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Could there be infinite versions of us, spinning off into their own universes from every choice we make? Is all of time happening all at once? Do we have free will? "When we try to answer such big questions about our existence, we basically have three options. That's religion, philosophy and physics," Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder told The Takeaway. "And of those three, I think physics has made the biggest progress in the past century." Sabine Hossenfelder, a physicist at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies in Germany, has made it her mission to make physics engaging to the public. She's the creator of the YouTube show, "Science without the Gobbledygook," and her newest book is "Existential Physics: A Scientist's Guide to Life's Biggest Questions." She plumbs the depths — and limitations — of the best knowledge physicists currently have about our universe, where it overlaps with some of our biggest spiritual and existential questions, and the possibilities they present.
There are a record number of abortion measures on the ballot for the November midterm elections. Voters in Vermont, California, Kentucky and Montana will decide on respective abortion measures in their states. A proposed Constitutional amendment in Kentucky would amend the state constitution to explicitly ban the right to abortion. Proposals in Vermont, California, and likely in Michigan, would have the opposite effect, enshrining abortion rights in their state constitutions. And a ballot measure in Montana would establish personhood for infants born alive after attempted abortions. We speak with Vox politics reporter, Nicole Narea, for more on the various measures.
Last Tuesday, voters in Kansas rejected a proposal to amend the state's constitution to say there is no right to abortion. Kansas is one of the most solidly Republican states in the union, having chosen the Republican candidate in all but one presidential election since 1940. But data from the Kansas Secretary of State's office shows that more people voted in the abortion referendum than in any primary election in state history, and the margin of victory was substantial: 59% voted against amending the constitution to ban abortion. For many, the outcome was surprising. But those who know Kansas more intimately understand that the roots of this outcome are deeply ingrained in the history and politics of the state. The Takeaway spoke with Thomas Frank, author of the 2004 book “What's the Matter with Kansas?” about how the state's political history is reflected in this outcome. The Takeaway also was joined by Representative Stephanie Clayton, House Minority Whip in the Kansas's State Legislature. Clayton discussed how a more conservative leaning framework for the state's ballot measure on abortion rights ended up being a winning strategy for Democrats and moderate Republicans in the state.
At the end of July, the Ford Foundation and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced a new cohort of Disability Futures Fellows. The fellows are supported by a grant designed to spotlight a group of visual and performing artists and writers who live with disabilities. We spoke with one of the new fellows, Naomi Ortiz, who is a poet, writer, and visual artist whose intersectional work focuses on self-care for activists, disability justice, climate action, and relationship with place. They are also the author of the book, "Sustaining Spirit: Self-Care for Social Justice" and the forthcoming book, "Rituals for Climate Change: A Crip Struggle for Ecojustice."
Fungi under the soil plays an important role in forestry growth and capturing carbon, and it turns out understanding unknown territory of underground fungi networks could be critical for climate change mitigation efforts. We spoke with Colin Averill (AiVE-rall), lead scientist at the Crowther lab at ETH Zurich and Co founder of The Society for the Protection of Underground Networks to understand why we should adopt a “fungi first” approach to climate change.
Last week, the Biden administration declared a public health emergency over the spread of the monkeypox virus in the United States. There are currently more than 7,500 known cases in the country, with more than 90% occurring among men who reported recently having had sex or other intimate contact with other men. After the public health emergency declaration, Alondra Nelson, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and several of her colleagues published a statement in partnership with leaders from twenty other countries calling for research around monkeypox to be shared openly among academics from different nations. We speak with Deputy Director Nelson about the importance of sharing this research.
The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that the earth's temperature will rise by almost 35 degrees Fahrenheit by 2040 if we don't curb our greenhouse gas emissions. But what if there was another way — what if we could simply shade the planet from the sun's hot rays? It sounds like something right out of a science fiction movie, but research into making it a reality has recently won some powerful financial backers. Solar geo-engineering, as the idea is called, doesn't just pose environmental and technological challenges, but also questions of international cooperation and governance. Dr. Alan Robock, Distinguished Professor of climate science in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University, joined us to explain the research, the technology, and the unintended consequences.
Primaries were held last week in Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington. On the Republican side, many of the races were close, making it hard to say definitively whether former President Trump had a strong sway on these votes. But overall, a number of the candidates he endorsed won, meaning that in several prominent midterm races the GOP nominee will be a candidate who has backed Trump on his 2020 election lies. At the same time that the primary season is moving along, Congressional Democrats do have some momentum back, passing a bill granting more benefits to veterans affected by toxic burn pits and garnering the votes necessary to pass federal climate change legislation. We speak about all of these developments with Joel Payne, Democratic strategist, host of the podcast Here Comes the Payne, and CBS News political contributor and Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, co-host of podcast FAQ NYC, and author of the book Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration and the Pursuit of the American Dream.
In July, Google put software engineer Blake Lemoine on administrative leave after he claimed that the Google's chatbot system he was working with had become aware of its own existence. Google dismissed his claims and denied that the application called LaMDA, or Language Model for Dialogue Applications, was sentient. We speak with Dr. Karina Vold, assistant professor at the University of Toronto's Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology about the feasibility of sentient artificial intelligence.
90-year old Natalie Levant and 88-year old George Saltz are subjects of the new documentary Still Standing from The New Yorker and filmmaker Elizabeth Zephyrine McDonough. After losing their life partners, they each began stand-up comedy careers in their early 80's We talk with Natalie and George about the power of laughter as healing, and finding humor in the golden years. You can watch the documentary Still Standing online at The New Yorker here. You can see George Saltz perform at The Comic Strip in New York City on August 14th. And can catch Natalie Levant at the monthly stand up show she hosts at Ray's Happy Birthday Bar in Philadelphia. e
The United States has a food waste problem. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, up to 40% of our food supply goes uneaten every year. That's in a country where more than 38 million people face food insecurity. Unreliable food date labels are one of many reasons behind this. A 2019 survey found that 85% of people throw away their food based on those labels, but as it turns out, there isn't much science behind them. To learn more, we speak with Yvette Cabrera, Director of Food Waste at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
On Thursday, WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner appeared once again in front of a Russian court. She faced up to 10 years in prison for drug charges, as Russian authorities alleged that they found vape canisters containing hashish oil with trace amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage in February. Before a judge handed down her sentence, she pled for leniency, saying, "I made an honest mistake and I hope your ruling doesn't end my life here." But she was sentenced to nine years of prison. Dr. William Butler, John Edward Fowler Distinguished Professor at Pennsylvania State's Dickinson Law School, and Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon, a PhD candidate studying race in Russia at the University of Pennsylvania Department of History, joined us to explain Griner's defense, sentence, and what she's really facing for the next nine years.
Ten years ago this week, a white supremacist gunman entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, in Oak Creek, and shot ten people. Six people were killed on August 5, 2012, and they were part of Wisconsin's Indian immigrant community. This was no random act of violence. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, targeted acts of violence directed at Sikhs increased significantly. Still, the FBI did not begin to collect data on anti-Sikh hate crimes until 2015. That decade of heightened hostility went largely unmarked by federal data and ended in a massacre. Dr. Catherine Ceniza Choy says that this pattern of violence and erasure is critical to understanding the histories and experiences of Asian Americans. But there is also a third element to this pattern — resistance. Dr. Choy is a professor of Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, and Comparative Ethnic Studies at the University of California Berkeley. We speak with her about her new book, Asian American Histories of the United States, which upends cultural narratives about Asian Americans, highlights overlooked identities, and catalogs stories of resistance in these communities across the decades.
The Savannah Bananas are an unconventional baseball team that have amassed 3 million followers on TikTok – more than any *Major* League Baseball team. This wildly popular minor league baseball franchise has sold out every home game at their Historic Grayson Stadium in Savannah, Georgia since its founding in 2016. Fans come from miles away to watch the Bananas' collegiate team in the summer, and the pro Bananas throughout the rest of the year. Those pros have become famous for their high energy, quick-paced, and quirky game of Banana Ball! And this is not just a game, but a show, where fans, players and coaches alike dance, sing, and play. A number of sports reporters have compared the team's fun-filled approach to the trailblazing style of the Harlem Globetrotters. Savannah Bananas games include choreographed dances during the game, iconic walk-ups, players in kilts, and sometimes even a pitcher on stilts. And of course, lot's of banana costumes. And before the first pitch is thrown, there's a Lion-King-themed tribute to a different "Banana Baby" each game. We spoke with Jesse Cole, owner of the Savannah Bananas-fun fact, he owns seven yellow Tuxedos and wears one to every game- and Maceo Harrison, first base dance coach and choreographer for the Savannah Bananas.
For the second half of the 20th century, Ebony Magazine and Jet Magazine were the sources of news and entertainment for the African American community. It was in these magazines, put out by the Johnson Publishing Company, where you could find news and images of Black celebrities, writers, artists, and political activists, as well as snapshots of Black life in our own neighborhoods. The Johnson Publishing Company was founded in 1942 by John and Eunice Johnson. This week, ownership of the Ebony and Jet photo archives was transferred over to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Getty Research Institute. And as a result, millions of images as well as audio and video recordings from the Johnson Publishing archives will be preserved and eventually available to the public. The Takeaway spoke with Dr. Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress and the first African American and the first woman to hold the post. Dr. Hayden led a board of experts who helped determine where and how to preserve these archives.
Brandon Ethridge is a classically trained pianist, music director and composer who has worked on Broadway and touring with a Queen cover band. During the pandemic, he took up a new hobby, writing what he calls “mini-musicals.” Listening carefully to people's speech patterns, he sets viral videos, interviews and speeches to music, using rhythm and harmony in a way that makes it sound almost as though his subjects are singing. His mini-musicals run the gamut from the political to the profane, satirizing “Karens” and giving new life to old memes. We talk to the TikTok and YouTube creator about the genesis of his mini-musicals and the process he employs.
In mid-July, the Southern Poverty Law Center and several immigrant advocacy groups released a letter detailing sexual assault allegations made by four migrant women formerly detained at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. All four women accused the same nurse of assault, and since the release of that letter, The Intercept reported on a fifth woman who accused the nurse of assault. CoreCivic, the private prison company that runs Stewart, claims that they investigated three reports of sexual assault against the nurse and found two to be “unsubstantiated” and the other to be “unfounded.” We speak with José Olivares, lead producer for The Intercept and John Washington, contributor to The Intercept and reporter for Arizona Luminaria, about their reporting on this story. Click here to read the full Intercept report on this story. In a 2019 report for The Takeaway, José Olivares uncovered evidence that staff at Stewart “skirted rules when dealing with a migrant with mental illness” who died by suicide at the facility. Click here to listen to that reporting. The Takeaway reached out to CoreCivic for this story and received a statement that reads in part: "The safety, health, and well-being of the individuals entrusted to our care is our top priority. In accordance with Department of Homeland Security and Prison Rape Elimination Act standards, CoreCivic maintains a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse. It is the policy of CoreCivic to provide a safe and secure environment for all detainees that is free from the threat of sexual abuse, assault, or harassment. It is CoreCivic's policy to aggressively investigate all sexual abuse allegations, regardless of the source, and support prosecution for those who are involved in incidents of sexual abuse. Any detainees making such allegations are offered appropriate medical and mental health services, emotional support services, and answers to any questions they have about the investigative process. We unequivocally deny any claims of threats or retaliation." The Takeaway also reached out to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and received this statement: "U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of assault, including sexual abuse, and works to protect detainees from sexual abuse by staff as well as other detainees. Detention facilities are required to notify ICE of all sexual abuse or assault allegations, as well as notify local law enforcement of any allegations involving potentially criminal behavior. Every allegation is investigated and referred appropriately for adjudication as required. With respect to the recent allegations at the Stewart Detention Center, two allegations remain under investigation and ICE continues to follow all appropriate protocol to notify, report, and investigative requirements. Any individual – ICE employee or contractor – suspected of sexual abuse or assault is immediately removed from contact with detained individuals until the completion of the investigation."
Tunisia's young democracy––that emerged from the 2011 anti-government protests known as the Arab Spring––may be approaching its final days after the adoption of a new constitution headed by President Kais Saied. The new constitution effectively grants President Saied a monopoly on power and bolsters Islam as a priority of the state. The constitution was approved by referendum on July 25th, passing with 95% approval, by only 30.5 percent of Tunisia's eligible voting population. Supporters of President Saied see a strong leader as their only hope of achieving political and economic stability; Opponents of the new constitution boycotted the referendum as they deem Saied's constitution and seizing of power illegitimate. The Takeaway was joined by Sharan Grewal, Assistant Professor of Government at the College of William and Mary and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, to discuss Tunisia's new constitution and what this means for the future of democracy in the North-African region.
School's out, camp is on, and the parks are packed — it's summer! But summertime joy isn't just for kids. Adults can play too, so we're taking a week to highlight different ways to play. Dr. Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology at Yale University and host of the "The Happiness Lab" podcast, joins us to highlight the many benefits of play and the importance of play for play's sake.
Steven Thrasher's research explores the ways in which our social structures underscore the inequities of viruses: how they are transmitted, who they kill, and the impacts they have on communities. He joins us to discuss his new book The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide. “The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide,” explores how social determinants impact the health outcomes of different communities. (Celadon Books)
The 40+ Double Dutch Club is getting women all over the country into their local parks and playgrounds for jumping, dancing and playing. It all started with one group in Chicago and has turned into a full-fledged movement with chapters in over 30 states and three countries. We speak with the founder, Pamela Robinson, about how the nostalgic game of her childhood became an exercise in community-building and, well — exercise! We're joined by her mother and club board member, Pamela Powell Pelt, who still finds time and energy to play at the age of 76.
According to the Republican National Committee, 160 Black candidates filed to run as Republicans in local, state and federal elections this year. But there are also 100 Republican candidates running for political office who have been labeled “far-right” by the Anti-Defamation League. Can the GOP be both the party of Lincoln and the party of Trump? We speak with Dr. Leah Wright Rigueur, Associate Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University and author of "The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power" about the GOP's recent investments in Black candidates. We're joined also by Brendan Buck, partner at the political communications firm Seven Letter, and former press secretary for the Mitt Romney 2012 presidential campaign and former House Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan, to hear more on how Republican midterm candidates are making their case to voters.
Due to a chain of court decisions, roughly 56,000 formerly incarcerated people on probation or parole are now eligible to vote in North Carolina's midterm elections. A 2019 lawsuit filed by several non-profits challenged a 1973 state law disenfranchising people still serving out felony sentences through probation or parole. In the lawsuit, the non-profits point out that this 1973 law disproportionately targets Black people, particularly Black men, in North Carolina. Although it is still possible that the North Carolina state Supreme Court could reverse the decision allowing people with felony convictions to vote, voting rights advocates are viewing the recent development as an important step in the fight for equity at the ballot box. The Takeaway spoke with Rusty Jacobs, Politics Reporter for WUNC, North Carolina Public Radio.
Nearly a month after releasing her summer single “Break My Soul,” Beyoncé is back with ACT I of her 7th studio album “Renaissance.” It was officially released this past Friday, July 29th and the Beyhive has been raving ever since the rollout began. In a recent Rolling Stone article about 70 of Beyoncé's greatest hits, music journalist Mankaprr Conteh describes Beyoncé as the “world's greatest living entertainer,” and in her unique album "RENAISSANCE", the innovative sound of Ms. Beyoncé's Giselle Knowles-Carter continues to show her capacity and range as a musical artist. We speak with Rolling Stone staff writer Mankaprr Conteh, and sidenote: she and Melissa have been preaching the gospel of Beyoncé for quite some time now.
A former high-school dropout from Washington D.C., Carlton McCoy found his calling after attending culinary school. After working at several of New York City's top restaurants, McCoy discovered a love for wine. By 28, he became just the second ever Black Master Sommelier. Today McCoy is the CEO of Lawrence Wine Estates, a collection of Napa Valley wineries, and co-founded The Roots Fund, which is working to diversify the wine world by providing pathways for Black and Indigenous people. Now, McCoy has his own travel show on CNN, Nomad with Carlton McCoy, in which he explores people, culture, and foods from around the world.
Last week, a dozen Black girls and women gathered at Melissa's home for the Black Land Use and Food Supply Summer, an immersive one week living and learning project organized by the New Jersey based Grassroots Community Foundation in collaboration with the Anna Julia Cooper Center. We hear from the participants: Amina Anekwe (17) from New Jersey Nyasah Simmons (11) from New Jersey Farida Odumosu (17) from New Jersey Ain Dantzler (14) from Philadelphia Diya Dantzler (20) from Philadelphia Leinad Ra (14) from Philadelphia Zolah Ramsey-Francis (13) from Maryland Alana Travitt (16) from New Jersey And we take a tour with the participants of Green Heffa Farms, in Liberty, North Carolina with owner and operator Farmer Cee about regenerative farming and connections to Black land.
A recent study from The New Republic which analyzed historical data from 1920 to 1997, found that the value of stolen Black farmland in that period equates to $326 Billion dollars today. But Black land has been, and remains a site of Black resistance. To learn more about the ways Black people and communities use land, farming, and food justice as tools of resistance against racial inequality, we speak with Monica White, professor of environmental justice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement. Then, we hear from one Black freedom farmer in North Carolina about his Black land reclamation project. Kamal Bell, is the founder of Sankofa Farms in Cedar Grove, North Carolina. There, he grows food on a 12-acre farm, and has an education program working with Black youth and teaching them about food deserts and ancestral history.
In May, Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in May while reporting on an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank. An investigation by CNN found that “Abu Akleh was shot dead in a targeted attack by Israeli forces,” but after reviewing investigations conducted by Israel and Palestinian authorities, the U.S. State Department claimed that a damaged bullet prevented the U.S. government from making any conclusions over whether Israeli forces were fully responsible for her death. We speak with Shireen Abu Akleh's niece, Lina Abu Akleh, who is demanding accountability from the U.S. government. She was one of multiple members of the Abu Akleh family who met this week with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
A new startup tournament, LIV Golf, backed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and financed by Saudi Arabia's sovereign-wealth fund, is dividing the professional golf world by promising players multi-million dollar prizes and attracting some of the best-known names in golf to play in their circuit. And rebranding the game as “GOLF, BUT LOUDER.” All this is upsetting already established tournaments like the PGA Tour – which is like the NFL of American Football, or the MLB of Baseball – and for nearly a century, it has been pro golf's gold standard tour. Top golfers including former World No. 1 Dustin Johnson have resigned from the PGA Tour and moved over to LIV Golf. LIV reportedly offered Johnson $100-150 million to play. Six-time-major-winner Phil Mickelson joined LIV Golf with an even bigger reported $200 million contract. Others, like Tiger Woods, who reportedly turned down a nearly $1 billion offer from LIV, have been loyal to the PGA, and has criticized players who have left. But LIV's supporters are also having to address Saudi Arabia's human rights record, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 by Saudi agents. Former president Donald Trump, who has business ties to Saudi Arabia and has repeatedly downplayed concerns about the country's record, plays today in a pro-am tournament at his Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, in New Jersey. To tee things off for us, we're joined by Andrew Beaton, sports reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
Republican state lawmakers have introduced a record number of laws this year intended to limits the rights of trans, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people. According to data compiled by the ACLU, they've proposed 162 bills in the first half of this year alone, outpacing the 151 laws considered throughout all of last year. These legislative campaigns are largely motivated by a small group of wealthy far-right actors with extreme religious beliefs. They might remain somewhat fringe if not for a network of think tanks and outlets with mainstream credibility laundering their ideas to the public. Peabody-award winning journalist and founder of Translash Media Imara Jones unravels this apparatus in her investigative podcast, The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality. She joins us to explain how the machine works, and how to resist it.
With four months left until the midterms, we check in on Democratic strategy and what the White House is thinking with Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist and director of the public policy program at Hunter College and Maria Teresa Kumar, Voto Latino's founding president.
Multinational corporations from T-Mobile to Jimmy John's to Build-A-Bear have increasingly baited online engagement with "not safe for work" social media posts. Is tweeting about sliding into DMs, launching an OnlyFans, or how hot their "buns" are good for their brands? We talk with Nathan Allebach, Creative Director at Allebach Communications and freelance writer covering internet culture, who dove into the weird and cringy history of this trend for Vulture.
The Oak Fire in Mariposa County, California has scorched more than 18,000 acres since it started last Friday. It comes several weeks after the start of the Washburn fire, which is now more than 85 percent contained. But both fires have threatened Yosemite National Park and the communities that surround it. While the idea that fighting fire with fire might sound counterintuitive, it's a practice with plenty of history and success in mitigating fire damage. Yosemite's sequoia trees, for example, remained relatively undamaged by this month's Washburn fire. And many experts believe that's due to the use of prescribed fires. The Takeaway spoke with environment reporter Manola Secaira about the recent Washburn and Oak fires in California and how effective efforts to limit the damage of wildfires to forests have been so far this year. The Takeaway was also joined by Scott Stephens, Professor of Fire Science at UC Berkeley, to understand prescribed fires and how they helped in California.
According to the CDC, in 2020, 861 women died in the US as a result of maternal causes. That's up from 754 women who perished during or shortly after giving birth the year before, and an increase compared to the 658 women who lost their lives due to pregnancy and birth complications a year earlier. In fact, the rate of maternal mortality in the United States has increased in the past three decades. During a time when most countries throughout the world have improved outcomes for people giving birth, having a baby in this country has become more dangerous and deadly. And Bearing the brunt of these brutal statistics is Black women. For nearly a decade researchers and reproductive justice advocates have worked to marshal resources to address this crisis. But statistics, graphs, and “rates per one hundred thousand” can make it difficult to capture the human reality of maternal death. A new documentary film out on Hulu is changing that. In Aftershock, Tonya Lewis Lee and Paula Eiseltfollow what happens to the families of Amber Rose Isaac and Shamony Gibson, after each woman dies from medical negligence after giving birth.
Officials in the city of Houston, Texas say 25,000 people have moved into permanent housing in the city since 2011, a decrease in the homeless population of 63 percent. The city implemented a "housing first" strategy, a model that moves vulnerable people straight from streets and shelters into apartments, without requiring them to enter other programs, like substance abuse treatment or job training, first. We speak with Mandy Chapman-Semple, the former Special Assistant to the Mayor for Homeless Initiatives in Houston, and James Gonzalez, Director of Program Operations at Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, about the program's implementation, obstacles and successes, and what's in store for the future. We also hear from Jayro Garcia Lopez, a young man who was unhoused and received stable housing through the program, and Kenneth Eakins, Director of Housing and Navigation Services for the Salvation Army of Greater Houston, who helped him navigate the process.
Whether you're interested in history, politics, memoirs, or light reads by the pool, our listeners have recommendations for you: "Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil" by Susan Neiman “In the wake of white nationalist attacks, the ongoing debate over reparations, and the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments and the contested memories they evoke, Susan Neiman's Learning from the Germans delivers an urgently needed perspective on how a country can come to terms with its historical wrongdoings.” "Against Fascism and War" A report to the 7th Congress of the Communist International, 1935 that includes a 1936 speech on the People's Front and a short speech to Young Communist International. Foreword by James West, then a U.S. youth delegate to the 7th Congress. "Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West" by H.W. BrandsIn Dreams of El Dorado, H. W. Brands tells the thrilling, panoramic story of the settling of the American West. "The Soul of America" by John Meachum Meachum writes about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the birth of the Lost Cause; the backlash against immigrants in the First World War and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s; the fight for women's rights; the demagoguery of Huey Long and Father Coughlin and the isolationist work of America First in the years before World War II; the anti-Communist witch-hunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy; and Lyndon Johnson's crusade against Jim Crow. Each of these dramatic hours in our national life have been shaped by the contest to lead the country to look forward rather than back, to assert hope over fear—a struggle that continues even now. “Waterman's Song” by David Cecelski The first major study of slavery in the maritime South, The Waterman's Song chronicles the world of slave and free black fishermen, pilots, rivermen, sailors, ferrymen, and other laborers who, from the colonial era through Reconstruction, plied the vast inland waters of North Carolina from the Outer Banks to the upper reaches of tidewater rivers. "Four Funerals, No Marriage: A Memoir" by Mike Keren Author Mike Keren gives his readers an inside look at his unexpected foray into caregiving to his sick and dying parents and in-laws. Often funny and always poignant, the story begins when his loving but difficult parents announce they are moving back to New Jersey from their retirement home in North Carolina because they “never really liked it there.” Within days of arriving on a house-hunting trip, his father is hospitalized with a stroke and his mother with another in a series of heart attacks. At the same time, his partner's mother is recuperating from a hysterectomy and struggling with chemotherapy after a diagnosis of uterine cancer. Additionally, he must deal with the unhappy marriage between his parents, sibling relationships that have often been his undoing, a homophobic world, and his own lifetime of affective dysregulation. "The Gown" by Jennifer Robson'It is about two young women who work for a dress designer just after World War II, and they were involved in making the gown for Queen Elizabeth's wedding.' "How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us Versus Them" by Jason StanleyAs the child of refugees of World War II Europe and a renowned philosopher and scholar of propaganda, Jason Stanley has a deep understanding of how democratic societies can be vulnerable to fascism: Nations don't have to be fascist to suffer from fascist politics. In fact, fascism's roots have been present in the United States for more than a century. Alarmed by the pervasive rise of fascist tactics both at home and around the globe, Stanley focuses here on the structures that unite them, laying out and analyzing the ten pillars of fascist politics—the language and beliefs that separate people into an “us” and a “them.” He knits together reflections on history, philosophy, sociology, and critical race theory with stories from contemporary Hungary, Poland, India, Myanmar, and the United States, among other nations.
We talk with best selling author Michael Pollan about the paperback release of his book, “This is Your Mind on Plants,” in which he analyzes the complex relationship between humans, their brains, and the psychoactive molecules in plants, and how these plants are used to alter our consciousness. In the book, he uses a trio of psychoactive substances in plants (opium, caffeine, and mescaline) to look at these relationships, challenge what we characterize as a "drug," and look at why some drugs are legal, commonly and openly used, while others are cast into the shadows of crime of punishment. Michael Pollan, co-founder of the Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics and author of the books “This is Your Mind on Plants,” and "How to Change Your Mind." He is also the host of the Netflix series, “How to Change Your Mind.”
The iconic actor, writer, and singer Billy Porter makes his directorial debut with the new film called, “Anything's Possible.” The movie is a sweet, queer rom-com that Porter has described as being in the mold of a John Hughes classic, but with a much more representational cast. We speak with Billy Porter about the film, his career, and living his truth after speaking publicly last year about being HIV positive.
The residents of Gordon Plaza are fighting for a fully-funded relocation from the toxic land that their community was built on by the City of New Orleans. The subdivision was built on top of what was once the Agricultural Street Landfill – an area designated by the EPA as a hazardous waste site in 1994. Since 1993, residents have been fighting for financial compensation for emotional distress and property damage. They've also pushed for a fully-funded relocation, which after decades, may now be in sight. On June 23, the New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to approve a $35 million plan to relocate the residents of Gordon Plaza. The $35 million dollar figure is an estimated cost of relocation for the owners of all 67 households including home replacement costs and moving expense. The estimate came from a study authored by two professors at Tulane University in December. Along with relocating the residents, the City plans to convert part of the land into a solar energy farm. In the 2022 budget passed in December, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell allocated $2 million in bond funding to survey the site for redevelopment. Residents of Gordon Plaza are optimistic but are still keeping things in perspective. Gordon Plaza residents have won several judgments in class-action lawsuits against the City of New Orleans, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, and the Orleans Parish School Board, for lost property value and emotional distress. But, many of the residents have still not received compensation from those judgments, and probably never will. According to a 2021 investigation by the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate, the City has more than 560 outstanding judgments and settlements, with a backlog of about $40 million. Some date back 25 years. The difference this time is that the money has been allocated: The City Council is diverting funding from municipal bonds in this year's capital budget from stalled projects the city hasn't yet initiated. The city has scheduled meetings with residents and is working with a law firm to work out distributing the funds. But Jesse Perkins, other residents of Gordon Plaza, and advocates are hoping to get this money as soon as possible – and potentially even find new homes by the new year. A city spokesperson told The Takeaway that "the city has hired a firm to assist with the property acquisition, the firm is planning to identify the escrow and title companies by the end of July. And then will be providing the city with timelines on the process." We spoke with Jesse Perkins, a resident of Gordon Plaza about these updates, and how he and the other 54 families still living there, feel after decades of fighting to get city officials' attention. Check out our previous coverage: Gordon Plaza Residents Fight for Relocation from Toxic Land.
The 2022 Georgia Senate race is heating up as Republican Herschel Walker, a political newcomer, faces off against incumbent Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock. As was evident in the 2020 Georgia Senate races that saw Warnock and Democrat Jon Ossoff win election, the importance of Black voters in Georgia is expected to play a key role in determining the outcome of this election. We speak with Maya King, New York Times politics reporter covering the South, who has been covering the race, and Andra Gillespie, political scientist at Emory University, who discuss the latest developments in the race, and the efforts and strategies by both sides to garner support from Black voters.
On Wednesday, President Biden visited Somerset, Massachusetts, and spoke at what used to be the largest fossil-fuel-burning power plant in New England. In front of the shuttered Brayton Point Power Station, Biden announced new executive orders to direct funding towards the impacts of climate change. "Today I'm making the largest investment ever. $2.3 billion to help communities across the country build infrastructure that's designed to withstand the full range of disasters we've been seeing up to today extreme heat, drought, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes," Biden said. But environmental groups have been urging Biden to go further than executive actions: to invoke a national climate emergency. They say this would empower the administration to take even more substantial steps against climate change. For more on this we speak with Jean Su, the Energy Justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity. Jean also co-authored a report that details how Biden could use the powers of an emergency declaration on climate. It's called “The Climate President's Emergency Powers.”
The 2022 Supreme Court ruling on Oklahoma vs. Castro-Huerta granted the state of Oklahoma the power to prosecute non-Indians who commit felony crimes against tribal citizens on reservation land. It comes just two years after a landmark decision in McGirt vs. Oklahoma, which resulted in 40% of eastern Oklahoma being affirmed as reservation land, thereby expanding tribal jurisdiction over criminal cases there. Tribes and tribal law experts see the Castro-Huerta ruling as an alarming turn in the Court's treatment of Indian law and tribal affairs. We speak with Allison Herrera, reporter on Indigenous Affairs at KOSU in Oklahoma and correspondent for Newsy, and Dr. Matthew Fletcher, Harry Burns Hutchins Collegiate Professor of Law at University of Michigan Law and a tribal judge.
For his new book Rebel Speak: A Justice Movement Mixtape scholar and activist Bryonn Rolly Bain compiled conversations he's had with movement and thought leaders from different generations with the goal of reframing how we think about justice. Many of the people featured in Bain's book are formerly incarcerated or people whose family members are incarcerated. We speak with Bain about how he centered marginalized perspectives in his book to weave together a radical vision for the future.
This past Sunday, Operation Save Abortion tackled the question: what can one person do after the Dobbs vs. Jackson decision took away the constitutional right to abortion? The Takeaway attended the day of learning, action and fundraising. We hear from five of the panelists and Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show and founder and Chief Creative Officer of Abortion Access Front, to discuss Operation Save Abortion, the movement for abortion access, and securing reproductive justice for all.
Growing up, Keri Blakinger was a rising star in competitive figure skating. But an eating disorder and drug addictions sent her down a different path that eventually led her into a prison in New York state. She's now a reporter for The Marshall Project covering prisons and jails, motivated by her time in the system. We speak with her about her memoir Corrections in Ink.
What if you found out that everything you thought you knew about your family and your identity…was a lie? That's what Carmen Rita Wong tackles in her new book, Why Didn't You Tell Me: A Memoir, as she confronts the stories her mother told that kept her biological father's identity a secret for decades.
Payments for federal student loans have been paused since March 2020, and after multiple extensions, they are currently scheduled to restart on September 1, 2022. President Biden has not said whether he plans to extend the pause again, or if he has made the decision to cancel up to $10,000 of student loans for borrowers. But there's a federal program that has already promised loan forgiveness to an estimated 9 million public service workers with federal student loans. In 2007, Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, also known as the PSLF, to help incentivize people to work in the public sector. The program promised to forgive student loans for eligible employees after 120 payments over 10 years. But in reality, it rarely worked like that. In 2018, when the first wave of employees were due to qualify for forgiveness, the Department of Education reported that only around 1 percent of applications were approved. Tens of thousands of other applications were denied, mostly due to hard-to-understand requirements and administrative missteps. To try and address this problem, last October, the Department of Education announced temporary reforms that they hope will make it easier for public sector workers to have their student loans forgiven. And the Department is urging people to apply (or even re-apply) for forgiveness with this waiver, before it expires at the end of this coming October. Last week, Democratic House Representative Joe Courtney introduced a bill that would make many of the PSLF changes permanent. In the meantime, there are still some obstacles. But some people are already seeing a degree of success. For more on the PSLF, we spoke to Kat Welbeck, Director of Advocacy & Civil Rights Counsel at the Student Borrower Protection Center… and a former student of mine at Princeton University.
After a Supreme Court session that ended the right to an abortion and put other rights in jeopardy, some Democrats have proposed expanding the Supreme Court as a way to restore political balance. Some analysts have even called for the Court to be abolished. But these arguments hinge on the assumption that the Court has enormous power. We speak with Dr. Gerald Rosenberg, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Lecturer of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. His foundational book, "The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change?" examines landmark Supreme Court cases that are often credited with creating sweeping social and political changes, and questions whether they truly did so.
Oakland's 2018 Youth Poet Laureate Leila Mottley joins us to discuss her debut novel, Nightcrawling. The work, already an Oprah's Book Club Pick, has been described as “dazzling” and Leila has been named a New York Times “writer to watch.”
Since Donald Trump lost the presidential election in 2020, prominent Republican figures have continued to fuel the “Big Lie” of voter fraud and election rigging. The coordinated efforts around pushing this false information have included widespread targeting and harassment of election officials and poll workers. Many of these workers now feel unsafe at their jobs overseeing and certifying elections, and some are quitting to avoid the threats. In a recent poll from the Brennan Center of nearly 600 local election officials across the country, one in six reported that they have experienced threats because of their job. Ruby Freeman is a former poll worker in the Atlanta area. Near the end of June, the January 6th House Committee showed a video of Freeman's testimony about the harassment. In a virtual hearing with GOP lawmakers in Georgia after the election, Rudy Guiliani accused Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, of processing fake ballots for Joe Biden. He pointed to a surveillance video in which Moss hands her mother a small item, which he claimed was a USB drive. In reality, that item was a ginger mint. Strangers began leaving Freeman and Moss death threats on their voicemails, sending racist texts, and even showing up on their doorsteps. Freeman said that the threats were so violent and incessant that the FBI advised her to leave her home for 2 months. And Moss testified that she had to go into hiding, change her appearance, and leave her job due to the threats. Tina Barton, a former Republican City Clerk in Rochester Hills, Michigan faced some of this same harassment after the 2020 election. Tina and her colleagues had already been working late hours due to high voter turnout and the challenges of facilitating an election during a pandemic. And then there were the added pressures of political tensions and scrutiny over every part of the vote process. After a minor mistake with counting absentee ballots was fixed on the morning after the election, Tina, and her small town of less than 75,000 people, were thrust into the national spotlight, with some Republicans stating that the vote count was inaccurate. She received several voicemails with verbal harassment and death threats. Tina left her city clerk job in 2021 because she wanted to make a bigger impact on her fellow election officials who she saw needed help. She spent time working at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and is now working as a senior elections expert at The Elections Group. But she still sees more work that needs to be done. We speak with Gowri Ramachandran, senior counsel in the Brennan Center's Elections & Government Team.