Today’s NPR Morning Edition Writing Experiment

I tried a writing experiment this morning. I took the headlines from the program “Morning Edition” as writing prompts. I wrote briefly about each topic doing minimal research and trying to insert my own thinking as I guess what the stories are about and what agendas are in the background. I am now going to listen to the full broadcast and I will see if I learn anything additional. The daily news is still important to me, even if we are in a weird period of media illiteracy and questionable business models for journalism in general. It is a way for me to practice writing about topics that have been deemed worthy of national attention.

  1. Philly schools aim to lower involving kids with conflict resolution training. Philadelphia schools are trying to lessen the likelihood of school shootings by practicing conflict resolution techniques. This seems like it would be important everywhere. The way the headline reads makes me think that this is more of a problem in Philadelphia than elsewhere, but I don’t know if that is true or just implicit bias. I really don’t know anything substantial about Philadelphia, just that it is famous for being a tough town and for having great hoagies and cheesesteaks. It is the biggest urban center in Pennsylvania followed by Pittsburg, where Andy Warhol was raised. Pennsylvania is close to New York and connected to the hip hop scene. Is there truly something real about geography that makes us think that New York is superior in terms of culture? So much of what we learn about a place is through entertainment, so the places that are manufacturing entertainment do a lot to raise their own profile. Students are going to have conflicts anywhere. It’s just a part of being young. I witnessed racism in a few different moments around young people yesterday in Scotts Valley. When we talk about the safety of our kids, there really is no more important topic to consider, but it feels like we do not have any good ideas. That’s because it is too challenging for working class people to even put food on the table, let alone monitor their kids or try to help them to learn how to cope with conflict in a civil manner. Many adults I know cannot do that. It requires a lot of emotional maturity and that is by nature not easy for kids to access.
  2. LA County has a new tool that’s helping trap junk before it flows into the ocean. The pollution of the ocean is undeniable. I don’t care what you think about climate change or if the earth is warming or if the wildfires are normal or if these horrible storms are just a hundred-year event, or what. The ocean is being polluted in ways that were previously never a possibility. We slowly start to see some cultural changes, but for some reason we are so addicted to luxury that is cheap that we cannot seem to see the bigger picture. Take straws, for example. People complain and moan about straws like their life was being threatened. What is the source of this pettiness? That’s a more important question than how to block the trash from entering the ocean. We do not have the luxury of focusing solely on prevention, but we should still think about it. If we thought more about prevention than mitigation, we would move the needle in the other direction. It seems like we try to solve everything with more tech, and that is quickly leading us into some very murky waters with AI and automation of the economy. How are people going to survive without work? Why don’t we radically incentivize the cleaning of the ocean? We have companies who use beach cleanups to try and manage their public image. It is largely a PR move, but that’s better than nothing. It is not much better though. Again, I think that we need to trace responsibility back to the people who have monetary incentive to keeping things the way they are. MTG is a Pitbull for the oil industry. Why? Because that is how she gets her funding. She has no shame, so she will just scream about whatever talking points she thinks is going to make the case for her own special interest lobbies. We do not have a representative government anymore. We have an oligarchy of special interests. In some cases, we need less, not more tech. It’s like the issue of guns. MTG swears that if we have enough good guys with guns then the world will be a safer place. Safer for gun manufactures, maybe, but it won’t make the world safer for innocent kids who are sitting ducks in classrooms right now. Gavin French Laundry Newsom is trying to get his national campaign kickstarted, and he just keeps talking about other states, meanwhile doing very little to help us here.
  3. Corporate funders return to GOP attorneys general who embraced election fraud claims. My first question, and it is a sign of my general ignorance of how the state works at the most basic level, is what an attorney general is. Upon some cursory research in the California government website, I learned that the attorney general is the highest level of lawyer in a state. They are elected to office and serve as the people’s attorney. Their primary job is to protect the general welfare of the people of the state. They are the highest-level law enforcer, and they can sue companies or organizations that do something to threaten the public good. The attorney general right now in California is Rob Bonta, the first Filipino to fill the role. The Attorney General heads the California Department of Justice, an organization of 4,500 lawyers who are working to ensure that laws are adequately enforced throughout the state.
  4. What the U.S. needs to do to be the leaders in EVs and the batteries that power them. The future belongs to electic vehicles, and as with the start of any new industry the first to make the best products usually become leaders of the industry for a long time to come. Currently, China is first in the global race for EV dominance. We have such a mixed attitude about EVs in the states that it is hard for us to compete. The world is heading that way, though, so it only makes sense to adjust our attitudes and to try and make some headway. We are chasing the dragon.
  5. Murphy, a bald eagle at a wild bird sanctuary in Missouri, tried to hatch a rock. This is a puff piece story using our national bird to stir some kind of sentiment and to show how insane animals can be and how crazy parenting hormones are in general. We are very much interested in mental health concerns and showing that nature itself goes nuts when babies are involved helps us to feel better about our own crazy selves.
  6. Tornado forecasts are more accurate. Why aren’t they saving more lives? I’ve never had to deal with a tornado, but it is a very scary thing that happens in the Midwest. I think that this is going to be a story about poverty and the inability to go anywhere. It is an example of how tech doesn’t solve problems. We need resources and political will to help people who are in that path of natural disasters, but I think the attitudes about poor people are bad because we are afraid of being poor ourselves. We act like it is a contagion that we will contract if we think about it too much. On the other hand, this could also be some kind of call for more Starlink internet service. Maybe that is important, too. I’m not saying that tech is bad, I’m just suspicious of it being hailed as the solution to problems that were caused by technology. I don’t know enough about what causes tornadoes to say much about this subject, but I do keep seeing headlines about tens of millions of people being in the way of these storms. I think that there is such an extreme call for heroism today. We are in a period of history that can make some extreme heroic examples of human greatness if people answer the call.
  7. The rise of the mocktail. This story is one that I find to be encouraging. The move away from alcohol is a cultural boon. We have so many people overdosing in this country from various drugs, but alcohol is at the root. We use alcohol to be elegant, to socialize, but also to be the worst versions of ourselves. It is such a deeply engrained part of human history that has such insane consequences for so many people. I don’t think it is inherently a bad thing, but I know that it is abused and that abuse flows from its overindulgence. I look for positive things in our culture. I don’t think that our government will fix any problems for us. It must come from our culture. One of the basic ideas that I believe is that whatever you talk about becomes bigger. When you talk about the negative problems, it doesn’t make them go away, it just increases the awareness. You must talk about the solutions for them to increase. Bans are not a positive thing, so they do not serve their intended effect.
  8. Kevin McCarthy’s proposal for the looming debt limit would slash federal spending. This is a loaded topic, for sure. The debt limit is a worrisome fact of our current global system of finance. It feels like the entire world is a house of cards and we are guarding these precarious structures with armies and arsenals that could easily destroy the entire world with the wrong move. What are the benefits for people? Don’t most people just want to live decent lives with some simple pleasures and enough resources to provide for their families? That might be wishful thinking, but if that is not common sentiment, I think it would be the most logical thing to wish for. We might get caught up in other goals, but being able to live a decent life, to contribute to the common good, and to pay it forward to the next generation seems like a good starting place for a sane society. We are caught in an ideological struggle, though. On the one hand, we have people who think that the government should fund programs designed to address problems that are not otherwise being solved. That costs money, though. The fact of the matter is we should be able to find a balanced budget. That seems like it should be a priority. It also seems like that doesn’t have to be achieved by slashing funding for important programs that help the poor and middle-class people in this country. We have a billionaire class, and that is where the funding to balance our budget should come from. Once you have over a hundred million you can’t possibly need more. I think that we should have a cap on how much wealth you can possess, and we should rally popular sentiment until that is a reality.
  9. Why are Americans getting shot after mixing up addresses or cars? This is a disturbing headline, to say the least. Either there is a weird pattern in how these shootings occur, or there is a weird pattern in how they are reported. It may be some of both. In the past couple of weeks there have been at least three stories of people trying to enter the wrong car or door and being shot as a result. Clearly that is not ok. It is beyond insane to think that such a simple mistake could result in being shot. What is to be done about it, though? The obvious thing is to try to figure out why so many people are trigger happy, but that’s not going to help you if you are one of those unlucky number. I guess all you can really take from it is to try and be more vigilant about paying attention to everything when you are in the public. People get distracted and are easily swayed by their groups into a kind of state of public delirium. That’s without the influence of drugs or alcohol. More mocktails please. How about more water and paying attention to what you are doing and to your surroundings. I always see it as my job to study the world around me, whether that is when I am driving or whatever else I am trying to do.
  10. Deadly stampede in Yemen comes ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. I already heard this story on the radio this morning, so I know something about what caused the stampede, but for the sake of this experiment I am going to keep myself limited to what I know or can think about in relation to this event. Or what can I learn? First, what do I not know? I had to look up where Yemen is on the map, and it is on the southern west part of the land mass that is mainly occupied by Saudi Arabia. As such, it is not far from Mecca. Second, I didn’t know what the holiday marks. It is the end of the month long fasting from sunup to sundown that is known as Ramadan. This makes me wonder how this is going to be interpreted by people in that country. I have lots of questions about it. It is a rectangular country with two sides being coastal. The shorter coastal side faces the Red Sea, and the longer side is facing the Gulf of Aden. This country is the furthest south of the region we refer to as the Middle East.
  11. How melting Arctic ice could be fueling extreme wildfires in the western U.S. This is obviously a topic of great concern here in California. We have experienced insane wildfires in the past few years, and even though we had an amazingly wet winter it is forecast to be a hot and dry summer. There’s no reason to think that wildfires will not be a risk again this year. What does the Arctic ice shelf have to do with our wildfires here? I think it shows how we are not being proactive. We are studying disasters half-heartedly after they happen. There is a very clear cure for wildfires. Forest management and water. If we remove the underbrush and water the forests, then they will not be burning down at unprecedented rates. That’s the only hope we have to stop this ravaging problem. Not only will that improve our air quality, but it will help to sequestrate carbon in the form of trees.
  12. Why millions of kids are not getting their routine vaccinations. This headline is worrying. I think that again we need to focus more on solutions and less on gloom and doom scenarios. Of course, there are problems. We just had a pandemic that shut down most of the world for a couple of years. Obviously, things are going to be different and problematic. We need to figure out the solutions while we identify the problems. This is my novice editorial instinct for how media works. I would have tried something more like: What you can do to help millions of kids who missed routine vaccinations during Covid. Their headline is clickbait, but the answer is simple. Covid shut down and overwhelmed our medical system. People were not able to perform routine medical procedures. That is the easy part to figure out. The challenging part is to know what the consequences of that may be, and how to help the people who will be adversely affected by this shortcoming. Is this a time to donate to Doctors on Duty, or to share links about their mission? Even if you don’t have a dime to spare, most people have a platform they can post things on and use their voice to promote positive change, but we must make it easy for them if we want it to really happen.
  13. ‘Trinity,” the T-rex skeleton made from the bones of 3 dinosaurs, has a new owner. This is news I would classify as trivia. It may also inspire the imagination of some young people who may want to become scientists. It also is a story about the strange priorities of the ultra-rich and what they will spend their money to buy. 6 million dollars could help a lot of people, but we don’t seem to pay as much attention to that. I don’t understand why people feel like they should be quiet about their charitable donations and yet they are loud about the most trivial waste of money. People have no problem showing their wealth when it comes to flaunting expensive clothes jewelry or other luxury items, but somehow there is a judgment when it comes to donating to worthy causes. People like the shame public philanthropy and celebrate flagrant displays of wealth. I don’t understand that tendency, but I do believe that it should change. If you gave 6 million dollars to fund public schools in the sciences, that would help a lot more people than buying a frakendinosaur.
  14. Virginia Board of Education to vote on disputed changes to history curriculum. I will be interested to hear what this story is really covering. The description suggests that the proposed changes would lessen the emphasis on a racist history in favor of a more amenable picture of our colonial project. We don’t make good by ignoring the past. That’s just not how it goes. Learning about history doesn’t have to mean feeling guilty about the past, either though. People want to feel like they deserve their good luck, but in reality it is just luck. You can’t deserve something that you have nothing to do with, but you shouldn’t be blamed for it either. We seem to take history personally, and that is the problem. Instead of changing the way we teach history, we should help people to come to productive positions in relation to the history we share.
  15. Khartoum’s hospital system has collapsed after cease-fire fails. Again, I had to look things up to even have any sense of what is happening here. Khartoum is the capital of Sudan and it is located on the eastern bank of the White Nile and is where the Blue Nile feeds into it. This region of the world is ruled by rivers. It is northern Africa and is a very arid region prone to food shortages due to the inhospitable heat and dryness. This is another part of the world where we should be solving the water problem. Instead of fighting wars over limited resources, what if we poured all that labor power and money into creating solutions to the shortages. With adequate water and systems to grow food, you would think that things could change for the positive. If Elon Musk can figure out how to colonize Mars, can we not figure out how to grow enough food in Northern Africa to feed its people? Sudan sounds like a fascinating region, and I know that my friend Andrew lived there for some time. He would be good to talk to about it.
  16. The White House is gearing up for a battle over abortion pill access. This is the ongoing conflict in the U.S. over women’s rights. I never imagined that the right for women to control their own fertility would become something so contested. It is a wonder to me how that has transpired. It must be a rise in Christian fundamentalism. That must be the driving force behind this new anti-woman movement. I really don’t see two sides to this issue. I understand some people’s belief that it is a religious problem and that they must enforce it to stop babies from being killed, but I just do not see it that way. I think that women should oversee their own reproductive processes, and we should all be thankful to them for that.
  17. Union-organized event pressures Congress to make good on a $4 billion promise. This story is about wildland firefighters’ efforts to boost their pay and benefits. This so clearly should be a national priority; it is hard to imagine what the issue could be. We have so many problems and wildfires are near the top of the list. If we are not paying the people who are risking their lives to stop wildfires, then what are we doing? Pay those people their fair wage and quit making promises if you cannot keep them. This must be connected to McCarthy’s proposal to slash federal spending. $4 billion is a lot of money, but it is a massive problem, and we need to spend money where it will help people, not just protect the interests of the rich.
  18. SpaceX’s massive rocket Starship explodes 4 minutes after liftoff. This is going to be fodder for jokes about Elon Musk. Ever since he bought Twitter and started sharing his thoughts there he has become increasingly hard to take seriously. He still keeps pushing his projects forward, though, and this is the latest step in his manic plan to get to Mars. This is far more worrying that a millionaire spending $6 million on a dinosaur skeleton. At least that is somewhat harmless. Musk is sending satellites into space and attempting to build a rocket that can take humans to Mars. While I am all for scientific research, I believe it must be done with some thought towards the welfare of humans currently living on this planet. If we solve more of the basic problems we face here, then it might make more sense to try and reach other planets. For now, it just seems like another extroversion of a very rich man’s insecurities.

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