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Free Forum Q&A - THOMAS GEOGHEGAN WERE YOU BORN ON THE WRONG CONTINENT? How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life
January 28, 2015 11:21 PM PST

(Originally aired 10-03-2010)
We hear about the trouble Europe is in. The debt crisis in Greece and other countries, the mistaken austerity moves that have slowed recovery from recession. But while the bad news of the Euro crisis makes headlines in the US, what does not made headlines is the good news of a quiet revolution that has been taking place in Europe.

The European Union, 27 member nations with a half billion people, has become the largest, wealthiest trading bloc in the world, producing nearly a third of the world's economy - nearly as large as the U.S. and China combined. Europe has more Fortune 500 companies than either the US, China or Japan.
European nations are rated by the World Health Organization as having the best health care systems in the world. Yet they spend far less than the United States for universal coverage, even as U.S. health care is ranked 37th. Europe leads in confronting global climate change with renewable energy technologies like solar and wind power, conservation and "green design," creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the process. Europe is twice as energy efficient as the US and their ecological "footprint" (the amount of the earth's capacity that a population consumes) is about half that of the United States for the same standard of living.

In his new book, WERE YOU BORN ON THE WRONG CONTINENT?, this week's guest, THOMAS GEOGHEGAN, makes a strong case that European social democracies - particularly Germany - have some lessons and models that might make life a lot more livable. Not only that, they could help us keep our jobs.

In comparison to the U.S., the Germans have six weeks of federally mandated vacation, free university tuition, nursing care, and childcare. But you've heard the arguments for years about how those wussy Europeans can't compete in a global economy. You've heard that so many times, you might believe it. But like so many things, the media repeats endlessly, it's just not true.

According to Geoghagen, "Since 2003, it's not China but Germany, that colossus of European socialism, that has either led the world in export sales or at least been tied for first. Even as we in the United States fall more deeply into the clutches of our foreign creditors-China foremost among them-Germany has somehow managed to create a high-wage, unionized economy without shipping all its jobs abroad or creating a massive trade deficit, or any trade deficit at all. And even as the Germans outsell the United States, they manage to take six weeks of vacation every year. They're beating us with one hand tied behind their back."

Free Forum Q&A: RALPH NADER THE SEVENTEEN SOLUTIONS Bold Ideas for Our American Future
January 22, 2015 10:04 PM PST
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(Originally aired 11-25-2012)
To rescue our country from corruption, complacency, and corporate domination, we need fresh ideas and bold solutions. RALPH NADER offers THE SEVENTEEN SOLUTIONS: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Confronting economic, social, political, and environmental challenges, his ambitious, common-sense proposals address our most pressing concerns, from corporate crime to tax reform, and health care to housing.
I sometimes build an interview around three big questions about a particular issue: How is it broken? (What is the evidence?) How did it get broken? (What is the history?) How do we fix it? (What are the solutions?) NADER takes that approach with nearly twenty crucial issues. His solutions are not pie in the sky, but practical and pragmatic, and he talks about how we can actually make them happen.

I was most struck by his optimism. It is 50 years since his first book, Unsafe at Any Speed, changed what Americans expected of their automobiles. Yet, at 78, after ups and downs, after being highly praised and passionately criticized by millions, NADER is full of energy for the plans and battles ahead. Referring to the recent attention paid to the abuses of the very wealthy 1%, NADER points out another 1% we ignore at our peril. He says to achieve real change in this country, it takes 1% of the population committing themselves to making change happen.

Free Forum Q&A: JAMES FALLOWS, Mr. China Comes to America and CHARLES FISHMAN, The Insourcing Boom Their two articles in ATLANTIC magazine herald the rebirth of manufacturing in the US
January 22, 2015 09:51 PM PST
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Originally Aired: 4-6-13
I do my best to question conventional wisdom, but I had heard and repeated the fact that the US manufacturing was never coming back so often that I assumed it must be true. But two articles in the December 2012 issue of the Atlantic magazine jumped
out at me - both declaring that manufacturing is re-emerging. James Fallows writes of US startups exploiting new technologies to speed up the process of design-to-product, and Charles Fishman writes of US corporations like GE moving production back home.
James Fallows' article, Mr. China Comes to America, opens with these words: "For decades, every trend in manufacturing favored the developing world and worked against the Unites States. But new tools that greatly speed up development from idea to finished product encourage start-up companies to locate here, not in Asia."

Charles Fishman's article The Insourcing Boom goes even a step further. It's opening words: "After years of offshore production, General Electric is moving much of its far-flung appliance-manufacturing operations back home. It is not alone."

I make no bones about the fact that I like to report good news, but I don't want to make nice or play Pollyanna. This information from these reporters strikes me as the real thing and I'm only too glad to admit I may have prematurely buried "made in America".

Free Forum Q&A: ATUL GAWANDE – Surgeon / Teacher / Author – The Checklist Manifesto
January 22, 2015 09:43 PM PST
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Aired 03/14/10 Though Atul Gawande is a best-selling author, a Harvard professor, and an innovator in best practices for the W.H.O., he still performs 250-plus surgeries a year. A framed copy of Sylvia Plath's poem "The Surgeon at 2 a.m." stands on the desk in his office." Her surgeon's words: "I worm and hack in a purple wilderness." Gawande likes the Plath poem because it casts the surgeon in an ambiguous light. "Most writing about people in medicine casts them as either heroes or villains," he says, "That poem captures the surgeon as a merely human, slightly bewildered and benighted person in a world that is ultimately beyond his control."
Medicine is just one area of our world that is becoming so complex that even the most expert professionals struggle to master the tasks they face. In his new book, The Checklist Manifesto, Gawande offers a disarmingly simple remedy: the checklist. Now being adopted in hospitals, the 90 second practice cuts fatalities In surgery by more than a third. NOTE: This interview was recorded when Gawande was recently in LA, prior to Obama's healthcare summit and the latest legislative negotiations.

December 30, 2014 05:32 PM PST
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Originally aired 08-04-2009
As we celebrate the holidays - religious, cultural, and annual - we're paying more attention than usual to our relationship to God at the same time that winter and the new year call us to reflect and look forward. I want to share with you this interview I recorded June 5, 2009, with ROBERT WRIGHT. That week THE EVOLUTION OF GOD, no light read, was the #8 New York Times bestseller and he was all over the media, including a feature on Bill Moyers Journal.
Robert Wright takes on big questions, and in THE EVOLUTION OF GOD, he follows the changing moods of God as reflected in ancient Scripture, to see what circumstances brought out the best and worst in religions.

The question of how politics might influence our God stories is relevant - due, globally, to the West's confrontation with radical Islam, and in the U.S., to the political activism of evangelical Christians - both evident in the misadventures of the U.S. and George W. Bush from Bagdhad to Teri Schiavo.

According to WRIGHT, "The moral of the story is simple: When people see their interests threatened by another group, this perception brings out the most belligerent parts of their religion. Such circumstances are good news for violent extremists and bad news for moderates."

The condensed print version of this interview was the lead article at the weekend of July 11-12, 2009, and the 3rd most discussed article of the week.

Free Forum Q&A - LESTER BROWN Founder, Worldwatch and Earth Policy Institute FULL PLANET, EMPTY PLATES: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity
December 26, 2014 09:40 AM PST
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Originally aired 12-23-2012

Gas prices have fallen recently, pleasing folks at the pump, and causing uncertainty in a lot of corporate and financial board rooms. What about food prices? Not so much. Are you making different choices in the supermarket? If not, it might be because of two things.
One, in America so much of our food is processed, packaged and marketed, that raw commodity prices make up only a fraction of the price of the food we buy. In other countries, especially the less developed ones, an increase in the price of rice or corn can have a major effect on how much a family can afford to eat. Two, Americans spend only 9% percent of their income on food, while millions around the world spend 50-70%. Millions of households now routinely schedule foodless days each week-days when they will not eat at all. A recent survey by Save the Children shows that 14% of families in Peru now have foodless days. India, 24%. Nigeria, 27%,

In his book, FULL PLANET, EMPTY PLATES, LESTER BROWN writes, "The U.S. Great Drought of 2012 has raised corn prices to the highest level in history. The world price of food, which has already doubled over the last decade, is slated to climb higher, ushering in a new wave of food unrest. This year's corn crop shortfall will accelerate the transition from the era of abundance and surpluses to an era of chronic scarcity. As food prices climb, the worldwide competition for control of land and water is intensifying. In this new world, access to food is replacing access to oil as an overriding concern of governments. Food is the new oil, land is the new gold. Welcome to the new geopolitics of food."

Free Forum: MICHAEL LEWIS MONEYBALL; THE BLIND SIDE; THE BIG SHORT Defines financial terms that led to the Crash
December 19, 2014 05:08 PM PST
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Originally aired 4-4-2010
After a fight within the Democratic party, the House passed a spending bill this week that rolls back one of the most important provisions of Dodd-Frank. When it passes
the Senate, taxpayers will be back on the hook for the big banks' gambles on derivatives and other exotic financial instruments. I thought it was time to play this interview with MICHAL LEWIS about how Wall Street's corrupt casino culture led to the Crash of 07-08 - because we've just given them license to do it again.
Both Ira Glass and Malcolm Gladwell say today's guest is their favorite storyteller. In his books and magazine articles, Lewis writes about sports, business, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, political campaigns, fatherhood. Stuff that matters to a lot of people. He's smart and he has a sense of humor.

Lewis was a trader at Salomon Brothers before he wrote his first best-seller, LIAR'S POKER about the excesses of Wall Street during the 1980s. He continues to write about that world with his last two books, a column for Bloomberg, and articles in Vanity Fair.

In this interview recorded four years ago,we talk about THE BIG SHORT. But Lewis is so good at making obscure financial information accessible to readers, that I asked him to spend much of the hour defining terms that laid out the path to the Crash - securitization, derivatives, credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, etc. I highly recommend this guide to the dark side of finance.

Free Forum: ETHAN NADELMANN founder and executive director, DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE Leader of the war on the war on drugs.
December 19, 2014 05:06 PM PST
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originally aired 8-15-2010

Prohibition has failed -- again. Today, there are more drugs on our streets at cheaper prices than ever before. There are more than 1.2 million people behind bars in the U.S., a large percentage of them for nonviolent drug usage. Under our failed drug policy, it is easier for young people to obtain illegal drugs than a six-pack of beer. Why? Because the sellers of illegal drugs don't ask kids for IDs. As soon as we outlaw a substance, we abandon our ability to regulate and control the marketing of that substance.

There is smarter approach usually called harm reduction. Reducing drug use is not nearly as important as reducing the death, disease, crime, and suffering associated with both drug misuse and failed policies of prohibition.

Twenty years ago, ETHAN NADELMANN left his teaching position at Princeton University to become a full-time advocate for ending the drug war. As the founding executive director of the DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE (DPA), the largest and most influential organization promoting drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights, Ethan's vision and leadership have had a monumental impact on public opinion and changed the course of history.

DPA and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, played an instrumental role in securing monumental drug policy reform victories in the recent midterm elections, including marijuana legalization in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., marijuana decriminalization in New Mexico, medical marijuana in Guam, and groundbreaking criminal justice and sentencing reforms in New Jersey and California.

In this interview recorded four years ago, NADELMANN made a clear and compelling case for the progress we are seeing today.

Free Forum Q&A- NAOMI WOLF VAGINA: A New Biography
December 04, 2014 05:53 PM PST
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Originally aired 9-30-2012

When NAOMI WOLF's The Beauty Myth was published in 1991, Gloria Steinem hailed it as "a smart, angry, insightful book, and a clarion call to freedom," recommendingm "Every woman should read it." The New York Times called it one of the most important books of the 20th century. Over the intervening two decades, Wolf continued to write about the role of women in our culture, but she also took on broader political issues in books such as The End of America and Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries.

In her most recent book, VAGINA: A NEW BIOGRAPHY, she returns to the feminine and the personal. Drawing on cutting-edge neurobiological research, she makes the bold claim that there is a direct link between a woman's experience of her vagina and her experience of her very sense of self. Heralded by Publishers Weekly as one of the best science books of the year, the book also received more than its share of critical reviews. I'll talk with Wolf -- No stranger to controversy -- about the good, the bad, and the surprising - in her research, her synthesis, and in responses to her new work.

Free Forum Q&A- RAJ PATEL author or THE VALUE of NOTHING: Why Everything Costs More Than We Think
November 28, 2014 02:37 PM PST
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Originally Aired: 08/01/10
RAJ PATEL has worked for the World Bank and WTO and been tear-gassed on four continents protesting against them. Writer, activist, and academic, he is currently a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's Center for African Studies, a researcher at the School of Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a fellow at The Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First. He is the author of STUFFED AND STARVED and his latest THE VALUE OF NOTHING: HOW TO RESHAPE MARKET SOCIETY AND REDEFINE DEMOCRACY.

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