Readers Corner

America in 1859 was a country on the verge of Civil War. Abolitionists and pro-slavery forces battled it out in the nation’s newspapers, activists were advocating revolts while southerners were talking secession, political parties were splitting down the middle, and a little-known senator named Abraham Lincoln was just coming into prominence. Against this backdrop, Charles Darwin’s pioneering work of evolutionary theory, The Origin of Species, landed like a bomb.

A handful of times in our planet’s history, the vast majority of plant and animal life has gone extinct, leaving a desolate and alien earth, devoid of trees, fish, and familiar signs of life. In the more recent past, scientists have pointed to asteroids to explain some of these extinction events. But today, that view is being questioned. More evidence is pointing towards terrestrial causes of our past extinctions, notably climate and ocean change, spurred by the influx of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.


The state of public education is a constant concern these days -- for families, for legislators, for teachers and experts. Many are questioning methods embraced by American school systems as we see other countries besting us, particularly in math and science.


Altruism seems to be built into our DNA. From the founding of thousands of public libraries by Andrew Carnegie a century ago, the recent mass emergence of social entrepreneurs, and the dawn of the “effective altruism” movement, “making a difference” is part of what gives us purpose. Yet not all altruism is created equal. In labs around the world, studies are being conducted to better understand why we give, what we can learn from our mistakes, and how we can use evidence-based methods to more effectively help our fellow man. 


When it comes to getting cash to make ends meet, many Americans don’t take their business to the local bank. Instead, they rely on alternative financial systems such as check cashing stores and payday lenders.  Despite high interest rates and sometimes exorbitant fees, these services fill a vital need for those living paycheck to paycheck, and who, for a variety of reasons, distrust banks.


Millennials. Baby Boomers. Gen-Xers. The Greatest Generation. Each designation conjures up ideas and preconceptions about the Americans born during those eras. But what of the Gifted Generation? That designation may be less familiar. It refers to Americans born in the years following World War II. They are the earliest -- and historian David Goldfield would say, the most fortunate -- group of Baby Boomers.


Tara Westover grew up in far southeastern Idaho in a landscape familiar to many in the Gem State, a valley dominated by ranches and ringed by mountains.  Her daily life, though, was anything but normal. 


This encore interview with Nancy Koehn was originally broadcast in March, 2018.

  

Today we’re continuing our conversation with Scott Eyman about his book Hank & Jim. The book chronicles the long friendship between two Hollywood icons, Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart. Unlike many friendships, theirs wasn’t based on shared beliefs about things like religion or politics. In fact, Stewart was a church-going Republican married to the same woman for 45 years. Fonda was a liberal Democrat and a non-believer who was married five times. Despite these and other differences, Fonda and Stewart found solace in each other’s company. They understood each other on a cellular level and around each other, they could have fun and relax.


Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart are beloved icons of Hollywood’s Golden Age, with careers that spanned decades and movies that still hold up today. They also were best friends who enjoyed spending time together, away from the glitter of their very public lives. With each other, they were simply Hank and Jim, two guys who flew kites, built model airplanes, played elaborate practical jokes on occasion, and didn’t find it necessary to talk about making movies, women, or the world war they both served in.


This encore interview was first broadcast in February, 2018

With more than 500 million citizens in its 28 member states, the European Union has long embodied the dream of a united Europe, where the free movement of goods, capital, services and workers would lead to greater economic and political clout for all. But in recent years, the fissures within the EU have deepened. The Syrian refugee crisis, the economic downturn, a spate of terrorist attacks and the Greek financial bailouts have roiled the EU.  And then came Brexit, the decision by British voters to exit the European Union, much to the surprise and consternation of the many observers who expected the referendum to fail.

    

Chances are that today, like every day, you’ll interact with one or more of four gigantic companies that have become embedded in daily life. Need to buy a book? It’s just a quick click away on Amazon. Curious about the person who wrote it? “Google” the author on your iPhone. You can follow her on Facebook, too. And that’s just the veritable tip of the iceberg when it comes to the services these companies provide. They can make our lives easier – but at what cost?


Today’s mountaineers tackle the world’s tallest peaks with the latest in technical gear – from down suits to nylon ropes and even cell phones. It is a far cry from the 1920s, when the first mountaineers to attempt Mount Everest climbed in hobnail boots, hauled canvas tents and were literally facing the unknown.


Soner Cagaptay, is an expert on a country that many of us know too little about. That country is Turkey, the oldest democracy, and the largest economy, between India and Italy. Turkey occupies a crucial position between Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. And that makes its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a vitally important figure on the world stage.


A daily battle is raging along the 10th Parallel – the line of latitude 700 miles north of the equator in Africa and Southeast Asia where Islam and Christianity intersect. In this critical geographical band, religious ideologies clash, often erupting into deadly violence as more than half the world’s Muslims and 60 percent of the world’s Christians compete for the souls of the region’s burgeoning population.


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