Betsy Kaplan

Producer
LaDawna Howard / Creative Commons

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson waged a war on poverty  to rebuild America as a “Great Society” where “no child will go unfed, and no youngster will go unschooled.” 

Medicaid was enacted in 1965 as part of sweeping legislation to provide food, education, healthcare and jobs to millions in poverty.  Once a benefit for poor single parents and their kids, Medicaid now covers mental illness, disabilities, the elderly and most recently, millions of the previously uninsured through Obamacare.

Marc Nozell / Creative Commons

The life of the black Republican is pretty lonely these days, but it hasn’t always been that way. Black Americans were deeply rooted in the party of Lincoln for decades to avoid joining a Democratic Party controlled by "devils from below the Mason-Dixon line."

The Flap Over Flags

Jul 22, 2015
Sam Howzit / Creative Commons

Flags have been in the news a lot lately. South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its Statehouse this month and one Missouri county threatened to lower the flags at their courthouse for one full year to mourn the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. 

Stalin's Ghost

Jul 14, 2015
Eugene Zelenko / Wikimedia Commons

Joseph Stalin's only daughter grew up the beloved pet of a man responsible for a decades-long campaign to arrest, torture, execute or forcibly imprison millions of Soviet citizens, including children and members of his own family. That's what we know now.

KAZ Vorpal / Creative Commons

Univision and NBC cut ties to Donald Trump and he won't be returning to The Apprentice, his long-running television show, because of the inflammatory comments he made about Mexican immigrants last week. But, he doesn't seem to care. Despite the comments, or maybe because of them, his appeal seems to rise with his belligerence.

Bill and Vicki T / Creative Commons

When I was a child in the 1960's, it was not uncommon to have friends with 5 or 6 siblings. I was one of 4.

But, times have changed. For all sorts of reasons - economic, work, personal preference, religion - the majority of parents are having fewer children today than was common in the previous generation. And, as family size has decreased, societal attitudes about larger families have become increasingly negative.  The usual reaction goes something like this: "Why would you want to have so many kids?" Or, people might not ask at all and assume insanity or religious zealotry. 

Patrick Breltenbach / Creative Commons

Podcasts weren't born last year with the arrival of Serial, the wildly successful story of an unsolved 1999 murder that you could hear solely on podcast.

Serial likely provided the first encounter with podcasts for a lot of listeners, but podcasts first entered the consciousness and our iPods ten years ago last weekend, when early adopters saw in them the next great media revolution. The New Oxford American Dictionary even named "podcast" the word of the year in 2005. What wasn't to love?

Diane Sobolewski / Goodspeed Opera House

So, you think it's easy to write a Broadway song? I say not so fast. 

The four aspiring writing teams that attended Goodspeed's Festival of New Musicals this past January say it's plenty hard. They spend a lot of time kicking around ideas, most of which never see the light of day. But, really, they have no choice. "If you can do anything else, you do do anything else," says Marcy Heisler, one half of one of our amazing teams.

Dustin Chambers / Propublica

Most of us don’t know much about Workers’ Compensation until we need it -- and your experience will depend a lot on where you live. 

Caps on benefits and higher bars to qualify as “injured” are a few of the changes made in most states beginning in the 1990’s to lower the cost of Workers’ Compensation. 

Employers say the program costs too much for them to remain competitive, and convinced legislators and unions on both sides of the aisle to reduce benefits.

Frankie Leon / Flickr Creative Commons

News about other countries tends to focus a lot more on what’s wrong with a place, than what’s going right.

Recently, reports about the earthquake in Nepal, kidnappings in Nigeria and Islamic extremism in Iran have dominated the news.

Jeaneeem / Creative Commons

The Eagles first album touched a cultural nerve in 1971, with songs like "Peaceful Easy Feeling" and "Witchy Woman," a prelude to the hits to come. And, the music never stopped. Despite mounting criticism from critics and fans alike, within five years they rolled those hits into one of the biggest selling Greatest Hits albums of all time. 

lculig/iStock / Thinkstock

We usually think of propaganda as a tool used by autocrats eager to manipulate minds and limit rights we take for granted in the West. Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un or King Salman bin Abdulaziz wouldn't have a chance with us.

But Western culture is steeped in propaganda that's more insidious and less blatant.

Pictures of Money / Creative Commons

Last week, non-profit Hartford Healthcare said they would cut the jobs of over 400 people if the state increased taxes on hospitals to what they say are unsustainable rates.

Damian Gadal / Creative Commons

It took Connecticut nearly two years to start dispensing the medical marijuana  the legislature approved for conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, epilepsy and cancer.

But, the program is growing strong  since it opened nine months ago. The list of covered conditions is growing and more dispensaries will be popping up to meet the needs of the almost 4,000 enrollees. 

Phil Whitehouse / Creative Commons

For some readers, it's hard to imagine speculative fiction without female writers. After all, Margaret Cavendish and Mary Shelley practically created the genre. More recently there are authors like Octavia Butler and Ursula LeGuin. Not to mention J.K. Rowling - who you may have heard of if you've been alive in this century.

Klan McKellar / Creative Commons

Oh no! It's my turn to speak. My throat is tight, my mouth is pasty and the butterflies are eating at my stomach. My mind feels blank, what if my voice cracks? My heart is pounding so hard I feel lightheaded.   This is how I felt before speaking in front of an auditorium filled with over 300 teachers and administrators in the town in which I live. I made it - but there was a moment when I wasn't sure I would. In the end, I liked it more than I thought I could. 

U.S. Navy / Creative Commons

Wendell Wallach predicts that crises in public health and our economy will increase dramatically in the next 20 years, likely a result of our rush to adopt new technologies before we've prioritized the risks we're willing to tolerate against the benefits we might gain.

McFreshCreates / Creative Commons

If you know how to read, you're probably pretty good at recognizing words. But, new words like "egg corn," "crema" and "slendro" are challenging our concept of what makes a word.  Yet these very words were recently added to Merriam-Webster's unabridged online dictionary.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

 

Ta Nehisi Coates is one of the most important voices in America today. He made the case for reparations last summer when he argued that it's time for America to confront the impact of slavery, Jim Crow, and other discriminatory policies that have consistently denied African Americans opportunities afforded other Americans. He says until we admit to the debts accrued from years of racism, we can never be whole.

Dragons Rule!

Jun 3, 2015
William O'Connor / William O'Connor Studios

She who controls the dragon controls the world.

Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion are the most recent dragons to capture our attention, thanks to "Game of Thrones," the wildly popular HBO hit that's placed dragons front and center in our imagination.

Joel Ormsby / Creative Commons

All of us know what it feels like to have a bad day - the pain, the regret, the sheer misery. We also know how one bad decision can spiral into a day(s) filled with misery.  Sometimes, misery stems from really bad events that are out of our control, like the loss of a loved one. But, too often, we're quick to blame misfortune on chance, the toss of the dice, bad luck. 

Lawrie Cate / Creative Commons

Jews make up 2.2 percent of the population although it fluctuates depending on who gets counted. The U.S. Jewish population is roughly the same size, north of 6 million, as the Jewish population of Israel. 

And, since there are about 14 million Jews in the whole world, an astonishingly high percentage of them live in those two countries. 

Dustin Chambers / ProPublica

Most of us don’t know much about Workers’ Compensation until we need it - and your experience will depend a lot on where you live. 

Caps on benefits and higher bars to qualify as “injured” are a few of the changes made in most states beginning in the 1990’s to lower the cost of Workers’ Compensation. 

Employers say the program costs too much for them to remain competitive, and convinced legislators and unions on both sides of the aisle to reduce benefits. 

Frankie Leon / Creative Commons

News about other countries tends to focus a lot more on what’s wrong with a place, than what’s going right.

Recently, reports about the earthquake in Nepal, kidnappings in Nigeria and Islamic extremism in Iran have dominated the news.

Fibonacci Blue / Creative Commons

Hartford is one of the poorest cities in America. While there is lots to love about this city, like the fact that poor minorities are not subject to the police brutality seen in Baltimore and Ferguson, people of color who live in Hartford and who also happen to be poor share the same high levels of unemployment and urban decay seen in those cities. 

Diane Sobolewski / Goodspeed Theater

So, you think it's easy to write a Broadway song? I say not so fast. 

The four aspiring writing teams that attended Goodspeed's Festival of New Musicals this past January say it's plenty hard. They spend a lot of time kicking around ideas, most of which never see the light of day. But, really, they have no choice. "If you can do anything else, you do do anything else," says Marcy Heisler, one half of one of our amazing teams. 

Bob Muller / Creative Commons

David McCullough is an iconic two-time Pulitzer Prize winning historian whose work encompasses notable people from John Adams to his latest work on the Wright Brothers. We spend a few minutes with him this morning in anticipation of his appearance with author Stacy Schiff at The Connecticut Forum, this Saturday, May 9, at 8:00 pm at the Bushnell.

But first, we talk about a Connecticut program that helps families learn to develop resilience in the face of overwhelming adversity -- known as “toxic stress” -- that is often associated with poverty, and is particularly hard on kids.

Mike Licht / Creative Commons

University of Kentucky Biology professor James Krupa is frustrated with the resistance of his non-biology students to accept the theory of evolution as established fact, despite what he calls an "avalanche of evidence" supporting its validity.

Krupa says that evolution is the foundation of our science, and just as we accept germ theory, cell theory, quantum theory, and even game theory, we must understand the significance of evolution even if it challenges long-held religious beliefs.

Eric Heath / Creative Commons

Americans have been tipping for good service for centuries.

Tipping is so ingrained in our American story that we rarely question why we still do it, even though we leave an estimated $40 billion in tips every year.

Some say tipping is a good thing because it gives a much-needed boost to lower-paying service jobs. Others wonder if tipping still serves its purpose: to reward good service. Workers reliant on tips to pay their bills are sometimes tempted to discriminate against customers they think will be “bad” tippers.

T Charles Erickson / Long Wharf Theater

Governor Dannel Malloy last month announced he'll bring together  a panel of community leaders and experts for the first time today to take a look at ways to reduce the urban violence that takes the lives of young men, mostly minority and poor, in often random and senseless acts of violence. 

While those numbers are decreasing in some urban areas around the nation, including in Connecticut,  they remain higher than would be tolerated in more affluent communities.

A focus on the numbers ignores the lives behind the statistics, including the families that love victims. Nor do numbers get to the root of the problems behind the violence. 

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