Monday 15 May 2023 NPR’s Morning Edition: Jake’s Takes

1.    As Sudan enters its 5th week of conflict, thousands cross into neighboring Chad. Chad is in the heart of Africa. It is an ethnically diverse country with many subcultures. Local culture is the most influential in the region of Chad. As such, what will happen when a huge number of refugees arrive from neighboring Sudan? Chad is not known for human rights. Women in Chad possess very little autonomy, and female genital mutilation is widely practiced, according to a report published by Unicef. To further complicate this situation, Chad has recently been at war with Sudan. By all measures, this is a terrifying development for the people in the region.

2.    NPR’s new series is called Living Better: How Americans can take back their health. This is an interesting development. More reporting on lifestyle choices that can lead to better health outcomes is certainly a positive development. More vegetables and fruits sounds easy, but in reality it is not. Why? Fresh foods are not always available. There is also the exercise component, and that is critical as well. This is something that will surely become popular and will evolve over time. It is presented in a reactionary way at its present existence, but it can become something very cool and even crucial.

3.    Biden is going to Hiroshima at a moment when nuclear tensions are on the rise. What message is Biden trying to send to the world? Is it a reminder of U.S. capabilities, or a solemn look back at U.S. military history?

4.    Thousands of unregistered weapons are being turned in during Serbia’s gun amnesty. Serbia recently experienced its first school shooting. They held the father of the teenager responsible for his access to firearms. This is an example of a culture that takes guns seriously.

5.    Beefy snapping turtle affectionately named Chonkosaurus becomes a celebrity. Whoever named the turtle Chonkosaurus had the right idea. We need more turtle celebrities.

6.    N.C. Gov. Cooper vetoed a 12-week abortion ban, setting up an override fight. The battles over reproductive rights are taking place at the State level, now, making for some scary showdowns. What a time.

7.    ‘New China Playbook’ has a different view than many Western policymakers do on China. I’m curious to learn more about different ways to approach relations with China. It seems like we have mutual interests and could be strong allies. China owns upwards of $4 trillion of our debt. We should work together.

8.    ‘New York Times’ publisher: journalism should be free of writers’ personal beliefs. I’m not sure how realistic that is as a goal, but certainly we need more accountability in journalism. There can be different kinds of reporting. Including verifiable facts is important, but sharing your opinion about a topic can also be insightful.

9.    How will the end of Title 42 impact the work of asylum and immigration judges? With the end of Title 42, we return to Title 8. This code is somewhat stricter in some regards. Title 42 was stronger in terms of denying access to more people, but it didn’t carry harsh penalties for trying to cross illegally. With Title 8, more people are allowed to enter seeking asylum, but they must qualify under strict conditions and there are more consequences for people who try and subvert the system.

10. 75 years ago: Israel’s triumph became a catastrophe for Palestinians. The 75th anniversary of the State of Israel marks the beginning of a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Palestine existed before Israel was created as a State, but the Palestinians were given two territories: Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The city of Jerusalem was named the capital of Israel in 2017. The city is on the border of the West Bank and is a site of much controversy.

11. Voters in Thailand have spoken — they want change. Even as we see human rights come into jeopardy in the U.S. with recent attacks on women’s reproductive rights, people in other countries such as Thailand are actively fighting for more rights.

12. Norfolk Southern continues to clean up from its February derailment in Ohio. What an absolute travesty. One only hopes that the lawsuits are forthcoming and that they will compensate the people who suffered because of this negligent act and that it will prevent more of them in the future.

13. Liam and Olivia were the most popular baby names in 2022. Olivia is my favorite name. It’s often the case that you name someone something cool and then a decade later it becomes wildly popular making it a common name. This was true with Jake. Liam is my good friend’s son’s name who is also 9 years old. What can you do? Good names are good names.

14. ‘Mattress Mack’ says his bets make furniture buying more interesting. This sounds pretty gross on a lot of levels. Gambling and buying furniture are not an ideal combination no matter how interesting it makes the process. When it comes to mattresses, you don’t want to roll the dice.

15. Final votes are being counted in Turkey’s closely watched presidential election. All eyes on Turkey as it looks like the current president will remain in power despite many predicting otherwise.

16. How would a federal debt default affect your retirement plans? This is for people who are invested, but it would probably affect most people negatively. It would put a lot of things in jeopardy.

17. Congress wants to regulate AI, but it has a lot of catching up to do. First, Congress needs to understand social media and the internet generally and then it can attempt to regulate AI. We will need new laws, and therefore we need media literate law makers.

18. Why hammerhead sharks ‘hold their breath’ in deeper, colder waters. Can all sharks hold their breath? Don’t they breathe underwater? Maybe the cold affects their respiratory system negatively.

4 May 2023 NPR’s Morning Edition: Jake’s Takes on the Tragic Condition of our Daily News

Some forms of trauma overwhelm most humans’ capacity to respond in a meaningful way. We are witnessing a period of history when the public has become overwhelmed by the trauma of tragedy, domestically and internationally. It has become our daily bread.

We must respond to these outcomes with adverse action. It is not a fight as much as it is an adventure in overcoming. The time is ripe to abandon selfish endeavors and to strive collectively to strengthen our bonds and to heal our mental conditions. Everyone who is able, now is your time to contribute to our common good. Justice is about the common good, not merely punishing those who hurt us. We can make things better. We just need to decide to apply ourselves in this noble pursuit.

What actions can we take to make things better? We are living in a culture of division, a time of distrust. The antidote to this poison is to create connections, to prove ourselves worthy of trust. We create our culture, and if we begin to speak and act with kindness and regard for other people, our goodness will overwhelm the evil we encounter. It will also make it appear more obvious who is for the common good and who is not.

1.    Unlikely connection: college students in Ukraine and the U.S. form a bond. This is such a divisive time in U.S. culture, and the question of what we should do in Ukraine is just one more example of how we cannot agree on anything. It is enough to make you question everything. How far into our echo chambers have be descended? I’m glad that U.S. college students are bonding with students from Ukraine, but I wish that we had a tighter bond here. People are shooting their neighbors for knocking on their door. The madness has to stop. What can address this level of mental unrest?

2.    There’s a toxic brew of mistrust toward U.S. institutions. It’s got real consequences. How can U.S. institutions regain the public’s trust? We have a cultural problem and it requires a cultural solution. There is no way to regain trust without communication. That’s what it is going to take and I hope that we start that process soon.

3.    Jurors weigh a verdict for 5 Proud Boys charged with seditious conspiracy. Being a traitor to the country is a serious charge because it is a serious crime. The January 6th event should have us united, but it doesn’t. People still think that Trump should be president. Maybe these charges will help to underline how toxic and anti-democratic their actions were, but I doubt it. They were attempting a coup. That’s what happens when democracies are unraveling. We have to take this issue seriously.

4.    A dying oak tree, older than Chicago’s founding, was recently cut down by the city. It’s pretty amazing that an oak tree could last that long, but it also reminds us how young our nation is. There are Redwoods that are four or five time older than the country. We are a young culture and we are still going through growing pains, but we have to get back to a more united position where we can choose a positive direction for all of us. That’s the only way a democracy can work.

5.    Serbia is in the midst of 3 days of national mourning after deadly school shooting. The fact that the entire country takes three days of mourning to deal with the aftermath of a school shooting shows just how different things are in this country. We have so many of them it is not even addressed on a national level. The White House will issue a statement, the press will cover the story, but there is no united action to do anything. We need to turn this thing around and make it more uncommon so that it is not normalized.

6.    John Legend knows the obstacles of life after prison. He wants you to know them too. I’m curious to know more about this. How does John Legend know about life after prison? What does he want to teach the public?

7.    Artificial Intelligence comes with risks. How can companies develop AI responsibly? At this point, it seems highly unlikely that we have any ability to control what happens with AI. It seems like we are left with home and maybe some shred of the ability to defend ourselves if things go wrong. AI is here and it is going to make some big changes in how we do things. Now is the time to adapt, not to consider responsible practices. It’s just like any other source of power: people will pursue it and we are going to have to learn how to protect ourselves from their malicious intent. I’m less worried about AI than I am the people who intend to use it for their personal gain.

8.    Post-pandemic, even hospital care goes remote. Some of the changes made during the pandemic can be seen as good. The switch to remote services may be one of them. Sometimes it is cost prohibitive to show up in person.

9.    As the U.K. preps for Charles’ coronation, what do Britons think of their new king?. It’s been a long time since the U.K. has had a king. I believe that we make a lot out of this kind of thing without much merit. The era of kings has long since passed, and this is a throwback, a cultural regression to an earlier period of history in the west.

10. Michelle Obama launches a food company aimed at healthier choices for kids. This is something that is very badly needed in our culture, but it is also somewhat tricky. Kids are very particular about what they will eat, but the attempt to get them healthier options is a noble one to say the least.

11. The longer fighting goes on in Sudan, the greater the humanitarian catastrophe. When we think about war or fighting we generally measure the casualties and the collateral deaths, but we don’t think about the effect on the economy or the mental health of the population as much. Sudan is undergoing a tragic event and the fighting has caused the hospitals to all but stop their care. It is a scary time for the Sudanese, and let’s hope that this situation resolves sooner than later.

12. Montana judge denies state Rep. Zooey Zephyr’s bid to return to the House floor. It is unfortunately not the biggest surprise to read that Montana is discriminating against their first trans representative. The results of this kind of blatant prejudicial behavior is sure to cause damage and to inflame the issue further.

13. University of Florida is giving an honorary doctorate in music to the late Tom Petty. It might seem kind of futile to bestow a degree upon someone who is deceased, but it sets the example for other musicians. Young people are shown that if they contribute meaningfully to our culture, they will be recognized for their efforts, and this is a good thing.

14. Russia says Ukraine tried to attack the Kremlin in an attempt to assassinate Putin. Who knows if this is true or not, but when a country invades another country assassination seems a high probability. Putin is the person responsible for the attack on Ukraine, so of course they want him dead. The only reason this is a story is because Putin has nuclear weapons at his disposal. That might have been their only chance to stop him.

15. Propublica finds more ties between Justice Thomas and billionaire Harlan Crow. Clarence Thomas has been a national embarrassment since the time of his hearings to be admitted to the Supreme Court. He was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill who testified that Thomas would make sexual statements in the workplace that were offensive and overtly suggestive. Is it any wonder that this man has been using his position of power to enrich himself at the expense of his disinterestedness? Harlan Crow has been playing Thomas like a fiddle for two decades. We need a code of ethics for the Supreme Court, immediately.

16. Even with another cease-fire in Sudan, prospects for peace aren’t bright. Where is the aid for Sudan? We should be doing everything we can to support the people suffering the consequences of this conflict. A cease-fire at least allows the civilians to make some moves to protect themselves. Let’s hope that they are successful in their attempts to find asylum.

17. A suspect in an Atlanta shooting, which killed 1 and injured 4, is in custody. The evolution of shootings in this country is beyond disturbing. There are too many to keep track of and it is exhausting and mind numbing to continue learning about them without any action being taken in response. Every time one of these tragedies happens, we should respond with an absolute outcry and a demand for change. Only when we overwhelm with our voice, will change begin to happen.

Monday’s Morning Edition, May Day 2023: Jake’s Takes

1.    Tracking the impact of U.S.-China tensions on global financial institutions. China and the U.S. are very different countries. The main thing that makes us comparable is power. China is the world’s largest country by population, and it is a country with nuclear weapons and an ancient history. The U.S. is a modern nation with the 3rd largest population in the world and nuclear weapons. China owns a great deal of our debt. They are the big bank backing our moves, so it is in our mutual best interest that things go well for both of us. We could be a powerful alliance if the politics allow it.

2.    At Biden-Marcos meeting, China is expected to be at the top of the agenda. Following up on the last article, this is about a meeting between the president of the U.S. and the president of the Philippines. China has been acting against a Philippine boat, and we have military bases in the Philippines.

3.    Experts say don’t wait for interest rates to drop before you buy a house. This is because the value of the housing market is rising faster than the interest rates, I think. The thing about compound investment is that time is the factor that matters most. The rates also do matter, but they are less consequential than time.

4.    Simon Abney-Hastings, 15th Earl of Loudoun, may have a claim to the British throne. This epitomizes the problem with the royal system. There is nothing substantial about the seat of power. It is all based upon a belief in legitimacy and has zero to do with ability. This is why Shakespeare made fun of aristocrats so much in his work. People in the British system of rule often have more power than they do ability. To have an inept royal was part of the process, and the entire nation could suffer because of that unlucky circumstance.

5.    Strike looms as the contract between Hollywood writers and studios is set to expire. Hollywood has not had the best track record of good writing in the past decade as the shift to big budget franchise films has taken over. Hollywood will have to undergo a radical transformation to become anywhere near as powerful as it was in the past. The writers are the key to the future of this industry.

6.    ‘A tragedy that makes you laugh’: HBO’s ‘White House Plumbers’ revisits Watergate. Woody Harrelson stars in this tragicomedy about a shameful period in U.S. political history. Nixon is one of the worst presidents we have ever had, second only to Trump in the last fifty years. The absurd reality of a racist and lying president leading the nation into a horrific war only to be found out as a cheater and a criminal is a genre-bending narrative before a writer even picks it up to tell the story.

7.    JPMorgan Chase to take over deposits and most of the assets of First Republic Bank. The banking system is a scary sector of our economy. So much of how things work depend upon the faith in these institutions. There is nothing real backing our dollar or our debts. The only real thing we have is our military, but other countries also possess nuclear weapons. Is this the real unraveling of U.S. power, or is it just a part of the process of moving towards the next era?

8.    Comparing college costs to the amount a student expects to earn after graduation. The question of student debt is going to be back on the agenda very soon. People are unhappy with the current state of things regarding exactly this question: what is the use of a college education if it only leads most students into debt? Lifelong student debt is a crippling problem to deal with in our culture for 40 million people. That’s a huge chunk of the population, and we have to do something to free up that wasted energy, to turn around the disaffection of those who followed a path that painted false expectations.

9.    Rabbits are rescued from floodwaters on San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge. We are now in a constant state of environmental catastrophe. There may be moments of respite, but nothing is stable for long. Between the floods and the fires there is only a small window when we can regroup and act. Otherwise, we will be forced into a pattern of reaction against the worst effects of the changes. Either we determine to get serious about making change, or we become victims of the changes that are coming.

10. ‘I’ll lose my family.’ A husband’s dread during an abortion ordeal in Oklahoma. National debates about rights can often become abstract notions, but the lived effects of those policy changes can be devastating to people’s lives. We are in a moment when things are as tense as they have ever been for the question of women’s rights to control their own reproductive capacity. Abortion is a tool that has a tragic side to it, and I can empathize with people who are in the position to make that decision. I really do not see why it has become a mission of the religious evangelicals in this country. We have a Puritan past, and it is creeping up on the present again.

11. Some 1,000 Americans have been evacuated from Sudan. The evacuation of U.S. citizens from Sudan can only mean one thing: the people of Sudan are about to experience horrific fighting. One wonders what triggered the ceasefire that allowed Americans to safely leave the region, but it is obvious that things are about to get very intense, and it is tragic to observe.

12. Hollywood film and TV writers prepare to strike when their contract expires. Without good writing, the shows that the U.S. produces do not stand a chance of gaining traction. We have lost our way in a world glued to phones and spectacles recorded daily. Mass shootings are more common than good movies.

13. Prom season is here and high school students need to pick their ride. As the nation’s mental health is collectively at an all-time low, it is important for there to be some sense of normalcy. Change that lasts must happen by degree, and it is helpful to keep some positive traditions alive even while other things seem turbulently out of control. The high school prom is one of those traditions, and it is fun to see this celebration of the transition to adulthood happening around the nation. It is one of our few rites of passages that helps young people to reflect on the end of their childhood as they enter a world that demands a lot of mature action from them.

14. Digital news sites fight to survive as online ad dollars dry up. We are in a state of crisis for journalism, which is the lifeblood of a democracy. If voting is the most important thing that people can do to keep a democratic society for the people, those votes in turn depend upon an educated public. Without reliable journalism, this is impossible. I am a huge fan of NPR, as I believe they do the best job at covering important stories that can educate our public without resorting to the kinds of sensationalism that characterize other mainstream platforms. This is hugely concerning, however, as NPR is in no way immune from the economic realities of our day.

15. Troubled First Republic Bank is bought by JPMorgan Chase after FDIC takeover. The banking crisis is unfolding slowly thanks to federal intervention, but this is a very important story to follow, as the economy depends upon reliable banking. Without saving and loans, business as we know it will be radically altered.

16. Supreme Court justices need a strong code of ethics, Sen. Hirono says. This is the understatement of the day. The Supreme Court has more influence and power than any other judicial body in our nation, but they have no code of ethics. This means that the justices can be influenced with expensive gifts without penalty. If there was ever a situation more open to corruption than that, let Clarence Thomas know.

17. Met Gala celebrates fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld, who died in 2019. The Met Gala seems like one of those events I would love to attend. It is when the art and fashion worlds collide, and things get super weird. I want to go to at least one in the next decade. It will be interesting to reflect on the design career of Lagerfeld as the Met prepares this momentous event.

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.