About The Takeaway
The Takeaway is the national morning news program that delivers the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. Host John Hockenberry, along with the The New York Times and WGBH Boston, invites listeners every morning to learn more and be part of the American conversation on-air and online.
In The Takeaway John Hockenberry returns to his roots in public radio, where he was one of the medium's original innovators after 15 years in network and cable television. Hockenberry has also been recognized for his pioneering online content, hosts the award-winning public radio series The DNA Files, is a weeky commentator for the series The Infinite Mind and currently sits as a Distinguished Fellow at the prestigious MIT Media Lab.
The Takeaway is a unique partnership of global news leaders. It is a co-production of PRI (Public Radio International) and WNYC Radio in collaboration with The New York Times and WGBH Boston.The Takeaway is produced at WNYC in New York. You can support this program directly with a donation to The Takeaway.
In this week's Movie Date podcast, Rafer and Kristen hop into the WABAC machine for a trip to the rebooted world of "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" and the sword and sandal past of "300: Rise of An Empire." And bonus: to help them better understand the true identity of Mister Peabody, they are joined by Sarah Montague, WNYC's resident dog expert, who covers, among other dog-related events, the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.
Most Americans will "spring forward" this weekend and lose an hour to daylight saving time. But daylight savings is hardly standardized in the United States, much less the world: Both Hawaii and Arizona will stick with standard time on Sunday, and Europe won't spring forward until March 30th. Few other countries practice daylight savings at all.
Michael Downing, a lecturer at Tufts University and author of the book "Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time," started wondering about the history and purpose of daylight savings a few years ago. He began to research the phenomenon and realized that most of the justifications for the practice that he remembered had very little to do with its existence.
"There's a reason for doing it—it's simply not the reason we were told for the past 100 years, which was to save energy," says Downing. "We haven't squeezed a drop of energy out of our clocks yet, but there are a number of reasons we are doing it and continue to get more of it every year."
Downing says that while most people believe that daylight saving time was designed to benefit farmers or school children, those theories are actually false.
"In fact, school children and their advocates have always opposed daylight saving because by moving the clocks forward we get less morning sunlight and children are out on dark streets," he says. "The same goes for the farmers. I always thought we did it for the farmers and that I was assisting American agriculture in some way every spring. It turns out, the farmers has always hated daylight saving."
So if daylight savings isn't helping children or agriculture, why is it that the United States follows through with this tradition? Downing says the answer can be found in the sport of golf. He says it is "the most important reason we're still doing and expanding the period of daylight saving time."
"For people who don't play golf, they should care a lot about the fact that daylight savings time creates additional opportunities for people to play golf," says Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation. "From an economic standpoint, golf on a national level creates almost $70 billion a year in economic impact. It employs almost 2 million Americans, it generates almost $4 billion in charitable giving, almost all of which goes to causes outside of golf. In addition to that, golf facilities are small businesses and they're usually among the most stable employers and source of revenue for local suppliers than any other business."
So did the sports lobby alone create the false myths about farmers and school kids to make sure daylight saving time stays a reality? According to Downing, the effort to roll the clocks ahead is also an initiative pushed by the business community.
"Since 1915, the principal supporter of daylight saving in the United States has been the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of small business and retailers," says Downing. "The Chamber understood that if you give workers more sunlight at the end of the day they'll stop and shop on their way home. It's not just golf—the barbecue industry loves daylight savings, so do the home good stores because people tend to go out of their houses, see that their roofs need replacing and buy more shingles. It's a really important part of niche marketing for the retail industry."
While it's not just the United States that toys with the clocks, China is one place that doesn't mess around with daylight saving time. Despite being only slightly larger geographically than the United States, China only has one single time zone that spans 3.69 million square miles. The nation tried daylight saving time for a five year period but gave it up. But China is not an outlier—Downing says that other nations have fiddled with their clocks to make one standard national time.
"Once we got onto clocks, governments got the idea that they were related somehow to efficiency and therefore by playing with them you could increase efficiency," he says. "One of the most failed examples of this was Stalin."
Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953, did not only fiddle with clocks but also with calendars—the infamous leader tried to create a five day week so workers wouldn't have weekends anymore. Downing says that Stalin hopped on the daylight savings bandwagon early, and one April had the entire Soviet Union turn their clocks ahead.
"Unfortunately—I'm not making this up—in the fall he forgot to tell the Soviet Union to turn back their clocks," says Downing. "Through World War II and the entire Cold War all of the clocks in Russia were off by an hour and it was not noted until the 1980s. Fiddling with the clocks can have its price."
Downing says that in a way the United States is following in Britain's footsteps—a nation that has embraced daylight saving time from the very beginning.
"The Brits really fell in love with daylight saving because they just don't have enough sunlight any time of the year," says Downing. "It was a golfer and a horseman who first noticed Brits sleeping through those early morning sunrise times, putting their curtains up and blocking a natural resource. So he had the idea of forcing people out of their house at the end of the day by turning the clocks forward."
While the reasons for daylight saving time may fall to myth, Downing says that at the end of the day the practice really does work.
"Americans really do leave their houses when there's more sunlight after work," he says. "But here's the problem: We're told we're saving energy, but when Americans go outside and go to the park and go to the mall, we don't walk—we get in our cars and drive. So for the past 100 years, the dirty secret is daylight saving increases gasoline consumption."
This weekend might be tough with one less hour of sleep, and though daylight savings time may be an annoying sign that spring is right around the corner, The Takeaway also wants to hear about your favorite hopeful signs of spring. Let us know what signs of spring you're seeing by tweeting us with the hashtag #MySpringSign, or by leaving us a comment on Facebook.
Everyone has something they'd like to change about their bodies. At the same time, science and medicine keep breaking new ground in improving how human bodies function.
A new, award-winning documentary, "Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement," looks at the way in which new technology can improve the lives of those with disabilities. The Takeaway's own John Hockenberry took part in the film, as a long-time advocate of the disability rights movement.
And as you learn in the film, these disabilities can often become super strengths. Take Hugh Herr, director of MIT's Biomechatronics Lab and avid mountain climber, for example. He says he now climbs at a more advanced level with prosthetic limbs than he did before his legs were amputated.
Regan Brashear, producer and director of "Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement," sits down with The Takeaway to discuss her film and how these technological developments allow us to push our bodies beyond their limits.
Are you a newsie? Do you know what's happening from Washington to Hollywood to Pyongyang? Are you one of those people who always need to know? Do you listen to the news religiously, convinced that what you hear will give you an edge? Be smarter than your pals. Prep your dinner party factoids. Gauge your knowledge about what happened this week, as heard on The Takeaway.
As the crisis in Crimea continues to escalate, the possibility of a new Russian expansion and the threat of a new balkanization is fostering a sense of insecurity across the West.
The regional parliament in Crimea announced a March 16 referendum that will give citizens a chance to vote to remain part of Ukraine or join Russia. That referendum has been rejected by the government of Ukraine, and an arrest warrant has been issued for the new prime minister of Crimea.
Should the vote to secede pass, Moscow has signaled it will embrace Crimea's decision to break away from Ukraine and become a new region of the Russian Federation. This is the first public signal the Kremlin has given for support of secession, but the United States and other countries have denounced the vote as a violation of international law.
“The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law," President Barack Obama said Thursday. "Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine.”
While much of the analysis of the conflict has focused on Russia's relationship with the West, this crisis could also have major implications for its relationship with the East and long lasting consequences for the international community.
Rodger Baker is the vice president of Asia-Pacific analysis at Stratfor, a global intelligence research firm. He explores Russia's plans and the political and economic impact the crisis could have on the West.
Though the conflict can have long-term geopolitical impacts, there is also a great deal of fear emerging in the Crimean peninsula for ethnic minorities. In May of 1944, Joseph Stalin ordered his police to tag the houses of Crimean Tatars, the native Muslim residents of the peninsula, with an X. Within a matter of days, all of them were evicted from their homes, loaded onto trains, and sent to Central Asia, on the pretext that the community had collaborated with the Nazi occupation of Crimea.
And now it looks like the practice is starting again. Natalia Antelava, a reporter for the BBC, The New Yorker and PRI's The World, explains.
The 2014 Paralympic Winter Games begin Friday in Sochi, with athletes representing more than 45 nations. Though the United States is not sending a presidential delegation, 80 American athletes will still compete in five different events. Dr. Ian Brittain is the author of "The Paralympic Games Explained," and a research fellow at Coventry University, who has long studied the history and evolution of the Paralympics.
The first organized games for disabled athletes took place in 1948 and were known then as the International Wheelchair Games. As Dr. Brittain explains, since that time, the games for disabled athletes have greatly evolved, in both the level of athleticism and media coverage.
"The Paralympic movement in general actually grew out of the rehabilitation of second World War victims of conflict, mainly soldiers but some civilians as well," Dr. Brittain says. "Prior to that, most of [the athletes] had just been left lying in beds, with no expectations that they would live, let alone live productive lives."
At the time, there was greater focus on rehabilitation and recreation, but today the games are as elite in the sporting world as the traditional Olympics.
"The athletes train just as had, they are just as determined to win medals, they are just as proud to represent their country at the Paralympic Games as the Olympians are," Dr. Brittain adds.
And as these athletes compete over the next 10 days in Sochi, the public will undoubtedly observe the highest levels of athleticism, records being broken, and the human body being pushed to the limits. But what sets the truly great and record setting apart from the rest of their incredibly in-shape pack? What does it take to set world record free dives or literally jump a skateboard over the Great Wall of China?
Journalist Steven Kotler, author of "The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance," looked at the neurological effects of what is called flow, otherwise defined as the "optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” Kotler discusses the science behind this mental state.