The Viral Storm

October 31st, 2011

At no time in human history have we been better at fighting disease. Yet modern life has also made us so much more vulnerable to the threat of global pandemic. The speed of human travel and interaction, in short globalization, makes it imperative that we stay focused of where the next disease or pandemic might come from. For disease too has also become globalized.

No one is more on top this issue than Dr. Nathan Wolfe, who has been referred to as the "Indiana Jones of virus hunters." In fact, Wolfe is a Professor in Human Biology at Stanford, the founder and CEO of Global Viral Forecasting, with degrees from Stanford and Harvard the author of The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age and was named recently as one of Time magazines' 100 Most Influential People in the World. My conversation with Nathan Wolfe:

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Next time you use your credit card online…..

October 28th, 2011

The benefits of living in a digital, globalized society are enormous; so too are the dangers. Governments and the private sector are losing billions of dollars each year, fighting an ever-morphing, often invisible, often super-smart new breed of criminal: the hacker. Misha Glenny's fascinating new book, DarkMarket: Cyberthieves, Cybercops and You, explores the three fundamental threats facing us in the 21st century: cyber crime, cyber warfare and cyber industrial espionage. My conversation with Misha Glenny:

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Our not so great socieity

October 27th, 2011

Many have spoken of the structural problems we face in our economy and in our democracy. Individually, our broken financial system, the power of money in politics, our failure to meet the global challenge of 21st century education, and our decaying infrastructure are all very real problems. But collectively what do these problems, and the degree to which they have been neglected for so long, tell us about our society, our values and and what it means to be a citizen of this country?

Have we in fact reached a tipping point where failure to address these issues will will result in what Tom Friedman calls a very bad century for America. This is the starting point for The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and ProsperityJeffrey Sachs' sweeping look at the state of our not so great society. My conversation with Jeffrey Sachs

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Karachi: Instant City

October 26th, 2011

With the rapid 21st Century growth of globalization, we've witnessed one of the great migrations of history. Millions of people have moved from rural areas to the cities of the developing world. These cities, some of which didn't even exist twenty years ago, have populations in the millions. In China, for example, there are cities of 10 million people; cities that we don't even know the name of.

The growth of these so called "instant cites" has provided great opportunity, but they also pose enormous challenges, problems and risks. One such city is Karachi in Pakistan. A city that sits not only in a center of development, but also straddles the geopolitical fault lines of its region.

The co-host of NPR's Morning Edition, Steve Inskeep, has been traveling to Karachi since 2002 and has witnessed its growth up close and personal. In his first book, Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi, he takes us inside Karachi as a model of this migration that is changing the world. My conversation with Steve Inskeep:

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Can we keep our Republic?

October 25th, 2011

We all seem to agree that our political system, in fact our democracy, is broken. But what does that mean? How did this happen, what's at it's core and what, if anything, can we do about it? To begin we need to heed the dictum of Woodward and Bernstein's famous Deep Throat, who said "follow the money." This is the lesson that famed lawyer and internet advocate Lawrence Lessig tries to teach us in his new book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It. Lessig goes to heart of what's fueling the current "occupy" movement and what they might do to achieve real success. My conversation with Lawrence Lessig:

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Violence really is diminishing

October 24th, 2011

The seemingly endless stream of news about war, crime, and terrorism, might make us believe we live in the most violent age ever. But Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology at Harvard, explains that just the opposite is true: violence has been diminishing for millennia and continues to diminish, even in our modern times. In The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined he looks at human nature, psychology, and history to explain how this has happened. My conversation with Steven Pinker:

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Change your mind, change the world

October 18th, 2011

Yeats wrote of a time when "the best lacked all conviction, while the worst were full of passionate intensity." He might have been writing about today as it’s true that "the falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."

How then do we get out of this, how do we begin to move on? The answer can perhaps best be found in that old saying, that the only way to predict the future is to create it. That is exactly what Frances Moore Lappe is suggesting in her new work EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want. My conversation with Frances Moore Lappe:

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Michigan comes back…

October 17th, 2011

When our founders set up a federal system, one of their goals was to allow the States to be laboratories of policy, to find what worked and what didn't and then use that in shaping our national policy. As we look out at the landscape of all the problem we face today; globalization, the onset and impact of technology, the need to improve education and infrastructure, all of these problems seem to happen first in Michigan.

While there were some who wanted Michigan and Detroit to go bankrupt, rather than get a bail out for the auto industry, Michigan and Detroit preserved. This was in some measure, through the efforts of their two term Governor Jennifer Granholm

Today, Detroit is experiencing a kind of renascence, that even goes beyond the Tigers and Lions. Detroit today is becoming a city of what Richard Florida calls the Creative Class, with even a Whole Foods opening in downtown Detroit. How did this happen and what can we all learn from Detroit's  and Michigan's experience? Governor Jennifer Granholm explains in her new book A Governor's Story: The Fight for Jobs and America's Economic Future. My conversation with Gov. Jennifer Granholm:

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Forget what you think you know about Jonestown

October 13th, 2011

Occasionally there are events, that even 33 years latter, we remember as if they were yesterday.   When this happens, its usually because of both the enormity of the event, as well as some deeper resonance inherent in that event itself.

Such was the massacre of one thousand people in Jonestown on November 18, 1978. What perplexes us to this day is both how so many people, from diverse backgrounds, could be taken in by one demagogue and how could that man who was once the darling of San Francisco in the early ‘70s and a human rights activist, become so deranged. In understanding this perhaps we’ll have a keener insight into both the human need to belong and into individual psychopathology

With the benefit of 50,000 pages of recently declassified documents, Julia Scheeres takes us back to that fateful time in A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown. My conversation with Julia Scheeres:

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Ariel Dorfman speaks of Revolution, Hope and Reconciliation

October 11th, 2011

We all view the world from our own personal experience. For most of us that means we understand September 11th to mean one particular thing. For Ariel Dorfman, September 11th was in 1973 and represents a day that his dream was also deferred. But it was a different dream; that of a free and democratic Chile, which would begin to end on that day. Subsequent events would ultimately lead him into exile and into a 17 year search to define himself, define what it means to be human and what compassion courage and reconciliation are really all about.

Dorfman takes us with him on that journey in his new memoir Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile My conversation with Ariel Dorfman:

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She could have been a heartbeat from the Presidency

October 10th, 2011

In 1968 a 26 year old reporter by the name of Joe McGinniss wrote a book that took us inside the Nixon campaign and in so doing, redefined how we viewed politics and the media. As Theodore White did in 1960, McGinniss redefined the genre of long-form political journalism. Since then, he has continued to push the bounders of journalism, from the case of Jeffery MacDonald to the veracity of Janet Malcolm.

Today, he's taken on a subject that frankly most journalists have been afraid of, trying to find the real Sara Palin. It's amazing really, that after years in public life, no other reporter has gotten anywhere near as close to the Wasilla that McGinniss explores. He did so by practicing one of the oldest rules of journalism; go there! In going to Alaska to seek out the real Palin, he would find a life that is trashy, cheap and ignorant and in many ways genuinely American.  In Alaska he would find The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin. My conversation with Joe McGinniss:

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That Used To Be US

October 6th, 2011

Some say that America's best days are behind it. That Americans have become to resistant to change, that the ethos of personal sacrifice that helped grow our nation, has become a thing of the past, that we are at an inflection point in which the values and tools of 21st century success belong to others. In short, that the American century is over.

However, the facts can be marshaled to make a very different case. A case that says that the same values and tools that made us great; immigration, creative destruction, quality infrastructure and world class education, are exactly the tools we need for the future. We don’t need new tools, we simply have to reinvent and reinvigorate the old ones to work for a new globalized, hyper-connected century.

This is the underlying idea behind a NY Times columnist Tom Friedman and Johns Hopkins Professor Michael Mandelbaum's new book That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. My conversation with Michael Mandelbaum:

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Science and what is really true.

October 5th, 2011

Today, more than ever, we seem to have lost our appreciation for science, for reality, for facts. It should be no surprise, since from our earliest years we learn how to suspend disbelief, to embrace myth and fantasy and then it's only one step away to be captured by religious hogwash. In fact, the real story of science and evolution is far and away the more exciting narrative, yet it continues to fight for its rightful place in the pantheon of ideas. Few have fought this battle more passionately than Richard Dawkins.

His new book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True, is a testament to the power of scientific narrative to tell us what is really true. My conversation with Richard Dawkins

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The trials of Amanda Knox

October 4th, 2011

When you take a twenty year old American student, living alone in Italy; add in her Italian boyfriend, a brutal, sexually charged murder and an overreaching Italian prosecutor, all set amidst the fantasy like small, hillside town of Perugia, it's no wonder it would produce a case that would become an international sensation.

The case of Amanda Knox captured not only America's attention but the worlds. Did this case warrant such attention, or did the tabloid media simply create the case and its charged atmosphere? Finally, did the case of Amanda Knox really become the first globalized “Trail of the Century?”   Award winning journalist Nina Burleigh takes us inside the case in The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox My conversation with Nina Burleigh:

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