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Bob Elsewhere

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March 2009

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March 7-8, 2009




  • Ninety-percent of the developing world’s sewage is dumped - untreated - into oceans, rivers and lakes. Almost half of the world’s population has no access to a toilet. Inadequate sanitation kills more people in developing nations than AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria and dirty water remains the world’s number one health risk. In her book, The Big Necessity, journalist Rose George argues that the way a society disposes of its sewage tells you a lot about its economy, politics and religion.


  • Bob first spoke with Mike Birbiglia a couple of years ago, when the comedian was just another stand-up, touring the country. Now Birbiglia is being hailed by everyone from Nathan Lane to Ira Glass for his off-Broadway one-man show, titled “Sleepwalk With Me.” In the show, Birbiglia mixes humor and pathos as he describes often frightening episodes of sleepwalking, anxiety over relationships, and uncertainty about growing up.




  • News outlets are cutting reporters and closing foreign desks but a new website has recently hired 60 foreign correspondents to report from 40 countries. has been operating for almost two months now. The site was started by veteran foreign correspondent Charles Sennott and media entrepreneur Philip Balboni. Sennott and Balboni explain how their model works and why they think it will revive interest in foreign reporting.


  • Bela Fleck is probably the best known banjo player in the world, and he’s been lauded for stretching its boundaries with his band The Flecktones. Fleck’s latest project centers on a musical pilgrimage to Africa to trace the roots of his beloved instrument. Throw Down Your Heart is the title of his new album and a documentary film, both recorded during the trip. Now, Bela Fleck is preparing a US tour with some of the African musicians featured in the project.


March 14-15, 2009




  • Retired Marine General James L. Jones is the new National Security Advisor. Mac Destler is here to discuss the history and responsibilities of the job. Destler is a professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and the author of numerous books on American foreign policy. His newest is In the Shadow of the Oval Office.


  • In February 2003, a plane crashed in the mountainous jungle of southern Colombia. Among others aboard the plane were three American contractors working to gather counter-narcotic intelligence for the US Department of Defense. Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Tom Howse were captured by the FARC (the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), leftist guerillas who have led a rebellion in Colombia since the 1960s. The three men are now free after being held hostage for more than five years. They’ve co-written a new book called Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle that tells their story.




  • Most people have no idea that New York City has its own spy agency with twice as many Arabic speakers as the FBI. Christopher Dickey has covered international terrorism for more than twenty-five years and writes about the NYPD’s counterterrorism force in Securing the City.


  • Joel Berger was stealthily watching one morning as a pack of wolves approached a herd of elk at Yellowstone National Park. The elk had enjoyed 60 years of predator-free living at the park, but in 1995 wolves were controversially reintroduced. What Berger discovered was that those six decades was enough time for the elk to totally loose their fear of their natural predator. Dr. Berger studies animal behavior for the Wildlife Conservation Society and based on his extensive field research, he’s written a book called The Better to Eat You With: Fear in the Animal World.


  • As a struggling Hollywood actor, Chazz Palminteri wrote himself a good part. “A Bronx Tale” is based on his life — growing up in New York caught between the worlds of his family and the guys in the neighborhood mafia. Palminteri performed his one-man show on Broadway, where Robert DeNiro saw it and offered Palminteri a role in his own story. The two made a movie of “A Bronx Tale” in 1993. Now Palminteri is touring it as a one-man show again, currently at the Oriental Theater in Chicago.





  • Public radio reporter Pat Duggins updates us on NASA and Space Shuttle Discovery’s launch. Part of its mission is to pick up astronaut Sandy Magnus from the International Space Station. She’s been up there since mid-November following the launch of Endeavour, which we covered on this program. Duggins’ latest book is Final Countdown. It’s now out in paperback and chronicles the history of the Space Shuttle program. Then Bob talks with astronauts Sandy Magnus and Mike Fincke as they orbit the Earth aboard the International Space Station.



  • Scientist Alan Boss is a researcher at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and one of the world’s leading scholars on the formation of stars and planets. His latest book, The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets, details the strides contemporary science has made in locating life on other planets.





  • The American Spiritual Ensemble was founded by Dr. Everett McCorvey in 1995 and is based in Lexington, Kentucky. Dr. McCorvey and twenty-five members of the Ensemble discuss and perform examples of the American Negro spiritual — music created by slaves with African roots and biblical text.


March 28-29, 2009



  • Bob spends the hour with Carol Kaye and her bass guitar. Kaye was THE session bassist of the 1960s and 70s, playing on dozens and dozens of hits for the likes of The Beach Boys, Ritchie Valens, Ray Charles, The Righteous Brothers and The Monkees. It’s estimated that Kaye has played on more than ten-thousand recording sessions in her career. Kaye is also responsible for the distinctive bass notes of the Mission Impossible theme and for many other familiar songs from TV shows and movies.




  • Newsweek Chief Political Correspondent Howard Fineman joins Bob to talk about the role of faith in government, the limits of individualism, local versus national authority, and ten other debates that are basic to the makeup of our nation. He writes about them in The Thirteen Arguments: Enduring Debates that Define and Inspire Our Country. It’s just been released in paperback.


  • You know “snark” when you hear it: It’s biting, mean, condescension disguised as high-brow teasing. Maureen Dowd is very good at it - so was Cicero. New Yorker film critic David Denby says it’s “spreading like pinkeye through the media” and weakening the public discourse. Denby’s new book is titled Snark.