Streams

Todd Zwillich

Washington Correspondent, The Takeaway

Todd Zwillich appears in the following:

Update on Arlen Specter's press conference

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Senator Arlen Specter shocked the political scene yesterday when he announced that after 29 years as a Republican, he was switching teams. His move puts the Democrats in position to have an almost filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Today Arlen Specter was greeted with open arms by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The Takeaway's Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich joins us with an update from the press conference.

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Arlen Specter's switcheroo

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shell-shocked Republicans are still reeling after losing one of their own to the Democratic party. After years of being wooed, Sen. Arlen Specter decided it was time to cross the aisle. Senator Specter will be appearing at a press conference with President Obama and Vice President Biden in less than two hours. For more The Takeaway talks with our Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich, and Laura Vecsey, Political Reporter for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Watch Senator Specter discuss his party switch in the video below.

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Series of suicide bombings rock Iraq killing at least 60

Friday, April 24, 2009

In the third attack in two days in Iraq, simultaneous attacks by suicide bombers targeted the most important Shiite shrine in Baghdad, killing at least 60 people and injuring close to 125 others as they gathered for Friday prayers. This bombing comes a day after nearly 80 people were killed in three separate suicide attacks in Baghdad and Baquba, which was the single deadliest day in Iraq in more than a year. Is this a sign of widespread civil unrest? Or a temporary but dramatic upsurge in violence? Joining us now is the New York Times Baghdad correspondent Stephen Lee Myers.

For more, read Stephen Lee Myers' and Timothy Williams' article, Two Suicide Bombers Kill at Least 60 in Baghdad, in today's New York Times.

For footage of some of the recent attacks, watch the Associated Press video below.

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So sue me

Friday, April 24, 2009

Recently on The Takeaway we’ve been following people’s credit card stories and following up on the calls that our listeners have made on the subject. One man’s story really caught our ear. Don Merrill, of Salt Lake City, Utah, was frustrated with just one small aspect of his credit card company—they wouldn’t stop sending those convenience checks in the mail and he wanted them to stop. But after a year of trying, he found a way to make them. He joins us now with his tale of victory.

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Could Los Angeles save Detroit?

Friday, April 24, 2009

The news is full of Detroit's woes. Chrysler is drawing up bankruptcy papers, GM is shuttering its plants for nine weeks, and just this morning Ford posted a $1.4 billion first quarter loss. Some critics blame the U.S. auto industry's current problems on the ghosts of cars past. Boring design led to weak car sales that led to the financial crisis. So how should Detroit plan for the future?

This week the arts and culture radio program Studio 360 visits Los Angeles to look at the kind of innovative ideas about car design coming out of that city. Host Kurt Andersen spoke with hot rodders, low riders, and car designers freed from the constrictions of working inside the Detroit system to see where the American car industry could be. He also took a ride in an electric car on three wheels that's straight out of The Jetsons. He joins The Takeaway with an account of what he learned about the future of cars.

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Give me some credit

Friday, April 24, 2009

It’s become a familiar story. People who pay their credit cards on time every month are seeing their interest rates go up, their monthly due dates changed without warning, and are watching all sorts of new fees pop up on their monthly statements. Well, President Obama (and Sen. Chris Dodd) is fed up with those stories. Yesterday the President met with representatives of the credit card industry at the White House and recited the many ways he would like to see their business model change.

Here at The Takeaway we've been asking our listeners to call in with their stories of credit card woes and the occasional victory. We turn now to two of our listeners to tell their story and make their suggestions on how they'd improve the credit card industry. We are also joined by The Takeaway's personal finance guru Alvin Hall for his take on the President's makeover of the credit industry.
"Congress needs to look at this and say to the credit card companies 'Listen, if you change interest rates on a customer, you need to give them some time to adjust to this.'"
—Financial adviser Alvin Hall on new rules for credit card companies

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If newspapers are dying, why aren't newspaper movies?

Friday, April 24, 2009

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.

State of Play opened in theaters last week:



The Soloist opens this weekend:

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Don't you dare bring that lunar dust into my house young man!

Friday, April 24, 2009

It gets in your shoes, in your eyes, and your mouth and your hair and don’t get me started on when it gets in your space capsule. We're talking about lunar dust and any astronaut who has been to the moon will tell you: it sticks to everything. This incredibly stickiness is a hindrance to equipment and space armor and until now no one knew why. Now as NASA says it wants to make another lunar visit a priority, the solution may be at hand. Just yesterday details of a new study by Australian scientist Brian O’Brien came out giving some new facts on moon dust.

Joining The Takeaway to help us understand the sticky situation is Miles O'Brien, longtime intergalactic reporter, joins us to tell us all about it and everything else going on in outer space.

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Bolivian president makes a play for international intrigue

Friday, April 24, 2009

International intrigue and Latin America have long been partners in crime. So when Bolivian security forces killed an Irish man, a Romanian, and a Hungarian in a hotel room in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in a half-hour shoot out, it sounded like it was ripped from the pages of a high-flung spy novel. Now, Bolivian President Evo Morales said that this alleged assassination attempt by foreign mercenaries could have been backed by the U.S. Government reports say that the group was linked to rightist opposition groups against Morales’ leftist regime, but they have not released the details of their report to the Irish or Hungarian governments who have been seeking answers.

Naomi Daremblum who teaches about Latin American issues at New York University joins The Takeaway to talk about the alleged assassination attempt on President Morales.

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Banks prepare for the results of government "stress tests"

Friday, April 24, 2009

The day of reckoning is at hand for banks required to undergo government "stress tests." Today federal regulators will meet with the leaders of the nation's biggest banks to tell them how they did. Banks have until early next week to dispute the results, which will be released to the public on May 4. Eric Dash, who writes about banking for the New York Times, joins The Takeaway with a look at what the tests are likely to reveal and what the results will mean for the recovery of the economy.

For more, read Eric Dash's article, U.S. to Tell Big Banks the Results of Stress Test, in today's New York Times.

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Nothing like a Saturday election in Iceland

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tomorrow while most of us will be sleeping in, Iceland will be holding it’s first elections since the collapse of the Independence Party-led coalition government last October. In the face of the worst financial crisis in the nation's history, the Social Democrat /Left-Green alliance is expected to win the elections, and this could be the beginning of the end of the Independence Party, which has held power in Iceland for the past 18 years. Joining The Takeaway is Bjorn Malmquist, a reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, to tell us more about what can be expected from these elections.

Bjork is still the most well-known Iceland native, and it's Friday, so enjoy:

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Cap and Trade

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cap and trade, it’s not a breakfast cereal or an off-season NFL strategy. Yes even though the NFL draft starts tomorrow, but no, it is not some new football strategy or rule. So what exactly is cap and trade, and why are some Republicans predicting that it’s going to cost each household in the United States over $3,000 if this Democrat-sponsored global warming proposal gets approved?

To answer these questions, The Takeaway is joined by John Reilly, an MIT Environmental Economist. He is the man behind the curtain who actually calculated the cost of the proposed cap and trade. And he says that the GOP has misrepresented his data.

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State Department critical of Pakistani response to Taliban

Friday, April 24, 2009

In another indication of the gathering strength of the insurgency, Taliban militants have taken control of a gateway district close to the Pakistani capital. The district of Buner, home to almost one million, is just seventy miles from Islamabad and leads to speculation that the Taliban could be making plans for a move on the city. This increases concern that the government is unprepared to fend off the strategic advances of the Taliban. Now, U.S. officials are questioning the government's willingness to take on the insurgents. Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have warned of the consequences, Secretary Clinton went so far as to call it an "existential threat". So is Pakistan fighting for its very existence?

To help us understand the Pakistani point of view of the Taliban insurgency and the government's reaction, we turn to Ambassador Munir Akram. Ambassador Akram was Pakistan's Ambassador to the United Nations from 2002-2008.

**UPDATE: Pakistani officials and international press outlets are reporting that Taliban militants have begun withdrawing from the Buner district.**
"Pakistan can do without American aid. This is my honest opinion. Whatever money is committed, half the aid comes back to the donors."
—Ambassador Munir Akram on U.S. involvement in Pakistan

Watch Secretary of State Clinton's comments on the situation in Pakistan below.

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Taliban militants take control of more of Pakistan

Thursday, April 23, 2009

In another indication of the gathering strength of the insurgency, Taliban militants have taken control of a district close to the Pakistani capital. The district of Buner, home to almost one million, is just seventy miles from Islamabad and leads to speculation that the Taliban could be making plans for a move on the city. This increases concern that the government is unprepared to fend off the strategic advances of the Taliban. The bold move comes ten days after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari agreed that strict Islamic law, or Shariah, would be the law of the land in the Swat region of Pakistan, as part of a deal to appease the Taliban. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton provocatively said she was concerned that Pakistan’s government was making too many concessions to the Taliban and emboldening the militants. For more on this story we turn to the BBC's Jonathan Marcus.

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The tax man takes Capitol Hill

Thursday, April 16, 2009

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden released their 2008 tax returns last night. President Obama paid $855,323 in federal taxes on a combined household income of $2,656,902. In a press conference yesterday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs explained President Obama's hefty return as being due to his book royalties. More surprising perhaps is that Joe Biden appears to be the poorest Senator. Biden's tax return showed only $269,256 and paid $46,952 in federally taxes. Our man on Capitol Hill, Todd Zwillich, joins us with a look at the bounty of public disclosures yesterday.

Our partners The New York Times have all 67-pages of the Obamas' tax return. Click here.

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North Korea withdraws from nuclear talks. Again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

To protest the United Nation Security Council's condemnation of its missile, er...satellite launch, North Korea has withdrawn from six-party talks over the nation's use of nuclear power. Pyongyang has also vowed to start up the nuclear weapons program, er...power plant, it was supposed to be dismantling. We turn now to the BBC's Jonathan Marcus for an overview of of North Korea's actions and the international response.

For more of The Takeaway's coverage of North Korea, click here.

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Debtors' Prison: It lives in the 21st Century

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Today we’re kicking off our series, “The Color of Money,” in an effort to examine how the economic downturn is affecting minorities. We’re starting the conversation with a look at modern day debtors’ prison—a 19th century relic that is alive and well in parts of 21st century America. While imprisonment for debt was officially abolished in the 1800s, for Edwina Nowlin, it is a harsh reality. Her teenage son was kept in prison until she could come up with the funds to pay the court-ordered $104/month fee. When she couldn't pay, she was sent to jail for 30 days. It took a lawsuit by the ACLU of Michigan to get her out.

With unemployment rates higher among African Americans and Hispanics, and the median income about $20,000 lower than it is for whites, these groups run a greater risk of falling into debt and bearing the consequences. Joining us to talk about these penalties and the rise of debtors' prisons is Stephen Bright. He’s the president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights. He also teaches at Yale and Georgetown Law School .

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Amazon gets hit over gay-themed books

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

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.

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The rules of engagement for snipers

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

When President Obama gave the order to rescue Captain Richard Phillips who was being held hostage on a lifeboat after bandits seized his boat, the Maersk Alabama, U.S. military snipers jumped into action. Moments later Captain Phillips was freed. But even when there is a standing order to shoot when the right opportunity arises, there are still a lot of decisions that have to be made. For example, what exactly the phrase “right opportunity” means. Our next guests know the challenges of making split second decisions in very special operations. The Takeaway is joined by Bryan Adams, a former Army Sniper, and William Dennis Brown Jr., a former Navy Seal.

For more of The Takeaway's coverage of the Somalian pirates, click here.

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Positive bank reports offer new hope for economy

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

As the nation awaits President Obama's speech on the state of the economy, some of the country's largest banks are reporting positive earnings. Both Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs reported even larger than expected first-quarter returns. Is this the hope we've been waiting for as we wait results from the other "too big to fail banks" this week? And what does it mean to be profitable when you owe the nation a multi-billion dollar debt? For some perspective on what this means for the state of banking and the public's perception of banks, The Takeaway is joined by James Surowiecki who writes The Balance Sheet blog and is a business columnist for The New Yorker.
"It's profitability with an asterisk. The one thing to remember is, every dollar these banks earn right now is, for the most part, a dollar that we're not going to have to put into them if we, say, were to take them over."
—The New Yorker's James Surowiecki on banks reporting positive earnings

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