A dead body found in a Missouri field, murdered, apparently, by a blow to the head. No witnesses, no murder weapon, and no apparent motive. The only evidence: two notes in the victim's pocket with a mysterious code scrawled upon them. Twelve years later, the case remains unsolved.
It's not the description of the opening scene from latest episode of "Cold Case," it's the true story of the murder of Ricky McCormick. An eccentric 41-year-old high school drop-out who had a passion for making encrypted notes, McCormick had last been seen five days before his murder in St. Louis, where he was undergoing treatment for heart and lung problems in June 1999. Investigators came to believe that the coded messages found in McCormick's pocket would point them in the direction of his murderer. But McCormick's code has proven to be too indecipherable for even the FBI, so after twelve years, the Bureau's Cryptanalysis and Racketerring Unit, in collaboration with the American Cryptogram Association, is turning to the internet for the answers.
Yesterday the first U.S. government-chartered flight left Japan for Taipei, carrying about 100 family members of American diplomats. The State Department has urged American citizens to leave Japan due to the worsening situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Pentagon spokesperson Colonel Dave Lapan said, "these measures are temporary and dependents will return when the situation is resolved."
Yesterday we asked listeners: What do you want to know about the ongoing crisis in Japan? You gave us plenty to work with, and now we're going to have some of your best questions answered by our expert guest, David Biello, associate editor of environment and energy for Scientific American.
"This belongs to the Egyptian youth," declared Wael Ghonim in an interview with Egypt's most popular talk show. Ghonim, the internet activist who became a symbol of the repression that characterizes the Mubarak regime when he was released from captivity after nearly two weeks, was of course talking about the now sixteen-day-old pro-democracy movement that has shaken Egypt to its foundation.
Looking at the multitude of young faces in the many powerful images of anti-government protesters that have streamed out of Egypt since the uprising began, there is no doubt that the youth of this country are the ones propelling this revolt. Their numbers are vast. The median age of Egypt's population of 80 million is just 24. As Ghonim said, perhaps as a reminder to non-Egyptians who are dubious of their revolution, it was not the Muslim Brotherhood who took to the streets demanding a better life, but the "'Facebook youth' who went out in the tens of thousands on January 25."
He thinks of himself as just another body among the faceless masses gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square, demanding a new era in his nation's politics, and a better future for all the people of Egypt. Yet, it was a heartbreaking interview with Wael Ghonim, broadcast on one of Egypt's satellite channels last night, that drove thousands of Egyptians to march on their Parliament for the first time, refueling Egypt's two-week-old pro-democracy movement.
Ghonim, a marketing executive at Google, has become the face of the internet-based youth movement calling for the ouster of Egypt's autocratic leader, Hosni Mubarak. Using social networking tools like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, Ghonim helped inspire the protests that have brought a government thought to be stable to its knees, and became a symbol of that government's repression when he disappeared for twelve days.
As the tides of democracy have swirled in Egypt over the past 14 days, many questions have been raised over what the role of the nation's Army will be as Egypt transitions out of a three decade long era of autocratic rule. Widely credited with providing some semblance of order amid the chaos of the last two weeks, Egypt's Army has been portrayed as deeply respected and popular in a country with few credible institutions.
At numerous times throughout Egypt's revolution, the anti-government protesters and the Army have declared their affections for each other. However, deep inside this hallowed institution, a more complicated picture emerges. A significant divide along generational lines in Egypt's military threatens to rankle the evolving nation's future stability.
This is the fourth edition of Wave of Change, a special podcast from The Takeaway, covering the mass protests in Egypt and the consequences for the wider Arab world, hosted by John Hockenberry with Celeste Headlee.
After all of the events that have rocked Egypt over the last ten days, January 25 seems like ancient history. But it was just last Tuesday when Egyptians took to the streets to demand their autocratic leader of over 30 years relinquish his power. It was also last Tuesday when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pronounced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government "stable," saying it was "looking for ways to respond to legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people."
As night falls on the ninth day of the people's revolt in Egypt, the country's future isn't the only thing that is uncertain. It has yet to be seen whether Egypt is in the midst of a true revolution, or more of a coup d'etat. From Iran to Algeria, history provides a number of models that may be clues to what an Egypt without Hosni Mubarak could look like.
The sense of jubilation felt by millions of Egyptian protesters yesterday has quickly soured as clashes between pro-Mubarak and anti-government protesters erupted in Cairo and Alexandria. What's being described as a choreographed backlash against the opposition broke out Wednesday in Cairo's Tahrir Square, after protesters refused to leave Tuesday night following President Hosni Mubarak's pledge not to seek a new term.
Just two weeks ago, advocates for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell had something to be optimistic about. After nearly two decades of fighting what they think of as a fundamentally flawed, bigoted, and unjust policy by the nation’s military, it finally seemed as if the federal government was catching up to their way of thinking. Flying in the face of the foot dragging and lip service campaign that has been the Obama administration’s effort to repeal the policy, a federal judge ruled DADT unconstitutional, saying the policy violated the rights of gays and lesbians in uniform and had a “direct and deleterious effect” on the military. Four days later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he would include a provision to allow the Defense Department to end the policy in a defense spending bill that would be voted on the following week.
Republicans, of course, cried foul. The stage was set for yet another exhausting and bitterly partisan brawl in the Senate. A number of political observers said that the Democrats had a good shot of repealing DADT this time around. And then something peculiar happened.
Remember back during the run up to the 2008 elections when presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain attended a forum hosted by Pastor Rick Warren? Each was asked to define rich, and their answers could not have been more different. Obama, in his characteristically professorial manner, said, "I would argue that if you are making more than $250,000, then you are in the top 3, 4 percent of this country, you are doing fine." McCain, with a grin on his face, answered, "I think if you're just talking about income, how about $5 million?"
The media labeled McCain's answer a "gaffe," and the candidate would eventually try to walk back from it, but the two candidates' answers represent a serious ideological divide that both parties are trying to grapple with as the Bush era tax cuts are set to expire on the heels of the November election. At what income level is someone "rich"?
This morning, we had another conversation about higher education, this time with Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. Carnevale is the co-author of a new study called "Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018," and those projections are dire. According to Carnevale, "the post-secondary education system is not aligned with the jobs in the economy."
If colleges aren't training students for the careers that will need to be filled, putting us "on a collision course with the future," as the study says, then what, exactly, is the point of going to college? We asked you, why did you go to college, and what did you get out of it? Is the importance of the college experience in the experience itself, or should colleges place more emphasis on career training? As always, our opinionated listeners had plenty to say about the subject.
Last night the nation watched as President Obama used his first prime-time Oval Office speech in 17 months to address the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. While the president promised a "national mission" to move away from fossil fuels toward a new renewable energy economy, he also emphasized that there will be a long term relief plan in place to help Gulf coast states which have been environmentally and economically ravaged by the oil spill. “The one approach I will not accept is inaction," President Obama pledged. "The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet.”
The question this morning from the Gulf to the Beltway is, did President Obama's speech do enough to allay the concerns of a distressed nation? Takeaway listeners had a few things to say about the issue.
After Israeli commandos raided a ship in international waters carrying aid to Gaza and killed nine people, unsparing criticism has poured in from all corners of the world, and Israel has a diplomatic and P.R. catastrophe on its hands. Turkey, Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world, recalled its ambassador from Israel earlier in the week and announced today that it may reduce its economic and defense ties with the Jewish state. With news of another aid ship, the MV Rachel Corrie — named for a 23-year-old American student who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003 — embarking for Gaza, all eyes are on Israel as the world awaits its next move.
In an effort to understand how Israel will move forward, we spoke with two journalists, Richard Cohen, of Vanity Fair and author of "Israel is Real: An Obsessive Quest to Understand the Jewish State," and Jerusalem-based Andrew North of the BBC. We also had a conversation with Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, and that's where several Takeaway listener objected to our coverage.
WNYC's resident dean of dogs, Sarah Montague, last joined us with her unique insights for The Takeaway's Dog Show. We enjoyed her commentary so much, we asked her to again share some more of her unrivaled observations about the animal kingdom, this time choosing her favorite entries from the Takeaway Cat Show. Click the players below to hear what she had to say.