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Todd Zwillich

Washington Correspondent, The Takeaway

Todd Zwillich appears in the following:

The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, 30 Years Later

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Today marks thirty years since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. On December 24, 1979, the Soviet 40th army was ordered to deploy in Afghanistan by then Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.  Of course, today’s anniversary resonates not just with Russians and other members of the former Soviet Union, but also with Americans after the recent announcement of 30,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan.  To remind us of the events of 30 years ago, Kira Fomenko from the BBC Russian service joins us.

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How Banks Bet Against the Housing Market... and Won

Thursday, December 24, 2009

You might have heard of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and the role they played in the housing crisis, but have you heard of a 'synthetic CDO?'  Gretchen Morgensen and Louise Story report in today's New York Times, ("Banks Bundled Bad Debt, Bet Against It and Won,") on how banks used this special category of bundled debt to bet against the housing market, and win. Sometimes it meant the banks profited while their clients lost out.

Louise Story joins us to explain synthetic CDOs and the three government investigations that are already underway about the practice. The government wants to know if investment firms may have exacerbated the housing crisis as they tried to hedge their vulnerable mortage positions. We also speak with Sylvain Raynes, a structured finance consultant, to give us details on how firms used synthetic CDOs and how they pitched them to clients.

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Takeouts: Brett Favre, Listeners Sing

Thursday, December 24, 2009

  • Sports Takeout - Sports contributor Ibrahim Abdul-Matin brings us his next entry in his top ten sports stories from 2009: a humble QB named Favre.  Brett Favre.
  • Listener Takeouts - Listeners respond to a story on “whitening” names, and sing us their favorite holiday songs.

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Senate Votes on Health Care Reform Shaped by Filibuster

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Senate has voted on its version of health care reform just hours before the start of the Christmas holiday. But even after months of tense negotiating, Senate Republicans are still not pleased with the legislation. We check in with Mary Agnes Carey, senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News, to get the latest before the vote.

We also look back at the road to this Senate vote, and just how much this bill has been shaped by the threat of a filibuster. Once a rare form of running down the clock and making it harder to let the majority party run the show, the filibuster is now used so frequently that some wonder whether or not the U.S. Senate is being held hostage by members who delay, delay, delay. We talked with Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian and author of "Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security - From World War II to the War on Terrorism." Former Senate Republican Whip Alan Simpson also joins us to talk about the filibuster's undeniable hold on our lawmakers.

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Despite Recession, National Crime Stats Down

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The FBI is reporting that crime fell nationally in the first six months of 2009, when compared to the same time last year. The decline happening in the midst of a terrible recession and high unemployment. With those factors, people usually expect crime to increase... So what's going on? To help answer that is New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. And while crime went down nationally it also rose someplace you might not expect it to – Seattle, WA. Jonah Spangenthal-Lee from SeattleCrime.com looks at why Seattle's crime is rising.

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Remixing the Holidays: Muzak 'Audio Architect' on Shopping Tunes

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have you ever wondered why – while you’re out holiday shopping – a dress shop might play one soundtrack of Christmas songs while a hardware store might play another? Steven Pilker, manager of Muzak’s audio architecture department, knows the answers.  For our continuing series, "Remixing the Holidays," Pilker explains what all the retail noise is about...and shares the three songs that must be on every holiday soundtrack, regardless of what the store sells.

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Pope Pius XII One Step Closer to Sainthood

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI has signed a decree that shifts World War II-era Pope Pius XII one step closer to sainthood. But there are some in the Jewish community who say that Pius did little to stop the murder of some 6 million Jews by Germany's Nazi regime during his papacy, which began in 1939 and ended in 1958. Kenneth Woodward is a contributing editor for Newsweek. He covered religion for the magazine for nearly 40 years, and is the author of "Making Saints: How The Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes A Saint, Who Doesn't, And Why."

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Is The U.S. Fighting a Secret War in Yemen?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This week, al-Qaida militants made a rare appearance at an anti-government protest in Yemen, proclaiming that they were at war with the United States. This might sound like jihadi boilerplate, except that it came only days after reports of U.S. missiles struck suspected al Qaida sites in the small country on the tip of the Arabian peninsula.  Details are still murky, but if true, those strikes would mark a major escalation in the United States’ approach to Yemen.  This leads us to ask: is the U.S. fighting a secret war in Yemen?   Robert Worth, Middle East correspondent for The New York Times, helps us answer that question.  Gregory Johnsen also joins us; he's a Yemen expert at Princeton University

 

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Food: Understanding the Jewish Love Affair with Chinese Food

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's behind the unique relationship that Jewish people have with Chinese food? Jennifer 8 Lee, author of "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food," says there's an long cultural history involving both of these immigrant groups, including similar immigration patterns and non-Christian schedules.

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Fresh Opposition Protests in Iran

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

There are new clashes in Iran this morning between opposition supporters and government forces in the city of Isfahan. Opposition supporters had gathered for a memorial service for the dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who died over the weekend. The cleric's death has re-ignited the opposition movement in Iran and there are more big demonstrations expected in the coming days. The BBC's Tehran correspondent Jon Leyne has been following the story and joins us from London.

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This Christmas: Personalize Gifts or Stick to "Scroogenomics?"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

With only two days until Christmas, holiday shopping has reached a fever pitch. New York Times business and finance reporter Louise Story says a new trend is sweeping holiday giving this year: customized gifts. Whether itss designing the shoes you buy for your daughter or having your old family recipes printed as a cookbook, retailers are betting that consumers will pay extra for that personalized touch. But Joel Waldfogel isn't sure. Waldfogel is the Ehrenkranz Family Professor in the Department of Business and Public Policy at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He's also the author of "Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays." Waldfogel says we should put an end to buying gifts for certain kinds of friends and family: those we don't see often or know very well. His research shows that far-flung friends and family often won't enjoy your gift as much as things they simply buy for themselves.

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Takeouts: Economic Exits, Aisle-Jumping Pol, Serena Williams

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

  • Finance Takeout: So far, the federal government and banks have done swift work disentangling public and private interests, following the massive economic rescue effort launched last year. But Newsweek columnist Dan Gross says the Fed's hardest work is just around the corner. Gross says raising interest rates and cutting ties to the housing market are tough but necessary moves to truly get back to business as usual.
  • Politics Takeout: Time Magazine's Jay Newton Small reports on Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith's defection from the Democratic party to the Republican side of the aisle. 
  • Sports Takeout: Our own Ibrahim Abdul-Matin with his second of top ten sports moments of the year: Serena Williams.

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Immigration Enforcement, Prosecutions Up Sharply

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The rate of federal prosecutions is at an all-time high, showing an increase of nine percent since last year. According to a new study by Syracuse University's TRAC project, this increase is primarily related to an increase in arrests of immigration violators. We talk with John Schwartz of The New York Times and Valeria Fernández of the Feet in 2 Worlds Program about the increase, and what it signifies for the Obama administration's stance towards immigration reform.

Read John Schwartz's article in The New York Times.

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Mexico City Legalizes Gay Marriage

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mexico City lawmakers Monday voted to legalize same-sex marriage in the capitol – a move that would also give same-sex couples the ability to adopt children. It was a stunning move in a conservative Catholic nation. Ioan Grillo is Mexico Correspondent for Time Magazine; he reports on the reaction in Mexico City and throughout the nation.

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New Center Promises Transparency But Delays Declassification

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

President Obama is expected to sign an executive order before the year is over to create a new National Declassification Center in order to aggressively clear a backlog of classified documents. But, the creation of the center will actually delay the declassification of 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents. We talk with Bryan Bender from the Boston Globe and Jim Harper from the CATO Institute about how this plan fits with the president’s promises for government transparency.

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Takeouts: Trade Wars, Tarmac Waits, Listeners on Health

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

  • Money Takeout: Louise Story of the New York Times explains why U.S. media companies just scored a victory in the ongoing US-China trade war. 
  • Airline Takeout: New York Times reporter Matthew Wald tells us about a new law intended to prevent airline passengers from being kept on the tarmac for long periods of time while waiting for their flights to leave.
  • Listener Takeout: From health care to holiday songs, Takeaway listeners are coming through loud and clear. 

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Small American Bank Owners Meet the President

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One week after meeting with the heads of major banks, President Obama is scheduled to meet with the leaders of small and community banks today. He is likely to make the same request to them as he did the big banks: 'Please lend more.' With major banks taking up most of the headlines all year long, we wanted to take a look at how community banks are doing, and the answer may surprise you. Mike Menzies is the president and CEO of a small community bank, Easton Bank and Trust in Easton, M.D. – he says his bank will finish the year with a profit, but fears the next couple of years will be rough. David Gillen is finance editor for The New York Times, and says that community banks have actually done well despite the constant reports of bank closings.

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BBC Listeners Help Zambian Boy Live Dream to Fly

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A 13-year-old boy from a slum in Zambia is on his way to learning how to fly thanks to help from BBC radio listeners who heard his story. Freelance BBC reporter Jo Fidgen tells us about meeting the boy, Joseph Banda, and how she went along for the ride on his very first flight.

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After Death of Opposition Cleric, Iran Cracks Down on Protesters

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Since the disputed presidential elections in Iran this past summer, the government has cracked down on protesters, the opposition movement and the media. In the last several days (and since the death of noted cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who had frequently spoken out against the government), protestors have again been taking to the streets. For an update on the political environment in Iran, we call Beirut to talk with Borzou Daragahi, the Middle East correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, who has managed to continue reporting from Tehran.

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Takeouts: Yelp Says No, Mojave Preservation, Usain Bolt

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

  • Money Takeout: Yelp walked away from an acquisition deal from Google worth more than $500 million... why? John Abell, of Wired.com, joins us to put the story in context. 
  • Environment Takeout: Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) is looking to make more than a million acres of the Mojave Desert into a national monument. Daniel Stone of Newsweek explains why this ambitious environmental effort might get government approval. 
  • Sports Takeout: After a brief discussion of the Redskins' trouncing at the Giants' hands last night, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin kicks off our series on the ten most memorable sports stories of 2009 with the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt. Watch him run!

 

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