April 25, 2018

Podcasts: The Daily from the New York Times and The Rachel Maddow Show from MSNBC

I continue to love my WBEZ app where I can catch radio programs I have missed, but podcasts have now become my listening choice when I have exhausted favorite NPR programs.

Along with Stay Tuned with Preet Bharara and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, I have added two new podcasts to my audio play list: The Daily from the New York Times newspaper and the Rachel Maddow Show from MSNBC.

I no longer get a paper version of the New York Times delivered to my home, so this audio slice of the paper was a welcome find. Each episode goes into depth on a particular topic and ends with one of the day’s most important events. I definitely feel more informed after my daily brief audio dose of the NY Times.

I don’t watch television news so I was unfamiliar with Rachel Maddow (which flabbergasted one of my sisters.) After listening to a couple of podcast episodes of The Rachel Maddow Show, I can say that this lady is really smart. She seems to be able to uncannily connect a lot of the dots concerning current news topics.

The podcast episodes appear to be audio broadcasts of her MSNBC show, so I can tell people that I am not watching TV, I am listening to it.

If you have a podcast recommendation, please send them my way.

Alec Baldwin’s Podcast, Here’s the Thing

Now that I have discovered the world of podcasts, someone recommended Here’s the Thing hosted by Alec Baldwin and sponsored by WNYC, a non-profit, noncommercial public radio station in New York City.

The guest list skews to people in the arts, but an engaging interview with Watergate cast member, John Dean indicates that Baldwin knows his way around many topics, including government and politics. I have delighted in podcasts with Barbra Streisand, Audra McDonald and James Cromwell (activist and star of the movie, Babe.) My tentative list of programs I want to catch includes interviews with Elaine Stritch (his co-star on 30 Rock), whiskey-voiced actress Kathleen Turner, Billy Joel, Rosie O’Donnell and David Letterman, but his guests include economists, athletes, newspeople and accomplished individuals in various professions.

As good as Baldwin’s roles in numerous movies and tv shows have been, including his appearances on Saturday Night Live with his dead-on impersonation of our current commander-in-chief, his podcast program, Here’s the Thing which premiered in October 2011 may be an equal claim to fame.  Baldwin has a seemingly effortless ability to bring out the human, intellectual and comedic sides of his fascinating guests.

Talk on, Alec!

Stay Tuned with Preet, a podcast for legal eagles

One of my adult piano students encouraged me to download my first podcast, Stay Tuned With Preet, a weekly audio program that talks about law, justice and politics. What could be more apt right now?

If you are a news junkie, you may vaguely remember the name Preet Bharara, the U. S. Attorney for the Southern district of New York who was fired by the Trump Administration. The show not only explains the details of his firing, but features interviews with people “in the know.”

Leon Panetta is the podcast’s first fascinating guest who has held such illustrious titles as Secretary of Defense, Director of the CIA, White House Chief of Staff, Director of the Office of Management and Budget as well as U. S. Representative from California. Talk about an insider!
Other not-to-be-missed guests in the podcast series are Sen. Jeff Flake, Judd Apatow, Bill Browder (I wrote about his book Red Notice in a previous blog post) and John Miller, Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counterterrorism for the NYPD and a noted journalist.

Like me, you may just start with the first program from Sept. 19, 2017 and binge-listen all of the current episodes.

The quality of guests along with Preet’s probing questions and articulate comments make this one of the smartest shows in any format. He ends each program with a positive anecdote, rather like a bit of dessert after a very heavy meal.

Born in India to a Sikh father and a Hindu mother who immigrated to the U. S., Bharara is a great example of the richness of our immigrant heritage. Keep asking questions about the truth, Preet! We’re listening.

FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) and Snopes

With all of the talk about fake news, two web sites have become indispensable for my determining what may or may not be true.


FAIR’s tag line is “Challenging media bias since 1986.” The web site posts stories on current topics using a variety of news sources and aims to provide Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. I especially like FAIR’s list of sites they frequently use for news reporting.

http://fair.org/take-action-now/online-news-sources/

Three of the major categories include Alternative News with sites like Mother Jones, The Nation and the Utne Reader. The Corporate News category contains the world’s heavy news hitters such as Le Monde, BBC World News, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Reuters. The Media Criticism and Resources section includes Crooks and Liars (with a funny Nixon cartoon logo), the daily howler, the Vanderbilt Television News Archive and world-newspapers.com which provides links to numerous global newspapers.

I challenge you to check out one new site daily, for a week, to shake up the way you view your news.


If you have a specific news event which you’d like to verify, consider snopes.com, also known as the Urban Legends Reference Pages. Created by Barbara and David Mikkelson in 1995, they amusingly named the site after an unpleasant family in William Faulkner’s novels.

Other sites that test the veracity of topics include:
TruthOrFiction.com
FactCheck.org
The Straight Dope (fighting ignorance since 1973) – http://www.straightdope.com/
The Skeptic’s Dictionary – http://www.skepdic.com/
MythBusters – http://www.mythbusters.com/

In the words of character Joe Friday (played by actor Jack Webb) on the tv show Dragnet, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”

13 Hours: the Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff with the Annex Security Team

Mention the word Benghazi and both liberals and conservatives bristle. Journalist Mitchell Zuckoff interviewed the private security personnel who were present on Sept. 11, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya and has created a non-fiction account that is absolutely riveting.

Although the principal American consulate in Libya was in Tripoli, Ambassador Christopher Stevens was visiting the diplomatic Compound in the secondary city of Benghazi on September 11, 2012. A few blocks away was a CIA center called the Annex with highly trained security guards who were tasked with keeping Ambassador Stevens and other American officials safe.

We are given first hand accounts of the attacks on both the Compound and the Annex. The reader is placed in the midst of fire, smoke, bullets and bombs. The bravery of both private and governmental agents is awe-inspiring.

Your political view of the debacle may not change, but you will certainly know more about what American personnel face when working in countries hostile to the United States.

I have not seen the 2016 movie adaptation by filmmaker Michael Bay, which received mixed reviews, but the movie title and tag line does illuminate a major theme in the well-written book. “13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. When everything went wrong six men had the courage to do what was right.”

Nobel tv series on Netflix

Netflix continues to feature foreign tv series for those who want to see what the world is watching. Nobel is an engaging series on Norway’s military involvement in Afghanistan. We follow Erling Riiser, a special forces soldier working in this troubled region. His wife, Johanne works in Norway’s foreign service so we get to see the different threads feeding into the conflict. Business interests, regional feuds, the status of women and diplomacy all figure into this complex mix.

The title refers to the annual Nobel Prize and the Nobel female descendant who helps choose who is honored. As the series unfolds, we keep shifting our opinions about who is behaving honorably and who is letting greed and expediency determine their behavior.

Tuva Novotny as Erling comes off as a modern day Viking as he literally “soldiers on.” His friend Jon Petter Hals (admirably portrayed by Anders Danielsen Lie) loses his legs in combat, and we observe his painful recovery back in Norway. The program may make you more sympathetic to our vets who have lost limbs in foreign combat.

If you’d like to know more about Norwegian politics and its involvement in Afghanistan, Nobel might be the well-made drama for you.