old when her father passed away, and she's devoted much of her life to preserving his legacy. Her latest project, "My Name is New York: Ramblin' Around Woody Guthrie's Town," is a collection of unreleased songs and stories about her father's life in New York City.
Click through a few of the locations Woody Guthrie inhabited in his New York years (and check out the embedded videos at each "stop.") Thanks to our friends at WNYC's Soundcheck for developing this map.
The United States and five Arab countries launched airstrikes against ISIS militants in Syria last night. U.S. Central Command said Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates participated in or supported the strikes against Islamic State targets.
In addition, Central Command said that American forces "took action” in Syria against “a network of seasoned Al Qaeda veterans” from the Khorasan group, which is led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a senior Al Qaeda operative who was close to Osama Bin Laden. The attacks carried out by American forces were reportedly designed to disrupt “imminent attack planning against the United States and Western interests.”
Aki Peritz, a former CIA analyst and co-author of "Find, Fix, Finish: Inside the Counterterrorism Campaigns that Killed bin Laden and Devastated Al Qaeda," weighs in on the fight against ISIS and the Khorasan Group.
“According to press accounts, [the Khorasan Group] are these old school Al Qaeda guys who potentially predate 9/11,” says Peritz. “Supposedly, they’ve actually come to Syria to do, as the Pentagon says, ‘imminent attack planning’ to recruit individuals. It’s a lot easier to recruit potential fighters in Syria than anywhere else in the region.”
Peritz says that the Khorasan Group is part of the terrorist organization Jabhat al-Nusra, which is an Al Qaeda affiliate operating within Syria. But the relationship between these organizations is complicated.
“ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and by de facto Al Qaeda, have actually been at war with each other for a while,” says Peritz. “It’s a target rich environment, so I suppose what we call the Khorasan Group has been actively trying to do something in Syria. It’s one of the few places in the world where the United States, up until last night, allowed Al Qaeda to sort of do whatever it wanted to do without much consequence.”
The Syrian city of Raqqa is currently under ISIS control and was the focus of U.S. airstrikes in the region, a strategy that Peritz says represents a “great first step.”
“ISIS is pretty vulnerable to air attacks as of right now,” he says. “But we’ve got to remember is this is a terrorist organization—it’s not a huge army; it’s not like the Red Army. If the United States continues with this air campaign, it’s going to run out of targets to hit. And then what do we do?”
Peritz says that in order to make the air campaign successful, strikes should be supported with ground troops.
“You can never win an insurgency from the air,” he says. “For us to do pinprick attacks, to attack specific buildings and specific convoys, it’s not going to significantly degrade ISIS’s capabilities until we have some sort of ground force to actually take them on on the battlefield itself.”
Though these strikes are targeted at ISIS militants, Raqqa is a city of about 200,000. According to early reports, at least eight civilians were killed in Monday’s attack. But Peritz says that the people of Raqqa live in fear of ISIS militants, so some support likely remains.
“If I were an average citizen of Raqqa and I had to live under ISIS for the last year or year and a half, I would actually see this as a positive development,” he says. “In terms of hearts and minds, it shows that the United States is actually getting in the game, which we haven’t been doing for the last three years, and which a lot of the rebels have been begging us to do.”
The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been planning to confront the West for the last four years and is someone Peritz describes as “brutal,” “ruthless,” and “strategic.”
“He’s been breaking people out of jail—out of Abu Ghraib; out of the Mousul jail, for the past year” says Peritz. “He’s been getting his dream team ready for this event. He’s a really thoughtful guy, and he’s not going to go quietly into the night.”
These strikes have a large emotional impact for at least one Syrian-American currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Basma Akbik has waited years for the U.S. to take action in her country, but she worries that these strikes may be too late. Akbik left Syria for the United States 20 years ago, but worries about the family she still has in Damascus.
“In my opinion, you cannot treat the metastasis without taking out the original tumor,” says Akbik. “Don’t forget that ISIS was created by the regime. ISIS was born because of what was going on in Syria for four years. Syria has been under fire for four years, at least 250,000 people have been killed. Now, in my opinion, it’s very good that hopefully we’re going to get rid of ISIS. But more civilians are going to pay the price.”
Akbik says that ISIS has now embedded itself in civilian areas and is using the communities as a de facto shield. As the West and Arab nations step up to fight ISIS, she says that she is concerned that Syria will become like Iraq or Afghanistan.
“This excuse of fighting terrorism, we’re not looking at the original reasons,” says Akbik. “Those are ideologies that have been fed by bigger things—it’s bigger than only ISIS. Airstrikes won’t do the job.”
Akbik’s family and community back home in Syria have been directly affected by the conflict playing out in the streets there. Her neighbor was killed, and her friend was kidnapped.
“It’s just so hard and scary to wake up every morning and hear this bad news,” she says. “I don’t know when the shell or the mortar will hit one of my family members—it is so scary.”
Check out a video of U.S. military intervention in Syria below.
Here at TheTakeaway.org, no topic has inspired more debate and response than genetically modified organisms or GMOs.
A few weeks back The Takeaway talked to Mark Lynas, an environmentalist who recently converted from GMO detractor to believer. And we heard from so many of you about the benefits and drawbacks of genetically modified food.
This week, we'll bring two more voices into this debate. The first is Dr. Robert Fraley, Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Monsanto—a multinational agriculture corporation long at the center of the GMO debate.
Monsanto breeds, grows and sells genetically modified seeds to farmers across the world. They also hold patents on a number of those seeds—a major problem, from the perspective of anti-GMO activists. But accordingly to Dr. Fraley, those against his company simply do not understand the science.
"You know, in a broad sense, every new technology has its detractors," Dr. Fraley tells Takeaway Host John Hockenberry. "We’ve seen some folks in the area of human health who don’t believe in the science of vaccines and there is a whole internet rumor mill that is not grounded in science or based in scientific fact. And as a result, today we have folks who are getting diseases that should have been eradicated decades ago."
Dr. Fraley also weighs in on the impact of Monsanto products on bees and issues of labeling. He says his company does support labeling, but only under federal FDA guidelines.
"We label every bag of seed we sell around the world as containing our biotech traits, so we do label all our seed products," he says. "The challenge that you’re addressing is how does the processed foods and how do the food products get labeled. You know as a seed company, we have a role in that, but that is the ultimate decision of the food companies and the FDA."
One U.S. city has taken the local fight against climate change to a new level: Burlington, Vermont can now proudly say they rely on 100 percent renewable energy.
The northern city of 42,000 achieved the goal after purchasing a hydroelectric dam earlier this month. Alongside another hydroelectric project, Burlington will now produce one third of its energy from water power, one third from wind energy, and one third from a biomass renewal station.
Christopher Recchia, the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, explains how the city made this transition.
The heirs to the Rockefeller family, which made its vast fortune from oil, are planning to sell investments in fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy.
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, an $860 million philanthropic group, is joining a broad coalition of philanthropists to announce plans to rid themselves of more than $50 billion in fossil fuel assets. The wealth of the organization comes partly from the oil boom days of Standard Oil—the company founded by John D. Rockefeller that opened the era of modern energy.
In recent years, some 180 institutions—including colleges, religious organizations, philanthropies, wealthy investors, and local governments—have pledged to avoid companies tied to fossil fuels and to invest in cleaner companies.
Ellen Dorsey, the executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, has helped to recruit foundations to the divestment movement. She joins The Takeaway to explain why the heirs to an oil fortune are abandoning fossil fuels.
This week, the documentary filmmakers over at Retro Report reflect on the transformational impact of Prozac.
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1989, Prozac revolutionized the treatment of depression. As Dr. Peter Kramer, psychiatrist and author of "Listening to Prozac" tells Retro Report, "I started giving it to difficult patients, patients who hadn't done well somewhere else. And people thought, 'I could get help with something I've lived with for years.'”
But as Retro Report Producer Sarah Gross tells Takeaway Host John Hockenberry, while the medication helped millions of Americans suffering from depression, it also transformed the way drugs are developed and marketed in the United States. Some doctors contend that the drug's celebrity status has lead to over-medication for problems that hardly existed just a few decades ago.
Check out a video of Retro Report's findings below.
Dr. Martine Rothblatt hit headlines when a recent article identified her as America's highest-paid female CEO. The title is fitting because Rothblatt is something of a visionary.
She founded GeoStar, an early GPS-based navigation system, an idea that Wall Street, satellite manufacturers and the FCC all initially said no to. Rothblatt also founded Sirius Satellite Radio—a business venture that was initially rejected by even the company's current CEO.
And Rothblatt is also the brains behind the pharmaceutical company United Therapeutics, a business she is currently leading as CEO. Founded in 1996 after her youngest child was diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension, Rothblatt made $38 million as the company's leader in 2013.
She's pushed through to achieve her goals, and the word no actually became the fuel for her success—an attitude she applied to not just her business endeavors, but her very sense of self.
In her life, Dr. Rothblatt has transcended gender and technological boundaries. Rothblatt was born a man, and today is a transgender woman—just another no she turned into a yes.
Now with her new book, "Virtually Human: The Promise - and the Peril - of Digital Immortality," Dr. Rothblatt has a new vision of transcending the boundary between life and death, the organic and the robotic, and the physical limitations of the human body.
Buses from around the country and flights from across the globe brought an estimated 400,000 marchers to New York City for the People's Climate March on Sunday.
The height of the demonstration against global climate change was marked with a raucous display of noise. The sound of drums, whistles, and trombones were used to sound the alarm on an environmental future being stolen.
The march coincides with the start of the United Nations Climate Summit. The meeting, which begins Tuesday in New York, will bring 120 world leaders together in an effort to improve upon the progress of the last summit, which was held five years ago in Copenhagen and called "disappointing in substance and hectic in progress."
In attendance will be the leadership of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, a series low-lying ring-shaped islands, the highest of which is only two meters above sea level. To say that the Marshall Islands are vulnerable to the effects of global climate change is an understatement.
The Takeaway sat down with Tony De Brum, Foreign Minister for the Marshall Islands, just ahead of Tuesday's Summit, to talk about his hopes and fears for an island nation that finds itself dangerously close to destruction.
“Anything that the sea does is felt immediately by our people,” says De Brum. “As the tide comes in a lot higher than it used, it begins to affect life as we know it. Not only as to where you can live or have a family, but also where you can grow your food, where you draw your water, and where you bury your dead.”
De Brum says the side effects of climate change are already being felt in not just the Marshall Islands, but the Federated States of Micronesia, Tuvalu, and other Pacific nations as well.
“If we do not keep the temperature under two degrees centigrade, as the United Nations FCCC [Framework Convention on Climate Change] is trying to do, then in 50 years there will be nobody living there,” he says. “Already, communities are having to move from their traditional sites because of erosion and the impending movement of the water.”
Though there is some movement, many citizens of the Marshall Islands feel that their sense of identity is attached to specific localities. And now they are finding that the places they have called home are no longer inhabitable.
“The displacement that is occurring now is because of droughts and floods,” he says. “Thousands have been moved from their homes to places that they do not traditionally belong in order for them to get away from the immediate effects of climate change.”
Though many are moving to different islands, many other citizens are abandoning the country altogether because the waters continue to rise and there is no where left to run.
“Many of our people live in America, but more are moving there because of the threat of climate change, and more will move if it continues to threaten us,” says De Brum. “We will try to do what we can to keep our population in place because moving people threatens our traditions, language, culture—everything that we stand for.”
Not even Marshall Island government officials are immune from the effects of climate change—the home of President Christopher Loeak has even been touched by rising waters.
“He himself had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating,” says De Brum. “Our airport retaining wall that keeps the saltwater out of the landing strip has been breached. You will see buildings being flooded and roads being cut.”
Climate change is disrupting almost every aspect of life in the Marshall Islands. So much so that not even the dead are safe.
“Our graveyards are also being undermined—coffins and bodies are being dug out from the seashore,” he says.
As the crisis continues to worsen, De Brum is hoping that an urgent call to action will be heard about 7,000 miles away from his home within the halls of the United Nations in New York City.
“We still hold our hopes high that the world will realize that allowing the Islands to go under is not a solution,” he says. “I don’t think that’s an option. We will continue to fight to make sure that the world understands that it’s still possible to do something about the effects of climate change. We hope that this week in New York we can convince those that still have doubts.”
Over the last few decades, the United States has lost millions of manufacturing jobs as companies moved operations overseas to take advantage of low wages. But the future of manufacturing may not be as bleak as some fear.
The industry is rapidly changing. Forget shoulder-to-shoulder assembly lines—advanced manufacturing requires high-end production, and those who want to be successful will need high-tech skills and a good understanding of innovation and design.
Brian Anthony is the director of M.I.T’s Master of Engineering in Manufacturing Program and the latest contributor to The Takeaway’s month long Job Fair series. He explains how young students should prepare for a career in the quickly-changing field of manufacturing.
Creating strategies that will have a meaningful impact on climate change is a challenge for nations across the globe.
Getting everyone to turn off one light, join a carpool to work, or buy an efficient washing machine is a strategy that has gotten lots of people involved. But in the end, it may not make the most impact. Mobilizing awareness and reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere may in fact be completely separate if worthy goals.
What actually makes a real, measurable difference in reducing the number of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions? The researchers at The Economist magazine set out to answer that question, and what they found may surprise you.
Veteran energy and environment reporter and briefings editor for The Economist, Oliver Morton, joins The Takeaway to explain.
In the wake of the outrage and debate over the NFL's perceived culture of violence, another voice has emerged. Dewan Smith-Williams shares her own story of abuse at the hands of her husband, former NFL player Wally Williams, who played for the Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Ravens, and the New Orleans Saints between 1993 and 2003.
What do you read—a bound book with the smell of glue and ink, or a glassy electronic display with sharp colors? As it turns out, our brains process digital reading very differently. Manoush Zomorodi, managing editor and host of WNYC's New Tech City, explains how the shift from paper to digital has caused a gigantic change in the way we read.
It's not just the way that we read that's being impacted by technology—in the next decade, driverless cars could become the norm. Charlie Herman, WNYC's economics editor and the host of Money Talking, weighs in on the future of automobile transportation. What do you think of driverless cars? Leave a comment below, give us a call at 1-877-869-8253.
Known for films like "Shaun of The Dead," "Hot Fuzz," and "The World's End," actor Simon Pegg started out his career as a stand up comedian. Movie Date Podcast Co-host Kristen Meinzer sits down with Pegg to discuss his career and new film, "Hector and The Search for Happiness."
Rafer thinks it's a week for people on film to take personal responsibility for their lives. But not all of them seem up for the task.
The members of the Altman family need to tell the truth and make peace with each other in "This is Where I Leave You." A podcaster needs to face a strange challenger in "Tusk." A former cop must commit crimes to fight crimes in "A Walk Among the Tombstones." And a group of teenage boys must take control of their lives and free themselves of what cages them in "The Maze Runner."
Finally, Simon Pegg discusses the importance of taking personal responsibility for one's happiness, when he sits down with Kristen to discuss his new film, "Hector and the Search for Happiness."
In the wake of the outrage, speculation, and debate over football star Ray Rice assaulting his wife and the NFL's policies on domestic violence, another voice has emerged.
Dewan Smith-Williams has come forward with her own story of abuse at the hands of her husband, former NFL player Wally Williams, who played for the Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Ravens, and the New Orleans Saints between 1993 and 2003.
While he was playing for the Saints, Dewan says Wally was often intoxicated and violent towards her, and when she sought help from the League that was supposed to protect her, it became clear that her husband and the game, not their family, were the NFL's priority.
Dewan Smith-Williams and Wally Williams are currently separated and living in different states. The Takeaway reached out to Wally Williams, the NFL and the New Orleans Saints, who Williams played for at the time of the abuse, and did not hear back from him or the League. The New Orleans Saints responded that they have no comment.
“The NFL's goal was to protect the brand, it wasn’t to protect my husband from himself and his high risk behavior,” says Dewan. “I was told no one is going to want to listen to me, no one wants to hear what the 'F' you want to say, no one is going to believe you.”
She continues: “We fall in love with the person and it is hard to admit you have failed—I mean who lets someone punch you in the face and then marries them a month later?”
Known for films like "Shaun of The Dead," "Hot Fuzz," and "The World's End," actor Simon Pegg started out his career as a stand up comedian.
In his long career, Pegg has also been known for playing a lot of unhappy characters, but in his latest project he plays a psychiatrist who travels the world in search for the secret to happiness.
The new movie is called "Hector and The Search for Happiness," and it is based on the novel by author and former psychiatrist Francois Lelord. Simon Pegg sat down with Movie Date Podcast Host Kristen Meinzer to talk about what he's learned about finding the secret to happiness.
Check out a trailer for the film below.
On July 12, 1862, while on a mud-spattered carriage ride to the funeral of a cabinet member’s infant son, President Abraham Lincoln spoke for the first time of his intention to free the slaves.
Months later, as people were celebrating the new year, Lincoln was staring at the stars and still debating a course of action. Up until that point, no one was certain that Lincoln would sign the Emancipation Proclamation—not even Lincoln himself.
In the end, the Proclamation freed slaves in the South not on moral grounds, but as a military tactic.
Todd Brewster, author of "Lincoln's Gamble: The Tumultuous Six Months that Gave America the Emancipation Proclamation and Changed the Course of the Civil War,” describes the struggles of the “Great Emancipator.”
Alibaba went public today and the Chinese e-commerce giant reportedly raised $21.8 billion—the biggest initial public offering ever in United States history.
The company is valued at at least $168 billion. When it began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, shares jumped 36 percent from $68 a share to $92.70 a share.
Alibaba, which is China's largest internet venture, claims a complicated portfolio of different companies centered around a lucrative online market place where companies can sell products directly to customers. Think Amazon meets eBay with UPS and FedEx thrown in.
Robert Armstrong, head of the Lex column at The Financial Times, weighs in on the company's future.
Yesterday, the Senate approved a measure to keep the U.S. government operating. Within the bill was a key amendment to fund President Obama's plan to train and arm Syrian rebels.
It's the only part of the current fight against the radical militant group ISIS that the president claims to need any congressional authorization for. Despite assurances that there will be no U.S. combat troops in Syria, Congress is watching the White House cautiously these days.
Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington Correspondent, weighs in on the Senate's action.
We're just a few weeks into the 2014 football season, and it's the players' behavior off the field that's attracting attention.
Less than a week after TMZ released a video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice beating his then-fiance in an Atlantic City elevator, Texas police arrested Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for beating his four-year-old son with a switch.
Rice and Peterson are not alone. According to a USA Today database of NFL arrests, a dozen current players have been arrested for domestic violence or related charges since 2005. Some have successfully fought the charges, while others accepted a short League suspension, and some are still awaiting a court date.
While the NFL eventually suspended Peterson and Rice, a number of critics believe it took the teams—and the League—too long to confront what some have described as a culture of violence within the NFL.
In a roundtable discussion, Nicholas Dawidoff, author of "Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent world of NFL Football;" Jane McManus, a sportswriter who covers the New York Giants and Jets for ESPN; and Harvey Schiller, Commissioner for America's Cup 35, who formerly served as President of the International Baseball Federation and as executive director and secretary general of the United States Olympic Committee, examine whether and how violence pervades the NFL on and off the field.
In many ways, the NFL has a special status in American society—about 111 million people or 35 percent of the U.S. population watched the 2014 Super Bowl. But does that mean it has a greater responsibility to handle scandals?
“I do think that [NFL players] know that Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, has said that it’s a privilege to play in the League,” says McManus. “They have a personal conduct policy, and that personal conduct policy is administered through the League office and Roger Goodell. It means that any off the field issues can be subject to fines and suspensions.”
Though the NFL has a personal conduct policy to deal with issues that happen both on and off the field, these policies, in many ways, are constantly evolving.
“It’s notorious for constantly renegotiating and changing legislation—both rules of conduct and rules of play,” Dawidoff says of the League. “What’s happening right now makes the entire country wince and cringe. These are lurid stories and it’s horrible. But one of the things that’s also true is that the NFL players are not a monolith.”
There is a great deal of diversity throughout the League—players are different races, from different cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, there are many different ages, faiths and marital statuses.
And when it comes to domestic violence within the NFL, McManus points out that League penalties are also very diverse: Historically, penalties for domestic violence incidences have been lower when comparing other infractions.
“The NFL has taken on these things, and when Roger Goodell was hired that’s one of the things that he wanted to do—raise the standards,” says McManus. “If that’s what your employer does, you’re kind of beholden to what they say their particular standards are.”
While many argue those standards do not go far enough, especially for a sport that is so deeply ingrained in American culture, others argue that the at its heart, the NFL is not a cultural pillar.
“Without question, the NFL is first and foremost a business,” says Dawidoff. “You can see right now that many people are concerned that the NFL is operating with a certain corporate callousness or sometimes corporate discomfort. The way that a large institution behaves definitely influences the way that people who work for it behave.”
While the NFL’s institutional actions have internal consequences, Dawidoff says that they are also felt exteriorly as well.
“As a public, the way that our big institutions behave define us as people and become a prism for which we view ourselves,” he says. “The only real good that’s coming out of this is it’s become a public conversation. It’s because there is an NFL, because people like it so much and because people are behaving in this way that we’re talking about the various thing that the NFL is staggering its way through, like domestic violence, animal rights, child abuse, bullying, concussions, or gay rights.”
In addition to starting important conversations about cultural issues at kitchen tables, pubs, and barbershops, recent incidents have also had an impact on the structure of the League itself.
“One of the things that the NFL has done in the wake of this has been to hire women,” says McManus. “They’ve hired four women, one who’s going to be a VP of social responsibility, and three others who will be able to advise on issues of domestic violence and personal conduct policies.”
Though the NFL as an institution may be standing up against domestic violence because of perceived American cultural values, McManus echoes Dawidoff when he says that the League, at the end of the day, has a primary goal to make money.
“The NFL is an entertainment product,” she says. “The Ray Rice video, I think, opened a lot of peoples eyes. When you go to a game on Sunday and you want to scream your heart out for your team, you don’t want to feel conflicted about who you’re screaming for and what they stand for.”
Turning a blind eye to domestic violence in today’s hyper visual and connected world could ultimately mean that the League could be fostering feelings of internal conflict within fans tjat may conclude that they no longer want to pay to fill seats in stadiums.
Like the NFL, viewers ultimately want this issue to go away.
“I think that [fans] have to keep reinforcing what they will and will not tolerate,” says Schiller. “There’s been a transition from what is a sport to what is entertainment. Every player on the field...is just like any other entertainer. The question of their individual behavior is because they’re in the spotlight everyday. I think the NFL is waking up to that just like every League has had to wake up to it before.”
In order for fans to get back to the game and away from societal issues, the NFL will have to take an entirely new approach, Dawidoff argues.
“It should become more transparent—it should become more proactive than reactive,” he says. “It should seem like more of a humane organization. It would be much better for fans if we could admire the NFL—if they could take the lead on so many of these problems rather than being responsive and sometimes being defensive.”
A new 507 page report called "Dying in America" says the country's end-of-life care system is badly broken.
The report, which was issued by a non-partisan committee appointed by the research wing of the National Academy of Sciences, calls for a major overhaul for how end-of-life issues are handled. The report suggests redesigning Medicare's reimbursement structure to make it easier for patients to get the home health services they actually need.
Dr. Diane E. Meier, director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care at the Icahn School of Medicine, was on the committee appointed by the Institute of Medicine to put together the report.
Lawmakers in Washington broke through Capitol Hill's traditional bi-partisan gridlock yesterday when the House of Representatives voted to authorize the training and arming of moderate Syrian rebels. The move is seen as an important step in confronting the radical militant group known as ISIS or ISIL.
“They're now the best funded and most lethal terrorist organization that we've ever seen in modern history, so we cannot turn our backs on this," said Democratic Representative Jim Moran, taking the position of many House Republicans during the debate just before the vote.
But the opposition, made-up of members from both sides as well, are skeptical of President Obama's assurances that this will not be another ground war.
Congressional pressure in the wake of terrorism is a thing Jane Harman knows a bit about. A former U.S. representative from California, Harman was on her way to U.S. Capital building when the planes struck the Twin Towers on September 11th.
Now the president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Harman says time is running out to keep Iraq from coming apart, adding that the U.S. needs to be wary that the nation's policies don't end up aiding the very people we are trying to weaken.
After all the waiting, it's decision day in Scotland. More than 4 million people are eligible to vote in today’s independence referendum, and a high turnout is predicted at the polls, which will remain open until 10:00 PM local time.
A final result is expected on Friday. The nation's decision to leave the union or stay part of the United Kingdom, along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has been hotly debated in Scotland, especially in families where relatives hold different opinions about the vote.
Rhod Sharp, the long-serving host of the BBC Radio 5 live show “Up All Night,” his mother Mabel Sharp, and his niece Jenny Green, discuss the recent conversations their family has been having about Scotland's future.
Australian officials carried out counter-terrorism raids in Sydney today after it learned that the radical militant group ISIS or ISIL was planning to carry out random, violent attacks.
During the sweep, 15 people were detained and one was arrested in an alleged conspiracy to carry out public executions. According to authorities, the plots were designed to demonstrate ISIS's reach.
A few days prior, the nation raised its terror threat alert to high. Did Australia's system work, or is it too soon to say? Joining The Takeaway to weigh in is Phil Mercer, correspondent for the BBC in Australia.
Actor Dan Stevens is perhaps best known as the Brit who broke American hearts in his role as the now-deceased Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey.
But Stevens is also a busy film actor, with four movies hitting theaters in the next four months.
Among them, "The Guest," which opens today, and "A Walk Among the Tombstones," which is in theaters Friday. And a warning to Downton fans: His new characters, one an American killer and the other a Brooklyn drug dealer, aren't anything like the charming Matthew Crawley.
Kristen Meinzer, Takeaway culture producer and host of the Movie Date podcast, sat down with Stevens to talk about the transition from resident good-guy to big screen bad guy.
If you look at the numbers, the United States has slowly been making it's way out of a recession. This year, the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent, and more than a million new jobs have been added.
But according to a new Census report released on Tuesday, median household has remained stagnant, and 45.3 million people are still living below the poverty line. It seems like we're not all catching up at the same time—there's been recovery for some, but not for all.
Jared Bernstein is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington and a former chief economist to Vice President Biden. He parses through the details of this new Census report, and explains the risks of long term poverty.
Are you a paper or a plasma type of person? What do you read—a bound book with the smell of glue and ink, or a glassy electronic display with sharp colors and a battery status at the top of the screen?
As it turns out, our brains process digital reading very differently.
Manoush Zomorodi, managing editor and host of WNYC's New Tech City, explains how the shift from paper to digital has caused a gigantic change in the way we read.
“I talked with Mike Rosenwald, a reporter with the Washington Post, and he has done a lot of research on this,” says Zomorodi. “He found, like I did, that when he sat down to read a book his brain was jumping around on the page. He was skimming and he couldn’t just settle down. He was treating a book like he was treating his Twitter feed.”
Digital technology, Zomorodi says, has produced an ongoing fight within our brains. The more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards "non-linear" reading—a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having our eyes dart around a web page.
“Linear reading, which is something we humans have developed over years and years, is what we need to do when want to do deep reading—like immerse ourselves in a novel, or read a mortgage document,” she says. “Dense text that we really want to understand requires deep reading, and on the internet we don’t do that.”
Linear reading and digital distractions have caught the attention of academics like Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University.
“I don’t worry that we’ll become dumb because of the internet,” says Wolf. “But I worry we will not use our most preciously acquired deep reading processes because we’re just given too much stimulation. That’s, I think, the nub of the problem.”
Zomorodi explains that neuroscience has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen.
“They call it a ‘bi-literate’ brain,” she says. “The problem is that many of us have adapted to reading online just too well. And if you don’t use the deep reading part of your brain, you lose the deep reading part of your brain.”
To keep the deep reading aspect of the human brain alive and kicking, Zomorodi says that researchers like Wolf recommend setting some time aside each day to deep read with a paper medium.
Now that children are seemingly growing up with a digital screen in each hand, Wolf says that it’s important that teachers and parents make sure kids are taking some time away from the scattered reading that’s typical of a screen. She says adults need to ensure that children also practice deeper, slow reading that we associate with books on paper.
“I think the evidence someday will be able to show us that what we’re after is a discerning ‘bi-literate’ brain,” says Wolf. “That’s going to take some wisdom on our part.”
On Tuesday, President Obama pledged up to 3,000 military personnel to join the U.S. Africa Command post in Liberia's capital city of Monrovia.
"Faced with this outbreak, the world is looking to us, the United States, and it's a responsibility that we embrace," President Obama told an audience at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We are prepared to take leadership on this to provide the capabilities that only America has, and to mobilize the world in ways that only America can do.”
Those capabilities are in part aligned with the growing presence of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in the region. Since its creation in 2008, AFRICOM's capacity has grown to include an estimated 5,000 troops operating across the continent.
But Laura Seay, a professor of government specializing in African issues at Colby College, says disease control is a new type of mission for the network.
Advertising sponsors are starting to speak to the NFL, and their multi-billion dollar voices may be louder than the crowds at the Superbowl.
The Minnesota Vikings reversed course at about 2:00 AM today and announced that star running back and accused child abuser Adrian Peterson has been suspended indefinitely—he is banned from all team activities and will not play this Sunday.
Anheuser-Busch says that it is not happy with the NFL's handling of the Ray Rice and Peterson affairs—it now looks like a beer company is the new moral authority on parenting and domestic violence. Shoemaker Nike has pulled Adrian Peterson jerseys from its stores in the Minneapolis area.
As sponsors continue to push back, many are looking beyond NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for guidance. Just recently, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said running the League would be her dream job.
Tim Nelson, a staff reporter at Minnesota Public Radio covering the Vikings for the Stadium Watch blog, weighs in.
Cast your vote: Would Condoleezza Rice make a good NFL commissioner?
Today, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify before the House Homeland Security Committee on the greatest perceived threats to our national security. It's been 13 years since the September 11th attacks, but terrorism remains one of the foremost threats facing the United States.
Gary Samore, who served as President Obama's coordinator for Weapons of Mass Destruction, Counter-Terrorism and Arms Control, explains that the U.S. now faces a number of additional threats. Samore, now executive director of Harvard University's Belfer Center, tells The Takeaway's John Hockenberry how the United States should prioritize among national security issues.
As the U.S. faces a renewed terrorist threat, the debate over national security and civil liberties arises as well. After Edward Snowden's revelations, many thought the government had gone too far in one direction, violating Americans' privacy in the name of protection.
With the new threat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, however, a recent Pew Research Center poll finds that Americans have reversed course. About 50 percent of Americans are concerned that the government's anti-terrorism policies haven't gone far enough to protect the country, while only 35 percent worry that these policies have encroached on Americans' civil liberties—down from 47 percent last year.
Mark Tushnet, author of "The New Constitutional Order" and professor at Harvard Law School, examines the tricky balance between national security and privacy.
Join WNYC for a panel conversation with four of Brooklyn's best new emerging writers!
Brooklyn has been inspiring writers for as long as there's been a Brooklyn. Four emerging Brooklyn-based writers will discuss their debut works that bring to life Ukrainians in Brighton Beach, teenagers in Bed-Stuy, residents of Marine Park and literary lions of the borough's past.
Featuring authors Evan Hughes (Literary Brooklyn), Yelena Akhtiorskaya (Panic in a Suitcase), Jason Reynolds (When I Was the Greatest), and Mark Chiusano (Marine Park: Stories). The Takeaway's Mythili Rao hosts this official Brooklyn Book Festival event at the Brooklyn Museum.
Click here to purchase tickets.
Today on Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Martin Dempsey testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the president’s strategy for combating ISIS militants.
Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich was on the ground at the hearing. He weighs in on the plans laid out by Dempsey and Hagel.
The people of Scotland will decide whether or not they want to break away from the United Kingdom this Thursday, and the coming vote for independence has both sides debating furiously.
Noted film stars and artists are publicly voicing their opinions, including Scottish "James Bond" actor Sean Connery, and English soccer player David Beckham. "Harry Potter" author J. K. Rowling donated £1 million pounds to the campaign against Scottish independence.
So far, about 4.2 million people or 97 percent of Scotland's adult population has registered for the vote, with polls indicating that about half of the nation's voters support independence. If Scotland separates from the United Kingdom, it could give the state full control over offshore oil reserves, which are estimated to hold 61 percent of the European Union's oil.
Advocates for independence also assert a Scottish cultural identity separate from that of the United Kingdom. Those who are against independence, on the other hand, argue that Scotland is economically and politically stronger as part of the United Kingdom.
James McAvoy is an actor from Port Glasgow, Scotland who has starred in titles such as "The Last King of Scotland" and as the title character of "Macbeth." He gives his perspective on the question of Scottish independence and what it means for the future of his homeland.
On Thursday, the world could witness one of the most historic break-ups of all time. With the polls neck and neck, Scotland's voters are days away from deciding whether the country stays part of the United Kingdom or becomes an independent nation.
Those voting in favor of independence say the split will allow Scotland to make social and economic advancements. But opponents say severing ties spells out financial disaster, especially if Scotland decides to keep the British pound.
Pippa Malmgren is a former advisor on the United States National Economic Council and the author of a new book, "Signals: The Breakdown of the Social Contract and the Rise of Geopolitics." She joins The Takeaway to discuss what independence means for Scotland's economy.
In China, there are more than 200 million people working in hazardous environments, many of whom are teenagers who leave home every year to find work that can help to relieve the financial burdens of their families.
Some travel very far from home, and in a country that produces more than half of the world's cell phones, many turn to work in electronic factories, making the Apple products that the rest of the world relies on.
The poor working conditions in these Chinese factories is the subject of a new documentary: "Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Cheap Electronics." The film follows the lives and deaths of workers who fall gravely ill from contact with carcinogenic chemicals like benzene, which was, until recently, used in the production of iPhones.
While the documentary is not yet complete, a nine-minute trailer (below) has already caught the attention of millions on YouTube and Facebook, and perhaps even at Apple Inc.
Earlier this year—whether in response to this trailer or the public outrage that's grown around this issue—Apple said it would begin banning the use of toxic chemicals in the assembly of iPhones and iPads.
Heather White is the director and producer of "Who Pays the Price?" and a human rights activist fighting for better treatment for some of the world's most vulnerable people. She says the film tells a deeper story about protecting workers' rights in China.
“When teenagers go into the factories they’re going in as unskilled workers,” she says. “They’re often initially tasked with basically just wiping cell phone screens—that’s what a lot of the workers that I interviewed said that they had been doing.”
These teen workers usually use cleaning fluids that consists of several different chemicals. They are normally unaware of the chemical makeup of these cleaning solutions, and receive no training on how to handle them.
“It’s only after they fall sick that they start to become suspicious about what the source of their illness might be,” says White. “They really have no idea that they’re working with a poison in most cases.”
In addition to carcinogenic chemicals like benzene, workers in Apple factories have also been exposed to chemicals like n-hexane, which can lead to nerve damage and even cause paralyzation.
“There’s a group of 39 girls that I’ve been interviewing that have been in the hospital for two years because they became paralyzed as a result of being exposed to n-hexane for about three months,” says White. “Benzene accumulates over a longer period of time. But if you get Leukemia [from it], you have a good chance of dying.”
Chemically speaking, benzene is similar to gasoline, and n-hexane is a neurotoxin. Up until Apple banned these products in August 2014, they were solely used for cleaning and had no other purpose in the company’s production cycle.
“All of the different experts and occupational health professionals that I’ve spoken with have said that [benzene is] absolutely not necessary and can be substituted out for other alternatives that are safer,” says White. “Of course, they might cost a little more, which is one of the reasons that many factories continue to use benzene.”
Many parents are concerned that their teens will take their own lives after they fall ill or are injured on the job.
“Almost everyone I spoke to, especially the young men, said that when they received the diagnosis, or that when they woke up from their anesthesia and discovered that their right hand was missing after being smashed in a machine, that they were planning on committing suicide,” says White.
One of the individuals that White follows in her upcoming film did commit suicide in January 2014 after receiving a terminal diagnosis. And this problem isn’t just isolated at Apple facilities, either.
“While I was [in China] I actually heard many cases in other factories where workers were committing suicide,” she says. “I think it’s a fairly widespread problem, either from the pressure or from finding out that they have a terminal diagnosis of something like Leukemia.”
In addition to carrying the burden of a terminal illness, White says many of these young factory workers must also bear the financial hardship of disease as well.
“When they get a diagnosis from the hospital, they’re also involved in a struggle for compensation from the factory,” she says. “The factory doesn’t want to pay for their medical expenses. So while they’re sick, they’re also fighting against the factory.”
Apple declined to be interviewed on camera for White’s documentary, but she says they are aware of the ongoing problems within their facilities. As mentioned previously, after the trailer for “Who Pays the Price?” hit the web, Apple announced that it would ban benzene and n-hexane.
“I sent them very specific information about the factories and the individuals who are involved,” she says.
Though thousands continue to be injured and fall ill, going forward, White says correcting this issue across Chinese factories begins with enforcement.
“The Chinese government has laws on the books and they’re very good laws,” she says. “The factories know what the laws are, the regulations are very clear and they choose to ignore them because they know that they’re not going to be penalties in most cases.”
A team of researchers at Claremont Graduate University have been exploring memory capacity with one question: Who is smarter, Scrabble players or crossword junkies?
The authors of the study recruited professional players—26 nationally ranked Scrabble players and 31 crossword players—and tested their cognitive and verbal abilities through a series of visual tests, memory games, and word exercises.
The researchers compared the results to a control group of 30 college students who scored above 700 on the verbal section of the SAT. The gamers blew the students out of the water, but when compared to each other, the scores were a bit more puzzling.
Michael Toma is a doctoral student in applied cognitive psychology at Claremont Graduate University and the co-author of this study. He joins The Takeaway to discuss the results of the study.
Ebola has killed 2,400 people in West Africa since the latest outbreak started in February, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And things seem to be getting worse, with reports of a surge of 400 new cases in Liberia in the past week.
The virus has taken a toll on West Africa's strained health systems, and WHO says the number of new Ebola cases "is growing faster than the ability of health officials to handle them."
In some West African nations, healthcare systems have completely collapsed. In Liberia, most hospitals have either closed or are barely functioning. More than 300 health workers have become infected with Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and nearly half of them have died, according to WHO.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf sent a letter to President Obama last Tuesday, warning that her nation faces a crisis that could undermine daily life.
"I am being honest with you when I say that at this rate, we will never break the transmission chain and the virus will overwhelm us," she wrote.
Deborah Malac, the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, told reporters on Friday that the U.S. military will help train the Liberian police and armed forces on how they can best support isolation operations, and provide security near hospitals, holding centers and treatment units.
Additionally, President Obama says the United States will send additional portable hospitals, doctors and healthcare experts to West Africa. But will this be enough to help contain the virus?
Disease experts have suggested that the U.S. should send in hospital ships to treat infected patients, but defense officials have ruled this out, telling The Wall Street Journal that "if the virus got aboard one of those ships, it could quickly spread." Hospital ships were used to treat Haitians after a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010.
As the United States prepares to send people and resources to West Africa, the WHO says 500-600 foreign experts, and at least 1,000 local health workers, are needed on the ground. Cuba announced that it would deploy 165 medical personnel to Sierra Leone next month—the largest contingent of foreign doctors and nurses committed so far. Malaysia plans to donate more than 20 million protective rubber gloves.
To explain the military's role in combating diseases and the paralyzation of affected countries health systems, The Takeaway turns to Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious disease physician and researcher at the Mayo Clinic.
It's football season, but if you're finding yourself a little distracted from the game itself, you're not alone.
Between the controversies over the violent behavior of NFL stars Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, and questions about the judgment of Commissioner Roger Goodell, plus growing attention to the League's policies on head injuries, the conversation this fall seems to be all about what's wrong with the game.
"I've always enjoyed being a chick who watches sports and surprising dudes with my knowledge," one fan in Beltsville, Maryland told The Takeaway. "But this year, being a woman, I feel so underrepresented and under valued by the NFL big wigs that I've become disenchanted by the whole game."
The Takeaway has addressed the league's problems at length in recent programs. But why do we love football in the first place? And what is it that the game has to teach us?
Mark Edmundson, a University of Virginia professor of English, takes up those questions in more in his new book, "Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game."
“There’s a dearth of heroes in the rest of culture and one of the reasons NFL players get so inflated is that people find it hard to find heroes outside of the world of sports,” says Edmundson. "I mean they are brave, but there are braver people. They are daring, but there are more daring people—but we don’t come in contact with them.”
According to a new investigation by our partner The New York Times, minor accidents involving Honda vehicles and defective air bags have resulted in at least 30 injuries and killed three people.
In one instance, a driver in Virginia got hit in the neck and chest and bled to death in front of her three children. But perhaps the most terrifying aspect for drivers of these popular cars is that more than a decade after the first accident of this kind, safety regulators in Japan and the United States still can't explain why the ruptures continue.
About 14 million vehicles have been recalled by 11 automakers over rupture risks involving defective air bags manufactured by the supplier, Takata Corporation of Japan. That's five times the number of vehicles recalled this year by General Motors for its deadly ignition switch defect.
Hiroko Tabuchi, a reporter for The New York Times, examines how and why Honda failed for years to disclose widespread air bag problems that were causing fatalities.
Over the weekend, the world was again shocked by a brutal beheading carried out by the radical militant group ISIS.
Congress is very much a part of the debate over ISIS, America's war plans for the Middle East, and the renewed global war on terror. This time, the conversation is playing out right in the middle of an election campaign—around the country, the tightest mid-term Senate races have only six weeks left before election day.
House and Senate lawmakers have to weigh their principles against votes back home. But it's not just ISIS that's complicating the mid-term elections.
To take stock of the issues in each race that could determine which party controls Congress, we turn to Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich.
Over the weekend, the radical militant group ISIS released a third brutal video, this time showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haine. The world again reacted strongly to the footage, which was shot identically to the beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and similarly circulated across the internet and television networks worldwide.
Several Arab countries have agreed to carry out airstrikes of their own against ISIS, a move Secretary of State John Kerry has been pushing for in recent days in his visits throughout the region. For a look at how the world might combat ISIS, The Takeaway turns to Rukmini Callimachi, foreign correspondent for our partner The New York Times.
Britain’s Muslim community reacted quickly over the weekend to condemn the brutality of ISIS and to call for lessened legitimacy for the terror organization, which they feel should no longer be described as the Islamic State.
But hundreds of Britons have left the United Kingdom to take up arms with ISIS. In London, Dilwar Hussain is the founding chair of New Horizons in British Islam, an organization that focuses on reform in Islamic thought. He weighs in on the debate over whose responsibility it is to prevent such radicalization.
British newspapers like The Sun reacted strongly to the footage.
Through out the Takeaway's Job Fair series, we've heard from doctors and lawyers, but what if your ambitions lie elsewhere?
For some, the open air, some dirt on your hands, and a sheep dog at your heel sounds much better than life in a cubicle.
But in the 21st century, even the age-old tradition of farming is evolving with technology.
Jesse Hirsch, senior editor at Modern Farmer magazine, shares some practical advice on how to prepare for a career focused on living off the land.
He says you need more than strong arms and fertile land—a successful small-scale farmer also has a mind for business and real estate, good equipment, technology, and a growing market.
Every time you step into a car, you benefit from a product that was the subject of a long fight between car manufacturers and safety advocates: The air bag.
American car manufacturers fought the safety requirement over the course of seven presidencies. Consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader, one of the strongest proponents for safety reforms, said General Motors even sent private investigators to hound him.
But the introduction of the air bag launched a technological revolution in auto making. Fast forward to today, and innovations like back-up cameras and distracted driver protections have happened so quickly that some are concerned about the new automative age of computers on wheels.
Here to tell discuss the evolving notion of vehicle safety is Drew Magratten, a producer for Retro Report.
Check out a video of Retro Report's findings below.
When the first video of the beheading of American journalist James Foley was released, the world and the media reacted in a frenzy.
Though it was eventually removed LiveLeak had the footage available in its entirety until overwhelming traffic temporarily crashed the site.
The New York Times chose to include stills from the video, as did countless news networks around the country. Al Jazeera continues to observe a blackout of the images all together.
The most recent video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator can still be found online, and has been viewed over and over again by people around the world.
So what is it about video that makes us watch, or choose not to watch?
Joining The Takeaway to explain is Jonah Berger, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and author of “Contagious: Why Things Catch On.”
This week, Takeaway Guest Host Todd Zwillich sat down with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. In this wide-ranging interview, Todd got in some hard questions about Cambodia and Chile. Across the Twittersphere, their conversation has been called "intense," "heated," and "exceptionally tough." This weekend, Todd reflects on their conversation.
Once upon a time, marriage was the norm for adults of a certain age. But now about 50 percent of American adults are single. Eric Klinenberg, sociology professor at New York University and author of "Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone," examines the slow-but-steady shift towards "happily single."
A team at North Carolina State University has figured out how to remotely control cockroaches equipped with electronic backpacks and sensors. The roach biobots may help first responders in search and rescue missions after disasters. Alper Bozkurt, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at N.C. State, leads this research and explains how they decided on the cockroach.
The Takeaway's beloved associate producer, Allie Ferguson, is leaving for a (pretty awesome) trip to Prague. Friday was her last day at the studios of WNYC Radio in New York City, and we just couldn't let her go without giving her a proper send off on The Takeaway Weekender podcast.
Scottish actor James McAvoy dropped by to chat with Takeaway Host John Hockenberry about his new film, "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby." After the two dished about the movie, we asked him about Scotland's upcoming vote for independence on September 18th.
Rafer thinks it's a red-letter week for women in the movies (if you count dolphins). Kristen's not so sure. Of course, there are other disagreements as well: like, what is a real crisis in a marriage? And why would a suburban mom become BFFs with a teenager? Up for debate: "Dolphin Tale 2," "The Drop," "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby," and "Kelly and Cal."
Rafer and Kristen also offer up some Movie Therapy to a listener who's sending her only daughter off to college.
And, as usual, there's trivia!
Are you a newsie? Do you know what's happening from Washington to Hollywood to Pyongyang? Be smarter than your pals. Prep your dinner party factoids. Gauge your knowledge about what happened this week, as heard on The Takeaway.
Calling "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" a film isn't exactly correct—it's more of an event. It’s a "Rashoman" meets "Boyhood" kind of compilation, with three versions of the same story of a young couple grappling with the loss of their child.
One film is from the perspective of the character Connor, played by James McAvoy, and one from the view of his wife Eleanor, played by Jessica Chastain. A third film pieces together their differing perspectives into a more accurate narrative of how grief affects us and our family and friends.
Today, actor James McAvoy sits down with Takeaway Host John Hockenberry to talk about the new film and how they worked to establish two clear points of view.
Watch a trailer for the film below.
This week in South Africa, a history-making verdict was issued in a criminal trial with a black judge presiding over the trial of a rich, white defendant.
South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of culpable murder, a lesser charge to premeditated murder, which the prosecution was seeking.
The Pistorius trial has attracted world wide attention since it opened in March, and has divided South Africans on issues of racial justice, gun violence, and violence against women, which are all longstanding challenges in South Africa.
BBC’s South Africa correspondent, Nomsa Maseko, explains the details of the case.
A report released this week by the National Audubon Society estimates that about half of North America's 650 bird species will be forced to find a new habitat over the next 65 years because of the impact of climate change.
Some will survive the move, but many others will not. Even the bald eagle, the symbol of our nation, will be unable to breed in the lower 48 states by the end of the century unless dramatic action to preserve the species is taken.
Dr. Gary Langham, Vice President and Chief Scientist of the National Audubon Society, says that the potential for widespread extinction is a familiar one in this changing world. Even so, Langham says the Audubon Society’s latest study presents many startling findings.
Of the 650 bird species at risk, 126 are lowland bird species—like eagles, the brown pelican, and the common loon. The Audubon Society’s study found that the threat of climate changes means that these birds could eventually have no where to go. While the findings shocked Langham, he says that it remains consistent with other research studies.
“When you start looking at all the other studies done on climate change for plants and animals, both in the U.S. and abroad, you find that they’re really all telling you the same story,” he says. “Somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of whatever organisms you’re looking are at serious risk from climate change.”
Langham says that the three climate variables that affect nature the most are temperature, precipitation, and seasonality. As these three things change as a result of a new environment, they have direct impacts on bird populations and the ecosystems in which they live.
“Some of the things we’re seeing today [that reflect the] direct impact of climate change are changes in ocean temperature,” he says. “Atlantic puffins, for example. In Maine, this year was pretty good, but the last two years the water was so warm that the fish population shifted. Parents were bringing back fish that were too big for the chicks to eat, and this was having severe impacts, including deaths of the chicks.”
In addition to eagles, puffins, and the common loon, one of the hardest hit species will be the Rufous hummingbird.
“It’s not hard to imagine that for the hummingbird, [warming] could also impact the flowering timing of the nectar-giving plants they depend on,” says Langham.
Climate change has some less obvious consequences on the ecosystem as well. Langham says that their study found 13 species of woodpeckers are going to be “dramatically” impacted by the changing climate.
“What’s not included in our study, but is related to climate, are things that impact the trees they depend on,” he says. “When you get the tree die offs, you get more insects coming to attack them, more fires, and things like that. Starting with the results of our study, climate change can come in and make it even worse through indirect effects too.”
Langham says that even birds that are considered “safe” are still at risk from climate change.
“One of the birds that’s shown to be shifting, and might even increase its range by 2,000 percent, is the Mississippi kite,” he says. “Right now that bird is a colonial breeder—a raptor—that eats small vertebrates like lizards, and it’s range is going to shift north. The open question is, can the bird actually move its colonial mating system north to take advantage of the new climate? And, what’s it going to eat when it gets there?”
In order to keep climate change top of mind and ensure that the hard data presented in the study is easily digested, the Audubon Society made a big push to map the areas that at-risk birds currently reside in.
“One of the great things about the study is you can visualize it in a map,” Langham says. “There’s nothing like a map and people looking at it to spark a conservation and get people talking…They’ll see that birds in their own state and their own communities are at risk—and that will drive conversations and move them to greater action.”
Click on the map below to see what birds are at risk in your area.
Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Turkey today after two days of meetings in Saudi Arabia, where the creation of an aggressive coalition to combat the Sunni militant group known as ISIS remains America's top priority.
Already, Saudi Arabia has agreed to provide bases for the training of moderate Syrian rebels, but that country's ideological track record with ISIS, and terrorism generally, suggest that any meaningful role in the coalition will have to come with concessions.
Ali Al-Ahmed, a Saudi scholar and director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, joins The Takeaway to explain.
Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) on September 14, 2001, just three days after the World Trade Center attacks.
The AUMF granted the president authority to use "necessary and appropriate force" against the September 11th attackers. But its critics say it also opened the door to a perpetual war. President Obama has been among those critics, and in May of 2013, he called for the AUMF to be repealed.
“I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate," he said. "Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
Now, however, just a little more than a year later, it's the AUMF that's being used to justify a renewed use of force in Iraq and Syria.
According to a senior Obama administration official asked about the president's reasoning, "Based on ISIL’s longstanding relationship with al-Qaeda and Usama bin Laden, the President may rely on the 2001 AUMF as statutory authority for the use of force against ISIL (or ISIS)."
Jennifer Daskal is assistant professor at American University Washington College of Law. She's also the founding editor of the "Just Security" blog where she recently argued that this new interpretation of the AUMF should be a cause for concern.
In the decades since the global treaty known as the 1987 Montreal Protocol was adopted, some damage to the ozone layer has been reversed, according to the latest Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, published by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The Montreal Protocol was designed to phase out ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, that cause damage to the ozone layer. If global compliance with the treaty continues, the United Nations projects that the ozone layer could make a significant recovery by mid century.
According to global models, the Protocol will have prevented 2 million cases of skin cancer annually by 2030, averted damage to human eyes and immune systems, and protected wildlife and agriculture, according to UNEP.
"There are positive indications that the ozone layer is on track to recovery towards the middle of the century. The Montreal Protocol—one of the world's most successful environmental treaties—has protected the stratospheric ozone layer and avoided enhanced UV radiation reaching the earth's surface," said U.N. Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a statement.
Joining The Takeaway to assess this seemingly good news is David Biello, energy and environment editor at Scientific American.
Last night, as President Obama spoke to the nation about his response to the Islamic State or ISIS, Republicans said they had open minds.
"We stand ready to listen and work with the President to confront this growing threat," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
Under the President's plan, at least 475 service members will be sent to Iraq to train and equip Iraqi and Kurdish forces, and American air power will be used to support Iraqi forces as they go on the offensive. Additionally, the U.S. will provide military assistance to the Syrian opposition fighting the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, which Obama says "terrorizes its own people."
Though he says he has the authority to combat ISIS, President Obama called on Congress to authorize the resources needed to train and equip Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Will lawmakers come out in support of the White House, or are the American people in for a fight?
For answers, we turn to Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich.
Nearly half of all Ebola infections have occurred in the last 21 days—and the World Health Organization says the worst is yet to come.
Liberia is calling the disease a threat to its survival. This week, the country's Defense Minister said the epidemic "threatens Liberia's national existence."
Dr. Timothy Flanigan is part of a desperate race to bolster the healthcare infrastructure in Liberia to deal with this crisis. He's a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.
In a primetime address delivered to the nation last night, President Obama laid out the next chapter of American military intervention in the Middle East.
President Obama outlined his plans for a sustained military effort against the radical Sunni militant group ISIS or ISIL, which will include an air war in both Syria and Iraq and the mobilization of international forces, though he pledged that there would be no U.S. boost on the ground.
"ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria and the broader Middle East, including American citizens, personnel and facilities," the President said. "If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States."
At least 475 service members will be sent to Iraq to train and equip Iraqi and Kurdish forces, and American air power will be used to support Iraqi forces as they go on the offensive. Additionally, the U.S. will provide military assistance to the Syrian opposition fighting the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, which Obama says "terrorizes its own people."
Though he says he has the authority to combat ISIS, the President called on Congress to authorize the resources needed to train and equip Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
"I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq," President Obama said. "This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven."
Garnering support from nations across the globe seems to be a key tenet of the President's proposal. In two weeks time, President Obama will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council and make an appeal to the international community to join this effort.
"In the coming days [Secretary of State John Kerry] will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria to drive these terrorists from their lands," the President said. "This is American leadership at its best: We stand with people who fight for their own freedom, and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity."
In addition to rallying forces to combat ISIS, the U.S. will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those being targeted by the terrorist group.
"America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead," President Obama said. "From Europe to Asia, from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East, we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity."
Joining The Takeaway to reflect on President Obama's strategy to combat ISIS is Linda Robinson, senior international policy analyst at Rand and author of "One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare."
Once upon a time in America, marriage was the norm for adults of a certain age.
But now for the first time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking these numbers in 1976, the number of single people outnumber married people: More than half of the adult population in the U.S. is single.
About 50.2 percent or 124.6 million American adults are single—in 1950, that number sat around 22 percent.
Eric Klinenberg, sociology professor at New York University and author of "Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone," examines this slow-but-steady shift towards "happily single."
“It’s actually probably easier to meet people now than ever before, if you think about all of the incredible technologies we have to connect,” says Klinenberg. “But one big issue is people today are really looking for their soul mate, and they’re not going to compromise.”
In addition to holding out for a soul mate, Klinenberg says that many aren’t settling down with someone because of society’s changing culture.
“It’s become legitimate and viable to be single for a long period of time,” he says. “That’s never been the case before.”
Social media and online dating sites have presented singles with more choices than ever, which also seems to be driving people away from tying the knot.
“I do think there’s a little bit of that paradox of choice problem,” he says. “You have so many different options that it’s easy to find the flaws with each one, and difficult to just pick some person with all their flaws, since we all do have them, and just stay with it.”
In addition to having a plethora of options, the era of the extended American adolescence seems to have tempered the rush to marriage.
“People are spending a big chunk of their lives—much of 20s and even into their 30s, increasingly—becoming a grown up,” says Klinenberg. “They’re investing their time in their job, they feel anxious about their career, and they’re having a very difficult time moving into that next stage of what we’ve traditionally thought of as grown up life.”
Postponing marriage has also meant that more people are living alone, something that many seemingly do not want to give up.
“People who live alone have a degree of control over their time and space that very few other people have,” says Klinenberg. “They have a chance for solitude, and kind of a productive solitude. We live in this moment of incredible hyper-connection, and we’re always engaged with social life through social media. When you live alone, you have a little oasis in your apartment.”
Klinenberg says that solo living also allows individuals who have ended a marriage to focus in on their priorities.
“Living alone gives you a chance to kind of get back on your feet and figure out who you are and what you want in your next relationship so you can make a stronger return to social life,” he says.
Some may argue that those choosing to be single prefer solitude for narcissistic reasons, like an inability to share and unite. But Klinenberg’s research does not support these notions.
“It turns out, people who live alone are actually more likely to volunteer in civic organizations than people who are married,” he says. “They’re also more likely to spend time with friends and with neighbors. And of course they’re a big reason that there’s so much activity and vitality in the public areas of cities today—they’re not people who are self-involved, sitting on the couch just buying things on eBay. They’re really a crucial part of modern social life.”
Marriage can be an expensive institution, but Klinenberg says the trend towards single life predates the Great Recession, adding that this is a social change that was ignored for years.
“Up until the 1950s, you can’t find a single society in the history of our species that sustained large number of people living alone for long periods of time,” he says. “When we hit this prosperity of the post-World War II moment, we see it take off like never before.”
Though America is just beginning to grapple with this change, Klinenberg says that he’s happy with his status quo as a married man.
When Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was first published in the United States 50 years ago this month, it sold 10,000 copies in just one week.
The New York Times called the book "fertile in invention," "rich in humor," and "acutely observant." But more importantly, kids liked it. A classic was born.
The 1971 film version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" brought Dahl's story to an even wider audience. Dahl's zany cast of characters were delivered to the big screen, introducing a new generation to a whole crew of poorly behaved children like Veruca Salt, Augustus Gloop, and Violet Bureaugard. Their unfortunate exploits take on a macabre quality on the big screen.
Dahl's stories are filled with dark humor, which is what made these children's books so unusual.
So it may come to a surprise to readers that early drafts of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" were even stranger—and had an even more extensive list of grubby youngsters. There was Miranda Grope, Elvira Erstwhile, Clarence Crump, Bertie Upside, and more.
Lucy Mangan takes a look back at Dahl's never-before-published chapters and his early drafts in her new book "Inside Charlie's Chocolate Factory," commissioned for the book's 50th anniversary.
Over the last few years, the number of agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection has nearly doubled in what some say is the militarization of the southern border. During nearly the same time frame, more than 40 people have been killed in confrontations with border agents and in just the last five years, there are more than two dozen reports of violent clashes. To date, no agent has yet been reprimanded.
Andrew Becker, a reporter for the Center for Investigative Reporting, has been looking into these cases and shares his findings. You can read his full report for The Center for Investigative Reporting here.
Tonight, President Obama will outline his plans to attack the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the terrorist offshoot of Al-Qaeda now thriving on the border of Iraq and Syria.
While the White House has the public’s support to address the ISIS threat, the president knows the American people don’t want another long, drawn-out conflict in the Middle East. After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military likely doesn’t, either.
According to the Department of Defense, since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq two years later, 2.5 million members of the military have been deployed to war. A third of those servicemen and women have been deployed more than once.
Vietnam War veteran and professor emeritus at Boston University, Andrew Bacevich, examines the state of the U.S. military, and the potential military strategy against ISIS. Bacevich, the author of “Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country," says that President Obama's reluctance to enter into another full-scale war is well-justified.
We want to hear from you: When it comes to Obama's plan to combat ISIS, what level of military intervention are you willing support? Are you feeling a sense of fatigue after more than a decade of war? Or do you believe the threat of ISIS warrants a new round of fighting?
Leave a comment or call 1-877-869-8253.
When Apple looks at your wrist, it sees a multibillion dollar opportunity.
Yesterday, the company unveiled its smartwatch—a product that analysts say is a new part of the tech industry that could gross $10 billion in four years. And though Apple may be getting most of the attention right now, the wearable revolution is just beginning.
“In some ways, the Apple Watch is a latecomer to wearables game,” says Ben Johnson, the host of Marketplace Tech. “There have been lots of things on the market for a while—the FitBit, the Nike FuelBand, Jawbone. These are all wearable devices that track our fitness and pull a lot of other data from our daily behavior.”
According to Johnson, Apple is finally wading into this area of the tech market because wearables present a huge economic opportunity.
“By some estimates, 40 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in buying a smartwatch,” he says. “That sounds kind of high to me, but it’s part of a larger and growing market that Apple is definitely baking on, and other companies are too.”
In addition to Apple, Samsung has released a smartwatch this year along with LG and Motorola.
“This is certainly a large and growing field right now, the big question is will consumers actually buy in?” asks Johnson, who wonders if the smartwatch is actually just a passing trend.
“One of the things that a lot of companies haven’t really been able to unlock yet is creating a watch that people really want to use,” says Johnson. “And these days, at least in the mobile space, phones are getting bigger—you saw Apple release a larger phone yesterday, which some people have been clamouring for for a while. The idea of making things smaller and having a tiny little watch face that you would interact with is a big question mark.”
Though some may be hesitant to interact with a tiny screen the size of a watch face, Johnson says that the Apple Watch is optimized for small functionality.
“The Apple Watch has a lot of really nice looking design on it,” he says. “In its own Apple way, it looks very sleek. There’s three different versions of the watch, and each has two different sizes. But yesterday I did not see a product that was revolutionary.”
While Johnson can admire the Apple Watch, he points out that it is unlikely to completely change personal computing in the way that the iPad did four years ago.
“That was a revolutionary product, as had been the iPod, the iPhone, the Mac, and so many things before it,” he says. “I didn’t see that yesterday. I felt like it was a product that, yes, I will want to buy, but I don’t have to have.”
Though many look at it as a novelty item, the fashion industry could swing the pendulum in favor of the smartwatch, transforming it into a must-have item.
“I think that there’s a possibility there,” says Johnson. “Apple’s that company that has, at least in the past, designed products that are a fashion statement, the iPhone being the best example. Think about the fact that Apple is expecting to sell between 60 and 70 million iPhone 6s...I think if it expects to sell as many watches, then yes we are looking at the possibility of the fashion industry buying into this and consumers buying into this.”
Though the smartwatch has the potential to draw a large audience, it does also face some potential pitfalls.
“The Apple Watch, you’re going to have to take off every night and have it sit on a charger,” says Johnson. “I don’t know yet if consumers are fully all-in.”
Many tech watchers are taking a wait-and-see approach with the Apple Watch and other smartwatch technologies, and they are still holding out hope for the next big thing in tech.
“In my mind, the most exciting potential when it comes to wearable technology are things that maybe are a fashion statement but are also maybe not even visible,” says Johnson. “Things in your clothing that can monitor your heart rate or monitor your health and deliver you data wirelessly.”
Watchmaking is a dying art form, but for luxury watchmaker Tourneau, there's an effort underway to keep it ticking.
Terry Irby, technical director for the Tourneau, has started a watchmaking program with ambitions to help train at-risk youth become the next generation of master horologists.
Terry spoke to The Takeaway alongside one of his best students, 19-year-old Edwin Larregui, a graduate of the program who is now a full-time employee at Tourneau.
Two Americans have the chance to make literary history: This week, Karen Joy Fowler and Joshua Ferris became the first Americans to make the Man Booker Prize shortlist.
Historically, the Man Booker Prize, which is awarded each year for the best original novel, was only given to citizens of the United Kingdom, the British Commonwealth, Zimbabwe and Ireland. In 2013, the prize changed its rules to allow anyone writing in English to enter.
Fowler's book, "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves," is about a girl who is raised with a chimp as a sibling. It's based on the real-life story of two researchers in Indiana who raised their baby son alongside a chip. Ferris's book, "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour" was a Takeaway Book Club pick. It follows the travails of a neurotic New York dentist.
Frank Delaney, a former Man Booker Prize judge and British broadcaster, takes a look at the competition these Americans will face.
The September 11th terrorist attacks prompted the federal government to encourage local police departments to take a more aggressive approach in monitoring activity on America's highways.
One unintended consequence has been that thousands of drivers have had cash taken by police even though they weren't charged with any crimes.
According to a new report from the Washington Post, police departments across the country have taken $2.5 billion since 2001. The justification for these seizures comes from controversial "civil asset forfeiture laws."
Here to explain how this happened is Robert O'Harrow, a reporter with the investigative unit of the Washington Post. He's co-author of a three-part series on the police culture fueling these extraordinary seizures.
Silicon Valley, located in one of the most liberal regions in the country, is generally considered a lock for Democrats.
Historically, Republican's have struggled to build support among the tech industry's elite. During the 2012 presidential election, employees working for Google gave over $700,000 to President Obama, while Governor Mitt Romney raised just $25,000 from Googlers.
But now that might be changing, as Republicans appear to be getting a foothold in Silicon Valley.
Julie Samuels, executive director of Engine, a nonpartisan advocacy group that brings policymakers together with startups, weighs in on Silicon Valley's embrace of the GOP.
On September 9th, 2014, Takeaway Guest Host Todd Zwillich sat down with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. A full transcript of their interview appears below. You can listen to the segment above.
Todd Zwillich [TZ]: We begin this hour with a big picture look at America’s understanding of itself in the world, and how it’s changed dramatically over the last century.
In the 1920s and 30s in the wake of World War I, the U.S. declined to join the League of Nations. It focused instead on domestic challenges, turned inward, rather than face the rise of fascism in Europe. For Dr. Henry Kissinger, America’s inward turn had great personal impact.
The former secretary of state and national security advisor and his family suffered persecution as Jews in Nazi Germany and fled to the United States in 1938 when he was 15-years-old.
Since he began his career in foreign policy, Henry Kissinger has been known as a realist, a champion of hard practicality in world affairs and the pursuit of American goals above all else.
But in his latest book, Kissinger tempers that foreign policy outlook with a nod to idealism and a belief in America’s moral vision as he argues the U.S. has to take the lead in the face of Islamic terrorist threats like ISIS, and a resurgent Russia.
Henry Kissinger’s book is called “World Order,” and he joins me now in the studio. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here.
Henry Kissinger [HK]: Great pleasure to be here.
TZ: The scope of your book is very broad, and I thought today would be a good day to focus on the current crisis with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, ISIS as they’re called. The president will give a speech tomorrow laying out U.S. strategy there.
Saudi Arabia’s going to be a key part of the emerging coalition here, and in your book you really place Saudi Arabia at the center of the modern Islamic state dilemma—Western leaning, in partnership with the U.S., both politically and economically, but also the standard bearer of Islamic Sunni theocracy and jihad.
So now with the threat of ISSI, what does this moment mean for Saudi Arabia and the contours of the Middle East as you see it?
HK: Saudi Arabia, historically, has never agreed at any one point is the turning point, and it has considered surviving the various crises its principle objective. But now it finds itself in an extremely difficult position.
It is overwhelmingly afraid of the rise of Shia power in the region, which means Iran. But it is also threatened by Sunni fanaticism, which threatens its entire structure domestically. They will have to decide, and I think they will decide, that they will have to back the war against ISIS. But then we will face a second round of issues when Iran becomes dominant in the news cycles again.
TZ: Sticking with Iran for the moment, and I want to look at Iran maybe through the lens of the United States, you talk at length in the book about nuclear talks with Iran that are going on now with the deadline next month, and the opportunity that lies in those talks.
But you also describe Iran in detail as the standard bearer for Shiite jihadism, and really make the suggestion that, regardless of the outcome of nuclear talks, the fundamental incentives for Iran don’t really change. You use the example, which I think is the Ayatollah’s own example, “Just because a wrestler is flexible, doesn’t mean he’s forgotten who his opponent is.”
HK: That’s a direct quote from the Supreme Leader of Iran explaining his negotiations with the United States.
TZ: And that suggests that even if nuclear talks are successful, we shouldn’t take too much of a message of reform.
HK: First of all, I think a successful negotiation on nuclear matters is very problematical, because the position of the two sides are fundamentally very far apart. And with respect to that, one has to ask one’s self: What is one trying to achieve? And then secondly, Iran, independent of the nuclear negotiations, has really three patterns of its own history that it can theoretically choose from.
One, the period before the Ayatollah’s came in when it was a national state concerned with traditional aspects of national security, not intervening in the affairs of its neighbors, except along the lines that European states had impacted on each other. The second is an empire that governed large areas of North Africa and all of the Middle East for a period.
TZ: The Persian Empire
HK: The Persian Empire. And the third it’s the center of jihadism. In the period since 1979 when they came into office, we have seen a combination of imperial Persian policy and jihadist policy. If they maintain that position, then a nuclear agreement by itself will not bring about a change in the impact they have and the threat they represent.
So, the question is a psychological one—are they capable? Which of these models are they going to follow so they are not defeated in the negotiations?
TZ: Merely flexible, as the Ayatollah said and you quoted, in a wrestling match.
HK: Maybe. We should be open to a political change, but we shouldn’t gamble our hope. We should see if there are concrete results.
TZ: Well then, looking more broadly then, what is the moment of opportunity for the United States in the Middle East at this moment? You’re describing a situation that’s remarkable between the Saudis and the Iranis in their discussions, but probably a temporary alliance based on one focal threat and not really a strategic change. You’re describing an Iran, in your view, that is at the table with nuclear talks but not changing its fundamental world views.
HK: Maybe not changing
TZ: Maybe not changing its world view or its incentives. Is there a real opportunity in crisis for the United States now or are we just checking boxes here?
HK: What we’re seeing in the Middle East is a number of revolutions going on concurrently. There is the internal revolution in almost every state that occurs. There is the conflict between Shia and Sunni. There is the conflict between various sectarian groups, even beyond the Shia and Sunni conflict of which Syria is a classic example and now Libya.
And then there is the attack on the international system that was created in 1920 at the end of World War I, and where the borders do not reflect anything except its sphere of influence between Britain and France of that period.
So all of these crises are going on simultaneously. It has many similarities between the Europeans Thirty Years’ War 400 years ago. At the end of that war, they came up with an agreement, what was called the Treaty of Westphalia which, quite in contrast with the previous period, established a number of principles, which more or less governed the relationship of European states for 300 years.
Now is it possible to create an equivalent of such a system? That is a challenge for the United States and for others, we alone can’t do it. The world without balance of power is an arbitrary world, and the nature of the balance of power will change. But the principle that you cannot have one regional, one country, dominate the whole world will re-emerge, or should re-emerge.
TZ: You exercised the balance of power for many, many years as Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. So many people are interested in your history and echoes of it come out in your book.
I wanted to ask you about that. One passage in your book says that idealism is a critical part of American policy, but that the most sustainable course will involve a blend of realism and idealism, [which is] too often held out in the American debate as incompatible opposites. It made me think of your history in places like Chile. Was it the case that realism trumped democratic idealism there when you engineered the coup against Salvador Allende, was that an example of that?
HK: Ahem. You know one trouble with discussion of this...You’re referring to an event that happened 50 years ago, and so it’s very hard to reconstruct…
TZ: 40, yes.
HK: Or 40 years ago. It’s very hard to reconstruct. The fact is I did not engineer a coup against Allende. Allende was overthrown by his military with whom we had no contact with two years earlier or three years earlier when he came in.
TZ: The head of the Chilean army, General Rene Schneider, was assassinated in his car pursuant to a CIA operation that you did help initiate. You said you turned off but you did help initiate.
HK: That was three years earlier.
HK: It was not an operation that we initiated. It was not planned as an assassination, and we turned it off once we became aware. But that happened three years earlier. That was not in connection with this.
TZ: Many other people testified in front of the Church Commission in the Senate later on that in fact you were well informed of that operation even after officially turning it off in a memo –
HK: Let me tell you something here—it’s an issue that your audience cannot possibly know much about. This happened over 40 years ago, it has been exhaustively discussed. It is a reflection of a period in which the divisions in America were so great that opponents seemed to take a perverse pleasure in charging the people with whom they disagreed on other points with sort of criminal activities.
To have a meaningful discussion, you have to begin with the premise that serious people are trying to do the best for their country. We have been trying to overthrow President Assad. We overthrew, in this administration, we supported and took military action in Libya for the purpose that America has an interest in bringing about democratic government. It’s a well-established fact.
What the details were in 1971, with all due respect to you, it’s not an appropriate subject here because it’s easy to fish out individual statements before committees. I think a national debate would be helped if we assumed that serious people were trying to achieve serious objectives and to ask what these objectives were. Not to see whether there is one act taken by some outlying CIA group.
TZ: I understand that, the nature of these questions is not to have a prosecutorial forum. A lot of very smart people have pointed to the way you, as a world leader and Secretary of State, has shaped the world that we see today in places like Cambodia and Chile and other places, and we don’t’ have time to get into all of them...
HK: Cambodia! That’s another one. Here we are at a time when we find terrorist activities going on from foreign countries. What was the issue of Cambodia? Four Vietnamese divisions had occupied a strip of territory in Cambodia. These divisions entered Vietnam at will and were killing Americans. They launched an offensive against the Americans in Vietnam before we even knew the way to the bathroom in the White House. We had four to six hundred casualties in the first eight weeks.
So what would your listeners have done? Would they have bombed these areas or not? We bombed these areas that were largely uninhabited. The current administration is doing it Pakistan, Somalia...
TZ: Excuse me, sir. Uninhabited goes against the facts of history. There were hundreds of thousands of people killed in that campaign.
HK: Wait a minute. Ignorance is no excuse for being insulting. The bombing that people are talking about, that they’re criticizing the White House, was a 10 mile strip in which very few people were killed—if any.
Then there was a military intervention when the North Vietnamese tried to occupy all of Cambodia. And then as a result of the ground operations that were going on, the same sort of casualties occurred as occurred on the ground in Vietnam. Those were not under any individual White House control, and I don’t know whether the numbers are correct, I’m sure they were not hundreds of thousands – there were civilian casualties as a result of the ground operations caused by the North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia.
But to have to go over this again 50 years later, it’s really absurd.
TZ: Well, let me bring it to the present day. The frustration is understandable I suppose. Would students of history have an easier time with some of these questions—I’m not the first to ask these questions, of course—but would students of history have an easier time with these questions, Mr. Secretary, if your papers and your documents that are so important to you U.S. history, and controversial to so many people, weren’t gifted at the Library of Congress in a way that seals them off to the public until after your death—until well after your death?
HK: Absolutely. Your knowledge doesn’t match your malice. So uh…
TZ: Are your records available?
HK: Records in the Library of Congress are copies of records that were in the files. I would say 98 percent of them have been made public, and the ones that are not made public are not kept secret because of my wishes.
I have been spending years and hundred of thousands of dollars to try and get them declassified but they’re hung up on the technicality that the classifying people say they’ve already declassified them as part of another system, and they don’t want to go through the process again.
TZ: So you’re on record here saying it is your wish...
HK: It’s a certain fact that I have tried to make all of these records available. I have nothing to be embarrassed about. I served in a difficult period of various wars in which we did the best we could to bring an end to the wars and begin a structure of peace. And really, for 50 years after, an interview that would spend this much time on this is outrageous.
TZ: Well let me give you the last word from the pages of your book then, Mr. Secretary, and I’m happy to do so. You write, and I think quite meaningfully, in your book that, “Long ago in youth, I was brash enough to think myself able to pronounce the ‘meaning of history.’ I now know that history’s meaning is a matter to be discovered not declared.” I’m very interested in that passage, especially given the number of years you’ve served, the things you’ve seen, and the expertise you possess.
HK: I wrote this paragraph because, as an undergraduate, I wrote a thesis on the meaning of history based entirely on philosophical explorations. That was the longest thesis that had ever been done by an undergraduate and produced a rule that no one could write a thesis of such length.
So in that last paragraph, I pointed out that in between the time of having written totally abstractly on history, and the period of having participated in the making of history, it is clear that you cannot simply develop a theoretical construct and think that this is what history is. It is a process that has to be experienced. And I pointed out, also in that paragraph, at the end of the day when you are a national leader, you have to act on the basis of assessments you cannot prove true when you make them, so that there’s always a margin of judgment.
But we cannot be fair to that history if we spend our time pouring over individual documents and seeing if you can find a sentence that proves a pre-existing theory. And when you create the impression on a program that there’s something hidden and has been deliberately hidden because one doesn’t want it before the public. There are no secrets to be discovered.
TZ: There’s nothing new to be learned about the career of Dr. Kissinger?
HK: There may be something...I think the...I do not remember every document, nor, it’s impossible to remember every document. So far, despite insidious efforts of people with the attitude you’ve represented here, they haven’t found anything of a fundamental nature. And they won’t.
TZ: Well, I thought it worth asking. There are very many serious journalists and analysts who have used descriptions of you, Dr. Kissinger I know you’re very well-aware, very serious ones including ‘war criminal’ that they’ve used. It’s appropriate in a context like this to bring those very serious issues to light and allow you to give your point of view and defend yourself against them.
HK: They’re not issues that have been brought up, no. They’re brought up by a tiny minority. There’s a vast majority that has a very different view. I think the time has come, if we want to bring America together in the crisis that we face that we leave plenty of good faith with people we disagree with, and maybe we can still trust in their practical judgment.
But we should stop conducting these discussions as a civil war. And the purpose of this book, anyway, was to see if I could put before the public a general notion of international order. I have devoted my life to that. But some people disagree with it. That aspect is inevitable, but the tone of this sort of question creates an impression that our government is run as a conspiracy. And that is unjust to any administration.
On Monday afternoon, the Baltimore Ravens cut short the contract of star running back Ray Rice after a graphic video was released showing him punching his fiancé, and now-wife, in a hotel elevator in Atlantic City in February.
Previously, the NFL had reacted only to a video which surfaced in July. That footage, captured on an exterior camera after the altercation, shows Rice dragging his unconscious fiancé from the elevator.
After the altercation was initially made public over the summer, Rice was suspended by the NFL for two games, though the Ravens chose not to discipline him in any public way.
“Violence of any kind, especially man on woman, is just not right," said Rice in a news conference back in July 2014, shortly after his two-game suspension. "It's not right it shouldn't be tolerated, it's not right for society, no matter what."
But as the new graphic footage of the beating hit the internet yesterday afternoon, it's clear that there's even less tolerance this time around. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced an indefinite suspension of Rice, who was also fired by the Ravens.
In the wake of Rice's punishments, a fierce conversation has started about how Commissioner Goodell, the NFL, and the Ravens should have initially reacted to this type of behavior.
Don McPherson, a former NFL quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Oilers, joins The Takeaway to weigh in on the reaction being felt across the NFL.
But the League isn't the only employer with an inconsistent plan for addressing abuse. A 2006 report, the most recent to date, found that 70 percent of U.S. workplaces have no formal program or policy that addresses workplace violence, and that includes domestic violence outside of the office.
Joining The Takeaway to weigh in on the intersection of work and domestic violence is Maya Raghu, senior attorney with Futures Without Violence, a nonprofit dedicated to ending violence against women, children and families.
*Editor’s Note: The text of this story is a condensed version of this interview. Press the play button above to hear the full interview, or click here for a transcript.
Over the last century, America's understanding of its place in the world has changed dramatically. In the 1920s and 1930s, after millions died in World War I, the United States declined to join the League of Nations and focused on domestic challenges rather than on the rise of fascism in Europe.
For Dr. Henry Kissinger, America's inward turn had a personal impact. The former Secretary of State and his family suffered persecution as Jews in Nazi Germany, and eventually fled their homeland for the U.S. in 1938.
Since he began his career in foreign policy, Dr. Kissinger has been known as a realist, advocating the rational pursuit of American goals above all. But in his latest book, "World Order," Kissinger tempers his foreign policy outlook with a dose of idealism, a belief in America's moral vision.
In a conversation with Takeaway guest host Todd Zwillich, Kissinger argues that the United States must take the lead in the face of the Islamic State in Iraq or ISIS, adding that Saudi Arabia now finds itself in an “extremely difficult” position.
“[Saudi Arabia] is overwhelmingly afraid of the rise of Shia power in the region,” he says. “But it is also threatened by Sunni fanaticism, which threatens its entire structure domestically. They will have to decide—and I think they will decide—that they will have to back the war against ISIS. But then, we will face a second round of issues when Iran becomes dominant.”
When it comes to Iranian nuclear talks, Kissinger doesn’t voice much optimism for a long-term solution.
“In the period since 1979 when they came into office, we have seen a combination of imperial Persian policy and jihadist policy,” he says. “If they maintain that position, then a nuclear agreement by itself will not bring about a change in the impact they have and the threat that they represent. The question is a psychological one: Are they capable?”
When examining the Middle East, Kissinger sees great instability—he points out that internal revolutions are being carried out in almost every nation in the region, and the conflict between Sunnis and Shias rages on.
“And then there is an attack on the international system that was created in 1920 at the end of World War I—where the borders do not reflect anything except a sphere influence between Britain and France of that period,” says Kissinger. “It has many similarities to the European’s Thirty Years’ War from 400 years ago.”
The Thirty Years’ War was settled with the Treaty of Westphalia, which established a number of territorial changes across Europe and introduced a new set of principles for peace that effectively governed the region for three centuries.
“Is it possible to create the equivalent of such a system [in the Middle East]?” asks Kissinger. “That is the challenge for the United States, and for others—we alone can’t do it. The world without a balance of power is an arbitrary world. The nature of the balance of power will change, but the principle that you cannot have one region or one country dominate the whole world, will re-emerge, or should re-emerge.”
When it comes to the global balance of power, Kissinger was at the forefront for many years as Secretary of State and National Security Adviser—including during the 1973 Chilean coup that ousted the nation’s democratically elected leader, Salvador Allende, and paved the way for Augusto Pinochet. Many contend Kissinger helped to orchestrate the coup.
“The fact is, I did not engineer a coup against Allende,” says Kissinger. “Allende was overthrown by his military, with whom we had no contact with three years earlier when he came in.”
In early 2000, the CIA admitted that it was “aware of and agreed with Chilean officers’ assessment that that the abduction of General René Schneider, the Chilean Army’s Commander in September 1970, was an essential step in any coup plan.”
The CIA supported the general’s kidnapping because Scheider refused to use the Chilean Army to prevent the nation’s elected officials from confirming the election of Allende, a socialist, as president. The kidnapping ultimately failed, but Gen. Schneider was shot and died two days later—the day Allende’s election was confirmed.
“It was not an operation that we initiated, it was not planned as an assassination, and we turned it off,” says Kissinger. “But that happened three years [before the coup]. It was not in connection with this.”
The former Secretary of State points out that similar things are happening today.
“We have been trying to overthrow [Syrian] President Assad,” he says. “In this administration, we supported and took military action in Libya for that purpose—America has an interest in bringing about democratic governments. It’s a well established fact. What the details were in 1971, with all due respect to you, is not an appropriate subject here.”
On March 18, 1969, when Kissinger was serving the Nixon Administration, American B-52s began carpet-bombing eastern Cambodia—it eventually evolved into a four-year bombing campaign that dragged the nation of Cambodia into the Vietnam War. In all, the United States dropped more than half a million tons of bombs, killing anywhere from 150,000 to 500,000 civilians.
“Four Vietnamese divisions had occupied a strip of territory in Cambodia,” says Kissinger. “These divisions entered Vietnam at will and were killing Americans. They launched an offensive against the Americans in Vietnam before we even knew the way to the bathroom in the White House. We had four to six hundred casualties in the first eight weeks. What would your listeners have done—would they have bombed these areas or not?”
Kissinger contends that the areas in Cambodia that the U.S. bombed was “largely uninhabited.”
“The bombing that people are talking about, that are criticizing the White House [for] was a 10 mile strip in which very few people were killed, if any,” he says. “I don’t know whether the numbers are correct, I’m sure there were not hundreds of thousands, but there were civilian casualties as a result of the ground operations caused by the North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia.”
Some have accused Kissinger of being a war criminal. When asked about this by The Takeaway, the former Secretary of State says he disagrees.
“[Those accusations are] brought up by a tiny minority—there’s a vast majority that has a very different view,” he says. “I think the time has come, if we want to bring America together in the crisis that we face, that we leave plenty of good faith with people we disagree with, and maybe we can still trust in their practical judgment.”
Click here to read the full transcript of this interview or listen above.
Later this week, President Obama is set to lay out the White House's plans for waging a long-term campaign against ISIS. It's an effort that would draw from the resources of a coalition of partners across the region.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel traveled to Turkey for a diplomatic discussion to figure out what role the country and others will take in fighting ISIS.
"Each country has its own separate limitations, its own separate political dimensions. We have to respect those," Sec. Hagel said while speaking to reporters in Ankara.
Talks in Turkey, of course, have not been the only discussions about ISIS taking place in the region, as General Wesley Clark noted on The Takeaway on Monday—both Iranian and Qatari leaders have been talking to Saudi Arabian leadership.
Will the need to fight a common enemy change alliances and shift power in the Middle East? Could Saudi Arabia forge new partnerships with Iran and Qatar? And where will the U.S.'s efforts fit in along this shifting landscape?
Robin Wright, a distinguished scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington and the U.S. Institute of Peace, has been reflecting on these questions. She's the author of "Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World."
From Cold War Russia to modern-day ISIS, the threats facing the United States have changed considerably over the last quarter-century. Mathew Burrows has witnessed it all firsthand.
Burrows joined the CIA a 25 years ago. He's since gone on to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and he is now the director of the Atlantic Council's Strategic Foresight Initiative. His new book, "The Future Declassified," examines the future challenges and potential trends for the United States in the next quarter-century.
Despite reports of limited shelling from both Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatist rebels, a shaky cease-fire continues to hold in Ukraine. Many hope the truce, which went into effect Friday evening, will ease tensions so that a long-term political solution can be reached. To date, the five-month conflict has claimed the lives of 3,000 people.
But Ukrainian President Poroshenko has said that Kiev will never to cede territory in Eastern Ukraine, and separatists are refusing to report to Kiev. Can the two sides even hold this fragile truce, let alone negotiate a legitimate compromise?
Michael Bociurkiw, spokesperson for the Organization for Security and Cooperation In Europe Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, joins us for an update from Kiev.
For the first time since the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown exactly one month ago, the city of Ferguson, MO is announcing some major changes to its court system, and setting up a citizen review board to provide feedback and guidance to local police.
The Ferguson City Council says they'll also cap how much of the city's revenue can come from municipal court fines, which critics say have become a financial incentive to pick up and unfairly target low-income African-Americans on petty charges. And they've opened up a month-long window to throw out pending warrants.
Joining The Takeaway to explain the changes is Jason Rosenbaum, a reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.
Scientists have found an unusual partner to potentially help find people caught under rubble after disasters, or monitor conditions in hard to reach places: The much-maligned cockroach.
A team at North Carolina State University has figured out how to remotely control cockroaches equipped with electronic backpacks and sensors. The roach biobots have caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Energy, which hopes that the cockroaches might also be able to detect and map out radiation levels.
Alper Bozkurt, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at N.C. State, leads this research and explains how they decided on the cockroach.
President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon 40 years ago today—just one month after the 37th president resigned over the Watergate scandal. Nixon stepped down to avoid a certain impeachment.
“I regret deeply any injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this decision," said Nixon in his televised resignation. "I would say only that if some of my judgments were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the nation."
Three years later, Nixon made his first formal public apology to the nation in a 1977 interview with David Frost.
“I just hope I haven't let you down," said Nixon in 1977. "Well, when I said 'I just hope I haven't let you down,' that said it all. I had. I let down my friends. I let down the country. I let down our system of government and the dreams of young people who ought to get into government but will think it's all too corrupt and the rest. Most of all, I let down and opportunity that I would have for two and a half more years to proceed on great projects and programs for building a lasting peace.”
Of course, that apology came years after the pardon, after his crimes had already been forgiven.
What does it really mean to forget and move on, and how does public forgiveness and private forgiveness differ?
Joining The Takeaway to weigh in is Charles Griswold, Borden Parker Bowne Professor of Philosophy at Boston University and co-editor of "Ancient Forgiveness: Classical, Judaic and Christian."
It's the next installment of The Takeaway Job Fair, our month-long series on the future of professional industries in America. Today, we go to the doctor's office for a diagnosis on how to make it in the medical field.
If you are a freshman who has just started college and you think you want to be a doctor, then you are looking at four years as an undergrad, a couple years of medical school, your residency, and maybe more schooling for a specialty. That all adds up to at least eight to 10 years before you hit the job market.
What is healthcare going to look like by then? And what do you need to prepare?
Dr. Michael Stewart is vice dean of Weill Cornell Medical College and chairman of Otolaryngology. With over 20 years in the medical field, he joins The Takeaway to share his expertise.
After dealing with the drama of Donald Sterling, the NBA has another scandal on it's hands involving an owner and his views on racial topics. Over the weekend, Atlanta Hawks Owner Bruce Levenson announced he was selling his team, prior to the conclusion of a league investigation into a 2012 email directed to his co-owners.
In the email, Levenson discusses ticket sales, and implies that white fans were scared of the black culture that had permeated Hawk game. Levenson self-reported the email this week, along with an apology, and has effectively kicked himself out of the league.
Here to weigh in on the culture of the Hawks and to get some background on Levenson is Curtis Bunn, deputy editor of the Atlanta Black Star and a longtime sports reporter.
Click here to read Levenson's full email.
Over the weekend on "Meet The Press," President Obama's message on the Islamic State was clear: America should get ready for a lengthy campaign against the Sunni militant group.
“Over the course of months, we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of ISIL. We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We're going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we're going to defeat them,” the president said.
According to our partner The New York Times, the White House says combating ISIL or ISIS could take three years to complete, and will require a sustained effort that is likely to go beyond Obama's term in office.
Phase 1 is already underway—more than 140 air strikes were carried out in the past month. The next phase is due sometime after Iraq forms a more inclusive government. This will involve an intensified effort to train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters, and possibly members of Sunni tribes.
And finally, and most controversially, destroying the terrorist army’s sanctuary inside Syria is key to stopping ISIS—something that could be years away for the United States, rather than months.
According to Wesley Clark, a retired U.S. Army General and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Europe, ISIS is tearing up traditional rivalries in the Middle East. He says that ISIS is the result of Saudi and Qatari funding, adding that the militant group was birthed by Baathist Sunni generals that adopted extremist Sharia philosophies.
“It’s using religious fervor as its motivating force,” says Gen. Clark. “We don’t want U.S. or Western ground troops involved in a religious struggle between Sunni and Shia Islam. The truth is, if you look at it through their eyes, the Saudis are fighting against the Shia hegemonial aspirations of Iran.”
Gen. Clark says that the Saudis, along with the West and the United States, are also vulnerable to the dangers of ISIS.
“The [Saudi] royal family and its thousands of members could be said to be not living in accordance with strict monotheism and extremist Sharia interpretations of Islam,” says Gen. Clark. “That makes them vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy—that means that perhaps their own population is not sufficiently loyal to provide them protection.”
Gen. Clark says that the Saudi and Qatari leaders have met privately in the last week in an attempt to work through some of their differences. Additionally, Saudi leaders met with Iranians this week.
“The Saudis and the Iranians agree that ISIS is a threat,” says Gen. Clark. “Maybe the reason President Obama said that he didn’t have a strategy on ISIS is because he knew what was happening and he’s waiting for the Saudis and the Iranians and the other Sunni powers in the region to form a coalition that we can support.”
Though U.S. support for combating ISIS remains mixed, Gen. Clark says that successful presidents are not constrained by public opinion.
“Our most successful presidents have shaped public opinion,” he says. “It’s often been proved that public opinion has been wrong about the wisest course of action.”
When examining public opinion, Gen. Clark looks back to the Iraq War. Shortly after the September 11th attacks, a large majority of the public favored an American-led invasion of Iraq.
“Citing public opinion...as reason to take action or as a guiding principle—it’s dangerous in foreign policy,” says Gen. Clark.
Going forward, the United States needs to tread carefully. According to General Clark, the longer it takes for a coalition against ISIS to be formed, and the longer the U.S. waits to strike in Syria, the greater ISIS’s power will grow.
“Haste makes waste in this case—we’ve got to get it right,” he says. “To do it right, we’ve got to have the Saudis and Qataris who helped form ISIS take the lead in crushing it. Let them take the lead, and work it so we can support them as much behind the scenes as possible.”
On June 30th, with Vice President Joe Biden at his side, President Obama promised to issue an executive action on immigration reform by the end of the summer.
"While I will continue to push House Republicans to drop the excuses and act—and I hope their constituents will too—America cannot wait forever for them to act," he explained. "And that’s why, today, I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress."
Over the weekend, the president had a change of heart. The White House announced that Obama will hold off on executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections this November.
"I'm going to act because it's the right thing for the country," President Obama told Chuck Todd of NBC's "Meet the Press." "But it's going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration, what we've done on unaccompanied children, and why it's necessary."
Republican leaders have accused the president of playing politics. “The decision to simply delay this deeply controversial and possibly unconstitutional unilateral action until after the election—instead of abandoning the idea altogether—smacks of raw politics,” House Speaker John Boehner told Takeaway partner The New York Times.
Fernando Pizarro, Washington correspondent for Univision, explains the president's decision to Takeaway guest host Todd Zwillich. Cristina Jimenez, co-founder and the managing director of United We Dream, explores the frustration and disappointment in the Latino community, and the personal impact of the president's decision.
This week, Retro Report—a documentary team that looks back at major news stories and the media coverage that defined them—takes up an old subject that has recently wound up in the news again: The militarization of the police.
It all began with SWAT teams. Los Angeles Police Department chief Daryl Gates essentially pioneered the small specialized units in 1965. Retro Report Producer Bonnie Bertram explains.
Check out a video of Retro Report's findings below.
This week's Movie Date podcast starts with questions, ends with questions, and of course there are plenty of questions in between. Like: What really happened during the fall of Saigon? Was Elvis Jewish? And are voiceovers ever okay? On the chopping block are "Last Days in Vietnam," "The Identical," and (by popular demand) "Snowpiercer."
The Movie Date team also shares a snippet of Kristen's Soundcheck interview with Stuart Murdoch, lead singer and songwriter of Belle & Sebastian and director of the new pop musical film, "God Help the Girl." To hear the full interview, pay a visit to the great WNYC music program Soundcheck.
In response to listener outcry, Kristen gets schooled by The Takeaway's Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich on how to properly address Dennis Kucinich.
And, of course, there's trivia!
Are you a newsie? Do you know what's happening from Washington to Hollywood to Pyongyang? Be smarter than your pals. Prep your dinner party factoids. Gauge your knowledge about what happened this week, as heard on The Takeaway.
Iconic comedian and actress Joan Rivers died yesterday at the age of 81.
"When I die—and yes, Melissa, that day will come; and yes, Melissa, everything's still in your name—I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action," she once said. "I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. Don’t give me some rabbi rambling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents."
While we can't fulfill all of her final wishes, we figured we could help Joan out just a little bit: Click on the audio above to hear Meryl Streep crying in roughly 5 different accents.
Joan's real funeral is this Sunday in Manhattan, and we're sure it'll be a wild event.
In high school, Benedict Carey learned that the best study habits required a dedicated, quiet space to learn, rote memorization, and lots of self-discipline.
After a somewhat disastrous first year of college, Carey changed his habits "by degrees."
"For years afterward, I thought about college like I suspect many people do: I'd performed pretty well despite my scattered existence, my bad habits. I never stopped to ask whether those habits were, in fact, bad," he says in his new book, "How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where and Why It Happens."
As a science reporter for Takeaway parter The New York Times, Carey began to realize that his "scattered" study habits in college actually mirrored what scientists have now learned about the brain: That we learn best by ignoring much of the ingrained advice about doing so.
As Carey tells Takeaway guest host Todd Zwillich, we're "taught to study and practice like monks, to isolate the material from our lives. To find one quiet space, to have a ritual, to stay with that ritual."
In fact, Carey says, we should do the opposite. Those long-held ideas about learning "essentially blinds us to how the brain learned to learn."
This week, The Takeaway's Movie Date Podcast team reviews “The Identical,” “Last Days in Vietnam” and the re-releases of "Forrest Gump" and "Ghostbusters."
In addition to hosting the Movie Date Podcast, Rafer Guzman is film critic for Newsday and Kristen Meinzer is culture producer for The Takeaway.
On Wednesday, negotiators representing protesters outside Pakistan's parliament met with politicians trying to find an end to a standoff that's lasted for nearly three weeks.
The Movement for Justice Party, which is led by cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, has been leading protests in the streets, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who they say rigged the country's most recent election.
The demonstrations have given Pakistan's military the opportunity to play the role of intermediary, and some say the chance to pressure the government too.
Aqil Shah is the author of “The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan” and a former columnist for Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper. He's currently a visiting assistant professor of government at Dartmouth, and he joins The Takeaway to weigh in on the future of the country’s civil government, and the role of the military.
Last night at the U.S. Tennis Open, viewers saw the sport at its very best, and the result opens the door for another showdown between players Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Roger Federer of Switzerland.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams looks like she may win another U.S. Open title this weekend. As we get into the last weekend of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, we here at The Takeaway are wondering why there’s so little American talent in the men’s top 50.
Mark McEnroe is president of the Johnny Mac Project, a non-profit organization designed to expose low-income children to the sport of tennis. He’s also the managing director of Sportime Clubs and the brother of tennis star John McEnroe.
According to McEnroe, despite the dismal numbers, men’s U.S. tennis isn’t a lost cause.
“We have a number of excellent junior players who are competing well and are poised to join the top hundred, and hopefully someday higher,” says McEnroe. “But at the moment, it is a bit of a desert out there. Our position is that it’s not so much that U.S. tennis has fallen behind, it’s that the rest of the world has caught up.”
“It appears to me that the women are better poised to bring more U.S. players, besides the Williams sisters, into the top 100,” says McEnroe. “I think there aren’t as many opportunities for female athletes, particularly at the professional level, to have the financial success that the Williams sisters have. [Because of that] I think that in this country young female athletes are drawn to tennis in a slightly higher percentage than the men are.”
McEnroe’s brother Patrick resigned this week as the head of player development at the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Mark acknowledges that his brother is “evidently” taking some of the blame for lackluster American rankings.
“I haven’t spoken to him since I read about the [resignation] announcement, nor anyone at the USTA,” says McEnroe. “To say that he’s a convenient fall guy, that might be a little strong, but clearly, his job when he was hired was to bring U.S. tennis back. And I think that he’s done a very good job at laying the groundwork.”
McEnroe says there’s no formula for producing a successful tennis player. He points out the the Williams sisters were trained by their father in Houston, TX and did not participate in many junior tournaments. Roger Federer grew up in an upper middle class community in Switzerland and trained at private clubs. Rafael Nadal’s primary coach was his uncle, soccer star Miguel Ángel Nadal.
“At the very top, everyone has a different story,” he says. “There’s no cookie cutter approach that anyone has found yet that has turned out fives and tens of the top, top players,” he says.
In early August, it was reported that the Johnny Mac Tennis Project was diverting the charity’s funds away from low-income children and towards elite junior players.
“[The accusations] are 100 percent false,” says McEnroe. “The fact is, our elite players are not upper middle class; they’re not wealthy people. We have not raised as much money as we would like, and to the extent that we were unable to raise money, we nonetheless went forth and did exactly what we said we were going to do—we increased the number of community tennis hours that we’ve offered year-over-year to participants that have paid nothing.”
If you spent part of your summer enjoying the great outdoors, you might have been appreciating the results of the Wilderness Act of 1964.
But 50 years after the passage of this conversation law, creating wilderness in the U.S. has gotten a lot more difficult. The vast majority of the wilderness protected in America today was created before 1990. And since then wilderness designations dwindled.
The Wilderness Act was a rare recognition that large areas of land needed to exist outside human reach. It defines wilderness in an almost poetic way, as areas “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
David Steves, editor at Earth Fix, a public media collaborative in the Northwest, explains why wilderness designations are at a near standstill.
"One Ballsy Lady" is how the New York Daily News sums her up.
The tributes continue to pour in for Joan Rivers, who died yesterday at the age of 81.
Joan Rivers was one of the first successful female stand-up comics in America, eventually becoming a role model and an icon for no-nonsense comedians like Roseanne Barr, Sarah Silverman and countless others.
From the Ed Sullivan Show to the red carpets of Hollywood award shows, Joan Rivers was a cultural behemoth to be reckoned with.
As The Takeaway celebrates her life and legacy, we want to hear from you. Share your remembrances in the comments below, or give us a call at 1-877-869-8253.
"When I die, I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action...I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way...I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents," Joan Rivers once. We here at The Takeaway tried to make that dream come true.
The emergence of new information proved to be a game changer in the state of North Carolina—more than 30 years after being sentenced to death, Henry Lee McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown emerged from prison as free men on Wednesday.
DNA evidence uncovered by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission exonerated McCollum and Brown of the 1983 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl, Sabrina Buie, in Red Springs, North Carolina.
A positive DNA match connects a man named Roscoe Artis to the crime—Artis had a history of sexual assault dating back to 1957, and is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of a young woman who was killed less than a month after Sabrine Buie died.
Finally free, Henry Lee McCollum wipes tears as a Judge declares he & his brother Leon Brown innocent—after 31 years. pic.twitter.com/ZMRjyIda9v— Forgone Conclusion (@williamcander) September 3, 2014
McCollum and Brown were just 19- and 15-years-old, respectively, at the time of their conviction, and both men are mentally disabled. After being interrogated by police for several hours, both Brown and McCollum signed confessions that had been written for them by detectives of Red Springs Police Department.
While Brown's conviction was eventually changed to life in prison, Henry McCollum's death sentence was upheld, making him the longest serving inmate on death row in the state. In Raleigh's Central Prison, 152 men remain on death row.
The attorney for Leon Brown, James Payne, says the innocence of both men is only further proof that the death penalty may need some rethinking.
As we near the one-year anniversary of Healthcare.gov's launch, most Americans remember the troubled roll-out, the crashing website, and the confusing enrollment process. It was far from a home run for the White House.
But Kevin Counihan, the new CEO of Healthcare.gov, sees opportunity despite the challenges of Obamacare's first year. Counihan presided over Connecticut's healthcare exchange over the last year—one of the nation's most successful.
Connecticut's exchange, known as Access Health CT, enrolled about 257,000 people, including 79,000 people who signed up for private insurance. Approximately half of those enrollees were previously uninsured.
Those numbers caught the attention of the federal government and last week, and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced Counihan's appointment as the new CEO of Healthcare.gov.
Counihan starts his new position on Monday, and he tells Takeaway guest host Todd Zwillich about his new approach to the federal program.
When it comes to the debate over genetically modified foods in America, the crux of the conversation now hinges on one question: To label or not to label?
Across the globe, 64 countries have enacted mandatory labeling laws. In Europe, the E.U. has approved many foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for consumption, but does require labeling in member countries. From the corn fields of Nebraska to the cotton fields of India, the issue of labeling and GMOs remains a contentious issue.
Major food makers like Coca-Cola, and biotech giants like Monstanto and DuPont, are determined to stop laws that will require mandatory labeling for GMO foods sold in U.S. grocery stores. So much so that they've spent more than $27 million in the first six months of this year on GMO-related lobbying. That's roughly three times their spending in all of 2013.
So why the uptick in spending, and why do they want to stop the consumer's right to know?
Carey Gillam is a reporter covering food and agriculture for Reuters and has been following GMOs for 16 years, almost since their inception. She says the latest battle in the fight over labeling GMO foods is coming from Vermont.
In May, Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill that requires that GMO foods sold in the state be labeled as such. Though some in the Green Mountain State are pleased with the new law, industry groups are not.
In early June, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group that represents Monsanto, General Mills, Coca-Cola, and other giant food companies, sued in an attempt to block the measure, calling it unconstitutional.
“They have filed suit, and they promised that they would if the law passed,” says Gillam. “That litigation is on going, and who knows how long that will take. Vermont is trying to raise money to defend the law, and has raised over $1 million so far. But it looks like a long battle ahead.”
Vermont is just the tip of the iceberg, since several states are considering similar laws. This November, voters in both Colorado and Oregon will vote on GMO labeling proposals.
“The food giants really say that this will cause chaos in the marketplace, and that this is going to add significant costs for consumers,” says Gillam. “They say it will create all sorts of confusion, and they would essentially have to label all of their products sold all throughout the United States because it doesn’t make sense with the distribution chain the way it is to just label things state by state.”
In addition to distribution issues, corporate opponents of labeling say that the practice would place a negative stigma on foods made with GMOs.
“They think it might drive consumers more to organics, to natural food products,” she says. “And indeed there has been a shift in consumer spending driving increases in organics.”
Gillam points out that supporters of labeling say that the practice would cost companies just “fractions of pennies” to put additional information onto food products.
“They claim that consumers have the right to know, that this is important information, and there should be no reason that companies want to hide it,” she says.
Corporate food giants frequently argue that there is little evidence that GMOs are harmful.
“That is definitely their position and their argument,” says Gillam. “The people on the other side say that most of the scientific studies that have been done have been funded by the companies who are selling these products."
Since GMO food products were introduced in the 1990s, the Food and Drug Administration has never required mandatory safety testing of GMO foods.
As ballot initiatives and new laws continue to pop up across the nation, companies are becoming more aggressive in their lobbying campaigns—and the $27 million spent in the first six months of 2014 has been geared towards federal lawmakers.
“There’s federal legislation that would block any state labeling, and they are really putting their all into trying to sell that piece of legislation on the federal level,” says Gillam. “Of course they are also spending money on campaigns in Oregon and Colorado to try to convince consumers that it would be bad to vote for mandatory labeling in November.”
In all, Gillam says that corporate lobbyists are trying to make their case against labeling in 20 states across America. And it’s not just the legal system that they’re trying to work—biotech and food companies that produce GMO products are beginning to work closely with universities.
“Last year, they also really decided that they needed to have a more direct relationship with consumers and launched a whole multimedia campaign, and a website called GMOAnswers,” says Gillam. “They’re going out on speaking tours to schools, and just really trying to make consumers more comfortable with, in their view, what they say is the safety of genetically modified organism.”
Yet, the behavior and messaging of these companies seem to be at odds—the industry argues that GMOs are safe, but refuses to label their products, leaving many to wonder why.
“A lot of people have suggested that [companies] need to be proactive and put the label on there and not act like it’s something that people need to be afraid of,” says Gillam. “They have just said that they cannot do that—that it is misleading to put a label on there because it does make it look like there’s something to be afraid of, and they’re not going to do it.”
In the weeks leading up to the end of the Vietnam War, American and Vietnamese residents of Saigon panicked as the North Vietnamese Army closed in on the South.
The U.S. government and military prepared to evacuate their own, but many South Vietnamese were left desperate to escape—they feared execution or jail sentences upon the invasion of the North Vietnamese army.
Although the White House ordered the evacuation of only U.S. citizens, many American officers disobeyed their superiors in order to get the South Vietnamese out of the country and to safety.
In her new film "Last Days in Vietnam," Rory Kennedy takes us back 40 years to shed light on the uplifting and heroic actions of Americans and South Vietnamese during the fall of Saigon. Kennedy sat down with us to talk about the compelling first hand accounts from the film and what it means to leave a country when the war ends.
Check out a trailer for the film below.
At a summit in Wales, NATO is expected to send a message to Russia.
The organization is reportedly planning to okay the use of a rapid-reaction force in Eastern Europe that would allow for 4,000 troops to be deployed within 48 hours. But is NATO over-extending its capabilities in the region?
Steve Krasner, international relations professor at Stanford University and the former Director of Policy Planning at the United States Department of State, says NATO's should be tough with Russia, but avoid making false promises to non-member state Ukraine.
A year ago, the purpose of the NATO alliance was unclear: Europe had no obvious threat, combat operations were wrapping up in Afghanistan, and Washington was not eager to further deepen its involvement in the Middle East.
NATO may have been hovering on the brink of collective military irrelevance, but the re-election of President Vladimir Putin and Russia's invasion of Ukraine has given new life, and military opportunities, to the NATO alliance.
New Yorker Staff Writer John Cassidy argues that President Putin has, in fact, done NATO a huge favor by manufacturing a crisis in the region.
A new report reveals chilling details of the violence carried out by the radical Sunni militant group ISIS.
In June, ISIS militants massacred hundreds of Iraqi Army recruits. Almost 800 were reportedly killed at Camp Speicher, an air base that previously was a U.S. military facility, just north of Baghdad.
Only one man survived the brutal attack.
The lone survivor, Ali Hussein Kadhim, told his story to Adam Ellick, senior video journalist and reporter for Takeaway partner The New York Times.
ISIS is just one of many foreign policy concerns facing the Obama Administration. The White House is also facing an increasingly aggressive Russia and a quickly rising China.
As these conflicts and diplomatic challenges worsen, it seems more and more unlikely that President Obama will be able to fulfill any commitment to lowering military spending.
Though the Obama Administration is trying to lead the U.S. into a new post Iraq and Afghanistan era, it appears that the rest of the world is not going to let him.
ISIS, for all its brutality, does not appea to pose a direct threat to the U.S. at the moment. Yet, the brutality in Iraq and Syria seems to cry out for a response. It appears that the president was caught off guard by the latest slew of global crises.
During the Cold War era, there was predictability to the chess board. But experts, and even Administration officials, say that the crisis with Ukraine, and especially ISIS, seemingly came out of nowhere.
David Sanger, National Security Correspondent at our partner the New York Times, weighs in on Washington's increasing commitments abroad.
On Tuesday, the radical Sunni militant group ISIS released a new video of the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff in Syria. The news of Sotloff's death came just two weeks after James Foley, another American journalist, was similarly executed.
Sotloff's death came despite the public plea of his mother, Shirley Sotloff, who released a video begging ISIS to spare his life last week. Sotloff's executioner appears to be the same man who killed Foley—a British-citizen turned jihadi who is reportedly one of hundreds of Brits who have joined the ranks of the extremist group.
On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to expand the country's domestic anti-terrorism efforts. He said that he believed at least 500 people have already traveled from Britain to fight in the region.
Meanwhile, ISIS says their next target is a British hostage named David Cawthorne Haines.
What does ISIS want and are their techniques working? For answers, The Takeaway turns to Gary Sick, a senior research scholar at Columbia University. He served on the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan, and he was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis.
Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, America's healthcare landscape has shifted dramatically, particularly for those fighting serious illnesses.
The Takeaway's series "Under Her Skin: Living with Breast Cancer" follows three such Americans: Anita, Lisa, and Crystal are three African-American women fighting breast cancer. The costs associated with their disease vary widely, but the ACA has changed the way women like Anita, Lisa, and Crystal think about breast cancer and treatment.
Kirsten Sloan, a senior policy director for the American Cancer Society, knows this reality professionally and personally—she's a survivor of breast cancer. She tells The Takeaway's John Hockenberry that the ACA has removed barriers to preventative treatment and has reigned in market-based practices, such as insurance companies dropping patients with pre-existing conditions.
This summer, at least three flights have been grounded because of a flyer upset about a reclining seat. These events have triggered debates about when a decent person should even be allowed to recline.
Airfares have fallen by about 50 percent compared to 30 years ago, but innovations in airplane technology haven't translated into a more comfortable travel experience—at least in economy class. Why does it seem like the only innovation in the passenger seat has been to make it smaller?
Aviation correspondent for Condé Nast Traveler, Barbara Peterson, joins us to weigh in along with Bastian Schaefer, a designer who's the innovation manager with the airplane manufacturer Airbus.
Schaefer says that Airbus works with a worldwide network of companies to bring new innovations to the airline. When it comes to seat design, Airbus works with seat suppliers that are directly contracted by an airline.
“The trend in recent years has to been to slim them down—not the passengers of course—but the seats themselves to make them lighter,” says Peterson. “What’s happened is these slim lined seats also have the advantage, from the airline’s standpoint, that more of them can be put on a plane. That’s driving the trend.”
However, Peterson points out that an air travel is impacted by more than just a seat, and she adds that in-flight conflicts involving reclining seats can be linked partially to capacity.
“There’s a higher percentage of those seats being filled,” she says. “The load factor—which is the number of seats that are filled on average—has gone up from 56 percent right around the time of deregulation to more than 82 percent.”
While airlines may be cramming more passengers into planes, is there still a sort of in-flight etiquette to abide by?
“There really is no etiquette—I’ve never even seen any recommendations about how to behave on a plane, it’s just not part of the travel experience,” says Peterson. “Consequently, if you do want to recline your seat, you have a right to do that.”
In addition to safety videos, airlines may want to consider providing reclining tips to passengers, Peterson half jokes. However, hope for restoring civility may be on the way—Schaefer says that there are already seats available to airlines that don’t recline at all.
“These seats have a different angle of the neck rest so that the passenger is sitting more comfortable,” he says. “Seat suppliers are working on different concepts to solve this issue.”
Until seat suppliers can come up with a fix, Peterson points out that there are gadgets like the “Knee Defender” available, which helps stop reclining seats on airplanes.
“Sales have skyrocketed since these recent episodes,” she says “But the irony is most airlines will ban them precisely because it leads to this sort of rage in the air, and diversion of flights, which are very expensive for the airlines. This is not a good trend, and I think it’s pretty hostile to use those ‘knee defenders.’”
Going forward, Peterson says that designers need to keep the new realities of air travel—and plane capacity—in mind. The industry is slowly responding, and new innovations like convertible seats, which can be expanded or contracted, are currently available on the market.
“Then there’s something called the herringbone, which means that some people are facing forward and some people are facing back, which tends to create more of a sense of space,” she says. “There are things to do within the confines of the aircraft cabin, which isn’t exactly a great space to be working with.”
President Obama's visit to Eastern Europe begins in Estonia today. He'll attempt to reaffirm America's support for its NATO allies in light of Russia's increasing aggression in the region.
The trip comes ahead of the start of a NATO summit in Wales tomorrow—Estonia is one of three NATO countries that directly borders Russia. Later this week, NATO is expected to endorse the use of 4,000 troops in Eastern Europe.
Ahead of the announcement, Russian military leaders have already said they plan to revise their military doctrine to allow for the rapid deployment of forces to Eastern Europe as a response to NATO. The key revision in play would redefine NATO as a military threat to Russia.
Raimo Poom, head of International News for the Estonian news organization Eesti Päevaleht, weighs in on President Obama's trip, and explains why many Estonians remain concerned about the parallels between their country and Ukraine.
While President Obama makes the rounds in Estonia, uncertainty over a peace agreement in eastern Ukraine still lingers.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko has said a cease-fire is on the way, and Russia claims to support some kind of agreement, but has at the same denied it is part of the conflict. Pro-Russian separatists meanwhile claim they will agree to nothing until Ukrainian forces withdraw from eastern Ukraine.
David Richard Gress, author of "From Plato to NATO: The Idea of the West and Its Opponents," says Russia is raising the stakes by redefining NATO as a military threat.
When we here at The Takeaway start a conversation, listeners like you sometimes love to run with it.
Yesterday when we had a conversation with Mark Lynas, a scientist from Cornell University, and one of the founders of the anti-GMO movement. He told Takeaway Host John Hockenberry that he recently changed his mind about GMOs, deciding that his anti-GMO convictions rejected sound science.
Many of you were listening closely to that conversation, and The Takeaway got tons of comments and phone calls in response to the segment.
"I just want to know how much the scientist who is promoting GMOs was payed by Monsanto or anyone else in the industry,” Dana from Massachusetts called in to tell us.
It's our understanding that Mark Lynas does not receive any money from Monsanto—and The Takeaway doesn't either.
Here you'll find a variety of listener calls and comments. You can stay involved in the conversation by leaving a comment below, giving us a call at 1-877-869-8253, or by visiting us on Twitter or Facebook.
The financial realities of living with breast cancer is a mixed bag.
“The cost of the chemo. The cost of me having my surgery. It was like $3,000 for them to put me to sleep,” says Lisa Echols in her audio diary dated August 15, 2014.
Lisa is one of the three women being profiled in The Takeaway's six-month-long audio storytelling series, "Under Her Skin: Living With Breast Cancer." It's an intimate portrait of life as an African-American women with the disease, and not even money is off limits for discussion.
“I've been blessed with a co-pay of $5 and most of medicine is $5 and in some cases it's been less than $5,” says Anita Coleman in her audio diary dated August 17, 2014.
“I was spending maybe about $25 to go to work and then about $40 to go home .... every day,” says Crystal Miller in her August 22, 2014 audio diary.
Anita Coleman, the veteran of our series on breast cancer, learned a thing or two about making it work financially the first time around when she fought cancer in 2001.
“My first time around with cancer the most difficult part for me was the fact of trying to maintain and not let my children see any different because I wanted them to do well in school," she says in her August 17th audio diary. "The money was tight but we managed and I managed not to let them know how tight it was because sometimes if you cut out the extra things that you really didn't need, you can make it.”
Though she knows a thing or two about the financial realities of breast cancer, Anita says things are different more than a decade later.
“This time around, I was laid off around the same time I was diagnosed," Anita says. "But I had relocated, my living expenses were less, and also I cut out some of the extra things, and staying off from work you just don't get to do a lot of the extra things, but it's ok because I have to go on walks go to the beach, just sit around and take in the simple things I don't have a chance to take in when I'm working.”
Anita may not have had a plan, but she had experience. Crystal Miller didn't have either when she was diagnosed late last year at the age of 28.
“I did not plan for this, obviously," Crystal says in her August 22nd audio diary. "I am happy that I had a little bit of money saved. Unfortunately, for me though I paid off a student loan that I had from college, which was either 12 or 15,000 dollars. And I also bought a car in October. I found my lump in November, diagnosed in December, so I don't know if I knew this was going to happen if I would have done those things.”
Both Crystal and Lisa are employees at the hospitals they are being treated at, which keeps costs down. But even Lisa was surprised to learn about the way her insurance was billed for the double mastectomy she underwent back in June.
“I was thinking since I had both breasts removed at the same time that they would just charge me one fee but they charged for each breast," Lisa says in her latest audio diary, dated August 15, 2014. "It was like $38,000, so it was a lot."
With a 16-year-old son at home still, Lisa and her family are now learning to prioritize what needs to get paid, and what can wait.
“It has been stressful to a certain extent because my husband happened to cover a majority of all the bills so it has been pressure," Lisa says in her latest audio entry. "But we don't have a whole lot of big big bills because both of our cars are paid off and I thank god for that, but it's just the little things we try to keep up with and some we can keep up with and some we can't. But we have to have food or have lights so we usually just pay those and the ones we can't pay we just call them and say well we can't make a payment this month, we will double up next month.”
The struggle to find the funds to fight a disease like breast cancer is one many of you have dealt with. Takeaway listener Kyle Shephard's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.
“When it comes to money, we don't have a lot of it and the state of New York where she lives was very gracious in paying for most of her treatment if not all of it, and I'm fairly certain that without it she might have given up and that was not a prospect we were willing to entertain," says Kyle.
Listener Jessie Miller from Frisco, Texas was diagnosed in 2010, and despite good insurance, mounting co-pays and other expenses have forced them to monitor medical expenses closely, even four years out.
“As you start adding all that stuff up and then you come to the end of the year and you realize that you paid almost $8,000," says Jessie. "We pretty much decided, okay well we're not going to be able to take a vacation probably for a couple years. Well the cost still plays a big effect on us and we just want to make sure that the doctor visits we have don't intefere with what our day to day needs are."
So fewer vacations, less fun, but for many there's still hope.
“I don't know it is what it is and I just feel like I had to do what I had to do and money's not everything," says Crystal Miller. "And Ill have to pick up the pieces later which is fine.”
Today marks the start of The Takeaway Job Fair, a month-long series on the future of professional industries in America.
This September, we'll explore what it takes to get a job in a number of fields, from law and healthcare to manufacturing and agriculture. We'll hear from leading experts about where their industry is headed, and how young people can prepare for a future in the field.
First up, we look at the legal field, which is being transformed by our tech-driven world. One person embracing the change is Daniel Katz, an associate professor at Michigan State University Law School.
Professor Katz says aspiring lawyers need to branch out to science and math during their undergraduate education if they want to be relevant when they get out of law school.
From some, finding a job is all about moving to where the jobs are. In rural America, there is a shortage of attorneys, which has left the market wide-open for recent grads.
Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota are among many states trying to lure in law students—in many communities in these states, there may be just a single lawyer for hundreds of miles. It means attorney John Thomas has all the work he can handle as the only lawyer in Center, Nebraska.
Thomas has 300 clients, and he drives many hours to see some of them, and many have to drive several hours to see him. With retirement on the horizon, Thomas says that what he needs most right now is a junior partner for his clients—something that is proving difficult.
See Also: The GMO Debate: Listeners Respond
Nearly all of the food you eat has been genetically modified in some way—from seedless grapes, sweet corn, and plump tomatoes, to perfectly round chickens and turkeys that are nearly all meat.
Animals and plants used in agriculture have all been selectively bred to enhance features that make them more valuable as food. But intervening in biological processes to mass produce food has always made some people nervous.
When scientists developed the capability to directly select genes in food species, the anti-GMO movement was born. Activists have condemned genetically modified organisms (GMOs) since scientists introduced them in 1996.
While the anti-GMO movement has grown over the last 15 years, GMO technology has continued to spread. Genetically modified crops are now planted across 170 million acres worldwide. Nearly half of the world's soybeans and a third of its corn are products of the technology.
As one of the founders of the anti-GMO movement in the United Kingdom, activist Mark Lynas once uprooted genetically modified crops with his bare hands. Alongside Vandana Shiva, an Indian environmental activist, they led the crusade against the use of GMOs out of a sincere concern they might be dangerous.
Lynas, now a visiting fellow at Cornell University and author of “The God Species: How the Planet Can Survive the Age of Humans,” tells Takeaway Host John Hockenberry that he has recently changed his mind on GMOs, deciding that his anti-GMO convictions rejected sound science.
“Skepticism is a reasonable place to start when you’re assessing a new and potentially very powerful technology,” says Lynas. “I was one of the original anti-GMO activists here in the U.K. I personally was involved in destroying trials of GM crops—canola, sugar beans, maze. I felt very strongly about it, but at that time I wasn’t very well informed about the science, to put it mildly.”
When Lynas began researching and writing about climate change, he realized that he was misinformed about the science behind genetically modified organisms.
“Eventually I felt it was better to be honest, if you like, then keep it as a dirty secret,” he says.
Lynas says that the anti-GMO movement's tactics are often at odds with science, and may hurt people in the developing world.
“Vandana Shiva’s case is that farmers in developing countries are better off being poor and better off using outdated seeds and technologies,” says Lynas. “It’s important for people in developing countries—subsistence farmers in particular who have got their families to feed—to be allowed to access better crops and agricultural innovations which could improve their livelihoods.”
Lynas says that the debate around GMOs has gotten off track and is largely misunderstood. And he’s not alone—astrophysicist and celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently came out in support of GM foods, calling it artificial selection.
“People who are against GMOs because they imagine it means big, evil corporations, and a model of industrial monoculture, which I’m not in favor of either,” says Lynas. “But it’s a much, much broader field than that. And there’s many ways genetic modifications can actually be used to improve environmental outcomes.”
Some claim that the price of obtaining seeds that produce genetically modified crops has hurt farmers in the developing world, leading some to even commit suicide because they can no longer afford to farm. But Lynas contends that those rumors are a farce.
“This is a myth, essentially, but one that is universally believed by people on the left, so far as I can tell,” he says. “The rate of suicide has declined in rural parts of India since genetically modified cotton became available. In fact, you’d expect that because it’s been a huge saving for farmers not to have to spend money on pesticides.”
Lynas says that genetically modified cotton seeds have helped to remove or reduce the need for pesticides, which is both harmful to the environment and to the farmers handling the chemicals. Additionally, he says that these cotton farmers are now able to command more money for their crops.
“This idea that this has been a terrible disaster for farmers really is a myth, and it’s one that needs to be addressed I think,” he says. “It’s actually a huge success story.”
Anti-GMO activists frequently argue that genetically modified crops pollute the DNA pool of a species, tamper with the laws of nature, and change ecosystems, another “myth” Lynas hopes to bust.
“These are claims that don’t apply uniquely to genetically modified crops,” he says. “This is completely normal stuff for farming, and these claims don’t really have any basis or any special reason to target genetically modified crops.”
Lynas says at its core, myths about genetically modified organisms have been perpetuated by idealization.
“What it comes down to essentially is this sort of romantic appeal to the naturalistic fallacy—the idea that natural is always good,” he says. “In industrialized countries, there’s this backlash where people feel that their ways of life and food supplies in particular are too artificial, so everyone wants ‘natural’ and ‘organic.’ Genetically modified is seen as unnatural, but there’s really no scientific basis to this—it’s a sort of emotive, emotional position.”
When it comes to the positive side of GMOs, Lynas points to golden rice—a genetically modified rice crop that is designed to combat vitamin A deficiencies, a form of malnutrition that kills an estimated 1 to 2 million children per year.
“Primarily [these children] are eating white rice, and very little else,” says Lynas. “The idea for golden rice was to put beta carotene, which is a precursor of vitamin A, into rice, which people are eating. It’s called biofortification—it would actually supplement their diets and prevent both the deaths and also the blindness, which is caused by vitamin A deficiency.”
Though golden rice could potentially have large benefits, Lynas says that groups like Greenpeace have campaigned against it for over a decade because it is genetically modified. In August 2013, over 400 protesters in the Philippines broke down fences and uprooted the crop.
“You have this quite extraordinary situation where a potentially life-saving intervention is being destroyed by activists who are ideologically opposed to it,” he says. “This has become one of the major currents in the GMO debate—if even humanitarian intervention should be allowed if they use genetic modification.”
Lynas stops short of endorsing companies like agriculture giant Monsanto—a corporation long at the center of the GMO debate—but adds that biotechnology as a whole shouldn’t be demonized.
“To try to ban the entire technology because you’re against a single company is just flat out illogical,” he says. “That’d be like trying to ban computers because you’re against Microsoft or something.”
Lynas says that genetically modified crops should not be treated any differently from their natural counterparts.
“All of the claims that are made about of super-weeds and resistance, all of these things apply to conventional agriculture of any sort,” he says. “Science has moved on so significantly in the last few years that the term GMO is becoming increasingly meaningless.”
In many ways, Lynas says that anti-GMO parties have a problem with the medium these crops are produced.
“Everything we eat—every domesticated crop and every domesticated animal is genetically modified from its wild relative,” he says. “It’s just not necessarily done in a laboratory, which is the way of doing it that is now considered artificial and so horrible.”
In California, a year-long investigation by the San Jose Mercury News discovered foster and healthcare providers across the state mis-medicating thousands of children in their care with psychiatric drugs.
The drugs were not administered for the specific mental illnesses the FDA has approved them for, but rather employed as a form of behavioral control which left children feeling depressed, lethargic, or suffering physical side effects like weight gain.
Karen de Sa, investigative reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, led the investigation, which has already provoked a response at the state level.
Everybody loves a comeback, right? Science may be behind the craziest comeback story yet.
Once the most common vertebrate in the continent, the last captive passenger pigeon died 100 years ago. Now, a group of scientists is trying to discover a way to bring them back through a process of editing and replacing genomes.
Researchers say the passenger pigeon is an ideal candidate for de-extinction due to the large available data set of passenger pigeon tissue and DNA, as well as extensive historical records on the creature.
Ben Novak, lead scientist for The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback, explains why they are devoting attention to this particular animal and how the process of de-extinction works.
After a weekend of contemplating threats from various corners of the world, two trouble spots continue to grab the focus of the Obama Administration.
Today it was revealed that the U.S. has conducted air strikes against Islamist militants in Somalia as the White House continues to pivot between Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine and the Islamic State in Iraq.
Another round of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine began yesterday in Minsk, but a clear plan for peace still seems out of reach. And now, NATO plans to introduce a rapid-response force of 4,000 troops in Eastern Europe capable of responding to Russian aggression within 48 hours.
In Iraq, the United Nations has accused the Islamic State of carrying out ethnic cleansing and acts against humanity on an unimaginable scale.
Senator Richard Lugar, former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1985 to 1987 and again from 2003 to 2007, has experience formulating U.S. policy on Europe, Russia and the Middle east going back to the mid 1980's.
Is any chance of peace on the horizon in Eastern Europe or the Middle East? Today Sen. Lugar shares his expertise.
ISIS is trying to get bottom heavy with recruits from around the world. Discovering how the ISIS message lands on sympathetic ears in the West is one of the challenges for U.S. intelligence agencies.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Douglas Arthur McCain, a 33-year-old Midwest native, became the first American to die while fighting for ISIS in Syria. But how, really, is a homegrown terrorist born?
Amir Ahmad Nasr understands the appeal of the group's message. Amir is the author of "My Isl@m: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind—and Doubt Freed My Soul," a memoir that chronicles his journey into the heart of radicalism. Today he explores how the grassroots mentality of ISIS is creating pockets of homegrown terrorists around the world.
Earlier today, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued some harsh words, saying that Ukrainian leaders are behaving like Nazis.
President Putin says the shelling of towns in east Ukraine by Kiev’s troops is similar to the actions carried out by the Nazis during World War II.
“Sad as it might seem, this reminds me of the events of World War II, when the German Nazi occupants surrounded our cities, like Leningrad, and directly shelled those cities and their inhabitants,” Putin said.
The language being used by America and the west has been a little more tempered—the United States and others are now pushing for more punitive measures against Russia in light of what many are calling an invasion.
But President Obama remained firm that the situation in Ukraine is not one that will include American military presence.
“A military solution to this problem is not going to be forthcoming," President Obama said during a news conference yesterday. "The fact that Russia has taken these actions in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine has resulted I believe in a weakening of Russia not a strengthening of Russia. That may not be apparent immediately, but I think it will become increasingly apparent."
Daniel Baer, Ambassador for the U.S. Mission for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), weighs in on the way forward for Russia, Ukraine, and the U.S.
The Iraqi military and American intelligence recently seized documents that tell us much more about the organizational structure of ISIS—where its leaders come from, and how they became involved with the insurgent group.
For a deeper look at ISIS and their internal mechanisms as outlined in documents seized by the Iraqi military, The Takeaway turns to Eric Schmitt, national security correspondent for our partner The New York Times.
Between Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 going down over Ukraine to the rise of ISIS and the death of Robin Williams, the summer of 2014 was filled with a lot of grim news.
But as the summer sun sets in the west this Labor Day Weekend, we here at The Takeaway have found the good side of the summer of 2014—and there was a good side.
From little Mo'ne Davis making it to the Little League World Series and pitching like a pro, to three monster supermoons, to Brad and Angelina finally get married and the European space agency landing the Rosetta Probe on a comet, this summer wasn't all bad.
What was your favorite moment of the summer of 2014? Leave a comment below, tweet us, or give us a call at 1-877-869-8253.
Tech is one the fastest growing sectors of the American economy, but women continue to only represent a small portion of the workforce. In 2012, women only made up 10 to 13 percent of graduates in computer science and engineering. Meanwhile, across the board at nearly all tech companies, leadership positions are dominated by men.
Kara Miller, host and executive editor of Innovation Hub at Takeaway Co-Producer WGBH, sat down with some of the country's leading ladies of tech to talk about how to break through in the industry. The change, according to Miller, needs to start at the college level by finding ways to encourage more women to pursue degrees in computer science.
“The trend overall is concerning," Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer told Miller. "I started doing computer science in college, so there are some people, but it's late. And you feel late, and you feel like you're playing catch up."
Deborah Spar, the president of Barnard College, is on the front-lines of trying to address this gender disparity.
"We may need to think about how we teach computer science—not that we're dumbing it down—but are there ways to teach it so that it might be more amenable to women?" Spar told Miller. "Should we rethink computer science and treat it as a science the same way we treat chemistry and biology, where we have lots of women? Should we think of it as a language as we think of French and Italian?"
The Ebola virus has spread to yet another country—Senegalese officials say the West African nation has its first confirmed case of Ebola.
According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola virus could afflict more than 20,000 people—almost seven times the current number of reported cases. The situation, they say, is dire.
Daniel Epstein, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, says that it appears that the number of Ebola cases is going underreported.
"This outbreak of Ebola is very different from previous ones," says Epstein. "It's in an area where three countries meet, and it's in West Africa where there's never been Ebola cases before—all of the previous cases have been in other parts of Africa. The seriousness of this outbreak is that it has spread to cities in the three mainly effected countries, and the cases have been underreported."
Epstein says there could be four times as many people infected with Ebola in West Africa. In response to the growing epidemic, the organization released an Ebola road map that is designed "to guide and coordinate the international response to the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa," a statement from WHO says.
"We estimate that there may be as many as 20,000 cases of Ebola before we're able to control the outbreak," says Epstein.
Though the number of cases could be on the rise, Epstein says that he is confident that containment protocols are working, noting that the percentage of people dying from the virus is lower than in previous outbreaks. As of right now, 52 percent of those infected have died, meaning that close to half—about 48 percent—have survived.
"It's difficult to implement [containment programs], and that's why we've asked for more funds and more people on the ground," he says. "There's really a series of things we have to do to control the outbreak."
In order to control the spread of the virus, the WHO spokesman says that the focus must first be on treating those infected, which is easier said than done.
"Fear is a huge factor—people are reluctant to report or go to treatment centers because they're afraid that they will die," he says. "If you go to a treatment center, and half the people who go there die, people think that it may be a better strategy to stay at home and try to tough it out. Obviously, that doesn't work. Your only chance of survival is to get supported treatment, rehydration, and medicine for pain at least."
Rumors about Ebola and its treatments continue to circulate throughout the region. According to Epstein, some believe that consuming three large onions can help prevent or fight off the virus, among other things.
"We have to fight both the fear and misinformation that is circulating in many of these rural communities," he adds.
Fall 2014 movie season is right around the corner, and the Movie Date team is geared up with ten of the movies they're most looking forward to.
On September 1st, the final piece of a sweeping new abortion law will go into effect in the state of Texas—it will require all abortion clinics to be held to the regulatory standards for ambulatory surgical centers.
The restrictive nature of the law means that only six clinics are expected to remain open in a state that spans 270,000 square miles, making access to an abortion facility about 150 miles away from more than 930,000 women in the state.
But the access issue in Texas is just one small part of a global trend. Almost 40 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where abortion is either banned or severely restricted.
Dr. Rebecca Gomperts is a physician and activist who took it upon herself to change that statistic by providing access to a combination of abortion drugs that women can administer themselves. The Amsterdam-based organization is called Women on Web. Started almost a decade ago, it’s a “telemedicine support service” for women who are seeking medical abortions.
And according to Slate Reporter Emily Bazelon, Dr. Gomperts's approach is gaining traction among abortion rights activists in the United States. It's a subject she reported on for a new piece in The New York Times Magazine out today.
“She is a radical, I would say—she thinks of herself as a human rights activist,” Bazelon says of Dr. Gomperts. “She’s very focused on the suffering and hardship for women when they live in places where it’s impossible or nearly impossible to access abortion.”
Formerly a doctor for Greenpeace in the 1990s, Bazelon says Dr. Gomperts’s work as an advocate inspired her to develop this program.
“Going around the world as a Greenpeace activist I think showed her the power of direct action,” says Bazelon. “She also encountered families where mothers had died from back alley abortions and that really galvanized her.”
According to the World Health Organization, about 47,000 women die each year due to unsafe abortions, something Bazelon says Dr. Gomperts is hoping to change.
“Women all over the world who live in countries where abortion is illegal or very restricted can write in to the help desk of her organization and get connected with a doctor who will write a prescription [for abortion drugs],” says Bazelon.
The medication prescribed by the doctors of Women on Web both terminates a fetus and causes a woman to expel a fetus. Bazelon says these prescriptions are filled by an Indian-based drug exporter, and Dr. Gomperts contends that the medication provided by the exporter is safe and has been verified for quality.
“Research shows that [the medication] is very effective—up to 98 percent effective in the first trimester, and that they’re safe relative to other types of procedures, and relative to giving birth,” says Bazelon.
According to Bazelon, the medication provided by Women on Web essentially induces a miscarriage.
“For all of time, women have been naturally miscarrying by themselves,” says Bazelon. “If it’s really early in the pregnancy, sometimes it isn’t physically difficult. Other times it can be painful and take place over hours and be a hard thing to go through.”
From India, the medication is shipped to women all over the world. In addition to the medication, Women on Web provides information to women on what they can expect to experience after the drugs are taken. Bazelon says that Dr. Gomperts has also done the research to make sure her organization is operating legally.
“They don’t serve women after the first trimester,” says Bazelon. “In fact, if women get in touch with them and they’re more than nine weeks pregnant, the organization says, ‘We’re sorry, but we can’t help you because we need time to mail you this medication and we want to make sure you get it within the first 12 weeks.'”
Bazelon acknowledges that right now there is nothing stopping someone from potentially lying about the stage of their pregnancy in order to obtain these drugs.
“The drugs do work in the second trimester in terms of ending a pregnancy,” she says. “The risk goes up, and also what it’s like to actually deal with the experience becomes much more difficult for a lot of women. At that point, having a doctor’s supervision is recommended.”
As of right now, Bazelon says that Dr. Gomperts is one of the only physicians out there that provides this type of service.
“Women all over the world are ordering abortion pills online, but often they have no assurance that the pills are of good quality or that they’re not fakes,” says Bazelon. “That’s the crucial link that she’s providing here.”
On the whole, Bazelon says that those in the reproductive health community are embracing Dr. Gomperts’s approach.
“I found that every expert I talked to who knows this subject was very much in favor of disseminating good, quality drugs with the right information,” she says. “The reason has to do with what public health officials call harm reduction—if you live in a country where abortion is illegal, you’re not going to be less likely to have an abortion.”
When discussing harm reduction, Bazelon points to South America. In Brazil, abortion is illegal and women can be prosecuted for having the procedure. Yet, more than 1 million Brazilian women decide to have an abortion every year—and more than 200,000 Brazilian women are hospitalized a year after botched or incomplete abortions.
“Public health officials look at that and see a clear cost-benefit analysis,” says Bazelon. “They say women who are going to end their pregnancies are much better off taking this relatively safe medication than going through a traditional back alley abortion, which really is dangerous.”
Giving women direct control over abortions will likely not settle the intense political debate surrounding the issue, Bazelon says.
“It’s impossible to take the politics out of abortion—especially in this country, it’s kind of unimaginable,” she says. “If you were thinking about this in straight up public health terms, women would be able to make choices that were simply based on what is best for their safety. But that’s just not the world we live in.”
The Obama administration is looking to get an international agreement on climate change—and may do so without Senate approval.
It's another move by the president to push major policies without Congress. Earlier this summer, President Obama used his executive authority to curb carbon emissions by coal-fired power plants.
See Also: Inside The Battle Over Carbon
Environmentalists are hopeful about the prospects of a binding non-treaty on climate change. But poorer countries worry whether any real money can come out of an agreement that hasn't been ratified by Congress.
Coral Davenport, energy and environment reporter for our partner The New York Times, explains how this all might work.
Many state and local police departments across the country have received military surplus equipment through the Pentagon. Through a transfer program, police obtained machine guns, armored cars, aircrafts and more.
But over 150 police departments have been suspended from that program for, among other things, losing track of that equipment, including M16 assault rifles. Yet. the Pentagon was unable to provide specifics on those suspensions. And there are fears that some of this equipment may now appear on the black market.
Danny Rivero, a multimedia producer at the Fusion Network, tells The Takeaway why the Pentagon has some trouble keeping track of the participating police departments.
In the nearly 13 years since the September 11th terrorist attacks, American foreign policy has focused on Al Qaeda, from its headquarters in Pakistan to its affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.
For General David Barno, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, the risk of another long, drawn-out conflict in Iraq looms large. General Barno, now a Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Responsible Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security, discusses his concerns about the possibility for a long-term struggle in the region.
"ISIS and Al Qaeda are different—they are not going to be shadowy organization that hides out in some other nation city in the Middle East—they are going to own a nation-state of some sort," says Gen. Barno. "There is going have to be some force on the ground to push [ISIS] back from out of the areas they have taken—it is not simply going to work by dropping bombs and flying drones."
As William McCants, a former State Department adviser on violent extremism explains, until recently, the Sunni militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS, was part of Al Qaeda under the leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Al Qaeda expelled ISIS earlier this year for being too radical—a signal that the United States, Syria and the world are now dealing with something fundamentally different. While Al Qaeda operated from caves in Pakistan, communicating by hand messages delivered by couriers on donkeys, ISIS is into governance, and is flush with cash and operates openly.
McCants, now director of the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution, tells Takeaway Host John Hockeberry how ISIS split from Al Qaeda, and explores the differences between the two groups. He also examines U.S. options on the border of Iraq and Syria, where ISIS has found a stronghold.
What if you could take any one unpleasant memory and rewrite it to have sunnier associations?
Researchers at MIT say they've figured out how to shift positive associations onto negative memories by turning on and off the neurons of mice. While this research is still in its earliest stages, it could hold opportunities for helping us humans cope with our own bad memories.
David Moorman, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, explains how this research could be applied to humans.
Tennis fans are typically quieter than the average sports devotee. But the U.S. Open in particular has a reputation of drawing noisier crowds.
And while some players say the sound of a boisterous crowd is energizing, not all athletes are equally appreciative of the extra decibels.
Caitlin Thompson is executive editor of WNYC.org and co-host "The Main Draw," a podcast about tennis. She shares her basic dos and don'ts of being a good fan at the U.S. Open.
At a glance, the announcement that Burger King will move to Canada and purchase Tim Hortons for $11.4 billion seems to be just the next verse in a song that's becoming all-too familiar: A deal to the tune of "tax inversion."
But take a closer look at the deal, and you'll see that there's more at play.
The fast-food industry is one in the midst of major change, and Burger King's young executive team isn't just thinking about a whopper of a tax break. This week, McDonald’s also reported its sharpest decline in sales, particularly among millennials who aren't as interested Big Macs as their parents were.
The deal between Burger King and Tim Hortons confirms that a period of turmoil is upon the fast-food industry in the U.S. Its customer base, along with American food expectations, are changing—and there's only so much you can do with products that have to be mass produced, delivered by truck, and assembled by low paid workers in a matter of seconds.
What does the deal really mean for the future of fast-food? Venessa Wong, associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek, weighs in.
See Also: Healthy Fast-Food Is On The Way
An underdog fighting zombies and class bullies before the final school bell tolls sounds like the ultimate playground tale for any kid. But the children's fantasy book, "Zero Degree Zombie Zone," hopes young middle-school-aged readers will be able to relate for another reason.
The book is one of the first in its genre to feature four African-American protagonists by African-American author, Patrik Henry Bass, and illustrator, Jerry Craft.
Bass noticed an absence of African-American characters in young fiction and set out to tell a light hearted story all readers could enjoy.
After seven weeks of fighting, Israel and Hamas have finally reached a long-term cease-fire agreement in Cairo. The 50-day conflict left more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, dead, and at least half a million residents of Gaza displaced. On the Israeli side, casualties included 64 soldiers and five civilians.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi helped broker the truce, but Daniel Levy, who served as a Middle East peace negotiator under Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin, says the Egyptian government largely failed as a negotiator.
Levy says that Egypt's disdain for Hamas, an ally of Egypt's ousted Muslim Brotherhood, prevented the country from successfully mediating between Israel and Gaza—leaving the conflict to continue unabated for weeks.
Now the director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Levy also notes that the cease-fire hardly addresses most of the underlying problems that prompted this summer of fighting.
“I think this cease-fire has been reached principally because both sides have had enough,” says Levy. “For both sides, the law of diminishing returns for continuing had kicked in. So I don’t think there’s been a dramatic breakthrough in the substance of what is agreed.”
According to Levy, it looks like the cease-fire was politically motivated.
“I simply think that after 50 days, on the Israeli side there has been a degree of exhaustion,” he says. “The Israeli prime minister doesn’t want to get dragged in further—his poll numbers are going down. The Israeli school year is due to start next week, and massive disruptions to that would be terrible for the Israelis, but terribly politically threatening for the prime minister.”
The cease-fire agreement provides Gaza with few gains, but Levy says that continuing the conflict would also be costly for Hamas.
“Right now, they can turn around, claim that they have created, which is significant, a degree of strategic deterrence,” says Levy. “The costs for both sides for going on are greater, and both sides were simply ready for this.”
This agreement is likely to be sustainable in the short-term, says Levy, but the deal does nothing to address the bigger issues at the heart of the conflict, like Palestinian freedom and statehood, the Israeli occupation, and security for both peoples.
“We’ve been here before,” Levy says, pointing to similar conflicts between Israel and Gaza in early 2009 and late 2012. “Those cycles did not lead to a fundamental change, and we appear to be back at the status quo ante, therefore suggesting that this will be another window of quiet rather than a deepening change. We’ll be back where we were sometime in the future.”
In the short-term, Levy predicts that there will be a greater effort to establish Palestinian unity between Hamas and Fatah, something that Israeli officials are decidedly against.
“This whole thing probably began partly because Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu wanted to defeat Palestinian unity,” he says. “That seems a bit stronger today.”
Levy adds that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will likely push the issue of border crossings, but other issues will likely remain contentious.
“Some of the opening up will happen,” he says. “The bigger opening—the seaport—continues to be opposed by Israel and Egypt, and the international community doesn’t look like it will push that issue. So you won’t get the bigger opening, you won’t get the demilitarization that Israel has asked for—it’s not a serious ask, but it’s certainly been raised.”
Even though there will be a U.N. investigation into the numerous civilian casualties of the latest conflict, Levy says the global community should not expect full accountability.
“These things tend to produce reports, but don’t change realities—I don’t think you’ll get greater accountability,” he says.
When it comes to the role international partners played, Levy says that Egypt lost some clout as a useful mediator.
“Egypt had its own agenda against Hamas, and that made a cease-fire more difficult,” he says. “The U.S. is also showing the parties, ‘This is what happens when you prefer us not to be here.’ Especially to the Israelis, who were extremely dismissive if not to say overtly rude regarding the Obama Administration.”
Levy says that Israel attempted to equate Hamas with extremist militant groups like ISIS or Boko Haram, a comparison he says doesn’t hold.
“When you’re actually sitting and negotiating with these people, it doesn’t work to try and draw that analogy,” he says. “Israel and Hamas take each other more seriously, and have a greater degree of I’d almost say respect for each other’s capabilities.”
Though the two sides are unlikely to begin talking directly, Levy says that the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may soon change in the wake of the current crisis.
“You may see a Palestinian unity formation gathering strength where it’s accepted that Hamas has to be part of any solution,” he says.
On Tuesday, The Takeaway explored some statistics that seem to predict the make up of our contact lists and friend circles.
A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that three-quarters of white Americans have no non-white friends—it's a number that surprised and dumbfounded some of you, but for others it made perfect sense.
We make very conscious decisions about who our friends are—about how we make friends and break off friendships—but do we really think about the backgrounds of our friend? Should we actually be much more intentional about making friends of different backgrounds and thinking about how to expand our circles?
Joining The Takeaway to weigh in is Kai Wright, editor of ColorLines and a contributor to The Nation.
Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine concluded yesterday in Minsk, but military tension in Ukraine seems to be escalating.
The summit provided a reminder about what triggered the crisis in Ukraine—the trade and political deal Ukraine signed with the European Union.
Much of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s opening remarks concerned trade policy. He warned that Ukraine’s closer relations with the E.U. would bode poorly for Ukraine’s economy and allow European companies to “grab everything that is still left and oust all the others” from the Ukrainian market.
Discussion about the fighting in eastern Ukraine yielded few results, and Russia still insists it does not support the separatists in Ukraine and is not involved in the fighting.
But yesterday, Ukrainian officials released videos of what it claims are Russian soldiers captured in the Donetsk region. And Ukrainian officials say a column of Russian troops helped open a new war front near the town of Novoazovsk.
Kiev-based Vice News Reporter Simon Ostrovsky explains the situation.
About 200 years ago, in the midst of the War of 1812, British troops burned the White House to the ground. President James Madison and his wife, Dolly, managed to escape with a portrait of George Washington, but their historic home soon turned to ashes.
Peter Snow, author of "When Britain Burned Down The White House," recalls the historic event with Takeaway Host John Hockenberry. He explains that while British troops routed the U.S. military in Washington, D.C., battles in Baltimore turned the war around.
The fourth book in The Takeaway book club is "The Lobster Kings," the latest novel from Alexi Zenter. Inspired by Shakespeare's "King Lear," the novel follows the story of the Kings family, who settled on Loosewood Island more than 300 years ago and rose to prominence as the reigning lobster-fishing family of the island.
Though the Kings have prospered off the sea for centuries, they've paid a price, too. A curse hangs over the family, and each generation loses their first-born son to the sea.
With the death of her brother Scotty in a fishing accident, headstrong teenage daughter Cordelia Kings is left to trying to prove to her father that she, and not her sisters, is the true heir to the family legacy—even as the Kings' traditional way of life comes under threat by forces changing the island.
Linda O'Leary, Carol Turrentine and Jonathan Kern from Middlebrook, Virginia reflect on "The Lobster Kings."
How diverse is your friendship group?
A recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute examined the diversity of American friendships. Researchers asked survey respondents to name seven people who they regularly discussed important matters with, and then they asked about the demographics of those seven people. The found that 75 percent of white Americans have no non-white friends.
Arun Venugopal is the host of WNYC's Micropolis. He recently examined the rate of segregation in America's suburbs, decades after the most prominent policies that institutionalized segregation have fallen away. He discusses the role historic segregation plays in the diversity of Americans' friendships today.
Yesterday, the Obama White House stepped up measures to combat the Sunni militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) by authorizing surveillance flights over Syria, a move that is seen as a potential precursor to airstrikes in the region.
For some like Ali Khedery, who served as special assistant to five American ambassadors in Iraq and as senior adviser to three heads of the Central Command from 2003-2010, the move has long been necessary.
Speaking yesterday to Takeaway Host John Hockenberry, Khedery emphasized that the United States needs to take the threat of ISIS seriously.
"It's not an issue of if they come, it's simply an issue of when [ISIS] will strike," he said. "Americans have to understand that this is going to be a long costly campaign, but one that we have no choice in addressing. We can either pull back and just wait for another 9/11, or we can take the fight directly to the enemy."
However, Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson at the U.S. State Department, says the current crisis is not about ISIS versus the United States.
"We of course monitor very closely whether ISIL will seek to develop plots aimed at the West, particularly at the United States," says Harf. “First and foremost, we have to protect our people, particularly in Iraq; we have to protect American citizens. But longer term, we are looking at how we can defeat ISIL, how we can take the fight to them, and really address this threat in a comprehensive way."
And as the White House considers a response to ISIS within the borders of war-torn Syria for the first time, many are wondering who the United States can even align with on the ground.
The United States called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down in 2011 after he turned on his own citizens during the Arab Spring. The authorization of U.S. reconnaissance flights over Syria may be bad news for ISIS, but its good news for Assad, who would no doubt love help in defeating what has become his main enemy in the Syrian civil war.
Is aligning with Assad, who has been fighting ISIS within Syria, a necessary evil?
Dr. Amr Al-Azm, an associate professor of Middle East History and Anthropology at Shawnee State University, and a member of the Syrian opposition, explains what options the U.S. might have on the ground in Syria.
Today, peace talks are underway in Minsk between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro O. Poroshenko.
More than 2,000 people have died in months of fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists.
Can the two parties reach an agreement? Andrew Kramer, a reporter for our partner the New York Times, weighs in from Novoazovsk.
Pope Francis has tried to refocus the Vatican by highlighting issues of human rights and economic justice and inclusion. But last week, the Pope entered into a conversation about war and confronting evil. When he was asked about ISIS, Francis said that the militant group must be stopped.
“Where there is an unjust aggression I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor,” he told reporters last Monday while returning to the Vatican from a trip to South Korea. “I underscore the verb ‘to stop'—I am not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ but ‘stop him.’ The means by which he can be stopped must be evaluated. Stopping the aggressor is legitimate.”
The Pope raises the issue of a so called "just war" without clearly addressing the situation in Iraq and Syria. Theologians have noted that this may be a problem for the Catholic Church, an institution that has been giving its permission for various wars for centuries.
Bob Meagher, a humanities professor at Hampshire College and the author of the upcoming book "Killing from the Inside Out: Moral Injury and Just War," says the Pope has stepped into some very difficult moral territory.
According to Meagher, the Catholic Church has traditionally considered a conflict a “just war” if it is a war declared by God or the Pope, or one declared by a “legitimate ruler.”
“Of all of those, the most ‘just’—the unquestionably just or righteous wars—were those declared by God or those declared by the Pope,” he says. “The Church has, for 1,500 years, endorsed, embraced, and reinforced the ‘just war’ tradition, which I feel to be extraordinarily unfortunate.”
From the beginning, the Catholic Church’s so-called “just war doctrine” has been misunderstood and caused a great deal of damage to the world, Meagher says.
“It is essentially a lethal lie, and the Church is largely responsible for its origins and preservation,” he says. “I continue to hope that this Pope will step back from that—that he will reexamine and reconsider, and hopefully renounce for good that tradition and the Church’s ties with it.”
Though Pope Francis and the Catholic Church seemingly maintain the view that some conflicts are more just than others, Meagher points out that those involved in conflict—veterans and others—make a distinction between what is “just” and what is “necessary.”
“This is something that is discovered in combat, and that is that killing—and that is what war is about—that killing, while it may on occasion be necessary, is never right,” he says. “I’ve heard this over and over again, from Marines, soldiers, and airmen. They discover this, but it is a contradiction for most people: That what is necessary can be evil, what is necessary can be wrong, and what is necessary can be anything other than right. But this is what our veterans are telling us.”
After war, veterans often come back haunted by the terrors of conflict. They often face an internal struggle that must balance the concepts of right and wrong with necessary obligations their commanding officers, and ultimately the nation, handed down to them.
“They’re coming back darkened by what they have done,” says Meagher. “But what they have done is following orders. They’ve served their country, loyally and bravely, at great risk and at great cost to themselves.”
To help lift the darkness that surrounds the brutality of combat and the memories carried therein, Meagher says that nations cannot simply welcome back service members, but listen to them as well.
“We send them off and welcome them back and declare them heroes,” he says. “But we say all too often, ‘Thank you for your service, but no thank you for your comments.’ We don’t want to hear from them, we don’t want to hear their stories.”
Meagher points to Timothy Kudo, a veteran who has candidly spoken to the public about the morality of conflict in pieces like “I Killed People in Afghanistan. Was I Right or Wrong?” In several conversations, Meagher says that Kudo told him that killing is always wrong, but it’s something that he didn’t realize until he went to war, until he was involved in combat, and involved in killing.
“He says it’s always wrong to kill, but sometimes it is necessary,” says Meagher. “That is the moral cost, that’s the spiritual cost that veterans, soldiers, and Marines have to pay—that’s what we’re asking them to do. But we have a moral and social contract with them when they return to understand what we have expected of them, the price they have paid for it, and what they need now to heal—if healing is possible.”
After Essie Mae Chandler fell in the middle of the night, her son Ken moved her into Rosewood Post-Acute Rehab, a nursing home outside of Sacramento.
Rosewood had a five-star rating from Medicare—only about a fifth of the more than 15,000 nursing homes across the U.S. hold such a distinction. But Ken soon learned that his mother was receiving less than adequate care.
“I had visited her the day before; she seemed fine. I went back in the next day; she was completely bruised through her chest, the back of her arms, her back," he told Takeaway partner The New York Times. "Nobody was watching my mom, nobody was really tending to her. They were just pushing her in a hallway or leaving her in her room to eat alone.”
About 16 percent of Americans—around 39.6 million people—provide unpaid care for an elderly person, and as baby boomers age, that number is likely to go up over time. As we care for our parents, grandparents, great aunts and uncles, many of us need outside help, and many times seek out nursing homes and rehab facilities.
In 2009, the federal government introduced a five-star ratings system through Medicare to help consumers find the best nursing home in their area. But New York Times Reporter Katie Thomas recently investigated the Medicare rating system. As she tells The Takeaway's John Hockenberry, the rating system is based in large part on self-reported data by the nursing homes that the government does not verify, which allows many facilities to manipulate the system.
Take a knee, news junkies. It's nearly football season, which means it's fantasy football season.
Don't worry if you know jack about the game—the amazing Mark Duplass stopped by our studio to help us put together a beginners guide to fantasy football. When he's not giving out tips, he's otherwise known as "Pete" from FXX's hit show "The League."
Today, Mark shares his fantasy football choices—a game that he says is very far from fantasy. Check out the video below to hear who he'd want on his fantasy team.
Check out Part I of this interview here.
The 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards are tonight, and Hollywood royalty will take to the stage to bestow the accolades for best drama and best comedy. But The Takeaway has a new category for you—the award for "Best D.C. Depiction."
From HBO's series "VEEP," which is nominated for best comedy, to Netflix's "House of Cards," which is nominated for best drama, television loves Washington, and apparently so do viewers. But what do people in the Beltway think about all of this?
Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich went around town to find out what those working on Capitol Hill think about their fictional counterparts.
Some say "House of Cards" has it all. There's deceptive scheming, intricate congressional maneuvering, and sex and murder. Yet, it doesn’t have a lot of love amongst Washington’s political class. In Zwillich’s very unscientific poll, out of 50 respondents, about 95 percent voted "VEEP" as their D.C. reality-check.
"If you cover the White House, there are three questions that you always get and you always have to be prepared for," says Olivier Knox, Washington Bureau Chief for Yahoo News. "One is: What's the president really like? Two is: Have you ever ridden on Air Force One? And three is: What do you think of popular political drama X?"
According to Jess Mcintosh, a democratic operative who works in communications, “Our lives are not like 'House of Cards.' There is really nothing that 'House of Cards' presents other than the names of certain Washington locations that bear any relation to reality.”
“'VEEP' is sometimes so painful to watch because it is so close to things that have happened in my world. I’m aware that it is funny, but I can’t possibly laugh at it,” she continues.
Since "House of Cards" has gained popularity, female journalists have been asked to answer for character Zoe Barnes.
“‘Have you ever slept with any of your sources?’ That was not a question that existed in my world before ['House of Cards'] and now it happens. Whether it’s a joke or not. It’s still offensive,” says Kate Nocera, who’s been covering Capitol Hill for five years.
Meredith Shiner of Yahoo News gets Hollywood’s depiction, but wishes the story-line didn’t fuel pre-existing notions. “Being a woman here, in the job that I do, it is difficult no matter what, and ['House of Cards'] has sort of fueled into it, because it brings outsiders to that same sort of perspective that I think is unfortunately cast by insiders too,” she says.
While Susan Davis is also not a Zoe Barnes supporter, she is a fan of another character on the Netflix hit. Davis, who is a congressional correspondent at USA Today, believes Frank Underwood’s character is actually aspirational in today’s political arena.
“I think you need forceful, dominant, strong personalities who know how to govern,” she says. “I’ve never witnessed a politician in this Congress today who I think is as cunning or as smart or as capable of governing as someone like a Frank Underwood would be.”
So should Congress be taking more of a cue from "House of Cards"? Mcintosh says not so fast.
“Those characters from 'VEEP' think they are on House of Cards. They’re doing the Machiavellian thing. They’re trying to one up everyone on their team and get ahead and it always fails and that’s basically what happens in Washington. If you’re trying to play three-dimensional chess, you’re going to forget that you have a really important job to do and you’re going to fall down on it and everybody is going to laugh at you.”
It's been a summer of conflict, from Gaza to Syria to the streets of Saint Louis. Over the weekend, Ukraine celebrated independence day—Sunday marked 23 years since the end of the Soviet Union.
But celebrations were muted by rising tensions on the eastern border after the Russian army moved artillery units and personnel inside Ukraine, and began firing at Ukrainian forces.
The Russian government said it was a "humanitarian operation," but Ukraine never approved the move and the International Committee of the Red Cross was not involved in the decision. After months of tensions, it seems like the two countries are suddenly moving toward open warfare.
John Herbst, a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, says the United States cannot examine this conflict through the same prism it's viewed wars in the Middle East, saying that it's time for the United States to take a more decisive stance.
Over the weekend, rumblings in California wine country turned out to be a much more serious geologic event when the dust cleared.
While centered in Napa, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked the region—it was the largest earthquake to hit the San Francisco area in 25 years.
More than 100 people were injured, and three are in critical condition. There were knocked over power lines, damaged homes and businesses—in total, losses are expected to top $1 billion.
Dan Brekke, news editor for San Francisco's KQED, joins The Takeaway to weigh in.
While Congress remains on its summer recess and national Republicans see immigration reform as a losing platform, hundreds who fled violence in Central America for the U.S. continue to be deported.
With legislation stalled, the Obama Administration has decided to take matters into its own hands with executive actions on immigration, and is inviting business leaders and advocates to weigh in on proposed reform measures. At the same time, people in El Salvador and other Central American countries are facing the challenges of the forced migration home under the current laws.
KJZZ Reporter Kate Sheehy and Univision Washington correspondent Fernando Pizarro discuss the current state of immigration for legislators, business leaders, and the would-be migrants living with the consequences of current deportation policies.
The current crisis in Iraq continues to reach new heights. The White House is now reportedly considering some response to the Sunni militant group ISIS inside the borders of war-torn Syria for the first time, and over the weekend Theo Curtis, a U.S. journalist that was taken hostage by Syrian insurgent group Al Nusra, was freed after being held for two years.
Over the past century, Iraq has fallen victim to regional strife, colonialism, disastrous invasions by its neighbors Iran and Kuwait, international sanctions, American military occupation, and nearly four decades of misrule under the leadership of Saddam Hussein and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.
Ali Khedery, chairman and chief executive of Dragoman Partners, is the longest continuously-serving American official in Iraq. He's served as a special assistant to five American ambassadors in Iraq, and as a senior adviser to three heads of the Central Command from 2003-2010. As he explains in his recent op-ed in The New York Times, the challenges that Iraq faces are intimidating.
But Khedery believes that if anyone is capable of holding the nation together under the threats of ISIS and increasing influence of Iran, it is the newly designated Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi.
Abadi comes from a respected Baghdad family, with complimentary personal credentials. He studied at one of the Iraq’s top universities and received a doctorate in engineering in Britain. Most importantly, according to Khedery, is that Abadi has a, “willingness to listen and ability to compromise—extremely rare traits among Iraq’s political elite, and precisely the characteristics that are needed to help heal the wounds Iraqis sustained under Hussein and Mr. Maliki.”
However, Khedery is quite realistic in his optimism. “Prime Minister Abadi and the government in Baghdad have a chance to form an inclusive government, and have a chance of doing business in a new way that unites all Iraqis," he says. "But that chance and those odds, frankly, are just not very high.”
So where does the U.S. stand in this conversation? Khedery is quite critical of American military intervention to combat ISIS, particularly over the use of airstrikes in Iraq.
“[American airstrikes] are a couple of Tylenol tablets to address a headache that has been caused by a cancer, which again is from a misrule of Maliki’s government in Baghdad and Assad’s misrule in Damascus,” he says.
For Khedery, airstrikes are seen merely as a tactics, and not a viable strategy to suppress the burgeoning unrest.
“Only Sunni Arabs from across the Middle East, and principally from Syria and Iraq itself there themselves, only they can roll back ISIS in their countries,” says Khedery.