WBEZ | Author Interviews http://www.wbez.org/tags/author-interviews Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en YouTube mortician is a living, breathing FAQ on death http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2014-10-30/youtube-mortician-living-breathing-faq-death-111024 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/caitlin doughty.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Caitlin Doughty is the host of the popular YouTube series <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/OrderoftheGoodDeath" target="_blank"><em>Ask a Mortician</em></a> and author of a new memoir:&nbsp;<em>Smoke Gets in Your Eyes &amp; Other Lessons from the Crematory</em>. She&rsquo;s also founder of the group of funeral professionals called <a href="https://orderofthegooddeath.com" target="_blank">The Order of the Good Death</a>.<br />She joined Afternoon Shift host Niala Boodhoo for Tech Shift as part of our <a href="https://soundcloud.com/techshift/sets/death-in-the-digital-age" target="_blank">week of conversations</a> about the relationship between death and the digital realm.</p><p>Doughty will speak at at <a href="http://packergallery.com/press/oct31.html" target="_blank">Packer Schopf Gallery in the West Loop on Oct. 31</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Why did you start making the <em>Ask a Mortician</em> YouTube videos?</strong></p><p>I was working at a funeral home in Los Angeles and the vice president was making question and answer videos for the company. And they were so bad. Like you could see her get up at the end to turn the camera off. I was watching them and just thinking &#39;I know I could do better than this.&#39; I had already started this group called The Order of the Good Death trying to bring conversations about mortality back into culture and starting a web series was just one more shot in the dark to see if we could get the conversation started.</p><p><strong>Were you surprised at how popular<em> Ask a Mortician</em> has been?</strong></p><p>Yes and no. There&rsquo;s not really anything else like it. It&rsquo;s not like makeup videos or science videos where there&rsquo;s a precedent. But at the same time, I know what it&rsquo;s like at cocktail parties. I know what it&rsquo;s like at family reunions. People have thousands of questions.</p><p><strong>Sometimes online learning it gets criticized as being impersonal. But when it comes to something like death, does distance help because people are so uncomfortable asking about it?</strong></p><p>Actually what I&rsquo;ve found is I can make one video and it will have 30 times the impact as a single blog post because with death I think people want a friendly face. They want someone saying &lsquo;Hey! I know we&rsquo;re talking about decomposition, and that&rsquo;s super freaky, but I&rsquo;m a friendly person who can calmly handle it and give you a scientific but also kind of humorous answer.&#39; The people factor is I think what&rsquo;s made it successful.</p><p><strong>You mention in <em>Smoke Gets in Your Eyes</em> that people can now handle funeral arrangements from death to the arrival of an urn completely online. How do you feel about that?</strong></p><p>I&rsquo;m not pro that. I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s stoppable now that it&rsquo;s started. It&rsquo;s going to continue growing in popularity. Someone can call from a hospital, or type information in online, have it faxed to a funeral home, never speak to a funeral home employee at all, and then the ashes are delivered by the U.S. Postal Service two weeks later. So you never see the body. Never talk to a living person. And then it&rsquo;s just these intangible ashes that come at the end. I don&rsquo;t know if that&rsquo;s really how human beings have evolved to handle death. And just taking death entirely out of our culture doesn&rsquo;t seem like that healthy of an option to me.</p><p><strong>You studied medieval history at the University of Chicago. There is certainly less mystery now about how people die, but as you said there&rsquo;s also this more impersonal relationship with the dead. Do you think advancements in medical science have made us more or less afraid of death than societies were in the past?</strong></p><p>That&rsquo;s the interesting paradox. Because on one hand, in the Middle Ages, you had no idea what blood did. You thought that it was the four humors and flem and bile that were where sickness came from. They did dissections on dogs to study human anatomy. We had virtually no idea how the human body actually worked. Yet, we had dead bodies and death around us all the time. People died in their homes, and then you would bury them in the churchyard or in the church itself. So there would be bodies under the floorboards, in the walls, in the rafters. So you didn&rsquo;t have the opportunity not to be comfortable with death.&nbsp;</p><p>And now it&rsquo;s almost the exact reverse of that. We have all of these intimate understandings of how the body works and how it might stop and how we might fix it. But when it comes to death, we don&rsquo;t see the body. We don&rsquo;t interact with it. And really even dying has been taken out of the home as well. I think that&rsquo;s something we&rsquo;re struggling with now.</p><p><strong>How has technology changed the way the funeral business works?</strong></p><p>If it makes more sense to drive your Prius to the family&rsquo;s home with your iPad to do the death certificate like that instead of them coming to an old, traditional funeral home, that can make some families feel a lot better. But at the same time we don&rsquo;t want technology to overpower the interactive experience of mourning and grief and all the options a family has to be there for some kind of ritual and some kind of performative mourning.&nbsp;</p><p>Also, crematories and embalming facilities now are largely centralized. Bodies are taken to all one location as opposed to the idea of the mom and pop funeral home where the body is there the whole time. And then also there&rsquo;s the idea that people want to know more about death and have access to that through the Internet. Whereas before the funeral industry could get away with all manner of things and get away with being secretive, they can&rsquo;t really now because there are people online asking questions.</p><p><em>This conversation has been lightly edited.</em></p></p> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2014-10-30/youtube-mortician-living-breathing-faq-death-111024 New 'Lost Chicago' book explores the city that once was http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-11/new-lost-chicago-book-explores-city-once-was-104048 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/9781862059924.jpg" style="width: 625px; height: 550px;" title="" /></div><p>Chicago is a modern city endlessly fascinated by its past.&nbsp;Although still relatively young compared to the Londons and Parises of the world, Chicago&#39;s demolished buildings, bygone places and long-ago world&#39;s fairs capture our attention and a fair amount of net traffic judging by the popularity of excellent sites like <em><a href="http://forgottenchicago.com/">Forgotten Chicago</a></em>, <em><a href="http://calumet412.tumblr.com/">Calumet 412</a></em> and the no-longer updated but still very good blog, <em><a href="http://dimbeautyofchicago.blogspot.com/">Bright Lights Dim Beauty of Chicago</a></em>.</p><p>Now comes a new hardcover book,<em> Lost Chicago,</em> that examines the way we were in this town. Written by John Paulett and Judy Floodstrand, the book looks at architecture that is no longer with us &mdash; places like the Henry Ives Cobb-designed Federal Building seen in the photo above&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;but also things we&#39;ve forgotten about (until we remember) such as those three-wheel motorcycles Chicago coppers used to ride.</p><p><em>Lost Chicago</em> is an immensely entertaining and beautifully illustrated book with great archival photography. (I&#39;ll show you some of it when the publisher sends the images to me, so check back later.) If the book has one drawback, its that is shares the title of a well-known book written on pretty much the same subject: <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Chicago-David-Garrard-Lowe/dp/0226494322">David Garrard Lowe&#39;s<em> Lost Chicago</em></a>. While Lowe&#39;s book is a stinging and much-needed rebuke of this city&#39;s dirty habit of demolishing great architecture, Paulett and Floodstrand&#39;s book is a wistful, but substantive look. Both have their place.</p><p>This week, I caught up with Paulett and Floodstrand to talk about their book, our preoccupation with our past . . . and the book&#39;s title.</p><p><strong>Q: Let&#39;s get this one out of the way first: Your book has the same title as writer David Garrard Lowe&#39;s famed <em>Lost Chicago</em>. Was this a concern?</strong></p><p><strong>JOHN:</strong> I love David&#39;s book. I think it is one of the best books about Chicago, not only about architecture but about the way Chicago has developed. I also think that David is a great scholar and you can really enjoy the fruits of his work. Our version of <em>Lost Chicago</em> is part of a series that includes <em>Lost New York</em>,&nbsp;<em>Lost San Francisco</em> and other books. I wondered about the title when the publisher proposed it, but we needed it to be included in the series &mdash; we absolutely did not want Chicago to be left out. I own David&#39;s book and I really hope people will consider buying both of them. I think they are very different and readers will enjoy each of them.</p><p><strong>JUDY: </strong>Yes, actually, I was a bit surprised that the titles were exactly the same. But Anova Books has a series of these <em>Lost</em> book from other cities and keeping the continuity of the series name was important to the body of work already published and those that might be covered in the future.</p><p><strong>Q: Your book has plenty of lost Chicago buildings, but you go deeper than architecture. You look at things like lost transit and signage. Why were these things important to examine?</strong></p><p><strong>JOHN: </strong>The architecture of Chicago is very important, but we were really interested in something of the smaller things that have been lost &mdash; often things that were taken for granted. Often, people read one of the sections of <em>Lost Chicago</em> and exclaim, &quot;Wow! I hadn&#39;t thought about that!&quot; For example, we have a section on the police riding three-wheel service cars. This may not be that historically significant, but generations of Chicagoans remember seeing these every day. I just had a Chicago native tell me how much he enjoyed remembering things like this. For some of the younger people, what might seem small comes as a great surprise. It doesn&#39;t seem that long ago that the Bears played at Wrigley Field, but it amazes many people. They love looking at the image of the ivy-covered wall just beyond the end zone.</p><p><strong>JUDY: </strong>The architecture really is the beginning of the adventure in imagining the life that went on inside of the structures and in the world around them. Living, breathing Chicagoans came and went to work in these structures. Goods were produced, laws were made, doctors cared for patients. When you take a few minutes to really sit down with these photographs, knowing and seeing these other small details really add to your understanding of the time.</p><p><strong>Q: Speaking of photographs, the images here are quite incredible. The clarity, but also views and images I&#39;d never seen before. Explain how you chose what photos made it in. And, are there any you wish had made the cut?</strong></p><p><strong>JOHN: </strong>The credit here really goes to Judy, who did the work researching and gathering the photographs. We were looking for photos that helped to tell the story. The entire book, including the text, was an attempt to tell interesting stories. Some, such as the Japanese laborers at the Columbian Exposition, are surprising and take us into the work that had to be done to begin the fair. Others, like the scene in front of the Regal Theatre, are just such compelling human pictures that we couldn&#39;t resist them. There were so many pictures of Riverview Park that we had trouble deciding. There were also some tragic photos of the Our Lady of the Angels school fire and the Eastland Disaster that ultimately did not fit the overall theme of the book. In general, Judy found the photographs and that suggested the chapter. She has a great eye for what will work. Our guiding phrase was to &quot;drive from the picture.&quot; Once we had agreed on a topic, I researched to try and find anecdotes and facts that might not be commonly known. We could probably fill another complete book with photos and stories that did not get into <em>Lost Chicago</em>.</p><p><strong>JUDY: </strong>Oh, there were so many photos to discover and access. The job of the final sorting and layout choices was made by the publisher. The book would have weighed two pounds if the decision had been left to me!&nbsp; Examples that come to mind are a collection of Chicago <em>Tribune</em> archive photographs of Riverview Park&nbsp;taken by Chuck Wlodarczyk that I just loved. Seeing people dressed up to ride the Ferris wheel really conjured nostalgic feelings about the past.<br /><br />We also could have done pages on the musicians that graced Chicago nightclubs; an amazing Yale Joel photo of Ella Fitzgerald giving an emotional performance at Mr. Kelly&#39;s in 1958 comes to mind. So many images stayed with me well past the deadline for the book.<br /><br /><strong>Q:&nbsp; Lost or forgotten Chicago locales and things are hot now. There&#39;s the <em>Forgotten Chicago</em> website, numerous new books on what once was, etc. What&#39;s going on here? What&#39;s pushing this, if anything?</strong></p><p><strong>JOHN:</strong> I have to plead a little guilty on that.&nbsp; I have two previous books about Chicago locales: <em>Forgotten Chicago</em> and <em>Printers Row</em>. After <em>Lost Chicago</em> and <em>Forgotten Chicago</em>, my sister asked me if I planned <em>Dimly-Recalled Chicago</em>. More seriously, I think the people of Chicago have a great pride in their city. They love seeing the buildings and people and institutions that have built it. <em>Lost Chicago</em> and books like it are great fun to look at together. People can share memories. I gave a talk to a group about Chicago history. The talk was scheduled for 45 minutes. I had decided to focus on the old train stations. At the beginning, I asked if anyone had any memories of the beautiful transportation palaces. I think those are the last words I said.&nbsp; People poured out their memories.</p><p><strong>JUDY:</strong> Hard to say, but Baby Boomers really have seen amazing changes in their lifetime. It really is another world reality that we are living in now, and who doesn&#39;t let themselves remember back to &quot;simpler&quot; less complicated times, before the iCloud, on occasion? Chicago&#39;s history is rich, and the details are intoxicating. Looking ahead is human nature keeping itself positioned for the future, but taking time to reflect and look back can have the restorative power of dreams. Something many of us can use during difficult times.</p></p> Thu, 29 Nov 2012 09:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-11/new-lost-chicago-book-explores-city-once-was-104048 'Terrorists In Love': The Psychology Of Extremism http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-10-05/terrorists-love-psychology-extremism-92853 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-05/ballenken-1-.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ahmad Al Shayea grew up in Saudi Arabia in a middle-class family and dropped out of high school to join a local gang. Abdullah Al-Gilani fell in love with a girl who eventually married someone else. Zeddy was an old colleague of Osama bin Laden's.</p><p>All three men eventually decided to devote their lives to jihad. Their motivations and desires are explored in <em>Terrorists in Love: The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals</em>, a book by former federal prosecutor Ken Ballen. Ballen, a Congressional investigator, has spent the past five years interviewing more than 100 Islamic extremists to learn what motivated them to carry out violent attacks against the United States and others they considered enemies of Islam.</p><p><em>Terrorists in Love</em> profiles six jihadis, including Malik, the spiritual adviser of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and Al Shayea, who survived a suicide bombing attack in Iraq and now lives in a Saudi Arabian prison devoted to re-educating terrorists.</p><p>When Ballen first saw Al Shayea, he says, the former al-Qaida operative barely looked human.</p><p>"His face was entirely disfigured from the suicide bomb attack that he survived," Ballen tells <em>Fresh Air</em>'s Dave Davies. "His hand was chewed up and the other hand was nothing but a stump."</p><p>So how did Al Shayea go from a normal middle-class Saudi upbringing to a jihadist fighter? Ballen says the answer is complicated, but goes back to Al Shayea's adolescence, when he became enraptured by the idea of giving his life to a glorious struggle.</p><p>"He had a very difficult relationship with his father," Ballen explains. "He had one incident where his father hit him, and he felt that because his father hit him, he was going to hell. [So] he is motivated by this idea that by going to fight against the Americans, he is doing the most good he can possibly do for his family, for himself and for God — and that he'll go to heaven if he dies."</p><p>But Al Shayea didn't want to die right away — he wanted to fight. He joined al-Qaida and went to Syria and then Iraq, where he stayed with 19 other jihadis from all over the world. Their leader repeatedly exhorted them to go out on suicide missions.</p><p>"But none of them volunteered," Ballen says. "Not one of them volunteered. As Ahmad said to me, 'I came to Iraq to fight for jihad, not die right away and go to heaven. What about helping my fellow Muslims here on Earth?' [The jihadis] were treated harshly. They were never trained. The way al-Qaida saw these recruits was to simply manipulate them for suicide attacks. They were almost human fodder."</p><p>One day, Al Shayea was told that he was going to Baghdad with two other jihadis. He was not told it was a suicide mission.</p><p>"They were told they were to drop off a tanker truck," Ballen says. "About 1,000 yards before they got to concrete barriers that Al Shayea saw coming, the two other jihadis jumped out of the tanker and said, 'Drive it straight ahead, we'll be right there to meet you.' He didn't know what to do. And before he knew it, it blew up. Eight people died."</p><p>Al Shayea was initially treated as a victim at the scene. But Iraqi Security Forces soon realized he was at the wheel of the vehicle. After torturing him, the Iraqis sent Al Shayea to Abu Ghraib prison.</p><p>"He's absolutely terrified of what's going to happen to him," says Ballen. "Instead he's treated with kindness and respect, and for the first time in his life, he meets a woman outside of his family who takes care of him. ... He is absolutely transported by this experience. His beliefs go through a metamorphosis. He realizes, as he says, [that he was] used as a tool. ... He became a very pro-American person in his heart. He's still deeply religious. He believes very strongly in the Islamic faith. But he no longer sees Americans or infidels as the enemy."</p><p>Today, Al Shayea lives at a prison in Saudi Arabia where former Jihadis are re-educated. Ballen interviewed 43 Saudi jihadist militants at the facility, which offers psychological counseling and vocational training. Over time, Ballen says, he came to have a better understanding of how extremists see the world.</p><p>"Within their belief system, what they're doing makes sense," he says. "They really believe ... they're doing good in the world. They're fighting for good. They're doing the right thing. They see themselves as saintly. ... And I think that's what we're missing in this entire war on terror. We've never sat back and said, 'Let's really understand our adversaries. Let's understand what makes them tick.' You have to dive in and talk to them to understand. ... They are motivated by ideas and beliefs. A completely militarized response to someone's ideas and beliefs will not defeat them. They'll continue to push harder for those ideas and beliefs." <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1317833945?&gn=%27Terrorists+In+Love%27%3A+The+Psychology+Of+Extremism&ev=event2&ch=1033&h1=Peter+Bergen,Ken+Ballen,Terrorists+in+Love,Radicalism,Islam,Terrorists,Religious+aspects,Biography,Fresh+Air+Interviews,Politics+%26+Public+Affairs,Nonfiction,History+%26+Society,Biography+%26+Memoir,Author+Interviews,Books,Interviews,Arts+%26+Life,World,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140947193&c7=1033&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1033&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20111005&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=13&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=140947216,140947208,140947203,137946904,137940367,137933075,137914800,137864864,125637934,10117,10115,10109,10101&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Wed, 05 Oct 2011 11:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-10-05/terrorists-love-psychology-extremism-92853 'Awesome Man' Is Super, And Maybe You Are, Too http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-25/awesome-man-super-and-maybe-you-are-too-92503 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-27/page3hires_custom.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Michael Chabon won a Pulitzer Prize for <em>The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay</em> back in 2001. Ten years later, he has a new book out, called <em>The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man</em>.</p><p>This one may sound like a sequel, but Chabon isn't after another Pulitzer. He's looking for ohhhs and ahhhs, hearty giggles and gleeful faces as kids from coast to coast bed down for the night.</p><p>That's because <em>Awesome Man</em>, with his trusty sidekick Moskowitz the Awesome Dog, is a children's book — Chabon's first. His inspiration, he tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, was his son, Abe.</p><p>"Like a lot of boys his age, he was just starting kindergarten and he was really into superheroes," Chabon says. "Dressing up in superhero costumes and running around imagining that he could fly or have titanium — sorry, adamantium — claws that come out of his hands and so on."</p><p>But Abe was also struggling with other issues, like keeping his temper and staying in control. So Chabon thought writing him a little story might help Abe work through some of his problems. And it might even be fun to read or listen to.</p><p>Awesome Man is, well, "basically awesome," as the man himself puts it. He can fly as high as a satellite and shoot positronic rays out of his eyeballs. Giant killer robots just hate that stuff, he says. Superheroes, Chabon says, have a lot to offer kids.</p><p>"There's the costume element of it," he says. "There's the fantasy element of just wishing for abilities and powers that one can't have or doesn't have, like flight for example.</p><p>"But even more than that, I think it's, to some degree, because they still haven't quite given up hope that they might be able to fly. That they might be able to have these kind of powers — that it's not completely impossible.</p><p>"The idea that you have a hidden potential that only you might know about and that the world doesn't understand or appreciate," he says. "I think that's an important element." <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1317136615?&gn=%27Awesome+Man%27+Is+Super%2C+And+Maybe+You+Are%2C+Too&ev=event2&ch=1033&h1=The+Astonishing+Secret+of+Awesome+Man,Michael+Chabon,Superheroes,Imagination,Family+life,Fiction,Children%27s+Books,Author+Interviews,Books,Arts+%26+Life,Home+Page+Top+Stories&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140705764&c7=1033&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1033&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110925&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=2&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=140703884,138062562,137883672,137873611,137868452,137843432,10122,10111&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Sun, 25 Sep 2011 13:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-25/awesome-man-super-and-maybe-you-are-too-92503 'Confidence Men': Ron Suskind On White House Woes http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-20/confidence-men-ron-suskind-white-house-woes-92222 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-20/3484023563_3389593f06_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind paints an unflattering picture of rivalries and dysfunction within President Obama's first economic team — rivalries that Suskind says then slowed the administration's response to the financial crisis.</p><p>The book <em>Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President</em> is based on interviews with more than 200 people, including the president, and quotes internal documents from the White House, which indicate that some of Obama's decisions were either not enforced or redirected by members of his administration.</p><p>Suskind joins Terry Gross for a discussion about Obama, whom he calls "a victim of very difficult and circumstances ... by virtue of being a brilliant amateur," as well as Obama's first economic team, led by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council chief Larry Summers.</p><p>Suskind also comments on the growing controversy surrounding the publication of <em>Confidence Men</em>. Some of the officials quoted in the book, including Summers, are now saying they were misquoted by Suskind or their comments were taken out of context.</p><p><strong>Larry Summers</strong></p><p>Summers served as the secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton and was the Director of the National Economic Council for Obama from the start of his administration until November 2010, when he left to rejoin the faculty at Harvard University.</p><p>Suskind says Summers' style of leadership at the White House was to "control the show" and "lead by fiat."</p><p>"A young economist ... [once told me that Larry once said] 'Here's the way it works. ... I can win either side of the argument. That's my genius. That's what I do. And then I win both sides and I think about which side I won more fairly when deciding which is right. Sometimes I decide otherwise,' " says Suskind. "The young economist who recounts the story says, 'Jeez, Larry, that gives you an awful lot of power to shape everything,' and Larry sort of says, 'Yeah, that's the point.' And that's kind of how Larry sees it — the economic policy will be what Larry decides in consultation with a president who has very, very little in the way of training in economic theory or practice."</p><p>But, Suskind says, Summers didn't believe a complete overhaul of the economy was necessary.</p><p>"Larry is of the belief of 'first do no harm,' " he says. "He is very much a believer in the markets and the way the markets work and he is respectful of them. ... Tim Geithner was of a similar position. Tim used to work under Larry in the Clinton administration. And Tim calls this 'Hippocratic risk.' Larry and Tim were almost always in [agreement] on these issues of Hippocratic risk."</p><p>In his book, Suskind quotes Summers as saying, on record, that "Clinton would never have made these mistakes" that the Obama administration made. Summers has denied making those comments. He told <em>The Washington Post</em> last week that "the hearsay attributed to me is a combination of fiction, distortion and words taken out of context. I can't speak to what others have told Mr. Suskind but I have always believed that the president has always led this country with determined, steady and practical leadership."</p><p>Suskind tells Terry Gross that he talked to Summers as the book was going to press about his statements in the book, including the one where he said "Clinton would never have made these mistakes."</p><p>"At first Larry blurted out, 'I deny it,' and then I said, 'Look, Larry, lots of people heard you talk about this and say this. This is not something you uttered once to one person. Lots of people remember where they were when they heard it.' ... Then after a few minutes, he came back with his response. He said, 'Look, we had five times as many problems, we didn't have five times as many people. It was an overwhelming time, very difficult for everyone involved.' He lays it on the door of circumstances. ... The Washington walk back has a long history, as anyone who works in this town knows."</p><p><hr /></p><p><h3>Interview Highlights</h3></p><p><strong>On Wall Street and President Obama</strong></p><p>"Wall Street helped him as a candidate, but he needed to turn on his heel once it was clear he was going to win the presidency and say, 'Thank you guys, but I need people who will give Wall Street medicine and give Wall Street very Rooseveltian medicine.' He didn't do that. Instead he brought in Tim [Geithner] and Larry [Summers], who are not Wall Street guys but who are affectionate and attentive toward Wall Street. That was a key moment where the president lost his way."</p><p><strong>On Timothy Geithner not shutting down and reopening some of the too-big-to-fail banks, as President Obama had suggested</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p>"It can be summed up in something [economist and President Obama's former Director of the Office of Management and Budget] Peter Orszag says about Larry Summers but others said it about Geithner. He felt he knew more than the president. The president didn't understand what he was proffering or suggesting, and the president needed to be protected against himself."</p><p><strong>On the women in the White House</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p>"What I found, especially after many of them had left the White House, that it was much more virulent and much more contested and angry — emotional — than had been reported. I was surprised, but the folks I talked with, the women were really quite upset. ... I think it was a combination of two things. One of them was the managerial chaos with Rahm Emmanuel, who was not an actual manager — he's very impulsive, he's tactical, but he's not the kind of guy that most presidents put in that job. There was chaos where people weren't aware of who was supposed to be invited to what meeting. In many cases, the women were excluded. The guys banded together. The president was not monitoring it. The women were excluded. They felt, 'Hey. What about me?' " <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1316535427?&gn=%27Confidence+Men%27%3A+Ron+Suskind+On+White+House+Woes&ev=event2&ch=1033&h1=Confidence+Men,Recessions,Ron+Suskind,Economic+policy,Financial+crises,21st+century,History,United+States,Fresh+Air+Interviews,Politics+%26+Public+Affairs,Nonfiction,History+%26+Society,Business+%26+Economy,Governing,Author+Interviews,Books,Interviews,Economy,Politics,Arts+%26+Life,Business,U.S.&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140594464&c7=1033&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1033&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110920&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=13&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=140594486,138217821,138012751,137924323,137886450,137866638,137865062,137844016,125637934,10117,10115,10109,10102&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Tue, 20 Sep 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-20/confidence-men-ron-suskind-white-house-woes-92222 Thomas Friedman On 'How America Fell Behind' http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-06/thomas-friedman-how-america-fell-behind-91573 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-06/friedman-tom-c-fred-conrad-that-used-to-be-us-_custom.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Back in March, Paul Otellini — president and CEO of Intel Corp. — compared the situation of present-day America to that of the U.K. at the turn of the last century.</p><p>"I imagine sitting in Britain 110 years ago, looking at the rising giant of the United States — the buildings going up and the new factories and the schools and the universities — and they must have been saying, 'Oh my God,'" <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/03/15/134568752/intel-ceo-tax-holiday-could-create-more-jobs">he told NPR's Michele Norris</a>. "And in fact, the U.S. eclipsed the U.K. and most of Europe. Well, we're sitting here today looking over the next ocean — the Pacific this time — and the infrastructure being built out in Asia ... and we should be appropriately saying, 'Oh my God.'"</p><p>"Oh my God" could have been the title of the new book by <em>New York Times</em> columnist Thomas Friedman and author Michael Mandelbaum. It's called <em>That Used To Be Us</em> and in it, Friedman and Mandelbaum describe a country that <em>used</em> to be industrially advanced, exceptionally inventive, unusually educated, politically pragmatic and relatively egalitarian.</p><p>"There's no question we've lost our way," Friedman tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "This problem started at the end of the Cold War. We made the biggest mistake a country and species can make: we misread our environment. We thought the Cold War was a victory and we could put our feet up. In fact, we had just unleashed ... 2 billion people just like us; people with our same aspirations, same capabilities. And just when we needed to be lacing up our shoes and running faster, we put our feet up."</p><p><strong>The New American Generation</strong></p><p>So what happened? What changed? For one thing, Friedman says, the end of the Cold War saw the rise of a new American generation.</p><p>"We shifted from [the] greatest generation that really operated on what we call in the book 'sustainable values' — saving and investing — and we handed power over to the baby boomer generation who really lived by 'situational values' — borrow and consume," Friedman says. "The baby boomers, I believe, have a lot to answer for. They have not followed in the path of their parents in terms of making the hard decisions, making the long term investments."</p><p>The end of the Cold War also led to a world that was not only connected, but hyper-connected. Friedman notes that the global connectivity he focused on in his book <a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/138037673/the-world-is-flat-a-brief-history-of-the-twenty-first-century">The World Is Flat</a> has already grown by leaps and bounds since 2004, when he sat down to write it.</p><p>"Facebook didn't exist; Twitter was a sound; the cloud was in the sky; 4G was a parking place; LinkedIn was a prison; applications were what you sent to college and Skype for most people was typo," he says. "All of that changed in just the last six years."</p><p><strong>Searching For Solutions</strong></p><p>Globalization has meant that even wealthy, American-based businesses aren't contributing what they used to. American businesses used to actually be <em>in</em> the U.S., but today Friedman says, "they hover over America."</p><p>"We are missing the voices of those CEOs in our discussions — national discussions on education and infrastructure — because if they can't get the workers, the infrastructure, the opportunities that they need here, they can just go somewhere else," he says. "And that's a huge problem."</p><p>Friedman has ideas for solutions, but they all start by addressing one thing — the current political gridlock in Washington.</p><p>"We're having an economic crisis and the politicians are having an election and it's like they don't even overlap in many ways.<strong> </strong>The incentives of politics today — money, cable television, gerrymandered districts — are so misaligned with the needs of the country that they become like a closed circle, operating on their own," he says. "What we argue for is an independent, third party that actually can show that there is a huge middle in this country that demands different politics."</p><p>In other words, he wants to change today's political incentives.</p><p>"Move the cheese; move the mouse. Don't move the cheese; mouse doesn't move," Friedman says. "So right now, all the incentives of these two parties are to behave in really bad ways for the country. The only way to change that is to show them the [voter] — the cheese — is over here." <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1315342630?&gn=Thomas+Friedman+On+%27How+America+Fell+Behind%27&ev=event2&ch=1033&h1=Education+and+state,That+Used+To+Be+Us,Creative+ability,Michael+Mandelbaum,Thomas+L.+Friedman,Social+aspects,Information+technology,United+States,Politics+%26+Public+Affairs,Nonfiction,Author+Interviews,Books,Arts+%26+Life,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140214150&c7=1033&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1033&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110906&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=2&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=140211705,140211680,138093175,138031555,137976314,137854282,137854277,137844016,10117,10115&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Tue, 06 Sep 2011 15:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-06/thomas-friedman-how-america-fell-behind-91573 High Price Of Blowing The Whistle On EPA http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-06/high-price-blowing-whistle-epa-91568 <p></p> Tue, 06 Sep 2011 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-06/high-price-blowing-whistle-epa-91568 Author Sara Paretsky tours Chicago for her next crime scene http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-24/author-sara-paretsky-tours-chicago-her-next-crime-scene-90953 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-24/pressField_SaraParetsky.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Controlling crime is a big part of Mayor Emanuel's agenda but <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> wanted to turn to someone whose job is to create it - on the page that is. Crime writer <a href="http://www.saraparetsky.com/" target="_blank">Sara Paretsky</a> and her fictional detective protagonist, V.I. Warshawski, both call Chicago home. Like her detective creation, Paretsky spends a lot of time pounding the pavement; but she hunts for inspiration, not clues. Paretsky recently took Alison Cuddy on a tour of some of the places in Chicago that inspire her criminally inclined mind.</p></p> Wed, 24 Aug 2011 14:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-24/author-sara-paretsky-tours-chicago-her-next-crime-scene-90953 Searching For Black Utopia ... In Antarctica http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-17/searching-black-utopia-antarctica-90701 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-17/2011.08.17-pym_matjohnson_cover_custom.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Mat Johnson's new book <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8501708-pym">Pym</a><em> </em>is a modern-day sequel to Edgar Allen Poe's only novel, <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/70925.The_Narrative_of_Arthur_Gordon_Pym_of_Nantucket_Related_Tales">The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket</a>.</p><p>Poe's 1838 novel is a sea-faring adventure where Pym and his crew land on an island, off the coast of Antarctica, populated only by black people.</p><p>In an interview with <em>Tell Me More </em>guest host Tony Cox, Johnson says Poe's novel starts as a regular sea-faring tale, but turns into science fiction.</p><p>He describes the end of Poe's work: Pym leaves the island for Antarctica, and then sees a white figure standing on the coast. The ice opens up in a chasm, the boat enters, and the book ends. That's it.</p><p>"The more surreal it gets, the more it starts to become sort of like him putting his racial subconscious onto the page. It's a 19<sup>th</sup> century southern racial subconscious, and it becomes absolutely bizarre," says Johnson.</p><p>Johnson's sequel picks up where Poe left off — in Antarctica. The hero, Professor Chris Jaynes, convinces his friends to take on an adventure to the South Pole. When they arrive, they discover that the white figure from Poe's novel is actually from a population of massive albino snow creatures.</p><p>The main link between Poe and Johnson's novels is the idea of a black island — a place where black people thrive and survive, detached from racism.</p><p>Johnson says that in Poe's book, the island's indigenous population is so black that even their teeth are black, and the water is purple. And although this place horrified Poe, Johnson found it fascinating. This is the utopia that Johnson's hero is searching for in his mission to Antarctica.</p><p>Throughout <em>Pym</em>, Johnson includes overt racial symbolism, such as the albino snow creatures and the all-black crew. But there are also subtle symbols, like Little Debbie snack cakes that frequently pop up throughout the pages.</p><p>Like Johnson, the book's hero and narrator Chris Jaynes is biracial. And the issue of race comes up frequently as Jaynes comes to terms with his identity.</p><p>"As I started, I didn't think about it. But as I was spewing all these things out there, it ended up speaking to my own struggles with biracial identity," says Johnson.</p><p>For Johnson, the process of writing <em>Pym </em>was tough. He took nine years, writing seven or eight different versions.</p><p>"A lot of times when you're working on a project, you're working so close to it; and eventually you walk away from it, and you see the larger patterns," he says.</p><p>And interspersed between elements of race and identity are lies humor.</p><p>Johnson says he wanted to deal with some big ideas, but do it in a way that was somehow so entertaining that readers barely notice until later.</p><p>"I wanted you to be engaged in the moment. And if something is funny, you tune in and get enjoyment from it." <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1313599029?&gn=Searching+For+Black+Utopia+...+In+Antarctica&ev=event2&ch=1033&h1=Arctic+regions,African+American+college+teachers,Poe%2C+Edgar+Allan,Mat+Johnson,PYM,Discovery+and+exploration,Voyages+and+travels,Fantasy+fiction,Fiction,Literary+Fiction,Books+News+%26+Features,Games+%26+Humor,Author+Interviews,Books,Arts+%26+Life,World&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=139706474&c7=1033&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1033&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110817&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=46&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=137872373,137872368,137872365,137872351,137872346,137867174,137865562,137864072,137843432,10112,10111&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Wed, 17 Aug 2011 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-17/searching-black-utopia-antarctica-90701 America's 'Secret Campaign' Against Al-Qaida http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-16/americas-secret-campaign-against-al-qaida-90646 <p><p>After the Sept. 11 attacks, America responded immediately with a militarized strategy to defeat al-Qaida. But it quickly became clear to analysts in the Pentagon that using warfare alone couldn't counter the terrorist group. In 2005, a group of eclectic analysts at Central Command began looking for a broader, more holistic strategy they could use to target al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.</p><p>"They turned to the history books and began looking at Cold War-era deterrents that had kept a tense nuclear peace — but a peace nonetheless — with the nuclear power of the Soviet Union over the decades," says <em>New York Times</em> veteran reporter Thom Shanker. In <em>Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America's Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda</em>, Shanker and his colleague Eric Schmitt detail how the Defense Department and U.S. spy agencies adapted several Cold War-era techniques, including many aimed at deterring attacks before they happen. The government also created new innovative strategies, including hacking into Jihadist websites and disrupting financial networks, for their battle against al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.</p><p>On Tuesday's <em>Fresh Air</em>, both Shanker and Schmitt join Dave Davies for a discussion about the tactics used by the U.S. over the past decade to disrupt al-Qaida both in real life and online. Some of those tactics, says Shanker, included focusing on the middlemen instead of the leadership within the al-Qaida network.</p><p>"It takes a network to carry out a terrorist operation, and not everyone in that network is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice," Shanker says. "You look at the gunrunners, the weapon suppliers and, most importantly, the financial backers. There's some very interesting missions that went on in Afghanistan to go after the financial networks that transferred money for the operations. ... It shut down the money flow for months."</p><p><strong>A Treasure Trove Of Information</strong></p><p>In December 2006, U.S. military members out on patrol serendipitously captured a briefcase full of thumb drives and files outlining al-Qaida's battle strategy to counter the surge that had just been ordered by the United States.</p><p>"It showed the safe houses, it showed where all of the weapons were stored, and it showed that al-Qaida really understood the Iraqi people more than the Americans did," says Shanker. "Because among the chief targets al-Qaida was going to attack during the surge were the bakeries, and they were going to target the garbagemen, because they wanted the garbage to pile up to show that the U.S. was failing. ... [The U.S.] was able to reshape the entire force footprint and [one general described the seizure] as 'almost like the ability of the Allies to break the Enigma codes of the Nazis during World War II.' "</p><p>Had the briefcase been captured a few years earlier, says Shanker, the United States might not have realized the importance of the findings. But a change in strategy put intelligence officers on the ground alongside members of the military.</p><p>"Given the global nature of this threat, intelligence agents were on the ground," he says. "There was actually a member of the NSA [National Security Agency] who was at the headquarters when this material landed, so he could immediately begin sorting it and looking through it."</p><p>Another raid turned up an extensive al-Qaida index of its members and their countries of origin. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command at the time, decided it would be better to publish the information rather than leave it highly classified.</p><p>"It was really an unprecedented step by McChrystal and got the information out there quicker and had many more eyes analyzing this information in a much broader way," says Schmitt. "It reflected the idea that it needed a 'whole government' approach to combat terrorism — not just the narrow bands that existed before 9/11. ... Gen. [David] Petraeus told us on record that there was no single operation during his entire period of command that cut down the number of suicide bombers as much as this effort did ... using the seized intelligence. ... It was all about translation, assessment and pulling together exploitation through diplomatic channels to stop suicide bombers from flowing ... into Iraq."</p><p><strong>President Obama's Response</strong></p><p>When President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, he continued to use many of the innovative tactics that the Bush administration found effective in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008, says Schmitt. Obama's administration also worked to counter citizens' perception of al-Qaida in the Middle East.</p><p>"[The idea was] to undermine its credibility and to point out, through credible voices in the Muslim community — not through American voices — that the vast number of causalities in suicide bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan were innocent men, women and children — Muslims themselves," says Schmitt. "So this became part of what is still an evolving counter-messaging strategy by the United States."</p><p>In addition, both the Bush administration and the Obama administration focused their attention on the Internet, where al-Qaida does its recruiting, fundraising, operational planning and propaganda.</p><p>"What the American military intelligence can do is forge the watermarks or certification of official al-Qaida postings," says Shanker. "American cyber technology is so advanced that they can have a near perfect re-creation of an al-Qaida message — and what they're doing from time to time is going on jihadi websites and posting conflicting and contradictory orders, statements that raise doubt about who the jihadis should follow and who is really in charge ... and the goal is to really disrupt the entire network by sowing dissent and confusion. We've been told they've had some great success at that."</p><p>As the terrorists' strategy continues to evolve, says Shanker, the United States must be ready to constantly change tactics in order to keep a step ahead.</p><p>"While there's still a desire for an attack with mass casualties like 9/11, and while terrorist networks are still seeking a weapon of mass destruction, they're changing to a strategy of multiple smaller attacks," he says. "Think of it as throwing pebbles into the cogs of the Western economic machine. If you throw enough pebbles, some will get through and those cogs will stick."</p><p>Thom Shanker is a correspondent for <em>The New York Times</em> covering the Pentagon. He has conducted numerous reporting trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. While a foreign editor at <em>The Chicago Tribune</em>, he covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia, NATO policy and nuclear smuggling.</p><p>Eric Schmitt is a senior writer at <em>The New York Times</em> covering terrorism and national security issues. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes, for coverage of the transfer of sensitive military technology to China, and for his coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1313509305?&gn=America%27s+%27Secret+Campaign%27+Against+Al-Qaida&ev=event2&ch=1033&h1=Thom+Shanker,Eric+Schmitt,Counterstrike,Military+policy,21st+century,Prevention,Terrorism,War+on+Terrorism%2C+2001-2009,United+States,Politics+%26+Public+Affairs,Nonfiction,Afghanistan,National+Security,Author+Interviews,Books,Interviews,Arts+%26+Life,World,U.S.,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=139649619&c7=1033&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1033&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110816&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=13&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=139649677,139649669,139649664,137889295,137866638,137865681,137865678,137865676,137844016,10117,10115&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Tue, 16 Aug 2011 10:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-16/americas-secret-campaign-against-al-qaida-90646