In Praise of Adoption

September 28th, 2010

The subject of adoption has, for too long, been something we've had trouble talking about. While the rate of adoption has been declining here, the acceptance of family diversity has been on the rise. International adoptions are transforming American families, and yet special challenges abound.

NPR's Scott Simon has written a powerful new book on the subject of adoptions. Part memoir, part love story, part public policy treatise, Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption is a gift to the 1.5 million adoped childen in the U.S. whose bond with their adopted parents is ever bit as powerful as those with birth parents. My conversation with Scott Simon:

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The Christian Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy

September 27th, 2010

In his previous book The Family, Jeff Sharlet examined a powerful, secretive group in Washington, D.C spawning a new kind of unaccountable and elitist fundamentalism. Now, in his new book C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy,  Sharlet investigates and writes about a group of Republican politicians who are affiliated with the The Family. They are some of the most powerful members of Congress and they have, until recently, been cloaked in respectability. This group, driven by moral corruption and piety, represents a kind of fundamentalism on steroids that they are trying to use to reshape American politics, the military and foreign policy; all without any democratic accountability. My conversation with Jeff Sharlet:

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Money and the decline of America’s global leadership

September 24th, 2010

Clearly America's role in the world is changing. The American Century, declared by Henry Luce, seventy years ago, may have long since reached its apex. Many view this as a positive sign of humility and a refreshing lack of nationalistic hubris. We also hear much about our growing national debt, caused in large measure by the military expansionism of the past 9 years. Remember, Bill Clinton left us with a surplus back in 2000.

The question now is how are these two ideas related. How is American foreign policy and our role in the world, being shaped or influenced by our economic limitations and is that a good or a bad development?  In his latest work, The Frugal Superpower: America's Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era, Professor Michael Mandelbaum, one of our most astute foreign policy thinkers, takes on these dual questions and what they mean for the future of global leadership. My conversation with Michael Mandelbaum:

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America’s Great Migration

September 22nd, 2010

Every so often a books comes along that reminds us of why narrative history matters. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson has given us such a book in The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. She gives us a deeply personal tale of one of the great underreported stories of the 20th century: the migration of African-Americans from the Jim Crow South to the cities of the North, West and Midwest. To understand this story is to finally come to grips with race, power, politics, religion and class in our contemporary society. My conversation with Isabel Wilkerson:

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Somebody Else’s Century

September 21st, 2010

T.S. Eliot wrote that "we shall not cease from exploration and  the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began...and know that place again for the first time."

And so it is that in this new century as we are compelled to interact more with the East, with China, with Japan and with India, perhaps it will better enable us to understand our own limitations and see ourselves in a global rather than a provincial context. In so doing, we might also redefine both the importance of history, coupled with our ongoing urge to be modern. Author and journalist Patrick Smith in his new work Somebody Else's Century: East and West in a Post-Western World, delves with extraordinary depth, into what it means to maintain ones true and unique identity and culture, amidst the onslaught of Western modernity. My conversation with Patrick Smith:

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Share and Share Alike

September 20th, 2010
 

From our earliest days of pre-school and kindergarten we learn the importance of sharing. Yet somehow, along the way, sharing is replaced by "mine." Ownership and consumption finally rule the day. Even through our recent period of hyper-consumption we still checked books out of the library, we rented video, used Netflix and shopped on Ebay. Arguably, all of these things are forerunners of a whole new collaborative way of looking at our culture.

Former Clinton Foundation board member and Oxford and Harvard educated consultant Rachel Botsman, in her book What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, looks at revolutions in what she call Collaborate Consumption. My conversation with Rachel Botsman:

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Designer Genes

September 18th, 2010

Last week, on the program, we talked about the ability to sequence your own genome and what that might mean for the future understanding of our own health. Now we are going to look further into the future, at how cutting edge genetic science may literally allow us to speed up and transform our own evolution. In a matter of just a few years we may be able to improve ourselves and our children, duplicate ourselves, improve our genes, in short, to personally guide our genetic destiny.

However this does not come without serious ethical, moral and cultural choices. What was once the realm of science fiction, now must be a real part of our national debate. Dr. Steven Potter, in his new book Designer Genes: A New Era in the Evolution of Man takes us to the outer limits of that debate and what might soon be possible. My conversation with Steven Potter:

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Your own genome for $1000

September 15th, 2010

Imagine the possibility of having a complete picture of your genes. You would know any predisposition for disease, drugs could be created for you and you alone. Your unique genome would be a part of your medical records, just like your blood pressure or cholesterol level. And what if you could do all of this for $1,000 or less?

This is the brave new world that could be just around the corner. But like any advance in medicine it comes with its own set of side effects. Some medical, some ethical and some psychological. Science writer Dr. Kevin Davies takes us deep into this new era of personalized medicine in his new book The $1,000 Genome: The Revolution in DNA Sequencing and the New Era of Personalized Medicine. My conversation with Kevin Davies:

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Why is there something?

September 10th, 2010

It's one of the most fundamental, yet controversial questions of our time, or of any time. How did the universe begin? Where did the universe come from and what are the laws of nature that govern the universe? The worlds most esteemed physicist, Stephen Hawking once said that "if we understood all the forces that created the universe, we'd understand the mind of God."

Now Hawking and his co-author Leonard Mlodinow have changed that view. They believe that the universe could indeed have created itself from nothing and that surely means that perhaps other universes were formed before the Big Bang and that others still exist.  All of this mind bending physics is the essence of a new book by Mlodinow and Hawking, The Grand Design. My conversation with Leonard Mlodinow:

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Why Margaret Thatcher matters

September 7th, 2010

The US has long shared a very special and sometimes symbiotic relationship with Great Britain. Tony Blair, in his new memoir, talks of his close personal relationship with Bill Clinton and his more macabre relationship with George W. Bush. In the 1980's, the policies of US were in fact, shaped in some measure by the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Reagan's infatuation with Thatcher and her ideas, would shape the US and the world for years to come. Margaret Thatcher was both a pivotal and polarizing leader. She inherited a country that was severely broken and reshaped it in her image. Claire Berlinski, in her new biography, There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters, gives us an insightful portrait of Thatcher, her ideas, and her influence. My conversation with Claire Berlinski:

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The truth, the whole truth and nothng but….

September 2nd, 2010

The brilliance of language is that it both enables us to communicate effortlessness, transport ideas and create poetry. Yet at the same time it can be used for the basest kind of lies and deception. How do we know which is which and when we are bing lied to as well as when we create our own "tangled web?" Truth detection expert Pamela Meyer, in her new book Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, gives us a chance to change the odds in our favor in our pursuit of truth. My conversation with Pamela Meyer:

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