First Take: Toyota Execs; Teaching Civics in our Frustration Nation; Health Care Summit

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 12:34 PM

UPDATED at 5:10 p.m.  

Alex Goldmark here, coming up to speed for the night shift on a day of congressional hearings, winter sports and a Sea World tragedy.  


We have a producer mining the Akio Toyoda hearings for the best and most telling moments from today's congressional oversight hearings on Toyota and highway safety (see below). Since this is the first time the CEO of Toyota has testified on Capitol Hill we wonder what it might mean for him, his company or their share price back in Japan. So that's one thing we're looking into. 

Some Haitians are getting scammed here in the US as they seek help applying to immigrate to America. We're finding out who is doing it and who is cracking down, including the New York City District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr, who will join us tomorrow. 

And my personal favorite, we continue our daily Olympic updates as the sports fade from the speed of skiing to the grace of women's figure skating, among other athletic treats. I am such a smitten fan on this. I have to stop. 

POSTED at 12:50: Adam, here, producing this afternoon.

We've got two people out sick today (radio people get especially concerned when someone says the words "sore throat"), and big stories still arcing throughout the week.  Tomorrow we'll continue watching Toyota's appearance on Capitol Hill. Akio Toyoda's testimony comes later today, with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood making multiple appearances.  Reporters needed to line up this morning at 5 a.m. to get into the hearings; we'll be looking to distill the testimony into relevant takeaways ... and we may also turn to our friends at the BBC's "World Have Your Say," who are asking listeners around the globe whether Toyota's woes have changed their perception of Japanese manufacturing in general: Does 'Made in Japan' still mean 'high quality' to you?

Our week long series on political gridlock, Frustration Nation, continues tomorrow with an intriguing premise: If you're a high school civics teacher trying to teach students about how the government functions, how do you explain periods of time where public perception says it's not functioning well at all? We'll be talking with a high school civics teacher and several high school students from around the country for whom the 2010 mid-terms may be their first ever chance to vote.

Thursday will bring the long anticipated bipartisan health care summit, and there's a lot on the line for both Democrats and Republicans. The president released his health care reform proposal earlier this week, while the GOP says that only starting over from scratch will do ... After President Obama adroitly handled a television appearance at a House Republican retreat in Baltimore last month, the GOP was initially wary of the live event, but have since announced the slate of heavy-hitters they'll be sending.  Political theater?  Sure, but theater with the potential to sway public opinion in a big way. We're looking for a conversation about historical precedents for big policy summits, but there's an idea floating around that the event will really be several hours of reality television, complete with feuding teams (albeit reality TV that could change lives and affect billions of dollars).

We're also watching other potential stories: our Transportation desk says the Obama administration is quietly requiring public transportation projects to go into underserved communities to qualify for federal funds; Haitians in the U.S. being scammedas they apply for immigration help; and an Italian court saying that Google executives are legally liable for content posted to YouTube. Will the ruling be as alarming as Mentos dropped into Diet Coke, or will the Italian judge be played off by Keyboard Cat?  You'll find out when we do.

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