Now that Google is rolling out a free phone management service, phone use is becoming more like email and instant messaging. Join The Takeaway and New York Times personal technology editor Sam Grobart as we play with a powerful new means of communicating and managing your identity in a world of instant communications.
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Google Voice has a transcription service, but it's far from perfect. We're playing with it's flaws by having people leave a message with part of the Gettysburg address. Click through here, then click the Google Voice image, enter your phone number and when it connects you, pick a section below and read it. We'll post the (imperfect) transcripts later.
Surfers in the Midwest are cheering this week because of a change to a Chicago law that makes it possible to take surfboards on the city's beaches. The Takeaway talks to surfer Vince Deur who co-chairs the Great Lakes chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.
The latest summer blockbuster, which opens today, features a train in a starring role. It’s a remake of the 1974 film "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three," which starred Walter Matthau and the New York City subway. The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott offers his takeaway on the 2009 remake of "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3." (This one stars Denzel Washington and John Travolta.)
Watch the trailer for the 2009 take on "Pelham" below.
The iPhone is getting cheaper. Yesterday Apple announced it was slashing the price of the current iPhone in half just as it launches a new version, which is the third new model since 2007. This comes days after Palm launches it's so-called "iPhone killer," the Palm Pre. New York Times personal technology editor Sam Grobart helps us navigate the buying frenzy.
Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions for decades, was murdered on Sunday in Wichita, Kansas, while he attended mass at his local church. Tiller was accused by anti-abortion critics of infanticide and had been shot in both arms in 1993 by an anti-abortion zealot. The Takeaway is joined by New York Times Reporter Monica Davey who has been reporting on the murder, and Eleanor Bader, co-author of the book “Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism,” for a look at the history of violence at abortion clinics.
"Once Obama won the election, the anti-abortionists really ramped up their rhetoric. There's been an increased presence outside clinics across the country." —Author Eleanor Bader on the recent killing of George Tiller
For more information on Tiller's death and to see local reactions, watch the video below.
A week is a long time in the politics of a word. And the word that defined the new Supreme Court nominee for Republicans– empathy– has taken on a rapidly different meaning from the one intended by President Obama when he set forth the criteria for the nominee earlier this month. Now Obama seems to have dropped the word, opting for explanations that can't easily pop up on cable talk shows. The Takeaway talks to language columnist Barbara Wallraff to look at the true meaning of the word and its rapid evolution in Washington.
Yesterday, North Korea's official news agency warned of a “powerful military strike” on South Korea if it searched the North’s ships. This came the same day that the North said that it no longer considers itself bound by the terms of the armistice that ended war between the Koreas five decades ago. New York Times reporter Martin Fackler wrote about a dramatic shift in how South Koreans are viewing their northern neighbors. He joins The Takeaway from Seoul.
"If South Korea were to go in there an rebuild it, and take it over like West Germany did to East Germany two decades ago, the bill would be enormous. North Korea is so far behind, and I think South Koreans are balking at the prospect of doing that themselves." —Martin Fackler of the New York Times on relations between North and South Korea
The California Supreme Court stopped same sex couples from calling themselves married, even though they can have the same rights. But what if society decided that "marriage" is just a word? Conservative law professor Douglas Kmiec is proposing that government get out of the business of marriage altogether and allow gay and straights to have civil unions.
Advocates for gay marriage in California hoped the State Supreme Court would overturn last November’s ballot initiative that took away the right to same-sex marriage, but their hopes were dashed yesterday when the court upheld Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The Takeaway is joined by John Schwartz, the legal correspondent for The New York Times to discuss the repercussions of this ruling.
"People have a deep emotional tie over generations to the word 'marriage.' People who want to protect marriage feel intensely strongly about it. People who want to get married want to get married." —New York Times writer John Schwartz on Proposition 8 in California
Experts said our interconnected world was going to make outbreaks like H1N1 far worse than those that came before. But author Steven Johnson says that information spreads faster than people do, and that's what will keep us safe. This is thanks to what he calls "information ubiquity," which is the same force behind the decline of newspapers and the rise of e-readers like the Kindle. Johnson is the author of a recent book about the 1854 cholera epidemic in London called The Ghost Map as well as Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, and his most recent book is The Invention of Air. He is also the founder of hyper-local reporting site Outside.In.
"We don't have national headlines about car accidents, but we about child abductions, ironically, because they're unusual and because they're so dramatic. So we're drawn to those things because they're unusual and dramatic, but the instill in us a wrong sense of where the actual threats are." —Author Steven Johnson on the spread of information
For months, if not years, the plight of the newspaper industry has been well documented. We've certainly covered it on numerous occasions. Circulation is down, reporters are being laid off, papers are being merged. So why is the life of the hard boiled, gritty, grizzled and determined journalist still so intriguing? Two films out now, The State of Play and The Soloist, have newspaper reporters as the central figures. Hollywood is still depicting newspapers as heroes on screen in a year when the industry's struggles have come to a full boil. The Takeaway is joined by New York Times film critic A.O. Scott to ask if these films are suddenly an anachronism.
Instead of spending his Earth day out in the wilderness, Vice President Joe Biden held an event at a bus depot in Maryland. He was announcing a plan to spend $300 million in stimulus funding for clean-fuel buses. While the money for this program was buried in the stimulus plan, Vice President Biden was seemingly excited to introduce the green mass transit program to the crowd in Maryland. The event marks the second time in one week that the Obama administration brought transit policy to the fore. We speak to Takeaway correspondent Andrea Bernstein to see "Amtrak Joe's" emerging portfolio.
If you weren't in Landover, Maryland yesterday, you can watch Vice President Biden's speech below.
Things are not looking good for General Motors. The company is reportedly planning to shutter most of its factories in the U.S. for up to nine weeks beginning as early as next month. GM also reported that it does not plan to pay $1 billion it owes bondholders by June. And if that wasn’t enough bad news for the industry, Chrysler is now saying if it doesn’t get more money soon, it will go into de facto liquidation. To help sift through this latest chapter of bad news for the American auto industry The Takeaway is joined by Nick Bunkley, who writes about the auto industry for The New York Times.
"Neither one of these groups wants to be the first to step forward and make more sacrifices. But both of these groups are going to have to finally agree to something in the next week and both of them are going to have to give up quite a bit." —New York Times writer Nick Bunkley on the future of GM and Chysler
When the Obama administration dropped the use of the phrase "War on Terror" earlier this month, it marked one of its most significant foreign policy shifts, according to writer Reza Aslan. Aslan is the author of a new book called The Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror, where he claims the U.S. must win over religious extremists by framing the struggle in earthly, concrete terms.
What can you buy for a $109 billion? That's the question the U.S. Treasury Department is asking itself as the TARP bank bailout fund has become a shell of its once robust self. The fund started out with $700 billion and managed to buy the solvency of the financial system (and a few AIG bonuses), so what should they do with the remaining money? 58 space shuttles, 500 million iPhones, or 1.7 million Hummers? Obviously The Takeaway has a few ideas.
Dr. Evil had a plan for what to do with $100 billion:
A strange thing happened yesterday on web megastore Amazon.com: all the gay-themed literature was suddenly recategorized as "adults only" and was removed from the all-important Amazon rankings. When the blogosphere and the twitterers noticed, the debated over Amazon's actions erupted online. Twitter went crazy. The hashtag #amazonfail quickly rose through the Twitter ranks as a top topic.
The company claims it was only trying to limit access to adult material, and that gay literature was inadvertently swept up in the category changes. So is Amazon anti-gay? Or just clumsy? It's not completely clear what happened, rumors of hacks and customer hate-based tagging abound, but the company is not helping clear the air over exactly what happened although they did apologize for being "ham-fisted".
Baratunde Thurston, better known by some as @baratunde, joins The Takeaway with his thoughts on what happened on Amazon.com.
"Hacker Spaces" are physical spaces for ordinary people to play with electronics. But they're also helping to create the technology we'll see in our households years from now. Takeaway producer Jim Colgan checked in on a “hacker space” in Brooklyn called NYC Resistor, where they were testing a homemade 3D printer that can be mass produced.
The promise of open source can be found in a dull commercial building in downtown Brooklyn. The fruits of this approach -- where people share ideas for others to build on -- are coming out of the laser cutter buzzing away in the corner. Or in the disassembled parts of the robot that automatically served drinks. Or the 3D printer that can build other 3D printers.
The 5th floor office of NYC Resistor is a hacker space, one of scores popping up around the country and hundreds emerging around the world. In Germany, the government subsidizes them. In the U.S., a few people who like to tinker with electronics pool money for a place that lets them keep the circuit boards and soldering irons out of their small apartments. They're creating devices that let you turn off any TV in range of a remote control. They're building giant antennae for ham radio enthusiasts. And then there's the 3D printer.
A 3D printer is exactly what it sounds like. A plain old 2D printer prints letters. This spits out objects you can hold in your hand. Toys, door knobs, jewelry. A couple of these guys have quit their day jobs so they can sell 3D printer kits to people interested in building their own. These people are building objects that build other objects.
In a way, this hacker space is like the MIT media lab without the academic reputation. It draws the best talent in computer engineering and the innovation that emerges in highly valuable. But NYC Resistor - or any other hacker space - does not have the institutional burdens of academia or the profit demands of a company. The main goal is to tinker. Take in people's old ipods and make new machines out of them. Rip out the resistors of discarded monitors and make a box that plays high or low-pitched music based on the weather of the city you select. Point the powerful antenna in the right direciton and talk to ham radio users on the other side of the planet. Bounce the signals off the International space station and if you're lucky, you may get a response from the astronauts on board.
Most of the members of this hacker space have important day jobs. One works for the New York Times in the department charged with designing a newspaper that will survive the 21st century. Another works for a university that might train the next engineers for Google. But all the members pool their skills to teach classes to anyone that wants them Recently a team of Google employees signed up for a lesson.
The amazing part of all this: nobody gets paid. This is just for fun. The social part is paramount, the founders say. They don't even allow members to nominate exes as other members. So no ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, ex-roommates, ex-colleagues. Everyone's got to get along or it just doesn't work. And in case you're wondering, it's not just a bunch of pimply guys. Almost half the members are women and most of the guys have a fashion sense as keen as their soldering skills.
NYC Resistor, and the other hacker spaces around the country, might point to a new model for innovation. One where the best ideas come from the volunteers that play with them. Where the next inventions come from a group of technology enthusiasts just having fun.
>>Listen to the full Takeaway segment with producer Jim Colgan here.
As a follow up to our experiment of asking people to check in with The Takeaway as they go about their daily lives, we turn to the man who suggested the project to begin with, our producer Jim Colgan. He joins us to explain why listeners, like our other guest, Richard Lavely, would want to call in and why others just didn't get it.
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