The Sting

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

On today’s show: We’ll speak to the two investigative reporters who broke the corruption story in New Jersey in 2009 that involved crooked rabbis, a ponzi scheme, and black-market kidneys. Harvard English Professor Marjorie Garber discusses how the digital world is changing the definition of literature. It’s opening day, and baseball historian John Thorn tells us about the early days of baseball. Plus, Backstory is all about the legal and personal troubles of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The Jersey Sting

Investigative reporters Ted Sherman and Josh Margolin give an inside account of a federal sting operation that moves from the streets of Brooklyn to the diners of Jersey City, and all the way to Israel. Their book The Jersey Sting: A True Story of Crooked Pols, Money-Laundering Rabbis, Black Market Kidneys, and the Informant Who Brought It All Down details the bizarre crime: Among the 44 people arrested in July 2009 were three mayors, five Orthodox rabbis, two state legislators, and the deputy mayor of Jersey City. At the center of the story was Solomon Dwek, who perpetrated a $50 million Ponzi scheme before copping a plea and wearing a wire as a secret FBI undercover informant.

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The Use and Abuse of Literature

Marjorie Garber, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English and of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University, discusses the usefulness and uselessness of literature in the modern, digital age. The Use and Abuse of Literature aims to rescue literature from the margins and restore it to the center of our lives.

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The Secret History of Early Baseball

Baseball historian John Thorn debunks baseball’s creation story and reveals that from its earliest days. He reveals how baseball was a vehicle for gambling, a proxy form of class warfare, that was infused with racism like the larger society, and was corrupted by hustlers and shady entrepreneurs. In Baseball in The Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, Thorn traces the rise of the New York version of the game over other variations popular in Massachusetts and Philadelphia, and tells a tale full of heroes and scoundrels, scandal, greed, and glory.

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Backstory: The Legal Troubles of Silvio Berlusconi

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has had legal troubles for years, and now he’s facing several different trials, ranging from underage prostitution to tax fraud. Columbia journalism professor Alexander Stille describes the cases against Berlusconi, how he’s has managed to avoid charges in other cases, and how Berlusconi is dealing with his duties as prime minister.

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