Fantasyland

The roots of the post-truth, alternative facts present can be discovered in America’s “promiscuous devotion to the untrue” and its instinct to believe in make believe, evident across four centuries of magical thinkers and true believers, hucksters and suckers, who have embedded an appetite for believe-whatever-you-want fantasy into the national DNA, argues Kurt Andersen, author of a new book, “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, a 500-Year History.” Kwame Anthony Appiah, NYU professor, philosopher, and author of fiction and nonfiction books questions him about the bold claim that America’s love of the fantastic has made this country exceptional in a way that has yet to be understood?

The New York Public Library

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The Risk Of Nuclear War With North Korea

Photo by gruntzooki / CC BY-SA

‘New Yorker’ writer Evan Osnos visited North Korea in August to understand what they really mean when they talk about nuclear war. Senior officials explained to him why nuclear weapons are an essential part of their society. “They will tell you that the reason they will never give up nuclear weapons is that they remember what happened to Saddam Husein and Muammar Gaddafi both of whom where developing nuclear weapons at one point, gave them up, and as a result ended up loosing their regime, and both of them ended executed. They talk about it quite openly, that the lesson of Libya – the lesson of Gaddafi’s fall – was that, if you go down that path, you leave yourself vulnerable to the changing whims of the United States, and you can ultimately be cast aside. And so Kim Jong-un and his government are adamant that they will not make the same mistake.”

Fresh Air

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The Mind of a Terrorist

When suicide bombers blow up crowded marketplaces, or a lone shooter attacks a nightclub, one question is why. What ideology or belief or loyalty would compel someone to do something so horrific? This hour, a look at the underlying psychology of political violence. The Reformed Radical; The Psychology of Terrorism; What Can Americans Learn from a Norwegian Massacre?; Let’s Change the Way We Think About Thinking; The Buddhist Master Who Went On A Four Year Wandering Retreat.

“It’s not hate that’s at the bottom of intergroup violence, it’s love… it’s love for the ingroup.”

To the Best of Our Knowledge

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Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War

Russia was caught off guard by Trump’s election, opines David Remnick and Evan Osnos of ‘The New Yorker’  – “This was like a bank heist that, instead of blowing the doors off the safe, they blew the safe up entirely.” The conversation dips into the history of relationships between the two countries and is based on their coauthored article. It refers to Benjamin Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser under President Obama, saying, “Putin is not entirely wrong,” in the past, “we engaged in regime change around the world. There is just enough rope for him to hang us.”

Also, Book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews ‘Waking Lions’ by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen.
Illustration by Victor Juhasz

Fresh Air

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The Pull of Putin

Why do populist politicians across the West want warmer relations with Russia? Tim Whewell travels from Russia to America and across Europe to unravel the many different strands of pro-Moscow thinking. Donald Trump is just one of a new breed of Western politicians who want warmer relations with Vladimir Putin. Most Western experts say that’s dangerous: an aggressive Russia is plotting to divide and weaken the West. But Trump and others seem to have tapped into a popular desire to reduce tension and discover what Moscow and the West have in common. Could Moscow now lead a “Conservative International”, promoting traditional social values and national sovereignty around the world? On the right, some see Russia as a spiritual beacon. Others, both on the right and left, simply think the threat from the East is much exaggerated – and are warming to Russia as a protest against the Western establishment. Maybe it’s time for a new way of understanding relations between the old superpowers.

BBC Radio 4 – Analysis | 16th February 2017

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Beneath the Financial Secrecy

Trillions of dollars are flowing through the world’s over 90 tax havens. This playground of the rich is growing rapidly. How do they do it?
A panel of expert economic writers examine some of the most significant financial exposes of our time, and discuss the challenges and dangers faced when pursuing justice.
Highlights from Griffith University’s Integrity 20 Conference, ‘What Lies Beneath’ 26th October, 2016

Big Ideas | 2nd February 2017

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The Man Who Sued Iran

One day in the Gaza Strip a suicide bomber blew a bus up. Steve Flatow’s daughter, twenty-year-old Alisa Flatow, who was studying abroad in Israel, died in the attack. The bomber was part of a group called Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which the U.S. State Department believed was funded by Iran. Flatow decided to sue Iran for monetary damages. But under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, U.S. citizens couldn’t sue countries. That didn’t stop Flatow. He called up Steve Perles, an international reparations lawyer. The two knocked on hundreds of doors on Capitol Hill, pitching the idea that if Flatow won his suit, and won it big, maybe they could make it too expensive for Iran to sponsor terror groups.
It worked. And in 1996, President Bill Clinton changed the law to say that an American could sue certain countries in terrorism cases. So they sued.
Today on the show, how Steve Flatow’s quest for justice put him up against both Iran and his own government—and how he shook up assumptions about international diplomacy.
Photo: Banksy’s artwork at the separation wall, Bethlehem

Planet Money | 13th January 2017

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Didn’t We Solve This One?

Sarah, a former Iraqi housewife, worked with US forces in Baghdad. She gathered key information that became intel for the Alpha Company 177. At the time, it was a confusing churn of different militias who were trying to control the area. And the only way for the Americans to fight was to get tips from informants, ordinary local people who were frightened of the militias, of the Americans. Sarah’s job was to try to convince these frightened people to talk, and she was good at it.
Fast forward, Sarah and her two sons are trapped in Jordan. Her husband has been killed by militias in retribution for her collaboration with the foreign invaders. Furthermore, she had been accused, anonymously, by another Iraqi of betraying the Americans she was working with, and has spent months in prisons. All her savings have been stolen from a camp where she’d worked with the Americans.
Even though the case against her had been dismissed and Sarah had an exemplary work record, she had been blacklisted. The anonymous accusations that a judge had thrown out for lack of evidence and that she herself has never seen to this day became part of her US Defense Department file. It outweighed all the letters of praise and support signed by US military people who had worked and lived with Sarah for months. So she is no longer allowed to work for the US, and her visa to America has been denied.
“The moment happened when Sarah was interpreting for us during an interview with a former Sons of Iraq fighter. He pulled a tissue from a box next to him to make a point. Sarah: “[CRYING] I’m sorry. He says the American forces use us like a tissue. I feel the same thing. I’m sorry.””
Photo by Hadi Mizban: Iraqi children look at a U.S. Army soldier during a routine patrol in Baghdad

This American Life | 6th January 2017

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The Necessity of Military Force

The United States has long been one of the guardians of particular structures of world order. Johns Hopkins University professor of strategic studies Eliot A. Cohen talks about why traditional boots on the ground are still vital for keeping the peace – even in an age of unconventional warfare. He writes about the topic in “The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force”.

KERA’s Think | 3rd January 2017

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Corruption in America

Donald Trump will be committing an impeachable offense by not relinquishing an ownership stake in his multiple companies before Jan 20. “[N]o person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” These words, from Article I of the U.S. Constitution, are unambiguously clear. Legal scholar Zephyr Teachout explains why corruption in the presidency was such anathema to the nation’s founders.
In the remainder of the episode are few highlights from a recent symposium about the current state of free speech on campus. The event was organized by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.
Hosted by Dahlia Lithwick

Slate’s Amicus | 24th December 2016

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