As Illinois Prepares To Legalize Pot, Public Housing Tenants Not Allowed To Partake

Come Jan. 1 it will be legal to smoke recreational marijuana in Illinois. But housing authorities say it will remain prohibited in public housing.

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Susan Montoya Bryan/AP

Recreational pot is about to become legal in Illinois, but Chicago’s Housing Authority says not in our backyard or front yard or anywhere on public housing premises, for that matter.

Housing voucher recipients received a letter from the agency last week, warning them about the ramifications of smoking or possessing pot on federally funded grounds even after it becomes legal on Jan. 1. In a nutshell, those who violate the federal law could face eviction.

“While federal law prohibits marijuana use and possession in federally subsidized housing, the [Chicago Housing Authority] is working to educate and inform residents so they understand all applicable laws related to cannabis and federally-funded housing,” spokeswoman Molly Sullivan said in a statement.

The statement continues: “The CHA will work with the City of Chicago as it develops rules and regulations in accordance with existing state and federal laws in order to ensure a safe and responsible implementation of legalized cannabis in Chicago.”

But as Sullivan noted, under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, the use and/or possession of medical or recreational marijuana is considered illegal activity and as such is prohibited on federally subsidized property. “Unless Congress decides something different … we don’t have an option,” she said.

The schism between state and federal laws around marijuana use is creating similar predicaments for public housing tenants across the country, including those with medical marijuana cards. And many say it is leading to an unequal application of the law that penalizes the poor who rely on federal assistance to provide housing for their families.

“This is absolutely unequal and unfair protection of people,” Bruce Margolin told NPR. Margolin is an attorney and the director of the Los Angeles chapter of NORML, a national advocacy group striving to decriminalize marijuana across the country.

Margolin recounted several instances of elderly people living in the greater Los Angeles area under Section 8 housing who are sick and rely on medical marijuana.

“They’re sick, they’re old and they’re unable to travel,” he said. “So where are they supposed to go?”

Margolin said threatening people with losing their homes for doing what others are allowed to do is cruel.

In April, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., introduced legislation that would permit marijuana use in public housing. Under the Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act of 2019, Norton wrote, “Individuals living in federally funded housing should not fear eviction simply for treating their medical conditions or for seeking a substance legal in their state.”

Norton called on Congress to catch up “with its own constituents” whose views on marijuana have changed as more and more states make it legal.

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READ: Ukraine Specialist Catherine Croft’s Impeachment Inquiry Testimony

Catherine Croft, a specialist on Ukraine at the State Department, arrives for a closed-door deposition in the House impeachment inquiry.

Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images


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Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The House has released the testimony of Catherine Croft, a Ukraine specialist with the State Department. The transcript is one of a number released ahead of the first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Croft, who worked on the National Security Council, testified that lobbyist Robert Livingston called her multiple times to say that then-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch should be fired. Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her post in the spring, told House investigators that Trump himself was behind a campaign to remove her.

Read Croft’s full testimony.

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READ: Foreign Service Officer Christopher Anderson’s Impeachment Inquiry Testimony

U.S. career diplomat Christopher Anderson arrives to review his testimony as part of the House impeachment inquiries on Capitol Hill on Nov. 7.

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Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Foreign service officer Christopher Anderson’s testimony has been released by Congress, as part of a new, public phase of the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Anderson worked for U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and served as a special adviser for Ukraine negotiations from August 2017 through July 12, leaving days before a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that helped trigger the inquiry.

Anderson also worked closely with Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her post as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in the spring after a vocal campaign against her apparently led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Anderson testified to House investigators on Oct. 30 that Giuliani stood in the way of the White House strengthening ties with Ukraine.

Read his full testimony here.

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FBI Joins Investigation Into Killing Of 9 Members Of Mormon Family In Mexico

Family and friends attend a funeral service on Saturday to remember Christina Langford Johnson, a victim of an ambush that killed nine American women and children earlier this week, in Colonia Le Baron, Mexico.

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Marco Ugarte/AP

The FBI has joined an investigation into the killing of three women and six children last week along a mountain road in northwest Mexico, an ambush that has shaken the Mormon community that has lived near the border for decades.

Federal investigators said the Mexican government, which is leading the probe, asked for the assistance of the FBI in examining the deaths of the dual Mexican and American citizens.

“The FBI remains committed to working alongside our international partners to help bring justice to the perpetrators of this heinous act of violence,” the FBI said in a statement to NPR.

Major questions remain about the motive and identity of the perpetrators who carried out the horrific slaying on Nov. 4 in the rural Mexican state of Sonora, about 70 miles south of Arizona.

Around 9:40 a.m. that day, police say gunmen fired at one vehicle, which was then set on fire, killing a mother and her four children. More than an hour later, two other cars some 10 miles away were attacked by gunman. Some of the victims were on their way to a wedding, driving along remote roads they have often traveled.

Mexican authorities suspect the families were not targeted, but instead mistaken for a rival gang by a drug cartel.

Some local reports highlight the family’s dispute with Mexican farmers over water well drilling as a potentially important backdrop for understanding the massacre. Family members of some of the victims have said that the deaths were planned and deliberate.

“Presently the attack appears targeted,” Robert Bunker, an international security expert and instructor at the University of Southern California, told NPR. “The reason for this perception is that it took place in two phases each separated by time and geography. Further, the women drivers and children in the vehicles do not fit the profile of cartel operatives.”

Officials in Mexico said that more than 200 cartridges from assault weapons favored by drug traffickers were found at the site of the attacks.

Bunker said that while the addition of the FBI adds heft to the probe, their involvement came late, which could complicate the investigation.

“What may be problematic is that the Mexican authorities were first on the scene — which makes perfect sense as its their sovereign territory — but the crime scenes may be forensically compromised with law enforcement, medical, and military personnel, as well as the press, entering them,” Bunker told NPR.

Last week, funeral services were held for Dawna Langford, 43, and two of her children, Trevor, 11 and Rogan, 2, as well as for Rhonita Miller, 30, and four of her children: Howard, 12, Kyrstal, 10 and 8-month-old twins Titus and Tiana.

“This community here will forever, ever be changed,” said David Langford, Dawna’s husband, during her funeral, according to USA Today. “One of the biggest things to our lives is the safety of our family, and I don’t feel safe. I haven’t for a few years here.

People attend the funeral of Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and her sons Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 2, who were killed by drug cartel gunmen, at a family cemetery in La Mora, Sonora state, Mexico on Thursday.

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Marco Ugarte/AP

On Saturday, the last victim of the ambush, Christina Langford Johnson, was laid to rest. Family members say she jumped out of a vehicle and waved her hands to show that she was not a threat, but she was still fatally shot.

Eight children survived the attacks, authorities say.

The victims were part of the LeBarón family, which has deep roots in northern Mexico and first settled along the pecan and apple orchards there after splitting from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints following the church’s move away from polygamy.

The community there now has more than 5,000 members, but the shocking killings have rattled them, with some who often go between the U.S. and Mexico saying they may never return.

“I don’t think I will ever come back unless something drastically changes, and it’s really sad because we have lots of family down here that we love and they’re amazing people, wonderful people,” said Emily Langford, a relative of the victims.

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Silver-Backed Chevrotain, With Fangs And Hooves, Photographed In Wild For First Time

Nearly 30 years after its last documented sighting, a silver-backed chevrotain was spotted by a camera set up in the forest of southern Vietnam.

Southern Institute of Ecology/Global Wildlife Conservation/Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research/NCNP


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Southern Institute of Ecology/Global Wildlife Conservation/Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research/NCNP

The silver-backed chevrotain — a mysterious animal that’s the size of a rabbit but looks like a silver-splashed deer — has been photographed in the wild for the first time. The chevrotain is the world’s smallest hoofed mammal, or ungulate.

Scientists say they have rediscovered a type of chevrotain that had been “lost to science” for nearly 30 years.

“They are shy and solitary, appear to walk on the tips of their hooves and have two tiny fangs,” says the Global Wildlife Conservation, which helped back the project that recently tracked down the elusive animals in southern Vietnam.

Scientists made the new sighting after getting tips from locals who reported seeing a gray chevrotain in the forest — meaning they had likely seen a silver-backed chevrotain (Tragulus versicolor) rather than the more common lesser chevrotain (Tragulus kanchil).

In late 2017, researchers set up camera traps near the forest floor and left them for five months, hoping to capture evidence of the two-toned animal that’s sometimes called the “Vietnamese mouse-deer.” The cameras were set up less than a foot off the ground, to ensure they could capture a good picture of the diminutive animal.

“We had no idea what to expect, so I was surprised and overjoyed when we checked the camera traps and saw photographs of a chevrotain with silver flanks,” said expedition team leader An Nguyen, a conservation scientist for GWC who is also field coordinator with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin.

“For so long this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination,” Nguyen said in a news release about the research, which was published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

All three of the cameras in that initial survey returned photos of the silver-backed chevrotain — an encouraging sign that led to a second round of camera traps. In that more intensive phase, 15 of 29 camera stations recorded photos of the creatures. A 30th camera was stolen during the research.

Previously believed to be “lost to science,” a pair of silver-backed chevrotain was recently photographed in the forests of Vietnam, in a study that was published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Southern Institute of Ecology/Global Wildlife Conservation/Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research/NCNP


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Southern Institute of Ecology/Global Wildlife Conservation/Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research/NCNP

As they announced their findings, the researchers also urged government and conservation groups to study the newly recorded population so the chevrotain’s habitat can be preserved and potential threats to its survival identified.

“Discovering that it is, indeed, still out there, is the first step in ensuring we don’t lose it again,” Nguyen said, “and we’re moving quickly now to figure out how best to protect it.”

Because the animals live in the Greater Annamites, a region spanning Vietnam and Laos that’s known both for its high concentration of endemic mammal species and for its intensive hunting, the scientists who tracked down the silver-backed chevrotain said they won’t be sharing the exact location of their discovery, from the name of the forest to the GPS coordinates for their camera traps.

Before the recent discovery, a total of five silver-backed chevrotains had been seen in only two confirmed instances: in 1910, when researchers acquired four specimens; and in 1990, when a joint Vietnamese-Russian expedition obtained a silver-backed chevrotain that had been killed by a hunter.

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Australia Wildfires: State Of Emergency Declared Over ‘Catastrophic’ Danger

A firefighter battles a wall of flames Friday in Woodford, New South Wales.

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Dan Himbrechts/AP

Scorched by days of unrelenting wildfires, parts of southeast Australia are facing “catastrophic fire danger.” On Monday, officials declared a state of emergency for all of New South Wales, the country’s most populous state.

“Catastrophic” conditions — the highest fire danger rating in the country — are expected to hit three areas in New South Wales, including the greater Sydney area. Residents were warned that homes cannot withstand this level of fires and that leaving early is the only way to survive.

“We don’t know where the fires will flare up, but we do know when you have averages of 38 degrees [Celsius] and extremely windy conditions across the state that everybody has to be alert no matter where you are and we cannot allow complacency to creep in,” the premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, said in a press conference Monday.

The emergency declaration is in effect for a week and covers the entire state and its population of nearly 8 million. Hundreds of schools were closed on Monday in response to increased fire conditions and hazardous air quality levels.

Smoke from fires in northern NSW is starting to settle in parts of the state including Sydney. People are advised to only call 000 for fires, not smoke. If you need more info on fire danger in your area, call the Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/U9CjiZpvWk

— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) November 11, 2019

New South Wales has experienced an extraordinary number of wildfires that have charred more than 2 million acres in recent weeks. On Friday, nearly 100 active fires raged, prompting one official to declare, “We’ve simply never had this number of fires burn in North South Wales at the same time.”

At least three people have died and dozens more have been injured, raising echoes of 2009’s Black Saturday disaster.

That series of wildfires in the state of Victoria is the deadliest on record in Australia: “173 people killed, thousands of homes destroyed,” as Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons reminded people at Monday’s news conference.

“As a result of that extraordinary, extraordinary tragedy, the nation united to re-label bush fire danger rankings, because what we saw was fires burning across Victoria were off the conventional scale,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’ve got to keep reminding ourselves that ‘catastrophic’ is off the conventional scale.”

The state of emergency declaration in New South Wales — which officials said was the first in more than six years — grants Fitzsimmons emergency powers. Those powers allow him to, among other things, “control and coordinate the allocation of government resources,” “evacuate people from property” and “enter or take possession of property in the course of the emergency response.”

This is my father’s home being destroyed by #NSWfires a few weeks ago – just one of 64 in this fire alone. Two of his friends were killed. My brother and his wife have today had to evacuate their home. I think now is a very good time to talk about #climatechange. pic.twitter.com/b5Xw4kYNnE

— Carol Duncan (@carolduncan) November 11, 2019

Of the dozens of wildfires that continue to rage out of control, the largest is the Liberation Trail fire. As of Tuesday local time, it had engulfed more than 353,000 acres — about half the size of California’s Yosemite National Park.

New South Wales isn’t the only region threatened by wildfires. Speaking at a press conference Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the danger is high in other states and that a nationwide emergency meeting of fire officials had taken place earlier that day.

“We’re expecting very similar conditions in Western Australia over the next few days,” Morrison said. “We currently have 31 out of 37 districts in Western Australia in the high fire rating, and three of those will go to catastrophic in the days ahead.”

Paolo Zialcita is an intern on NPR’s Newsdesk.

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Despite Election Victory, Spain’s Socialists Face Growing Far-Right Opposition

Spain’s interim Prime Minister and Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez meets supporters, following the general election in Madrid on Sunday. The party won the most seats in Congress, but not a clear majority.

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Bernat Armangue/AP

Spain’s Socialist Party again won parliamentary elections on Sunday, but it fell short of a majority, and the recently emerging far-right Vox party made major gains.

Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists earned 120 of 350 seats, three fewer than in April’s election. In second, the mainstream conservative People’s Party won 88 seats, up from 66 in the last vote.

Vox, which advocates tough stances against immigration and the independence drive in the Catalonia region, more than doubled its results — up to 52 seats from 24. That will make it the third-largest group in parliament, an advance celebrated by populist right-wing and nationalist politicians from other parts of Europe, as The Associated Press reported.

It is a spectacular turnaround for a party previously considered on the fringes of Spanish politics that won just 0.2% of the vote three years ago.

“Today a patriotic alternative and a social alternative has been consolidated in Spain that demands national unity and the restoration of constitutional order in Catalonia,” Vox’s leader, Santiago Abascal, told supporters in Madrid, according to the BBC.

Sunday’s election was meant to ease political gridlock. The April vote also handed the most seats to the Socialists but, without a clear majority, the party became mired in months of failed negotiations to form a government with some smaller leftist parties.

This time around, the results from the fourth election in as many years appear to have weakened the left’s position and strengthened the right.

DIRECTO | Los militantes cambian el “con Rivera, no” por el “con Casado, no”. Y Pedro Sánchez responde que toma nota antes de prometer que, “esta vez sí o sí, vamos a tener un Gobierno progresista” #eleccionesgenerales10N https://t.co/gTyL85ZJ5U pic.twitter.com/E4c1y5Qm9k

— EL PAÍS (@el_pais) November 10, 2019

“We will form a progressive government,” interim Prime Minister Sánchez promised supporters at a celebration rally on Sunday.

Socialist supporters have urged Sánchez to form a coalition with the far-left United We Can party, NPR’s Lucía Benavides reported.

The Citizens, a center-right group, suffered scathing losses, falling from 57 seats to 10.

TV en DIRECTO | Rivera comparece tras la debacle de Ciudadanos: “Los españoles han querido que el PSOE revalide la victoria. Los españoles han querido más Sánchez, pero también más Vox y menos centro” #eleccionesgenerales10N https://t.co/NvfyRBfumO pic.twitter.com/TXcbWqY79Y

— EL PAÍS (@el_pais) November 10, 2019

Party chief Albert Rivera addressed a somber crowd of supporters on Sunday, saying the Spanish people had made it clear they want “more Sánchez for this legislature but the Spanish also want more Vox and less political center.”

“And that is a reality that nobody can deny and I will be the last to do so,” Rivera added.

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After Comic Garry Shandling’s Death, Judd Apatow Found Zen In His Diaries

Filmmaker Judd Apatow describes his mentor, the comedian Garry Shandling (above), as a perfectionist: “He just could not just be chill and make it easy on himself. He wanted everything to be amazing.”

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Bonnie Schiffman/HBO

Judd Apatow was a teenager when he first “met” comic Garry Shandling in a phone interview for his high school radio show. Years later, their paths intersected again when Shandling, who was hosting the Grammy Awards, hired Apatow to write jokes for him.

Shandling had been Johnny Carson’s guest host on The Tonight Show before creating and starring in the groundbreaking comedy series It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show. He became Apatow’s mentor and close friend.

“He completely changed my life,” Apatow says of Shandling. “He hired me to write for his show. He did a cameo on the pilot of The Ben Stiller Show, which I thought was part of why we got picked up. He asked me to direct. … It was always mysterious to me why he was so kind to me.”

Apatow went on to produce Superbad and Girls, and to direct The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Trainwreck, but he always stayed in touch with his mentor. After Shandling’s sudden death in 2016, Apatow helped sort through his belongings — including boxes of diaries dating back to 1978.

Shandling practiced Zen meditation for decades, and many pages of his journals are reminders to himself to stay calm, remain unattached to worldly things and let go of his ego.

“I felt like there was so much wisdom in examining Garry’s life,” Apatow says. “Garry was a wounded person. He was a neurotic man. He was a guy constantly attempting to evolve and heal. I felt like there’s so many lessons that people can get from learning about how he lived his life.”

Shandling is the subject of Apatow’s new book, It’s Garry Shandling’s Book, which is a companion to the HBO documentary Apatow made last year, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.

“I saw in the journals that he wrote, ‘Learn to grow old gracefully. Learn to become a mentor gracefully,'” Apatow says. “Now I’m more tuned into the responsibility of doing that. I’m lucky enough to be in a place where I can help people who deserve to be heard from or who deserve breaks. … I definitely try to keep that Garry tradition alive.”


Interview Highlights

On Shandling’s place in comedy

Garry always cut his own path. It always felt like Garry was outside of the system in some way. So when he did It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, there really hadn’t been a show like that, that was so experimental and weird and which made fun of the whole concept of sitcoms.

And then he did The Larry Sanders Show, which was a satire of talk shows. It was a behind-the-scenes look at an anxious, neurotic talk-show host, somewhat like Garry. And in it, he tried to explore the way show business and ego prevents people from connecting and loving each other. That was his premise. And in a way, he was trying to use the show to explore his own psyche. And I always thought he was mocking the part of himself that he didn’t like, mocking the person that wanted to be rich and famous and someone who could hold this high position for a long time.

He was a unique, original thinker, and in a way, he was almost like an alternative rock band. And he did all this when TV didn’t have much of this. There’s a lot of television like that these days, but back in the ’80s and early ’90s, there wasn’t programming like this.

On how Shandling’s journals changed his understanding of Shandling

I was surprised that 30 years of journals mainly contained Garry trying to talk to his positive voice. So they weren’t journals from the point of view of someone who was just trying to spew all their toxic stuff. A lot of us write in journals like that. We just want to get the bad voice out of our head, and that’s not what Garry’s journals were like. They were a voice talking to the panicked, anxious voice. So most of the journals were reminders to try to get out of ego, to try to be more kind and loving, to let go. It’s 30 years of reminders about the type of person that he wants to be. There were some pages where he was complaining about something, but very few, considering that he did it for 30 years.

On how Shandling’s 13-year-old brother died when Shandling was 10, and his parents didn’t talk to him about the death or let him go to the funeral

It’s hard to know for sure, but it certainly scarred him in a way that affected him throughout his life. I felt that his search for presence was based on the fact that at a moment in his life when he needed to be told the truth, he wasn’t told the truth. It’s hard to know how accurate all the details are, but what it sounds like was that he was sent away when his brother died, and he was sent to his grandparents, and that they didn’t tell him for a little while, but he basically understood what was happening.

And then after his brother died, the family dealt with it by not talking about it, which, I think, for that time period — this is 1960 — is something a lot of people did in post-World War II America. They said, “All right, we’re going to move forward, and how we survive this is: We are going to stuff it down deep and not talk about it.” And so throughout Garry’s life, he was all for being honest and open and vulnerable and present and real — and I think that’s because at the key moment of his childhood, people were not real with him.

On how Apatow almost turned down a job as a showrunner for The Larry Sanders Show because he didn’t want to ruin his relationship with Shandling

Apatow (right) was the co-showrunner for the final season of The Larry Sanders Show, which Shandling created.

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Larry Watson/HBO

I always liken it to trying to paint with Picasso — that if you are painting a painting with him, he probably at some point would turn to you and go, “You’re doing it all wrong! What’s with the red?” You would always disappoint him, because the show is so in his mind and it’s so based on his feelings and experience that when you work on something so personal, how could you ever know what he would do, what’s in his heart, how he would behave? …

It was painful at times. If you pitched Garry a joke and he hated it, you would feel it. It would hurt you, the whole look of disappointment in Garry’s eyes. … There were very few people that Garry felt like could write the show. So when he said, “Hey, can you do me a favor and co-showrun this last season?” I was terrified, because I loved my relationship with Garry and I didn’t want something to go terribly wrong with it. I said to him, “Garry, I’ll do it. You have to know how hard this is.” I was just honest with him in a way that probably no one ever had been. And I was honest about why he was difficult to work with.

On Shandling’s perfectionism and growing interest in Zen Buddhism

He just could not just be chill and make it easy on himself. He wanted everything to be amazing. And in his head, the stakes were incredibly high and that is pure ego, and that’s why he was always trying to remind himself not to have a big ego. It was a battle that continued, and then at some point near the end of his life, he really did let go and spent a lot more time mentoring people. He basically was satisfied with his work, and people would say, “When’s your next show?” And he would say, “Weren’t these two enough?” And he did let go.

On how professional success didn’t make Shandling happy

He wrote a lot for The Larry Sanders Show about how success doesn’t make you happy, and I think for most people that reached certain heights of success or whose dreams come true, they really learn something that a lot of people don’t learn: [which] is that most of what happens when you get to that place is you realize that it doesn’t work, and in some ways, it’s very depressing. …

I’ve looked at myself and all of my friends and we’ve all been in on a very long journey in our attempts to be creative, in our attempts to be successful and to get heard and make things. I’ve seen all the different ways that people have handled the ups and downs of their careers, and it is a struggle, because you put so much of your self-esteem in having people like you because you’re doing a good job.

I think that Garry felt a lot happier in some moments after he stopped trying to do the work. He was very loving and giving, and if you wrote a script or had a cut of a movie, he was always there, 100 percent of the time, to come and give you notes and be so helpful. And I think that was a happier part of show business for him than being up at midnight rewriting a script for his show.

On how Shandling wrote about death in his diaries

He was about to have the surgery that he knew was potentially life-threatening, and in the journals he would say things like, “Death is not a change. Embrace death. It is freedom. Be open, be ready, be joyful to die.” That’s what it said on all the different pages. It was him trying, in a very Buddhist way, to be comfortable during his exit and to not fight it and to not resist and not see it as something different.

Lauren Krenzel and Joel Wolfram produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted it for the Web.

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