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To the Point

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A weekly reality-check on the issues Americans care about most. Host Warren Olney draws on his decades of experience to explore the people and issues shaping – and disrupting - our world. How did everything change so fast? Where are we headed? The...

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A weekly reality-check on the issues Americans care about most. Host Warren Olney draws on his decades of experience to explore the people and issues shaping – and disrupting - our world. How did everything change so fast? Where are we headed? The...

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515 Ratings
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To The Point

By HEK-Ryder - May 01 2020
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Its Like The Motion In Pictures. Hearing Music AND Time Stops Like What Norah Jones Says Of Stars Above- TRUE News.

Best Climate Change Coverage

By MedStudent11431 - Jun 11 2019
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Olney gives climate change the coverage it deserves. Very thorough and thoughtful journalism.

iTunes Ratings

515 Ratings
Average Ratings
426
36
23
14
16

To The Point

By HEK-Ryder - May 01 2020
Read more
Its Like The Motion In Pictures. Hearing Music AND Time Stops Like What Norah Jones Says Of Stars Above- TRUE News.

Best Climate Change Coverage

By MedStudent11431 - Jun 11 2019
Read more
Olney gives climate change the coverage it deserves. Very thorough and thoughtful journalism.
Cover image of To the Point

To the Point

Latest release on Jul 02, 2020

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A weekly reality-check on the issues Americans care about most. Host Warren Olney draws on his decades of experience to explore the people and issues shaping – and disrupting - our world. How did everything change so fast? Where are we headed? The...

Rank #1: How will COVID-19 leave its mark on health care?

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The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the worst of America’s broken health care system. But there is an unexpected silver lining, according to Dr. Amol Navathe of the University of Pennsylvania. 

“The way that the health system has shifted in the past three months shows that we’re capable of the type of change we need to save American health care,” he says.

Hospitals and doctors have been forced to become more efficient to accommodate COVID-19. Unnecessary surgeries and procedures have been postponed.  

The catch: Elective procedures generate the revenue needed for providers to stay in business. Navathe says what’s needed are investments in tech. He also suggests, “Do things in a different way that has not been supported by the existing financial model.” 

KCRW also hears from James Blake — a humanitarian aid worker and journalist — about the dire risk facing those in fragile countries and conflict zones. A recent International Rescue Committee report warns that the world risks up to 1 billion cases and 3.2 million deaths from COVID-19 across countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. Blake explains why aiding these regions is crucial to halting the pandemic.

May 07 2020

1hr 6mins

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Rank #2: Trump finally sees coronavirus as a pandemic. Will he take responsibility or leave that up to governors?

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President Trump has finally changed course, agreeing with his own advisors that COVID-19 is not a “hoax.” It’s a pandemic that might kill up to 200,000 Americans in a few weeks.

According to David Sanger, national security correspondent for the New York Times, Trump uses “the rhetoric of a wartime presidency,” but “it’s not clear he has actually been willing to take the responsibility of a wartime leader.”

So far, leadership has come from governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo and California’s Gavin Newsom. “For the first few months, they were more or less on their own,” says Jonathan Cohn at the Huffington Post. “The president was out there saying ‘this is no big deal, we have this under control.’”

The lack of centralized federal planning and action has left governors in bidding wars for test kits, ventilators and other equipment. They’re focused not only on healing the sick, but also protecting doctors, nurses and other staff in danger of coronavirus exposure at increasingly overcrowded hospitals. 

Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer who’s covered some 30 epidemics — including Ebloa and SARS — now finds herself in Brooklyn, which she calls “the epicenter of the epicenter of the epicenter” of the coronavirus pandemic. New epicenters are inevitable in other parts of the US.

Epicenters could also emerge in other places abroad. “We’ll see some really serious impacts in Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia,” Garrett says. “We have India, and I think India is the wildcard in the entire pandemic.”  

Apr 02 2020

54mins

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Rank #3: Coronavirus, climate change, and living in states of emergency

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COVID-19 is “climate change at warp speed,” according to experts in several fields, including in public health, infectious disease and climate science.  While the pandemic is already upon us, the rise in global temperatures has taken centuries to create an existential emergency. In both cases, there’s been early denial and official inaction. 

That’s the observation of Gernot Wagner, hunkered down with his family in their New York loft. He’s a climate economist at New York University and co-author of “Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet.” That’s an ironic book title, considering that scientists have been warning for decades about what’s to come. 

Wagner says the COVID-19 pandemic is yet another crisis that President Trump and others should have foreseen, had they paid attention to scientific advisors. 

Another hostage to COVID-19 is Philip Alcabes, hunkered down in his New York City home, figuring out how to conduct his public health classes online. Hunter College, where he’s Director of Public Health, is now closed for the foreseeable future. 

Alcabes is the author of “Dread: How Fear and Fantasy have Fueled Epidemics from the Black Death to Avian Flu.” He finds reaction to the latest pandemic all too familiar.  He says the Trump administration is guilty of “gross mishandling,” and for all but ignoring the “sudden surge” of the disease, first in China and especially in Italy.  

Alcabes lists a catalogue of official failure, including “incompetence, bureaucratic obstacles and inflexibility.” But even though public health is officially a state and local issue, he says the biggest failure of all is “leadership at the national level.”

From their different perspectives, the climate economist and the public health expert draw the same conclusion: US officials missed opportunities and waited too long, so the consequences of COVID-19 and climate change are worse than they needed to be. 

Mar 19 2020

50mins

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Rank #4: The politics of stay-at-home orders, plus the ethics of online shopping

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 The coronavirus pandemic is changing the rules for both public life and private behavior. New options are challenging the president in the White House and citizens sheltered at home. 

When it comes to determining where Americans can go and which businesses can stay open, President Trump embraces it one day but passes it onto governors the next day. says, “So much of this is politics and so very little of it is law,” says professor Stephen Vladeck of the University of Texas School of Law.

While touting his own measures for social distancing and staying at home, he shows  support for those protesting his own rules. That’s about politics too, says Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent and now a Yale law school lecturer. “They’re yelling and spreading their germs everywhere with no masks on, but this is the way they demonstrate their support for Trump,” she says. 

Meanwhile, many people who are hunkered down at home have turned to online shopping as a convenient and safe way to buy food and  medicine — as opposed to physically going to stores. But should they buy non-essentials online too, such as shoes, appliances, or furniture?

“There’s a realization that jobs are at stake, and that in order to ensure that few are lost as possible, online shopping is a good option for many people,” says Laura Steele, a business professor at Belfast University.

On the other hand, she knows there are risks involved in the supply chain.“What I personally am doing is trying to order from companies that have made efforts to ensure the health and safety of their workforces. But the reality is it’s not always possible to get access to that information.”

Apr 23 2020

39mins

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Rank #5: With demand for oil at an all-time low, will there be new opportunities for renewable energy?

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The economic shutdown from COVID-19 cut the demand for oil — so much so that the price per barrel dropped below zero for the first time in history. Storage space is now more valuable than the oil itself. And things won’t get much better when the economy picks up again.

“The oil industry is basically going to shrink as a whole as the coronavirus changes people’s habits,” says Ben Lefebvre, who covers the energy industry for Politico. “These guys are basically losing their shirts.”

So what about support promised by President Trump? “The White House doesn’t want to get involved in singling out the oil industry for any kind of aid. It’s just not going to help them at the polls,” Lefebvre says.

But Dan Reicher — former energy advisor to Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Google — says the federal government has ways to encourage alternative energy production. “There’s more than $40 billion sitting in the Department of Energy right now that could be used in helping to commercialize energy technologies.”

Reicher says the current situation is a wakeup call for COVID-19 and climate change, which the world is facing simultaneously. He says this will make the public more confident in their governments to take on both threats.

Apr 30 2020

59mins

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Rank #6: Coronavirus pandemic realigns US democracy

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Andy Slavitt helped save Obamacare. Now he’s helping the Trump White House cope with COVID-19. Lengthy threads on his increasingly influential Twitter feed get hundreds of mentions an hour.   

In an extensive interview, Slavitt tells Warren Olney that the pandemic is more important than partisanship. “We’re not in a moment that is Democrat versus Republican … or the U.S. versus China. We’re in a moment where we’re trying to keep as many people alive as possible.”

But despite the coronavirus, bitter partisanship was alive and well this week in Wisconsin. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Republican legislators and refused the Democratic governor’s last-minute demand to postpone the presidential primary.  

Angry voters took a risk anyway, says Politico national correspondent Natasha Korecki. “Some of their faces were practically bandaged to keep them safe.  And it rained, and it was a hail storm, and they had umbrellas, and they were standing there … like something I’ve never seen before.” 

UC Irvine law professor Rick Hasen calls this a bad sign, as red and blue states prepare to hold November’s presidential elections. Hasen is  also author of “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy.

He defines the basic issue: “Republicans tend to believe that making it easier for people to register and vote helps the Democratic Party.”   

Because of coronavirus restrictions, democrats want to revise voter ID, extend early voting, and make mail-in voting easier. Hasen notes, “We were already on track for the largest amount of election litigation … probably in the country’s history. COVID-19 is going to add, I think, tremendously to the burden on the courts.” 

He adds, “In both the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court on the same day, the courts divided along partisan ideological lines. That is really a bad sign for November.” 

Apr 09 2020

1hr 3mins

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Rank #7: How coronavirus reveals political differences in US

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COVID-19 is showing how just durable and pervasive the Red-Blue divide is in modern American life.  How seriously the crisis is taken depends more on politics than on public health and “there’s a big gap” between Republicans and Democrats. 

That’s how Ron Brownstein, senior editor at the Atlantic, reads public opinion polls and reactions of state governors. For the most part, blue-state leaders have closed businesses and imposed social distancing, while  red-state leaders have been reluctant to do the same.

What’s the impact of President Trump repeating misinformation at daily press briefings? NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen says it’s causing so much confusion that broadcast and cable news networks should stop airing those briefings in full.  

“It’s not a question of turning the microphone off on the president,” Rosen says. “He has the largest microphone in society, but is it the role of journalism to pass on bad information that could be deadly?” 

In the meantime, caution is being urged about the billions of dollars in corporate relief, along with cash grants to unemployed workers, approved by the Senate and Congress. University of Texas economist James Galbraith says it’s essential for supply chains to stay open for food, fuel and medicine, while everyone stays inside to curb the spread of COVID-19.  

Ron Brownstein warns that President Trump could make the crisis more divisive.
“You could imagine him or other conservatives … basically blaming this on big cities, asking, ‘Why should we shut down the rest of the country to save New York City?’”

Jonathan Parfrey, executive director of Climate Resolve in Los Angeles, responds with a reminder from World War II. “In this historic moment, we need that same sense of common purpose, that we’re coming together to make small sacrifices for such important ends … that we can all do our part in defeating an enemy.”

Mar 26 2020

43mins

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Rank #8: US farmworkers’ safety during COVID-19, plus a new model for mental health treatment

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From Florida to California, COVID-19 poses a threat to some of America’s most essential employees: farmworkers. Are they able to maintain social distancing? Do they have face masks? Can they wash their hands?  

Irene de Barraicua of Lideres Campesinas, a group representing women farm workers,  explains challenges to staying healthy in the fields. 

Dave Puglia, the head of the Western Growers Association, says what’s at stake is nothing less than America’s food supply. 

Also on this podcast, “The Definition of Insanity” is a documentary about how Miami-Dade County courts are treating people with mental illness, and how that system can change. . You can watch it on PBS this week.

Judge Steven Leifman explains his new strategy, and how local cops and sheriff’s deputies are buying into it. 

Political scholar Norm Ornstein lost a son who suffered from mental illness. And so, he developed a personal interest in mental illness, which led him to meet Leifman. Together they worked on the documentary. Orenstein’s mission is to spread awareness about anything — and everything — that’s being done to help those with brain diseases.

Apr 13 2020

1hr 1min

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Rank #9: What does COVID-19 mean for climate change long-term and Trump’s re-election?

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Shutting down whole economies because of the coronavirus pandemic means cleaner skies in many of the world’s most polluted places. That sounds like good news for climate change, as well as the fight against COVID-19. 

Air pollution and increased heat are “threat multipliers” that make respiratory diseases like COVID-19 worse than ever, says Katherine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and political science professor at Texas Tech University. 

In addition, trafficking wildlife and destroying their habitats could significantly increase the risk of a virus jumping from an animal to humans, she adds.

At some point, stay-at-home orders will be lifted. “We can’t close the schools. We can’t shut down the economy and industry. Those are just not sustainable solutions,” Hayhoe says. And as businesses and commuting resume like usual, it’ll be tough to keep those skies clear.

In talk around both climate change and COVID-19, political tribalism comes up. “The exact same discussions are playing out in real time with the pandemic as [they] play out with climate change. The same tensions are rising to the fore, and we’re seeing the same gridlock,” says Hayhoe.

That tension is especially dramatic for President Trump, who’s on “a long sort of slow slide toward a more authoritarian form of government,” says Stephen Walt, professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

COVID-19 has not been good for Trump’s ratings, and if the president thinks he’s likely to lose in November, he may be ready to “break rules in order to keep himself  in power,” Walt says. 

Apr 16 2020

44mins

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Rank #10: Coronavirus continues to threaten public health and the economy

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The extent of the coronavirus pandemic in the US is still not known. There hasn’t been enough testing, and it could take another two months to get up to speed. 

“It’s pretty frustrating,” according to Edward Blackman, chief pathologist at Topa Laboratories in Southern California. The Centers for Disease Control developed the initial test for this country, but Blackman says, “The Food and Drug Administration requirements for approval slow down the process.” 

Blackman explains that big outfits, including Quest and Labcorp, have started testing, but that smaller ones like Topa can’t get underway. As to the test itself, it requires a nose swab that Blackman calls “uncomfortable,” but not painful enough to discourage patients from following their doctors’ orders.   

In the meantime, Mark Zandy of Moody’s Analytics says continued uncertainty increases the possibility of an economic recession. He opines, “It’s the role of government to assess and mitigate the damage.” However, he notes that “President Trump’s payroll tax holiday is not on the top of my list.”  

All this is happening as the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is down to Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden. One of many remaining questions: Did Sen. Elizabeth Warren fail to get more support because she’s a woman? 

Writer Katie Hertzog says no:  “She actually benefited from her gender.” After all, Democrats elected Hillary Clinton four years ago, and she got more votes than Donald Trump. Hertzog, with the Seattle-based independent newspaper called The Stranger, insists, “We have to get rid of the Electoral College.”

Mar 12 2020

49mins

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What Americans' refusal to wear COVID-19 masks says about politics

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Public health officials and many doctors are adamant that wearing face masks can greatly reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Vice President Mike Pence and Fox News are also suggesting that wearing a mask in public makes sense. But President Trump and some Americans are still resisting masks. Does America’s devotion to liberty and rejection of government overreach explain why America is struggling to contain the spread of the virus? 

To understand the history and psychology behind the mask resistance, host Warren Olney talks with Catherine A. Sanderson, Life Sciences Professor at Amherst College and author of “Why We Act: Turning Bystanders into Moral Rebels;” and Clay Jenkinson, editor at large of the national magazine “Governing” and host of the podcast "The Thomas Jefferson Hour."

Warren Olney: One of the mottos of the U.S.  is “don't tread on me.” Is that what the mask resistance is all about?

Clay Jenkinson: “It’s partly about public ignorance. As Thomas Jefferson said, ‘If you expect to be a nation ignorant and free, you expect something that never has been and never can be in a state of civilization.’ Well we're testing that right now, and there are millions of Americans who will resist doing the right thing for themselves and their neighbors, just because they have an attitude that the government and no outside entity, including experts, should ever tell them what to do. 

And of course, it doesn't help that the President of the United States is the chief rebel. If he were modeling thoughtful, scientifically-based public health behavior by wearing a mask and talking about these precautions, millions of people would comply, albeit reluctantly. But when they have a cheerleader who says, ‘Oh, just go for it, do whatever you want, it'll go away,’ those people become empowered, and their ignorance then becomes a public health threat to the rest of us.”

Americans in some states have no problem with wearing masks. Has this become a regional issue? 

Clay Jenkinson: “Yes, it's blue versus red. For example, I just flew back from Portland, Oregon to Bismarck, North Dakota. And in the Portland International Airport, 90% or more of the people wore masks. In Denver, where I had a layover, about 80% of the people wore masks. But the other 20% looked kind of defiant and angry. And when I got to Bismarck International Airport, about 3% of the people wore masks, and they were being sneered at by those who regard this as a hoax, who believe that masks are really just a way of saying you're a Democrat or a liberal, and that they have very little whatsoever to do with public health. 

So that's the state of things. We've allowed ourselves to weaponize even public health measures on really silly partisan lines, and it’s deplorable. It would be one thing if this were just attitudes, but this affects my health. People don't understand that wearing a mask is not primarily about you or me, it's about everybody else.”

Are some people encouraged by others to act in a certain way? 

Catherine Sanderson: “Absolutely, it really speaks to the power again of social norms. If we had a president saying everyone should wear a mask, it's very normal, we would actually probably see a rise in mask wearing, particularly in the red states. I see some evidence already that we're maybe moving in that direction. 

Vice President Mike Pence is now wearing a mask, which he was definitely not doing earlier. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted about the importance of everyone wearing a mask. 

But again, social norms are formed based on leaders. For some people, that might be the governor of their state. For some people, a sports hero. For other people, it might be of course President Trump.”

What role does gender play in mask resistance?

Catherine Sanderson: “It's not as simple as male or female. It's probably not as simple as red state or blue state. What is most important is that if in a given community you reach a tipping point of maybe 25% of people doing a certain behavior, as long as they're the right 25% of people, people who are role models, people who have social capital, you can actually sway a community. 

As we start thinking about letting college students return to classes, letting high school students go back and so on, it's going to be extraordinarily important for people to make sure that the norms and the models in a particular environment are wearing a mask and being safe. Because that will encourage other people in a given group or community to do the same.”

Clay Jenkinson: “I agree with Catherine Sanderson's point that a critical mass can be reached. So if 5% are wearing masks, that gives everyone cover who doesn't wish to. If 25% are wearing masks, [it’s] harder to resist. If 60% are wearing masks, then you feel you almost have to get onboard. We need to see people taking that leadership role.” 

How is the Great Depression analogous to today? How did former presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt approach it?

Clay Jenkinson: “Herbert Hoover said, ‘Let's just ride this thing out, these laissez-faire capitalist things will get better. Adam Smith was right, the less government tampers with the economy, the better.’ Not only was he wrong, but he was repudiated in an extraordinary way by the American people who elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who then went on to win three subsequent elections, serving almost four terms as president, which was unprecedented. 

I think we should all learn a lesson from that. President Trump is committing an act of self destruction in the way that he's handling this. The American people may not be highly educated about these things, but they do have common sense. And common sense is telling them that Pence is probably right and President Trump is probably wrong. 

… The way the president has handled this is almost an exact analogy to Herbert Hoover in 1929 and 1930. And the polls are showing this. The American people are kind of rooting for Trump in some ways. But they think, ‘Well, wait a minute, a moment like this, you want actual leadership. You want adults in the room, and this guy is sort of behaving like a bully and an adolescent when in our hearts we know we really do need to take the responsible social steps.’ So I think that he's probably costing himself reelection by not stepping up and behaving like a true leader here.”

Jul 02 2020

47mins

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Should local police be warriors or guardians?

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George Floyd’s death has highlighted a long history of brutal interactions between the police and the people they are supposed to serve and protect.  

Blue ribbon commissions, police reforms, and improved training has helped to a degree but these efforts have not stopped the threats, which put minorities and particularly Black men at significantly higher risk. 

That’s often the consequence of what’s called a “warrior mindset,”which is drummed into recruits in training programs for some of the 18,000 police departments around the country. Modern policing is supposed to “keep the peace,” but it evolved in part from the enforcement of slavery, and part of its legacy is racial bias, according to Seth Staughton. 

Since the death of Floyd,there have been multiple incidents of chokeholds, violent attacks on peaceful protesters, and even more killings by police recorded on cell phones and surveillance cameras, viewed by millions of people. Why is this happening? To find answers, Warren Olney talked to Seth Staughton, a former policeman in Florida, now professor at the University of South Carolina’s School of Law and a recognized authority on police behavior.

Warren Olney: What kinds of reforms would incentivize police departments to keep the peace and protect rather than being at war with much of society? 

Seth Stoughton:  There are a whole range of things that need to happen, and a number of those changes aren't actually changes that need to be made within policing. A number of those changes need to be made in society more broadly. I don't think we have a race issue in policing, I think we have a race issue in society that is reflected and often magnified in police encounters.  We will never fix race issues and racist issues in policing without ultimately fixing those problems in society more broadly. 

But one thing that we can do outside of the context of policing is to change how we evaluate the success or failure of police agencies.  Right now, when we evaluate whether a police chief or the police agency is doing a good job, we look at crime rates. Policing definitely has a relationship with crime, but that’s just one aspect. When we reward a police agency or a police chief because crime rates are going down, or when we punish a police agency or fire a police chief because crime rates are going up, we may be rewarding or punishing them based on factors that are largely and sometimes entirely outside of their control. We may also be creating perverse incentives when a police agency or a police leader is under pressure to reduce crime. They can adopt aggressive zero tolerance approaches that are effective, or at least that can be effective in bringing down crime rates in the short term, but can ultimately actually be criminogenic,  meaning they can increase crime rates in the mid-term or the long term. 

If officers see crime fighting as the most important aspect of their job, they’ll view things like civil rights as obstacles to their job rather than the fundamental tenets that help define their job. So that attitude of being “the thin blue line that separates society from chaos as part of a higher calling which should know no bounds,” is problematic and can contribute to repressive and oppressive policing.

Olney: How difficult is it to get officers to try to restrain one another in circumstances such as the one we saw with George Floyd in Minneapolis, where one officer was pushing his knee down on the man's neck and the others officers weren't doing anything about it? 

Stoughton: It's very difficult for one officer to criticize another officer, particularly if it could be considered as criticizing another officer in public. Policing has a hierarchical structure; there has to be a chain of command. It can be very difficult for officers to criticize higher ranking officers or senior or more experienced officers. So for a recruit to criticize a more experienced field training officer is to go against many of the cultural norms in policing. That's not an excuse, but it is something of an explanation and it helps inform us on what needs to change. 

There are programs like the New Orleans Police Department EPIC program; Ethical Policing is Courageous, which puts peer intervention at the center of agency culture. It recognizes that one of the most powerful forces in affecting how we behave is what we think our peers expect us to do in any given situation. Social psychologists call this normative conformity; in most situations we behave the way our peers and people around us expect us to behave. So what EPIC did was to take peer intervention and make it about helping other officers instead of just protecting the public from a rogue cop.

Given the solidarity in what can be a very “us versus them” mentality, when one officer sees another officer lose their cool, he has an obligation to step in to help save them from making what could be a career ending mistake. If you want to protect other officers, you need to be courageous enough to criticize them and to stop them. That's been a very successful program that I think can be more widely adopted in other agencies. Peer intervention needs to be part of police culture. 

The Supreme Court and the Attorney General Bill Barr 

Later Olney talks with Dahlia Lithwick, on the latest decisions from the Supreme Court and what those decisions say about the Chief Justice, President Trump’s conservative court, and the President’s Attorney General William Barr.   

Jun 25 2020

1hr 5mins

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Is the American identity undergoing a transformation?

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Solidarity demonstrations continue across the U.S.protesting police violence and the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis officer.  Diverse groups demand police reform now. The message has reached the White House, and President Trump has signed an executive order promoting what he called “the highest and strongest standards in the world.” 

California Democrat Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus  is the lead author of police reforms designed by the majority party. She told KCRW’s Warren Olney that “what the president and my Republican colleagues have done is to take our bill, incorporate some major categories in it but they've taken the teeth out. And I think that the hundreds of thousands of people on the street are looking for teeth. They're looking for substance, they're looking for significant, transformative change.” 

Also on the podcast Olney talks to two professors about Black history, racial misconceptions, and Black female leadership.  Duchess Harris teaches American Studies at Macalester College, and is the author of “Racially Writing the Republic: Racists, Race Rebels and Transformations of American Identity.” Kimberle Crenshaw  teaches law at UCLA and Columbia and is co-founder and executive director of the African American Policy Forum.

Warren Olney: What are some of the other things that white people very specifically need to learn about the black experience? 

Duchess Harris: White people need to learn that as much as you want to say that you do not see color, you must see color in terms of what your behavior is around all public policy issues. The late, great novelist James Baldwin said: I'm not sure if you're a racist, but I'm confident that I'm not in your unions, and not on your school boards. And he goes on down a list of all the spaces where people would have influence in society and those spaces lack Black leadership. 

We have fundamentally different histories and we have different backgrounds. People are afraid to see that there's actually a culture and for Black Americans, there is a culture to celebrate, we need to celebrate being Black. People think that Blackness only has a deficit, without history but there’s actually culture to celebrate. Just an acknowledgment of achievement. 

Warren: Are we seeing a “transformation of American identity?”

Kimberle Crenshaw: This is the story that's yet to be written. We've had other times in history where it appeared as though some found fundamental change and we've been disappointed. I think the civil rights movement is an example in which there was a lot of hope, a possibility that America will respond to the speech that Martin Luther King gave. Part of his speech that really circulates in our consciousness, is the idea that we should be judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. 

But his deeper challenge to the American consciousness was whether they would look at American race relations, look at hierarchies in America and understand that those deficits were products of promises that were never fulfilled. So the most important part of the speech, in my view, was when King said we're coming to the capital to cash a promissory note; a commitment that has been stamped insufficient funds. 

So literally, he was articulating this idea about structural disrepair, all of the ways that the history of white supremacy of slavery and then segregation actually were material dimensions of life. We needed an intervention that went beyond the idea that the problem was prejudice or the problem was we don't know each other well. He was demanding something far more transformative. 

So I think we're in this moment where we're using the language of structural reform. But do people really have a sense of what that entails? Are we going to sort of just fall back on old ideas about what race discrimination actually looks like? That is the fundamental question of the moment?

Beyond American Health Care

Later Olney talks with Ezekiel Emanuel, former health care advisor to President Obama and now a member of Joe Biden's Public Health Advisory Committee about his new book “Which Country has the World’s Best Health Care.”

Olney and Emanuel talk about what the US can learn from other countries when it comes to insurance companies, universal health care, and the high cost of drugs.

Warren Olney: What ideas from other countries could we adopt and should insurance companies be involved in the healthcare process or do you favor a single payer system? 

Zeke Emanuel: Inevitably, insurance companies are going to be involved because they pay so much money to doctors, hospitals, home health care agencies, laboratories. One of the important results of my book is that with single payer, we understand this to mean the government pays hospitals, the government pays doctors. But there's also single payer where people pay into the government and then the government pays the private insurance companies. People get to choose their private insurance company and then that private insurance company is responsible for coordinating and organizing the care. That latter model where you have a choice of private insurance company exists in the Netherlands and in Germany and I think that kind of model could be well adapted to the United States. 

Jun 18 2020

1hr 2mins

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KCRW Presents: Samaritans

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A four-part documentary series from KCRW. In the first episode of Samaritans, we meet Christine Curtiss, learn where she came from and what her everyday life is like on the street. She has a community of friends in Mid-City, LA who look out for her. One of them enlists the local government. Follow her story and unpack the homeless experience in LA.

Listen to all four parts of Samaritans here.

Jun 13 2020

22mins

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The link between racial and environmental injustice

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The killing of George Floyd is the focus of protests around the globe. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” have become a powerful phrase. Communities of color and those living in poverty have also been hit hard by environmental pollution and the COVID-19 pandemic, which targets the lungs.

Warren Olney looks at connections between Black Lives Matter, the coronavirus pandemic, and climate change. He hears from Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, North America Director at 350.org, a movement aimed at ending fossil fuels.

Warren Olney: Mattias Lehman, digital director for the Sunrise Movement, said that in this country, environmentalism was separate from racial justice. He said, “It was something for white people who liked big animals.”

Tamara Toles O’Laughlin: “Charismatic megafauna. I always joked that my favorite of them are human beings. But if you look at the work of environmental protection, of resource protection, of protection of public and private lands, it often looks like a lone white man standing in the forest trying to determine what the world will look like. And that is not what any environmental work should be striving for. It's not what the imagery should hold. It makes no room for what we've built since then, given that we have lots of folks moving into cities. 

If we have environmental work that speaks to people where they are, [then] water, air and access to health become really distinct concepts, and it feels like a luxury item when it shouldn't.” 

Talk about the urban planning process. For example, New York City was put together with an eye to segregation and keeping African Americans particularly on the other side of the freeway.

Tamara Toles O’Laughlin: “Frederick Law Olmsted and Robert Moses, two of the city’s most famous master planners, look at what they did with their power to carve out from the earth spaces where people will spend time together, build their lives, live and die. 

Frederick Law Olmsted made some choices about communal space and giving people access. He designed Central Park [in Manhattan] and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Robert Moses ripped up the shorelines, moved highways, and made bridges too low for people to be able to pass. He redesigned cities to separate communities, created the concept of suburbia, and created and deepened the lack of transportation. 

So there was a really malevolent design to keep people separate, to design their lives with or without access to a healthy environment or green space. So it's been really, really incredible to find that in moments like this, when this country is in an unrest over the murder of George Floyd, that it’s not just about the incident that led to his death, but the way that his community was designed. 

Poor design segregates people and subjects them to poor health because they're exposed to transportation-related pollution and air quality issues. And that’s made them more susceptible to COVID. So there's nothing about this moment that we're in that isn't about design.” 

Is this a moment when we can come together and start making changes? 

Tamara Toles O’Laughlin: “I think it's a time for us to start undoing some things. It is a strange moment. We're in the middle of an uprising because people have had enough. We're in a moment where the threads of democracy are bare.

… It's also a good moment to recognize who is making the most of multiple tragedies as well. As oil, coal and gas companies get $50 million in taxpayer money during the pandemic, there are communities full of people by waiting with baited breath to find out [whether] will they get a $1200 check to make them really unlikely to meet any of their needs. 

So I think the American experiment is under review, and the only way forward is for us to figure out what we have to undo. I think [that involves] ripping up some highways, giving people access to good jobs, [building] infrastructure that actually serves our chosen purpose at this moment. And human health is a good way to go. So as we are in this moment, I'm looking at my undo list.

Separately in the podcast, Warren Olney speaks with Tania Chairez, graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and an undocumented  immigrant who was brought to the U.S. at the age of 5.

Warren Olney: Are you anxious while waiting for the Supreme Court decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and how do you cope? 

Tania Chairez: “It's not a new feeling for me to have to have to think about — every single morning — what's going to happen tomorrow. Every single week, every Monday, I wake up and just immediately Google ‘Supreme Court DACA decision.’ Did it happen today? Did [it] not happen? That's my ritual every week because it's supposed to come out in June. It's definitely keeping me on the edge of my seat. 

But whatever they decide, I hope that the community and that people who can vote and can call their senators will realize that what we actually need is Congressional change. It's not okay to continue to have undocumented people serving as essential laborers, but not receiving any kind of support from the government, nor having any kind of status.”

Jun 11 2020

1hr 7mins

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Melina Abdullah: It’s a mistake to equate what happens to property with what happens to black lives

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America is experiencing the largest civil unrest in decades as countless people protest the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd. Peaceful demonstrations have spread across dozens of cities, and especially in upscale white neighborhoods. In some cases, looting and property destruction have followed, with mixed responses from law enforcement. What does this all say about confronting  racism in America? 

Warren Olney talks with: 

- Peniel Joseph, founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the University of Texas, and author of “The Sword and the Shield:  The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr” 

- Melina Abdullah, professor in the Department of Pan-African Studies at Cal State LA and an organizer of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles

- Norm Ornstein, Congressional scholar 

- Connie Rice, longtime civil rights lawyer and former member of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing


The following interview has been abbreviated and edited for clarity.

Warren Olney: Talk about the looting and violence that took place at the protests in LA over the weekend. 

Melina Abdullah: “We were very deliberate in deciding to disrupt spaces of white affluence. We want to make sure that it's not just black people who are suffering at the hands of white supremacy, that if we can bring a little bit of the pain that we feel to white communities, then maybe they'll have a vested interest in  ... and disrupting these systems that kill our people. They can't simply turn their heads and retreat from what we're experiencing. 

I think it's a huge mistake for people to be equating what happens to property with what happens to the lives of black people. We need to shift that. We also need to remember that in these demonstrations, the first acts of violence are the police assaulting protesters. And it's important that the media examines that.”

How does this unrest fit into what both Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said and wanted to see happen?

Peniel Joseph: “Dr. King, very clearly from ‘65 to ‘68, says that we should be thinking about and investigating the reason behind racial violence and rebellions that are happening all across America. 

What we're seeing in the mass protests is really not just about the criminal justice system. This has occurred over decades and is a gateway to panoramic systems of economic, political and gendered oppression in the United States. It’s connected to homelessness and housing affordability, to the public schools and to the prison pipeline, the lack of health care and mental health care in our communities. 

Black Lives Matter is building on the legacy of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., and focusing on both non-violent civil disobedience and political protest, and also on a structural critique of white supremacy of racial capitalism. 

All white Americans in this racial caste system have privilege, not just those in Beverly Hills, but those who are poor and opioid-addicted  … who have their addiction medicalized instead of being incarcerated  punished and brutalized … and murdered like their African American counterparts who are [sic] addicted to crack cocaine in the 1980s and 90s. 

We have a deep, deep problem here connected to both policy but also empathy. We lack empathy for black human beings in the United States of America. And the election of Barack Obama does not make up for that collective lack of empathy. And that's what Malcolm X meant when he talked about black dignity. He meant that we had to defeat and eradicate white supremacy. He used the words “by any means necessary” because he felt that black people needed to defend themselves against racial terror that was exploding across the United States.

This is the deep, rough history that we have. This moment of national racial and economic crisis can be turned into a generational opportunity, but only if we acknowledge the depth and breadth of racism and white supremacy, and we commit ourselves to transforming racist policies with anti-racist policies at the local and regional, the national, the global level.”

The mayor of Minneapolis apparently wanted to eliminate what he referred to as “warrior training.” What is that? 

Connie Rice: “The culture of warrior policing [is] policing that enforces containment and suppression …  [that] descends from plantation policing and slavery. I dragged former LA Police Chief [William] Bratten to a slavery artifact store on Crenshaw. It's no longer there, but when I took him into the store, he stopped right before a cabinet full of police badges from plantation police forces. And you cannot tell the difference between those badges and the LAPD badge or the Boston badge or the New York NYPD. They are exact replicas. Only around the edges, instead of plantations of green acres, it's [the] city of Boston. 

So this descends from slavery. We send the police out to enforce a racist, segregationist, suppression strategy that benefits the rest of us. Black politicians enforce it just the same way. 

And black cops can't survive inside police departments unless they follow the culture. I know the valor and the integrity of many, many police officers because I've been riding shotgun with them for 17 years. I know what good human beings they are, but they carry out a mission that is toxic, and they have a culture that is absolutely deadly. 

They are looking for a way to change this culture, but it hasn't been fast enough. It isn't felt at all in the communities of a George Floyd or an Eric Garner. But today on the front page of the L.A. Times, eight gang intervention workers who used to be Grape Street Crips and Bloods ...  they're [now] with ministers and Commander [Gerald] Woodyard and other CSP [Community Safety Partnership] cops. 

Commander Woodyard is the commander of the unit that I created with Chief [Charlie] Beck, where the cops get promoted for doing a wraparound safety plan with residents. And residents actually say whether they’ve created trust. Those are to me the bookends  from the last riots to these riots.”

Jun 04 2020

1hr 3mins

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How dogs and tech can detect COVID-19

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Tech titans like Apple, Google and Facebook are about to get low-tech competition to help detect the novel coronavirus. Labradors and Cocker Spaniels are being trained to sniff out COVID-19. Dogs have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses — compared to about six million in humans — enablings them to detect COVID-19 on a person even if they’re asymptomatic.  

Medical detection dogs, wearable wristbands, thermal scanners and phone apps are part of a myriad of measures being designed to help people feel more secure about leaving their homes, getting back to work and begin travelling again. Warren Olney talks with Dr. Claire Guest, co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs in the UK;  and Amy Webb, futurist and adjunct professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. 

The following interview has been abbreviated and edited for clarity.

Warren Olney: To control COVID-19, might we see the adoption of something extraordinarily intrusive by American standards? 

Amy Webb: “We live in a very litigious society, but no employer wants to get sued if their employee gets sick. So in order for that to happen, the employer needs real-time knowledge of every employee's health situation. And because it takes a while for the virus to present symptoms, we're either going to have to have some kind of scanning and scoring system for each person, based on your digital behaviors, and if there are any test results. Or we're going to have to have a much faster test, and it's going to have to be comprehensive and available. We're going to have to be tested every single day as we wait for a vaccine.

If those two scenarios are what kickstarts our economy and gets us all back to work, what does that tell us? It tells us that privacy goes away and that privacy is dead as we know it. In the midst of this pandemic, digital privacy and a functioning economy are unfortunately at odds with each other.”

Is there a danger that we'll go too far, and create tracking instruments that can be used in a dangerous way? 

Amy Webb: “That's the money question. So pre-pandemic, all of the big tech companies were investing heavily in the future of diagnostics and health care. Amazon opened up its own vertically integrated health system back in September just for Seattle-based employees. 

For example, there's a toilet that Amazon partnered on and is Alexa-powered. You may say, ‘Who needs to go to the bathroom to talk to a toilet?; But stop and think about what's really happening. What does this imply? It implies that there are sensors being built into our everyday appliances and everyday objects that we wear with the probable goal of ongoing data collection. So every time you go to the bathroom, there's a urinalysis done and you'll get your protein levels, your sugar level. If any of those are off, you have an indication that maybe something is wrong versus waiting around to show some kind of a symptom. This was all in the works before … the pandemic. 

So now we're in the midst of a pandemic and regulations are being relaxed. We're focused on the private sector to help get us out of this mess.If you were to go to the federal government and say, ‘Hey, I bought a talking Alexa toilet for my bathroom that's collecting data on me, which regulatory agency oversees something like that?’ The answer is nobody knows.  

… I've asked: Is it the FDA? Well, as long as the toilet isn't giving you a diagnosis, but rather just showing you data, then probably not. Is it FCC? Well, the toilet’s probably connected to the internet so technically it could be, but there's no department for that.

This is where we're going to have problems down the road. The fact is that we just do not have people in the White House right now who are thinking far ahead. They are not focused on long-term preparedness. We have a president more focused on platitudes than preparing for what comes next. So this is a huge challenge and all of us should be thinking about it right now.”

You ran the first program to train dogs to identify cancer. Tell us about that.

Claire Guest: “I worked on cancer … in 2004. So going back 15 years, and we were able to train dogs to reliably detect bladder cancer from a urine sample. Since that time, we have grown and developed a huge evidence base in the detection of disease through volatiles. Volatiles are those smelly molecules like from a nice perfume or aftershave. … What we've discovered is that diseases change your body's odor volatiles, and the dogs with that incredible sense of smell can be trained to identify them.” 

Are some dogs better at tracking than others? 

Claire Guest: “Absolutely. … In the UK, we use a lot of also working gun dog breeds, and we often use the dogs that end up in our rescue centers because they're sort of hyperactive dogs. All our dogs live with volunteers in the area, so we have a no-kennel policy. They come into work in the day, go home in the evening, put their feet up and curl up on the sofa. This means that not only are they dogs who love to use their nose, but they're actually peopley [sic] dogs as well. So they’re very, very suitable for working in environments where they're going to be with the public.” 

Tell us about the extraordinary ability of dogs to smell things. 

Claire Guest: “Until we know how smelly COVID-19 is, we won't know precisely how close the dogs are going to have to be to an individual to find it. But they are trained on a small piece of sock the size of a 50 pence piece. A dog has 350 million sensory receptors in his nose, and us [sic] humans have five million.When we’ve worked with dogs on other diseases, we've shown that they can go down to parts per trillion. If you can imagine smelling a teaspoon of sugar in a cup of tea, one of our detector dogs could detect a teaspoon of sugar in the volume of water that can be held in the two Olympic sized swimming pools. So evolution has made these dogs into absolutely super biosensors, the best biosensors on the planet.”

Jun 01 2020

48mins

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What makes cities vulnerable to COVID-19? Concentrated poverty, says econ professor

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Disease has thrived among dense populations since cities began. But COVID-19 is the worst example since 1918, and New York City is America’s primary victim, with empty streets and skyscrapers. 

Can New York and other cities survive this pandemic? KCRW’s Warren Olney speaks with Harvard economics professor Ed Glaeser and former New York City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett. This interview has been abbreviated and edited for clarity.

Warren Olney: You call cities “our greatest invention.” Why? 

Ed Glaeser: “We've seen a renaissance in urban America and great cities throughout the world, from Paris to Singapore. We are a social species that become smart by being around other smart people. That's what happens in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. That's what happens in London. That's what happens in Bangalore. 

… But there have always been these downsides of urban proximity. There have always been demons that come with density: high housing costs, traffic congestion, crime. And the most terrible of the demons of density is contagious disease.” 

Facebook, Google and Apple have invested in open-plan work spaces. Now Facebook says its employees who can work from home should continue to do so until the end of 2021. How do big businesses feel about telecommuting long-term?

“We recently took a poll of the National Association of Business Economists, asking how many of their workers would stay working from home after COVID-19. And between a third to a half of them were likely to stay home. So as people transition [to working from home], that will decrease the demand for commercial real estate. But I think that will be a five-year to seven-year blip. 

If we can deal with the disease, the strength of cities is so strong that they will come back. The one constant safe harbor for American workers has been in the service industry. People will still pay for a latte, served with a smile, for a piece of cake that comes with someone telling you, ‘You look great today.’ That human edge remains the most employable asset of Americans, and those people are going to need jobs, and they're going to need cities.” 

Is it density that makes cities particularly vulnerable to disease? 

“It’s not that cities have a lot of people in them per se, but that cities have tended to concentrate poverty. So even in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, New York City, half the population lives at or near poverty. And that's what is posing the risks. Because when people are poor, they can't afford to pay rents, so they end up squashed up together and overcrowded apartments. They may live far from their workplaces and have long commute times, which they accomplish by crowding onto public transport, buses or subway cars. So it's these conditions that made New York City ripe for COVID. 

Many people who are poor, who are living under crowded conditions, work in surface jobs that were defined as essential and had to work because they couldn't afford not to work. Those are the conditions, not the density of the city that has made New York City so vulnerable.”


A sign in Manhattan says, “Stay home if possible, even if you are healthy.” Credit: Eden, Janine and Jim (CC BY 2.0). 

Olney also speaks with Richard Haass, a veteran of four presidential administrations and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations. His new book is titled “The World: A Brief Introduction.” Olney asks Haass to elaborate on this quote from his book: “We exist in a moment when history is being made.” 

Haass says with the emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), history is something Americans learn little about, and certainly not enough to carry out global obligations or even self-govern.

May 28 2020

1hr 2mins

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Will COVID-19 reshape political conventions?

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Joe Biden says he might be nominated by a virtual convention. Donald Trump wants balloons, bunting and cheering supporters. It’s public health versus economic recovery in this year’s presidential campaign.  

KCRW’s Warren Olney sat down with Ron Brownstein, E.J. Dionne, and A.B. Stoddard to talk about the presidential campaigns, polls, and hydroxychloroquine. This interview has been abbreviated and edited for clarity.

Warren Olney: How are this year’s Democratic and Republican conventions going to sound and look different from the past? 

Ron Brownstein: “The maximum that's possible at the Democratic convention still seems to me below the minimum of what Trump might accept as a Republican in-person event in North Carolina. But recall how controversial this was in Charlotte to begin with. There are pressures now for the hospitality industry, restaurants, and everything else that has [sic] been hurting. ... so they would love this economic infusion. 

But if you're talking about tens of thousands of people— which is what polls say will happen— many of whom are just more resistant to any social distancing precautions, the prospect of having to clean up for that, and the implications for the health of your community, there is going [sic] to be some very difficult decisions and tough negotiations in the weeks ahead. 

The Republican National Committee is acting as though it's full speed ahead and saying that they're expecting 50,000 people to be there in person in just a few months. That’s just — wow!” 

Warren Olney: I have covered presidential politics for a long time, but the  announcement by Trump that he is taking hydroxychloroquine was one of the strangest ever to come out of the White House. Will it fly with voters? 

A.B. Stoddard: “The president let us know in no uncertain terms he’s decided to take this medication as a preventative measure against COVID, though our own FDA and the government has told us that we should not use this in any way — unless we are in a trial or under the supervision of a physician in a hospital. 

It has been denounced as a preventative or a treatment for COVID as it can cause risky effects to the heart. But he said he took it because he's heard from a lot of people, and he said that's his evidence. 

I don't know that he's definitely taking it. It was very clear from his doctor's note that the doctor does not say he prescribed it or the president is on it. I do think that the president might have wanted to change the topic in the news away from an investigation into a secretary of state. 

What the polls show is that there is a huge drop in support among seniors. They're very scared for their health. Like my own mother, they don't feel that they can re-enter society until there's an abundance of testing, if not a vaccine. And he has lost them by 20 points in a six week period. If he doesn't get them back, his coalition cannot get him a second term in office.”

Warren Olney: E.J. Dionne, do you agree? 

E.J. Dionne:  “Yes, Donald Trump cannot win this election if he doesn't win white voters over the age of 65 by enormous margins. The president’s slowness in reacting to this and then his handling of it, his delegating everything out to the states has actually made this situation both on the health side and on the economic side worse. And when unemployment is at the rate that it is, the economy is not an asset to him anymore. In fact, it's a huge potential liability. 

Warren Olney: What about the role of Fox, which has taken the president's position again and again and again, in marked contrast to both CNN and MSNBC?

A.B. Stoddard: “Trump is very intent on keeping Fox in line on his message platform because he's trying to keep his voters focused off of what was a spectacular disaster, his response to this virus. I'm trying to think in history when this government has failed this country in a more profound way, but I cannot come up with a stronger example than this.”

E.J. Dionne: “The mainstream media really has a responsibility not to play the game that Trump wants them to play. There is no obligation to pass along falsehood. There is no obligation on the part of the mainstream media to pretend that there is such a thing as Obamagate. Trump’s counting on getting enough of this junk into the mainstream media that it creates enough confusion that some potentially Democratic voters stay away or people get this idea. You've got to distinguish between the signal and the noise with the Trump campaign. The noise will be the signal, and the media have to face up to that.”

May 21 2020

1hr 10mins

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Gene Sperling on economic dignity and wage gap for frontline workers

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Martin Luther King Jr., speaking on behalf of striking garbage workers in Memphis, Tennessee, said “all labor has dignity.” He argued that each job is essential, and that a sanitation worker is as important as a physician to our nation’s well-being. Former Obama economic advisor Gene Sperling picked up that theme in his latest book, “Economic Dignity.” Written before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit, his message is prescient. Sperling summarizes some of his ideas with KCRW’s Warren Olney. This interview has been abbreviated and edited for clarity.

Warren Olney: We now celebrate health care workers and others that have been taken for granted for a long time. We’re calling them heroes. What does this have to do with economic dignity? 

Gene Sperling: “Today is that moment where people are being forced to deal with the fact that we are dependent on the farm worker, the driver, the nursing aide, and all of the frontline workers. Yet they are often among the people we treat the worst economically. 

Only half of farm workers have health care of the nursing aides and home aides taking care of our sick at this time, risking their lives. Fifty percent of them can’t take a paid day off to care for their own child or family member. And we're applauding and recognizing people as heroes. But if they do not have a living wage, if they do not have personal protective equipment, if they do not have paid sick leave for themselves, then I think the applause will start to sound and feel empty.”

How important is the definition between essential and non-essential work? 

“Morally and spiritually, we should recognize the value of all workers because they are doing their part to contribute to their family and to the country. One of the things we have to question is why we didn’t realize the people producing our food are essential to our lives, and why don't we value those jobs more? The more we value them, the more value we would get out of them. 

I call these double dignity jobs. If you treated jobs with more dignity, if the people caring for our older relatives were given more pay, more opportunity to gain skills, they would stay longer and in turn they would prevent more hospitalizations. 

So the provision of treating workers with dignity, and then giving more dignity to the people they serve can also be good because it can lead to our children being smarter and more productive members of society. This is about a belief in economic dignity of all people, but also it is the smart thing to do for long term returns for our economy and our society.”

ALSO: Later in this episode of To the Point: the U.S. Postal Service, an institution older than the U.S. Constitution, may be closing its doors. 

Declining revenues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic are crushing the agency and at a time when government support is most needed. President Trump has called the agency a “joke,” and threatened to let it go bankrupt. With the November election fast approaching is it possible to hold free and fair elections without a functioning postal service?  

May 14 2020

1hr 7mins

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Digital Darwinism and COVID-19: Businesses must adapt or perish in new economy

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Will we ever look at toilet paper the same way? Will we live as we did before COVID-19? Not a single nation is immune from the impacts of the virus.

Futurist and digital anthropologist Brian Solis shares some of his insights with KCRW host Warren Olney.

KCRW: The digital revolution and the global coronavirus situation —how do they go together? 

Solis: “There is an opportunity here to see it as a control-alt-delete moment. The world is now accelerating towards digital momentum. Whether that is working from home or e-commerce, this path to digital was inevitable. It's been ongoing for 20 years.

Unfortunately, this moment in time is forcing incumbents and digital disruptors like the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world to rethink what it means to be in business today. That is forcing what I call the novel economy, which is essentially all of the playbooks that we had coming into this moment are not going to work moving forward.”

What about the idea that businesses must adapt or die? Is that situation more crucial now?

“Let's look at the deaths. If we look at the retail sector, for example, this is an industry that was disrupted beginning in 1995, when the dawn of the consumer-facing internet really started to rise. Yet many retailers still talk about how to more effectively compete against Amazon, when Amazon itself is over 20 years old. 

When we talk about Uber and Airbnb and being disrupted in their respective markets, those companies are over a decade old now. So it gives perspective to the fact that we're not moving fast enough. The number one place for businesses to make investments (as customers are now forced to shop online) is in e-commerce —and many organizations aren't able to keep up.” 

As classes increasingly go online during the pandemic, how will that affect kids and their parents?

“Parents now have to help their children learn in a way that really only teachers have had to do. … Hopefully this is a learning moment for them to say, ‘Wow, I now see the devices differently. I see how their brain works differently. It might be different than mine. Perhaps I need a bit more empathy in this moment to think: How would my child learn, knowing that their brain is probably different than my brain, so that I can connect the dots and be a better teacher, be a better parent, and be a better role model?’ 

So in many ways, this is an opportunity for us to learn and grow to help the next generation who doesn't know any different. This is all they know.”

May 09 2020

35mins

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How will COVID-19 leave its mark on health care?

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The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the worst of America’s broken health care system. But there is an unexpected silver lining, according to Dr. Amol Navathe of the University of Pennsylvania. 

“The way that the health system has shifted in the past three months shows that we’re capable of the type of change we need to save American health care,” he says.

Hospitals and doctors have been forced to become more efficient to accommodate COVID-19. Unnecessary surgeries and procedures have been postponed.  

The catch: Elective procedures generate the revenue needed for providers to stay in business. Navathe says what’s needed are investments in tech. He also suggests, “Do things in a different way that has not been supported by the existing financial model.” 

KCRW also hears from James Blake — a humanitarian aid worker and journalist — about the dire risk facing those in fragile countries and conflict zones. A recent International Rescue Committee report warns that the world risks up to 1 billion cases and 3.2 million deaths from COVID-19 across countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. Blake explains why aiding these regions is crucial to halting the pandemic.

May 07 2020

1hr 6mins

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With demand for oil at an all-time low, will there be new opportunities for renewable energy?

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The economic shutdown from COVID-19 cut the demand for oil — so much so that the price per barrel dropped below zero for the first time in history. Storage space is now more valuable than the oil itself. And things won’t get much better when the economy picks up again.

“The oil industry is basically going to shrink as a whole as the coronavirus changes people’s habits,” says Ben Lefebvre, who covers the energy industry for Politico. “These guys are basically losing their shirts.”

So what about support promised by President Trump? “The White House doesn’t want to get involved in singling out the oil industry for any kind of aid. It’s just not going to help them at the polls,” Lefebvre says.

But Dan Reicher — former energy advisor to Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Google — says the federal government has ways to encourage alternative energy production. “There’s more than $40 billion sitting in the Department of Energy right now that could be used in helping to commercialize energy technologies.”

Reicher says the current situation is a wakeup call for COVID-19 and climate change, which the world is facing simultaneously. He says this will make the public more confident in their governments to take on both threats.

Apr 30 2020

59mins

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The politics of stay-at-home orders, plus the ethics of online shopping

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 The coronavirus pandemic is changing the rules for both public life and private behavior. New options are challenging the president in the White House and citizens sheltered at home. 

When it comes to determining where Americans can go and which businesses can stay open, President Trump embraces it one day but passes it onto governors the next day. says, “So much of this is politics and so very little of it is law,” says professor Stephen Vladeck of the University of Texas School of Law.

While touting his own measures for social distancing and staying at home, he shows  support for those protesting his own rules. That’s about politics too, says Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent and now a Yale law school lecturer. “They’re yelling and spreading their germs everywhere with no masks on, but this is the way they demonstrate their support for Trump,” she says. 

Meanwhile, many people who are hunkered down at home have turned to online shopping as a convenient and safe way to buy food and  medicine — as opposed to physically going to stores. But should they buy non-essentials online too, such as shoes, appliances, or furniture?

“There’s a realization that jobs are at stake, and that in order to ensure that few are lost as possible, online shopping is a good option for many people,” says Laura Steele, a business professor at Belfast University.

On the other hand, she knows there are risks involved in the supply chain.“What I personally am doing is trying to order from companies that have made efforts to ensure the health and safety of their workforces. But the reality is it’s not always possible to get access to that information.”

Apr 23 2020

39mins

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What does COVID-19 mean for climate change long-term and Trump’s re-election?

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Shutting down whole economies because of the coronavirus pandemic means cleaner skies in many of the world’s most polluted places. That sounds like good news for climate change, as well as the fight against COVID-19. 

Air pollution and increased heat are “threat multipliers” that make respiratory diseases like COVID-19 worse than ever, says Katherine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and political science professor at Texas Tech University. 

In addition, trafficking wildlife and destroying their habitats could significantly increase the risk of a virus jumping from an animal to humans, she adds.

At some point, stay-at-home orders will be lifted. “We can’t close the schools. We can’t shut down the economy and industry. Those are just not sustainable solutions,” Hayhoe says. And as businesses and commuting resume like usual, it’ll be tough to keep those skies clear.

In talk around both climate change and COVID-19, political tribalism comes up. “The exact same discussions are playing out in real time with the pandemic as [they] play out with climate change. The same tensions are rising to the fore, and we’re seeing the same gridlock,” says Hayhoe.

That tension is especially dramatic for President Trump, who’s on “a long sort of slow slide toward a more authoritarian form of government,” says Stephen Walt, professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

COVID-19 has not been good for Trump’s ratings, and if the president thinks he’s likely to lose in November, he may be ready to “break rules in order to keep himself  in power,” Walt says. 

Apr 16 2020

44mins

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US farmworkers’ safety during COVID-19, plus a new model for mental health treatment

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From Florida to California, COVID-19 poses a threat to some of America’s most essential employees: farmworkers. Are they able to maintain social distancing? Do they have face masks? Can they wash their hands?  

Irene de Barraicua of Lideres Campesinas, a group representing women farm workers,  explains challenges to staying healthy in the fields. 

Dave Puglia, the head of the Western Growers Association, says what’s at stake is nothing less than America’s food supply. 

Also on this podcast, “The Definition of Insanity” is a documentary about how Miami-Dade County courts are treating people with mental illness, and how that system can change. . You can watch it on PBS this week.

Judge Steven Leifman explains his new strategy, and how local cops and sheriff’s deputies are buying into it. 

Political scholar Norm Ornstein lost a son who suffered from mental illness. And so, he developed a personal interest in mental illness, which led him to meet Leifman. Together they worked on the documentary. Orenstein’s mission is to spread awareness about anything — and everything — that’s being done to help those with brain diseases.

Apr 13 2020

1hr 1min

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Coronavirus pandemic realigns US democracy

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Andy Slavitt helped save Obamacare. Now he’s helping the Trump White House cope with COVID-19. Lengthy threads on his increasingly influential Twitter feed get hundreds of mentions an hour.   

In an extensive interview, Slavitt tells Warren Olney that the pandemic is more important than partisanship. “We’re not in a moment that is Democrat versus Republican … or the U.S. versus China. We’re in a moment where we’re trying to keep as many people alive as possible.”

But despite the coronavirus, bitter partisanship was alive and well this week in Wisconsin. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Republican legislators and refused the Democratic governor’s last-minute demand to postpone the presidential primary.  

Angry voters took a risk anyway, says Politico national correspondent Natasha Korecki. “Some of their faces were practically bandaged to keep them safe.  And it rained, and it was a hail storm, and they had umbrellas, and they were standing there … like something I’ve never seen before.” 

UC Irvine law professor Rick Hasen calls this a bad sign, as red and blue states prepare to hold November’s presidential elections. Hasen is  also author of “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy.

He defines the basic issue: “Republicans tend to believe that making it easier for people to register and vote helps the Democratic Party.”   

Because of coronavirus restrictions, democrats want to revise voter ID, extend early voting, and make mail-in voting easier. Hasen notes, “We were already on track for the largest amount of election litigation … probably in the country’s history. COVID-19 is going to add, I think, tremendously to the burden on the courts.” 

He adds, “In both the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court on the same day, the courts divided along partisan ideological lines. That is really a bad sign for November.” 

Apr 09 2020

1hr 3mins

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Trump finally sees coronavirus as a pandemic. Will he take responsibility or leave that up to governors?

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President Trump has finally changed course, agreeing with his own advisors that COVID-19 is not a “hoax.” It’s a pandemic that might kill up to 200,000 Americans in a few weeks.

According to David Sanger, national security correspondent for the New York Times, Trump uses “the rhetoric of a wartime presidency,” but “it’s not clear he has actually been willing to take the responsibility of a wartime leader.”

So far, leadership has come from governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo and California’s Gavin Newsom. “For the first few months, they were more or less on their own,” says Jonathan Cohn at the Huffington Post. “The president was out there saying ‘this is no big deal, we have this under control.’”

The lack of centralized federal planning and action has left governors in bidding wars for test kits, ventilators and other equipment. They’re focused not only on healing the sick, but also protecting doctors, nurses and other staff in danger of coronavirus exposure at increasingly overcrowded hospitals. 

Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer who’s covered some 30 epidemics — including Ebloa and SARS — now finds herself in Brooklyn, which she calls “the epicenter of the epicenter of the epicenter” of the coronavirus pandemic. New epicenters are inevitable in other parts of the US.

Epicenters could also emerge in other places abroad. “We’ll see some really serious impacts in Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia,” Garrett says. “We have India, and I think India is the wildcard in the entire pandemic.”  

Apr 02 2020

54mins

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How coronavirus reveals political differences in US

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COVID-19 is showing how just durable and pervasive the Red-Blue divide is in modern American life.  How seriously the crisis is taken depends more on politics than on public health and “there’s a big gap” between Republicans and Democrats. 

That’s how Ron Brownstein, senior editor at the Atlantic, reads public opinion polls and reactions of state governors. For the most part, blue-state leaders have closed businesses and imposed social distancing, while  red-state leaders have been reluctant to do the same.

What’s the impact of President Trump repeating misinformation at daily press briefings? NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen says it’s causing so much confusion that broadcast and cable news networks should stop airing those briefings in full.  

“It’s not a question of turning the microphone off on the president,” Rosen says. “He has the largest microphone in society, but is it the role of journalism to pass on bad information that could be deadly?” 

In the meantime, caution is being urged about the billions of dollars in corporate relief, along with cash grants to unemployed workers, approved by the Senate and Congress. University of Texas economist James Galbraith says it’s essential for supply chains to stay open for food, fuel and medicine, while everyone stays inside to curb the spread of COVID-19.  

Ron Brownstein warns that President Trump could make the crisis more divisive.
“You could imagine him or other conservatives … basically blaming this on big cities, asking, ‘Why should we shut down the rest of the country to save New York City?’”

Jonathan Parfrey, executive director of Climate Resolve in Los Angeles, responds with a reminder from World War II. “In this historic moment, we need that same sense of common purpose, that we’re coming together to make small sacrifices for such important ends … that we can all do our part in defeating an enemy.”

Mar 26 2020

43mins

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Coronavirus, climate change, and living in states of emergency

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COVID-19 is “climate change at warp speed,” according to experts in several fields, including in public health, infectious disease and climate science.  While the pandemic is already upon us, the rise in global temperatures has taken centuries to create an existential emergency. In both cases, there’s been early denial and official inaction. 

That’s the observation of Gernot Wagner, hunkered down with his family in their New York loft. He’s a climate economist at New York University and co-author of “Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet.” That’s an ironic book title, considering that scientists have been warning for decades about what’s to come. 

Wagner says the COVID-19 pandemic is yet another crisis that President Trump and others should have foreseen, had they paid attention to scientific advisors. 

Another hostage to COVID-19 is Philip Alcabes, hunkered down in his New York City home, figuring out how to conduct his public health classes online. Hunter College, where he’s Director of Public Health, is now closed for the foreseeable future. 

Alcabes is the author of “Dread: How Fear and Fantasy have Fueled Epidemics from the Black Death to Avian Flu.” He finds reaction to the latest pandemic all too familiar.  He says the Trump administration is guilty of “gross mishandling,” and for all but ignoring the “sudden surge” of the disease, first in China and especially in Italy.  

Alcabes lists a catalogue of official failure, including “incompetence, bureaucratic obstacles and inflexibility.” But even though public health is officially a state and local issue, he says the biggest failure of all is “leadership at the national level.”

From their different perspectives, the climate economist and the public health expert draw the same conclusion: US officials missed opportunities and waited too long, so the consequences of COVID-19 and climate change are worse than they needed to be. 

Mar 19 2020

50mins

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To The Point

By HEK-Ryder - May 01 2020
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Its Like The Motion In Pictures. Hearing Music AND Time Stops Like What Norah Jones Says Of Stars Above- TRUE News.

Best Climate Change Coverage

By MedStudent11431 - Jun 11 2019
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Olney gives climate change the coverage it deserves. Very thorough and thoughtful journalism.