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February 21 2014

09:00

February 19 2014

00:09

February 10 2014

22:00

Updates From The Sochi Winter Olympics

Our Feb. 10 hour focusing on the real story of Vladimir Putin’s Russia featured an athlete-focused update from the city of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics are currently underway.

John Cherwa, deputy sports editor at The Los Angeles Times, gave us a broad rundown of the facilities, the opening ceremony and the opening rounds of competition in Sochi.

Tom Ashbrook: John, welcome back to On Point. Thanks for being with us.

John Cherwa: Well, I’m glad to be back.

TA: So we’re seeing all kinds of reporting here about doorknobs falling off and rings that won’t light up, but also seeing terrific vistas and some terrific winter sport. What’s your sense of how the games are going so far, John?

JC: You know, it was a difficult lead up. I mean they had a lot of problems. There’s still stuff that’s not finished. But as far as the actual competition is going, it’s great. The venues are all completed. In fact, the venues were completed before the roads around them were completed. But I think we’ve pretty much settled into the usual Olympic routine. This doesn’t seem too terribly different from any of the others.

TA: There’s still coming out of Washington the sound of warnings about terrorism. Any whisper about that inside the Olympic bubble?

JC: That is something that I completely misjudged on — at least. I hope I did. I had some trepidation going over. But I feel totally, completely safe here in the bubble. A matter of fact I was talking to my colleague from the Chicago Tribune who basically came over with the same feeling, and says he doesn’t even think about it anymore. The thing is, it’s not oppressive, I was thinking you’d be seeing non-stop military and police: nope. It’s really just like the other games.

TA: what are the athletes there telling you, saying to you about the opening ceremonies on Friday night? Millions and millions watched them around the world, many in the United States. What about the athletes: what are they thinking of the spectacle?

JC: Well, they liked it. You know, the thing is you don’t have your full contingent at an opening ceremony. For example, like the hockey team: the men’s hockey team wasn’t here, the women’s hockey team was playing the next day. But the people in the stadium really enjoyed it. Except for the fact that they were doing some things that they had to pump cold air into an already cold stadium, so it was one of the more frigid opening ceremonies. Something else they did differently was move up the athletes’ march earlier and rather than have them stand, they put ‘em in the seats. So that was a better experience for them.

TA: You’ve seen, this is, I guess ,your eighth Olympics now. Compare and contrast: opening ceremonies, mood, facilities. How does Sochi look?

JC: You know, the opening ceremony is always ‘Can you top this?’ and you know they just get more and more crazy. I could have gone without the 12-minute reenactment of ‘War and Peace.” Actually they should have done ‘Anna Karenina,’  it would have been a better story. These games are pretty much as they should be. I think that my overriding feeling is we’re at the same place that we normally are, but it’s getting there that has been the struggle. Things do not come easily in Russia getting things done do not come easily, and I think we’re all feeling a sense of that. But you know again I think it’s all business as usual.

TA: The gay rights issue and Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, as they put it: is that in the air, is it being talked about, or shunted aside at this point?

JC: I think it’s totally in the background. No one’s talked about, or very few people are talking about it. There hasn’t been any demonstration that I’m aware, of but of course we’re only on the third day of competition and there are many more chances for that. But even like tomorrow, there’s a gay ski jumper who basically was asked one question about her partner and she said, ‘Yeah, no big deal, well, you know.’ So even that hasn’t really been much of an issue.

TA: And what about the hoary issue of the medal count: how’s that looking, how the U.S. doing, Russia for that matter, what’s striking on the performance side?

JC: Well, Norway.  Norway is just killing it, but they are involved in the sports that well, we don’t really care about. Which is like cross country, the biathlon. The Dutch are doing really well in the speed skating. The U.S., you know, swept the snowboard slope style — that was Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson. And that was kind of a surprise, I don’t think we expected that to happen. We picked up a bronze in the women’s combined alpine this morning, so you know the U.S. is doing okay. They picked up a  team medal in figure skating, but probably won’t do anything in the men’s and women’s, but will probably win gold in the ice dancing in a couple days.

TA: And what’s the anticipation — I know it’s a while yet, but still — on hockey, well there’s women’s and then there’s men’s. What’s the anticipation there?

JC: Well there’s no question that it’s a two team race in women’s hockey: U.S. and Canada. U.S. won, I believe, nine-nothing against Switzerland today and that was a team that Canada beat five-nothing the other day,  so it’s gonna come down to that game. They’ll play once in pool play, and then undoubtedly will play for the gold .The men: eh, it’s a little tough. I personally think that Russia – who’s not the favorite, Canada’s the favorite — I personally think the gold medal game will be Canada and Russia, because the crowd is just going to be unbelievable for the Russians,  and that would be good game, just sort of a mishmash of NHL players.

 

05:51

Putin’s Games And Putin’s Russia

As the world watches Sochi, Russia and Vladimir Putin, we’ll look at the Olympic Games and their host.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, declares the 2014 Winter Olympics open as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, looks on during the opening ceremony, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, declares the 2014 Winter Olympics open as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, looks on during the opening ceremony, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP)

Guests

John Cherwa, deputy sports editor at the Los Angeles Times. (@jcherwa)

Gregory Feifer, Europe editor at the Global Post. Author of “Russians: The People Behind The Power.” Also author of “The Great Gamble.” (@gfeifer)

Julia Ioffe, senior editor at The New Republic. Former Moscow correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker. (@juliaioffe)

From Tom’s Reading List

Los Angeles Times: Sochi Olympic organizers prepare for a rainy — and sunny — day –”The 2014 Sochi Games will take place 1,000 miles south of Moscow, at a Black Sea resort that qualifies as one of only a few Russian cities with a subtropical climate. If that seems less than hibernal, the organizers insist they can stage a successful competition no matter what kind of weather there is over the next month.”

New York Times: A Triumph for Putin, if Not for the Rest of a Sagging Russia –”Now, as the first events begin, the Games have for Mr. Putin and his allies become a self-evident triumph of Russia’s will. The avalanche of criticism that has already fallen, from minor complaints about ill-prepared hotels and stray dogs to grave concerns about the costs, security and human rights, is being brushed away like snowflakes from a winter coat.”

The New Republic: Russians Think We’re Engaging in Olympic Schadenfreude. They’re Right. — “There’s a fine line between fair criticism and schadenfreude, and the Western press has been largely well on the side of the latter. I’d also argue that there’s something chauvinistic, even Russophobic in it. The Europeans may not be ready for their Olympics, but, okay, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and hope for the best. The Chinese prepare for theirs ruthlessly, but we don’t understand them so whatever. ”

Read An Excerpt Of “Russians” By Gregory Feifer

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February 07 2014

07:41

Week In The News: Obamacare, Jobs, Tobacco-Free Pharmacies, Sochi Olympics

Obamacare and jobs. CVS quits tobacco. Terror and toothpaste warnings for Sochi.  Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech at the IOC President's Gala Dinner on the eve of the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his speech at the IOC President’s Gala Dinner on the eve of the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP)

Guests

Heidi Moore, U.S. finance and economics editor for The Guardian. (@moorehn)

Bob Cusack, managing editor of The Hill. (@BobCusack)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Guardian: CVS doesn’t need tobacco for its revenues: it has Obamacare — “It turns out that the timing however, is perfect. CVS doesn’t need tobacco for its revenues because a bigger source of business is on the horizon: Obamacare. And Obamacare is invested in pressuring smokers to quit by forcing them to pay more for healthcare.”

The Wall Street Journal:On Eve of Winter Games, Worries About Sochi Mount –”Athletes and others arriving in Sochi encountered what appears to be a strong security presence. As of late Wednesday no incidents had occurred. But hanging over these Games is a threat from terrorists. On Wednesday it emerged that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has warned airlines sending flights to Russia to look out for explosives hidden inside toothpaste tubes.”

 Bloomberg: Twitter’s Loss Exceeds Estimates as User Growth Slows –”There were 241 million monthly active users in the fourth quarter, Twitter said in a statement today, up 30 percent from 185 million a year earlier and slower than 39 percent seen in the prior period. Usage also declined, with 148 billion views of Twitter timelines compared with 159 billion views in the third quarter. Net loss was $511.5 million compared with $8.7 million a year earlier, and was more than double analysts’ projections of $253.5 million.”

January 24 2014

07:30

Week In The News: Syrian Peace Talks, Olympic Terror Threats, Obama On Pot

Syria peace talks. The President on pot. A hunt for black widows in Sochi. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Haitham al-Maleh, senior member of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), Syria's main political opposition group, sits alone at the opposition table during the first day of the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. The Syrian peace talks begin with a bitter clash over President Bashar Assad's future. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Assad's decision to meet peaceful dissent with brutal force had robbed him of all legitimacy, while Assad's foreign minister declared that no one outside Syria had the right to remove the government. (AP)

Haitham al-Maleh, senior member of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), Syria’s main political opposition group, sits alone at the opposition table during the first day of the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. The Syrian peace talks begin with a bitter clash over President Bashar Assad’s future. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Assad’s decision to meet peaceful dissent with brutal force had robbed him of all legitimacy, while Assad’s foreign minister declared that no one outside Syria had the right to remove the government. (AP)

Guests

Stephanie Grace, columnist for The Advocate in New Orleans. (@stephgracenola)

Michael Hirsh, chief correspondent for The National Journal. (@MichaelPHirsh)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

BBC News: Syria Geneva II: UN to hold talks with rival groups – “If all goes well, the hope seems to be that the big political questions which they cannot agree on will be sidestepped, our correspondent says. Instead concrete steps such as local truces and access for aid convoys in Syria will be discussed. But with the lack of trust on either side, even that may collapse into disagreements.”

The Guardian: Rouhani to take center stage at Davos economic forum — “Officials have played down the chances of a meeting between the pair but stranger things have happened in the cushy corridors of Davos, where world leaders mingle freely with celebrities, CEOs and ministers in a more relaxed atmosphere than usual summits. Rouhani announced on Twitter that he was to have bilateral meetings with officials from other countries.”

NBC News: Sochi Olympics terrorism threat: Two more ‘black widow’ suspects identified — “Russian security officials are hunting for two more young Muslim women — so-called “black widow” terror suspects — who they believe are planning to target the final stages of the Olympic torch relay with suicide bomb attacks. Wanted posters distributed by police say that the women have been dispatched by underground groups to attack between Tuesday and Thursday in Rostov-on-Don, where the torch is expected to arrive Wednesday on its way to the Olympic city of Sochi.”

January 17 2014

23:11

Olympians Jason Brown And Mikaela Shiffrin Get Ready For Sochi

We were so thrilled our Friday Jan. 17 show featured two U.S. Olympians on their way to the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.

Figure skater Jason Brown, the first male singles skater to make the U.S. Olympic team since 1976, and Mikaela Shiffrin, an Alpine skier and the current Slalom World Cup Champion, called in to our broadcast to give us a taste of their journey to Olympic glory.

Alpine Skier Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin joined us first. She talked about her exciting recent victory in the World Championships, and explained how her training regimen is going in Reiter Alm, Austria.

“I’m really excited. The race went well, it was a pretty big margin of a win and I was just excited to get some of my good skiing on the course so it was really fun. We’re training quite a bit, cause we have a little bit of break in races right now. But really part of the biggest training for Sochi is the racing, and being able to to you know, let your skis go and really compete well in the races versus just training well. Some athletes find it really difficult to train well and then race well at the same time. Right now, the biggest training and the biggest benefit that I’m getting is just racing and trying to get my good skiing out there.”

Shiffrin is a loose, easy skier with a gentle touch. She explained where that attention came from.

“I’ve been working really the past few years on trying to be really loose, because ever since I was little I’ve always put a lot of emphasis on my technique so I;m solid on my skis but the past few years i’ve been working on  having the good technique but also letting my skis go and really not holding back at all. i tend to think of myself as a pretty relaxed skier but also disciplined with my motions.”

The politics and protests surrounding the games haven’t phased Shriffin, she told us.

“We have a pretty small team here, so we’re pretty kind of isolated from everything. Obviously I’ve seen everything that’s going on and of course I’d rather compete in a place that’s familiar to me, I’d love to race in the United States, because it’s home and I feel safe there. I also know that everybody who goes into organizing the Olympics are trained to deal with these kind of difficult situations, and I’m just really excited to go race. I feel, right now going into the Olympics, that they have a handle on things and my job is to just go in and ski as fast as I can.”

Shiffrin’s races are toward the end of the Alpine events in the Sochi Games’ calendar. She explained how she’ll stay fresh for her event as the games open early next month.

“Well you know what actually what we’re doing — I’m racing the giant slalom and slalom, and you’re right they’re the last two Alpine racing competitions and they’re only I think  two days apart. So what we’re gonna do is fly into Sochi a little bit later, so we’ll spend about I think a total of nine or ten days there, but we’re not gonna be there the entire time so we can utilize the  training in Austria before the games.”

Our guest, Los Angeles Times deputy sports editor John Cherwa, called Shiffrin the winter equivalent of American swimming phenom Missy Franklin, a star of the 2012 London Games. The two young American athletes have been in touch as the Sochi games approach.

“She has been really supportive, and we were tweeting a little bit this summer and going into the season. I’m very flattered by that comparison because I love the way she handles herself with media and with her sponsors, and whatever she’s doing. Whenever you hear about Missy, it’s always positive and she’s always smiling. And she’s 17, 18 years old and working so hard and having success, and I think it’s a really good lesson to be learned that she’s obviously having a blast, and whatever pressure is on her isn’t affecting her because she’s winning and loving it and that’s kind of the mentality I like to take.”

While some athletes might be concerned about protests or safety in Russia, Shiffrin said her main focus is her sport.

“Most of this for me, I’m really trying to just stay focused on my sport. Most of it is, ‘Just don’t worry about, they’re trained to handle this kind of thing. And  your  job is go in and try your best  to win a couple of medals, and that’s that.’ And that’s the really the whole point of the Olympics, is friendly competition with pretty much every country in the world. We all go in and we’re a ll competing for those medals and it’s a story that we hopefully can try and tell our grand kids someday. And so that’s really my vision of the Olympics is making it as amazing an experience as possible.  For most of the athletes, there’s of course there’s some athletes who want to take a stand one way or the other, but I don’t feel that it’s my job to do that.”

Shiffrin also talked about the admittedly strange choice for a sub-tropical resort city like Sochi to host the Winter Games, and how that would affect her skiing.

“It’s a little bit funky there, but I’m really excited to go see what the conditions are. We were trained there a little bit last February — it was kind of your average spring conditions, a little bit sugary snow, we had to put salt on the snow to harden it up, but I had some of my best training conditions out of the entire season last year. I’m really excited. I think it’s gonna be fair, it’s gonna be an awesome competition.”

Figure Skater Jason Brown

Figure skater Jason Brown took the country by storm when an incredible video of his routine at the US Skating Championships last Sunday hit the web. He went “viral,” so to speak, and he joined us from Colorado Springs to tell us about how it feels to have his childhood Olympic dreams finally coming true.

“You know the first Olympics that I saw was 2006, that I saw live, in my living room with my parents. I think that’s when it first became a dream of mine. But it still wasn’t something that I thought was gonna be a reality. And looking back at it now, I would have never guessed that this would be what is going on. I always try to stay in the moment and so the moment came and I can’t even believe where I am right now.”

Brown talked about what went through his mind as he skated in his championship routine this month.

“I’ve been working so, so hard this year, training harder than I have ever have because it is such a taxing program. I’ve done so much endurance training, and I  moved to Colorado, so I’m in altitude now. I think that that training so hard and doing section after section every day, I went out there and that’s how I trained it, the program and I couldn’t ask for anything more than just to out and do my program as I’ve trained. And that’s how I’ve been training and so I couldn’t ask for anything more, and after that, everything else is out of my hands — what the judges do, how everyone else skates, and then I ended up in second. I honestly can’t even wrap my head around it yet.”

Brown talked about his preparations for Sochi, and a time two years ago when he skated in a program in the future Olympic Arena.

“Earlier this year, we have watched videos, we have a team camp in the summer that they showed us videos and we talked to a bunch of people that are gonna be there. I was fortunate enough to go to Sochi about two years for the Junior Grand Prix final. it was a junior test event that they had, kind of a like a test event. So I’ve actually gotten to go and skate in that rink. I cant even believe that I’m going back. I loved it, that was my first time I’ve ever been to Russia. The fans were amazing, the culture is so incredible, just from the architecture to the people to…they had one of the competitors’ parties a Russian dance group come in. The way they brought the culture into the event was truly spectacular and just to be in a Olympic rink with my coach was something that I can’t even put into words. And I can’t even believe that I’m going to be going back there in at an Olympic games.”

Brown also talked about his love of dance, and his decision to remain out of the political debate swirling around the games.

“I was always a skater, but I love to dance. I guess if you count putting on shows that my sister choreographed when I was three or four, that counts as dance so dance came first, but I started off as a skater…I definteily dont completely agree with [the Russian political situation], but I’m really trying to focus on my training everyday and doing what I do everyday and trying to represent my country the best that I can.”

The Sochi games will be the first to feature a new “team figure skating’” event, the participants in which have not yet been determined, Brown said.

“I have no idea, they are talking about it and it is something that is up for discussion about who’s gonna compete where, but the skaters haven’t been given any information about who’s gonna compete, who’s not gonna compete, but I don’t know when I’ll find out. But  it’s definitely an event that it would be such an honor and a privilege to be a part of, the first team event in the Winter Olympics Games for figure skating.”

Brown told us that his main goal when skating is to just stay on his feet and deliver for the audience.

“All I was thinking a bout was, ‘Just go out there and do what you trained.’ There’s nothing else I could do, I couldn’t ask to be better than I trained, I just wanted to go out there and skate the way I’ve been training and just skate the program that me and my coach have seen every day, that me and my coach have worked on all year.  That was my main focus and that was all I could think about, and that’s just what I went out and did . I’ve never been more prepared for an event and I just went out and tried to stay on my feet, fight for everything and just perform for the audience, because there’s nothing that I  love to do than to skate for them and to skate for them.”

We’re so proud of both of these young American Olympians, and we wish them the best in the upcoming Sochi Olympic Games! The games begin on February 6, and continue through February 23. Watch out for Jason and Mikaela on the ice and slopes of Sochi soon!

09:01

Sochi 2014: Putin’s Costly, Controversial Winter Olympics

Sports and politics at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. We’ll talk with top Olympians — Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin and figure skater Jason Brown — on the games in Russia.

This Oct. 24, 2013 file photo shows the illuminated Olympic Bolshoy stadium, in the background, and Iceberg stadium, the location for figure skating and short track speed skating events during the 2014 Olympic Games, in the Olympic park in the coastal cluster in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. (AP)

This Oct. 24, 2013 file photo shows the illuminated Olympic Bolshoy stadium, in the background, and Iceberg stadium, the location for figure skating and short track speed skating events during the 2014 Olympic Games, in the Olympic park in the coastal cluster in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. (AP)

Guests

Angela Stent, professor and director of the Center for Eurasian, Russia and East European Studies program at Georgetown University. Senior fellow at the Brookings Insitution. Author of “The Limits of Partnership: US – Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century” and “Repairing US-Russian Relations: A Long Road Ahead.” (@AngelaStent)

Mikaela Shiffrin, Olympic Alpine skier, member of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. (@MikaelaShiffrin)

Jason Brown, figure skater, member of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. (@jasonbskates)

John Cherwa, Tribune Newspapers Olympic bureau chief, deputy sports editor at The Los Angeles Times. (@jcherwa)

From Tom’s Reading List

Globe and Mail: In Sochi, anger and controversy of Olympic proportions – “When this southern Russian city was awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics seven years ago, most of the country celebrated, feeling a burst of national pride. But Yulia Saltikova quietly cursed the television set. Life in her native city, she felt, was about to go from difficult to worse. That premonition has proved sadly correct. Winning the Olympics has brought a carnival of construction to this palm-tree-lined resort on the Black Sea, to prepare for the most expensive Games ever, slated to cost at least $50-billion (U.S.).”

Bloomberg Businessweek: Putin ski run fails to ease Sochi fears – “Security experts are pretty confident that Putin’s police will manage to seal off the mountain-fringed Black Sea resort town of 343,000, shielding the bobsled runs, ski-jump courses, the athletes’ village and the high-end hotels. Putin will have a more difficult time to make his Jan. 3 hit-the-slopes message carry far beyond Sochi. It didn’t get through to whoever was responsible for the six bullet-riddled bodies found in abandoned cars last week. The incident less than an hour’s flight from next month’s Olympic venue continued a wave of violence.”

USA Today: Olympic charter places athletes in tough spot for Sochi — “As controversy has overshadowed the Sochi Games and gay rights groups have called on the IOC to take action, IOC president Jacques Rogge has pointed out that the IOC is a sports organization, not a government or a political body. ‘One should not forget that the International Olympic Committee cannot be expected to have influence over the sovereign affairs of a country,’ Rogge said. Tuesday a new president will be elected, one who will inherit an issue not expected to fade. So how to reconcile this? One of the IOC’s roles is: ‘To act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic movement.’”

Watch U.S. Figure Skater Jason Brown’s Routine At the 2014 U.S. Figure Skate Championship

January 14 2014

23:31

January 03 2014

09:01

Week In The News: Russian Security, Obamacare Launches, Pot Legalized Out West

Bombs in Russia. Obamacare goes live. A dramatic rescue in the Arctic. And a brand new year. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Store owner Toni Fox, second from right, greets customers standing in a snaking line numbering several hundred people shortly after the opening of her 3D Cannabis Center in Denver at 8am on Wednesday Jan. 1, 2014. Colorado began legalized retail recreational marijuana sales on Jan. 1, a day some are calling

Store owner Toni Fox, second from right, greets customers standing in a snaking line numbering several hundred people shortly after the opening of her 3D Cannabis Center in Denver at 8am on Wednesday Jan. 1, 2014. Colorado began legalized retail recreational marijuana sales on Jan. 1, a day some are calling “Green Wednesday.” (AP)

Guests

Reid Epstein, White House correspondent for Politico. (@ReidEpstein)

Jill Dougherty, foreign affairs correspondent for CNN. (@CNNJill)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

Politico: White House stands by birth-control rule — “The Obama administration Wednesday said the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage regulations are fair — and they don’t really hurt the Denver-based religious organization that got a temporary New Year’s Eve reprieve from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. ‘We defer to the Department of Justice on litigation matters, but remain confident that our final rules strike the balance of providing women with free contraceptive coverage while preventing non-profit religious employers with religious objections to contraceptive coverage from having to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for such coverage,’ a White House official said.”

National Journal: Everything We Learned From Edward Snowden in 2013 — “He didn’t win Time‘s Person of the Year award or rank in Google’s year-end list of top searches, but Edward Snowden repeatedly dominated Washington’s policy conversation in 2013—and he did it without ever setting foot here. Beginning in June, Snowden’s leaks detailing the National Security Agency’s vast data collection programs prompted a seemingly endless torrent of exposés in major publications around the world. The disclosures not only reveal the size of the NSA’s phone and Internet metadata dragnet, but the at-times cavalier arrogance with which agency analysts boast about their surveillance muscle.”

CNN: Russia’s Vladimir Putin visits victims of Volgograd blasts — “Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a New Year’s Day hospital visit to some of those injured in two suspected suicide bombings in the city of Volgograd. More than 30 people were killed in the attacks on Sunday and Monday at a rail station and on a trolley bus, just six weeks before Russia is due to host the Winter Olympics. Putin’s unannounced visit to Volgograd Wednesday came a day after he delivered a New Year’s message on Russian state TV in which he vowed to fight until terrorists were defeated.”

December 20 2013

07:12

Week In The News: Fed Tapers, NSA Pushback, Billie Jean King To Sochi

A Fed step back, NSA pushback, Billie Jean King will go to the Olympics. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke listens to a question during a news conference at the Federal Reserve in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. The Fed will begin to reduce bond purchases by $10 billion in January because of a stronger U.S. job market. (AP)

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke listens to a question during a news conference at the Federal Reserve in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. The Fed will begin to reduce bond purchases by $10 billion in January because of a stronger U.S. job market. (AP)

Guests

Diane Brady, senior editor at Bloomberg Businessweek. (@DianeBrady)

Bryan Monroe, Washington editor of opinion and commentary for CNN. (@BryanMonroeCNN)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Guardian: NSA goes on 60 Minutes: the definitive facts behind CBS’s flawed report — “Even if NSA doesn’t mean to break the law, the way its data dragnets work in practice incline toward overcollection. During a damage-control conference call in August, an anonymous US intelligence official told reporters that the technical problem bothering Bates in 2011 persists today. The NSA even conceded to Walton in 2009 that ‘from a technical standpoint, there was no single person who had a complete understanding’ of the technical ‘architecture’ of NSA’s phone data collection.”

Bloomberg: Billie Jean King’s Message To Vladimir Putin — “These gestures are first of all important for the countries making them, which like to think they are being consistent about standing up for universal values (even if their own societies only rather recently saw the light on gay rights). They are also important in letting gay men and lesbians inside Russia know they have international support.”

USA Today: Stocks mixed after Fed’s mini-’taper’ – “The Fed said that starting in January, it will reduce its bond-buying program to $75 billion a month from $85 billion. The reductions, or tapering, will be the first step toward winding down a program that has been in place since the 2008 financial crisis.Asian markets were mixed Thursday, although Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index soared 1.7% to 15,859.22.”

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