First Take: Anwar Al-Awlaki's Reach, Federal Takeover of Oil Spill, Confronting Beauty Bias

Monday, May 24, 2010 - 12:08 PM

UPDATED: 5:15 p.m. Alex Goldmark here as night editor for today. 

All of the fine work Anna laid out below is still leading our show tomorrow. Here's how we've rounded out the mix.

A macabre but fascinating case out of Minnesota makes its way to court tomorrow, years late some would say; and it raises chilling questions about freedom of speech on the internet, and culpability in assisted suicide. William F. Melchert-Dinkel allegedly posed as a sympathetic nurse online in suicide-related chat rooms and encouraged people to end their own lives. At least two did. Is he liable? Did he "aid a suicide," a crime in Minnesota? Is there a way to stop this kind of act without limiting free speech? We'll hear from a legal thinker and a crusading grandmother who set out to stop Dinkel. 

As words continue to heat up around the Korean peninsula in the wake of the sinking of a South Korean warship, we'll bring some context to the escalations. This current case reminded us of the USS Pueblo Affair so we'll have a little historical discussion on that naval brouhaha. 

And in addition to our Gulf oil spill topics listed below, we'll hear from someone who is training to clean oil off of animals. 

POSTED 12:08 p.m.  Anna Sale here on the day shift.

American-born cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki released a video over the weekend, calling in Arabic for the killing of American civilians. Thepersonal story of what led the eloquent cleric preaching moderation in Virginia to urge violence against America from a Yemeni hideout has been widely chronicled. We'll look tomorrow at Al-Awlaki's reach in the United States and around the world, and if his audience is changing after his alleged connections to the shooting at Fort Hood, the attempted airline bombing on Christmas Day, and the failed Times Square bomb plot. We're reaching out to experts who are following Al-Awlaki's outreach efforts. Takeaway Associate Producer Noel King also visited Islamic bookstores in Brooklyn today, and found a reticence to talk about him along with a CD display with sermons designed to counter Al-Alawki's message directly.

We also continue to monitor the tough talk and calls for action along the Gulf Coast today. BP today committed $500 million to clean-up efforts, the same day federal and state officials called on BP to do more to help help affected workers and clean up the spill. After Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said BP would need to get out of the way if they didn't do a better job, we'll look tomorrow at how a federal takeover of the would work, both from a legal perspective and logistically. We're asking experts how a government-run clean-up would differ from BP's efforts.

Finally, we all know that looks matter — but should the law do more to keep us from discriminating against others based on looks? That’s what Stanford Professor Deborah Rhode argues in her new book The Beauty Bias, in which she compiles a huge amount of data showing just how pervasive issues of "beauty" are in our society. We're starting the conversation online today: Do you think unattractive people should be protected by law

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