Monthly Archives: May 2001

Law & Pop Culture

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Even if you’ve never been booked, sat on a jury, or covered the Supreme Court, chances are you know a thing or two about the way our legal system works.

You might know some lingo. Perp, Vic, M-O. You probably even know what the fourth amendment says, search and seizure and all that. And if you’re one of the millions of American television viewers who’ve made “the law” television’s hottest genre this side of Survivor, chances are your informal legal training has come courtesy of prime time.

From the reality strife of Court TV to the ripped-from-the-headlines verisimilitude of Law & Order, America’s criminal justice system and the attorneys who make it go are the staples, and stars, of our entertainment diets. So, anyone up for jury duty? Hah.
(Hosted by Nina Totenberg)


Steve Brill, founder Court TV and Brill’s Content, CEO Media Central

Dick Wolf, Creator, Law & Order;

Barry Schindel, Executive Producer, Law & Order;

Martha Cokely, Middlesex District Attorney

Redefining Middle Age

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Middle Age. The biological Purgatory, where you learn which sins of your youth will enfeeble your bones, hump your back, and clog your arteries in the coming years.

Middle Age, when you struggle to remain hip, before your hips need replacing. Middle Age. The period of life when you do everything, everything you can to stave off old age from happening to you. But it does and it will. In the mean time, and baby boomers I’m talking to you, how can you take middle age, stretch it out and savor it? Forget hot flashes and declining libido, loss of energy and mandatory retirement.

Who cares about being old and wise anyway? Take your estrogen, pop your viagra, fill up on testosterone, we’re going to make middle age last forever.
(Hosted by Nina Totenberg)


Dr. Nananda Col, physician and researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Professor of Human Development at Pennsylvania State University, editor of “Life in the Middle”;

Dr. Tamara Harris, Chief of Geriatric Epidemiology at the National Institute on Aging

and Dr. Sherri Willis, professor of human development at Pennsylvania State University and editor of “Life in the Middle: Psychological and Social Development in Middle Age.”


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OK, it’s recess time. There’s a substitute teacher and you’re ready for a good game of dodgeball!

Good luck. Dodgeball itself is getting clobbered these days, in school districts from Maine to Maryland and Texas to Utah. Why? Because in the eyes of some, this venerable game in which two groups of kids hurl big rubber balls at each other, this staple of gym class for generations, is too violent. It uses “human targets,” and it’s hard on the self-esteem of those who are hit and eliminated and sent to the sidelines.

So what’s next? Is track too tough for the slow? Hopscotch harsh on the uncoordinated? In this post-Columbine world, a lot of people say the games children play determine the people they’ll be. The dodgeball dilemma, the serious business of child’s play.
(Hosted by Nina Totenberg)


Rick Reilly, columnist, Sports Illustrated

MaryEllen Schaper, physical education teacher, Hollis, Maine

David Villandry, physical education teacher, Cambridge, MA

Robert Coles, professor of education, Harvard University

Diane Levin, professor of education, Wheelock College, and author, “Remote Control Childhood.”

International Human Rights

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What does the phrase “human rights” mean to you?

Most likely you think of Argentina and the thousands of disappeared; the terrifying atrocities in Rwanda, or tortue in El Salvador. But international human rights advocates want to bring their causes home to you. For one thing, they say human rights abuses aren’t just happening in some benighted corner of the Sudan, they are occurring in American prisons not far from where you live. Furthermore, they make the case that human rights abuses in countries like Indonesia can affect your pension plan, and overcrowded Russian jails are breeding tuberculosis germs that have already disembarked here in America.

But are they right? The Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association have more members than Amnesty International, because Americans tend to worry about America first. Making the case for compassion, at home and abroad.
(Hosted by Nina Totenberg)


Robert F. Drinan, S.J., author of “The Mobilization of Shame: A Worldview of Human Rights”

William F. Schulz, executive Director of Amnesty International, author of “In Our Own Best Interest: How Human Rights Benefits us All”

Richard Newman, research officer at the WEB Dubois Institute in Boston.

Bring on the Blockbusters

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The summer movie season is here. Finally.

Full of pathos and big explosions, the list of blockbusters is already being attacked as short on creativity and long on bombast. But it’s summer time, and we’d expect nothing more from our Hollywood heroes of escapism. From Jurassic Park Three to Doctor Doolittle Two, it’s been dubbed “the summer of the sequel” but we’ve heard that one before.
(Hosted by Nina Totenberg)


Peter Keogh, film critic, Boston Phoenix;

Jim Verniere, film critic, Boston Herald

A Portrait of Dick Cheney

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If you ask 100 Americans today who calls the shots in the White House, a recent poll suggests 43 of them would say it’s not George W. Bush.

And chances are they’d have Vice President Dick Cheney on the brain. Richard Bruce Cheney, the quiet man from Wyoming. The Congressman who flunked out of Yale. Later, the budding political scientist on a protest-ridden 1960’s Wisconsin campus. The Secretary of Defense during the Gulf War, The oil executive. Cheney has worn many hats, but what his time in the White House shows so far is that he’s a well-connected, deft and powerful hand. He’s taken on the so-called “energy crisis.” He’s set up four, yes four, offices from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill.

The list of administrative appointees is redolent with people closely linked to the Veep. We’re looking at the man some call the wizard behind the curtain, or the American Prime Minister. The redefining of Number Two, Dick Cheney, here.
(Hosted by Nina Totenberg)


Nicholas Lemann, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of a recent piece on Cheney

former US Senator from Wyoming Alan Simpson

Pat Towell, senior writer at the Congressional Quarterly.

Memorial Day

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It’s almost Memorial Day again.

We’ll fire up the barbeque, take in a movie, and maybe, just maybe, find a moment to remember those who died in America’s wars. We’re sliding steadily out of range of the greatest generation, the WW2 veterans who will burst again onto the silver screen tonight with the opening of Pearl Harbor. But ever since the so-called “good war” the act of remembering our dead has become more complicated, our emotions more ambivalent.

Memorial Day was created after the Civil War, a solemn day to mourn and recognize blood sacrifice. If, as historian Stephen Ambrose says, the way we remember our heroes says everything about who we are, then who are we today?
(Hosted by Tom Ashbrook)


Howard Zinn, World War II veteran

David Blight, professor of History and Black Studies at Amherst College

Bill Jane, from the Veterans Administration, and Viet Nam veteran

Steve Gillon, History Channel historian and host of “History vs. Hollywood.”

Nuclear Future

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When it comes to energy, it’s a game of truth or consequences in Washington DC these days.

President Bush envisions a brave new energy era. A day when rolling blackouts and American dependence on foreign oil are the stuff of legends, like stories about walking to school five miles uphill in a snowstorm. But for every proposed initiative, new drilling in the Arctic or offshore, there’s an environmental price to pay. Coal and gas power plants contribute to the greenhouse effect and solar panel production pollutes too.

But when the energy source in question is nuclear, evidence abounds. 42,000 metric tons’ worth already, in the form of nuclear waste. Even if new plant designs are cleaner, safer, and more efficient, what about the waste?
(Hosted by Tom Ashbrook)


Allison Macfarlane, senior research associate, security studies program, MIT

Robert Loux, executive director, Agency for Nuclear Projects, Governor’s Office, State of Nevada;

Eileen Suptko, nuclear engineer, Energy Resources International.

The Great Chief Justice

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Chief Justice John Marshall may be the one major legal figure both liberals and conservatives agree on.

He’s considered the person most responsible for defining our Constiutional democracy. During his 35-year tenure on the court, five presidents came and went, but Marshall remained, transforming the Court from a weak, fledgling body into a powerful, and independent third branch of government. Two hundred years later, his vision still guides our system of justice.

Marshall was a born leader, in Washington’s army during the Revolution, in the fight for ratification of the Constitution, and on the Supreme Court. Judicious, respected, convivial and charismatic, he’s less known in the current popular culture than other founding fathers, but his mark on our country’s history is indelible.
(Hosted by Nina Totenberg)


Professor Jean Edward Smith – John Marshall Professor of Political Science at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, and author of “John Marshall: Definer of a Nation.”

Jeffords and the Balance of Power

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The scales are tipping on Capitol Hill.

Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords has departed the Grand Old Party to caucus with the Democrats, giving the donkeys a majority in the Senate. It’s a move that re-draws the landscape on upcoming legislation, on court appointments, and on George W. Bush’s power to push his agenda on Capitol Hill. So, did Jim Jeffords leave the Republican party, or did the party, and the White House, leave him? It’s a chapter in the ever evolving story of political parties in America.

Parties used to be pretty big tents. But today, Republicans and Democrats are increasingly defined along ideological lines, and the moderates, especially on the GOP side of the aisle, are struggling to stay alive. Meanwhile the courting of crossovers continues.
(Hosted by Nina Totenberg)


Sam Hemingway, state news columnist for the Burlington Free Press

Charles Stewart, MIT political science professor

Lowell Weicker, former senator and Connecticut governor

Rick Davis, former campaign manager for John McCain

NPR’s correspondent Steve Inskeep, who has been covering Congress.