You've Never Met A Prom Queen Like This One

Hanna Barczyk for NPR

Hanna Barczyk for NPR

When you ask a former prom queen where she’s from, this is not the answer you’d expect:

“I am South African but was born as a child of exiles.”

So it’s no surprise that Sisonke Msimang ruled a prom that wasn’t particularly traditional either. The year was 1992, and she was a senior at the International School of Kenya, nestled among the coffee plantations of Nairobi. Having a prom was not (and is still not) common in Kenya. But her school, because it has an American curriculum and follows an American calendar, encourages other American customs.

A current photo of the former prom queen.

A current photo of the former prom queen. Courtesy of Sisonke Msimang hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Sisonke Msimang

That’s why, Msimang says, they all took the SATs. And they all stressed about finding a date to the final dance before graduation.

“It was a thing that you had to go with someone, unlike other school dances,” says Msimang, who had seen enough bootlegged VHS tapes of Molly Ringwald movies to understand the gravity of this decision. Given her track record of unrequited love, Msimang opted to go just as friends with her Ghanaian buddy Hugh. “I remember being relieved when I decided this was how it was going to be,” she says.

The other critical task before prom? Figuring out what to wear. “Everyone else had gone with taffeta and shiny stuff,” Msimang says. That wasn’t her style.

Instead — just like Ringwald’s character in the teen classic Pretty in Pink — Msimang designed her own look.

The top had “these big puffed out shoulders,” Msimang says. (“I looked a bit like a butterfly,” she adds.) It cinched tight at the waist and then flared out over her hips. She paired that with a mini skirt and head wrap all done in the same fabric — a print from the popular Vlisco textile company. “This one had a pattern with red and brown twisted together,” Msimang describes.

No question the ensemble was over the top. Rather than resembling the dress in “Pretty in Pink,” it could have been a costume from the Eddie Murphy classic “Coming to America,” says Msimang, who also convinced Hugh to skip the tuxedo. He accompanied her in a light gray robe called a “boubou,” and a small matching hat.

The night of prom, they didn’t pose for any photos at her house before heading to the dance. Her parents weren’t really into that sort of thing, Msimang explains. At the time, her dad was the director of a humanitarian agency. But he was also a freedom fighter opposed to apartheid who had escaped South Africa at the age of 21, and then underwent military training in Russia. He’d met her mom — who was from Swaziland — in Zambia, and then they’d bounced around the globe in search of justice. So this was not exactly the most momentous occasion in family history.

There were no corsages or limos involved. There was no theme for the evening’s festivities. There was, however, a sit-down dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel followed by lots of dancing. Msimang doesn’t remember exactly, but she has a pretty good idea of what was playing: American R&B. LeVert’s “Casanova” would have gotten everyone on the dance floor, she says. Same with “Roses are Red” by the Mac Band and “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C+C Music Factory.

Sometime in the middle of the music, teachers passed out ballots for queen and king. Msimang never guessed she was in the running — she assumed the title would go to a gorgeous classmate who was “born to be prom queen,” she says.

So when the results were announced, and Msimang and Hugh were both ordained as royalty, she was surprised and flattered. And amused, too: “I wasn’t that girl.”

“I was the one who went full-on black nationalist when I went to college,” says Msimang, who graduated from Macalester in Minnesota, and is now a writer in Perth, Australia, focused on issues of inequality and gender.

What the win told Msimang was that her fellow students, who were a mix of kids from all over the continent, as well as the U.S., Canada and the U.K., appreciated that the couple had redefined the prom tradition in an African way.

It also showed that they weren’t taking this dance too seriously, Msimang adds.

She understands that in America, prom is supposed to be the defining experience of high school social life. For her classmates, the big event was their earlier trip to the Loita Forest, where they stayed in a Maasai community. “You lived in a boma [a traditional village with huts] for a week with cows and goats next to you. You sat by the fire and listened to their stories in a language you didn’t understand,” she says. It was frustrating and fascinating. To deal with their rush of emotions, the kids would meet secretly by the river.

Sounds like the premise of an amazing teen movie — even without Molly Ringwald.

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Green Eggs, Ham And Metaphysics: Teaching Hard Ideas With Children's Books

Children's books scattered on the floor

LA Johnson/NPR

What is language? What is beauty? Who gets to decide?

Philosophers have grappled with these questions for centuries, and they’ve generated a pile of long (and often tortured) books in their efforts to answer them.

But for Tom Wartenberg, some of the best books about philosophy are much shorter and a lot more colorful: Frog and Toad Are Friends. Horton Hears a Who! The Paper Bag Princess.

Every spring at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., Wartenberg offers Philosophy 280: Philosophy for Children. Once a week, he loads his students into a bus and drives them to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School of Excellence in nearby Springfield.

There, with some help from Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak, his undergraduates get second-graders to talk through some deep philosophical questions.

It’s one example of a bigger truth: Children’s books are amazingly flexible teaching tools. They help millions of kids learn to read and write, of course. But we can also use them to teach kids — and adults — ideas that might otherwise seem overwhelming. Want to teach philosophy? Use Harold and the Purple Crayon. Financial literacy? The Berenstain Bears. Even math is a little easier with help from Pete the Cat.

Let’s start with philosophy.

Hina Jawaid took Wartenberg’s class in 2010, her sophomore year at Mt. Holyoke. She’d already taken several philosophy classes, and done well. She wrote thorough essays. She got good grades.

But she found that she understood the material better when she swapped out Kant for Seuss. When talking with second-graders, she says, she could no longer hide behind big words like “epistemology” and “metaphysics,” or name-drop philosophers.

“I had moments of being like … ‘Oh, that’s what that meant,’ ” she remembers.

For example: Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgement. Kant argues that every human enjoys works of art because our minds are the same, and because both art and nature have a kind of inherent beauty.

Professor Wartenberg a direct parallel between the Critique of Judgement and William Steig’s Shrek!

Shrek!

Shrek is an ogre who relishes putrid stews but runs scared from adorable children. Eventually, he comes across a hideously ugly princess, and falls in love with her.

In other words, Shrek enjoys things others hate, which Wartenberg uses to challenge Kant’s idea of inherent beauty.

Wartenberg is definitely not suggesting that second-grade teachers sit down with their students and do a reading from the Critique of Judgement.

Instead, he suggests that they read Shrek! and other books out loud, and then help kids dive into the issues the books bring up.

For many popular children’s books, he has a list of questions teachers can ask, like:

Can you like things that are ugly?

How can people think different things are ugly?

Do we only love people who are like us?

It’s important, he says, that the kids get a chance to answer the questions through discussion. That kind of conversation does more than just stimulate children to think deeply about the books that they read. It also teaches them how to talk.

As Hina Jawaid remembers, the kids she worked with improved — “distinctly and exponentially” — during the semester. She says they learned to ask each other questions, to listen, to disagree politely.

“These are skills that teachers are supposed to teach but don’t always know how,” Wartenberg says, “because it’s not the sort of thing that has as easy a methodology as teaching mathematics.”

Inch by Inch

“Well, maybe that’s a bad example,” he adds after a second, “Mathematics isn’t that easy either.”

And children’s books can be enlisted to make math less intimidating, too.

Emily Borgerding teaches first grade at Roosevelt Elementary in Willmar, Minn. Her classroom is full of bright colors and shapes — a wall full of vocabulary words, an ABC rug on the floor and, in the corner, baskets called “book tubs.”

One popular book is Inch by Inch, by Leo Lionni.

In it, an inchworm wanders through the world, measuring flamingo necks and toucan beaks. Borgerding reads it out loud to her students, and then has them measure things around the classroom with an inchworm-shaped ruler — tables, chairs, little shapes Borgerding makes out of paper and plastic.

It’s just one of several books that she uses to teach math concepts, and that students can reread later on.

Cameron Turitto, one of her first-graders, says his favorite book is The Greedy Triangle, a book that teaches shapes. In it, a triangle keeps collecting more sides, turning into a square and a pentagon.

“The book teaches me stuff I didn’t know,” he says, “like math facts and shapes.”

Borgerding notes that many of her students are English-language learners. Her school has a large Latino population, and a large number of refugees from Somalia.

“They might not have any idea what a cucumber is,” she says, and that makes a word-based subtraction problem involving cucumbers difficult. But, she explains, if they can see a picture of a cucumber and hear a story to go along with it — that makes the problems more accessible.

Borgerding also thinks stories involving math, whether it’s measurement or shapes, help students retain information: “They can remember, ‘Oh that’s what’s this character did, and that’s how they did it, I can do that next time too!’ “

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This 'Hero Of France' Is A Truly Decent Man

A Hero of France

Long ago, a friend expressed astonishment that I had never read the novels of Dick Francis. She lent me one and said if I hated it, “it is all over between us, Bethanne.”

I know why she said that: Every Dick Francis book features The Decent Man as its hero. Alan Furst does not write formula mysteries a la Francis, but his elegantly wrought World War II-era suspense novels do frequently feature The Decent Man.

The Decent Man is not a stock hero; he’s an archetype, a yardstick, a bulwark in rough seas. He appears in many form of literature, from low to high — and sometime’s he’s a she. Nick Carraway of The Great Gatsby is a Decent Man; so is Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom, and don’t forget Brienne of Tarth.

In A Hero of France, Furst’s decent-man protagonist is Mathieu, the leader of a French Resistance cell, whose fundamental goodness shows in his smallest gestures. Part of the book’s power resides in how Furst uses the wartime scarcity of everything — food, clothing, hours of the day, kindness — to evoke immediacy.

Some of Furst’s 18 novels feel lush, especially when his settings begin in society environs — and the trouble with all that lushness is it can distance readers, reminding them of the book’s historicity. For example, Mission to Paris begins “In Paris, the evenings of September are sometimes warm, excessively gentle, and, in the magic particular to that city, irresistibly seductive. The autumn of 1938 began in just such weather and on the terraces of the best cafés, in the famous restaurants, at the dinner parties one wished to attend, the conversation was, of necessity, lively and smart: fashion, cinema, love affairs, politics, and, yes, the possibility of war — that too had its moment.” (The Foreign Correspondent opens similarly: “In Paris, the last days of autumn; a gray, troubled sky at daybreak, the fall of twilight at noon …” Similarly? Or do I mean cannily?)

A Hero of France starts with one terse sentence that switches up location and season: “Occupied Paris, the tenth day of March, 1941.” Part of Furst’s “Night Soldiers” series (if the word “series” even applies to books united by voice, tone, and global conflict yet not by plot, character, or setting), it’s fitting this novel be more somber in atmosphere.

The following paragraphs echo the change, noting the citywide blackout curtains, vehicle-free silence, and a beautiful woman wearing “ski pants — warmer than a skirt.” We’re in Vichy France: Even fashion has capitulated. Furst’s careful details are here in full; British pilots trained to find “a local priest” if they bail out over France, a woman resorting to vanilla extract as perfume, a nickname for a wall of execution. Deprivation has become commonplace; unfortunately, self-denial doesn’t follow suit.

Mathieu and his colleagues, including the exceptionally brave Chantal (one of the finest scenes is of Chantal helping people on a train) work with a tight community that even includes the proprietress of an occult shop, but that community is painfully small. Each link in its chain depends on so many factors; modern audiences may not fully grasp how essential fidelity to “La France” was to Resistance members. Mathieu’s patient dog is even named “Mariana” in keeping with the French national symbol “Marianne.”

The end of the book is nostalgic and perhaps a soupçon pat, unless you pay attention to how Furst refers back to the links of his story’s chain. There are villains. There are people who use each other. There are obligatory sex scenes and yet, and yet — in the midst of one that’s naughtier-than-usual, Mathieu remarks to his lover Joëlle that “Women are just as wicked as men, even worse, once they feel free.” So much of Furst’s strengths, past and future, rest in this statement: The knowledge of human nature, the belief in liberty, and the understanding that women can be men’s equals in courage as well as pleasure. Instead of a book where characters mourn bygone pleasures, in A Hero of France they savor the fleeting ones of the present.

Bethanne Patrick is a freelance writer and critic who tweets @TheBookMaven.

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Trump, Self-Proclaimed Outsider, Was New Jersey Political Insider

Donald Trump poses at the opening of his casino, the Taj Mahal, in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1989.

Donald Trump poses at the opening of his casino, the Taj Mahal, in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1989. Leif Skoogfors/Corbis via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Leif Skoogfors/Corbis via Getty Images

One morning in the mid-1980s, New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean walked into his office at the State House in Trenton. His secretary said Donald Trump, the casino owner from Atlantic City, was on the phone. Kean figured Trump wanted something from him.

“Donald, I’m very, very busy. What can I do for you?” Kean asked.

“Really nothing,” Trump responded. “It’s just a beautiful day today and I wanted to tell you you’re the best governor in the country.”

Kean had been expecting Trump to ask him about some piece of legislation that Trump had interest in. Instead, Trump opted for charm. Kean thought: “He’s not such a bad guy!”

Everybody in New Jersey politics has a Trump story. That’s because for more than a quarter-century, Trump, a self-proclaimed political outsider, played the ultimate insider’s game in New Jersey, where political deals require relationships and cash. With the state’s presidential primary on June 7, New Jersey voters will get their first opportunity to vote for a man who has long played an outsize role in state politics.

Trump golfed and broke bread with nearly every major political power broker in the state. He used sweet talk, like he did with Kean, but he also deployed attack ads, like with former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. He spent millions on New Jersey lobbyists, lawyers, spokesmen and political operatives, many of whom then contributed money to important politicians. This is how he survived business failures in state — and how he caught a lot of breaks.

Casinos, Football, Golf And The Statehouse

Trump built his brand off his New Jersey casinos, all of which went bankrupt. He bought a professional football team, the New Jersey Generals, which lasted just two years. And he opened three golf courses, which pay little in taxes. All along the way, Trump took a hands-on approach to politics.

He had to.

“The others sort of went with the pack, but he was different. He did things differently,” Kean said. “He would sort of come to see you separately. And it was evident to me from Day 1 that he was very, very smart. And very, very tactful.”

Trump buttonholed legislators in Trenton to lobby for tax breaks for his casinos. He turned one senator’s office into his temporary headquarters, so he could use the phone in between lobbying legislators. And the New Jersey attorney general — the person in charge of regulating his casinos — once let him use his helipad to fly into Trenton for a meeting. Trump and Attorney General David Samson then went to a local steakhouse to talk about changes Samson wanted at the casinos.

Days later, Trump sent a thank-you note to Samson that included a picture of Trump’s then-girlfriend, about whom he had bragged during lunch.

Donald Trump, owner of the United States Football League's New Jersey Generals, talks to reporters on Nov. 1, 1985, in Memphis, Tenn., during a break in the USFL owners' meeting.

Donald Trump, owner of the United States Football League’s New Jersey Generals, talks to reporters on Nov. 1, 1985, in Memphis, Tenn., during a break in the USFL owners’ meeting. Todd Lillard/AP hide caption

toggle caption Todd Lillard/AP

“You couldn’t be in public office in New Jersey in the ’80s and ’90s and not have frequent encounters with Donald Trump,” said Bob Torricelli, a former New Jersey U.S. representative and senator who was, until recently, a member of Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. “He was as much a fixture in the state as the Turnpike or the Shore.”

Trump worked politicians at all levels. When he was opposing the construction of a state-funded tunnel to a rival casino project, Trump sent tapes of his own 60 Minutes interview to legislators. He personally invited Atlantic City Council members to dinner to push them against the project (which prompted the state Division of Gaming Enforcement to investigate how Trump may have tried to influence the politicians). And he even had his lobbyists make phone calls to county officials 100 miles away — the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders — because it was holding a nonbinding vote on the tunnel.

“It’s been incredible,” Chris Christie, then a freeholder, told the local press. “These guys are playing for keeps.”

Trump’s efforts worked. The board came out against the tunnel, though it was later built.

Years later, to get an unusual approval from the local planning board in Bedminster to build a mausoleum for himself on Trump National Golf Club, Trump simply hired a former head of the planning board to lobby for him. Ed Russo assured the board that the private cemetery Trump would create would only be for 10 family members — the “good Trumps,” Russo explained. Trump got his mausoleum and cemetery approved.

But Trump’s greatest success came with New Jersey casino regulators, who repeatedly gave him the green light to borrow more money and build more casinos — even as investigators probed his ties to the mob, and even as his businesses were going bankrupt.

Hillary Clinton is now highlighting this part of Trump’s career on the campaign trail. “He could bankrupt America like he’s bankrupted his companies,” Clinton said. “I mean, ask yourself, how can anybody lose money running a casino?”

Better question: How can anybody lose money running a casino and continue to, well, run casinos? Short answer: Casino regulators in New Jersey were notoriously forgiving when it came to Trump. Two regulators who approved Trump casino licenses even as his business was crashing were months later appointed to highly coveted judgeships.

That raised eyebrows. But the governors who appointed the casino regulators — and the judges — were eager to satisfy Trump, who was one of the largest employers in the state, with businesses that filled state tax coffers.

Donald Trump (right) waits with his brother Robert for the start of a Casino Control Commission meeting in Atlantic City, N.J., on March 29, 1990. Trump was seeking final approval for the Taj Mahal Casino and Hotel.

Donald Trump (right) waits with his brother Robert for the start of a Casino Control Commission meeting in Atlantic City, N.J., on March 29, 1990. Trump was seeking final approval for the Taj Mahal Casino and Hotel. AP hide caption

toggle caption AP

Fame And Power

Yet Trump didn’t win such powerful friends the normal way — by making political donations. He couldn’t. As a casino owner, Trump was barred by state law from contributing to campaigns.

Instead, says David Cay Johnston, a journalist who covered Trump at the time, in exchange for the free pass Trump got from regulators, politicos got other perks. “There were favored seats at boxing matches or concerts. There were deeply discounted bills for people who had parties or weddings at casinos. There were limo rides to go to events. There are all sorts of things that Trump was in a position to do,” Johnston said.

Once, Trump’s attorney threw a birthday party on his yacht, the Trump Princess, for the wife of a pro-Trump Atlantic City mayor.

“Donald was in a position to dazzle people,” Johnston said. “And given his celebrity status, just to get a picture shot with him or to be able to say you were his guest at a party had value.”

More recently Trump pursued a plan, ultimately unsuccessful, to turn a contaminated site at the Meadowlands in North Jersey into golf courses and houses. To push the deal through, he showed up to a meeting at the Department of Environmental Protection in Trenton with his makeup on from a filming of his reality TV show, The Apprentice.

“He had this star status so it was an interesting dynamic watching people around the table and seeing them react to this TV star,” former New Jersey Meadowlands Commission Executive Director Robert Ceberio told The Bergen Record. “He told us the show was No. 1 in its time slot.”

The Art Of Connections

Before he could use his fame, Trump found other ways of influencing politicians. In 1982, when Trump needed a string of Atlantic City zoning approvals for his first casino, contributions from contractors who worked for him accounted for nearly half of the winning mayoral candidate’s campaign war chest, according to journalist Wayne Barrett’s biography of Trump.

Trump also hired those who were connected. One of Trump’s top lawyers was his brother-in-law, John Barry, who worked at a firm founded by a state attorney general who oversaw his casinos. Former state regulators ended up working at the same firm.

The amount of money that Trump spent on lawyers isn’t public record — but his lobbying records are. In 1998 alone, Trump Casinos and Hotels paid $443,912 to outside lobbyists, the second most of any entity in the state. State records show he kept several lobbyists on retainer at a time. By hiring away the top lobbyists, one source said, they couldn’t work for his opponents.

Lobbyists traffic in relationships. They introduced Trump to the people that matter — often on the golf course.

As part of a portrait session, Donald Trump walks toward the 11th tee on Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

As part of a portrait session, Donald Trump walks toward the 11th tee on Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Gary Friedman/LA Times via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Gary Friedman/LA Times via Getty Images

“The only substitute for making contributions to form relationships is to spend the time to get to know people and convincing them on the merits,” said Torricelli, the former senator. “And he did. And he was good at it.”

Bill Pascrell III, the son of a Democratic congressman, was one of Trump’s casino lobbyists in the late 1990s. “He’s certainly not my cup of tea, but he’s a very smart guy, and he was always good at working with our team in terms of interaction with politicians,” Pascrell said. “Most who met him I think enjoyed the experience.”

Pascrell saw Trump play golf in New Jersey with not just the leaders of the state Legislature but also John Boehner, the former speaker of the House. (Boehner beat him and won about five bucks, Pascrell says, which infuriated Trump.) Several politicos said Trump was simply pleasant to be around, even if some former lobbyists and attorneys griped that he didn’t always pay them on time, if at all.

One of Trump’s executives from the early 1990s, New Jersey developer Billy Procida, said he learned the art of politics and deal-making from watching Trump. “You try to be friendly with as many people as you can be friendly with, within the constraints of the law,” he said. “Frankly I did learn a lot from Donald in that regard, in that it wasn’t tit for tat. It wasn’t direct. … When you get up into the stratosphere, everybody’s friends. You need as many friends in life as in business.”

Bipartisan Deal-Making

Trump operated in New Jersey with no partisan leanings.

“Donald did not content himself with simply speaking with governors or senators,” Torricelli said. “He actually built relationships in political organizations and through the political hierarchy.”

For much of Trump’s time in New Jersey, a Democratic insurance executive named George Norcross was at the top of that political hierarchy. He has tremendous sway over who gets on the ballot and which way legislators vote. Trump became friends with Norcross, and Norcross’ firm landed insurance contracts at Trump’s casinos.

In 2003, Trump’s rivals in the casino industry and a Republican state senator complained that Norcross strongarmed a sweetheart tax deal for Trump through the Legislature. Years later, Norcross’ brother, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, received a $10,400 campaign contribution from Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

Behind the scenes, Norcross and Trump golfed together, of course, and Norcross was invited to Trump’s third wedding. And when Norcross bought a home near Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago resort, he brought Trump over to check out the new digs.

In 2006, Trump filed a libel suit, which was later dismissed, against Tim O’Brien, author of the book Trump Nation. But he didn’t file in New York, where O’Brien worked as a reporter, nor in North Jersey, where O’Brien lived. Trump sued in South Jersey, specifically, in Camden County, Norcross’ power center. The year before, Norcross had been caught on tape as part of a criminal investigation boasting of his control over the appointment of judges. Norcross was never charged with a crime, but now O’Brien was sitting in a Camden County courtroom — and Trump was represented by Norcross’ top lawyer, Bill Tambussi.

“We always believed that the reason they wanted the venue in Southern New Jersey was that Donald thought he could leverage political connections he had down there by virtue of the operations he also had in Atlantic City to get favorable treatment in the courts,” O’Brien said.

In New Jersey, Trump saddled up to Democrats, the majority party, time and again.

In 2000, when Trump briefly toyed with running for president on the Reform Party ticket, one of Norcross’ top political consultants — a friend of Trump ally Roger Stone — worked for him. Today, that consultant, Steve Ayscue, is the second-in-command for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in New Jersey.

Through a spokesman, Norcross declined to comment about anything related to the election. He is a Democratic superdelegate but has yet to publicly declare his support for a candidate. Ayscue did not return requests for comment, nor did Tambussi, the attorney.

“Yes, George is a friend of mine, but George is friendly with a lot of people in Atlantic City,” Trump once said. “I wish I had that kind of power.”

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Trump Presses Case That 'Mexican' Judge Curiel Is Biased Against Him

The presumed Republican presidential nominee, at a rally in San Diego on May 27, characterized Judge Gonzalo Curiel as "a hater of Donald Trump." Curiel is the federal judge presiding over fraud lawsuits against Trump University.

The presumed Republican presidential nominee, at a rally in San Diego on May 27, characterized Judge Gonzalo Curiel as “a hater of Donald Trump.” Curiel is the federal judge presiding over fraud lawsuits against Trump University. Chris Carlson/AP hide caption

toggle caption Chris Carlson/AP

Donald Trump is intensifying his attacks on the federal judge presiding over fraud lawsuits against Trump University. On Friday the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, dismissing criticism from legal experts on the right and left, pressed his case against U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, saying the Indiana-born judge is biased against him because “he’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico.”

Trump made the remarks, and others like it, repeatedly, in interviews with CNN and The Wall Street Journal, referring to Judge Curiel variously as “of Mexican heritage” or just “Mexican.” But the message was always the same, that the judge had what Trump called “a conflict” because of his ethnicity.

At a rally in San Diego last week, Trump characterized the judge as “a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater.” And “they ought to look into Judge Curiel.”

In public, Trump has called repeatedly for the judge to recuse himself, but his lawyers in fact have not made any such request.

That is undoubtedly because court precedents are unanimous in holding that race, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation are not themselves grounds for disqualifying a judge. If they were, lethal ethicists observe, the legal system would fall into chaos because no judge would be free from taint. The five Supreme Court justices who are Catholic could not rule on a case in which the Catholic church participated, but neither could the other justices who are not Catholic.

Moreover, while Trump is free to say anything he wants about the judge, the lawyers in the case are bound by the professional rules of conduct and could be sanctioned for making such charges about Curiel without actual evidence of bias.

Legal ethics expert Stephen Gillers notes in addition that litigants may not wait to seek a judge’s disqualification; they must move to recuse the judge as soon as they know there is a conflict.

Trump’s lawyers, from the prestigious O’Melveny & Myers firm, however, have not done that. Indeed, some observers argue that the judge did the candidate a big favor by postponing the trial in the case until after the election. And Trump did not become bellicose about Curiel until the judge, at the request of news organizations, ordered the unsealing of documents in the case— documents that have proved embarrassing for the GOP presumptive nominee.

“This is not really about rebutting accusations that Trump University defrauded its students,” said NYU’s Gillers. Rather, it is a kind of dog whistle to supporters, “a way to keep the subject of illegal Mexican immigration on the front page.”

Judge Curiel, appointed to the federal bench by President Obama, was born in Indiana, the son of Mexican-American immigrants. He served for 17 years as a federal prosecutor in California, rising to chief of narcotics enforcement in the southern district. In 1997 he was believed to be the target of an assassination attempt from a Mexican drug cartel, was put under 24-hour watch by the U.S. Marshall Service for a year, was moved to a military base and eventually to Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The judge’s friend, former U.S. Attorney Gregory Vega, scoffs at the notion that Curiel will be in any way influenced by Trump’s remarks. “What’s so ironic is that Gonzalo gave so many years of his life to protecting America from drug traffickers,” Vega told Yahoo News. “He had a credible threat on his life. Do you really think being called [names] by Mr. Trump is going to frighten him? How silly.”

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#MemeOfTheWeek: Donald Trump And A Gorilla, Walking Through A News Cycle

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers questions during a news conference in New York, Tuesday, May 31, 2016.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers questions during a news conference in New York, Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Richard Drew/AP hide caption

toggle caption Richard Drew/AP

The gorilla, who was killed last Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo to save a 3-year old child who fell into its enclosure, was named Harambe. The name comes from the word “Harambee,” which, in Swahili, means, “Let us all pull together.”

This week, the story of that gorilla, and how it strangely found its way into the political conversation, was about as un-Harambe as it gets. But that should not come as a surprise.

There were all the initial questions raised by the story, which themselves were ripe for discussion and online argument: How in the world did this child fall in a gorilla pit? Were the parents negligent? Did the gorilla have to be killed? Should someone be charged? And in all of this, should we reexamine whether it’s actually moral to keep animals like gorillas in captivity?

That would have been enough to fill several news cycles. And the story of Harambe seemed primed to do just that. But then cometh another gorilla in his own right: Donald Trump. Once you throw in a dash of Trump, in any story, it instantly becomes an Internet super-story, stronger than a gorilla and perhaps three times as conspicuous.

In a Tuesday morning press conference, to defend purported donations Donald Trump gave to multiple veteran’s organizations, Trump was asked about the Harambe situation by Hunter Walker of Yahoo News.

“It was amazing, because there were moments with the gorilla — the way he held that child, it was almost like a mother holding a baby,” Trump said of the incident. “And there were moments where it looked pretty dangerous. I don’t think they had a choice…. You had a young child at stake. It’s too bad there wasn’t another way. I thought it was so beautiful to watch that powerful, almost 500-pound gorilla the way he dealt with that little boy. But it just takes one second — it just takes one little flick of his finger. And I will tell you, they probably had no choice.”

What turned out to be a thoughtful, diplomatic answer from Trump seemed to garner less attention than the fact that he, the Republican nominee, was actually talking about a gorilla.

If you watched cable news on mute today, you basically would have seen two things: Trump and the gorilla.

— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) May 31, 2016

Hot Take: “I Dunno, Maybe Trump Could Take That Gorilla’s Place In The Zoo?” https://t.co/1nanS35Obs pic.twitter.com/7z6a01YgU2

— Funny Or Die (@funnyordie) June 1, 2016

Also, TRUMP-GORILLA 2016

— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) May 31, 2016

Walker came under fire for bringing the question up. And news outlets like CNN were mocked for covering the news with headlines like: “Would Donald Trump have killed the gorilla?”

Would Donald Trump have killed the gorilla? https://t.co/Im5ig7cqp0 pic.twitter.com/87BIbSWQwC

— CNN (@CNN) May 31, 2016

Even The New York Times called Donald Trump a gorilla, writing, “Mr. Trump has been the 800-pound gorilla whose unpredictable rampages have obsessed the news media. Now he was completing the circle by commenting on the 400-pound gorilla who briefly stole the spotlight from him for one holiday weekend.”

if trump were at the gorilla cage he would have swung in like tarzan @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/YUwlkWuffE

— dan (@DanHRothschild) May 30, 2016

While political media, and those who follow it, were asking existential questions about how to cover Trump and gorillas and both at the same time, many online were beginning to grow tired of the entire conversation, mocking the absurdity of it all.

Ladies & Gentlemen: Here is the funeral program for Harambe the gorilla. #GoneTooSoon #Gonebutnotforgotten. pic.twitter.com/1ELNzl8APm

— Stacey Patton (@DrStaceyPatton) June 1, 2016

One could see a lot of dysfunction in the strange, unending cycle of Trump/gorilla coverage. The same press that would even critique the critiques (like we are doing right now) are still feeding the beast (or the gorilla), you could say.

The relationship between Trump and the press and social media this week could be seen as dysfunctional. But it can also be seen as something else: symbiotic.

With every think piece about Harambe the gorilla, Trump gains ten voters and the wall gets taller

— Mitchell Sunderland (@mitchsunderland) June 1, 2016

By the end of this week, division over what to do with the gorilla, what to do with the press, what to do with Trump — it all seemed to be briefly overtaken with reports of violence outside of a Trump rally in California, with anti-Trump protesters throwing eggs — and a few punches — at rally attendees.

A week of speculation over a gorilla named Harambe — a word that again means, “Let us all pull together” — ended with a physical manifestation of election divisions, much more than any gorilla could have exposed.

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Guess Which Woman Is Having A Heart Attack (Hint: You Can't)

Linda Johns, lower row center, in the first moments of her heart attack. She's with fellow authors Kristen Kittscher, Kirby Larson, Suzanne Selfors, Sara Nickerson and Jennifer Longo at Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle.

Linda Johns, lower row center, in the first moments of her heart attack. She’s with fellow authors Kristen Kittscher, Kirby Larson, Suzanne Selfors, Sara Nickerson and Jennifer Longo at Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle. Courtesy of Linda Johns hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Linda Johns

Three months ago I had a heart attack. And since the symptoms of a heart attack are different for women, and since the kind I had can strike young people with no markers of heart disease, I’ve decided to tell my story. And because I love to name drop, I’ll do some of that along the way because I was with authors I love that night.

I was at Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle, surrounded by friends. Authors Kirby Larson, Kristen Kittscher and I had just finished a presentation on our middle-grade mysteries when in a flash everything changed for me. I had full-on flu-like symptoms, unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.

I whispered to Kirby that I didn’t feel well and needed to leave. She took one look at me and tried to intervene, asking to take me home or to urgent care. Something was off. She told me she was worried, and that I looked “ashen.” (That word comes into play later.)

I assured her I’d be fine. My friend Sara Nickerson looked concerned and touched her chest, a movement that triggered something in my brain.

As I headed to my car, a pressure came into my chest. Weird, but not too bad. I thought about what Kirby had said, how Sara had touched her heart. I tried to stop the crazy thoughts in my head that maybe I was heading toward a heart attack. I thought about going back to the store, knowing that anyone in there would help me. My dear friend Jane, a friend since college, had just left the bookstore and lives nearby. I knew I didn’t have to be alone. But I decided to drive home anyway.

A few minutes into the drive, stabbing pain in my back came and I knew precisely what it was — thank you PBS documentary on women and heart disease! Still, because I’m a dummy, I drove all the way home, threw up and then the pain went down my left arm to my little finger.

I walked inside and asked Kevin, my husband, to take me to the ER. He asked no questions, just jumped up and grabbed his keys. I remember saying something like I might be embarrassed if it was nothing, but that I’d rather be embarrassed than dead. He just said: “We’re going.”

My heart attack was not the Hollywood kind where someone, almost always a man, grabs his chest and doubles over in pain. Every one of my symptoms was one that would stand on its own as a possible heart attack; all of my symptoms are ones that could be, and often are, dismissed by health care professionals, let alone by the people having them. When I walked into the ER, I listed them quickly and specifically. If you are a woman, or you know one, please take note:

  • Stabbing back pain between my shoulder blades
  • Pain radiating down my left arm to my little finger and ring finger
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain (this was the least of my symptoms)
  • “A friend said I looked ashen.”

All were recorded on the intake form, the word “ASHEN” in all caps, and I was taken in immediately. It was confirmed that I was having a heart attack, or as I now call it, a myocardial infarction (MI). Just a couple months after a physical where I’d had a normal ECG and full blood work, with cholesterol scores so good I could have framed them. I exercise, eat reasonably well, don’t smoke, I’m not that old — OK, I’m 55. And I was having a heart attack.

The MI was caused by a tear in the inner lining of an artery, which is called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD. SCADs occur predominantly in women who are fit and healthy, with an average age of 42. We don’t know why they happen, and I’m not sure there’s anything I could have done to prevent it from happening. The first articles I read kept referring to SCAD as a rare disease. The SCAD Alliance says this: “SCAD isn’t rare. It’s rare to meet a survivor.”

My SCAD is being treated medically, which means healing on its own without stenting or bypass surgery. I’ve met survivors who have had multiple bypasses or stents, as well as a good percentage of us who, after an angiogram and hospital stays, are being treated with blood thinners and other prescription medications.

I’ve met some wonderful women through an online SCAD Survivors group and I’m thankful every day for them and the research now being done at the Mayo Clinic in an effort to find causes and poss. SCAD survivors share information on how hard the first year is, the fear of recurrence (a real fear, as it happens frequently), anxiety, making progress in cardiac rehabilitation, and finding a “new normal.”

The Mayo SCAD study is a fine example of patient-initiated research and the power of social media. Women from around the world have connected online when searching for answers to a relatively unknown and underdiagnosed cause of heart attacks. We’re still connecting online, still searching.

Each week there are new people sharing their stories, many who are in their 20s, 30s and 40s, and others like me, who are over 50 but still too young for a heart attack. Some tell stories where they slip in “after my third SCAD and second MI” or “three MIs in the first year.” Sometimes the numbers in their stories are even higher. We all hope to keep the numbers down and find answers.

I am incredibly grateful to my friend Kirby, because her concern and her words got me to the point where I knew this was real. This was big. Ashen is an unusual color for me unless, as it turns out, my heart is not getting enough oxygen.

Heaps of thanks to my family and to my friends, especially those who, when they asked what they could do, came when I said that the dog really could use a walk.

Linda Johns is a librarian and children’s book author who is happy to still be alive in Seattle. Find her online, on Twitter @LJBookie, and at cardiac rehabilitation three times a week.

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Boxer Muhammad Ali, 'The Greatest Of All Time,' Dies At 74

Boxer Muhammad Ali weighs in a week before his heavyweight bout with Jerry Quarry on Oct. 20, 1970 in Atlanta. Ali died at XX.
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    Boxer Muhammad Ali weighs in a week before his heavyweight bout with Jerry Quarry on Oct. 20, 1970 in Atlanta. Ali died at XX.
    AP
  • An 85-pound Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. is shown posing at 12 years old, prior to his amateur ring debut in 1954. He won a gold medal in the light-heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome as a member of the U.S. Olympic boxing team.
    Hide caption

    An 85-pound Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. is shown posing at 12 years old, prior to his amateur ring debut in 1954. He won a gold medal in the light-heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome as a member of the U.S. Olympic boxing team.
    AP
  • Clay with trainer Angelo Dundee at City Parks Gym in New York in 1962.
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    Clay with trainer Angelo Dundee at City Parks Gym in New York in 1962.
    Dan Grossi/AP
  • Clay with his first wife, Sonji Roi, on June 21, 1963. He married three more times.
    Hide caption

    Clay with his first wife, Sonji Roi, on June 21, 1963. He married three more times.
    Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston on May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine. The bout lasted only one minute into the first round. Ali is the only man ever to win the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship three times.
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    Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston on May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine. The bout lasted only one minute into the first round. Ali is the only man ever to win the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship three times.
    John Rooney/AP
  • Ali listens intently to Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, as Muhammad gives a marathon speech to black Muslims in Chicago on Feb. 28, 1966. The fighter had dropped the name Cassius Clay in 1964 and adopted the Muslim name Muhammad Ali.
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    Ali listens intently to Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, as Muhammad gives a marathon speech to black Muslims in Chicago on Feb. 28, 1966. The fighter had dropped the name Cassius Clay in 1964 and adopted the Muslim name Muhammad Ali.
    Paul Cannon/AP
  • Ali says "no comment," confronted by members of the press as he leaves court for the noon recess, June 19, 1967. Ali was on trial for refusing to be inducted into the armed services.
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    Ali says “no comment,” confronted by members of the press as he leaves court for the noon recess, June 19, 1967. Ali was on trial for refusing to be inducted into the armed services.
    Ed Kolenovsky/AP
  • Ali lies on his back with Joe Frazier, the heavyweight champion, standing over him after a 15th-round punch by Frazier dropped him in New York, March 8, 1971. Frazier retained his title with a unanimous decision over Ali.
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    Ali lies on his back with Joe Frazier, the heavyweight champion, standing over him after a 15th-round punch by Frazier dropped him in New York, March 8, 1971. Frazier retained his title with a unanimous decision over Ali.
    AP
  • Ali toys with the finely combed hair of television sports commentator Howard Cosell before the start of the Olympic boxing trials, Aug. 7, 1972, in West Point, N.Y.
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    Ali toys with the finely combed hair of television sports commentator Howard Cosell before the start of the Olympic boxing trials, Aug. 7, 1972, in West Point, N.Y.
    AP
  • Ali tours downtown Kinshasa on Sept. 17, 1974, ahead of his fight with Foreman. The bout was famously hyped as the "Rumble in the Jungle."
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    Ali tours downtown Kinshasa on Sept. 17, 1974, ahead of his fight with Foreman. The bout was famously hyped as the “Rumble in the Jungle.”
    AP
  • Ali watches as defending world champion George Foreman goes down to the canvas in the eighth round of their WBA/WBC championship boxing match in Kinshasa, Zaire, on Oct. 30, 1974. Foreman was counted out by the referee and Ali regained the world heavyweight crown by knockout.
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    Ali watches as defending world champion George Foreman goes down to the canvas in the eighth round of their WBA/WBC championship boxing match in Kinshasa, Zaire, on Oct. 30, 1974. Foreman was counted out by the referee and Ali regained the world heavyweight crown by knockout.
    AP
  • Muhammad Ali lights the Olympic flame during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games opening ceremony in Atlanta on July 19, 1996.
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    Muhammad Ali lights the Olympic flame during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games opening ceremony in Atlanta on July 19, 1996.
    Michael Probst/AP
  • Ali spars with a Cuban amateur boxer on Sept. 10, 1998, during his visit to the Cerro Pelado sport complex in Havana. Ali was on a three-day visit to Cuba to deliver a $1.2 million donation in humanitarian aid to local hospitals.
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    Ali spars with a Cuban amateur boxer on Sept. 10, 1998, during his visit to the Cerro Pelado sport complex in Havana. Ali was on a three-day visit to Cuba to deliver a $1.2 million donation in humanitarian aid to local hospitals.
    Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images
  • Ali is escorted onstage by his wife, Lonnie, and a personal assistant during The Muhammad Ali Celebrity Fight Night Awards XIX in Phoenix on March 23, 2013. The awards are given out to celebrities who embody the qualities of Ali and his fight to find a cure for Parkinson's disease.
    Hide caption

    Ali is escorted onstage by his wife, Lonnie, and a personal assistant during The Muhammad Ali Celebrity Fight Night Awards XIX in Phoenix on March 23, 2013. The awards are given out to celebrities who embody the qualities of Ali and his fight to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
    Ralph D. Freso/Reuters/Landov

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Muhammad Ali, the man considered the greatest boxer of all time, died late Friday at a hospital in Phoenix at age 74. He was battling respiratory problems.

Ali inspired millions by standing up for his principles during the volatile 1960s and by always entertaining — in the boxing ring and in front of a microphone.

Cassius Clay (Ali’s given name) won a gold medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960. He wanted more: a professional heavyweight championship. He arrived in Miami in October to work with legendary trainer Angelo Dundee. Dundee, who died in 2012, recalled the first day Clay showed up.

“Bounding up the steps of the Fifth Street gym, and the steps were pretty rickety, you know, all wood. Bouncing up, he said, ‘Angelo, line up all your bums. I’m gonna beat ’em all,’ ” Dundee said.

‘King Of The World’

Clay was 18: bounding, fearless, leading with his mouth.

“I’m not only a fighter. I’m a poet; I’m a prophet; I’m the resurrector; I’m the savior of the boxing world. If it wasn’t for me, the game would be dead,” he said.

Young Clay made boxing an art form. He was an original, a heavyweight who didn’t move around the ring — he danced. He’d thrill the crowd with his quick scissor-step shuffle. On defense, he’d slip and slide, Dundee said, and then flick that jab.

“He had a jab that was like a snake,” he said.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; rumble, young man, rumble. Boxing reporters never had so much fun.

As the mouth roared, the victories started piling up, all of it prelude to a 1964 battle against the big, bad bear: heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.

Liston was a fearsome opponent. Nobody believed the young Ali had a shot. But after six rounds, Liston was done. He didn’t come out for the seventh, and Clay was the new champion.

“I am the king of the world! … I’m pretty! … I’m a bad man! I shook up the world!” he exclaimed.

But the 22-year-old was just getting started.

A Polarizing Figure

After the Liston fight, Ali revealed he was a member of the black separatist movement Nation of Islam. He wanted to be called Muhammad Ali, a name he said was given to him by the group’s leader, Elijah Muhammad.

“That’s my original name; that’s a black man name,” Ali said. “Cassius Clay was my slave name. I’m no longer a slave.”

Muhammad, the Nation of Islam leader, preached that integration and intermarriage were wrong and that white people were devils. It was an idea Ali defended in a 1971 TV interview.

Muhammad Ali is held back by referee Joe Walcott after knocking out Sonny Liston in the first round of their championship bout in Lewiston, Maine, on May 25, 1965.

Muhammad Ali is held back by referee Joe Walcott after knocking out Sonny Liston in the first round of their championship bout in Lewiston, Maine, on May 25, 1965. AP hide caption

toggle caption AP

“I’m gonna look at two or three white people who’re trying to do right and don’t see the other million trying to kill me? I’m not that big of a fool, and I’m not going to deny it,” he said. “I believe everything he [Muhammad] teach, and if the white people of a country are not the devil, then they should prove they’re not the devil.”

Ali became a polarizing figure in America. Many sportswriters vilified him. Black boxer Floyd Patterson said, “I don’t believe God put us here to hate one another. Cassius Clay is disgracing himself and the Negro race.”

To others, Ali became a loud and unapologetic symbol of black pride.

The Rev. Kwasi Thornell of Washington, D.C., was a teenager when Ali burst onto the scene.

“There was a great deal of excitement in seeing that because that was a boldness that many of us did not know,” says Thornell, who is African-American. “We were more encouraged by our parents to just go along with the system and not be bold and bodacious, as [Ali] was.”

Ali’s boldest move — and most controversial — came in 1967. At the height of the Vietnam War, he refused induction into the U.S. military, saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”

“My intention is to box, to win a clean fight. But in war, the intention is to kill, kill, kill, kill and continue killing innocent people,” he said.

Some called him a traitor. For those in a growing anti-war movement, Ali was a hero who paid a significant price. He was convicted of draft evasion, and though he avoided jail time, he was stripped of his heavyweight title and banned from boxing at the age of 25, just as he was entering his prime. It would be more than three years before Ali returned to the ring.

Rivalry With Frazier

Following his exile, Ali squared off against Joe Frazier, who became heavyweight champion in Ali’s absence. The March 1971 showdown was billed as the fight of the century.

Frazier won, handing Ali his first professional loss. It was also the first of three epic bouts between the two men. Frazier, with his boxer’s mashed face and snorting-bull style in the ring, could never equal Ali’s finesse and skill as a fighter. Nor could he match Ali’s wit, which often turned cruel when the subject was Frazier.

“You’ll also see why I say he’s a gorilla,” Ali said. “You’ll see how ugly he is, and how pretty I am.”

It was theater to Ali. But in a 2007 interview, Ali biographer Thomas Hauser said the words and frequent taunts were like broken glass in Frazier’s stomach. It’s one of the reasons, Hauser said, that even late in life, Frazier harbored ill will toward Ali.

“Even though Muhammad said to me that if God ever called him to a holy war, he wanted Joe Frazier fighting beside him,” Hauser said.

Undoubtedly, sports announcer Howard Cosell would have done the holy war’s play-by-play, as he did for many of Ali’s fights. The two men had a symbiotic relationship. Their interview sessions were more like hilarious jousting matches, with Ali needling the pedantic former lawyer, always threatening to tear off Cosell’s obvious toupee.

When it came to boxing IQ, none was higher than Ali’s. In 1974, against the menacing George Foreman, Ali used a tactic called the “rope-a-dope.” He stayed on the ropes, covering up, letting Foreman punch himself out. Then Ali struck quickly, knocked out Foreman and became champion a second time.

Parkinson’s Diagnosis

A year later, “The Thrilla in Manila” was the final fight in the Ali-Frazier trilogy. It was an awesome and horrible slugfest that ended with Ali winning, but admitting afterward, “It was the closest to death that I could feel.”

“This is too painful. It’s too much work. I might have a heart attack or something. I wanna get out … while I’m on top,” he said.

It would have been the perfect time to stop. But Ali kept fighting six more years. In the early 1980s, he was diagnosed with pugilistic Parkinson’s syndrome.

His last big public moment came in 1996, when he lit the flame at the Atlanta Summer Olympics. Shaking, his face frozen by a Parkinson’s mask, this was a new generation’s image of the man called the greatest of all time. But the sadness was mixed with global love.

Ali was the rare and perhaps only person who could go anywhere — Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, a marketplace in Latin America — and people would stop and point and smile.

In his life, he traveled from a boxer’s cruelty to kindness. A man who stood up and shouted out for his principles ultimately embraced the quiet principle of spirituality. But in later years, his words muted by Parkinson’s, Ali was asked if he’d do it all over exactly the same, even if he knew in advance how he’d end up. The answer: You bet I would.

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Episode 704: Open Office

The Chiat/Day open plan office was designed to look like a giant living room.
  • Hide caption

    The Chiat/Day open plan office was designed to look like a giant living room.
    Courtesy of Gaetano Pesce
  • One person who worked in the office said "it was like sitting inside a migraine."
    Hide caption

    One person who worked in the office said “it was like sitting inside a migraine.”
    Courtesy of Gaetano Pesce
  • One of the meeting nooks in the Chiat/Day office, designed by architect Gaetano Pesce.
    Hide caption

    One of the meeting nooks in the Chiat/Day office, designed by architect Gaetano Pesce.
    Courtesy of Gaetano Pesce
  • The brightly colored plastic resin flooring was poured by architect Gaetano Pesce himself.
    Hide caption

    The brightly colored plastic resin flooring was poured by architect Gaetano Pesce himself.
    Courtesy of Gaetano Pesce
  • The booth where Chiat/Day employees checked out their cell phone and laptop for the day.
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    The booth where Chiat/Day employees checked out their cell phone and laptop for the day.
    Courtesy of Gaetano Pesce
Architect Gaetano Pesce

Paul Barbera/Courtesy of Gaetano Pesce

Walls, doors, privacy—if you work a desk job in America, you probably do not have these luxuries anymore.

This is the age of the open office, of half-cubicles and clustered desks, of huge rooms filled by long communal tables where white-collar workers sit shoulder-to-shoulder, wearing white earbuds to block out the noise. Over to the side, maybe there’s a lounge space with sofas and a comfy chair or two. Maybe there’s even a ping pong table on the way to the bathroom.

When we tell the story of the open office, we often begin with tech startups. Open offices feel nimble, informal, and social—just like startups, right? And then older companies saw the results from Silicon Valley, and they wanted in. To grow like a tech company, why not look like one? So the open office spread. Now, seventy percent of American offices are open plan. That’s how the story goes.

But the idea to tear down the walls did not come from Silicon Valley.

On today’s show, we hear how a vision on a mountaintop led to the birth of the open office. And we meet the stylish man that brought that idea to life (and, probably, to a workplace near you).

Plus, you get to hear what our open office sounds like in all it’s cacophonous glory. Radio reporters, not so quiet!

Music: “Just Like Me” and “Feel Good Groove.” Find us: Twitter/Facebook.

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Muhammad Ali Is Reportedly In Serious Condition At Arizona Hospital

Boxing great Muhammad Ali, seen here in 2012, has been in the hospital since Thursday

Boxing great Muhammad Ali, seen here in 2012, has been in the hospital since Thursday Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Keep Memory Alive hide caption

toggle caption Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Keep Memory Alive

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, 74, is being treated for respiratory problems at a hospital in the Phoenix area – and now comes word that his condition could be more serious than was first believed when he was admitted on Thursday.

Today, the AP says of Ali, “two people familiar with his condition say [these] may be more serious problems than his previous hospital stays.”

Ali’s treatment could also be complicated by symptoms of Parkinson’s, the debilitating disease from which he has suffered for more than 30 years. Before Thursday, Ali’s last known multi-day stint in the hospital was in January 2015.

Widespread concern for Ali blossomed on Twitter and elsewhere Friday, after celebrity gossip website Radar Online published a story saying that the beloved boxer was on life support – a characterization that hasn’t been confirmed or reported elsewhere. According to NBC News, the boxer’s family has gathered at the hospital – and a “well-informed source” tells the network that Ali is in “grave condition.”

Reacting to the news, boxer Amir Khan sent a message of support to Ali’s family — along with the hashtag #AliBomaye, a reference to the chant heard in 1974, when Ali fought George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle, a fight held in what was then Zaire.

Our Prayers and thoughts are with @MuhammadAli and his family #AliBomaye

— Amir Khan (@amirkingkhan) June 3, 2016

When it emerged Thursday that Ali was in the hospital, his spokesman, Bob Gunnell, said that the former boxer’s time in medical care was expected to be a brief one. The AP says Gunnell sent an email today saying there was no update on Ali’s condition.

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