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Need to Know, November 19, 2010

This week on Need to Know, we continue last week’s story on Somali pirates. After being held captive for more than a year, a British couple was released by the pirates earlier this week. We discuss their release and then explore the origins of and motivations behind Somali piracy. Correspondent Rick Karr also explores some of the government’s contradictory messages when it comes to promoting nutrition while simultaneously encouraging the public to eat cheese.

Note: If you are outside the U.S., you can watch the show here.

Then, we take a look at the U.S. military’s efforts to collect biometric data from citizens in Afghanistan for future intelligence. Georgetown University professor Christine Fair sits down with Jon Meacham to discuss the U.S.’s plans for withdrawal from Afghanistan, as well as our future relationship with Pakistan, and Alison Stewart speaks with religious scholar Reza Aslan about his new book on the history of the Middle East as depicted in literature. Editorial cartoonist Steve Brodner also returns with an illustrated review of Sarah Palin’s new reality TV show.

And if you’re looking for the full version of the Climate Desk podcast mentioned on this week’s show, you can find it here: Audio: In India, a climate of power.

Watch the individual segments:

Mixed signals from the USDA

On the one hand, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is in the business of getting Americans to eat healthier food, but on the other hand, it is also in the business of promoting the excessive consumption of cheese. Correspondent Rick Karr explains the mixed signals the government sends when it comes to nutrition.

The trouble with pirates: Part 2

Need to Know explores the origins and business of Somali piracy: Just who are these pirates who are bringing the shipping world to its knees, how do they operate, why do they do what they do, and why do we negotiate with them? Also included is footage of a British couple released just this week by Somali pirates after more than a year in captivity.

Fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan

Need to Know gets a window into Afghanistan as the U.S.’s 71st Cavalry travels through unknown territory in southern Kandahar. Plus: Jon Meacham interviews South Asia military expert Christine Fair, who was recently in Helmand province to analyze the counterinsurgency effort.

Reza Aslan: Connecting East and West

Alison Stewart speaks with religious scholar and author Reza Aslan about his new book, which chronicles the history of the modern Middle East through literature.

Steve Brodner on ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’

Steve Brodner uses his unique blend of art, film and political commentary to review the new Sarah Palin reality TV show.




  • Vcorrell

    I find that each week the news content is well worth watching. you present subjects that have disappeared from other new media. Bravo! Vince Correll

  • SdhXO1st

    Yes yes, of course. (Specificlly to the cheese segmuent this time, but my comment unhappily works for most your segments.) This stuff is painfully overprfoduced! I love the hosts, but the attempted mimicry of broadcast network production values has neutered their appeal value. Tell the same stories, but do it as if you expect the viewers to be moderately intelligent and attentive to the straightforward issues.

    Bottom line – I am losing my compulsion to watch PBS on Friday evenings.

  • Mdmonahan

    What I need to know which I do not see being addressed anywhere-where is the international police force with the ability to go in and take these criminals out? There is no government in place that can manage the problem locally with local forces. Why is it allowed to continue? Why don’t the target ships arm themselves? Where are the convoys of ships with the mission of protecting one another from this ragtag group of pirates? There are just too many questions here that are not being addressed! Whewre is NATO on this? Where is the Association of African States? Where is the UN? Why is everyone just standing by and allowing this travesty and tragedy to continue? It makes no sense to me.

  • Shelley Lewis

    The US Navy has patrolled the waters, (and caught some pirates, they say, who were foolish enough to attempt to fire upon them, thinking they were a merchant ship–they’re on trial now in Richmond). The EU and NATO are also working together to patrol the area, but the UN says, in a new report, that the pirates are now operating up to a thousand nautical miles away from the Somali coast. Deal with the root causes in Somalia, as well as beefing up naval presence, the UN report suggests.

    We’ll get a follow up story posted at our blog, the Daily Need, soon. Thanks for your questions and comments

    –Need to Know Executive Producer

  • Ekh2001

    What I need to know is what happened to the interview with Amy Sedaris?

  • Shelley Lewis

    Sorry to disappoint–the Amy Sedaris interview will run on December 10, we promise.

    –From NTK executive producer

  • Jo Ann Myers

    Your piece on the role of the USDA in promotion of food contributing to major U.S. health problems misrepresented USDA’s role in this promotion. Your text said that “technically”, taxpayer dollars were not used to promote these various foods. In fact, there are rules permitting private food organizations, such as the beef group, dairy group, etc., to require their members to put money into a pot for promotion and advertising. General tax funding is not in this pot of money. This particular inaccurate news report has been widely disseminated. It is important that news organizations verify their information. It is disapointing that, PBS, with its sophisticated and professional journalists, failed to check their facts. Personally, I object to a commercial environment in which we listen to advertising telling us to eat massive amounts of cheese, for example, without rules and funding – using taxpayer dollars- to present an alternative view. We have a certified organic farm in Maine, mostly berries and eggs. For a couple of years, we raised beef for sale and, as required, paid about $10 which went toward beef advertising. Our beef was all grass raised, never in a feedlot, enjoyed a comfortable life, ate grass on rocky pasture which cannot grow much else than grass, were local animals, sold to local people and slaughtered in a local slaughterhouse. This was very much a sustainable agriculture effort. Given our farming practices, readers can understand my objection to this country’s predominant approach to raising food whether it be meat, fruit, dairy or vegetables. Agriculture subsidies are out of control and significantly contribute to a food production system which is bad for our health, bad for the environment, economically unsustainable, and destructive to small, local farms whether these are certified organic, “sustainable” or conventional. Your Need to Know program provided some good insights into the significant structural and economic problems in our food production system. However, when your program contains a major inaccuracy, you lose the confidence of your viewers in all the information you provide.