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Connecting The Dots On the News Roundtable

A baby olinguito in La Mesenia Reserve in Colombia.
Luis Mazariegos

A new carnivore was discovered in Latin America.  Bradley Manning was sentenced for leaking government secrets while Edward Snowden was on the run for a similar crime.  And a look back at the March on Washington sparked a conversation about civil rights in the Middle East.  Host Frank Stasio discussed a wide range of issues and their common threads with the news roundtable.

Stuart Pimm, Conservation Ecology Professor at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, brings up the olinguito, a newly-discovered carnivore. 

“This is an animal that’s new the science.  It’s the newest carnivore in 35 years.  And it is just drop-dead gorgeous.  It has this beautiful little face,” said Pimm in an interview on The State of Things. 


Pimm runs SavingSpecies, an NGO that buys up tracts of land in Latin America and connects the territories to build contiguous forests.  Unknowingly, Pimm and SavingSpecies have been preserving the habitats of the olinguito and assisting their survival for years before the species was discovered. 


However, forest animals are not the only living beings that Pimm’s organization is working to protect.  The forests of Ecuador are also home to a number of indigenous peoples, including the Waorani tribe.  The Ecuadorian government has recently announced its decision to drill the forest for oil, possibly displacing the Waorani and other indigenous cultures.


“Those traditional lifestyles [of the Waorani people] are going to be devastated by this oil exploration.  So it’s not just the environment, it’s a tremendous human rights issue,” Pimm said.


On the topic of civil rights, Omid Safi, Professor of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wanted to look back on the March on Washington, through a new lens.  Safi analyzed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a prophetic figure.


“[Prophets] are supposed to challenge you and call you out...  When it comes to Martin [Luther King], there’s a reason we’re interested in freezing him in that moment in 1963.  We don’t want to look at where he goes in the remaining five years of his life," said Safi.


Safi continues, "[Late in Martin Luther King's life] he begins to connect the injustice here in America to the injustice there around the world.  For him it primarily meant Vietnam.  For us, it means the War on Terror, it means the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen.  And I think that if Martin were with us today… he would want us to be disturbed.” 


From the topic of civil rights, the conversation on the State of Things turned to the right of privacy.  Marsha Gordon, Associate Professor of Film Studies at North Carolina State University, brought up the documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras


Poitras and Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald met with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to help him leak state secrets.  Snowden’s records revealed a secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over its customer phone records to the NSA. 


Before she teamed up with Snowden, Laura Poitras found herself regularly detained by TSA agents when she flew internationally.  According to the New York Times, Poitras was detained more than 40 times, often for hours, and has had her laptop and cell phone confiscated and seized for weeks.


Concerning the question of state security, host Frank Stasio asked: does the government have the right to keep secrets? 


Gordon responds, “This is happening beyond the powers of the people.  This is people up on high making decisions about who gets to have any kind of privacy and who does not.  I think everyone wants to live in a safe society, but if these powers are unchecked, where will they lead?  We can’t know now what this information is going to be used for.”


In this conversation regarding government power, the State of Things also aired tape of Billy Graham's conversation with Richard Nixon, after the Watergate scandal had been revealed.  In the conversation, Graham praised Nixon's actions and suggested that a Communist conspiracy was targetting Nixon.  The recording was obtained from Jon Elliston's article in the Carolina Public Press.   

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Shawn Wen joined the staff of The State of Things in March 2012 and served as associate producer until February 2014.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.