6 May 2023 NPR’s Weekend Edition: Jake’s Takes

1.    King Charles III is formally crowned monarch of the United Kingdom. The royal drama moves forward. The thing that I didn’t think about ahead of time was what a photo opportunity it was. So many famous people gathered in one location, but that has never been the type of photography that I wanted to do. That is kind of sneaky and somewhat creepy to be picking off famous people just because a public historic event is happening. And yet, I can picture photos of MLK Jr. giving his speeches. Those moments have more substance, though. This event was all about famous people and nothing that matters, really.

2.    Week in politics: Biden holds debt ceiling meeting; another Clarence Thomas revelation. The debt ceiling debacle continues to unfold embarrassingly. It may be an opportunity to discuss some of the outrageous spending we have been doing and to question the legitimacy of federal budgets. Unfortunately, the GOP are not questioning the military budget, only the services that help poor people in this country. They are continuing to be undemocratic in the values they express and the actions they take. Speaking of going against the people, more allegations against Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas continue to emerge. He has so much dirt on him, it is unfathomable that he will continue his ways without consequence, but that court has no check. It is the one station in our government that is not vulnerable to public opinion, and we are witnessing the downside of that arrangement.

3.    Opinion: Long live royal humor. The only kind of royal humor that I can imagine is self-deprecating. I suppose there could be a funny prince, but when you have that much money and fame for no good reason it is very hard to convincingly make fun of much besides yourself and the absurd situation you are in.

4.    Russian protest art group Pussy Riot wins Woody Guthrie Prize. Pussy Riot has been making waves and are being recognized by an award that is named after the great American songwriter Woody Guthrie. Their courage in standing up to the Russian state should be celebrated by anyone who loves freedom for the people.

5.    Amazon’s ‘affordable’ healthcare service has a hidden cost: your privacy. When are we going to stop this system from being opportunistic? What will it take for us to stand up against predatory business practices? Our weakest links are exploited for profit and it is something that should be prevented.

6.    The fate of a teenage zoo elephant in Pakistan was tragic — and a symbol of much more. One thing about writing about the news is that you develop thicker skin. You know that there is going to be bad news and confronting it by writing about it makes you able to deal with it better. I don’t think that it makes you less empathetic, but it makes you stronger and more capable of facing the grim parts of reality. Elephants are beautiful creatures who have strong connections with their family members. They are very lovable for that trait. I’m sorry to hear that something tragic has happened to this young elephant.

7.    Top U.S. official says Brazil is making progress in combatting racial inequity. Brazil is a huge and diverse country rich with natural resources and full of potential. It is one of the places I would love to visit in South America. It’s good to hear that there is some progress being made for racial equity. All of the countries in our Americas have much more in common than we sometimes admit.

8.    Romanian director Cristian Mungiu on his film ‘R.M.N.’. I am looking forward to learning more about this film and Romania generally. I don’t know much about the country and this may be a good entry point for me to become curious to learn more. We only have so many countries and cultures in our world, and it seems like a worthwhile project to learn about them as much as we can.

9.    Durand Jones pens a love letter to being Black, queer and from the rural South. I think that one of the undeniable trends about our day and age is the inclusion of queer and other categories of people who have previously been suppressed from participating in the cultural dialogue and I believe it is a very good thing. It is also causing a lot of distress for cultural conservatives who do not agree with lifestyles other than their own, and I believe that is a good thing, too. They should be able to accept that other people live in different ways. It is always the right time to celebrate cultural diversity.

10. Companies are defaulting on loan payments for unused office buildings. So many side effects of the pandemic continue to evolve and, in many cases, negatively. There were unintended economic costs incurred in the name of public safety and as these come to fruition one can only expect that there will be conflict over the responsibility for those losses. Are we entering a new era of bankruptcy or litigation or both?

11. Pandemic border restrictions are set to end, causing confusion about what that means. The border, oh boy the border. This has been the source of confusion and fear since before the pandemic, and it is returning with a vengeance as certain restrictions are going to end with the official ending of COVID-19 as a global health emergency. Members of the GOP such as Marjorie Taylor Greene suggest that an immense wave of illegal immigrants is poised to invade the country. This would be the most xenophobic example of the attitudes about what is going to happen, but what will happen in reality?

12. In Ukraine, an American volunteer is laid to rest. Some people feel compelled to participate in global conflicts, even when they are not directly involved. In some cases, these people are heroic and seek to help remedy a situation they see as inhumane. This type of conviction has admirable qualities but also sometimes unfortunate consequences.

13. Parents in the Senate want new limits on social media to protect kids’ mental health. The question of kids’ mental health in relation to the industry of social media is an important one, and we should welcome the opportunity to discuss and debate. I think that limits should be imposed on social media, just as they are on tobacco, alcohol, and other activities that are potentially harmful to developing youth.

14. Saturday Sports: Horse deaths; suspicious sports betting; NHL upsets. Anti-vaxxers will say…horses are dying on the track and it is likely the result of drugs, but not the vaccine. It’s understandable that people are upset about it all, honestly. There has been a lot of terrible leadership in the past few years, and people have paid the price dearly.

15. With coronation day and the Kentucky Derby, it’s a good weekend for hats. The U.K. had its day full of pomp and now the U.S. will get to wear some fancy hats, too. The Kentucky Derby is an event famous for fashion and I imagine that it is a very fun thing to witness.

16. Back pain shouldn’t stop you from cooking at home. Here’s how to adapt. There are certain problems that can cause a downward spiral in health, and back pain is one of them. Fighting back against that tendency for everything to get worse with homemade food seems like a very good response.

17. Burkhard Bilger’s book ‘Fatherland’ explores his family’s Nazi past in Germany. Reconciling your own connection to one of the evilest political movements in world history is a compelling undertaking. What do you do with that history? How do you make sense of your ancestors’ malevolence. This sounds like a good story.

18. Billy Corgan, frontman of The Smashing Pumpkins, on the band’s new album. The Smashing Pumpkins created a sound all their own in the 90s and gave teenagers and artists all over the world fuel for their innermost angst. They made discontent hauntingly beautiful and for that contribution to the music world, it is always worth checking out what they are creating.

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