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March 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

Wendell Berry, a world-famous writer and social critic as well as a farmer, is about to get himself arrested. Today, Berry will lead a demonstration at the coal plant that literally powers the U.S. Capitol and Congressional office buildings. Berry will create an act of civil disobedience and get arrested to draw attention to our country’s reliance on a dirty fossil fuel. In May, 2005, Bob talked with Berry about the Appalachian Mountains where much of that coal is mined. Excerpts of that interview were heard in our award-winning documentary, “Exploding Heritage,” but the full interview has never been broadcast until now.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Actor Chazz Palminteri wrote and is currently touring in the one-man play "A Bronx Tale." The story follows a young man from a working class family who gets involved in organized crime. "A Bronx Tale" was made into a 1993 film staring Palminteri and Robert De Niro, and in 2007, Palminteri revived his play for Broadway. Then, 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.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

News outlets are cutting reporters and closing foreign desks but a new web portal has recently hired 60 American correspondents to report from 40 countries. went live last month. 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 be successful in reviving foreign reporting. Then, the Elgin Settlement (also called 'Buxton') was one of four organized settlements created in Canada for fugitive slaves before the Civil War. Bryan Prince's ancestors escaped to Elgin from outside of Washington, DC and now six generations have remained there. Prince, his wife and four children farm in the area, and Prince is also a volunteer at the Buxton National Historic Site. He has recently written a book about his family's history titled Shadow on the Household: One Enslaved Family's Incredible Struggle for Freedom.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The statistics are, well, gross: 90% of the world's sewage is dumped, untreated, into oceans, rivers and lakes; 2.6 billion people - 40% of the world's population - have no access to a toilet. Inadequate sanitation kills more people in developing nations than AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria. It 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. Then, 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.

Friday, March 6, 2009

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk live about the latest news from the capital and beyond. Then, in February 2003, a plane crashed in a mountainous jungle in Colombia and on that plane were American contractors working to gather counter-narcotic intelligence for the US Department of Defense. Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Tom Howes were captured by the FARC (the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), the militant communists who have lead a rebellion in that country since the 1960s. The three men now are free to tell their stories in Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle, but they say "hundreds of hostages are still held there...they are chained, they are starving, and all they want is to go home."


Monday, March 9, 2009

As Marine General James L. Jones takes on the position of national security advisor,Mac Destlerexplains the history and responsibility 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 isIn the Shadow of the Oval Office. Then, most people have no idea that New York City has its own spy agency with twice as many Arabic speakers as the FBI.Christopher Dickeyhas covered international terrorism for more than twenty-five years and writes about the NYPD's counterterrorism force inSecuring the City.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Carla Del Ponte's memoir,Madame Prosecutor, chronicles her work as chief prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Release of the Italian edition of her memoir in April 2008 stirred controversy across Europe over some of her revelations. The Swiss government also barred Del Ponte from making any public statement about her book. Today, as the US edition is being published, Del Ponte is still unable to speak on the issues she has raised. That's why, formerNew York TimesBalkans reporterChuck Sudeticis speaking on her behalf. Then,Joel Bergerwas 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. Based on his extensive field research, Berger has written a book calledThe Better to Eat You With: Fear in the Animal World.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bob spends some quality time withCarol Kayeand 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, Simon & Garfunkel, The Supremes, Ray Charles and the Monkees. It's estimated that Kaye has been involved with more than ten-thousand recording sessions in her career. Kaye and her bass are also responsible for the distinctive bass notes of the Mission Impossible theme and for the theme song of The Cosby Show.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

In the recent age of education reform, school districts often have found themselves at odds with teachers' unions. That's just one challenge facing the new Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who likewise is responsible for parsing out an additional $100 billion -- what education received from the new stimulus plan.Randi Weingartenis President of the American Federation of Teachers. She weighs in on the new executive leadership and how teachers, administrators, parents, and students can best meet their common goal of improving education. Then, writerDavid Hajduchronicles the rise, fall, and rebirth of comic books in the 1950s inThe Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America. It's now out in paperback

Friday, March 13, 2009

David Broderof The Washington Post joins Bob to talk live about the latest news from the capital and beyond. Then, music and conversation from the American Spiritual Ensemble. It 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.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Writer Thomas Cahill first met Dominique Green in December 2003 at the request of a local judge. Green was on death row for twelve years for a murder he says he didn't commit. Cahill pleaded for Green's life, even recruiting Archbishop Desmond Tutu to help, saying Green had "a level of goodness, peace, and enlightenment that few human beings ever attain." That fight ended on October 26, 2004 in Huntsville, Texas when the 30-year-old inmate was executed by lethal injection--but Cahill continues to tell this story, to end what he calls "unjust deaths at the hands of the state" in his new book titled ASaint on Death Row: The Story of Dominique Green.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On this St. Patrick’s Day we dip into our archives. First Bob talks to Irish writer Roddy Doyle about his book Oh, Play That Thing. Then, Bob talks to Irish writer Frank McCourt about his memoir. Teacher Man focuses on McCourt's three decades spent teaching English in New York City's public school system. McCourt won the Pulitzer Prize for his first novel, Angela's Ashes.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NewsweekChief 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.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Journalist Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art Worldis a fly-on-the-wall account of today's many faceted art world. Thornton writes forThe Art Newspaperand Then, writer and literary commentator Elaine Showalter tackled the daunting task of compiling the first comprehensive history of American female writers from 1650 to 2000. A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx includes the famous along with the obscure in this remarkable collection.


Friday, March 20, 2009

David Broder ofThe Washington Postjoins Bob to talk live about the latest news from the capital and beyond. Then, Corneille is a young R&B artist who was born in Germany, raised in Rwanda, now holds Canadian citizenship, and sings in English and French. His sound has been compared to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Sam Cooke. And although he has sold millions of records in both France and Canada, Corneille is relatively unknown in the US. Motown Records plans to change that. The label picked him up, changed his name and is releasing The Birth of Cornelius this month. And if the music doesn't move people, the back-story will: Corneille's parents and many members of his extended family were killed in the Rwandan genocide.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Journalist Bryant Urstadt got his hands on a U.S. government oil delivery contract drafted by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and discovered that the government is frittering away our oil riches.In the April issue ofHarper’smagazine, Urstadt dissects the practice that has gone largely unnoticed. The spokesperson for the MMS, Drew Malcomb, refused to cooperate with Urstadt on the story, stating, “I won’t put a band-aid on a piece of sh**.” Then, we remember historian John Hope Franklin. We bring back Bob’s interview with Franklin about his autobiography titled, Mirror to America. The nonagenarian has been involved in some of the most important events in American civil rights history. He’s worked with Thurgood Marshall, served as the first black department chairperson of an American all-white college, and marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He died last Wednesday at the age of 94.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

During his prime-time press conference last week, President Obama emphasized that an overhaul of the US healthcare system is crucial to getting the economy back on track. The scale of the problem facing the Obama administration has been compounded by lay-offs, home foreclosures, bankruptcies and other unexpected life changes. Now more than 46 million Americans are uninsured and millions more underinsured or uninsurable. Today, the PBS program FRONTLINE investigates the failures of America's health care system in "Sick Around America." Jon Palfreman is the producer of the program. Then, during World War I, the Woman’s Land Army (WLA) brought thousands of women from all walks of life into rural America to take over the farm work after men were called to war. The Land Army insisted its “farmerettes” be paid wages equal to male farm laborers and be protected by an eight-hour workday. Elaine Weiss tells about the remarkable effort of American women to feed a nation at war in her new book Fruits of Victory:The Woman's Land Army of America in the Great War.