27 April 2023 NPR’s Morning Edition: Jake’s Takes

This has become a really beneficial writing experiment for me. It is forcing me to research things that I might otherwise acknowledge but not really consider. When I hold myself responsible to think about the topics of the day, it helps me to overcome certain limits that I had unconsciously accepted. This is our world and we are the ones who will shape it. I am thinking through these things and my thoughts are subject to change as I learn more. My goal is to be respectful and to engage in dialogue with these stories in a productive way. I hope to remain faithful to that goal and to build up my ability to debate about serious topics without becoming cynical or resorting to uncivil expression of opinion. I have a long way to go in this process, but I hope that you find something inspiring in the attempt.

1.    A mother’s diary: She and her son fled the fighting in Sudan’s capital Khartoum. The people affected by war are very much a part of the story. It isn’t simply a dispute between armed forces. There are the lives disrupted by the mayhem that fighting causes. It is a time when normal people are asked to extraordinary things. Their world is at risk. Their existence is uncertain. When this level of danger arises, what does it take to spring into action? How do they find the heart to leave their homes with no certain destination? How do you protect your children from the reality of the war? These are the things we should think about, a mother’s love for her children and the difficulty of fleeing a warzone, when we are discussing the situation in Khartoum.

2.    The U.S. economy is losing steam. Bank woes and other hurdles are to blame. It feels like we have been on the verge of a recession for the past couple of years. Last year was not a good one for many people in business. This year started out with dismal results. We have been hiking uphill with a backpack full of rocks. Still, we seem to be avoiding the worst-case scenario for now. Losing steam is expected under the current conditions. Inflation is taxing the average person to the limits of their means. It’s a good time to be frugal, but the expenses of living keep coming. Let’s hope that we manage to turn this spring into something we can build on and fight our way out of this downward trend.

3.    What can be done to stop the next attempt to leak military secrets? Having top secret clearance should mean something. We shouldn’t be giving access to our most important information to anyone who is not thoroughly vetted. At the same time, maybe we should be more transparent about our actions and intentions. If we weren’t hiding anything, there would be nothing to leak. Is secrecy vital to national security, or is there another way? I think that there is a power to being transparent in your relationships. If you are an open book, then you have more authority. People should know what their government is doing. I don’t believe that secrecy serves our best interest.

4.    Soccer legend Pelé is being immortalized in a Portuguese language dictionary. Pelé is one of if not the best players of the world’s most popular sport. There is little chance that he will be forgotten. Recognizing greatness in athletics is nothing new. There is something about the human condition that lends itself to praising the physical accomplishments of athletes. The rules are the same for everyone. We all have basically the same tools. Some players, however, figure out how to take what they have been giving and find an edge that gives them the advantage. Is it confidence, or does confidence come because of it? Long live Pelé!

5.    Li Yan-he, a book publisher based in Taiwan, went missing after a trip to China. China is an amazing country. With the world’s largest population and an ancient history, it is full of mysteries. The relation between Taiwan and China is tense, and our involvement in the situation seems to be problematic at best. Why do we sell arms to Taiwan? Is it because we support the Taiwanese ambition to be acknowledged as their own state, or is our incentive merely economic? There are many questions about this nexus of powers, and any little escalation must be taken seriously.

6.    Writer Neil Gaiman debuts his first music album with an Australian string quartet. Neil Gaiman is an interesting writer who has worked in many different media. I admire his unorthodox approach to creating work. Artists who can contribute to various conversations have a special place in my heart. Looking forward to learning more about this project.

7.    Disney sues Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, claiming ‘government retaliation’. This is a strange situation where a conservative governor and a world-famous theme park are fighting a legal battle. What is DeSantis trying to do? Is this his self-sabotaging moment? Will this mark the end of his presidential aspirations? I need to learn more about the specifics of this case, but at face value it seems like a bad strategy for the governor.

8.    U.S. and South Korea formalize a series of steps to try to deter North Korea. Once the world had nuclear weapons, things became very strange. The power to kill is everywhere too present in the world. What do we do with this unsettling predicament? We try to be diplomatic, to be strategic, and to work with our allies to stabilize the global system of national security. We are held hostage to the intentions of leaders who have less to lose and more power to destroy.

9.    Transit agencies, including D.C., participate in the Autism Transit Project. The more inclusive we become, the stronger our culture will be. When we make space for people who have previously been left out of the conversation our entire dialogue enrichens. I understand that conservatives in the Right get frustrated with this kind of thing, but they have not been left out of the conversation. There is a power in seeing yourself reflected in the public discourse, and that power will help our people to grow and for us to become stronger collectively. What is the issue with that?

10. He ‘Proved Mike Wrong.’ Now he’s claiming his $5 million. I have zero insights into whatever this may be. The headline is too vague for me to find a handle. I guess it is a chance to explain why I love millionaires but do not like billionaires. There is something fun and aspirational about the idea of $5 million. That is a lifestyle that is not so out of reach as to be depressing. The concept of having billions of dollars in this world currently is something that I find to be devoid of moral worth. That’s a lot of money and not a lot of character. Long live the millionaire.

11. Lawmakers in Montana’s House vote to punish transgender lawmaker Rep. Zephyr. I wish that this was a surprise, but it is entirely predictable. Some people are going to cling to their bigotry like a life raft. It’s sad, though, because they are only reinforcing their hatred. Having tolerance for differences is a good place to start. It’s time to deescalate the public discourse.

12. Argentina’s peso continues its slide to lows not seen for decades. What happens in a country when its money becomes unstable? How do people survive? Does it become a system of barter and exchange? It is a disturbing example of how reliant we are upon money in general, but I’m curious to learn more about how people cope with a monetary system that is losing its value.

13. South Korea’s president surprised guests at White House dinner by singing. I can imagine worse things than a president who attempts to use song to create some kind of connection to people who are important allies.

14. Disability groups say California’s assisted suicide law discriminates against them. I wonder how this has come to be a problem. The assisted suicide law is not widely talked about, but if it is discriminating against people with disabilities, then something is wrong. I can imagine that there may be some moral questions about the ability to take this drastic measure. It is not an easy subject to discuss, but it is very important to get it right, if that’s even possible.

15. House Republican lawmakers overcome internal divisions to pass debt ceiling bill. This is a good thing. We need to show some discretion when it comes to negotiations. Some things are too important to put in jeopardy for the sake of scoring political points. I’m glad that this has come to a place of resolution.

16. How can people spot fake images created by artificial intelligence? I’m not sure that images created by artificial intelligence should be considered fake. All images are fake to some degree. When it comes to an image that deliberately misrepresents the truth, we will have some difficulties, certainly. For the most part, it will be vetted by the public who are very good at finding these visual lies. It also depends upon the reputation of the person posting the images. Deliberately falsifying the truth opens one up to a loss of credibility and to potential suits accusing them of slander. We have had the ability to fake images with Photoshop for a long time, and people do, but it is not that hard to sort out the real from the fake.

17. Veterans fight back against extremist groups trying to recruit ex-military members. Veterans are used as pawns in the media so often. People speak about the military as though they are all of one mind. Our veterans make up a diverse swath of our population. I think that the main thing that unifies them is that they have served and deserve some support. If we supported our veterans more, then extremist groups would not even be tempted to recruit them. It is only because of our failure to provide support to our former soldiers that they become targeted by these groups.

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