AirTalk for February 22, 2011

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Piracy off the coast of Somalia takes a deadly turn

Two American couples, Jean and Scott Adam of Southern California and Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle of Seattle, were killed today by their Somali pirate captors in the Gulf of Aden. The U.S. military was in the middle of a rescue attempt when the pirates, outnumbered, opted to kill their hostages. Piracy off the Somali coast began eight years ago with a paradoxically benevolent goal. For years the coasts off Somalia had been illegally used as toxic waste dumping grounds by more prosperous nations, and fish stocks had been plundered by outside countries and independent entities taking advantage of Somalia's weak infrastructure. Somali warlords began fighting these outsiders to defend what few resources they were capable of defending. But over time their reach, and the kinds of targets they attacked, broadened to include humanitarian vessels, luxury yachts, and anything else that entered Somali waters. Warships from NATO countries, including the United States, have been patrolling the area since last year. The violence however has yet to be curbed. Is tightening security along the Somali coast the answer? Or with large historical and systemic problems like extraordinary poverty, governmental chaos, and years of outside exploitation, is policing the sea merely a band aid on a wound that goes much deeper?
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Libyan president Moammar Gadhafi remains defiant in the face of continuing protests and escalating violence in his country. Witnesses say that the streets of the capital city of Tripoli are like a war zone, with overnight reports of pro-government forces sweeping the streets and firing upon people indiscriminately. Some estimates say that the death toll could be as high as 500 since the uprising began last week in the eastern-Libyan city of Benghazi and engulfed the rest of the country. Colonel Gadhafi has ruled Libya for 41 years and shows no sign of stepping down, vowing in a recent televised speech to "fight to the last drop of blood” as his regime faces a rising tide of unrest spurned by uprisings in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia. Will popular protests be able to oust Gadhafi? How will the world react to his regime’s use of violence against the people of Libya?
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A drug or medical procedure can only be proved effective if it’s tested over and over again. The so-called “test of replicability” lies at the very heart of modern science. This practice guards against subjectivity and aims at removing bias by the researcher. But for some time, science writers and observers have noticed a strange phenomenon when they look more closely at this process. It seems that the results of many experiments decrease and can’t be replicated over time. What’s going on here? Are scientists consciously or unconsciously weeding out results that don’t square with their theories? As part of KPCC’s 2-day series on medical and scientific research, Jonah Lehrer explains the “decline effect” and cautions us to be aware of the uncertainties of scientific research.
Over 40 years ago, LA Times Columnist and KMEX news director, Ruben Salazar was hit in the head by a tear gas canister while sitting in a bar during an anti-Vietnam war protest that had grown violent. A sheriff’s deputy fired the tear gas missile that killed Salazar but a new report on the incident found that though deputies made “tactical mistakes” that led to the journalist’s death, Salazar was not intentionally targeted. Since his death, Ruben Salazar has become a symbol of struggle and persecution for Mexican-Americans protesting law enforcement's treatment of Latinos. He’s had parks and schools named after him, and was honored by the US Postal Service with his own stamp. Salazar’s daughter, Stephanie Salazar Cook is calling for the Sheriff’s department to release all records related to the circumstances of her father’s death. She said Sunday that the new report "asks more questions than it answers."
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Piracy tragedy hits home

An international sailing trip ended today in the tragic killing of four Americans whose boat had been seized by Somali hijackers. Scott and Jean Adams of Marina Del Ray and Seattle residents Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle were found by U.S. Naval personnel, killed by their captors. Scott Adams had been a student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, where he got his Master’s degree in theology. Richard Peace, a theology professor at Fuller Seminary, was a friend and former teacher of Adam’s. Peace joins us to talk about how the Fuller community is dealing with this loss.
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Can boomers defy old age?

The oldest baby boomers are turning 65 this year, so realistically what can they expect from the next 20 years of life? Promoters of longevity claim that if people just live right, ninety could be the new fifty. They also argue that the “cure” for the disease of getting old is just around the corner and that science will soon find ways to trick the body into overcoming the aging process. It sounds like an inviting prospect but is it more hype than reality? In her new book "Never Say Die," Susan Jacoby, author and chronicler of unreason in the American culture, offer a critique of what she’s calls the fallacies of the “hucksters of longevity” and asks the fundamental question: will living longer mean living better?
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