Scott Simon | KERA News

Scott Simon

The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years. Today, Nov. 9, marks the 30th anniversary of when it began to come down.

It may be hard to imagine, a generation later, what a momentous event that was and why the sight of ordinary citizens, chipping away by hand and hammer at that edifice of cruelty, lifted so many hopes around the world.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

NPR has lost a friend and an old colleague. News reached us this week that David Rector died last month at the age of 69. He'd suffered an aortic dissection years ago that left him a quadriplegic.

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The field of 2020 presidential candidates with health care overhaul plans is crowded, and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., is drawing lines of distinction between his proposal and his competitors' plans.

President Trump will attend the Ultimate Fighting Championship, MMA, mixed martial arts event at Madison Square Garden Saturday night. The event, of course, is a punching, kicking, pay-per-view brawl between Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal that takes place inside a cage.

The winner gets a belt embellished with the initials BMF, which does not stand for Best Mocha Frappe.

Mr. Trump is not expected to be booed at Madison Square Garden, as he was at a World Series game earlier this week. The president is a fan and used to book MMA events at his casino in Atlantic City.

Thirty-nine people were found dead in a trailer this week in Essex, in the United Kingdom. Thirty-one men, and eight women.

They were discovered in the morning, in a sealed, refrigerated container of the kind that ordinarily transports fruits, vegetables or frozen food.

Four people, so far, have been arrested in connection with the deaths. But identifying those who died could take a long time.

A brainless, bright-yellow organism that can solve mazes and heal itself is making its debut at a Paris zoo this weekend.

At least so far, "the blob" is more benevolent than the ravenous star of its 1950s sci-fi film classic namesake.

James Harden, one of the greatest players in basketball, has the greatest beard in sports: long, wiry and full. And he wouldn't be allowed to keep his beard in the Xinjiang region of China, where more than a million Chinese Uighur Muslims have been imprisoned in reeducation camps and "abnormal" beards are outlawed as a sign of dissidence.

Mike Pompeo graduated first in his class at West Point in 1986, became a tank commander, went to Harvard Law, became a Beltway lawyer, Kansas businessman, congressman, CIA director and, now, secretary of state.

"There's no doubt West Point impacted who I am," Mr. Pompeo has said. "It has an enormous emphasis, not only on military aspects, but character development. Whether it's the honor code, or the interactions you have ... every place you are is a character test.

President Trump stepped into the role of a tycoon on a television reality show before he was elected president of the United States. The path of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine may be even more improbable.

Mr. Zelenskiy played Vasyl, a nebbishy high school teacher who lives with his parents in a cramped old Soviet-style apartment, in a television series called Servant of the People.

Cokie Roberts was fierce and funny, hard-nosed and kindhearted. She was steeped in politics, as the daughter of two Louisiana pols, Hale and Lindy Boggs, and enjoyed the game. But she also elevated politics with her elegant reporting.

Cokie wasn't fooled by the blather of politicians, but also wasn't smug about journalism. We covered a few primaries and papal trips together, and Cokie used to caution young reporters with preconceptions, "Stories are so simple until you actually cover them."

News organizations now refer to President Trump's whoppers — from the size of his inaugural crowds to a hurricane threatening Alabama — as routinely as referring to rain in Seattle.

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed some of the agency's top surveillance programs, has a memoir slated to hit shelves Tuesday.

Permanent Record is part coming-of-age-with-the-Internet story, part spy tale and — his critics might say — an attempt to try to justify betraying his country.

Dr. Carrie Jurney is on the board of an online organization that works to prevent suicides. It's called Not One More Vet.

This isn't a mental health support group for veterans — it's for veterinarians.

It takes only a few paragraphs in Genesis for the Earth to take shape, sprout with life, and then human beings. Of course, that development actually took millions of years.

But this week, as the world watched a huge hurricane gather in the Earth's warming waters, and wreak terrible destruction on life in the islands of the Bahamas and other places, there was another humbling reminder that human beings really only play a supporting role in the history of the Earth.

It's flu shot season. Signs alerting and urging you to get a flu shot now may be up at your pharmacy or workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over 6 months old get a flu shot by the end of October, so the vaccine can begin to work before the influenza season begins.

It may be strange for tourists to land in Hong Kong to find throngs of impassioned protesters. They might wonder: What do they expect me to do about the Chinese government?

Tourists come from all over the world to see the elegantly industrious city-state.

"It is like a cauldron," Jan Morris wrote in her book Hong Kong, "seething, hissing, hooting, arguing, enmeshed in a labyrinth of tunnels and overpasses, with those skyscrapers erupting everywhere into view, with those ferries churning and hovercraft splashing and great jets flying in."

Dr. Julie Rickard thought her visit to Wisconsin over the Christmas holiday would bring a break from her day job working in suicide prevention in Wenatchee, Wash.

The visit didn't go as planned. After a tense fight broke out between her mother and another family member, everyone dispersed. Rickard readied herself for the trip back to the Pacific Northwest.

At the airport, she received a call from her mother, Sheri Adler. This was not out of the ordinary — Adler, like many adoring mothers, always calls her daughter after parting ways.

It's hot: historically, treacherously hot this week, in surprising places.

It was 109 degrees in Paris, the highest temperature ever recorded there. People plunged into the Jardins du Trocadéro fountains to cool down, while officials worried some of the charred walls of Notre Dame Cathedral that didn't fall in April's fire might now dry out and collapse in the furnace of summer heat.

The California condor, North America's largest bird, once ruled the American Southwest and California's coastal mountains. The vulture-like bird was revered by Native Americans and was believed to contain spiritual powers.

Hundreds of years later, its future seemed all but certain. Defying odds, conservation efforts brought the species back and prevented it from joining the dodo in extinction.

Now, condor reintroduction celebrates a milestone: Chick No. 1,000 has hatched.

Should Republicans still call themselves the Party of Lincoln?

Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, declared, "We are the party of Lincoln," as he contended President Trump was not racist for suggesting four Democratic representatives, US citizens who are also women of color, should "go back" to the places they came from.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

There is probably a lot of sordidness to uncover in the story of Jeffrey Epstein, in custody this weekend after being charged with sex trafficking. He already served 13 months, a decade ago, on a "work release" where he could go to his office in Palm Beach for twelve hours a day.

It is sickening to recount the new charges: Epstein luring underage girls — children — into his various mansions, and forcing them into sex acts.

Louis Armstrong has served as the focus of many works of literature. Now, a few seconds of old film that appear to feature Armstrong as a teenage boy have captivated jazz journalist James Karst. If Karst's theory is correct, the clip from 1915 shows Armstrong at a turning point in his early life — years before he became famous and eventually legendary around the world.

Why don't you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom? The P is silent.

I'm a father. I tell dad jokes.

See that farmer? A man outstanding in his field.

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large of Merriam-Webster, defined dad jokes for us as "an obvious or predictable pun or play on words and usually judged to be endearingly corny or unfunny."

Did you see that documentary about beavers? What a great dam show ...

Linda Fairstein won fame prosecuting criminals and then wrote crime fiction. Did she allow her gift for fiction to guide her powers as a prosecutor?

For 25 years, Linda Fairstein led sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, which inspired Law and Order: SVU. She's written bestselling crime novels, like Blood Oath and Death Dance, about a hard-nosed, tenderhearted Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper who eats in a lot of New York's classiest Italian restaurants on a public servant's salary.

Now there's a mystery.

Bild is a tabloid, a German daily newspaper best-known for blaring headlines, fleshy photos and breathless coverage of gossip and scandals.

But this week, the newspaper ran a kippah on its front page: a Jewish skullcap that signifies reverence for God above. It's blue and white, with Stars of David. Readers could cut out the kippah and wear it.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

On April 19, 1775, the "shot heard 'round the world" was fired on the Lexington, Mass. town green. No one knows for sure who fired the shot, but when British soldiers heard it, they panicked. The red coats fired at members of the local militia, killing eight and wounding 10. With that, the Revolutionary War had begun.

The Seychelles magpie-robin is about 9 inches long, with inky blue-black feathers, and white patches along its wings. There may be only 200 or so of these beguiling birds in the world, all in forests of the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of East Africa.

It is alarming to think of just a few birds left of a single species, isolated and fragile. It seems as if a sudden storm, or a rampant sickness, could extinguish them.

I was sitting next to a college chancellor at an event Tuesday night when our cell phones began to beep with the first bulletins about the shootings at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Two students were killed; four were injured.

"My first thought," Susan Koch, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Springfield, told me, "was, 'That could have been my campus.' All campuses in the U.S. are vulnerable."

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