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Sunday Funday: John Oliver & Bill Nye on Climate Change Debate

Last weekend, on John Oliver’s new HBO show, Last Week Tonight, the former Daily Show correspondent hosted a “mathematically representative climate change debate” with Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Here is a description of the segment from the Huffington Post:

Twenty-five percent of Americans don’t believe in climate change, according to a recent poll, but in the words of John Oliver, “who gives a sh-t?”

A new government report issued last week warned that climate change is already here. The host stressed on Sunday night that regardless of the remaining skeptics out there, climate change is just not up for debate anymore.

“You don’t need people’s opinion on a fact,” Oliver said. “You might as well have a poll asking: ‘Which number is bigger, 15 or 5?’ or ‘Do owls exist?’ or ‘Are there hats?'”

“The debate on climate change ought not to be whether or not it exists,” he added. “It’s what we should do about. There is a mountain of research on this topic.”

Oliver then brought on Bill Nye the Science Guy to show what climate change debates on television should actually look like.

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May 18, 2014 · 11:04 am

Does Our Generation Not “Stand a Chance”?

That was the question being debated on the most recent episode on the Intelligence Squared podcast.

Moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan, the debate featured Binta Niambi Brown (lawyer, startup advisor & human rights advocate) and W. Keith Campbell (University of Georgia Professor of Psychology & co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic Psychology) who argued for the motion; and David D. Burstein (author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World & founder of Generation18) and Jessica Grose (journalist & author of Sad Desk Salad), who argued against the motion.

Here is description of the debate:

Millennials-growing up with revolutionary technology and entering adulthood in a time of recession-have recently been much maligned. Are their critics right? Is this generation uniquely coddled, narcissistic, and lazy? Or have we let conventional wisdom blind us to their openness to change and innovation, and optimism in the face of uncertainty, which, in any generation, are qualities to be admired?

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May 15, 2014 · 11:05 pm

“No Fracking Way: The Natural Gas Boom Is Doing More Harm Than Good”

That was the proposition being debated on the Intelligence Squared podcast.

Moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan, the debate featured Deborah Goldberg (Managing Attorney at Earthjustice) and Katherine Hudson (Watershed Program Director at Riverkeeper) who argued for the motion; and Joe Nocera (The New York Times) and Sue Tierney (Analysis Group; Former Assistant Secretary for Policy at U.S. Department of Energy), who argued against the motion.

Here is description of the debate:

Natural gas, touted for its environmental, economic, and national security benefits, is often thought of as the fuel that will “bridge” our transition from oil and coal to renewables. The ability to extract natural gas from shale formations through a method called hydraulic fracturing has unleashed vast, untapped sources—by some estimates, the U.S. now sits on a 100-year supply. But contamination from toxic chemicals used in the fracking process has been the source of increasing health and environmental concerns. Can natural gas be part of a clean energy solution, or is it a dangerous roadblock to a fossil-free future?

For more on fracking, check out Saturday’s post liking to a This American Life story about natural gas in Pennsylvania.

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April 28, 2014 · 9:42 am

Lawrence Lessig’s TED Talk on Corruption and Campaign Finance Reform

Seven years ago, Internet activist Aaron Swartz convinced Lawrence Lessig to take up the fight for political reform. A year after Swartz’s tragic death, Lessig continues his campaign to free US politics from the stranglehold of corruption. In this fiery, deeply personal talk, he calls for all citizens to engage, and a offers a heartfelt reminder to never give up hope.
Recently, Harvard Law School’s Lawrence Lessig gave an impassioned TED Talk advocating comprehensive campaign finance reform and “reclaiming our democracy:”

Here is a description of the talk:

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more.

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April 17, 2014 · 5:08 pm

“More Clicks, Fewer Bricks: The Lecture Hall is Obsolete”

That was the proposition being debated on the Intelligence Squared podcast.

Moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan, the debate featured Anant Agarwa ( edX CEO & MIT Professor) and Ben Nelson (Founder and CEO of the Minerva Project) who argued for the motion; and Jonathan Cole (Provost and Dean Emeritus, Columbia University) and Rebecca Schuman (Columnist for Slate and Chronicle of Higher Education), who argued against the motion.

Here is description of the debate:

Is the college of the future online? With the popularity of MOOCs (massive open online courses) and the availability of online degree programs at a fraction of their on-campus price, we are experiencing an exciting experiment in higher education. Does the traditional classroom stand a chance? Will online education be the great equalizer, or is a campus-based college experience still necessary?

Brought to you in partnership with the Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy, a joint venture of Columbia Business School and Columbia Law School. The Richman Center fosters dialogue and debate on emerging policy questions where business and markets intersect with the law.

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April 16, 2014 · 8:54 am

“Affirmative Action on Campus Does More Harm Than Good”

That was the proposition being debated on the Intelligence Squared podcast.

Moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan, the debate featured Gail Heriot (University of San Diego) and Richard Sander (UCLA School of Law) who argued for the motion; and Randall Kennedy (Harvard Law School) and Theodore Shaw (Columbia Law School), who argued against the motion.

Here is description of the debate:

Affirmative action, when used as a factor in college admissions, is meant to foster diversity and provide equal opportunities in education for underrepresented minorities. But is it achieving its stated goals and helping the population it was created to support? Its critics point to students struggling to keep up in schools mismatched to their abilities and to the fact that the policy can be manipulated to benefit affluent and middle class students who already possess many educational advantages. Is it time to overhaul or abolish affirmative action?

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April 2, 2014 · 8:04 pm

Prison Grandma

This edition of Sunday Funday brings a CBS Sunday morning (Steve Hartman) tale of the prison grandma, an elderly woman who passes the time in a very unlikely location–a Kansas prison.

Here is a description of the segment from the CBS website:

SuEllen Fried, of Prairie Village, Kan., started coming to Lansing Correctional around 1980 for what she thought would be a little volunteer work, but the now-81-year-old-grandmother ended up committed to these guys for life. Steve Hartman reports.

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March 23, 2014 · 10:08 pm

Feel Good Friday: Ellen Page Speaks, Comes Out

In a raw, moving speech to the Human Rights Campaign, actress Ellen Page, star of Juno and Inception, spoke about her sexuality, revealing her homosexuality.

Here are some of the most notable passages from Page’s speech:

I know there are people in this room who go to school every day and get treated like shit for no reason. Or you go home and you feel like you can’t tell your parents the whole truth about yourself. Beyond putting yourself in one box or another, you worry about the future. About college or work or even your physical safety. Trying to create that mental picture of your life—of what on earth is going to happen to you—can crush you a little bit every day. It is toxic and painful and deeply unfair. . . .

[T]his world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another. If we took just 5 minutes to recognize each other’s beauty, instead of attacking each other for our differences. That’s not hard. It’s really an easier and better way to live. And ultimately, it saves lives.

Then again, it’s not easy at all. It can be the hardest thing, because loving other people starts with loving ourselves and accepting ourselves. I know many of you have struggled with this. I draw upon your strength and your support, and have, in ways you will never know.

I’m here today because I am gay. And because… maybe I can make a difference. To help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless, for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility.

Maybe I can make a difference to help others have an easier and more hopeful time. … I also do it selfishly because I’m tired of hiding and I’m tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered. My mental health suffered. My relationships suffered. I’m standing here today with all of you on the other side of that pain. . I am young, yes, but what I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it and yes, even the pain of it, is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.

The excepts from the speech are taken from, where it can be read in its entirety.

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February 21, 2014 · 1:05 pm

Russell Brand: Anarchist? Revolutionary?

Last October, comedian Russell Brand sparked a debate in the United Kingdom following his appearance on BBC’s Newsnight in which he calls for a radical reorganizing of the political order in the UK (and presumably the West more generally). Brand contends that the current political system has failed the populace and made traditional political participation (i.e. voting) futile. Brand states that revolution is inevitable and should be welcomed.

The interview has apparently not gained traction in the US as it has in the UK. I learned of it from the BBC’s Analysis podcast. Here is a description of the programme:

In a recent Newsnight interview, the comedian Russell Brand predicted a revolution. His comments entertained many and became the most-watched political interview of 2013. But between the lines, Brand was also giving voice to the populist resurgence of a serious but controversial idea: anarchism.

The new “anarcho-populism” is the 21st century activist’s politics of choice. In evidence in recent student protests, the Occupy movement, in political encampments in parks and squares around the world, it combines age-old anarchist thought with a modern knack for inclusive, consumerist politics.

Brand’s interview was just one especially prominent example. The thinkers behind the movement say it points the way forward. Jeremy Cliffe, The Economist’s Britain politics correspondent, asks if they are right?

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February 5, 2014 · 11:49 pm