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Bob Elsewhere

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March 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010  

Politico’s White House correspondent Eamon Javers went deep into the world of corporate spies and found a hidden battlefield growing in size and importance for the rest of us.  In “Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy” we meet Chinese spies stealing trade secrets from Western high tech firms, ex-KGB in American law firms and CIA agents moonlighting for private firms while still on the federal payroll. Then, Cuba’s “Grand Diva of Song,” Omara Portuondo is in the United States on a special visa. She was featured in the Buena Vista Social Club, but that’s just a small fraction of her long career in dance and music.  Portuondo tells stories about her life and discusses her most recent album, called “Gracias.”


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Henry Strongin Goldberg was diagnosed with a rare, almost-always fatal illness soon after he was born.  His parents tried a controversial procedure to try to save his life; they attempted to make a new baby without the disease who could be a stem cell donor for Henry. Some denounced the process, saying it amounted to “harvesting” children. Henry’s parents underwent nine failed courses of in-vitro fertilization before giving up. Their son died in December of 2002 when he was just 7-years-old. Henry’s mother, Laurie Strongin, tells her very personal story in a new book called Saving Henry: A Mother’s Journey. Strongin has become an advocate for stem cell research since losing her son.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Phillip Hoare’s book “The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Deep” won the UK’s 2009 Samuel Johnson Prize for nonfiction last year. And it also won rave reviews including this one from the Guardian newspaper: “A magnificent monster of a book, combining a huge wealth of whale lore, zoology, literature, history and personal account. Written with great elegance, enthusiasm and insight, it takes us on an enthralling voyage into the underwater world of the whale and to the heart of an obsession.” Then, Patsy Cline defined the “Nashville Sound” of the 1960s. Transport her a few thousand miles to the northeast, and a few decades into the future, and you get Lovisa Elisabet Sigrunardottir. Sigrunardottir grew up in Reykjavik, learning to play piano and guitar at an early age. Under the stage name “Lay Low,” she has captured the attention of everyone from Sufjan Stevens to Lucinda Williams with music that mixes folk, blues, and country twang. Lay Low’s new album is titled, “Farewell Good Night’s Sleep.”


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Architect and urban planner Barbara Heller doesn’t want us to forget about the erosion of the nation’s infrastructure.  She talks bridges, dams, and pipes – what shape they’re in and what shape they should be in. Then, for the first time, the best essays of three time Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss have been collected into a single volume. “Into the Story” brings together essays about Bill Clinton’s childhood in Little Rock, Barack Obama’s rise through the dreams of his mother, Jesse Jackson’s fraught relationship with Martin Luther King and many other stories of the triumphs, tragedies and tradition lived in the last quarter century of American life. 


Friday, March 5, 2010

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, Peter Hessler, former Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, spent seven years driving through China’s vast and seemingly impenetrable landscape.  He writes about the migrant workers, farmers, and peasants he met far from China’s big cities, just as their lives began to be affected by the modern world. Hessler’s book “Country Driving; A Journey Through China From Farm to Factory” is the final installment of his trilogy, which includes “River Town” and “Oracle Bones.” Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series “This I Believe,” Bob talks with curator Dan Gediman about the essay of Robert B. Powers.  He entered police work after serving as a cavalryman in World War I. He was a deputy sheriff in New Mexico and Arizona, and was chief of police for Bakersfield, California. Powers co-authored “A Guide to Race Relations for Police Officers.”


Monday, March 8, 2010 

The GOP is poised to make gains this election cycle, but the Tea Party and conservative talk show hosts have stepped in, threatening to derail the official Republican line.  Lou Dubose is the editor of the Washington Spectator.  He attended the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC and will discuss his observations of the event and of Republican leadership.  Then, Suzi Ragsdale has sung background vocals on more than 60 albums including Whisper My Name by Randy Travis, but recording her own music has been a slower process.  This year, the songwriter, vocalist and pianist has already released two albums.  The first, titled Best Regards, is a eclectic set of her recent tunes and Less of the Same, is a hand-picked mix of songs written over the course of her career.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Writer Kim Ablon Whitney based her young adult novel, The Other Half of Life, on the true-life story of the 1939 voyage of hundreds of Germans escaping the Nazi regime for Cuba on the MS St. Louis.  The Other Half of Life is the recipient of the 2009 National Jewish Book Award for Children and Young Adult Literature.  Then, singer-songwriter Patty Larkin celebrates 25 years in the music business with a new album titled 25.  In this ambitious project, Larkin reworked 25 different love songs and is joined by 25 fellow musicians on these acoustic and intimate arrangements.  Guest artists include Rosanne Cash, Shawn Colvin, Chris Smither and many others.



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Can you change the entire health care system with a single sheet of paper? Dr Peter Pronovost had a simple idea: post checklists at patients’ doorways and have doctors and nurses follow the procedure.  The result in Michigan was a reduction in hospital infection by 75%.  For this seemingly simple idea, Pronovost, a professor at Johns Hopkins Medical School, won a MacArthur Genius Award, was on Oprah and is now leading a movement to find simple (but not easy) solutions to attack a pernicious medical problem: the culture of the American hospital.  Then, New York Times reporter Alex Berenson has covered areas ranging from the drug industry to Hurricane Katrina and Iraq.  That experience led him to write The Faithful Spy, which won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.  His latest is The Midnight House and it explores the assassination of a former CIA team which was responsible for interrogating detainees at a secret site.  Berenson talks about the intelligence underworld and how it influences relations with countries like Egypt, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. 



Thursday, March 11, 2010 


The Pacific is a 10-part miniseries that portrays the real-life journeys of three Marines across the Pacific Theater during World War II.  Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are the producers of the HBO show which is based on the work of Hugh Ambrose, who will describe the battle stories (including those that were not part of the television special.)  His book, The Pacific, is the official companion to the HBO miniseries that debuts on Sunday, March 14. 


Friday, March 12, 2010

 First, David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Then, First Lieutenant Mike Scotti documented the invasion of Iraq on his Mini-DV camera and through journal entries.  From that material, director Kristian Fraga made Severe Clear, a first person account of the Marines who were on the front lines of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Scotti and Fraga will discuss Severe Clear and the difficulties they each faced. Finally, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with curator Dan Gediman about the essay of Robert A. Heinlein.  He won four Hugo Awards during his 50-year career as a science fiction writer. Born and raised in Missouri, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929 and did aeronautical engineering for the Navy during World War II. Heinlein’s books include Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land. 


Monday, March 15, 2010 

Over forty years ago, Stewart Brand put together the Whole Earth Catalog, which was his shot at collecting all the skills mankind had learned to make life work better here on Earth.  Now, facing the dangers of global climate change, Brand has written Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto.  Then, Dave Zirin, host of Edge of Sports Radio reports from South Africa on the preparations and problems ahead of the 2010 World Cup.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010 

Meg Hutchinson is an award-winning songwriter who artfully documents the human condition.  Hutchinson released her debut CD Come Up Full in 2008 and now she has a new CD titled The Living Side.  Then, Salon.combook critic Laura Miller shares her recommendations for what’s new in the book world.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010 

When companies want to understand global affairs, they hire someone like George Friedman. He runs Stratfor, a private intelligence company that provides intelligence and analysis.  Friedman is the author of The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century and he’ll discuss what a private intelligence firm does, who hires it and what it knows that the public doesn’t.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

David Kessler is one of the most driven and successful doctors of his generation. He fearlessly took on the tobacco industry as head of the FDA, was dean of a premier medical school in California and has done path breaking research in pediatrics. There is one part of his life where he has always failed: his weight.  His new bookThe End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite analyzes why more American every year are losing the battle to control their weight.  Then, the day before his senior year in college began, singer-songwriter Joe Pug packed up his belongings and headed for Chicago. Working as a carpenter by day, Pug’s friend snuck him into a studio to record his songs. That was the beginning of the 25-year-old’s music career which now includes two EPs and a new CD called “Messenger.”


Friday, March 19, 2010

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, Tim Wendel wanted to know which baseball pitcher threw the hardest ever. Instead of a single answer, his new book High Heat, explains why we’ll likely never know. Wendell discovered that the fast ball is alchemy and no one body shape tells the full tale of the fastest hurlers. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with curator Dan Gediman about the essay of Albert J. Nesbitt. He was president of the John J. Nesbitt Company, which manufactured heating and ventilating units. Among his many civic activities, Nesbitt served as the president of the Philadelphia YMCA and the Philadelphia Council of Churches.


Monday, March 22, 2010  

Does scientific thinking underpin the success of democracy?  In The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of NatureTimothy Ferris lays out his hypothesis that science only succeeds in a democracy, and for a country to succeed, it needs happy scientists.  Then, when he was 7 years old, John Baker saw a portrait in his social studies of his great-great grandparents, slaves on the largest tobacco plantation in America.  For 30 years he has tracked how they got there, and what happened to their children, down through the generations. The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom is his life’s work, part mystery novel, part memoir and part history of the American experience. 


Tuesday, March 23, 2010  

Every year, coal-fired power plants produce 140 million tons of ash and combustion waste, which contain nasty toxins like arsenic and lead.  That material often gets dumped, contaminating groundwater and drinking supplies — yet the EPA is not reporting the severity of the problem.  Lisa Evans is Senior Administrative Counsel at Earthjustice and an expert on coal ash.  She’ll explain what’s happening politics-wise and health-wise.  Then, based on Thomas Frank’s best-seller, the new documentary film What’s the Matter with Kansas? shows how Kansas transformed from an outpost of radicalism to a bastion of hard-core conservatism.  Bob talks with Frank and the film’s director Joe Winston.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010 

Today we honor the life of Stewart Udall, a consummate public servant who passed away last weekend. Udall was the Interior Secretary under President Kennedy and he continued in his post under President Johnson. Udall was a staunch conservationist and is responsible for helping to preserve much of this country’s public lands and national parks. Bob visited with Udall in January 2006 at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lee Smith has been writing fiction since she was a child, and her long career has drawn comparisons to Eudora Welty. In her new collection of short stories, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger, Smith offers new works and favorites from older collections. She writes about religion, family and class in equal measure, creating characters who are searching for something beyond themselves. Then, entertainment critic David Kipen tells Bob what’s new in theaters.


Friday, March 26, 2010  

David Broder of The Washington Post joins Bob to talk politics. Next, in 1962, the U.S. State Department sent poet Robert Frost to Russia to ease tensions between the two nations and show off our most celebrated poet.  Dr. Frank Reeve accompanied Frost, acting as translator and he wrote about his and Frost’s experiences in Robert Frost in Russia. Robert Lee Frost was born this day in 1874. Then, in this week’s installment of our ongoing series This I Believe, Bob talks with curator Dan Gediman about the essay of Alexander Forbes, a pioneering doctor in the field of neurophysiology. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1910 and devoted himself to research on the human nervous system. Forbes served as professor emeritus of physiology at Harvard for many years.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Like many young men of his generation, Tim O’Brien was drafted into the Vietnam War and spent two years as an infantry foot soldier in My Lai, Vietnam.  Drawing from those experiences, O’Brien wrote a collection of stories he titled “The Things They Carried.”  Celebrating its 20 year anniversary with a new edition, The Things They Carried is still regarded as a masterwork of war time impressions.   Then, director Don Hahn and producer Peter Schneider discuss their documentary “Waking Sleeping Beauty.” It’s a behind-the-scenes view into the turf battle at the Disney studios between the old animators and new innovators as the studios made the difficult transition from the bleak 1980s to its glory days following the success of The Little Mermaid.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Human Terrain Team is a relatively new concept in the military.  The idea is to incorporate social scientists and cultural anthropologists into military units on the front lines to help better understand and solve the conflicts and misunderstandings that arise between the local population and the troops.  We will introduce you to the members of a Human Terrain Team during their classroom training in Kansas and their time at the Army’s National Training Center in Ft. Irwin, California. The team deployed to southern Afghanistan last September.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bob talks with Michael Lewis about his new book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine.” It’s a look at the mortgage crisis and the few visionaries who saw it coming and made a fortune.