Russian Spy Ring, Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Gen. Petraeus face Senate hearings, DIY health

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The F.B.I. arrests 11 U.S. residents for being involved in what federal prosecutors allege is a complex Russian espionage ring; Solicitor General Elena Kagan heads into her second day of hearings in hopes of becoming the next Supreme Court Justice, but faces what a new study suggests are double standards in front of the Senate; Gen. David Petraeus faces his own Senate hearing, as he replaces Gen. McChrystal as top commander for the war in Afghanistan; Gun violence in Chicago; and our DIY Checkup series continues. 

Top of the Hour: Tougher Questions for Women and Minority SCOTUS Nominees, This Morning's Headlines

As Solicitor General Elena Kagan begins her Senate confirmation hearings, we take a look at a University of Georgia study that found female and minority Supreme Court nominees are questioned more closely than white male nominees. We speak with Lori Ringhand, associate professor of law at the University of Georgia and author of the study; this morning's headlines.

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Elena Kagan May Find Double Standard in Senate Hearing

Senate confirmation hearings for Solicitor General Elena Kagan began yesterday. If confirmed, Kagan would become the fourth woman to sit on the country's highest bench. But before she dons that black robe, Kagan must undergo a week of grilling by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The process of a week-long question-and-answer session for nominees began in 1939. A new study reviewed the hundreds of hours of transcripts from confirmation hearings over the last 70 years and found the process can often produce substantive information indicating the changing of the times. It also shows that women and minority candidates are often questioned more thoroughly and pressed further on their judicial philosophies. 

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Illinois Police Commander Found Guilty of Perjury

Last month, we spoke with Darell Cannon, one of a number of black men in Chicago who claim they were tortured and coerced into confessions during the 70s and 80s by Chicago Police. For men like Cannon, who spent 24 years in prison after being tortured by former police Lieutenant Jon Burge the men he commanded, justice has finally come.

Former Chicago Police Lieutenant Jon Burge was found guilty yesterday on charges of federal perjury and obstruction of justice. He could now face up to 45 years behind bars, after his sentencing hearing in November. Rob Wildeboer, criminal justice reporter for Chicago Public Radio tells us more about the case and the conviction.

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Listeners Respond: The Value of Seniority

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia died yesterday at age 92, after an unprecedented nine terms in the Senate. The death of the longest serving senator in history got us thinking about seniority. If wisdom comes with age, why bother with terms limits? Conversely, how productive could a 92 year old man really be as a politician? Takeaway listeners, as always, had a lot to say about the subject.

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Details of Alleged Russian Spy Ring Unfold

The FBI announced yesterday the arrests of 11 people associated with an alleged Russian spy ring. The arrests were made on Sunday in Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey and New York. Details coming out of the FBI reports read like a Russian spy novel — if not stranger.  Authorities worked for at least seven years to gather information about the suspects, who were all charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and failing to register as guests of a foreign government. The maximum sentences for these crimes are five to 20 years.

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China and Taiwan Sign Trade Pact, Possibly Easing Decades of Tensions

Since 1949, when Chaing Kai-shek and his followers in the Republic of China government fled Nanjing for Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War, the tiny island nation and mainland China have been at odds, if not downright hostile in their relations. Six decades later, China's communist government and the democratic descendant of the ROC in Taiwan have taken a major step toward normalizing relations.

China and Taiwan signed a wide-ranging trade pact today, potentially easing the troubled relationship between the two nations after sixty years. The deal includes a reduction tariffs on textiles and petrochemicals and allow more open investment across the Taiwan Strait. About 40,000 Taiwanese companies operate in mainland China, with about $83 million in Taiwanese money invested there.

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DIY Checkup: How to Find the Perfect Doctor

In our DIY Checkup series we've been talking about simple strategies to help take control of our health. Last week we spoke about setting long term health priorities with Dr. Andrea Price, who said that it is important to get to the doctor for your regular checkups. But for many, just making an appointment can be challenging.

Takeaway listener Hugh Appet responded on our website:

"One of the doctors mentioned as an example, someone who has not been to a doctor in five years. How about 20? Why don't insurance companies make it mandatory? The big thing, for me, is phobia. I tried making an appointment with my forcibly chosen primary care doctor under my health plan. The phone receptionist was so brusk that I couldn't get out what I needed to. So no appointment.

This week, we talk with Newsweek health reporter Kate Dailey and Dr. Pauline Chen about how to navigate the chaotic health system to find the right doctor and how to build a trusting relationship with your doctor once you make it to the office.

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Top of the Hour: David Petraeus, the 'Scholar General'; This Morning's Headlines

Elena Kagan isn't the only one who's feet will be held to the fire on Capital Hill today. General David Petraeus will face Congress in confirmation hearings of his own, as he tries to convince skeptical legislators of his ability to turn the war in Afghanistan around. The general is widely heralded as a brilliant scholar, and we ask Ret. Col. Peter Mansoor, Petraeus's former executive officer, if Petraeus will be the smartest man in the room today. That story, and this morning's headlines. 

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General David Petraeus Faces Senate Confirmation Hearings

General David Petraeus faces the Senate Armed Services Committee today for confirmation hearings. The General is expected to take command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan — after his predecessor Gen. Stanley McChrystal lost his post for making disparaging remarks about the Obama administration in Rolling Stone Magazine. How will General Petraeus do in the hearings, and what challenges does he face in his new position? 

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Reactions from Capitol Hill as Kagan's Hearings Begin

"I will work hard, and I will do my best to consider every case, impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law," pledged Solicitor General Elena Kagan during her opening statement at her Supreme Court Confirmation hearing yesterday. Kagan's hearing began with few surprises, except for one—the specter of Justice Thurgood Marshall, her former boss.

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Listeners Respond: Top Summer Song Picks

Each Friday morning this summer, we're asking musicians, artists and music lovers to weigh in on what makes a perfect summer song. Last week we spoke with "Saturday Night Live's" Fred Armisen to get his picks. For him, summer music has to be either really upbeat or slow enough to elicit memories of long hot summers of the past. The Takeaway listeners evidently have strong opinions about the topic, as well. Many have called in or written to us to share their ultimate summer songs.

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Supreme Court Overturns Chicago Gun Ban, After Spate of Shootings

Yesterday the Supreme Court said the Second Amendment's gaurantee of the right to bear arms applies to state and local gun control laws, effectively overturning Chicago’s ban on handguns in a 5-4 decision. The ruling comes after two deadly weekends in Chicago, where over 80 people have been shot and 13 people killed in the city. For decades, Chicago’s homicide rates have soared above other U.S. cities. And gun control advocates worry that the recent Supreme Court case will escalate crime in the city and make Chicago the national epicenter of gun-related violence.

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Belgian Commission Examining Sex Abuse in Catholic Church Quit in Protest

The Catholic Church isn't the only group outraged by police raids of Church property in Brussels last Thursday. Peter Adriaenssens, a child psychiatrist who recently became head of a commission of inquiry into clerical sex abuse, announced that the panel would disband in protest of Belgian authorities' actions. Police confiscated the panel's 475 files during the raid. Adriaenssens said the commission, which had the backing of the Catholic Church, was used as "bait" by the police.

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Lessons From The Skip Gates Incident

Last summer, Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested in his home on obstruction of justice charges, after police came to investigate a 911 call that said two men barged into a house in Massachusetts. The incident brought into sharp relief the continuing issues race relations in this country today, especially between the police and black men. 

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Elena Kagan and the Legacy of Thurgood Marshall

He nicknamed her "Shorty," and she refers to him as one of her "judicial heroes," but in their storied lives and careers, neither of them probably expected what transpired in yesterday's meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee. As Solicitor General Elena Kagan sits on the precipice of becoming only the fourth woman in history to sit on the Supreme Court, the name of another barrier-breaking justice, Thurgood Marshall, may turn into her biggest liability.

With no history of judicial activity to examine, Republicans are focusing on the year Kagan spent clerking for Marshall in 1988, when she was 28-years-old. To the befuddlement of some, Republicans are decrying the civil rights pioneer as a "well-known liberal activist judge," as Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the raking Republican on the Judiciary committee, described him. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), told The Salt Lake Tribune that he wasn't sure whether he would vote to confirm Marshall if given the chance.

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