Always Be Closing: Obama to Pitch to Congress, U.S.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Always Be Closing: Obama to Pitch to Congress, U.S.

President Obama is addressing a joint session of Congress tonight. His mission? To sell health care reform. In what may be the pitch of his presidency, President Obama hopes to jumpstart the debate that has stalled over the summer while critics of his health proposals dominated many public forums and his approval ratings dropped. To help President Obama get in touch with his inner Willie Loman and sell health care reform to a seemingly skeptical audience, we have gathered a roundtable of experts: Ted Widmer is a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton; Lisa Schiffren is a former speechwriter for Vice President Dan Quayle; and Cindy Gallop, an advertising consultant and former chair of ad agency BBH.

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We'd Like to Introduce to You the DIY Beatles

Cover your ears! Starting today, legions of gamers around the country will be able to sing – and play – their own version of Beatles songs, thanks to a special edition of the game Rock Band. Console-owners may now try their hand at 45 Beatles tracks, and download more of the band's newly remastered tracks in the coming months. We talk with Jeff Howe, contributing editor for Wired magazine, who wrote about the game this month. We also give The Beatles: Rock Band our own test run in the studio.

Watch the intro video for "The Beatles: Rock Band":

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Afghanistan: A Reporter Freed, An Election in Question

A raid by commandoes in Afghanistan has freed captured New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell. As is standard practice, the Times did not announce that the reporter had been kidnapped until after his release. Eric Schmitt, terrorism correspondent for the Times, gives us the details of the rescue as well as the back story.

We also speak to Christine Fair, professor at the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University, who has just returned from monitoring the presidential election in Afghanistan. Members of Afghanistan's election commission say they have clear evidence of fraud in the election; they’ve ordered a partial recount.

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Is Dan Brown the Savior of the Publishing World?

After four years of delay, next Tuesday will see the release of the book "The Lost Symbol," writer Dan Brown's much anticipated follow-up to the "Da Vinci Code." The novel will continue the main story of character Robert Langdon and once again he'll be solving a mystery steeped in art and history this time [SPOILER ALERT!] in Washington, D.C. We speak to Motoko Rich, who covers publishing for our partner the New York Times, about how the release of this book is being seen as a make-or-break moment for the publishing industry during an economic recession.

You can read Motoko Rich's story, "Booksellers anticipate a big week," in the Times.

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How Important is Local Eating in a Global World?

There are a lot of buzzwords that come up during conversations about eating responsibly: organic, local, heirloom. Those terms are typically associated with food that is good – both for us and the earth. (Okay, maybe the organic cheese puffs aren't actually good for us.) But how far does local or organic get us in terms of building a globally sustainable food system? To find out more, we speak to James McWilliams, associate professor of history at Texas State University and author of Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. We also speak with Victor Davis Hanson, a former California raisin farmer and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute.

"If the average meat eater gave up meat once a week that would be the equivalent of eating all of your food local."
—James McWilliams, author of Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly.

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The President Talks to Congress, America

Tonight, the president will appear before a joint session of Congress—perhaps the grandest setting for such an event—and deliver a speech on the need for health care reform. Among those watching will be Congressmen and Senators, but far beyond the halls of Congress, he will also be addressing Brad Bynum in Oklahoma and Faith Dow in California. As Americans who are still unconvinced on health care reform, they are who President Obama really needs to convince in his speech.

We also talk to New York Times White House correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg about what might be in the president's speech tonight.

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Jay-Z's Place in Hip-Hop Canon

Forbes estimates that Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z and the man behind such classic hip-hop songs as "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" and "Hard Knock Life," rakes in about $82 million a year. Admittedly, a lot of that annual income stems from his former day job as CEO of Def Jam Records and as the owner of the New Jersey Nets. But! The world mostly knows Jay-Z as a rap star. (And maybe as Beyonce's husband.) David Wall Rice, avid hip-hop listener and professor of psychology at Morehouse College, joins us to put the "best rapper alive" into a broader context. (Read Rice's latest blog post, "Jay-Z Grows Us Up," about the new album.)

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Supreme Court to Consider 'Hillary, the Movie'

A relatively innocuous (albeit negative) documentary on Hillary Clinton released during the 2008 election season may lead to something bigger than itself.  Today, the United States Supreme Court will return from its summer vacation to hear a case instigated by the film. It is, in fact, the second time the case has been brought before the nation's highest court, but this time it comes with greater weight: the potential to overturn campaign finance laws that have existed for the last 100 years. To take us from the film to the court case we are joined by Nate Persily, law professor at Columbia University; and Adam Liptak, Supreme Court correspondent for our partner the New York Times. 

For more, read Adam Liptak's article, Supreme Court to Revisit ‘Hillary’ Documentary, in the New York Times.

Check out some of the documentary, Hillary: The Movie or watch part one below:

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China Fights H1N1, One Politician at a Time

China will be the first country in the world to start a mass vaccination program to inoculate their citizens against the threat of H1N1, commonly known as "swine flu." Shirong Chen, the BBC's China editor, explains that China learned valuable lessons from their experience with the SARS virus. He also offers an explanation for why China has opted to first inoculate the politicians and the participants in the National Day Parade.

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One Year On: The Fall of Lehman Brothers

All week long we are reviewing the year that was: the year that marked the beginning of the financial meltdown and the recession that we continue to live through. Today we are focusing on the $600 billion collapse of Lehman Brothers — the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. It’s a moment that many believe sent the global economy into crisis. To get a sense of the forces leading up to that day we speak with a Lehman Brothers’ insider, former vice president of distressed debt and convertible securities at Lehman Brothers, Lawrence McDonald. He's the author of the new book, A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers.

We also talk to our contributor Louise Story, finance reporter for the New York Times, about the collapse of Lehmann and the ensuing global financial crisis. Louise also tells us about the new spate of corporate mergers that could indicate the nation's economy is making the slow turn towards recovery.

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Bill Keller on Rescued Reporter Stephen Farrell

This morning New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell was rescued by military commandos during a raid in Afghanistan. A British soldier and Farrell's translator, Sultan Munadi, were killed during the rescue. Farrell and his translator were kidnapped on Saturday by a group of Afghan fighters calling themselves the Taliban while reporting on a story in the northern province of Kunduz. The story was kept quiet out of concern that media attention would worsen the situation, so most did not know of the kidnapping. For more of the back story, we talk to New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller.

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