April 23 - How America's Elite Dominate Our Politics; Putin's Takeover of Russia's Facebook; "Escape from Cuba: Yasiel Puig's Untold Journey to the Dodgers

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We begin with the recent study “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” that finds the U.S. is dominated by a rich and powerful elite and that the majority of Americans have little influence over the policies our government adopts. The co-author of the study Martin Gilens, a Professor of Politics and Princeton University whose research examines representation, public opinion, and mass media, especially in relation to inequality and public policy, joins us to discuss how, if the economic elite support a policy change it has a 50/50 chance of being enacted, while if they oppose a policy, its chances of becoming law are less than 20%.

 

martin gillens

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Then we examine the takeover of Russia’s equivalent to Facebook, VKontacte, by cronies of Vladimir Putin, forcing its founder Pavel Durov to flee Russia and declare that “unfortunately, the country is incompatible with Internet business at the moment”. Steven Wilson, a doctoral student in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin who teaches Russian politics and foreign policy, especially the effects of the Internet and new communications technology on Russian politics, joins us to discuss Putin’s move to first have friendly oligarchs buy up the Internet then for the State to totally control its content as the Chinese do.

 

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Then finally Jesse Katz joins us in the studio. He is a former Pultizer Prize-winning journalist with the Los Angeles Times who is now a contributing writer at Los Angeles magazine where his latest article is featured, “Escape from Cuba: Yasiel Puig’s Untold Journey to the Dodgers”. We discuss the dramatic odyssey of the LA Dodgers’ star baseball player’s fifth and final escape from Cuba, into the hands of Mexican smugglers with ties to the murderous Zetas cartel, to Puig’s $42 million dollar contract with the Dodgers, a financial home run that many colorful characters involved in this shady saga are now laying claim to.

 

April 22 - America's Middle Class and Poor Slip Below Other Advanced Nations; The State of the Earth on the 44th Earth Day; Losing the Car and Going Green

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We begin with the latest study of data on family incomes in advanced democracies that indicates the once envy of the world, the American middle class, is slipping below Canada and that America’s poor make considerably less than similar families in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands, the reverse of what was true 35 years ago. Branko Milanovic, formerly a lead economist in the World Bank Research Group and the author of “The Haves and the Have-nots: A Brief Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality” joins us to discuss the price American families are paying for income inequality that is featured in the new website The Upshot launched today by The New York Times.

 

branko milanovic

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Then on this 44th Earth Day we speak with Paul Ehrlich, the President of the Center for Conservation Biology and a Professor of Population Studies at Stanford University. We discuss the state of a planet beset by a record level of CO2 in the atmospheres, the worst in over a million years, and one that is facing projections that the earth’s current population of over seven billion will reach 9 billion by 2050, placing unsustainable pressure on food supplies already threatened by environmental degradation and global warming.  

paul ehrilch

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Then finally, we explore the possibilities of going green before it is too late with Eric Sanderson, a senior conservationist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and author of “Terra Nova: The New World After Oil, Cars and Suburbs”. We discuss his article at CNN, “Want Green Cities? Lose the Cars” and look into the Earth Day theme of green cities and how biking, walking and light rail could do away with the need for cars. 

branko milanovik

 

April 21 - Comparisons to Today's Crises and the 1914 "Guns of August"; Could the Gas War Between Russia and Ukraine Spark an Actual War?; The Just-Discovered "Goldilocks" Planet

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We begin with comparisons being made to the current unfolding crisis in Ukraine and the diplomatic blunders and political macho on display during the so-called “guns of August” period that led to World War 1, the 100th anniversary of which will be observed this August. Christopher Clark, a professor of Modern European History at Cambridge University who is the author of the new book “The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914”, joins us to discuss the possibility of a civil war in Ukraine igniting a wider conflict in Europe, while contested piles of rock in the South China sea also become the focus of a growing confrontation between China and other Asian nations with whom the U.S. has alliances.

 

chris clark

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Then Jonathan Stern joins us to discuss whether a renewed gas war between Russia and Ukraine could spark an actual war. He is Chairman and Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies’ Natural Gas Research Program and the EU speaker for the EU-Russia Gas Advisory Council. We examine the murky role of middlemen in deals involving the Russian monopoly Gazprom and shadowy Ukrainian figures who get gas at reduced prices from Gazprom then resell it to the Ukrainian state energy company at a markup, making some of them overnight billionaires.

 

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Then finally we look into the just-discovered so-called “Goldilocks Planet” with Steven Kane, a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at San Francisco State University who is among the team of international researchers who recently discovered a planet in a distant solar system similar to earth, that could support life. We assess the significance of finding a planet that is not too hot and not too cold but, since it is 500 light years away from earth, may not be a useful alternative to our lonely planet.

jonathan stern

 

April 20 - Obama's "Pivot" to Asia as he Heads to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines This Week; The Shaky Truce in Ukraine; A Turnaround with the Detroit Bankruptcy

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We begin with an analysis of the state of Obama’s foreign policy “pivot” towards Asia on the eve of his eight day trip starting on Tuesday to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. Steve Clemons, the Washington editor-at-large for The Atlantic and editor-in-chief of Atlantic LIVE who co-foundered with Chalmers Johnson the Japan Policy Research Institute, joins us to discuss what appears to the Chinese to be a policy of containing them, and the failed “reset” of relations with Russia now that Obama seems to have written off Putin as we head in the direction of a new Cold War with a containment policy to isolate and make Russia a pariah state.

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Then we speak with a leading international expert on contemporary Ukraine, Taras Kuzio who is a fellow with the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. We look into the shaky truce between armed separatists in Eastern Ukraine and a weak, inept government in Kyiv trying to exert authority over restive provinces thoroughly infiltrated by Russian intelligence and paramilitary forces who appear to have staged a shooting at a checkpoint, given the speed with which the Russian TV network controlled by Putin’s close friend Dimitry Kislyov showed up at the scene and stoked outrage across the Russian media. 

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Then finally, we discuss the Detroit bankruptcy and the change of fortune for the city’s pensioners, who previously were going to get pennies on the dollar while the banks who entangled Detroit in risky financial deals that blew up with the 2008 Wall Street crash, were about to be made largely whole. A former investment banker at Goldman Sachs Wallace Turbeville, now a Senior Fellow at Demos and author of their report “The Detroit Bankruptcy”, joins us to discuss this turn-around and what is behind it.

wallace turbeville

 

April 17 - Back From the Brink of War in Ukraine; Could Ukraine Go Nuclear Again?; The Author of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize-Winning Book "Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation"

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We begin with an agreement just reached in Geneva between the foreign ministers of the U.S., Russia, the EU and Ukraine that may at least temporarily end the crisis in Ukraine and bring Russia and Ukraine back from the brink of a shooting war. John Quigley, who has dealt with conflicts between Russia and Ukraine on behalf of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, the same organization who are now supposed to oversee and monitor this agreement, joins us to examine the agreement. He is a professor emeritus of law at Ohio State University and was a research scholar at Moscow State University and we will look into who will disarm those occupying the buildings and whether Putin, who broke the 1994 Budapest Agreement when he took over Crimea, will live up to this agreement.

 

john quigley

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Then we assess the backlash and unintended consequences of Putin’s intimidation of Ukraine with Dr. Howard Hall, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair in Nuclear Security and Natalie Manayeva, Research Assistant in the Institute for Nuclear Security at the University of Tennessee. They have an article with Dean Rice at CNN “Is Ukraine About to go Nuclear Again?” and we discuss whether, since two of Ukraine’s political parties “Strike” and “Fatherland” have introduced a bill in Parliament to revoke the country’s 1994 signature to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Ukraine will follow Putin’s advice in his New York Times message to the American people that “if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security…if you have the bomb, nobody will touch you”

howard hall

natalie

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Then finally we speak with Dan Fagin who just won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for his new book “Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation”. We discuss this superb scientific detective story and great example of investigative journalism about corporate greed, government neglect and courageous citizens who refused to keep silent until the truth was exposed about who and what was causing cancer clusters in a New Jersey seaside town. 

dan fagin