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What do "White Christmas," "Blowin' in the Wind," and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" all have in common? They were all written by Jews. According to musician Ben Sidran, Jews helped shape the iconic American songbook, from George Gershwin and Irving Berlin, to Bob Dylan (aka Bob Zimmerman). The longtime jazz keyboard player and former NPR music host talks about his book, "There Was a Fire," and the roots of American music.
Is the curbside garbage can headed for the dustbin of history? The city of Palo Alto has launched a pilot project that eliminates curbside garbage bins, using only compost and recycling bins. The aim of the project is to achieve zero landfill waste, a goal San Francisco and other Bay Area cities also hope to reach. We talk about what consumers can do to reduce waste and keep their compostable and recyclable trash out of the landfill.
Author and trend-spotter Douglas Rushkoff says humans are living in the present more than ever before. But he isn't talking about a serene Zen-like state of being in the moment. Instead, thanks to mobile devices and other technology, "presentism" is characterized by a constant state of distraction, and a need for immediacy which affects virtually everything: the way we tell stories, invest money, and even evaluate politicians. Rushkoff joins us to talk about his new book, "Present Shock."
In response to nuclear threats from North Korea, the U.S. government announced Wednesday that it was deploying an advanced missile defense system to Guam. We'll discuss the latest developments.
Biblical scholar Robert Alter considers himself a "literary archaeologist." In his award-winning translations of the Hebrew Bible, he aims to reconstruct and restore the poetry and prose style of the original ancient text. Alter joins us to discuss his latest installment, "Ancient Israel," a translation of "The Former Prophets," the Biblical books Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings.
On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled a new initiative to map the human brain. The plan is to invest $100 million starting in 2014, so scientists can create a "road map" of the brain's circuits, similar to the documentation done for the Human Genome Project. The initiative could develop tools to help treat diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and it's being co-led by a Stanford scientist. But critics say there are no clear end goals and no set deadline, and that the money could be better used elsewhere.
According to Steven Pinker, Daniel Kahneman is "the most important psychologist alive today." His work on decision making and irrational economic choices has made him one of a very small group of non-economists who have earned a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Kahneman joins us to discuss how and why we make the decisions we do, and how that can help us understand politics, the economy and even the way we grocery shop.
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist has made no secret of his ultimate goal. He has famously said he wants to shrink government "to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Norquist's "taxpayer protection pledge," which asks candidates to commit to opposing all tax increases, has been signed by 219 House members and 39 senators, as well as more than 1,000 state officeholders. We'll talk to Norquist about the current budget battles in Washington and the future of the Republican Party.
A federal judge has ruled that Stockton is eligible for bankruptcy protection, making it the largest city in the United States to enter bankruptcy. The judge rejected claims by the city's creditors that Stockton isn't really broke and that it should have cut its pension payments instead of reneging on other debts. The judge said the question of how bankruptcy will affect Stockton's large pension obligations will be a central issue in the case going forward, and it will be closely watched by other struggling California cities. We will discuss the bankruptcy case and what it will mean for Stockton.
More U.S. teens than ever are using smartphones as their main access to the Internet, according to a recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. But teens' constant texting and Internet access can create headaches for parents worried about monitoring sexting, cyber-bullying and other inappropriate online activities. What are teens up to on the web these days, and how much should parents control teens' online behavior?
After a 21-year run, NPR's "Talk of the Nation" call-in show will end this summer. We'll hear from NPR about its decision and get listener reactions and recommendations for what should replace the program. And we'll talk about recent reports on the health of news media in general.