A couple of months ago, I visited Beijing, and like so many before me, I was stunned by how hypercapitalist Communist China has become — the hundreds of glossy highrises, the countless shops selling Prada and Apple, the traffic jams filled with brand new Audis. You felt you could be in L.A. or Tokyo — until you wanted some information. Then you discovered that Facebook was permanently blocked, certain words in Google searches always crashed your browser, and, as my wife joked, it was easier to buy a Rolls-Royce than a real newspaper. Here was a country at once booming — and repressive.
Four years ago, a Vatican group called "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" began an assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a member organization founded in 1956 that represents 80 percent of Catholic nuns in the United States. The assessment was designed to take a careful look at whether the nuns were acting in accordance with the teachings of the church.
In The Twilight War, government historian David Crist outlines the secret history of America's 30-year conflict with Iran. The book, based on interviews with hundreds of officials as well as classified military archives, details how the covert war has spanned five American presidential terms and repeatedly threatened to bring the two nations into open warfare.
Crist tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that there have been several incidents that have almost resulted in battle over the past 30 years.
Sometimes it's small government you need to keep your eye on. Take Middleborough, Mass., whose town meeting recently imposed a $20 fine for swearing in public. According to the police chief, the ordinance was aimed at the crowds of unruly teenagers who gathered downtown at night yelling profanities at people, not just someone who slams a finger in a car door. But whatever the exact idea was, nobody thought it was a good one.
There's enough DNA in the human body to stretch from the sun to Pluto and back. But don't confuse DNA with your genes, says writer Sam Kean.
"They are sort of conflated in most people's minds today but they really are distinct things," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "Genes are like the story and DNA is the language that the story is written in."