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Feature interviews from journalist and broadcaster, Claudia Cragg

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The Congressional 'Squad' vs. 'Badasses' Take on Rebalancing Values

Claudia Cragg @claudiacragg speaks here with Jennifer Steinhauer @jestei @nytimes about her lively study, “ The Inside Story of the Women Reshaping Congress.” In January 2019, the largest number of women ever elected to Congress was sworn in—87 in the house and 23 in the Senate - this was a dress rehearsal for the 2020 primary and general election. Democratic women won largely on painting the GOP as incompetent especially around health care.  This history-making Class of ’19 included many remarkable firsts: the youngest woman ever to serve; the first two Muslim women; the first two native American women, one openly gay; a black woman from a nearly all-white Chicago suburb; and a Hispanic woman from a heavily Republican border region. In many instances, these were the first women and/or persons of color and/or youngest persons to serve from their state or district. Veteran New York Times Capitol Hill reporter Jennifer Steinhauer has been following this historic transition from day one. She uses her rare vantage point to take a behind-the-scenes look at these newcomer’s individual and collective attempts to usher in real change in Washington.Offering expert historical context, intimate detail, and you-are-there access to the halls of the Capitol, Steinhauer followed these women closely for their first year, interviewing them and their staff and colleagues.  With her seasoned political eye, she assesses not only how these women are doing, but whether their election will have a long-term impact… Will the issues they and their constituents most care about—such as health care, childcare, and pay equity—finally get a permanent place at the table? Can these women, many already social media stars and political punching bags, find a way to break through the partisan stalemate and hidebound traditions of Washington, DC? Which is a more salient marker of change—their gender, or the diversity of age, race, religion and economic status they bring to Congress? Who will have staying power in our era of twenty-four-hour news cycles and nonstop social media feeds, and who will be gone in two years? Jennifer Steinhauer has covered numerous high-profile beats in her twenty-five-year reporting career at the New York Times, from City Hall bureau chief and Los Angeles bureau chief to Capitol Hill. She won the Newswoman’s Club of New York Front Page Deadline Reporting Award in 2006 for her reporting on Hurricane Katrina. She has also written a novel about the television business, and two cookbooks.


19 Mar 2020

Rank #1

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ISOLATION - Community and Love in a Time of Coronavirus

Claudia Cragg @claudiacragg speaks here with @ValWalkerAuthor about her friendly, candid, and comforting guide for isolating times when we have no one to count on, As we potentially enter a time for mass isolation, the guide may just help some to cope a little more and also encourage those who ARE coping to help those who are not.  Despite the inclusive promise of social media, loneliness is in any case, even in far more 'normal' times, a growing epidemic in the United States and throughout the world. Social isolation can shatter our confidence. In isolating times, we’re not only lonely, we’re also ashamed because our society stigmatizes people who appear to be without support. As a single, fifty-eight-year-old woman, Val Walker found herself stranded and alone after major surgery when her friends didn’t show up. As a professional rehabilitation counselor, she was too embarrassed to reveal how utterly isolated she was by asking for someone to help, and it felt agonizingly awkward calling colleagues out of the blue. As she recovered, Val found her voice and developed a plan of action for people who lack social support, not only to heal from the pain of isolation, but to create a solid strategy for rebuilding a sense of community. 400 Friends and No One to Call spells out the how-tos for befriending our wider community, building a social safety net, and fostering our sense of belonging. On a deeper level, we are invited to befriend our loneliness, rather than feel ashamed of it, and open our hearts and minds to others trapped in isolation.


12 Mar 2020

Rank #2

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How Are You Coping Right Now?

Claudia Cragg (@claudiacragg) speaks here with Dr. Richard J. Davidson (@healthyminds) about the book he co-wrote, ' In the last twenty years, meditation and mindfulness have gone from being kind of cool to becoming an omnipresent Band-Aid for fixing everything from your weight to your relationship to your achievement level. Unveiling here the kind of cutting-edge research that has made them giants in their fields, Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson show us the truth about what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it. Sweeping away common misconceptions and neuromythology to open readers’ eyes to the ways data has been distorted to sell mind-training methods, the authors demonstrate that beyond the pleasant states mental exercises can produce, the real payoffs are the lasting personality traits that can result. But short daily doses will not get us to the highest level of lasting positive change—even if we continue for years—without specific additions. More than sheer hours, we need smart practice, including crucial ingredients such as targeted feedback from a master teacher and a more spacious, less attached view of the self, all of which are missing in widespread versions of mind training. The authors also reveal the latest data from Davidson’s own lab that point to a new methodology for developing a broader array of mind-training methods with larger implications for how we can derive the greatest benefits from the practice.


5 Mar 2020

Rank #3

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ABANDONED: Up to 4.5 million young people, ages 16 - 24, Anne Kim

Claudia Cragg @claudiacragg speaks here with @Anne_S_Kim about those millions of young people Kim considers 'Abandoned'.  Anne Kim is a writer based in northern Virginia and the author of . She was special projects editor at the in 2013 and senior writer from 2015 to 2018. Americans under the age of 25 grab headlines when they launch flashy startups or become activists for social change. However, as Washington Monthly Anne Kim shows, both in this discussion and her book, the success of such leaders masks an alarming reality ill-served by current public policy: “In 2017, as many as 4.5 million young people” ages 16-24 were neither in school nor working. Social scientists call them “disconnected youth” (or, in Europe, s, for “not in employment, education, or training”), and many of them have aged out of foster care or spent time in prison and lack the support of trusted adults. A vice president of the , Kim shows clearly how their plight tends to result from years of systemic failures.


27 Feb 2020

Rank #4

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"Power, Homosexuality and Hypocrisy" in The Closet of the Vatican

Claudia Cragg (@claudiacragg) speaks here with Frederic Martel (@martelf) for the new paperback publication of his latest book, In The Closet of The Vatican. Pope Francis declared that "behind rigidity there is always something hidden, in many cases a double life." These are the disturbing words that the Pope himself has used to unlock the “closet.” In the new paperback edition of this New York Times bestseller,(Bloomsbury Continuum; 9781472966186; paperback now out), author and renowned French journalist Frédéric Martel reveals new events that have occurred since the original text’s publication.  In the Closet of the Vatican provides a shocking and detailed account of the abuse and malpractice—sexual, political and financial—in the Catholic Church. Now in a revised translation and with updated material, this brilliant piece of investigative writing is based on four years’ authoritative research, including extensive interviews with those in power.


20 Feb 2020

Rank #5

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What Made 'The Lady Sing The Blues'?

Soulful jazz singer Billie Holliday is remembered these days for her unique sound, troubled personal history, and a catalogue that includes such resonant songs as and Claudia Cragg, @claudiacragg, speaks here with about the surprising ways in which Holiday and her music were also strongly shaped by religion. is not a new biography of the jazz legend, nor does the book come up with many new findings about the life of the much-studied singer or the thoroughly documented jazz milieu she inhabited. Rather, the book offers a subtle recontextualization of Holiday’s life. It presents a vivid portrait of an iconic jazz artist not known for piety or ties to organized religion. Fessenden does investigate in greater detail than previous books the influence of Holiday’s Catholic upbringing, in particular her two stints at the . Mixing elements of biography with the history of race and American music, she will explore the multiple religious influences on Holiday’s life and sound, including her time spent as a child in a Baltimore convent, the echoes of black Southern churches in the blues she heard in brothels, the secular riffs on ancestral faith in the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, and the Jewish songwriting culture of Tin Pan Alley. Growing out of Fessenden’s most recent publication, Religion Around Billie Holiday (Penn State UP, 2018), the lecture aims to illuminate the power and durability of religion in the making of an American musical icon. Tracy Fessenden holds the Steve and Margaret Forster Professorship in Comparative Mythology at Arizona State University, where she is a member of the faculty of Religious Studies. She is a scholar of American religion and the secular who focuses on literature and the arts in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  In addition to Religion Around Billie Holiday, Fessenden is the author of Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature (Princeton UP, 2007) and co-editor of The Puritan Origins of American Sex: Religion, Sexuality, and American Literature (Routledge, 2001), and Religion, the Secular, and the Politics of Sexual Difference (Columbia UP, 2013). She is Editor of Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation and General Editor of the North American Religions series at New York University Press.


13 Feb 2020

Rank #6

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Literary Lion, Michael Korda Speaks of Love and Loss

(At the end of this interview, Cleo Z. reads s poem, ''. To learn more or contact Cleo Z., please DM @claudiacragg) Claudia Cragg @claudiacragg speaks here with #MichaelKorda about his new book, #. It is a legendary editor's unflinching love song about his radiant wife, #MargaretMogford, and her battle with cancer.  Born in London, Michael Korda is the son of English actress Gertrude Musgrove, and the Hungarian artist and film production designer . He is the nephew of film magnate  and brother , both film directors.Korda grew up in England but received part of his education in France where his father had worked with film director  Michael Korda is Editor-in-Chief  for where he ruled for 48 years. Among the many books Korda has written personally are Charmed Lives, the story of his father and his two uncles, and the novel , which is a  about his aunt, actress , which was later adapted into a television miniseries. His mother, Gertrude Musgrove was an actress known for The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), The Fugitive (1939) and The Girl from Maxim's (1933). Korda said he felt that Charmed Lives was the book he was born to write, "as if I had been observing and storing up memories with just that purpose in mind for years.  But it was a warm April in when Korda, normally a fearless horsewoman, dropped her horsewhip while she was riding. Such a mild slip was easy to ignore, but when other troubling symptoms accumulated, she confided to her husband, "Michael, I think something serious is wrong with me."  Within a few rapid weeks, the fiercely independent, former fashion model was diagnosed with brain cancer, while Michael, once reliant on her steeliness, became her caregiver, deciphering bewildering medical reports and packing her beloved toiletries for the hospital.  An operation performed by a renowned surgeon allowed Margaret to ride her favorite competition horse Logan go Bragh a few more times, but Margaret's tumors quickly returned - leaving her to grapple with the reality of impending death. In rapturous prose, Korda, a modern-day Orpheus, braids her heroic story with heartrending details of their final year together.  Passing, a tender memoir, is a testament to the transcendent possibilities of love.


6 Feb 2020

Rank #7

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An "Illegal Occupation" Celebrates Its 127th Anniversary

Today is the 127 anniversary of what many Hawaiians consider to be an "illegal occupation" of their lands.  On Jan. 17, 1893, Queen Lili`uokalani of the independent kingdom of Hawai`i was overthrown as she was arrested at gunpoint by U.S. Marines. Native Hawaiians say they are now fighting to stop the construction Thirty Meter Telescope on sacred Mauna Kea. As Patrick Wolfe theorized, "settler colonialism is a structure, not an event. The violence of colonialism — and the fight for Indigenous sovereignty — continue. " (visit ) #neweconomycoalition In this interview, Claudia Cragg (@ClaudiaCragg) speaks with Hawaiian journalist, AK Kelly (@KealaKelly)


18 Jan 2020

Rank #8

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A Much-Needed Antidote to Racism, from Max Klau

As of production time, the 2020 Presidential Race has only 'Old White Men' contenders. We could debate why endlessly, but perhaps something deeper is at play? Claudia Cragg (@ClaudiaCragg) speaks here with , (@maxklau) who as a Harvard doctoral student was researching the topic of 'youth leadership'. Klau stumbled upon a provocative educational exercise, he says, that changed the course of his life. Klau is an author, leadership scholar, educated and Chief Program Officer @NewPoliticsAcad. To inquire about joining the New Politics Leadership Academy team, email . This is a a non-profit, Klau says, is dedicated to recruiting and developing military veterans and alumni of national service programs to seek political office. The education-focused AmeriCorps program that engages more than 3,000 young adults across 27 U.S. cities in a year of demanding, full-time citizen service. But, back to Klau's epiphany, on the last morning of a week-long residential youth leadership program focused on teaching about social justice, high-school aged participants gather before breakfast for what they think will be normal day. Instead, something unusual happens: They are told by the Program Directors to separate into groups: Whites, Asians, Jews, Latinos, LGBTG, Latinx, Black. They are instructed not to make eye contact with other groups or talk with other groups, and then they are told to go to breakfast: The White group goes in first, sits at a big table and gets double servings, and every group lower in the hierarchy gets less food and a smaller table. The Black group ends up sitting on the floor with almost nothing to eat. It’s called the Separation Exercise, and it’s an attempt to simulate a hierarchical, segregated, Jim Crow-style social system. Over the course of the morning, the participants begin to challenge these unjust norms, and events unfold that mirror events of the real-life civil rights movement in surprising ways. , it turns out, provides a remarkable opportunity to observe the unfolding of social change using the tools of empiricism and social science. Arguably, it also inhibits, nay interferes with, candidates who rise to the top of US Politics? Klau spent the next four years of his life engaged in rigorous research of three more of these Separation Exercises in a quest to discover what might be learned from observing the unfolding of multiple simulated civil rights movements. This book describes the personal journey that led to this effort, the ethical considerations surrounding this kind of study, the surprising findings that emerged from this inquiry, and the implications that all this has for matters of race and social change in the real world today. Klau's 'quest' is one best adopted sooner rather than later if true democracy is ever to be realized.


16 Jan 2020

Rank #9

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'Who Says You're Dead' with Jacob M Appel

Claudia Cragg (@ClaudiaCragg) speaks here with , about his newest book, #WhoSaysYoureDead Medical & Ethical Dilemmas for the Curious & Concerned from @AlgonquinBooks Appel presents an invigorating way to think about vital health and ethical issues that many will confront as individuals, or we as a society must reckon with together. Drawing upon the author’s two decades teaching medical ethics, as well as his work as a practicing psychiatrist, this profound and addictive little book offers up challenging ethical dilemmas and asks readers, What would you do? Appel is an , , , ,   and . He is best known for his , his work as a , and his writing in the fields of reproductive ethics, ,  and . Appel's novel  won the  in 2012. He teaches bioethics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where he is Director of Ethics Education in Psychiatry and a member of the Institutional Review Board. He is also an attending psychiatrist in the Mount Sinai Healthcare System. He holds a medical degree from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, a law degree from Harvard Law School, and a master’s in bioethics from the Alden March Bioethics Institute of Albany Medical College. A frequent lecturer, his essays and columns relating to bioethics have appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Huffington Post, and Education Update. Dr. Appel has also published novels and prize-winning short stories.


16 Dec 2019

Rank #10

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David Farber on 'Crack: Rock Cocaine, Street Capitalism, and the Decade of Greed'

Claudia Cragg (@ClaudiaCragg) speaks here with , about his shattering account of the crack cocaine years, Please send any comments or questions or ideas for future shows to @ClaudiaCragg. This book from the award-winning American historian, tells the story of the young men who bet their lives on the rewards of selling 'rock' cocaine, the people who gave themselves over to the crack pipe, and the often-merciless authorities who incarcerated legions of African Americans caught in the crack cocaine underworld. Based on interviews, archival research, judicial records, underground videos, and prison memoirs, Crack explains why, in a de-industrializing America in which market forces ruled and entrepreneurial risk-taking was celebrated, the crack industry was a lucrative enterprise for the 'Horatio Alger boys' of their place and time. These young, predominately African American entrepreneurs were profit-sharing partners in a deviant, criminal form of economic globalization. Hip Hop artists often celebrated their exploits but overwhelmingly, Americans - across racial lines -did not. Crack takes a hard look at the dark side of late twentieth-century capitalism.


12 Dec 2019

Rank #11

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Peter Singer, The Life You Can Save 10th Anniversary

Pete Singer, The Life You Can Save, and many are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the publication (originally published 3rd December 2009) and the global initiative which it launched. He is also the author of the iconic book on .   This book is available FREE as a download (at ) to all listeners as he mentions in the piece. He says "this is to 'reach the most readers/listeners and help the most people who live in poverty."   Singer believes that the end of global poverty is in our reach.  gives concrete directives about what all of us should and can do to help bring that end more quickly. Since the book’s 2009 first-edition release, dramatic progress has been made in reducing extreme global poverty, and the book and organization have contributed to that effort by helping raise millions of dollars for effective charities. However, millions of people across the world still live in abject poverty, so much work has yet to be done.   Widely considered to be one of the most influential living philosophers, Singer was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2005, and in 2009 The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age included him among the most influential Australians of the past half-century. Among the 50 books he’s co-authored, edited, or co-edited, is Animal Liberation, considered the “bible” of the animal rights movement. He is the founder of the non-profit The Life You Can Save.


29 Nov 2019

Rank #12

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Psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee about her new book, 'Deviced!'. 

Kindly consider taking part in a short survey on this podcast (). Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Claudia Cragg (@ClaudiaCragg) speaks here with psychologist (@drdoreendm) about her new book, ''.  With current statistics suggesting that the average American over the age of 14 engages with screens upwards of 10 hours a day, the topic of our growing dependence upon technology applies to nearly everyone. While the effects differ at each point of development, real changes to the brain, relationships, and personal lives are well documented. Deviced! explores these alterations and offers a realistic look at how we can better use technology and break away from the bad habits we’ve formed. Dodgen-Magee makes a detail-rich, persuasive case for the need to embrace technology yet also “make some conscious decisions about what place we want technology to hold in our lives.” The dilemma, as she explains it, is that people feel “gratitude for the ways that technology benefits society” but “many are experiencing niggling questions about how a near-constant engagement with devices” affects everyday life. The concerns range from losing touch with the physical senses and having “no sense of our larger environs” to obesity and social isolation. “Take Action” sidebars throughout the book offer suggestions for modifying behavior, along with strong reasons for doing so. People’s lives are changing irrevocably and unintentionally, Dodgen-Magee points out; increased interaction with one’s device encourages a blinkered perspective as users merely “reflect [their] own little worlds back to [themselves].” The overall message Dodgen-Magee strongly presents is the necessity of moving toward “intention” regarding one’s use of devices and technology. A five-component assessment tool will help users understand their “tech engagement and impact” and then develop appropriate “delay skills.” Dodgen-Magee leaves readers with a “Ten (RICH) Minutes a Day” exercise, useful in its simplicity, grounded in meditation, and firmly directed toward “emotional well-being.” This educational, encouraging book leaves its audience with a plethora of helpful suggestions.  Using personal stories, cutting edge research, and anecdotes from youth, parents, and professionals, Dodgen-Magee highlights the brain changes that result from excessive technology use and offers an approach to the digital world that enables more informed and lasting change and a healthier long-term perspective. Given that the reader is living within a culture of ever-changing and advancing technologies, Deviced! offers a mindful approach to assessing current technology use, breaking bad habits, setting new norms, and re-engaging with life with renewed richness and awareness.


17 Oct 2019

Rank #13

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Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect

Claudia Cragg (@ClaudiaCragg) speaks here with Robert Kuttner (@rkuttnerwrites) whose latest book is. Some of those interviewed in this long-running series are in such high demand that time in discussion is sorely limited. Recently, one such has been Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School.  In 'The Stakes....', Kuttner argues that the 2020 presidential election will determine the very survival of American democracy. To restore popular faith in government―and win the election― Kuttner believes that Democrats need to nominate and elect an economic progressive. The Stakes explains how the failure of the economy to serve ordinary Americans opened the door to a demagogic president, but also how democracy can still be taken back from Donald Trump. Either the United States continues the long slide into the arms of the bankers and corporate interests and the disaffection of working Americans―the course set in the past half century by Republican and Democratic presidents alike―or a progressive Democrat is elected in the mold of FDR. At stake is nothing less than the continued success of the American experiment in liberal democracy. That success is dependent on a fairer distribution of income, wealth, and life changes ―and a reduction in the political influence of financial elites over both parties. The decay of democracy and economic fairness began long before Trump. The American republic is in need of a massive overhaul. It will take not just a resounding Democratic victory in 2020 but a progressive victory to pull back from the brink of autocracy. The Stakes demonstrates how a progressive Democrat has a better chance than a centrist of winning the presidency, and how only this outcome can begin the renewal of the economy and our democracy. The American Prospect is "devoted to promoting informed discussion on public policy from a progressive perspective. In print quarterly and online daily, the Prospect brings a narrative, journalistic approach to complex issues, addressing the policy alternatives and the politics necessary to create good legislation. (They) help to dispel myths, challenge conventional wisdom, and expand the dialogue." We are delighted to run this interview here even though it was curtailed by sheer pressure of those in a long long queue wanting to pick Kuttner's brains to promote a winning outcome in 2020. We were lucky to get to speak to him at all.  Kuttner also writes for HuffPost, The Boston Globe, and The New York Review of Books.


10 Oct 2019

Rank #14

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Ukraine, Russia, always in the news: what about the people?

The news cycle rarely passes these days without negative news of Russia and, sadly for the people of that region, Ukraine. What about the people?  Claudia Cragg (@KGNUClaudia) speaks here with Caroline Walton (@carolineski) who,  during three decades of visiting Russia and Ukraine, met some exceptional women and men, people who had known famine, war and nuclear disaster. Each of them underwent a process of transformation, and in so doing they transcended their circumstances in ways that were little short of miraculous. “Where there was the 'holodomor'," she says, "there was my grandfather-in-law, Petro, who forgave everything. Where there was the Gulag, there were people such as de Beausobre who made it her personal Calvary. And where there was the most terrible siege in human history, there were people who sang Ode to Joy to their Nazi besiegers.” From a village wise-woman to survivors of the siege of Leningrad and the Chernobyl disaster, to the family she married into, they helped Caroline transform her own western-centric world view. "A wonderful combination of meticulous research and wide personal experience. Caroline Walton has met so many extraordinary people in Russia and Ukraine who have developed their cultures’ spirituality to survive the impossible. " - says, Dr Mary Hobson, Pushkin Medal winner. Caroline Walton’s love for this part of the world began with her teenage reading of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. She visited the Soviet Union twice before its collapse and in 1992 she went to live in Samara, Russia. Later she travelled to Moscow, St Petersburg, Kiev and the Crimea. She has written several books on Russia and the USSR (including and ). She lives in London where she also works as a Russian to English literary translator. Caroline is married to a Ukrainian-Russian of Cossack descent.


2 Oct 2019

Rank #15