• Desert Island Discs: Jim Al-Khalili interview

    Desert Island Discs is a radio programme presented by Krisy Young and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. In this episode, Kirsty Young’s castaway is the physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili.

    He’s spent his adult life studying sub-atomic particles – and trying to explain them to the rest of us. He fell in love with physics when he was a teenager growing up in Iraq. With an Iraqi father and English mother, the Baghdad he spent his early years in was cosmopolitan and vibrant but, once Saddam Hussein came to power, his parents realised the family would have to flee, and he has lived and worked in Britain for the past 30 years.

    Jim is the author of the book Pathfinders; The Golden Age of Arabic Science, among others.



  • Making the iBio for Apples Genius

    After Steve Jobs anointed Walter Isaacson as his authorized biographer in 2009, he took Mr. Isaacson to see the Mountain View, Calif., house in which he had lived as a boy. He pointed out its clean design and awesome little features. He praised the developer, Joseph Eichler, who built more than 11,000 homes in California subdivisions, for making an affordable product on a mass-market scale. And he showed Mr. Isaacson the stockade fence built 50 years earlier by his father, Paul Jobs.

    He loved doing things right, Mr. Jobs said. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldnt see.

    Mr. Jobs, the brilliant and protean creator whose inventions so utterly transformed the allure of technology, turned those childhood lessons into an all-purpose theory of intelligent design. He gave Mr. Isaacson a chance to play by the same rules. His story calls for a book that is clear, elegant and concise enough to qualify as an iBio. Mr. Isaacsons Steve Jobs does its solid best to hit that target.

    As a biographer of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, Mr. Isaacson knows how to explicate and celebrate genius: revered, long-dead genius. But he wrote Steve Jobs as its subject was mortally ill, and that is a more painful and delicate challenge. (He had access to members of the Jobs family at a difficult time.) Mr. Jobs promised not to look over Mr. Isaacsons shoulder, and not to meddle with anything but the books cover. (Boy, does it look great.) And he expressed approval that the book would not be entirely flattering. But his legacy was at stake. And there were awkward questions to be asked. At the end of the volume, Mr. Jobs answers the question What drove me? by discussing himself in the past tense.
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  • TV Show Recommendations


    Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as a woman who, after witnessing a murder, goes on the run, hiding out by assuming the life of her wealthy identical twin sister only to learn that her sister’s seemingly idyllic life is just as complicated and dangerous as the one she’s trying to leave behind.

    Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior

    Unit chief Special Agent Sam Cooper is a mentally and physically fierce natural leader who is not afraid to put his career on the line in order to stand by his convictions. Cooper strives to avoid political bureaucracy and has handpicked an eclectic group of profilers to work outside the confines of Quantico. They include Beth Griffith, strong-willed and outspoken, the newest member of the team who joins them from the FBI Threat Assessment Task Force; Former British Special Forces soldier Mick Rawson, confident and handsome, works as a highly-skilled marksman with an undiluted eye for rooting out evil; John “Prophet” Sims a former convict with a street-smart edge and a calm, Zen-like presence, who is determined to make amends for past sins; Gina LaSalle an attractive, tough agent armed with a cunning sense of perception; and Penelope Garcia, a computer wizard who has spent years aiding Agent Hotchner and his BAU team on its toughest cases.


    Unforgettable stars Poppy Montgomery as Carrie Wells, an enigmatic former police detective with a rare condition that makes her memory so flawless that every place, every conversation, every moment of joy and every heartbreak is forever embedded in her mind. It’s not just that she doesn’t forget anything – she can’t; except for one thing: the details that would help solve her sister’s long-ago murder. Carrie has tried to put her past behind her, but she’s unexpectedly reunited with her ex-boyfriend and partner, NYPD Detective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh), when she consults on a homicide case. Despite her conflicted feelings for Al, she decides to permanently join his unit as a detective solving homicides – most notably, the unsolved murder of her sister. All she needs to do is remember.

    Family Guy

    Meet the Griffins Peter, the big, lovable oaf who always says what’s on his mind. Lois, the doting mother who can’t figure out why her son keeps trying to kill her. Their daughter Meg, the teen drama queen who’s constantly embarrassed by her family. Chris, the beefy 13-year-old who wouldnt hurt a fly, unless it landed on his hot dog. Stewie, the maniacal one-year-old bent on world domination. And Brian, the sarcastic dog with a wit as dry as the martinis he drinks. The animated adventures of this outrageous family will have your whole family laughing out loud.

    Law and Order SVU

    Law & Order: SVU, the first series spun from the powerful Law & Order franchise, is a hard-hitting and emotional drama that chronicles the life and the investigations of the elite Special Victims Unit of the New York City Police Department. Having become one of TVs most-watched programs thanks to its provocative crime stories, Emmy-winning performances, and dynamic ensemble, Law & Order: SVU boldly enters its 11th season with stakes that have never been higher.

    CSI: NY

    CSI: New York, the third incarnation of the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation franchise and the spin-off of CSI: Miami, is a crime drama about forensic investigators who use high-tech science to follow the evidence and solve crimes in the Big Apple. Detective Mack “Mac” Taylor is a dedicated and driven crime scene investigator who believes that everything is connected and for everyone there is a story. He and his partner, Detective Stella Bonasera, a workaholic and a jack-of-all-trades, share a passion for the job. They lead a team of experts amid the gritty and kinetic city that never sleeps. Their team includes Danny Messer, a Brooklyn-born investigator with rugged good looks, an unflappable spirit, and a colorful family history; and Dr. Sheldon Hawkes, a reclusive coroner who walked away from a promising surgical career after the traumatic loss of two patients. Joining them is homicide Detective Don Flack, an edgy, hardcore investigator with a quick wit, impressive forensic insight, and limited patience with potential suspects. Rounding out the team is Aiden Burn, a smart and sexy investigator whose chameleon-like behavior allows her to adapt to any situation at any time. These skilled investigators, who see New York City in a whole different light, follow the evidence as they piece together clues and eliminate doubt to ultimately crack their cases.

    CSI: Miami

    Having successfully premiered as an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Season 2: “Cross-Jurisdictions”), CSI: Miami begins its inaugural season with the investigation of a spectacular plane crash (“Golden Parachute”). Horatio Caine and his team of skilled investigators take to the streets, beaches, and swamps of Miami with a sweet Humvee and the ability to arrest their suspects (a power their Vegas counterparts do not possess). They have their work cut out for them this season with many difficult cases to solve including the deaths of a priest (“Ashes to Ashes”), a male stripper (“Breathless”), and nearly an entire family (“Slaughterhouse”). One of the cases involves the death a little girl at a children’s play center (“Broken”). There’s plenty of action in “Dispo Day,” which features a violent shootout. By the end of the season we learn plenty about the personal life of Horatio and the story of his brother Ray (“Simple Man” / “Freaks & Tweaks”). The Horatio/Ray storyline is a continuing thread through the first few seasons.


    Flashpoint is a drama that depicts the emotional journey into the tough, risk-filled lives of a group of cops in the SRU (inspired by Toronto’s Emergency Task Force). It’s a unique unit that rescues hostages, busts gangs, defuses bombs, climbs the sides of buildings and talks down suicidal teens. Members of a highly-skilled tactical team, they’re also trained in negotiating, profiling and getting inside the suspect’s head to diffuse the situation to try and save lives.

    Prime Suspect

    If being a homicide detective in New York isn’t tough enough, having to contend with a male-dominated police department to get respect makes it that much tougher. And that’s exactly what Jane Timoney has to do. She’s an outsider who was just transferred to a new precinct where a fraternity of cops isn’t willing to give her the benefit of the doubt – especially given the way they think she got the job after an illicit affair with her boss. Jane is by no means perfect, and with her own vices and questionable past she can be forceful, willful, rude, and downright reckless. She’s also a brilliant cop with an uncanny ability to see what others miss, and get inside a criminal’s head like no one else. While she wouldn’t admit it, she wants the respect of the men in her life – including her commanding officer, her fellow detectives, and her complicated boyfriend and his young son – but above all, she keeps her eye on one thing: the prime suspect. From director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) comes the re-imagining of the British television hit starring Maria Bello (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, A History of Violence, The Cooler) as the tough-as-nails detective who doesn’t know when to quit.

    Shark Week, Discovery Channel

    Shark Week is back with a vengeance and this year it brought a friend! Comedian Andy Samberg is Discoverys Chief Shark Officer (CSO) and he joins the sharks to combine comedy and action to this summers must-see television event. With seven new programs, Discovery Channel explores these predators psycheHow do sharks hunt? What makes them unique? Why do they attack? Learn the answers in Shark Week 2011!


  • Data-driven journalism

    This website is dedicated to providing anyone interested in getting started with data driven journalism with a collection of learning resources, including relevant events, tools, tutorials, interviews and case studies. The data journalism community and mailing list are dedicated to strengthening the community of journalists, designers, data providers and others, and encouraging collaboration and exchange of expertise

    View Website


  • The Open Society Foundation

    The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve this mission, the Foundations seek to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, the Open Society Foundations implement a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media. At the same time, we build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information. The Foundations place a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities.

    View Website


  • Favorite TV series so far

    Brothers and Sisters (Great Cast)

    Ugly Betty

    Without a Trace

    Criminal Minds

    The Mentalist


    Eleventh Hour


  • Favorite Films

    The Visitor

    A college professor travels to New York City to attend a conference and finds a young couple living in his apartment.

    Director: Thomas McCarthy
    Writer: Thomas McCarthy
    Stars: Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira


    Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

    A Mumbai teen who grew up in the slums, becomes a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” He is arrested under suspicion of cheating, and while being interrogated, events from his life history are shown which explain why he knows the answers.

    Directors: Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan
    Writers: Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Vikas Swarup (novel)
    Stars: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto and Saurabh Shukla



    The story of Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California’s first openly gay elected official.

    Director: Gus Van Sant
    Writer: Dustin Lance Black
    Stars: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch


    The Dark Knight

    Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent are forced to deal with the chaos unleashed by a terrorist mastermind known only as the Joker, as he drives each of them to their limits.

    Director: Christopher Nolan
    Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay), Christopher Nolan (screenplay), and 3 more credits
    Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart


    Mamma Mia!

    The story of a bride-to-be trying to find her real father told using hit songs by the popular ’70s group ABBA.

    Director: Phyllida Lloyd
    Writers: Catherine Johnson (screenplay), Catherine Johnson (musical book)
    Stars:Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Amanda Seyfried



    outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution.

    Directors: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
    Writers: Marjane Satrapi (comic), Vincent Paronnaud (scenario)
    Stars: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve and Gena Rowlands


  • Book Recommendations for September 2011

    Azar Nafisis Memoirs. – A book Im looking forward to reading.Read more of this book review in the Washington Post. Also read an excerpt from Chapter 1.

    Nafisis sensory descriptions of Tehran life the enticing cacophony of its streets, the daily forays her mother makes to the market, where she appears to be so much at home in this world of chocolates, leather, and spices are as vivid as the portraits of her exotically dysfunctional family. My one grievance concerning Things Ive Been Silent About is that, like many a Near Eastern family reunion, the book is excessively crowded. Chatty cousin after chatty cousin, friend after friend, ponderous wise man after ponderous wise man barge into Nafisis pages, too briefly described to warrant our interest, crowding and often muddling her narrative. But this is a modest complaint to make about an utterly memorable (pardon the alliteration) memoir.

    Book: The Forever War (Iraq)

    listen to this book review. On this page you will also find an interview with the author and you can read an excerpt.

    To classifyThe Forever Waras a work of literature instead of, say, as a piece of war correspondence, is not to denigrate its journalistic integrity. Dexter Filkins reporting is as rigorous in this books informal vignettes and essays as it was when he delivered the daily news from Afghanistan and Iraq forThe New York Times.


    I read Machiavellis The Prince in graduate school and found it quite fascinating. Heres a great articlewritten by Claudia Roth Pierpontfrom todays New Yorker on the man behind one of the most famous books ever written.

    The Prince, Machiavellis how-to guide for sovereigns, turned out to be a scandal that Western political thought and practice has been gazing at in horror and in fascination since its first publication, to quote from Albert Russell Ascolis introduction to Peter Constantines new translation. Circulated in manuscript for years, the book was not published until 1532nearly five years after Machiavellis deathand received its first significant critique within the decade, from an English cardinal who pronounced the author an enemy of the human race.


  • Prose Lays Nightmare of ‘Forever War’

    To classify The Forever War as a work of literature instead of, say, as a piece of “war correspondence,” is not to denigrate its journalistic integrity. Dexter Filkins’ reporting is as rigorous in this book’s informal vignettes and essays as it was when he delivered the daily news from Afghanistan and Iraq for The New York Times.

    The Forever War, though, deserves to be considered alongside long-praised and similarly structured modern literary classics such as Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street books that achieved their raw force and nightmarish beauty by mixing elements of fiction and creative nonfiction. That The Forever War is, front to back, a true story, is a testament to Filkins’ literary talent and extraordinary accomplishment.

    Don’t look here for an explanation of “How the war was lost” or even of “How the war reporter’s innocence was lost.” Filkins, as he notes in his epilogue, writes from the impossibly limiting perspective of one who’s Been There. For those who haven’t Been There, then, The Forever War‘s narrator can sometimes come across as inhumanly cold and unlikable. That’s because Filkins is incapable of placing himself into a fake, pre-war personality in order to persuade his readers that he’s not the Iceman but is, in fact, as outraged with things as they are.

    The Forever War – By Dexter Filkins
    Hardcover, 384 pages Alfred A. Knopf List Price: $25


  • Students Explore America In ‘Chicago’

    Jerome Scholomoff – Author, dentist and former Egyptian presidential candidate Alaa Al Aswany.

    Former Egyptian presidential candidate Alaa Al Aswany is a journalist and the Arab world’s best-selling fiction writer. He makes his living as a dentist in Cairo, which affords him an intimate look at the everyday lives of Egyptians who often inspire his works.

    His latest book, Chicago: A Novel, follows several recent Egyptian emigres as they study at the University of Illinois and their professors, who emigrated to the U.S. decades earlier. Al Aswany says he drew from his own experiences as a student at the University of Illinois in the 1980s. And he tells Weekend Edition host Liane Hansen that the experience had a big impact. “I learned something very important in my life in America … what I call the know-how of success. How do you become a successful person?” Al Aswany says he took this knowledge back to Egypt and applied it to his writing.

    Many do not know that chicago is not an English word but rather Algonquian, one of several languages that Native Americans spoke. In that language chicago meant “strong smell.” The reason for that designation was that the place occupied by the city today was originally vast fields where the Native Americans grew onions, the strong smell of which gave the place its name. Read More