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Scott Simon

There's a photo that went viral in 2019, of two mountain gorillas behind a park ranger as he snaps a selfie in Congo's Virunga National Park.

One gorilla seems to glance over at the human with all the merely mild interest of a New Yorker, waiting on a subway platform, her hands at her side, as if rammed into imaginary pockets. The second gorilla, just behind the ranger, seems to lean into the shot, as if to say, "Hello! Look who's here, too!"

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. It may sound strange to call something so deadly "great," but it suits Chicago's self-image as a place where things are bigger, taller, and greater, even tragedies.

The 1871 fire killed an estimated 300 people. It turned the heart of the city, wood-frame buildings quickly constructed on wooden sidewalks, into ruins, and left 100,000 people homeless.

"Six o'clock in the morning. How's your head?"

So begins a poem written this month by the Cuban writer Katherine Bisquet. She continues:

"Is it cold in Berlin?


I go to bed this morning - I'm trying to change my habits - with a complaint,


There's an animal in the front yard that eats the neighbor's pigeons.


The beast eats everything it sees in its path,


How can I tell it not to eat what doesn't belong to it?


Are there cypresses there?


Here the ceibas have lost their leaves

This week 45 of the 50 city of Chicago aldermen accepted a 5.5% pay raise to increase the highest-paid among them to an annual salary of $130,000.

The pay raise is automatic, and tied to inflation — which, as we've heard on this very program, is on the rise. This is a reform that prevents aldermen from raising their own salaries. It also frees them from having to defend their pay raises when they run for reelection.

Elijah McClain taught himself how to play the violin, and played it to comfort kittens in need of homes.

This week a grand jury in Colorado indicted two police officers, a former officer and two paramedics for manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the death of Elijah McClain.

Some of the most esteemed figures in the history of France, including Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Simone Veil, are interred in the Panthéon in Paris. And now a new spirit will join them: an entertainer, activist, and agent of the French resistance.

Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis in 1906, began performing in her teens, and moved to Paris.

"I just couldn't stand America, and I was one of the first colored Americans to move to Paris," she told The Guardian in 1974.

Updated August 21, 2021 at 6:14 PM ET

Scenes from the Taliban's capture of Kabul have evoked memories of the 1975 fall of the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government in Saigon to communist North Vietnamese forces.

The U.S., then and now, scrambled to evacuate Americans and allies.

Zalmai Yawar showed me the stars one night. We were in the mountains of Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in 2002 — just a few months after the war began. We had spent the day reporting on the mass graves of Hazara people the Taliban had murdered after blowing up the ancient statues of Buddha carved into the nearby cliffside.

Neal Conan and I were once briefly roommates in Neal's apartment in a fifth floor walkup on 101st Street in New York. There was a window about the size of a cereal box over a sink that opened onto a gray gravel roof upholstered with pigeon poop.

"That's the balcony," said Neal.

Busy week? I had news meetings, family stuff, and interviews, of course. And then I got a call from an officious, digitized voice that said they were the IRS. It informed me they've noticed suspicious activity on my account. Not a good start to the day.

Soon, more bad news. A call from a similar-sounding robo-voice — maybe they're siblings — said they've noticed suspicious activity on my credit card account.

But good news, a minute later: a peppy, friendly, recorded voice, told me my spotless driving record entitled me to receive a great new deal on car insurance.

How do you honor historical figures?

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced this week the state will rename nine Garden State Parkway service areas after noted New Jerseyites: Judy Blume, Celia Cruz, Connie Chung, Larry Doby, James Gandolfini, Whitney Houston, Jon Bon Jovi, Toni Morrison, and, ladies and gentlemen, the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra.

They join a few other Jerseyites already enshrined along the New Jersey Turnpike, including Alexander Hamilton, who was a rest stop in Secaucus before he was a Broadway musical.

A lot of Americans may feel this week like someone who's run a long race, sees the finish line and begins to counts each step and breath to the end, only to hear as we get close, "Oh, sorry. You've got another mile or two to go."

"I had no idea how many funerals I'd be going to," Dave Marlon of Las Vegas told us. "Including this weekend."

Marlon is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and CEO of CrossRoads, an addiction treatment center in Nevada. We spoke just after U.S. government statistics released this week revealed that a record 93,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2020, what we might call the first year of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Andy Kim bought a blue wool suit off the rack during post-holiday sales. J.Crew, cobalt blue, standard cut. He looked forward to wearing the suit to President Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.

But first Kim, a Democrat who represents New Jersey's 3rd District, wore his new suit to work in the halls of Congress on Jan. 6, to count and certify the ballots from the Electoral College. He was on his way to the House chamber around 1 p.m. that day when the U.S. Capitol was invaded by a mob trying to overturn the election by force.

Lucio Arreola is going to have an astounding Father's Day this year. He finds just about every day astounding now.

Arreola has a new heart; or at least, new to him. He is 50 years old, the father of three daughters and a banking executive in Puerto Rico. On April 20, doctors at Houston Methodist Hospital performed a transplant to implant inside him the heart of a deceased 25-year-old man whose identity he may never know, but to whom he and his family will always be grateful.

Parents have special eyesight. We watch our children get smarter and taller and stronger, and we dream they may someday dazzle the world. But some part of our eyes and hearts will always see them as infants we once held; children whose small hands once reached up for ours; the charmers who smiled into our faces with the power of sunlight.

Dr. Ayman Abu al-Ouf worked into the small hours last Sunday at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where he was chief of internal medicine, trained medical students and supervised a ward for COVID-19 patients.

A former colleague told the BBC, "I would say he was the most kind-hearted and compassionate person I have ever seen in my life."

Everybody jokes about just doing away with the Internet after some data hack, service outage or other frustration reveals how much of our lives revolve around it. As David Yoon writes in his new novel about a fictitious platform called Wren — and only the name may be fictitious:

In February 2020, Norm Carson was attending a trade show in Amsterdam, when news about the coronavirus hit.

"We went in that day thinking we'd see some customers, do some training and it'd be a regular day. And then before you knew it, they had announced the name," he says.

I first heard of National Public Radio when it broadcast the Senate hearings into the Watergate scandal live, in the summer of 1973.

Two strangers sat next to each other on a campus bus in Lynchburg, Va., recently and struck up a conversation. Ruby Wierzbicki is 19 years old and a freshman at Liberty University. Ally Cole is 21 and a sophomore.

"I like small talk," Ally told us this week. "You learn things."

The students began by asking, "What's your major?"

Exercise science for Ruby, graphic design for Ally.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Bureaucratic prose is often written not to make things plain, but explain them away.

It may be especially telling this week, when 12 jurors found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the murder of George Floyd, to reread the first report the Minneapolis Police media relations office gave of Floyd's death.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You know what time it is? Time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

I'd like to salute the great comedy writer Anne Beatts with some her own words. Anne died this week at the age of 74. But many of her signature, boundary-breaking routines are tricky to quote on a Saturday morning radio show.

"I'm often accused of 'going too far,' " she once said. "Behind my desire to shock is an even stronger desire to evade the 'feminine stereotype.' You say women are afraid of mice? I'll show you! I'll eat the mouse!"

At its heart, Hunter Biden's new memoir, Beautiful Things, is a story of addiction.

Biden, the 51-year-old son of the president, writes that he first bought crack cocaine at age 18. He first fell in love with alcohol in high school and started drinking heavily after work in his 20s. "I always could drink five times more than anyone else," he writes.

He has been in and out of rehab numerous times over the last two decades and has had long periods of sobriety between relapses.

A few months after Jackie Robinson broke modern baseball's color barrier in 1947, Larry Doby became the first Black player in baseball's American League. A year later, Satchel Paige joined the Cleveland Indians as the team's second Black player.

The two Black players, and the team owner's willingness to sign them, propelled Cleveland to win the World Series in 1948 in one of baseball's most notable seasons.

It's the story told in Luke Epplin's new book, Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball.

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